Thursday, January 13, 2022

A VOICE FROM THE CATACOMBS~PART 3

 

                                                  The news of the pandemic is relentlessly in our faces, as also are the contentious reports it is all a hoax.

What is obvious, without dispute, is the reality of a human family angry, divided, fearful, by and large untrusting of government. Under the cloak of the pandemic governments around the world, even those self-assured that they are democratic, are imposing increasingly autocratic and invasive laws and mandates which contradict the various constitutions of these same states.

Mostly these are countries led by leftist governments, though not all, some like China, Russia and several Eastern European countries are led by autocrats or outright dictators and while we usually are not surprised over violent protests against authoritarian governments increasingly we are seeing protests against the invasive actions of governments in democratic countries, which, as mentioned, themselves are becoming more authoritarian.

The ever deepening malaise and anger among populations, I suggest, is more dangerous to the human family than any virus. Indeed, anger is antithetical to Christianity. In the Sermon on the Mount, the Lord recalls the commandment, "You shall not kill," and adds to it the proscription of anger, hatred, and vengeance. Going further, Christ asks his disciples to turn the other cheek, to love their enemies. He did not defend himself and told Peter to leave his sword in its sheath. [1] Item 2302 from the Catechism bears quotation in full: By recalling the commandment, "You shall not kill," our Lord asked for peace of heart and denounced murderous anger and hatred as immoral. Anger is a desire for revenge. "To desire vengeance in order to do evil to someone who should be punished is illicit," but it is praiseworthy to impose restitution "to correct vices and maintain justice."

There are those Christians who appeal to Jesus’ righteous anger in cleansing the temple to justify their own anger. This is a specious argument as Jesus alone is righteous. We sinful humans are not and so our anger can never be pure.

The origins of the malaise and anger are deep rooted in human history and have metastasized throughout the human family since the 17th century. The roots are evolutionism, atheism, deism. The first leads to a denial of creation as being an ex nihilo gift from God, which we ourselves are, the second is a complete denial that God, who is Love, actually is, whereas deism, accepts that there may well be a supreme being, but one who does not interact with human beings thus eliminating the truth of Christ and redemption, of sin-evil and of goodness and charity.

 As for moral theology, Ratzinger says, the fundamental option of the deist world view means morality flattens out into an ethics without any reference to God. The modern man is left to his own devices, caught up in the evolutionary system of power, struggle, and survival. For, as a logical consequence, one would have to deny man himself – says Ratzinger – and “reduce him to a series of states….in which what is typically human and really moral would also disappear.” [3]

In this current era of history, with the pandemic and actions of states oppressing citizens, it is germane to seek some understanding of the state: Modern states are simply one way in which the three principles of denomination of kings is held by an entity called ‘the people’ [or ‘the nation’], that bureaucracies exist for the benefit of said ‘people’, and in which a variation on old, aristocratic contest and prizes has come to be re-labelled as ‘democracy’, most often in the form of national elections. If proof of that were required, we need only observe how much this particular arrangement is coming apart. As we noted there are now planetary bureaucracies [public and private ranging from the IMF and WTO to J. P. Morgan Chase and various credit-rating agencies] without anything that resembles a corresponding principle of global sovereignty or global field of competitive politics; and everything from cryptocurrencies to private security agencies, undermining the sovereignty of states. [4]

It should be noted the United Nations itself is part of the problem given certain countries have veto power and I would add the World Health Organization to the list of those undermining the sovereignty of states.

A not insignificant aspect of the contemporary and widespread crankiness, anger, fear, discouragement, stress, anxiety experienced globally today is the surfeit of so-called information overload as more and more people troll the internet to try and figure out what is happening and seeking information about same. Modern media, the internet in particular, is a tsunami of information whose provenance is suspect at best if not nigh impossible to unearth.

We can for our mental health, if we wish to tame raw emotions exacerbated by daily life in these contentious times make the effort to verify sources, in particular internet ones. This does not mean we have to agree with what we verify but it does mean we act and react based upon facts, not rumors or deliberate misinformation. Not only is our sanity and peace of heart at stake but the survival of our democratic institutions, maybe even of the nation itself demands misinformation not have us as a source of its spread.

A book I read many years ago is a salutary and cautionary tale applicable to our current situation as the human family: Was the problem with Germany in 1933 that it was not democratic enough or that it was too democratic? Did Nazism happen because of unchecked elite power or because the German masses were incapable of functioning as responsible citizens? Were the Nazis mired in the past, or were they dangerously modern? Was Nazim a specifically German problem or a manifestation of a wider crisis? [3]

All relevant questions we should ask of contemporary life in our own countries today.

Nazism was an extremist polity such as we find today on the extreme fringes of the left and right of much of contemporary politics, both sides using the pandemic as cover for their real goal to control everyone and everything. This approach to life in society is Marxist, which has penetrated the thinking and policies of so-called liberal democracies, headed in the US by the Democratic party and in Canada by the Liberal party.

In his latest book, Mark R. Levin outlines in vivid detail the cancerous spread of Marxist thought and ideology within the United States, titled AMERICAN MARXISM. It could/should also be titled CANADIAN MARXISM. Unfortunately, too many among us take false comfort in the belief that there could never be a Marxist based or oriented revolution in America, and what they are witnessing is just another in a cycle of liberal movements, which contribute to the evolution of American society and culture, and therefore, are worthy of approval and passive support. [4]

A tremendous source of hope and encouragement, for Christians in particular, accessible to anyone, Christian or not, is Sacred Scripture, the Bible, especially the Psalms, prayers of hope, drawn from the human condition and the Holy Gospels, place of encounter and communion with Christ and through Him becoming comprehensible to ourselves and growing in understanding of life as a member of the human family. For it is a salient truth unless we know Christ we remain incomprehensible to ourselves and will have immense difficulty understanding creation, other human beings and the unfolding of history.

In the great treasury of the Church, we can draw from the writings of the Fathers of the Church, the lives of the Saints, the teachings of the Ecumenical Councils, each a gift of the Holy Spirit, in particular for our era in history the Second Vatican Council, also the Catechism of the Catholic Church and the Compendium of the Social Doctrine of the Church. As these treasures will inform, guide, comfort, give hope and peace.

