Friday, January 19, 2007
Sunday, January 14, 2007
I just feel like singing right now! During the Divine Liturgy of Saint John Chrysostom after receiving the Eucharist, our brothers and sisters in the east sing this refrain:
We have seen the true light. We have received the heavenly spirit. We have foundIndeed the Trinity has saved us. Let us rejoice and be glad!
the true faith, worshiping the Holy Trinity, for the Trinity has saved us!
Hodie est dies quam fecit Dominus exultemus et laetemur in ea!
(See also Father Cantalamessa's homily (2007 01 12) for the meaning of the Wedding of Cana and Christian marriages today.)
Saturday, January 13, 2007
As I understand, Mac computers are better than PCs (of course I'm no expert... I just listen to what my computer friends tell me). Yet, PCs were able to spread a lot quicker as the rights to make products for PCs was also sold more readily and because PC wasn't as costly as a Mac. So, whereas Macs were very exclusive, PCs were all over the place and so were things to go with PCs. Mac came out with the mouse and PCs copied it. Windows, they say, was a way to copy the Mac operating system (despite the fact that windows was many times more unreliable and susceptable to failure and errors). One brother, who is an ardent Mac user, was talking about the review of Microsoft Vista he had read. According to him the author sarcastically pointed out that Vista is in "no way" trying to imitate Mac's operating system (when in fact it is).
The guardian commented on how surprised he was that despite the almost total dominance of PCs on the market today, Mac has managed to hold on. He said that he thought this was due to the fact that Mac has such a better product, that when someone switches to Mac, they don't just become a Mac user, but a Mac lover. They even, he said, become missionaries for Mac.
I couldn't help but be surprised at how much this conversation reminded me of the difference between the good and conterfeit goods in the spiritual life. You see, we are often tempted by ourselves, by the world, and by the enemy to settle for good enough... to do that which is easier, more convenient... that which seems to be good, but in the final analysis just doesn't cut the mustard in comparison to the real thing.
Just one example of what I mean can be seen in how today's culture tries to sell sex. It presents it as the end all and be all of life, as something utterly pleasurable which should be sought for its own sake and that should seek it for one's own gratification. In the "comercial" that gets played either in movies or on TV shows or in books, "liberated" sexual intercourse is marketed as being the ultimate expression of freedom and the pleasure it produces as something higher than heaven itself. In trying to eliminate the competition, this "comercial" puts down marriage either painting it as a slavery or claiming that monogamy is something that people are not capable of, or, even worse, marriage is degraded from being holy and a sacrament to being another exercise of freedom in a business-like contract, which anyone and everyone should be given the right to engage in no matter if the union of two certain persons would be an affront to the natural moral law.
In front of the message of the competition, this comericial tries every which way to discredit, distort, or disdain those who promote the other, better product. Oh, and since any other way would be difficult and mean restraint or moral responsibility, the easier more widely available "product" of sex is promoted as being the truly better product.
Yet, like Mac vs PC, the better product is always the better product and will remain the better product no matter what the competition says. In the example above, true human sexuality, oriented toward the good of the human person and with the true love kept in mind will always result in greater overall happiness than a fling here and there ever will. Not only is sex good, it is holy. It is not something base, but something sublime. The pleasure itself does not bring one to heaven, but the sacrament it is, the union of a man a woman in Christ and committed to growing in love, reveals the glory of God. It has two extremely valuable goods... the union of spouses in intimate sharing, giving and receiving, and procreation! And if anyone thinks that the idea that sex is holy is just the ramblings of liberal priests or nuns or something not really taught by the "institution" of the Catholic Church, all that has to be said is that Pope John Paul II dedicated a huge chunk of his Wednesday audiences to the so called Theology fo the Body. In a talk he gave, he told men that they should deny themselves immediate gratification during sexual intercourse for the purpose of ensuring that both they and their wives climax together.
No only this, but the vision of marriage in comparison to the counterfeit takes into consideration that when two people have sexual intercourse there is a bond that is formed, that it has definite reprocussions on the psychological aspect of the person... that in giving oneself to another one finds greater fulfillment and greater ability to give when one is free from the fear of being abandoned should one get in a fight over the toothpaste. The giving in sexual intercourse in marraige, therefore becomes much more than just the mutual using for physical gratification in the counterfeit, but it becomes a giving of the whole self to the other, yes, physically, but also mentally and spiritually.
