30 March 2011

Climbing from the Letter of the Law to the Will of the Law

Our dear Lord proclaims that He did not come to unbind (solvere) the Law and the Prophets, but to fulfill (adimplere) them (cf Mt 5, 17). The physicality of the Law, id est, what we do, what we can see, what our physical senses perceive, may have been removed from our Catholic ceremonial life, like circumcision, exempli gratia, but the spiritual and moral value not only remains, but through Christ, they are perfected. God’s perfection cannot be abolished for a different, a better idea, for that would make it less than perfect; but when His perfection is subject to our imperfection, then His precepts cannot reach complete fruition until His Perfect One intercedes. Only He can proclaim: «Consummatum est!» -- ‘It is consummated’ (Io, 19, 30).

Jesus is calling us to a higher standard: «Estote ergo vos perfecti, sicut Pater vester cælestis perfectus est» -- ‘Be you therefore perfect, as also your heavenly Father is perfect’ (Mt 5, 48). He is Perfection and Fulfillment and is calling us to Him, for as He tells us: «Sine me nihil potestis facere» -- ‘Without Me you can do nothing’ (Io 15, 5).

Saint John Chrysostom writes: ‘He [Jesus] fulfilled the Law by reducing all the precepts of the old Law to a more strict and powerful morality’.

Saint Thomas Aquinas adds: ‘See how necessary it is, not only to believe, but to keep all the Commandments, even the very least. Our Savior makes this solemn declaration at the opening of His mission, to show to what a height of perfection He calls us’.

Indeed, Jesus came and raised the letter of the Law to the will of the Law – and He stands at the pinnacle of that spiritual mountain, desiring that we be elevated to those heights.

29 March 2011

Ceaselessly Keeping Jesus in Our Hearts

If we commence to keep God’s commandments with fervent zeal, from that moment onward grace will illumine all of our senses with deep sentiments, as if it were burning our thoughts and penetrating our heart with the peace of unyielding friendship, preparing us to consider things of the spirit rather than things of the flesh. This is what frequently occurs to those who approach perfection -- to those who without ceasing keep within their hearts the memory of the Lord Jesus. Let this be his only exercise and his constant practice.

To all who without ceasing meditate on His holy and glorious Name in the depths of their heart will see the light of their minds. Thus tamed by such an exacting effort of thought, every stain on the soul’s surface is consumed in ardent feeling because, our God is a consuming fire. Thus the Lord invites the soul to immense love of His own glory, for persevering in the mind’s memory of that glorious and most desirable Name with an ardent heart, produces in us a love for His goodness that is habitual, which, from that moment onward, nothing can disturb. This is the precious pearl which is obtained upon having dispossessed oneself of all one’s belongings and whose discovery brings about ineffable joy.

~ Diadochus of Photice ~

28 March 2011

God's Garden of Delight

You who walk around in the gardens of the Scriptures do not pass by heedlessly and idly but search each and every word like busy bees gathering honey from flowers, reap the Spirit from the words. Proving by experience that hidden manna is savoury, you will break forth into those words of David: "How sweet are Your words to my palate, more than honey to my mouth" (Ps 118 [119], 103).

From these gardens the Bridegroom will lead you, and if I’m not mistaken, into others where rest is more hidden, enjoyment more blessed and beauty more wonderful. When you are absorbed in His praises with accents of exultation and thanksgiving, He will take you into His wonderful dwelling place, into the very house of God, into the unapproachable light in which He dwells, where He feeds, where He lies down at midday. For if the devotion of those who sing psalms or pray has a touch of that loving curiosity of the disciples who asked: "Rabbi, where are you dwelling?" (Io 1, 38), I think they deserve to hear: "Come and see" (Io 1, 39). And then we read: "They came and saw where He abode and they stayed with Him that day" (ibid).

As long as we are with the Father of lights, with Whom there can be no change, no straying from His course, we know nothing of the night, we enjoy a blessed daylight. When we fall, hence, we relapse into our own darkness. Woe is me: how quickly my days have passed away, how quickly I have dried up like grass. As long as I was in the garden with Him, I was vigorous and flourishing like God's Paradise. With Him I am a garden of delight; without Him, a place of horror and sheer wilderness.

For I think that the man who enters his garden becomes a garden himself, his soul is like a watered garden, so that the Bridegroom says in praise of him: "My sister, My spouse is a garden enclosed" (Cant 4, 12). Yield the fragrance of incense. Blossom like the lily, and smell sweet, and put forth leaves for your adornment.

