Monday, December 26, 2005

Merry Christ Mass - God is Love

Is it not exceedingly fitting that the hope of the all the world came with the birth of a child? For the birth of every child surely gives an unarticulatable hope to every parent, an experience that most often transcends any strictly rational evaluation of the possibilities inherent in this child's future. This experience surely cannot be fully comprehended except as love, which hopes all things, and is itself inexaustable.
And so when we really come to know that our God came to us in the Christ Child, it seems intensely fitting to us. And yet, at the same time, we become able to see that this Holy Child, in his divine inexaustability, was from the beginning the Alpha and Omega--the source and sum of the holy gift of every newborn infant; that our hope is the hope of immortality in him; that our love participates in his Love.

Our Holy Father Pope Benedict XVI signed his first encyclical on Christmas day. It is titled Deus Caritas Est--"God is love." This is a very fitting focus for a Pope's first encyclical, and especially fitting for the people of our time, who's hearts seem to be permanently closed to Christ. If they will not heed sound reason and continued insistence on the truth, perhaps we Christians need to re-orient everything to that central truth that God is Love. The beauty of the Love of God in Jesus Christ speaks for itself, even to the soul most depraved by sin, concupiscience and the spirit of this age.

Friday, December 16, 2005

Praying always

Here are some great words of Saint Augustine on prayer, from today's office of readings:

St Augustine on Psalm 37(38)
Your very desire is your prayer
I have roared out with the groaning of my heart. There is a secret groaning, which is not heard by man: yet if the thought of some strong desire has taken so strong hold of the heart, that the wound of the inner man finds expression in some uttered exclamation, everyone wonders why. A man says to himself, “Perhaps this is the cause of his groaning? Perhaps this thing or that thing has happened to him?” But who can know the answer except he one before whose eyes and ears he groaned? So the psalmist says I roared out with the groaning of my heart because if men ever hear a man’s groanings they hear only the groaning of the flesh; the groans within the heart are silent.

And who observed and noticed the cause of his groaning? All my desire is in front of you. It cannot be before men because they cannot see the heart, but still the psalm says all my desire is in front of you. If your desire is laid before him then the Father, who sees in secret, will grant it to you.

For that very desire of your heart is your prayer; and if your desire continues uninterrupted, then so does your prayer. It was not in vain that the Apostle said Pray without ceasing. Can we be always bending the knee, prostrating the body, or lifting up our hands, that he says Pray without ceasing? If that is what prayer means then I say that we cannot do it without ceasing.

There is another inward kind of prayer without ceasing, which is the desire of the heart. Whatever activity you happen to be engaged in are doing, if you only long for that Sabbath then you do not cease to pray. If you do not want to pause in prayer then never pause in your longing.

Your continuous desire is your continuous prayer. If you cease to desire than you will have fallen silent in your prayer. Who are those who have fallen silent? Those of whom it is said Because iniquity will abound, the love of many will grow cold.

The freezing of love is the silence of the heart; the burning of love is the cry of the heart. If love continues then you are still lifting up your voice; if you are always lifting up your voice, you are always longing after something; if you are always longing, it is the Sabbath rest you are thinking of.

And all my desire is before Thee. How can we suppose that our desire is before him, but our very “groaning” is not before him? How can that be, since our desire itself finds its expression in “groaning”?

And so comes the line And my groaning is not hidden from you. From you indeed it is not hidden; but it is hidden from many men. The servant of God sometimes seems to be saying in humility, And my groaning is not hidden from you. Sometimes also he seems to smile. Is then that longing dead in his heart? If however there is the desire within, there is the “groaning” also. It does not always find its way to the ears of man; but it never ceases to sound in the ears of God.

It is our task, particularly in this season of Advent, to patiently stir up in our hearts desire for the Lord by prayer. Let us stoke the fire, stir the flames and add the kindling by "bending the knee, prostrating the body, or lifting up our hands." Then when we go about the varied duties and leisures of life--when we cannot have our knees bent--the fire will keep burning for God and we will be prepared for when he returns.
This task is further grave duty, because it is done not only for ourselves.
Who knows? In the process many others might catch fire.

