Saturday, April 4, 2020

Jesus Wept

"If thou hadst known, in this thy day, the things which belong unto thy peace!" Luke 19:42.

Friday, April 3, 2020

The Passion of the Church

As we suffer with Christ, we also suffer with His Church. Father Angelo offers a magnificent commentary on why liturgy is not magic and how we must die with Christ in order to live.
The sacred liturgy offers us an opportunity, in this most holy of weeks, to enter into the history of our Lord’s suffering, death and resurrection.  Our presence at the Sacred Triduum is a proclamation of our faith in that the Christ of History and the Christ of Faith are one and the same.  Some scripture scholars have the tendency to demythologize the gospel accounts, and, inversely, some commentators on the liturgy have the tendency to mythologize the Easter liturgy.  In fact, the gospels are historical and the liturgy brings us into contact with that sacred and sacramental history.

Christopher West, as I have mentioned many times before, has tended to sexualize the liturgy.  Most recently, he reposted his Easter commentary on St. Augustine’s reference to the Cross as a marriage bed.  Of course, the patristic analogy is fine.  It is the agenda with which I have a problem.   Inevitably liturgical eroticism connects Holy Sacrifice of the Mass with Hieros Gamos, which is Jungian and best and Wiccan at worst.  It is where myth meets alchemy and shamanism.

Gnostics, liturgical wreckers and liturgical reformers alike have treated the liturgy like magic: “Just do it like this and everything will get better.”  “Change it” or “Don’t you dare change it,” has only served to confirm, however wrongly, what our enemies have said all along, that the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass is hocus pocus.
Our liturgy is not a gnostic play, an allegorical wedding that symbolizes human life on a psychological, or on some universally valid “spiritual” or “mystical” level.  Our mysticism, our mystagogy is based on real history, otherwise we are of all men most miserable. (1 Cor 15:19).

The Sacraments are neither magic nor mythology.  Alchemy is a lousy metaphor for Christian transformation, but it is a good metaphor the reduction of spirituality to human manipulation. A “chymical wedding” is paradise calculated, prognosticated and resolved upon, and left unrealized.

Some of the liturgical magicians look to the Easter liturgy for an occult answer to even the misery of impurity. Liturgical eroticism is not the answer because sensuality and the imagination gives too free access to demonic.  The Angelic Doctor made distinctions.  The Demonic Doctor makes an infinite amount of distinctions.  His eros is never the impure kind:  “The lumen Christi takes care of that.  Just think sublimely, mystically.  Spiritual marriage is never impure.”  In fact, the Sacraments lead to bliss only by a harder road: the one Jesus took.

But Catholics should not be Roman Missal thumpers either, who think humanity’s problems will be solved simply by the black and red of missal older than 1962.  The Sacred Liturgy is not a wand to be waved over the post-conciliar Church, but a mystery to be assimilated.  The Tree of Life has not been transplanted from paradise.  The old tree points to the new, and the new is a bridal bed of pain.  Why should the liturgy not be painful?  We can be like teenagers who don’t like going to Mass because we don’t get anything out of it.
The Sacred Liturgy is not an academic exercise any more than it is mythological drama.  The unity of the Church depends in a very great part upon the liturgy, and the average Catholic has a real life to live.  He is not a monk.  He is not a scholar, liturgist or controversialist.  He just wants to go to Mass.  He has no agenda, and He probably is not visionary in his outlook.  He is just trying to make it through the week.  He needs to identify with Christ, not with the brocade on a dalmatic.

True mysticism passes by way of real, practical and concrete ascetism that bears down upon the will.   The saint is not an austere superman, but one who has broken his stubborn and recalcitrant will.  There is a big difference.  Liturgical precision and reverence should be a given.  Respect for tradition and an understanding that neither antiquarianism nor novelty are valid principles in liturgical reform must be presumed.  But the fastidious and academic preoccupation, the pained observations of everything than does not conform with the ideal resolved upon, is a sign of a will that is very much like that of the liturgical innovator.  Lest this assessment itself becomes excessively academic, I should just summarize by saying our hope should be that the liturgy break the selfish will.

Holy Week is the Way of the Cross and it is a hard road.  It resists euphemisms and cannot tolerate self-serving stupidity and effeminate mystagogery.  Our passion play is reality.  “Hosanna in the highest!” and “Crucify him!” come out of the same mouths.  It is supreme irony that we solemnize our fickleness, the fact that our piety so often misses the point.  It is a harsh reality we need to face:
I have given my body to the strikers, and my cheeks to them that plucked them: I have not turned away my face from them that rebuked me, and spit upon me. The Lord God is my helper, therefore am I not confounded: therefore have I set my face as a most hard rock, and I know that I shall not be confounded (Isaias 50:6-7).
 Our Lord was like a Lamb, silent before His sheerer (53:7).  Our face is set like flint when our mouths are closed and our hearts are open.  Christ is our High Priest and Victim, not a magician.  The grace is there for us even in the demystified, lowly Novus Ordo.  We should stop deflecting our attention from the real problem by indulging a magical way of thinking and set our face like flint against our selfish will.