~ Blessed Guerric of Igny ~

26 March 2011

Dominica Tertia Quadragesimæ

First Reading, Exodus 17:3-7
The people of Israel grumbled against Moses enough for him to think that they actually might try to kill him. Scripture reads: “You shall not put the Lord your God to the test” (Deut 6,16). Jesus actually quoted this passage when He was being tempted in the desert by the devil. The Catechism of the Catholic Church teaches that tempting God wounds the respect and trust we owe our Creator and Lord. It always harbors doubt about His love, His providence and His power (cf CCC 2119). In this Reading, the people of Israel tempt and challenge God to supply water for their thirst. Water is a symbol of life and every human being needs water to sustain life. Water is also used for cleansing. It is fitting that water is used in baptism. In the Sacrament of Baptism we are cleansed of our sins and are given a new life as a child of God. The rock in Horeb, according to Saint Paul, is a figure of Christ: “All drank the same spiritual drink, for they drank from a spiritual rock that followed them, and the rock was the Christ” (1 Cor 10, 4). The words Massah and Meribah mean “quarrel” and “test”. The people ask, “Is the Lord in our midst or not?” That question never seems to go away. It was asked thousands of years ago and it is still asked today, usually when tragedy strikes. It is yet another way of tempting God, trying to get Him to reveal Himself, although, depending on the circumstances, it can be at times quite understandable in our lowly humanity. During Lent, we do indeed ask the Lord to reveal Himself but not in a way that would be considered tempting God. Through prayer we seek Him longing for intimacy and forgiveness, longing to quench a thirst that water cannot suffice.

Second Reading, Romans 5:1-2, 5-8
The apostle Paul proceeds in this Reading to show how wonderful a benefit it is to be truly justified by the coming of Christ. Saint John Chrysostom adds that we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ by laying aside all contentions; or let us have peace with God by sinning no more. And we can have this peace even when we’re in the midst of our greatest trials, which, with our Lord’s help, can lead us to an increase in virtue and patience. God has showered us with the blessings of faith, charity, patience, and fidelity even though we’re not deserving of it. Knowing this, there must be the greatest confidence that after this pledge and assurance of His good will towards us, He will finish the work He has begun and bring us to His heavenly Kingdom. Saint Paul writes: “The love of God has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit Who has been given to us.” Indeed, we are temples of the Holy Spirit which means that the great Paraclete resides in our soul, sanctifying it and making it a partaker of His divine love. Because of God’s love and mercy for His people, Christ, while we were still helpless, died at the appointed time for the ungodly; meaning that we were sinners and consequently His enemy. Saint Paul continues: “Perhaps for a good person one might even find courage to die”; that is to say, courage to die for a person that has been good to us. As Saint Jerome puts it, “Scarcely would anyone die for a just cause; for who would ever think of dying for injustice?” For however long our journey is in this life, chances are we will never fully grasp how much God loves us.