One could go on. But the point is this, that no matter what example is being used, whether it be holy matrimony vs sex alla Hollywood, or promotion of life vs life as a consumer product (to be disposed of when inconvenient), or you name it, the true good is always better than the conterfeit lesser good. Just like Mac is better than PC. Sure it's costlier (just like the real good is always more difficult, requiring more sacrifice and effort), it's not as widely available (the choices for counterfeits always outnumber the choices for the real good), but it's better (just ask the saints and all those who have found true joy).
So remember, always go for the better product. No offense Bill Gates.
Friday, January 12, 2007
Now what struck me is that, if this true... that forgiving sins is the greatest of miracles, then we are all capable of performing this miracle or at least participating in this (with God's help of course). Of course, I don't mean that we can obtain the forgiveness of sins from God for someone elses sins (that's all through Jesus), but rather in our own way we can do a similar thing in rememberance of the miracle of our own being forgiven by Jesus by forgiving others their sins against us (of course by forgiveness I don't mean enabling people to continue hurting us or others, but forgiveness in the sense of not being judgmental and still wanting the good of the other). And yet, if we find this too difficult, we can start by forgiving other peoples faults (and these are not necessarily sins as much as things that make us have to be patient with the other).
Hodie est dies melior vitae meae.
Tuesday, January 09, 2007
Veni, Sancte Spiritus, Come, Holy Spirit,
et emitte caelitus send forth the heavenly
lucis tuae radium. radiance of your light.
Veni, pater pauperum, Come, father of the poor,
veni, dator munerum come giver of gifts,
veni, lumen cordium. come, light of the heart.
Consolator optime, Greatest comforter,
dulcis hospes animae, sweet guest of the soul,
dulce refrigerium. sweet consolation.
In labore requies, In labor, rest,
in aestu temperies in heat, temperance,
in fletu solatium. in tears, solace.
O lux beatissima, O most blessed light,
reple cordis intima fill the inmost heart
tuorum fidelium. of your faithful.
Sine tuo numine, Without your divine will,
nihil est in homine, there is nothing in man,
nihil est innoxium. nothing is harmless.
Lava quod est sordidum, Wash that which is unclean,
riga quod est aridum, water that which is dry,
sana quod est saucium. heal that which is wounded.
Flecte quod est rigidum, Bend that which is inflexible,
fove quod est frigidum, warm that which is chilled,
rege quod est devium. make right that which is wrong.
Da tuis fidelibus, Give to your faithful,
in te confidentibus, who rely on you,
sacrum septenarium. the holy sevenfold gifts.
Da virtutis meritum, Give reward to virtue,
da salutis exitum, give salvation at our passing on,
da perenne gaudium, give eternal joy.
Amen, Alleluia. So may it be. Praise God.
Monday, January 08, 2007
I kind of wish that this part of the litugical year was still labeled in terms of "weeks after Pentecost." Because then this reminds us that we have a focus in our "ordinary" lives... the paschal mystery, which culminated in the descent of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost.
I was thinking today that it would be really neat if we wore green as the liturgical color of the Holy Spirit. I know... red is the color associated with the Holy Spirit, or at least with the descent of the Holy Spirit (hence red vestments at Pentecost and for confirmations... otherwise red is for the blood of the martyrs), but in the Eastern Church, the color associated with the Holy Spirit is green (unless I misunderstood what someone once told me). So, wouldn't it be neat if the reason why the priest wears green vestments during the liturgucal season referred to as "weeks after pentecost" were because of this association with the Holy Spirit? Maybe it's just wishful thinking on my part... that I want this connection, but it would be neat to find out if there really were this kind of connection.
If you have any comments or suggetsions on places I might look to find the answer to this, please leave a comment. Thanks.
In any event, it is still a good thing to keep in mind that this "Ordinary Time" refers to the time after Pentecost, after the gift of the Holy Spirit, and to remember to let the paschal mystery in its completeness be the center of our lives.
peace and goodness
Saturday, January 06, 2007
Father of light, unchanging God,
today you reveal to men of faith
the resplendent fact of the Word made flesh.