Sunday, March 29, 2020

'The Raising of Lazarus' by Rembrandt

From Aleteia:
Most significant in this canvas is the play of chiaroscuro: the light that rends the shadows, the love that routs evil more powerfully than suffering suffuses the flesh, life that ultimately triumphs over death. An intense ray of light flowing from the center left casts an oblique beam into the midst of the scene before striking the tomb of Lazarus. Those present at the miracle—the backlit Martha, Mary in full light, and the Jewish dignitaries—are spellbound. The figure of the Lord forms the vertical axis dividing the composition: a Jesus of human visage, still grief-stricken, but a Christ of superhuman stature. Twice the height of the other figures, his right hand masterfully raised, with the power of God he commands his friend to rise. (Read more.)

The Road to Suffering

The Crowning with Thorns by Caravaggio (1602)
Let us go up to Jerusalem. To quote Fr. Angelo:
One of the worst things about suffering and the thing, perhaps, from which we recoil most of all, is the solitude of suffering. It seems to be the worst when there can be no real commiseration, as when a loved one dies and we are left alone, or when we are confronted with a critical illness, or when we carry a heavy responsibility. Even when we share a tragedy in common with family or friends, our own inner confrontation with reality is unique and no one can bring resolution but ourselves. And the more interior the suffering is the worse the predicament in which we find ourselves.

But Our Lord embraced not only the horror of his murder, but the mental anguish of our betrayal and our guilt. He became the scapegoat for our sins, a curse for our sake, by assuming our guilt. He felt the guilt keenly for sins he did not commit, whereas we make light of them. He willingly entered in to our misery out of love for us, as we shrink from toil and effort to correct our faults. Read this and weep—seriously.

Father Daniel Lord, S.J. writes that, like the knights errant of Arthurian legend, Christ fought alone, suffered alone, persevered alone. His companions abandoned him and while His Mother was his stalwart companion and monolith of solidarity, Her broken heart just broke His even more. No one could bear His sorrow or carry His burden, but Her. The love between them was a martyrdom, more for their great union of purpose and determination. (Read entire post.)

Saturday, March 28, 2020

Passiontide


Today we veil the statues and pictures of our home altar with purple cloth, in observance of Passiontide. Although the Fifth Sunday of Lent is not designated as "Passion Sunday" on the new calendar, it is still permissible to cover the statues and sacred images during this week and the next. It really helps to create a spirit of mourning in honor of the sufferings of Our Lord. The Church offers a treasury of beautiful hymns which draw the soul into the mystery of Christ's passion and death.

As Abbot Gueranger writes in The Liturgical Year, Vol VI:
Let us hope that, by God's mercy, the holy time we are now entering upon will work such a happy change in us, that, on the day of judgment, we may confidently fix our eyes on Him we are now about to contemplate crucified in the hands of sinners. The death of Jesus puts the whole of nature in commotion; the midday sun is darkened, the earth is shaken to its very foundations, the rocks are split; may it be that our hearts, too, be moved and pass from indifference to fear, from fear to hope, and, at length from hope to love; so that having gone down with our Crucified to the very depths of sorrow, we may deserve to rise with Him unto light and joy, beaming with the brightness of His Resurrection, and having within ourselves the pledge of new life, which shall then die no more.
During Passiontide, it is good to reflect upon the nature of envy and jealousy, for it is envy and jealousy which killed Jesus.
Envy disrupts social life generally. It sets the child against the father, brother against brother, neighbor against neighbor, and nation against nation. It kills friendship, undermines business relationships, and hinders reconciliation. It is one of the chief sources of misunderstanding, criticism, hatred, vengeance, calumny, detraction, and perverse attacks upon private life.

Envy and greed, the source of the world's unrest and wars, are sins against charity, because they make us seek what belongs to others. Often, even at the cost of harm to our neighbor, we want what does not belong to us....The envious person becomes distrustful, unjust, suspicious. Envy makes its victims ill-tempered, sad, and unapproachable....

Jealousy implies the fear of being displaced by a rival, or of being deprived of that which is rightfully ours or of that which we think ought to be ours. Jealousy is anther form of envy. Jealousy has to do with our own possessions, whereas envy has to do with the possessions of others. We resent an intrusion upon that which belongs to us, and we are prone to become vengeful at this disregard of our rights and claims.

Jealousy goes a step further than envy; it not only tries to lessen the good opinion others enjoy and criticizes those who are praised and rewarded, but is characterized by an excessive love of our own personal good and brings on a fear that we will be deprived of it. Jealousy prefers to see good left undone rather than lose a single degree of praise.
(Excerpt from The Hidden Power of Kindness by Father Lawrence Lovasik, Sophia Institute Press, 1999, pp.62-63)