Gospel, Saint John 4:5-42
Saint Augustine taught that the woman of Samaria symbolizes the Church which was not yet justified, but was about to be justified. Saint Augustine continues: “She comes in ignorance, she finds Him, and He converses with her. We must see what this woman of Samaria was and why she had come to draw water. The Samaritans did not belong to the Jewish nation, but were foreigners. It is part of the symbolism that this woman, who is a type of the Church, came from a foreign nation, because the Church was to come from the Gentiles and so be of a different race. Because she provided a symbol, she became the reality too. For she came to believe in Jesus Who was putting her before us as a symbol. She was surprised that a Jew was quite uncharacteristically requesting a drink from her. Although Jesus asked for a drink, His real thirst was for this woman’s faith.” The Catechism of the Catholic Church shares something beautiful about Jesus’ thirst: “The wonder of prayer is revealed beside the well where we come seeking water: there, Christ comes to meet every human being. It is He Who first seeks us and asks for a drink. Jesus thirsts; His asking arises from the depths of God’s desire for us. Whether we realize it or not, prayer is the encounter of God’s thirst with ours. God thirsts that we may thirst for Him” (CCC 2560). Continuing with Saint Augustine’s homily, he says: “Jesus asks her for a drink. He is in need as One Who will accept, He abounds as One Who will satisfy. Jesus said, ‘If you knew the gift of God.’ God’s gift is the Holy Spirit but He still speaks to her in a veiled language, and gradually He enters into her heart. The water which He was about to give to her is surely the water referred to in the words, ‘With You is the fountain of life.’ Jesus was promising her plentiful nourishment and the abundant fullness of the Holy Spirit. The woman said to Him, ‘Sir, give me this water, so that I may not be thirsty or have to keep coming here to draw water.’ Need drove her to this labor, while her frailty recoiled from it. How wonderful if she heard the invitation, ‘Come to Me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.’ That was what Jesus’ words to her meant -- an end to her labor; but she did not yet understand their meaning.” The Samaritan woman uses the term, “our father Jacob” because the Samaritans claimed lineage from Abraham, therefore, they called Jacob their father because he was Abraham’s grandson. The Venerable Bede explains that they also called Jacob their father because they lived under the Law of Moses and were in possession of the land that Jacob had bequeathed to his son Joseph. When Jesus tells her to go call your husband, He begins to show her that He knows all about her life. The Samaritan woman says: “Our ancestors worshiped on this mountain,” meaning Jacob and the ancient patriarchs, whom the Samaritans called their fathers. The mountain is Gerizim, where the Samaritans had built a temple; and it was there that the Samaritans would come to worship instead of at Jerusalem. The Samaritans believed that the patriarchs had exercised their religious rituals on this mountain. Jesus tells the woman that salvation is from the Jews. Saint John Chrysostom explains the meaning of our Savior’s words: “The Israelites, on account of their innumerable sins, had been delivered by the Almighty into the hands of the king of Assyria, who led them all away as captives into Babylon and sent other nations whom He had collected from different parts, to inhabit Samaria. But the Almighty, to show to all nations that He delivered up His people solely on account of their transgressions, sent lions [aggressive men] into the land to persecute these strangers. The Assyrian king upon hearing this, sent them a priest to teach them the Law of God; but they did not depart wholly from their impiety, for many of them returned again to their idols, while at the same time worshipping the true God. It was on this account that Christ preferred the Jews before them saying, ‘Salvation is from the Jews,’ whom it was the chief principle to acknowledge the true God and hold every denomination of idols in detestation. The Samaritans, by mixing the worship of one with the other, plainly showed that they held the God of the universe in no greater esteem than their idols.” Jesus tells her: “The hour is coming, and is now here, when true worshipers will worship the Father in Spirit and truth.” The Catechism explains that worship in Spirit and truth of the New Covenant is not tied exclusively to any one place. What matters above all is that, when the faithful assemble in the same place, they are the living stones gathered to be built into a spiritual house. For the Body of the risen Christ is the spiritual temple from which the source of living water springs forth: incorporated into Christ by the Holy Spirit, we are the temple of the living God (cf CCC 1179). Jesus was not in any way suggesting that Christian worship should have no use of external signs towards God, for that would take away all sacrifice, sacraments and prayers. The Samaritan woman tells Jesus: “I know that the Messiah is coming, the One called the Christ; when He comes, He will tell us everything.” Even the Samaritans, at that time, expected the coming of the Messiah. Jesus said to her, “I am He,” which He proclaimed to the Samaritan woman, first by His words, but perhaps even more by His grace, which would have convinced her heart that He was indeed the Messiah. The disciples were amazed that He was talking to her and experiencing this may have taught them something about the humility of Jesus. The Samaritans looked for the Messiah because they had the books of Moses, in which Jacob foretold of the world’s Redeemer: “The scepter shall not depart from Judah or a ruler from his thigh, till He that is to be sent comes” (Gen 49, 10). Jesus tells His disciples to look up and see the fields ripe for the harvest. The harvest of souls was approaching when Christ came to teach the way of salvation and to send His apostles to convert all nations. “I sent you to reap what you have not worked for”; by these words Jesus testifies to His apostles that the prophets had sown the seed in order to bring all to believe in Christ. This was the end of the Law, the fruit which the prophets looked for to reward their labors. Jesus, likewise, shows them that as it is He Himself Who sends the apostles; it is also He Who sent the prophets before them, and that the Old and New Testaments are of the same origin. Finally, through the grace of God, we see that many of the Samaritans came to believe that Jesus was indeed the Messiah, the Saviour sent to redeem the world.

Being Luminous in the Communion of the Real Light

This is the path to lead us to the discovery of the Beautiful.

All other objects that attract men's love, be they never so fashionable, be they prized never so much and embraced never so eagerly, must be left below us, as too low, too fleeting, to employ the powers of loving which we possess; not indeed that those powers are to be locked up within us unused and motionless; but only that they must first be cleansed from all lower longings; then we must lift them to that height to which sense can never reach.

Admiration even of the beauty of the heavens, and of the dazzling sunbeams, and, indeed, of any fair phenomenon, will then cease. The beauty noticed there will be but as the hand to lead us to the love of the celestial Beauty Whose glory the heavens and the firmament declare, and Whose secret the whole creation sings.

The soul rising up, leaving all that she has grasped already as too narrow for her needs, will thus grasp the idea of that Magnificence which is exalted far above the heavens.