We need to face, as part of the mystery of taking up our cross each day and following Christ, being with Him and following Him through the reality of history that the days in which we live are filled with scandal, confusion and division. Yet, we have reason for hope. God will never abandon us either. He knows what is going on in the Church and He wants to correct it. [5] Pope Francis in a catechetical series begun in 2021 gives us all hope and strength through the example of St. Joseph: Joseph’s silence is not mutism; it is a silence full of listening, an  industrious  silence, a silence that brings out his great interiority. “The Father spoke a word, and it was his Son”, comments Saint John of the Cross,  — “and it always speaks in eternal silence, and in silence it must be heard by the soul”.  Jesus was raised in this “school”, in the house of Nazareth, with the daily example of Mary and Joseph. And it is not surprising that he himself sought spaces of silence in his days (cf. Mt 14:23) and invited his disciples to have such an experience by example: “Come away by yourselves to a lonely place, and rest a while” (Mk 6:31). How good it would be if each one of us, following the example of Saint Joseph, were able to recover this  contemplative dimension of life, opened wide in silence. But we all know from experience that it is not easy: silence frightens us a little, because it asks us to delve into ourselves and to confront the part of us that is most true. And many people are afraid of silence, they have to speak, and speak, and speak, or listen to radio or television… but they cannot accept silence because they are afraid. The philosopher Pascal observed that “all the unhappiness of men arises from one single fact, that they cannot stay quietly in their own chamber”. [6]

There is ancient Christian wisdom which states: la volonté de Dieu ne nous emmène jamais là où la grâce de Dieu ne nous soutient pas. The will of God never takes us where the grace of God does not sustain  us. If we trust His love and grace and that we have breath of life at the time in history most conducive to our becoming saints then borrowing from St. Teresa od Avila, we will not allow anything to frighten nor disturb us, but like Bl. Julian of Norwich choose to live in trust that all will be well even today when there is a worldwide spiritual and moral famine on the earth. Souls are dying because of a lack of spiritual nourishment. Hearts are broken; marriages are ruined; lives are destroyed; children are murdered in the womb; and truth and common sense are in short supply. The spiritual and moral famine in the world is devastating every nation, laying waste to humanity. What are we to do? To whom can we go to find nourishment for our souls? [7]

The obvious answer is to Jesus with the first step being less time spent trolling the internet, giving into anger and repeating endlessly to one another how terrible things are, instead like a cool, refreshing swim in the ocean on a hot summer’s day, immersing ourselves in the Holy Gospels, the lives of the Saints and their writings and the teachings of the Church.

The eternal Father, by a free and hidden plan of His own wisdom and goodness, created the whole world. His plan was to raise men to a participation of the divine life. Fallen in Adam, God the Father did not leave men to themselves, but ceaselessly offered helps to salvation, in view of Christ, the Redeemer "who is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of every creature". All the elect, before time began, the Father "foreknew and pre- destined to become conformed to the image of His Son, that he should be the firstborn among many brethren". He planned to assemble in the holy Church all those who would believe in Christ. Already from the beginning of the world the foreshadowing of the Church took place. It was prepared in a remarkable way throughout the history of the people of Israel and by means of the Old Covenant.  In the present era of time the Church was constituted and, by the outpouring of the Spirit, was made manifest. At the end of time it will gloriously achieve completion, when, as is read in the Fathers, all the just, from Adam and "from Abel, the just one, to the last of the elect," will be gathered together with the Father in the universal Church…………..At all times and in every race God has given welcome to whosoever fears Him and does what is right. God, however, does not make men holy and save them merely as individuals, without bond or link between one another. Rather has it pleased Him to bring men together as one people, a people which acknowledges Him in truth and serves Him in holiness. He therefore chose the race of Israel as a people unto Himself. With it He set up a covenant. Step by step He taught and prepared this people, making known in its history both Himself and the decree of His will and making it holy unto Himself. All these things, however, were done by way of preparation and as a figure of that new and perfect covenant, which was to be ratified in Christ, and of that fuller revelation which was to be given through the Word of God Himself made flesh. "Behold the days shall come saith the Lord, and I will make a new covenant with the House of Israel, and with the house of Judah . . . I will give my law in their bowels, and I will write it in their heart, and I will be their God, and they shall be my people . . . For all of them shall know Me, from the least of them even to the greatest, saith the Lord. Christ instituted this new covenant, the new testament, that is to say, in His Blood, calling together a people made up of Jew and gentile, making them one, not according to the flesh but in the Spirit. This was to be the new People of God. For those who believe in Christ, who are reborn not from a perishable but from an imperishable seed through the word of the living God, not from the flesh but from water and the Holy Spirit, are finally established as "a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a purchased people . . . who in times past were not a people, but are now the people of God".[8]

The joys and the hopes, the griefs and the anxieties of the men of this age, especially those who are poor or in any way afflicted, these are the joys and hopes, the griefs and anxieties of the followers of Christ. Indeed, nothing genuinely human fails to raise an echo in their hearts. For theirs is a community composed of men. United in Christ, they are led by the Holy Spirit in their journey to the Kingdom of their Father and they have welcomed the news of salvation which is meant for every man. That is why this community realizes that it is truly linked with mankind and its history by the deepest of bonds. [9]

Germaine very much in today’s political and social environments: Excessive intervention by the state can threaten personal freedom and initiative. the teaching of the Church has elaborated the principle of subsidiarity, according to which "a community of a higher order should not interfere in the internal life of a community of a lower order, depriving the latter of its functions, but rather should support it in case of need and help to co-ordinate its activity with the activities of the rest of society, always with a view to the common good." [10]

That is the challenge, with peace of heart and without a lust for power, for all Christians if healing is to occur within the contemporary body politic. To present self or others as subsidiarity candidates.

Modern St. Thomas Mores, willing to lay down our lives for truth.. Modern St. Maxmilian Kolbes, willing to lay down our lives for others. With hearts meek and humble like Christ’s. Our template, as always is Jesus and His Gospel to love one another, as He loves us, doing good to those who hate us, praying for those who persecute us. A guide to implementing same in the market place is: https://www.vatican.va/roman_curia/pontifical_councils/justpeace/documents/rc_pc_justpeace_doc_20060526_compendio-dott-soc_en.html  The Compendium of the Social Doctrine of the Church.

In conclusion words of truth, hope and comfort from one of my favourite authors: Because the Lord is spirit [11Cor.3:17], He is also Love. The Spirit of God opens all things, permitting being to flow into being, life into life, me into you without violence or loss of individuality, freedom or dignity. The Spirit creates love, community of all that is good. He, Love, takes that which is Christ’s and gives it to us for our own [John 16:15]. He incorporates Christ Himself into out lives: ”For me to live is Christ and to die is gain [Phil.1:21]. Out of the depths of this love: “Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or danger, or the sword? Even as it is written, ‘For Thy sake we are put to death all day long. We are regarded as sheep for slaughter.’ For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature will be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.” [Rom. 8:35-39] [11]

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

All Italics in quotations are mine.

 

[1] https://www.vatican.va/archive/ENG0015/__P7Z.HTM  Catechism # 2262 & 1866 https://www.bing.com/search?q=catechism+of+the+catholic+church+1866&qs=UT&pq=catechism+of+the+catholic+church+1866&sc=5-37&cvid=BE6D9066DC874BA5A7F4AA038675D0E1&FORM=QBRE&sp=1

‘wrath’ in the section is the same as anger

[2] JOSEPH RATZINGER, Life in the Church and Living Theology; Fundamentals of Ecclesiology with Reference to Lumen Gentium; complied by Maxmilian Heinrich Heim; p. 265; Ignatius Press, 2007

[3] THE DAWN OF EVERYTHING, a new History of Humanity by David Graeber and David Wengrow; p. 431; Penguin Random House Canada; 2021

[4] THE DEATH OF DEMOCRACY, Hitler’s rise to power and the Downfall of the Weimar Republic.; Benjamin Carter Hett; p. 9; Penguin Random House Canada, 20185

[5] AMERICAN MARXISM; Mark R. Levin; p. 11; Threshold Editions 2021

[6] CONSECRATION TO ST. JOSEPH, Donald H. Calloway, MIC; pp. 756, 76; Marian Press 2020

[7] https://www.vatican.va/content/francesco/en/audiences/2021/documents/papa-francesco_20211215_udienza-generale.html

[8] CONSECRATION TO ST. JOSEPH, op. cit. p. 111

[9] https://www.vatican.va/archive/hist_councils/ii_vatican_council/documents/vat-ii_const_19641121_lumen-gentium_en.html  ch. I, para.1 & ch. II, para. 1

[10] https://www.vatican.va/archive/hist_councils/ii_vatican_council/documents/vat-ii_const_19651207_gaudium-et-spes_en.html  preface apar. 1

[11] https://www.vatican.va/archive/ENG0015/__P6G.HTM  catechism # 1883

[12] THE LORD; Romano Guardini; p/450; Henry Regnery Company 1957

© 2022 Fr. Arthur Joseph

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Friday, December 31, 2021

DWELLING PEACEFULLY IN FAITH, LOVE, HOPE, LIGHT, JOY~ Part 13

 

                           When we hear from Jesus the word ‘go’ it is the vocation of being sent, of being missionaries, bearers of the Gospel and of Jesus Himself to others.

