WAR AGAINST AND WITHIN THE CHURCH
AGE OF MARTYRS, AGE OF WITNESS, AGE OF HOPE
It is the week of the O Antiphons prayed during Vespers: O Dawn, splendour of eternal light, and sun of justice, come, and shine on those seated in darkness, and in the shadow of death.
In this new reality of war, we do well to keep before our hearts that He who is our Light pierces the darkness and He is the light the darkness cannot overcome.
I remember reciting the phrase about mourning and weeping in this valley of tears in the Hail, Holy Queen, a prayer I said often when I was growing up, and being aware at the time of the immense suffering in the world. Perhaps it was because I was a child during World War II or because the church talked more about suffering or because we didn’t have a lot of money. There was a realization that heaven waited up there, that life here was not meant to be soft and easy. 
For centuries, our Jewish Brothers and Sisters, when ascending to the temple in Jerusalem would sing-pray a series of Psalms: 119 to 133 , still known as the psalms of ascent. They are powerful prayers for whenever we experience the weight of being deep in any valley of darkness, tears, fear. It is good to, at the same time, pray Psalms 134 /135 , which are known as Alleluia psalms.
It is to experience, in this reality of war in all its visible and invisible dimensions, what Pope Emeritus Benedict teaches about faith at the end of the Lenten Retreat for the Curia in 2013: Faith is nothing other than the touch of God’s hand in the night of the world, and so – in the silence – to hear the word, to see love. 
This being the Holy Season of Advent, the season of hope, on the threshold of the birth of Our Lord and Saviour Jesus, we should turn to teachings that give hope, encouragement, strengthen faith, openness to absolute trust: in hoc signo vinces, that is, literally ‘in this sign you will conquer’. Our victory is found in Christ, Christ on the Cross, Christ Risen, and no enemy, visible or invisible, can overcome He who is in our midst in this moment as surely as when He first walked the earth two millennia ago: Christ is living now! He is teaching now, governing now, sanctifying now….
The first step in participating in Christ’s victory over the enemy, for there is only one enemy: satan - all human enemies are but those who do the evil one’s work - is to be grateful for the gift of our being, at this precise moment in history, for our Loving and All merciful God, Father, Son, Holy Spirit, creates us, gives of breath of life at the time in human history, which is salvation history, when all grace is available, should we chose, for us to become saints, and saints is what the human family needs, millions of Christ Light Bearers in the darkness, millions of living, active, icons of His love.
1. “REJOICE AND BE GLAD” (Mt 5:12), Jesus tells those persecuted or humiliated for His sake. The Lord asks everything of us, and in return He offers us true life, the happiness for which we were created. He wants us to be saints and not to settle for a bland and mediocre existence…. 15. Let the grace of your baptism bear fruit in a path of holiness. Let everything be open to God; turn to Him in every situation. Do not be dismayed, for the power of the Holy Spirit enables you to do this, and holiness, in the end, is the fruit of the Holy Spirit in your life (cf. Gal 5:22-23)…... 16. This holiness to which the Lord calls you will grow through small gestures. 
Evil always goes for the grand gesture.
Jesus comes as a small child, not a great potentate; Jesus tells us it is the little things we do with love, which are done for Him, which lead to eternal life. [Mt. 25: 31-46].
Even the secular entertainment world cannot ignore the truth about the power of little things done well for love of Jesus: Galadriel: Mithrandir? Why the Halfling? Gandalf: I don’t know. Saruman believes it is only great power than can hold evil in check. But that is not what I have found. I’ve found it is the small things, everyday deeds of ordinary folk that keeps the darkness at bay. Simple acts of kindness and love. 
Faith is nothing other than the touch of God’s hand in the night of the world, and so – in the silence – to hear the word, to see love. 
In this 21st century technology, for all the benefits, is nonetheless the enemy of silence. Between cell phones and earbuds, people around the world choose to flee silence and fill their ears and brains, penetrating heart and soul, with an invasive continuum of noise. People resist turning off, even just for a few minutes, the cell phone, the music, internet, tv, as if there is a pervasive fear of silence.
Yet, drawing on Pope Emeritus Benedict’s wisdom, unless we be still, unless we embrace, at least for a few minutes the sacred gift of silence, how can we possibly hear the Word Himself, see Love Himself?
Contemplation is a gaze of faith, fixed on Jesus. "I look at him and he looks at me":….Contemplative prayer is hearing the Word of God. ….Contemplative prayer is silence, the "symbol of the world to come" or "silent love." Words in this kind of prayer are not speeches; they are like kindling that feeds the fire of love. In this silence, unbearable to the "outer" man, the Father speaks to us his incarnate Word, who suffered, died, and rose; in this silence the Spirit of adoption enables us to share in the prayer of Jesus. 
In this new reality of war, with battles against forces both visible and invisible, the cacophony of noise prevents us both from hearing the Word, seeing Love, and hearing the approach of the enemy. This refusal to be still, to listen, fundamentally is the sin of pride: The heart of man seeks for solutions to his problems until no solutions are left. Then he discovers that the “I” in a sense must disappear, become totally identified with Christ in His silent service to mankind. Yes, there are many silent steps to take before one comes to the door of total identification. But when you arrive there, your heart, like those of the martyrs, will receive a new burst of love, the impulse of a heart which is finally united with the Beloved. 
Deep in the stillness of the night, from a cave near a small town in an occupied country under the boot of a foreign power, came the cry of a newborn.
The Infant, the so long promised, desired one, God Himself, Word of God, Light to shatter the darkness, the Redeemer, He who humbled Himself, not clinging to His divinity but becoming a human being, in the silence of the night we experience the touch of God, hear the Word, see love.
The cry of this newborn Child, this Holy Child is announcement to the Father that ‘I have come to do Your will’; it is a prayer encompassing every cry of every human being from birth to last breath; it is a declaration to satan and his minions the war has begun; it is an assurance to each of us we are not in the battle alone.
His cry is taken up by the Angels announcing His birth to the ambassadors of humanity: poor working people, shepherds, after Mary and Joseph, the first human beings to adore, in silence, this Child who smiles and whose smile holds the secret of everlasting life. 
This Child, who seeks a room in the inn of every human heart, should we make room for Him, this Child is our hope, He is our victory, our strength and consolation, the binder up of wounds, the forgiver of sins, He is.
Yes, just that brilliantly luminously clear: HE IS!
 from: https://www.americamagazine.org/issue/400/faith-focus/god-present-valley-tears
 Benedict XVI, Last Testament, flyleaf, Bloomsbury, paperback 2017
 Life of Christ, Fulton J. Sheen, p. 446, An Image Book, 1990
 Pope Francis: Apostolic Exhortation, on the call to holiness in the modern world: http://w2.vatican.va/content/francesco/en/apost_exhortations/documents/papa-francesco_esortazione-ap_20180319_gaudete-et-exsultate.html
 The Hobbit An Unexpected Journey, 2012 film: https://www.imdb.com/title/tt0903624/
 Pope Emeritus Benedict, op. cit.
 Catechism of the Catholic Church #’s 2715-2717
 MOLCHANIE The Silence of God: p. 77; Catherine De Hueck Doherty, 1982 The Crossroad Publishing Company
 Circling The Sun, Meditations on Christ in Liturgy and Time, p. 25; Robert D. Pelton; The Pastoral Press, 1986
© Fr. Arthur Joseph, 2018
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