He therefore who raises himself above all low earthly ambitions, or, more than that, above the whole universe itself, will be the man to find that which is alone worth loving, and to become himself as beautiful as the Beauty which he has touched and entered, and to be made bright and luminous himself in the communion of the real Light.

~ Saint Gregory of Nyssa, De Virginitate ~

25 March 2011

She is the ever-blooming paradise of incorruptibility

At the Carthusian hour of Matins for the Solemnity of the Annunciation, eight Lessons are reflected on from Saint Gregory Thaumaturgus. Here’s what the monks heard from the saint of Neocæsarea who is sometimes referred to as Gregory the Wonderworker.

It is our duty to present to God, like sacrifices, all the festivals and first of all, the Annunciation to the holy Mother of God, when the angel called her ‘full of grace’! First of all wisdom and saving doctrine in the New Testament was this salutation, ‘Hail, full of grace’ (Lc 1, 28) conveyed to us from the Father of lights. And this address, ‘Hail, full of grace’, God embraces the whole of human nature. ‘Hail, full of grace’ in the holy conception and in the glorious pregnancy, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people. See, then, dearly beloved, how the Lord has conferred upon us everywhere, and indivisibly, the joy which transcends all human thought.

While on earth, Mary was in possession of the incorruptible citizenship, and walked as such in all manner of virtues, and lived a life more excellent than the common human standard. The Word of the Eternal Father wanted to assume the flesh, and endue the perfect Man from her. Through the flesh sin entered into the world and death by sin. But the Incarnation condemns sin in the burying of the holy body of Mary; thus the tempter of sin is overcome. With the Incarnation, therewith also the beginning of the resurrection might be exhibited, and life eternal instituted in the world, and fellowship established for men with God the Father. Who will be able to explain the incomprehensible mystery? What shall we state and what shall be left in silence?

Gabriel was sent to the holy Virgin; the incorporeal was dispatched to her who in the body pursued the incorruptible conversation, and lived in purity and in virtues. And when he came to her, he first addressed her with the salutation, ‘Hail, full of grace, the Lord is with thee’. For you do what is worthy of joy indeed, since you have put on the vesture of purity, and are girt with the cincture of prudence. ‘Hail, full of grace’, for to your lot it has fallen to be the vehicle of celestial joy. ‘Hail, full of grace’, for through you joy is decreed for the whole creation, and the human race receives again by you its pristine dignity. ‘Hail, full of grace’, for in your arms the Creator of all things shall be carried. Mary was perplexed by these words; for she was inexperienced in all the addresses of men, and welcomed quiet, as the Mother of prudence and purity. And since she is a pure and Immaculate and stainless image herself, she shrank not in terror from the angelic apparition, like most of the prophets, as indeed true virginity has a kind of affinity and equality with the angels.

Then again the archangel addressed her with the announcement of a joy: ‘Fear not, Mary, for you have found favour with God’ (Lc 1, 30). These words not only give you understanding that there is nothing to fear, but shows you the very key to the absence of all cause for fear. For through me all the heavenly powers hail you, the holy Virgin: rather, He Himself, Who is Lord of all the heavenly powers and of all creation, has selected you because you are holy and adorned with grace. Through your holy, chaste, pure, and undefiled womb the enlightening Pearl comes forth for the salvation of all the world. You are the most honourable, the purest, and the most pious of all human creatures. You have a mind whiter than the snow, and a body of pure gold refined in the crucible. Ezekiel saw you, which he has described in these terms: ‘And the likeness of the throne above them was as the appearance of a sapphire-stone: and above the throne it was as the likeness of a human, and as the appearance of amber; and within it there was, as it were, the likeness of fire round about’ (Ez 1, 26-27). Clearly, then, did the prophet behold in type Him Who was born of the holy virgin, whom you, O holy Virgin, would have had no strength to bear, had you not beamed forth for that time with all that is glorious and virtuous.

And with what words of praise, then, shall we describe her Virgin-dignity? With what indications and proclamations of praise shall we celebrate her stainless figure? With what spiritual song or word shall we honour her who is most glorious among the angels? She is planted in the house of God like a fruitful olive that the Holy Spirit overshadowed; and by her means are we called sons and heirs of the Kingdom of Christ. She is the ever-blooming paradise of incorruptibility, wherein is planted the tree that gives life, and that furnishes to all the fruits of immortality. Mary is the boast and glory of virgins, and the exultation of mothers. She is the sure support of the believing, and the helper of the pious. She is the vesture of light, and the domicile of virtue. She is the ever-flowing fountain, wherein the water of life sprang and produced the Lord's Incarnate manifestation. Mary is the monument of righteousness; and all who become lovers of her, and set their affections on virgin-like ingenuousness and purity, shall enjoy the grace of angels.