GO WITHOUT FEARS INTO THE DEPTHS OF MEN’S HEARTS.I SHALL BE WITH YOU….. PRAY ALWAYS. I SHALL BE OUR REST. These last words of the Little Mandate are both a gift of mission and a promise of intimacy with Jesus as we live them out.

What does it means to ‘go into the depths’ of the heart of another human being? How dangerous is it that fear is part of the challenge?

This mandate to go into the depths of hearts presupposes we are not acting merely out of curiosity, far less to acquire information to be used to control someone else. The mandate is focused here on humble, loving, service to other in attentive listening, without judgement or being fearful of encountering the pain in the heart of other.

Prayer for the gift of the Holy Spirit of discernment and His words to be spoken is essential. Sound advice here from the Blessed Callistus, monk and patriarch: if you wish to pray as you ought, imitate the dulcimer player: bending his head a little and inclining his ear to the strings, he strikes the strings skilfully, and enjoys the melody he draws from their harmonious notes. Is this example clear to you? The dulcimer is the heart, the strings – the feelings; the hammer – remembrance of God; the player – mind. By remembrance of God and of Divine things the mind draws holy feelings from the God-fearing heart, then in effable sweetness fills the soul, and the mind, which is pure, is lit up by Divine illuminations. [2]

Going ‘into the depths’ of another’s heart presumes total self-forgetfulness, no agenda other than to listen, heart to heart, with no rush to comment or say anything. It is a matter of peaceful, loving, presence to other.

While it is true the heart is a major organ in the human body The spiritual tradition of the Church also emphasizes the heart, in the biblical sense of the depth’s of one’s being, where the person decides for or against God. [3]

Therefore, we are called to enter fearlessly into the depths of a most sacred space and must consciously ask Christ to accompany us there.

Chatting ‘heart to heat’ is a common expression and this should influence our attentiveness and any words we are inspired to speak. In these days when countless of our brothers and sisters live in the illusion of texting as true communication, and likewise use other forms of social media, numerous are the lonely who ache in their hearts because for all the frenzy of social communication that dark misnomer is neither.

True social communication is charitable heart to heart speech, with attentive  listening, face to face. All else is illusion.

Perhaps never before has a humble, loving willingness to patiently listen to other been as needed as today in our wired world of selfies and cryptic texting.

We should not fear listening deeply to other.  We should seek to be present to other. For it is being present and attentive to Christ.

 

 

It is said of St. Mother Teresa that she had a notable gift to enable to set at peace a restless and troubled mind”. Her method was simple: first she would listen. She would listen attentively to the account being related to her, but even more she would listen to the pain and confusion that accompanied it……In this heart-to-heart exchange, she was able to listen without prejudice and without a judgemental attitude, giving advice in a way that often was unexpected. With her “vision of faith”, she was able to look at the issue at hand from God’s perspective. [4]

Pray always. I will be your rest.

The last words of the Little Mandate contain a directive and a promise.

Pray always is rooted in St. Paul’s injunction: Pray without ceasing. [1 Thess. 5:17].Prayer is the life of the new heart. It ought to animate us at every moment. But we tend to forget him who is our life and our all. This is why the Fathers of the spiritual life in the Deuteronomic and prophetic traditions insist that prayer is a remembrance of God often awakened by the memory of the heart "We must remember God more often than we draw breath." But we cannot pray "at all times" if we do not pray at specific times, consciously willing it. These are the special times of Christian prayer, both in intensity and duration. The Tradition of the Church proposes to the faithful certain rhythms of praying intended to nourish continual prayer. Some are daily, such as morning and evening prayer, grace before and after meals, the Liturgy of the Hours. Sundays, centered on the Eucharist, are kept holy primarily by prayer. The cycle of the liturgical year and its great feasts are also basic rhythms of the Christian's life of prayer. The Lord leads all persons by paths and in ways pleasing to him, and each believer responds according to his heart's resolve and the personal expressions of his prayer. However, Christian Tradition has retained three major expressions of prayer: vocal meditative, and contemplative. They have one basic trait in common: composure of heart. This vigilance in keeping the Word and dwelling in the presence of God makes these three expressions intense times in the life of prayer. [5]

God sent the spirit of his Son into our hearts, crying out, “Abba, Father!” [Gal.4.6] 

To pray always is not a matter of reciting various formal prayers, such as the Holy Rosary or various Litanies, nor should we stress ourselves out by setting burdensome quantities of such forms of prayer. To pray always is a state of being aware, aware the Holy Spirit Himself is always at prayer within us, aware Jesus is our perfect prayer to the Father and that we have the Holy Mass wherein we are brought together by the Lord, that He leads us to meet each other. This moment should issue a call to us to accept one another inwardly, open ourselves up, go to meet each other, that even in the distraction of everyday life we should maintain this state of being brought together by the Lord. Our cities, as we all know, have become places of solitude of a kind never known before……But the Lord brings us together and opens us up, to that we can accept one another, belong to one another, so that in standing before Him we can learn again to stand next to each other. [6]

We can offer no greater prayer than to love one another. Loving always is to be prayer.

The above quotation connects with this from St. John Cassian: ….before we pray we should make an effort to cast out from the innermost parts of our heart whatever we do not wish to steal upon us as we pray, so that in this way we can fulfill the apostolic words: ‘Pray without ceasing.’ And: ‘In every place lifting up pure hands without anger and dissension.’ For we shall be unable to accomplish this command unless our mind, purified of every contagion and vice and given over to virtue alone as to a natural good, is fed upon the continual contemplation of almighty God. [7]

One of our professors in the seminary, teaching on prayer, told a story attributed to St. Theresa of Avila that she had become irritated the Lord was not freeing her from distractions and that eventually the Lord did respond to her plea stating: “Why should I relieve you my daughter. It is your perseverance in prayer that most pleases me.”

In his book NEW SEEDS OF CONTEMPLATION, Thomas Merton has a whole chapter on the issue of distractions in prayer. Prayer and love are really learned in the hour when prayer becomes impossible, and your heart turns to stone. If you have never had any distractions you don’t know how to pray….it is useless to get upset when you cannot shake off distractions…..it is the will to pray that is the essence of prayer, and the desire to find God, to see Him and to love Him is the one thing that matters…His presence does not depend on your thoughts of Him. He is unfailingly there; if He were not, you could not even exist. [8]

The next and final instalment will be to focus on the promise; I WILL BE YOUR REST.