Your light is strong,
your love is near;
draw us beyond the limits which this world imposes,
to the life where your Spirit makes all life complete.
We ask this through Christ our Lord.
We can talk about how the magi represent the nations and how the gentiles came to recognize Christ as God and how the light of the star illuminated the magi to come to know Jesus. We can talk about Herod as being the one who is afraid of change and uncertainty, looking for security and how the magi represent those who leave everything to seek out God (thanks, Marta). But concerning the magi, I want to focus on the gifts: gold, frankinsense, and myrrh. Gold is a gift for a king and therefore is supposed to represent royalty. Frankinsense is for offering to God and so is priestly. And myrrh, since it was used in funeral rights, is for burial, and in this sense is profetic since it foreshadows Christ's burial.
Yet, we don't have these gifts... gold, frankinsense, and myrrh. So what can we give the child Jesus? How about the gold of charity, in thought, word and deed? And what about the frankinsense of prayer, especially thanksgiving, praise, and petition? What what about the myrrh of dying to sin, dying to ourselves... that is being united to Christ's death?
The last one might especially sound morbid... dying to oneself... death. But we have to remember that the gift of myrrh that we can Jesus, is not our death in general, but our death to sin and to egoism... our death in Him... a death united to his passion, and thus ultimately also united to His resurrection. So, if we remember that we are not dying to ourselves unto ultimate death, but dying to ourselves unto Life, this then has an aspect of hope and the joy of the Resurrection! The dying to ourselves becomes "the time of pruning" mentioned in the Song of Songs 2:10-13, a springtime growth (by the way, this is the real meaning of the word "Lent," "Springtime").
Tha Baptism in the Jordan: Okay, we can talk about the first Theophany and how the Baptism of Jesus represents the first appearance on earth of the Holy Trinity: The voice of the Father, the Spirit descending upon Jesus in the form of a dove, and Jesus. We can also talk about how Jesus, in being baptized, places himself in the context of sinful humanity even though he is the sinless one. But, what I would like to mention about the Baptism is the link to the paschal mystery. In response to their request to be at his right and at his left, Jesus says to James and John "Can you drink the cup that I drink or be baptized with the baptism with which I am baptized?" (Mark 10:35-40). Here Jesus is making a reference to his passion as a baptism. And we know that the Paschal Mystery, Christ's dying and rising again is a fulfillment of the figure of the first paschal mystery, the crossing of the people of Israel through the red sea on dry land. And we know that God did not liberate his people from the slavery of Egypt back then for no good reason, but rather to make covenant with them at Sinai and give them the law. Likewise, God liberated us from the slavery of sin in the passion, descent into the underworld, and resurrection of Jesus in order to make a new convenant with them and give them a new law (Holy Spirit at pentecost... and it wasn't so much a new law or new covenant as much as making new and fulfilling the figure of the old, making it into the reality prefigured).
So the baptism of Jesus, what do we have? Jesus is baptized (think, entering into the water). The Spirit comes upon him, and he is sent out into the desert for fourty days where he was tested by the devil (and he overcomes the temptations).
What happened in the first passover? The people passed through the water, received the law and then wandered in the desert for forty years where they were put to the test and are unfaithful. Only after wandering as pilgrims and strangers were they brought into the promised land.
What relevance does all this have in our lives as Christians? First we can see the meaning that Jesus's Baptism and time in the desert have. Jesus fulfilled what was lacking in the first exodus. Where the people of Israel were unfaithful to God and gave into temptations, Jesus does not give in but overcomes those temptations. He has "overcome the world."
But also let us look at it this way, the believer in Christ, in being baptized into Him and into His Paschal Mystery, in a real though mysterious way, shares in the mystery of the new Passover and the new exodus. We too, in and through Jesus, are liberated from the slavery to sin. We too receive the Holy Spirit, the new law, as it were, at the Sinai of Pentecost.