All who worthily observe the festival of the Annunciation to the Virgin Mary, the Mother of God, acquire as their recompense the fuller interest in the message, ‘Hail, full of grace’! It is our duty, therefore, to keep this feast, seeing that it has filled the whole world with joy and gladness. And let us keep it with psalms, and hymns, and spiritual songs. The Annunciation to the Virgin Mary, full of grace, has become for us the principle of all good, the admirable plan of salvation, the divine and excellent teaching of the Saviour. Thence rise the rays of the light of understanding upon us. Thence spring for us the fruits of wisdom and immortality, sending forth the clear pure streams of piety. Thence come to us the brilliant splendours of the treasures of divine knowledge. ‘For this is life eternal, that we may know the true God, and Jesus Christ Whom He has sent’ (Io 17, 3).

God in His goodness, when He saw the creature He Himself had formed now held by the power of death, did not turn away finally from him whom He had made in His own Image, but visited him in each generation. Manifesting Himself first of all among the patriarchs, and then proclaiming Himself in the law, and presenting the likeness of Himself in the prophets, He announced His plan of salvation. When the fullness of time had come for His glorious appearing, He sent beforehand the archangel Gabriel to bear the glad tidings to the Virgin Mary. And he came down from the ineffable powers above to the holy Virgin, and addressed her first of all with the salutation, ‘Hail, full of grace’. And when this word reached her, in the very moment of her hearing it, the Holy Spirit entered into the undefiled temple of the Virgin, and her spirit and her body were sanctified together. And nature stood opposite, and natural intercourse at a distance, beholding with amazement the Lord of nature, in a manner contrary to nature, or rather above nature, doing a miraculous work in the body. By the very weapons which the devil strove against us, Christ also saved us, taking to Himself our body, subject to suffering, in order that He might impart the greater grace to the being who was deficient in it. ‘And where sin abounded, grace did much more abound’ (Rom 5, 20).

Your praise, O most holy Virgin, surpasses all praise, because God took Flesh and was born Man of you. To you every creature, of things in heaven, and things on earth, and things under the earth, gives you the offering of honour. You are indeed worthy of the throne of the cherubim and you shine as the very brightness of light in the high places of the kingdoms of intelligence. The Father, Who is without beginning, and Whose power you had overshadowing you, is glorified. The Son is worshipped, Whom you bore according to the flesh; and where the Holy Spirit is praised, Who effected in your womb the generation of the mighty King. Through you, O full of grace, is the holy and consubstantial Trinity known throughout the world. Together with yourself, deem us also worthy to be made partakers of your perfect grace in Jesus Christ our Lord, with Whom, and with the Holy Spirit, be glory to the Father, now and ever, and unto the ages of the ages. Amen.

24 March 2011

Climbing the Mountain of God

The contemplation of God is not effected by sight and hearing, and it is not comprehended by any of the customary perceptions of the mind, for eye has not seen and ear has not heard, nor do they have a place with any of those things which usually enter into the heart of man.

One who would approach the knowledge of sublime things first must purify his way of life from all sensual and irrational emotion. One must be cleansed from his understanding of every opinion formulated from some preconception and must withdraw himself from his customary intercourse with his sense perceptions, which are wedded to our nature as its companion. When one is so purified, then he assails the mountain.

The knowledge of God is a steep mountain and difficult to climb -- most people scarcely reach its base. If one were like Moses, he would ascend higher and hear the sound of trumpets which become louder as one advances. For the preaching of the divine nature is truly a trumpet blast, which strikes the hearing, already loud at the onset, but becoming louder at the end.

~ Saint Gregory of Nyssa, 'The Life of Moses' ~

23 March 2011

A Soul Rapt in God

On the life of Saint Benedict by Saint Gregory the Great:

Benedict came to the window of his chamber where he offered up his prayers to almighty God. Standing there, all of a sudden in the dead of the night, as he looked forth, he saw a light that banished away the darkness of the night and glittered with such brightness that the light which shone in the midst of darkness was far more clear than the light of the day. During this vision a marvelously strange thing followed, for, as he himself afterward reported, the whole world, gathered together, as it were, under one beam of the sun, was presented before his eyes.

How can I conceive by what means the whole world could be seen of any one man?

All creatures are, as it were, nothing to that soul that beholds the Creator. For though it sees but a glimpse of that light which is in the Creator, yet all things that are created seem very small. By means of that supernatural light, the capacity of the contemplative soul is enlarged, and is so extended in God, that it is far above the world. The soul of the contemplative who sees in this manner, is also above itself; for being rapt up in the light of God, it is inwardly in itself enlarged above itself. When it is so exalted and looks downward, it comprehends how little all creation is. The soul, in its former baseness, could not so comprehend.