 

 

 

 

[1] https://www.madonnahouse.org/mandate/

[2] Writings from the Philokalia on Prayer of the Heart; p.271; Faber and Faber, 1951

[3] https://www.vatican.va/archive/ENG0015/__P1B.HTM  #368

[4] A CALL TO MERCY, MOTHER TERESA; p.168; Image Books 2016

[5] Catechism of the Catholic Church #’s 267-2699 https://www.vatican.va/archive/ENG0015/__P9J.HTM

[6] Theology of the Liturgy; Cardinal Ratzinger; p.407; Ignatius Press 2014 [italics are mine]

[7]John Cassian; The Conferences; Newman Press, 1997; p.331 [Italics are mine]

[8]NEW SEEDS OF CONTEMPLATION; Thomas Merton; pps.221-224; a New Directions book, 1961 [Italics are mine]

© 2021 Fr. Arthur Joseph

 

 

Tuesday, November 30, 2021

A VOICE FROM THE CATACOMBS ~ Part 2

 

       Not long after the previous post, unlike a year ago when I was rushed to hospital with severe pancreatitis, once again I was suddenly and seriously ill, this time with what the doctor’s call a brain bleed.

Miraculously after collapsing and landing on the floor when I came to I heard the phone ringing, crawled until I found it and heard the voice of a dear friend who wondered what was going on as normally I answer the phone quickly. I told him. He came over immediately. Climbed up onto the balcony, saw through the window I was on the floor, broke in, called 911, stayed with me until the paramedics arrived.

Unlike last year when, I spent days literally struggling not to die, from the moment I gained consciousness until the doctors told me death had receded, this time when I came to I was peaceful, knew death was being kept at bay and that this illness had more to do with metanoia – that is conversion of heart - for myself and the human family, thus it is not so much illness I am aware of as the grace of wee suffering in intercession and atonement.

In case any reader thinks the preceding is some sort of humble-brag an adult member of my family said I should be offering this experience as noted, thereby confirming what was already in my heart.

I have two books brought to me by family, when they were permitted to visit, books which enhance atonement offering. This city is in a 4th wave of the pandemic and the hospital is in lockdown so you can only have 2 designated visitors, one is the daughter of my heart being my son’s wife, a joy whenever I see her and is truly a woman of faith, very close to and attentive to Our Blessed Mother. The other designated visitor is my son, a man of faith also very close to and attentive to Our Blessed Mother. I trust them both and their love-wisdom.

One book is THEOLOGY OF THE LITURGY, a treasure house for contemplation and prayer from which this, which has been the focal point of these already 10 weeks of therapy and recovery, referencing the Fathers of the Second Vatican Council and their choice to consider what became the document on the liturgy: By starting with the theme of liturgy, God’s primacy, the absolute precedence of the throne of God, was unmistakably highlighted. Beginning with the liturgy tells us: “God first.” When the focus on God is not decisive, everything else loses its orientation. The saying from the Rule of St. Benedict “Nothing is to be preferred to the liturgy” [43,3] applies specifically to monasticism, but as a way of ordering priorities it is true also for the life of the Church and of every individual, for each in his own way. It may be useful here to recall that in the word “orthodoxy”, the second half, “…doxa.”, does not mean “idea”, but, rather, “glory”: it is not a matter of the right “idea” about God; rather, it is a matter of the right way of glorifying Him, of responding to Him. For that is the fundamental question of the man who begins to understand himself correctly. How must I encounter God? Thus learning the right way of worshipping- orthodoxy- is the gift par excellence that is given to us by faith.[1]

In my near 80 years of life and 40 of priesthood I have experienced a vibrantly visible Church where clergy and men and women religious were visible by clerical dress and religious habits, to a rag-tag Church, of priests and religious dressed as seculars, thus a Church now mostly invisible; from packed attendance at Holy Mass on Sundays and Holy Days of obligation, to parish Churches on such days in the 21st century, sparsely populated, and simultaneously rendering the Church even less visible, it is akin to old Western movies where the camera pans the deserted streets of an abandoned town with wind blowing swirls of dust through the empty buildings and tumble weeds are scattered about while the soundtrack is of lamenting music and banging saloon doors, to trigger the audience to ponder ‘what happened’, ‘where have all the people gone’?

Nowhere Charlie Brown. They are us, or rather we are them, we have gone so far from self that we live and move beside ourselves like fleshed shadows and move about passing one another as if we are become blind walking about in the dark.

We pass by each other not seeing Whom we are actually bypassing.

Pope Francis wants us to be the field-hospital-Church for the deeply wounded human family, however since the turbulent post-Vatican II sixties we have made ourselves invisible as Church notwithstanding all our vaunted reassurances, mostly to ourselves, that the outcome of  our rush to ditch the charisms of founders and foundresses of our religious orders, ditching as well religious habits and priestly garb in order be more relevant and closer to the people, we are now further from the people than ever and those western ghost towns are more populated than seminaries, noviciates and parishes.

We have secularized religion, made the truth of Gospel teaching and moral order a matter of personal whim and thus we have become complicit in the culture of death.

We have become like the woman I watched coming out of a theatre one night on Broadway, in New York, casually lifting up her evening gown as she, nonchalantly, stepped over a homeless man to get to her limo.

In this year 2021, second of the pandemic, with many countries experiencing the fourth and fifth waves of covid, where the left and right shout incessantly, from the battlements of their ideological castles, firing flaming pitch of mutual accusations rarely based on objective, verifiable facts, at each other, while what should be a means of enhancing mutual respect understanding, the internet, has become a moat of self aggrandizing sharks surrounding the castles, the sharks devouring the name and dignity of all who do not agree with their view of reality. In the current climate I admit even hesitating to continue to blog: how confused and lacking in common sense have we become that during Cop26 so many people were taken in by a posting which promised if you post a picture of your pet “we would plant a tree”. Really?

As we walk along the road of life, pilgrims towards our real home, it is extremely urgent not that we plant trees wilily-nilily but that we replant ourselves at the center of our Baptism, which is where the horizontal and vertical bars of the Cross meet, there we will once again be face to face in the arms of our Beloved Bridegroom and can see into His eyes, eyes of our Divine Lover and what do we see reflected there in the burning light of the fire of HIS LOVE for us? An immense, endless ditch in which lay our wounded brothers and sisters. They are HIM and HE is THEM. One face seems familiar. It is our own, as we pass by, so bent towards our false, uncreated by God selves. After all these millennia since Adam we have manufactured humanity into functional entities, bearing the burden of self-sufficiency illusion, having failed to become fully the beloved children of God and thus the universal siblings we have been created to be, and as is a certainty for all who will follow us, be there future generations who emerge from this culture of death, they will fail as well, unless we begin to become real persons, being about anchoring the liturgy in the foundational act of our faith and, thus, also about its place in the whole of our human existence. [2]

When I was doing my studies in university for my Bachelors’ Degree in Philosophy I took advantage to indulge my passion for humanity and the story of the human person through minors in history, anthropology, and sociology.