And so where does that leave us? We, like Jesus, and like the people of Israel of the first exodus, are in the desert, on pilgrimage toward the promised land (with the difference that this promised land is our true inheritance - heaven - and we mysteriously already partake of that reality in and through Christ, since he has ascended bodily into heaven... there's the "already and not yet" spoken about in theology... how we already share in the heavenly mystery but in an way that is still not fulfilled). Like the people of Israel were given Mana in the desert, we are given the true bread of angels to sustain us on our journey. Like the people of Israel were put to the test in the desert, so too is our life on this pilgrimage toward the promised land, filled with trials and we are put to the test. The difference being that Jesus was already put to the test for us and so our being put to the test is simply a sharing in His... it is making up what is lacking in the sufferings of Christ. And we walk, as Jesus did, until our personal calvary (again one of participation in Jesus's Calvary for those, who being baptized in Christ, are living a life ever more united to Christ). The fact that Jesus was already put to the test for us, means that He can give us the strength to endure. This is what he means when he says "In the world you will have trouble, but take courage, I have conquered the world." We also hear in Hebrews 4:15-16 that "we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who has similarly been tested in every way, yet without sin. So let us confidently approach the throne of grace to receive mercy and to find grace for timely help."
What does this all mean? What it means is that the journey of faith we enter into through baptism, is not one that will be devoid of trials. What was it that Francis said, that he did not consider one to be a friend of God unless one had already suffered numerous trials and tribulations. Now, that might sound pessimistic, but maybe instead it is necessary to be realistic about life. And not just "realistic" in the sense of a smoke screen for pessimism, but realistic so that faith can turn into real hope, and not just be a Pollyanna wishful thinking. Embracing the reality of life, that it is full of trials, that it is not unlimited here on this earth, that it requires commitment and will mean pain at times, is embracing the cross. And when we as Christians embrace the cross, we embrace the one died on the cross, the Risen One. So we do not embrace a death unto death but a death unto the illusion that we are immortal and all powerful, we embrace the poverty of spirit and the meekness of the beatitudes, coming to realize the truth about our human existence, so that God can truly be glorified when he shows his power in the midst of our limited experience.
This gets into the third mystery of the Epiphany, the changing of water into wine at the wedding feast of Cana. It is not just about a neat parlor trick. It is a symbolic gesture. A wedding feast... ulimately it is Christ who is the Bridegroom and we the bride. So, not only does God love us in our limited and humble nature, but in making the new covenant with us, he did not just symbolize a marriage between God and man, as he did in the past, but actualized it in the incarnation. This sheds light on what St. Romanos the Melodist wrote in his Kontakion for the Nativity,
“High King, what have you to do with beggars?
Maker of heaven, why have you come to those born of earth?
Did you love a cave or take pleasure in a manger?"
The "answer" is that He loved us and wanted us to be united to Him, but we could spend forever complating the "answer" (and I hope we will spend forever doing just that).
So, in coming to understand what our life really is about, in becoming humble, accepting the cross, accepting our limitations, only then can we begin to understand the greatness of what God did for us and continues to do for us. Only then can we begin to sound the height and depth and breadth and width of God's love. And won't this make the journey joyful?
Happy Epiphany and Bon Voyage!
(Baa, Baa, Baa! Much I say, and little I do! St. Juniper pray for us)
Friday, January 05, 2007
Thinking about this in the past, I used to ask myself, "so maybe Jesus saw him from far away, what's the big deal?" And that is a good question. What's so important about Jesus seeing Nathaniel under the fig tree?
Well, a couple of summers ago I was in Winsted, CT, at St. Joseph Parish, and I had to give a reflection on this gospel. What I read in a commentary back then was that "sitting under the fig tree" was symbolic for meditating on the Torah, the leaves providing plenty of shade from the sun, making it a comfortable place to sit and read the Torah.
Today at mass it hit me that the reference that Jesus makes about the angels of God ascending and descending upon the Son of Man is in the Torah (Genesis 28:12). Mind you, I'm not saying that this is what actually happened, but wouldn't it be interesting if Nathaniel had been sitting under the fig tree meditating on the Torah and had just read that passage about Jacob's ladder?
So, if this were the case, Nathaniel in meeting Jesus for the first time, would have met somebody who not only told him what he had just been doing, but even gave him the understanding of the passage of scripture he had just been reading. It would then be a call accompanied by an event that when one puts two and two together one realizes that there is no other way to explain this kind of coincidence, that it must be God.