Friday, March 27, 2020

The Calming Of The Storm

The Storm on the Sea of Galilee by Rembrandt, 1632
“When evening had come” (Mk 4:35). The Gospel passage we have just heard begins like this. For weeks now it has been evening. Thick darkness has gathered over our squares, our streets and our cities; it has taken over our lives, filling everything with a deafening silence and a distressing void, that stops everything as it passes by; we feel it in the air, we notice in people’s gestures, their glances give them away. We find ourselves afraid and lost. Like the disciples in the Gospel we were caught off guard by an unexpected, turbulent storm. We have realized that we are on the same boat, all of us fragile and disoriented, but at the same time important and needed, all of us called to row together, each of us in need of comforting the other. On this boat… are all of us. Just like those disciples, who spoke anxiously with one voice, saying “We are perishing” (v. 38), so we too have realized that we cannot go on thinking of ourselves, but only together can we do this. 
It is easy to recognize ourselves in this story. What is harder to understand is Jesus’ attitude. While his disciples are quite naturally alarmed and desperate, he stands in the stern, in the part of the boat that sinks first. And what does he do? In spite of the tempest, he sleeps on soundly, trusting in the Father; this is the only time in the Gospels we see Jesus sleeping. When he wakes up, after calming the wind and the waters, he turns to the disciples in a reproaching voice: “Why are you afraid? Have you no faith?” (v. 40). 
Let us try to understand. In what does the lack of the disciples’ faith consist, as contrasted with Jesus’ trust? They had not stopped believing in him; in fact, they called on him. But we see how they call on him: “Teacher, do you not care if we perish?” (v. 38). Do you not care: they think that Jesus is not interested in them, does not care about them. One of the things that hurts us and our families most when we hear it said is: “Do you not care about me?” It is a phrase that wounds and unleashes storms in our hearts. It would have shaken Jesus too. Because he, more than anyone, cares about us. Indeed, once they have called on him, he saves his disciples from their discouragement. 
The storm exposes our vulnerability and uncovers those false and superfluous certainties around which we have constructed our daily schedules, our projects, our habits and priorities. It shows us how we have allowed to become dull and feeble the very things that nourish, sustain and strengthen our lives and our communities. The tempest lays bare all our prepackaged ideas and forgetfulness of what nourishes our people’s souls; all those attempts that anesthetize us with ways of thinking and acting that supposedly “save” us, but instead prove incapable of putting us in touch with our roots and keeping alive the memory of those who have gone before us. We deprive ourselves of the antibodies we need to confront adversity. 
In this storm, the façade of those stereotypes with which we camouflaged our egos, always worrying about our image, has fallen away, uncovering once more that (blessed) common belonging, of which we cannot be deprived: our belonging as brothers and sisters. 
“Why are you afraid? Have you no faith?” Lord, your word this evening strikes us and regards us, all of us. In this world, that you love more than we do, we have gone ahead at breakneck speed, feeling powerful and able to do anything. Greedy for profit, we let ourselves get caught up in things, and lured away by haste. We did not stop at your reproach to us, we were not shaken awake by wars or injustice across the world, nor did we listen to the cry of the poor or of our ailing planet. We carried on regardless, thinking we would stay healthy in a world that was sick. Now that we are in a stormy sea, we implore you: “Wake up, Lord!”. (Read more.)
Madonna Salus Populi Romani

Watch the historical event, HERE. Believe me, it's worth watching.

Today: Urbi et Orbi

From Aleteia:
This is the English translation of the formula of the “Urbi et Orbi” blessing, which the pope will pronounce in Latin this Friday at 6:00 p.m. in Rome.
May the Holy Apostles Peter and Paul, in whose power and authority we trust, intercede for us before the Lord.
℟: Amen.
Through the prayers and merits of Blessed Mary ever Virgin, Saint Michael the Archangel, Saint John the Baptist, the holy apostles Peter and Paul, and all the saints, may Almighty God have mercy on you and forgive all your sins, and may Jesus Christ bring you to everlasting life.
℟: Amen.
May the almighty and merciful Lord grant you indulgence, absolution and the remission of all your sins, a season of true and fruitful penance, a well-disposed heart, amendment of life, the grace and comfort of the Holy Spirit and final perseverance in good works.
℟: Amen.
And may the blessing of Almighty God, the Father, and the Son, and the Holy Spirit, come down on you and remain with you forever.
℟: Amen.
~ ~ ~
Here we offer the text in Latin, in case you want to follow Pope Francis’ exact words:
Sancti Apostoli Petrus et Paulus: de quorum potestate et auctoritate confidimus, ipsi intercedant pro nobis ad Dominum.
℟: Amen.
Precibus et meritis beatae Mariae semper Virginis, beati Michaelis Archangeli, beati Ioannis Baptistae et sanctorum Apostolorum Petri et Pauli et omnium Sanctorum, misereatur vestri omnipotens Deus; et dimissis omnibus peccatis vestris, perducat vos Iesus Christus ad vitam æternam.
℟: Amen.
Indulgentiam, absolutionem, et remissionem omnium peccatorum vestrorum, spatium veræ et fructuosae pœnitentiae, cor semper paenitens, et emendationem vitae, gratiam et consolationem Sancti Spiritus; et finalem perseverantiam in bonis operibus tribuat vobis omnipotens et misericors Dominus.
℟: Amen.
Et benedictio Dei omnipotentis, Patris, et Filii, et Spiritus Sancti, descendat super vos et maneat semper.
℟: Amen.
(Read more.)
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