My own study-meditation-reading in those fields continues to this day.

Every era in history has within it its own turbulence, evil, confusion, and when the dust settles and we look back we discover, granted sometimes only after much searching, it has had its own peace, holiness, clarity. For every nation, religion, on earth, for each human being, the journey of our Elder Brothers and Sisters in Faith and Liturgy, the Jewish People, the Exodus Journey, is the template for the pilgrimage from birth to death for each of us, and for following Christ carrying our cross with Him wherever He leads, this template holds true, even in 2021. The Old Testament does not detail all the events of those forty years in the desert, rather we are given broad outlines as it were, with a few specific critical moments between God and His People being in more detail.

To assume, for example, the chaos and deep divides in the US in the Trump and post-Trump era, came out of nowhere is also to assume when the guns fell silent at the end of the American Civil War, that the war was over. Nope. It never really ended. The wounds were temporarily cauterized but never healed and the push by the extreme left – politicians and media alike – to assign blame for all that to the current generation is both insanely evil and shows a complete ignorance of what triggered the civil war. Democracy is being torn to shreds virtually everywhere it exists because that sixties mind-set which assumes inflexibly it knows everything better than everyone not of their ilk betrays a fateful blind ignorance of the human person and human history, it is the tower of Babel arrogance rooted in the original sin where the created person trusted a snake and self more than the one who creates us.

And how did that work out?

In telling us the shining truth of how things unfolded Genesis tells us about more than sin, which like a huge boulder dropped into a still lake, the waves traveling ever faster outward to the far shores, such is sin throughout history. It washes over each of us who toss our own sin-boulders into the unfolding of history, but Genesis, from God’s own heart and in His own words reveals One is given to us, who as Lord of the Cosmos is more powerful than the mightiest of waves and even the huge boulder used to assure us we are safe from His liturgy, if we just block Him in the tomb, that is seal Him out of our hearts, memories, awareness so we can safely bypass, walk by, our brothers and sisters in the ditch.

I have absolutely no intention here of advocating for one side or the other in any of the disputed questions swirling around us like a sandstorm scrapping away the thin veneer of what is left within us of Baptismal compassion and understanding for one another, rather it is my hope that through this and follow-up essays to show that we can choose to live Theocentric [God -centered] lives, grounded in Christocentric [Christ centered] liturgy in every moment of the days that are still grace-gifted to us – please God therefore living between two Holy Masses, the Divine Liturgies of today and tomorrow.

From that will flow our stopping by the ditch and picking up our siblings so battered and wounded by life, bringing them deep into the inn of our hearts to be cared there with the patience and compassion of our love and understanding, centered in and flowing from the Holy Gospel and like a healing balm lavished through objective truth words spoken to heal and comfort them, never to prove some disputatious point.

More than a century ago humanity thrust itself into the co-called ‘war to end all wars’, whose oceans of blood proved only to have been a dress-rehearsal for WWII and its Niagara Falls of blood which has so saturated the earth that almost a century later the wounds, worse than those of the civil war, are not only unhealed but have become putrid with the culture of blame and death so favoured by some in power, while wars, revolutions, concentration camps proliferate.

When WWI appeared to be winding down, with most of Europe devasted and empires and kingdoms overrun, allowing the victorious allies to redraw the maps of much of the world, the real shocker for many was the Russian Revolution, which was more than the overthrow of a czar but of an ancient culture with its Christian faith and liturgy.

The fact that the main leaders and participants were all baptized, as are many of today’s leaders who push abortion and related evils, should have us pause and realize it is not just satan himself personally prowling about the earth seeking whom he may overcome. The culture itself and its adherents so prowl to overcome people of faith.

We seem determined to outdo Cain rather than embrace the humility of Abel, the first person in recorded history to celebrate liturgy, for which he paid with his life.

Like him we must choose to risk martyrdom and live liturgy everyday.

Life is not a stage or film production of Les Misérables.

Liturgical inner peace is what is needed that we move about these turbulent days with calm emotions, radiating the Light of Christ, fulfilling our baptismal vocation to be light and salt within the human family.

We are baptized people called to turn away from violence, loving our enemies, praying for those who persecute us as Jesus asks us to. Liturgically living, means for us no mounting of the barricades, rather peaceful, loving living out of the prayer of St. Francis that metanoia will envelope those caught as prey by the wolves of the culture of death, and also that the wolves themselves, will receive the grace of metanoia, through  our love and shining the light of Christ which heals their/our wounds and washes away the poison of secularism and anger leaving them/us with childlike cleanness of soul and heart, and picking up the towel and water of humility and charity in imitation of Christ to, by our very presence be about lovingly washing their tired and blistered feet through being truth and light, radiating truth and light, letting go of the need to be in control, or win arguments or have power over anyone, being in and with Christ humble servants, thus shattering the darkness of the culture of death, causing the shards to fall as harmless icons reflecting the light, sparkling  as ice crystals do in the moonlight shining on fresh fallen snow. Our Lady, Star of the Sea, is the gentle, brilliant moonlight of history, drawing us to follow the same star as the Magi, which is Herself, to the cave of the Incarnate One’s birth, where if we are humble enough, little enough, to bend low, enter the cave offering the Child the frankincense of our charity towards other, the myrrh of our love for Jesus, Mary, and Joseph, and offering the gold of discipleship. Once we have laid our gifts before the Child She will pick the Child up and place Him in the manger of our hearts, our becoming then ever more fully Christ-bearers to others.

While the Russian revolution and civil war were ongoing, a not much publicized aspect of history was also unfolding. What is known as THE RUSSIAN RELIGIOUS RENAISSANCE. Like the proverbial grain of wheat, it would be over seventy years before in Russia, above ground as it were, much would change, and even today, though not yet completed that change is like a tender shoot that powerful forces in Russia are trying to crush to death.

Urbanites have been trying, for decades, to eliminate dandelions from their lawns. That part of creation we call nature is far more resilient than we seem to grasp. But compared to the resilience of the Gospel nature is a wimp.

The entire human family, if it is to find the field hospital of the Church on the battlefield of the 21st century needs a huge red cross painted anew on the canvas of history partly by the visible blood of martyrs – already occurring, and the sweat and tears of the CONFESSORS OF FAITH, ordinary baptized people living liturgically rooted lives that are peaceful, holy and without sin, willingly standing, with radiant smiles at the doorway to the hospital, lovingly welcoming all who come. No more for us passing by.

 The steamer referred to below was a ship carrying the protagonists of the Russian Renaissance to safety. For us the ‘steamer’ is Christ Himself and His Church, His Body of which we are members. If we live and love and have our being in Him and the Church we will be true light, salt, confessors and, if necessary, martyrs, and this era in history will be transfigured into an era of grace and holiness.

To borrow from Pius Parsch, these are our ‘seasons of grace, if we strive to embrace them and live them out, with love, not counting the cost.

And when the Leninists died of their own poison, the exiles would be on hand to restore true Russian culture. Emotionally Berdyaev and his idealist colleagues would take the spirit of Russia with them in their suitcases. No customs man could ask them for a receipt for that. Nor stop them. They would take with them the invisible and ineffable essence of Russia and preserve it for eternity. [3]

When the protagonists of this culture of death, raucousness and irreligion drink their own poison then will end the experience of the many ways faithful Christians, Catholics and Orthodox in particular are exiles in our own country. What we have to secure and bring everywhere with us is the invisible and ineffable essence of lived Liturgical Faith, something none can take from us. Because we are endowed with free will on our journey through life in these days we can choose to leave by the roadside the life of grace, of liturgy, of Gospel. Lord have mercy on us if we do.