Wednesday, December 14, 2005

"There must be no sleeping during that time"

Here is an extended quote from Pascal (from Penguin Classics' Pensees, #919), from a section called "The Mystery of Jesus." I think that it has an Advent message for us, even though it is about Christ's agony:

Jesus suffers in his passion the torments inflicted upon him by men, but in his agony he suffers the torments which he inflicts on himself. He was troubled [John 11:33. Reflexive verb in the Latin Vulgate]. The punishment is inflicted by no human, but by an almighty hand, and only he that is almighty can bear it.

Jesus seeks some comfort at least from his three dearest friends, and they sleep: he asks them to bear with him a while, and they abandon him with complete indifference, and with so little pity that it did not keep them awake even for a single moment. And so Jesus was abandoned to face the wrath of God alone.

Jesus is alone on earth, not merely with no one to fear and share his agony, but with no one even to know of it. Heaven and he are the only ones to know.

Jesus is in a garden, not of delight, like the first Adam, who there fell and took with him the rest of mankind, but of agony, where he was saved himself and all mankind.

He suffers this anguish and abandonment in the horror of the night.

I believe that this is the only occasion on which Jesus ever complained. But then he complained as though he could no longer contain his overflowing grief: 'My soul is exceeding sorrowful, even unto death' [Matt. 26:38].

Jesus seeks companionship and solace from men.

It seems to me that this is unique in his whole life, but he finds none, for his disciples are asleep.

Jesus will be in agony until the end of the world. There must be no sleeping during that time.

Jesus, totally abandoned, even by the friends he had chosen to watch with him, is vexed when he finds them asleep because of the dangers to which they are exposing not him but themselves, and he warns them for their own safety and their own good, with warm affection in the face of their ingratitude. And warns them: 'The spirit is willing but the flesh is weak' [Matt. 26:41].

Jesus finding them asleep again, undeterred by consideration either for him or for themselves, is kind enough not to wake them up and lets them take their rest.

Jesus prays, uncertain of the will of the Father, and is afraid of death. But once he knows what it is, he goes to meet it and offer himself up. Let us be going [Matt. 26:46]. He went forth [Jn. 18:4].

Jesus asked of men and he was not heard.

Jesus brought about the salvation of his disciples while they slept. He has done this for each of the righteous while they slept, in nothingness before their birth and in their sins after their birth.

He prays only once that the cup might pass from him, even then submitting himself to God's will, and twice that it should come if it must be so.

Jesus weary at heart.

Jesus, seeing all his friends asleep and all his enemies watchful, commends himself utterly to his Father.

Jesus disregards the emnity of Judas, and sees only in him God's will, which he loves; so much so that he calls him friend.

Jesus tears himself away from his disciples to enter upon his agony: we must tear ourselves away from those who are nearest and dearest to us in order to imitate him. While Jesus remains in agony and cruellest distress, let us pray longer.

We implore God's mercy, not so that he shall leave us in peace with our vices, but so that he may deliver us from them.

"Jesus will be in agony until the end of the world. There must be no sleeping during that time."

Sunday, December 11, 2005

A Little Joy on Gaudete Sunday...

i thank You God for most this amazing
day: for the leaping greenly spirits of trees
and a blue true dream of sky; and for everything
which is natural which is infinite which is yes

(i who have died am alive again today,
and this is the sun's birthday; this is the birth
day of life and love and wings: and of the gay
great happening illimitably earth)

how should tasting touching hearing seeing
breathing any-lifted from the no
of all nothing-human merely being
doubt unimaginably You?

(now the ears of my ears awake and
now the eyes of my eyes are opened)

-e. e. cummings

All praise and glory is Jesus Christ's forever. Amen.