The man of God, therefore, who had that vision, could not see those things but in the light of God. What marvel it is that Benedict who saw the world gathered together before him -- rapt up in the light of his soul -- was at that time out of the world. Although we say that the world was gathered together before his eyes, yet it is not that heaven and earth were drawn into any lesser room than they are of themselves. The soul of the beholder was more enlarged, rapt in God, so that it might see without difficulty that which is under God.

22 March 2011

Struggling to Live the Gospel

In truth it is no light thing for one, who makes a profession, to follow up all that the promise entails. Any one may embrace the Gospel life, but only a very few of those who have come within my knowledge have completely carried out their duty in its minutest details, and have overlooked nothing that is contained therein.

Only a very few have been consistent in keeping the tongue in check and the eye under guidance, as the Gospel would have it; in working with the hands according to the mark of doing what is pleasing to God; in moving the feet, and using every member, as the Creator ordained from the beginning.

Propriety in dress, watchfulness in the society of men, moderation in eating and drinking, the avoidance of superfluity in the acquisition of necessities; all these things seem small enough when they are thus merely mentioned, but, as I have found by experience, their consistent observance requires no light struggle.

Further, such a perfection of humility as not even to remember nobility of family, nor to be elevated by any natural advantage of body or mind which we may have, nor to allow other people's opinion of us to be a ground of pride and exaltation, all this belongs to the evangelic life.

There is also sustained self-control, industry in prayer, sympathy in brotherly love, generosity to the poor, lowliness of temper, contrition of heart, soundness of faith, calmness in depression, while we never forget the terrible and inevitable tribunal. To that judgment we are all hastening, but those who remember it, and are anxious about what is to follow after it, are very few.

~ Saint Basil the Great ~

21 March 2011

If we abide in His love, we conquer as He conquered

Pope Saint Leo the Great on the Transfiguration:

The Lord displays His glory before chosen witnesses, and invests that bodily shape which He shared with others with such splendour, that His face was like the sun's brightness and His garments equalled the whiteness of snow. This Transfiguration, the foremost object was to remove the offense of the cross from the disciple's heart, and to prevent their faith from being disturbed by the humiliation of His voluntary Passion by revealing to them the excellence of His hidden dignity. But with no less foresight, the foundation was laid of the Holy Church's hope, that the whole body of Christ might realize the character of the change which it would have to receive, and that the members might promise themselves a share in that honour which had already shone forth in their Head.

The Apostle Peter, therefore, being excited by the revelation of these mysteries, despising things mundane and scorning things earthly, was seized with a sort of frenzied craving for the things eternal, and being filled with rapture at the whole vision, desired to make his abode with Jesus in the place where he had been blessed with the manifestation of His glory. He says, Lord, it is good for us to be here: if You will let us make three tabernacles , one for You, one for Moses, and one for Elijah. To this proposal the Lord made no answer, signifying that what he wanted was not indeed wicked, but contrary to the divine order: since the world could not be saved, except by Christ's death, and by the Lord's example the faithful were called upon to believe that, although there ought not to be any doubt about the promises of happiness, yet we should understand that amidst the trials of this life we must ask for the power of endurance rather than the glory, because the joyousness of reigning cannot precede the times of suffering. And so while He was yet speaking, behold a bright cloud overshadowed them, and behold a Voice out of the cloud, saying, This is My beloved Son, in Whom I am well pleased; listen to Him.

This is My Son, Who sought not by grasping, and seized not in greediness, that equality with Me which He has, but remaining in the form of My glory, that He might carry out Our common plan for the restoration of mankind, He lowered the unchangeable Godhead even to the form of a slave. Listen to Him, therefore, unhesitatingly, in Whom I am throughout well pleased, and by Whose preaching I am manifested, by Whose humiliation I am glorified; because He is the Truth and the Life , He is My Power and Wisdom. Listen to Him, Whom the mysteries of the Law have foretold, Whom the mouths of prophets have sung. Listen to Him, Who redeems the world by His Blood, Who binds the devil, and carries off his chattels, Who destroys the bond of sin, and the compact of the transgression. Listen to Him, Who opens the way to heaven, and by the punishment of the cross prepares for you the steps of ascent to the Kingdom. Why do you tremble at being redeemed? Why do you fear to be healed of your wounds? Let that happen which Christ wills and I will. Cast away all fleshly fear, and arm yourselves with faithful constancy; for it is unworthy that you should fear in the Saviour's Passion what by His good gift you shall not have to fear even at your own death.