I am not advocating Christians run off to a mythical hideaway and turn inward. That some have tried before and what often emerges are cults with disastrous consequences. Should there be from the Holy Spirit a resurgence of the age of the Fathers and Mothers of the Desert or of an influx of people into the religious life and Catholicism of the inter and post war periods, that will be great. However, I believe mostly the transformation by grace of the culture of disputation, blame, anger, death, division, will come about through the radiant light of men and women living ordinary daily lives, quietly loving their spouses, children, co-workers, neighbours in and through the liturgy, that is to live the Gospel without compromise.

That is to live, joy!

That is to become the living medicine of Christ the healer as we move throughout the culture of death radiating the Light of Christ, which purifies, heals, converts, we will become seed, spread throughout the land of humanity.

It may be decades before the seed bears fruit, but it will as surely as the sun rises.

Our vocation is to sow the seed with the same generous abandon Christ does.

Love does such things.

That is the true liturgical dance: joyous generosity.

However, before we can live deep in and through the gifts of liturgy and be all Christ invites us to as His disciples, which means we become visible as Church, active as field hospital for the human family, with the help of the Most Holy Spirit and with Our Blessed Mother we must contemplate and be immersed in the mystery and gift of the Incarnation, not as a dogma to be approached intellectually but as gift to be embraced and lived.

The Word became flesh so that thus we might know God's love: "In this the love of God was made manifest among us, that God sent his only Son into the world, so that we might live through him. "For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life." The Word became flesh to be our model of holiness: "Take my yoke upon you and learn from me." "I am the way, and the truth, and the life; no one comes to the Father, but by me." On the mountain of the Transfiguration, the Father commands: "Listen to him!" Jesus is the model for the Beatitudes and the norm of the new law: "Love one another as I have loved you." This love implies an effective offering of oneself, after his example. The Word became flesh to make us "partakers of the divine nature": "For this is why the Word became man, and the Son of God became the Son of man: so that man, by entering into communion with the Word and thus receiving divine sonship, might become a son of God." "For the Son of God became man so that we might become God." "The only-begotten Son of God, wanting to make us sharers in his divinity, assumed our nature, so that he, made man, might make men gods." [4]

When we preface Communion with the word Holy we are speaking of that sacramental intimacy of love and life when we receive the living, glorified Christ into our beings, true nourishment for the journey, greater than the mana in the desert, living in and through the grace given is the ultimate process of divinization-apotheosis, the transforming effect of divine grace, which is also the work within us of the Holy Spirit, all flowing from the atoning passion death and Resurrection of Christ from whose pierced heart flows the water and blood, Baptism and Holy Eucharist, the conforming and sustaining sacraments of our truly living as St. Paul notes no longer as isolated “I” but radiating Christ living within me. Galatians 2:20.

Thus filled with the Fire of Divine Love, we develop a true passionate love for every human being, our true siblings, and a burning desire that they too should meet and open wide the doors of their being to Christ, it is to work tirelessly, by living the Gospel with our lives without compromise to bring the light of the Gospel to the heart of the marketplace of human encounter, and particularly to those regions of the human heart and soul most alienated from Christianity……[5] and this alienation, is in these times the fundamental paucity of the soild rock on which to build the home of society. Indeed, without the rock of the Gospel we are building on sand. And as all the raucousness of contemporary politics and social media conspiracy theories reveal it is quicksand on which we are building.

And we are sinking fast. We need to cry out with the psalmist: Save me, my God, for the waters have risen to my neck. I am sinking in muddy depths and can find no foothold. I have fallen into deep waters, and the floods overwhelm me. I am exhausted from crying out; my throat is parched. [Psalm 69:1-4]

Momentarily I will insert a quotation from the Servant of God Catherine Doherty, from the above referenced Ekaterina. In His Resurrection and Ascension Jesus, in His living glorified Body is now the tabernacle, the place of worship, that no human hands have made. Because Jesus Himself is the true place of worship how we must treasure and spend time with Him in the Holy Eucharist primarily through participation in the liturgy of Holy Mass and receiving Him in Holy Communion but also through the ancient practice of Eucharistic Adoration, that is being with Him, adoring and loving Him in the tabernacle or monstrance. And also, being with Him in the hungry, the needy, the stranger. That is the essence of Eucharist lived. [6]

How could we, without the incarnation, love as Christ wants us to love?......”By this shall men know that you are my disciples, that you are going to love each other as I have loved you.” Now here is where we become sort of divinized…..The point is that the Gospel of Christ really penetrates us to the very bellybutton of our soul…..we empty ourselves to allow this Christ to grow in us and to take hold of us so that we become Him. That is to say He becomes us in a sense, and we become Him. [7]

In the Little Mandate of the Madonna House Lay Apostolate [8] Christ asks us and promises us: Be a light to your neighbour’s feet. Go without fears into the depths of men’s hearts. I shall be with you.

As I am writing and praying today, as my youngest grandson would ask – when his parents were away, ‘How many sleeps’, before they would be back, I am “Two sleeps from being released from hospital” which approaching reality after being in hospital six weeks already has me recalling something from Vaclav Havel I read many years ago about how we as human beings imprint ourselves onto the places were we dwell for any length of time and the adjustment when ‘place’ is changed.

We imprint ourselves in the dwelling place of home, municipality, nation, parish/religion, family, season, hour, day, week, year etc., but all aspects of place these days are constantly disrupted by the contentious of the times, by rancouress divisions, by other trying to shape our personal space into their idea of what it should be. When I leave this place of hospital and return to the place of poustinia there will be an adjustment, perhaps painful, perhaps not, maybe lengthy, maybe not, His will be done. He will imprint me where and as He wills, that is what Lovers do, gift and receive. He is the Beloved and we are His beloved.

Today in Europe thousands of people in various countries are violently protesting against lockdowns, Russia is massing more troops along its border with Ukraine, gun violence continues apace in the US and the ever-present pandemic disrupts everywhere.

Rather than fall into the quicksand of choosing sides in the contentiousness of public discourse, much less into the evil muck of harshly trying to control or emotionally overpower those who disagree with us, which is so common these days and tears families, parishes, apart, we must ask the grace to be radiant in the world and protected from being darkened by the world

To love one another as Christ loves us is to live out the liturgy with our lives, animated by the Holy Gospel, moving about as living tabernacles after Holy Communion and by our words and actions being living flames enlightening, that is illuminating all around us: people, history, cosmos, with the love of Christ.

Not easy to enter the hearts of others without fear, even harder these days without rancor or a personal agenda.

We are not called to change or convert anyone, simply to give Christ to everyone. Christ will do the changing and converting.

In our day people toss about the terms spiritual and spirituality with abandon. Often we hear phrases such as “I am not religious, but I am spiritual” or “I don’t belong to a religion, but I am deeply spiritual.” God bless them that is pure fantasy. The only authentic way to be ‘spiritual’ and have ‘spirituality’ is by opening ourselves to the Holy Spirit.