And yet, Nathaniel, just like every follower of Christ, after having a call that would fascinate him beyond telling, would then have to grow in faith and no longer follow Jesus just because of an amazing event that he would not be able to explain any other way except that it was God, but because he would come to believe and to know that Jesus is indeed the holy one of God. Not only this, but Nathaniel, in the course of his vocation, would be tested and have his faith tried, just like the other apostles, when it came to the crucifixion.
Anyone who has every had one of those experiences that can not be explained in any other way except that it was God knows that these experiences do not sustain a vocation. As St. Francis would say "in this is not perfect joy". Rather, a vocation is sustained by the daily "Here I am, Lord," by faithfulness, by humility, by the cross, and more importantly, by the grace of God. Nathaniel learned this, and so must we.
Lord, grant us perseverance in the journey we undertake in being your disciples. Help us, in the midst of difficulties and trials to trust that you are with us. Let us not be discouraged by our weaknesses and faults but rather profit by these by allowing you to use them for our humility and for you to manifest your glory. In Jesus name we pray. Amen.
St. Nathaniel and St. Francis, pray for us!
Thursday, January 04, 2007
Of course this has been a recurrent theme in my life recently. Both what my friend wrote to me the other day about how we do not become saints overnight and the reflection on the parable fo the merciful father and how the Father runs to the son while he was still a good way off have this theme as their basis. Again, the fervorino I heard from Vatican radio one morning comes to mind... today beter than yesterday, tomorrow better than today. And isn't that just another way of saying "step by step." Or, if you know that sappy movie "Brother Sun, Sister Moon" (not at all historically accurate but still entertaining), the song by Donavan is appropriate too
"If you want your dream to be,
take your time go slowly.
Small beginnings, greater ends,
heartfelt work grows purely.
If you want to live life free,
take your time, go slowly.
Do few things but do them well,
simple joys are holy.
Day by day, stone by stone,
build your secret slowly.
Day by day you'll grow too.
You'll know heaven's glory."
I told you it was a sappy song, but actually kind of deep, huh?
Well I must off. Lord, give us the patience we need to let you make us into saints. Help us to live your truth day by day, step by step, not looking for successes but faithfulness to your call. Amen. Doxa su Kyrie! Doxa su!
Wednesday, January 03, 2007
"Do not be afraid!" - you know who said it of course. Be yourself and be proud and happy just to be yourself. Do not try to be somebody that you are not. Jesus calls us as we are, as he called Peter and John, with our qualities and defaults, with our sin also. He knows all about it. In a certain way, he loves us because we are so weak and because He knows how great we can be with Him. Of course, we can alway do better, but that is the matter of our life, that happens in a lifetime! We cannot instantly become saints... The most important I think is to truly believe that we are loved AS WE ARE and NOT AS WE SHOULD BE.
Satan is responsible for it, always trying to discourage us and accusing us with
each and every sin we make. But do you think about God's mercy? More than
everything, the sin of Judas is to have believed that the Love of his Master was
not enough to forgive him.
God's mercy takes you much farther than each of our sins and bad habits. Much more: he fills them with His grace. He comes in each of our poverty (which means, our sin, also), and wants nothing else. He asks us if we agree to let him come because he has no where to stay, exactly as He did when he was born. Do not be afraid of who you are, because you are already a saint in the heart of God, even if you are not perfect (and don't worry, Be certain that you will never be perfect). God loves you as you are now, not as you would like to be. Let yourself go in this wonderful freedom in your heart, just rest in His Grace!
Tuesday, January 02, 2007
I read today somewhere that to love is to live, and just as no one wants to live only half, likewise no one should want to love only half way.
At evening prayer, the antiphon for the Magnificat hit me. It was something like "Those who teach and love will be great in the kingdom of heaven." That is, it does not suffice to only teach love but also to be an example of love.
It is quite easy to fall into the same old rut of not wanting to give of not wanting to be concerned for others, to just be egotistical.
In order to love one needs to make a gift of oneself, to give of oneself to others, despite what others might say or do with that gift. To love is to risk. And yet maybe we need help thinking that we can even be a gift. Sure we are sinners, sure we are faulty, but we must keep in mind that we have been made in the image and likeness of God and so have a dignity that cannot be lost, no matter how ruffed up, beat up, and obscured we may make that image or thnk that image is.
God, give us the courage to love, the strength to be a "gift" to others. Help us to believe the truth of your love for us and to love you and others in return. Amen