These things, dearly-beloved, were said not for their profit only, who heard them with their own ears, but in these three Apostles the whole Church has learned all that their eyes saw and their ears heard. Let all men's faith then be established, according to the preaching of the most holy Gospel, and let no one be ashamed of Christ's Cross, through which the world was redeemed. And let not any one fear to suffer for righteousness' sake, or doubt of the fulfilment of the promises, for this reason, that through toil we pass to rest and through death to life. Since all the weakness of our humility was assumed by Him, in Whom, if we abide in the acknowledgment and love of Him, we conquer as He conquered, and receive what He promised, because, whether to the performance of His commands or to the endurance of adversities, the Father's fore-announcing Voice should always be sounding in our ears, saying, This is My beloved Son, in Whom I am well pleased; listen to Him.

20 March 2011

Dominica Secunda Quadragesimæ

First Reading, Genesis 12:1-4a
The promise of Abram's blessing appears two more times in the book of Genesis (cf 18, 18 & 22, 18). The prophecy in this Reading is confirmed to Isaac (cf Gen 26, 2-5) and to Jacob (cf Gen 28, 14). Abram's faith is tested here as he is commanded to leave the comforts of home and journey to an unknown habitation. 'All the communities of the earth shall find blessing in you'. The blessing begins with Abram but points to Jesus Christ, a descendant of Abram. Christ calls us to venture out from the ways of the world and walk in His ways, a sojourn that leads to eternal life which is unknown to us because 'eye has not seen' (Is 64, 4 & 1 Cor 2, 9). The journey is difficult but like Abram [Abraham], God's gift of faith can teach us to be poor in spirit and will see us through.

Second Reading, 2 Timothy 1:8b-10
Saint Paul calls for evangelization here. By bearing our share of hardship for the Gospel, he asks us to join Him in spreading the Good News. This is not easy in the midst of a mountain of secularization. The Greek text expresses the difficulties involved as it translates Paul's words as: 'Be a partner with me in suffering'. This message is timeless. Today, in our world of technological advances it's difficult to believe that there are still a great number of people who have never heard of Jesus Christ. 'The harvest is indeed great but the laborers are few' (Lc 10, 2). In our own corner of the world evangelization is presented mostly by example -- and if necessary, by words. In our secular culture actions tend to speak much louder than words. We are called to a holy life and are equipped with saving grace which was made manifest by the illumination of our Savior Who brought to light life and incorruption.

Gospel, Saint Matthew 17:1-9
In the Gospel according to Saint Matthew, chapter 16 (verses 16-17), the Father reveals to Peter Who Jesus is; and now the Father's revelation is visually shown not only to Peter, but also to James and John. According to a fourth century tradition, the mountain is Tabor which is located about eight miles southeast of Nazareth. As is the case with most biblical scholarship, not everyone is in agreement with that locale. Saint John Chrysostom explains the symbolism of being led up a high mountain and how it impacts our spiritual life: 'It is necessary for all who desire to look upon the glory of God that they lie not down amid base pleasures, but that they be uplifted to heavenly things'. Origen, an early Church writer, adds: 'Jesus is simply seen by those who do not, by the practice of virtue, ascend to the sacred mountain of wisdom; but to those who do ascend there He is no longer known as Man, but is understood as God the Word'. Transfiguration does not mean that Jesus temporarily put aside His physical Body to reveal His Spiritual makeup; but instead He added splendor and glory to His physical Body. In other words, this is how our Saviour will appear on the Day of Judgment. The presence of Moses and Elijah represent the Law and the Prophets. Their presence teaches that the Mosaic Law is not abolished but fulfilled by Jesus Christ. Saint Hilary believes that Moses and Elijah will be the precursors of Christ's Second Coming. This is alluded to in the book of Revelation (Chapter 11) with the story of the two witnesses. Most of the early Church Fathers, however, believe that the two in Revelation are Enoch and Elijah. Peter's suggestion of making three tents shows how overwhelmed he is by the whole experience. Peter may have assumed that Moses and Elijah were going to stay and proclaim Jesus in His glory. It's also possible that Peter was so caught up in the event that he became oblivious to earthly things and wished to remain on the mountain forever. In Saint Luke’s account of the Transfiguration, after Peter’s suggestion to make three tents, it is followed by the words 'not knowing what he said'. This may be what is referred to in an Ambrosian hymn as sobriam ebrietatem – sober intoxication. The Carthusian, Dom Nicholas Kempf, in his work, Expositiones Mysticæ Cantica Canticorum speaks of 'sober intoxication' as a heart that has been moved to jubilation to a point that is utterly mysterious and completely inexpressible, and thus cannot be put into conventional words. Biblically, we see such mysterious language in the book of Revelation and the Song of Songs. But how does this impact us personally? Speaking of the Carthusians, it was a monk of that Order from their monastery in the United States who wrote: 'The Transfiguration of the Lord allows us to contemplate, not only the Mystery of Jesus, but also our own mystery. Prayer and contemplation, lived in pure faith during this life, are the beginning of our own Transfiguration'. A most apropos statement for Lent, a season which exhorts us to intense prayer! That being said, however, in Henry Maundrell's book, 'Journey from Aleppo to Jerusalem', he writes that there are three grottos present on Mount Tabor to represent the three tents proposed by Peter. In the Old Testament, the book of Exodus (24, 15) instructs us that the cloud is the visible manifestation of Almighty God. As the cloud enveloped Moses on the mountain then, it now casts its shadow on the apostles chosen to witness Christ's Transfiguration. In Matthew's Gospel, first during Christ's Baptism (3, 17), then at Peter's profession (16, 17), and now for the third time we read that Jesus is the Son of God. Concerning His Son, the Father commands us to 'listen to Him'. Our Blessed Mother tells us the same thing at the wedding feast of Cana when she says: 'Do whatever He tells you' (Io 2, 5). Since this command comes from a divine Father and a sinless Mother, thus incapable of deception, how could any Christian ever question the words of the Son? The Voice of the Father for certain is meant to be heard by the three apostles but it's also likely that the Voice could equally have been aimed at Moses and Elijah who longed to see the Messiah. Once Christ's visual glorification has passed, He commands the chosen three not to reveal what they have seen until Jesus has been raised from the dead. Following the Resurrection and Ascension of our Lord, it is the recollection of the Transfiguration that probably made these three apostles comprehend the necessity of the Cross.