Not far from this hospital, daily no matter the wintry weather, a couple stand on the street corner loudly declaring the ‘end is nigh, get ready, be converted to Jesus.’

Bless their hearts for undertaking such a challenge in this day and age!

Truth is the ‘end’, the second coming of Christ, has been nigh, is nigh, every moment since Pentecost and Jesus’ Ascension, we should all strive to ready and the best way to prepare is by forgetting self, and my agenda, and selflessly loving everyone, a matter of choice and not emotion.

The particularity of the Christian way consists of the fact that the Christian spiritualization is simultaneously an incarnation. Paul has splendidly formulated its motto: ‘Now the Lord is the Spirit.’ [2 Cor. 3:17] This distinguishes it from all other kinds of spiritualization, whether philosophical or merely mystical. The Spirit into which it transforms all that has come to pass is the body of Christ….To spiritualize means to incarnate in a Christian way, but to incarnate means to spiritualize, to bring the things of the world to the coming Christ, to prepare them for their future form and thus to prepare God’s future in the world. In St. Irenaeus’ work we find the lovely thought that the meaning of the Incarnation was for the Spirit – the Holy Spirit -  to get used to the flesh, as it were, in Jesus. Turning this around we could say: the meaning of ongoing incarnation can only be the reverse, to get the flesh used to the Spirit, to God, to make it capax spiritus* and in this way to prepare its future. [9] * capable of breathing.

I began this essay in part by noting: that this illness had more to do with metanoia – that is conversion of heart - for myself and the human family, thus it is not so much illness I am aware of as the grace of wee suffering in intercession and atonement.

That was on the feast of St. Francis of Assisi, now I have just prayed first Vespers of the Solemnity of Christ the king. From which, fully aware I am returning to the hidden life of intercession and atonement for the human family in the urban environment, these intercessions, are very appropriate in context:

Let us pray to Christ he King. He is the firstborn of all creation; all things exist in Him.

May your kingdom come, O Lord.

Christ our king and shepherd, gather your sheep from every land, give them pasture in green and fertile meadows.

May your kingdom come, O Lord.

Christ, our leader and saviour, form all men into your own people, heal the sick, seek out the lost, guard the strong call back those who have wandered far away, strengthen those who waver, gather all your sheep into one flock.

May your kingdom come, O Lord.

Judge of all ages, when you hand over your kingdom to the Father, place us all at your right hand, so that we may inherit the kingdom prepared for us from the beginning of the world.

May your kingdom come, O Lord.

Prince of peace, break the weapons of war and inspire nations with Your peace.

May your kingdom come, O Lord.

Christ, heir of all nations, gather humanity and all the Church which your Father bestowed on you, so that the whole body of your people, united in the Holy Spirit, may acknowledge you as their head.

May your kingdom come, O Lord.

Christ, firstborn of the dead and firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep in death, bring all who have died to the glory of the resurrection.

May your kingdom, O Lord. [10]

Jesus and His kingdom are coming. Perhaps sooner than we expect. Surely we can be ready to welcome Him if we answer as He knocks constantly at the door of our hearts to be granted leave to enter.

What have I begun to learn after all these weeks to contemplate the current human condition and pray for every human being, my siblings? That only if I struggle to open the door to Christ will my prayer have power and that it is not only okay to but important we feel the weight of the pain of humanity.

And from the Encyclical of Pope Pius XI instituting this feast in 1925: In the first Encyclical Letter which We addressed at the beginning of Our Pontificate to the Bishops of the universal Church, We referred to the chief causes of the difficulties under which mankind was laboring. And We remember saying that these manifold evils in the world were due to the fact that the majority of men had thrust Jesus Christ and his holy law out of their lives; that these had no place either in private affairs or in politics: and we said further, that as long as individuals and states refused to submit to the rule of our Savior, there would be no really hopeful prospect of a lasting peace among nations. Men must look for the peace of Christ in the Kingdom of Christ;……the empire of our Redeemer embraces all men. To use the words of Our immortal predecessor, Pope Leo XIII: "His empire includes not only Catholic nations, not only baptized persons who, though of right belonging to the Church, have been led astray by error, or have been cut off from her by schism, but also all those who are outside the Christian faith; so that truly the whole of mankind is subject to the power of Jesus Christ." Nor is there any difference in this matter between the individual and the family or the State; for all men, whether collectively or individually, are under the dominion of Christ. In him is the salvation of the individual, in him is the salvation of society. "Neither is there salvation in any other, for there is no other name under heaven given to men whereby we must be saved." He is the author of happiness and true prosperity for every man and for every nation. "For a nation is happy when its citizens are happy. What else is a nation but a number of men living in concord?" If, therefore, the rulers of nations wish to preserve their authority, to promote and increase the prosperity of their countries, they will not neglect the public duty of reverence and obedience to the rule of Christ……… The result is that human society is tottering to its fall, because it has no longer a secure and solid foundation."…… If We ordain that the whole Catholic world shall revere Christ as King, We shall minister to the need of the present day, and at the same time provide an excellent remedy for the plague which now infects society…… This evil spirit, as you are well aware, Venerable Brethren, has not come into being in one day; it has long lurked beneath the surface. The empire of Christ over all nations was rejected. The right which the Church has from Christ himself, to teach mankind, to make laws, to govern peoples in all that pertains to their eternal salvation, that right was denied. Then gradually the religion of Christ came to be likened to false religions and to be placed ignominiously on the same level with them. It was then put under the power of the state and tolerated more or less at the whim of princes and rulers. Some men went even further, and wished to set up in the place of God's religion a natural religion consisting in some instinctive affection of the heart. There were even some nations who thought they could dispense with God, and that their religion should consist in impiety and the neglect of God. The rebellion of individuals and states against the authority of Christ has produced deplorable consequences…….: the seeds of discord sown far and wide; those bitter enmities and rivalries between nations, which still hinder so much the cause of peace; that insatiable greed which is so often hidden under a pretense of public spirit and patriotism, and gives rise to so many private quarrels; a blind and immoderate selfishness, making men seek nothing but their own comfort and advantage, and measure everything by these; no peace in the home, because men have forgotten or neglect their duty; the unity and stability of the family undermined; society in a word, shaken to its foundations and on the way to ruin…….individuals but also rulers and princes are bound to give public honor and obedience to Christ. [11]

[1] written in German and originally published in 2008, the above is taken from the English translation published in 2014 by Ignatius Press pps. xv, xvi: Joseph Ratzinger, Collected Works, THEOLOGY OF THE Liturgy=Italics and underlining are mine.

[2] op. cit. p.xvi

[3] EKATERINA, Catherine Doherty and the Russian Religious Renaissance, Robert Wild, editor; Madonna House Publications, 2021, title page.

[4] Catechism of the Catholic Church: https://www.vatican.va/archive/ENG0015/__P1J.HTM

[5] Ekaterina, op. cit. p.81

[6] see THELOGY OF THE LITURGY, op. cit. pp. 25-30

[7] Ekaterina op. cit. p. 92

[8] https://www.madonnahouse.org/mandate/

[9] see THEOLOGY OF THE LITURGY, op. cit. pp. 285,386

[10] First Vespers of the Solemnity of Christ the King, Intercessions; Volume IV, THE LITURGY OF THE HOURS, according to the Roman Rite, Catholic Book Publishing Corp., New York 1975 pp. 569,570

[11] https://www.vatican.va/content/pius-xi/en/encyclicals/documents/hf_p-xi_enc_11121925_quas-primas.html from paras. 1-32

© 2021 Fr. Arthur Joseph

 

Monday, September 06, 2021

A VOICE FROM THE CATACOMBS ~ Part 1

 

                                          Most Christians are familiar with the catacombs where the celebration of the Holy Eucharist and other prayer took place in the first age of martyrs. Less familiar perhaps, particularly in 17th century Ireland, was the necessitated use of “Mass Rocks” in fields far from the prying eyes of British troops, when Catholic faith and practice was banned.

We need to pray, be vigilant, and courageous truth-speaking witnesses in our day that such necessary precautions will not be needed again, for the only remaining and acceptable discrimination is anti-Christianity, a potential gateway to concentration camps and martyrdom.

One of the powerful scenes in the film THE KING’S SPEECH, is when the about to be crowned King shouts: I HAVE VOICE!

Every human being has a voice, but not every human being is heard, because totalitarian governments suppress opposition voices either by imprisonment, shutting down media, while ersatz democratic governments use other less drastic but no less effective means to stifle dissent, such as the Liberal party of Canada banning all pro-life people from running as candidates for the party, giving so-called ‘financial help in these difficult times’ to pro-Liberal media outlets, by giving press passes mainly to those media who agree with the current government, while social media, in the main, eviscerates solidly Christian, pro-life, pro-family voices, even banning people outright, whose posts are not in line with the outlets leftist agenda and doing such banning with no process of adjudication.

So much for freedom of speech, so much for ‘I have a voice’, nope, not unless you join the chorus of the pro-death, anti-family, anti-Christian culture. A choir whose only ‘music’ echoes the banshee screams of the damned.

A minor example of political correctness run amok is the moment I typed “damned’ up pops a message, imbedded in Microsoft Word, advising me that word ‘damned’ might be offensive to some of my readers. Really?

Reminds me of the 1998 film: Enemy of the State. Not just totalitarian regimes but even western democracies through the symbiosis of leftist politicians, media, special interest groups, have made the state sacrosanct, treating any dissent as ersatz blasphemy.

It is extremely urgent we Catholics, indeed all Christians, rediscover the courage of martyrs, should things keep heading in the direction where martyrdom becomes a fact of life. Even more urgent is that we Catholics and all Christians have the courage to be Confessors of the Faith, no matter the cost.

Doing anything less means not even noticing the smoke of satan, which pervades within this time it history, and, as Pope St. Paul VI noted, having also penetrated the Church, has become so thick that breathing in and exhaling the True-breath of the Holy Spirit becomes well nigh impossible. If we choose to ignore the smoke of satan we will suffocate through cowardice. Wildfires in summer are a common occurrence and the smoke contains numerous chemicals, gases, and particulate matter such as burning embers and soot.

The main components of satanic smoke are: hedonism, secularism, relativism, humanism, atheism, a disdain for the sacredness of life from the womb to the tomb, and most pernicious of all: pride.

Breathing in wildfire smoke damages the body. Breathing in satan’s smoke corrodes the intellect, heart, and soul.

Equivalent to the winds that spread wildfire smoke thousands of kilometers from the source, ideas uncritically embraced by human beings and passed on to others, often globally, are the lies and pseudo ‘truth’ that originate with satan and his minions.

Ideas matter; but ideas that matter most are taken for granted…….Eventually one side of ideas or another comes to be accepted as what “right-thinking” or “realistic” people accept. These fundamental presuppositions are the environment in which the Church has to function…….I do not think enough care has been shown by churchmen in understanding and evaluating these ideas that shaped the modern world, and, as a result, it is the modern world that has begun to determine our understanding and preaching of the gospel, to the detriment of our common Christian tradition. [1]

…….a truth which the Church has always treasured: in the far reaches of the human heart there is a seed of desire and nostalgia for God. The Liturgy of Good Friday recalls this powerfully when, in praying for those who do not believe, we say: “Almighty and eternal God, you created mankind so that all might long to find you and have peace when you are found”. There is therefore a path which the human being may choose to take, a path which begins with reason's capacity to rise beyond what is contingent and set out towards the infinite……..People cannot be genuinely indifferent to the question of whether what they know is true or not. If they discover that it is false, they reject it; but if they can establish its truth, they feel themselves rewarded. It is this that Saint Augustine teaches when he writes: “I have met many who wanted to deceive, but none who wanted to be deceived”. It is rightly claimed that persons have reached adulthood when they can distinguish independently between truth and falsehood, making up their own minds about the objective reality of things. [2]

The attempt to set freedom in opposition to truth, and indeed to separate them radically, is the consequence, manifestation and consummation of another more serious and destructive dichotomy, that which separates faith from morality. This separation represents one of the most acute pastoral concerns of the Church amid today's growing secularism, wherein many, indeed too many, people think and live "as if God did not exist". We are speaking of a mentality which affects, often in a profound, extensive and all-embracing way, even the attitudes and behaviour of Christians, whose faith is weakened and loses its character as a new and original criterion for thinking and acting in personal, family and social life. In a widely dechristianized culture, the criteria employed by believers themselves in making judgments and decisions often appear extraneous or even contrary to those of the Gospel. [3]

There are groups, of no small influence, who are trying to talk us out of kneeling…..” It’s not appropriate for redeemed man – he has been set free by Christ and doesn’t need to kneel any more.”…..Kneeling is not only a Christian gesture, but a Christological one…..there is a story that comes from the sayings of the Desert Fathers, according to which the devil was compelled by God to show himself to a certain Abba Apollo. He looked black and ugly, with frighteningly thin limbs, but, most strikingly, he had no knees. The inability to kneel is seen as the very essence of the diabolical. [4]

There we have it, for the dominate poison in the smoke of satan is pride.

It we are to be true Confessors of the Faith, have the courage of martyrs, dwelling in truth and radiating the light of Christ to hold back the spread of the darkness and smoke of satan poisoning the human family with lies, the culture of death, the desperation that flows from unbelief, the result of surrendering to the smoke of satan, then we must heed the words of Micah: He has shown you, O mortal, what is good. And what does the LORD require of you? To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God. [6:8]

 

[1] THE MASS AND MODERNITY, Jonathan Robinson of the Oratory; pps. 40-42; Ignatius Press, 2205 [italics are mine]

[2] FAITH AND REASON, John Paul II, paras. 24/25; [italics are mine] https://www.vatican.va/content/john-paul-ii/en/encyclicals/documents/hf_jp-ii_enc_14091998_fides-et-ratio.html

[3] THE SPLENDORS OF TRUTH, John Paul II, para. 88, [italics are mine] https://www.vatican.va/content/john-paul-ii/en/encyclicals/documents/hf_jp-ii_enc_06081993_veritatis-splendor.html

[4] JOSEPH RATZINER COLLECTED WORKS THEOLOGY OF THE LITURGY, pp.115, 120-21, Ignatius Press, 2014 [italics and emphasis are mine]

 

© 2021 Fr. Arthur Joseph