19 March 2011

Saint Joseph: A Life of Adoration

It’s fair to say that at the time they walked on planet earth, no human being spent as much time in the adoration of Jesus as His most holy Mother and Saint Joseph. How could they not! Jesus is the mysterious indissolubility of Divinity and Humanity.

Today we understand more clearly Mary as the human Tabernacle during her pregnancy, and post partum, the human Monstrance as she held the visible Jesus in her arms. For Saint Joseph, taking into account his devout religious upbringing, perhaps saw his wife as the Ark of the New and Everlasting Covenant; for within Mary was not «urna aurea habens manna» -- ‘a golden pot that had manna’ (Hebr 9, 4), nor was «virga Aaron» -- ‘the rod of Aaron’ (ibidem) contained within her, nor were there tablets of stone containing the Commandments of God (cf 1 Reg 8, 9). Instead, what our blessed Lady carried within her was the True Manna, the True High Priest, and the Lawmaker Himself, Whose Finger had written the stone tables of testimony given to Moses (cf Ex 31, 18).

But beloved Saint Joseph did not learn this on his own: it came to him via divine revelation: «Ioseph, fili David, noli timere accipere Mariam coniugem tuam, quod enim in ea natum est, de Spiritu Sancto est» -- ‘Joseph, son of David, do not fear to take unto you Mary as your wife, for that which is conceived in her is of the Holy Spirit’ (Mt 1, 20). Joseph’s original intent was not to publicly expose Mary for conceiving a Child which is not of him, but to quietly send her away (cf Mt 1, 19). And quiet he was – there is no verbal complaint by Saint Joseph recorded in Sacred Scripture. This kind of love and concern for another is entangled in a great mystery involving the Holy Family which man is unable to fully untangle: that is the mystery of the God-Child already possessing this kind of love, and even more love than that, reaching to the unfathomable, for «Deus Caritas est» (1 Io 4, 8); and then trying to have at least some miniscule comprehension of God’s Human Nature, most especially as a Baby and through the childhood years and how much of this exceptional love was taught Him by Saint Joseph and His holy Mother. Since Joseph receives divine revelation about the Child in Mary’s womb without ever beforehand verbally complaining, seems to fulfil what is written by the psalmist: «Omnes vias meas prævidisti, quia non est sermo in lingua mea» -- You have foreseen all my ways, for there is no speech in my tongue’ (Ps 138 [139], 4).

Initially thinking that Mary conceived a child from another man was not the only thing Joseph could have complained about. Once it was divinely revealed to him Who the Child in Mary’s womb is, Joseph’s ‘yes’ to God led to a series of great sufferings for him and his Holy Family. Jesus had to be laid in a manger because there was no room for the Holy Family at the inn (cf Lc 2, 7). Certainly not the ideal circumstance to give birth! Joseph, Mary and Jesus had to flee into Egypt because Herod was killing all the male children in Bethlehem who were two years of age or younger (cf Mt 2, 13-18). Once Herod had died, it was back to the land of Israel for the Holy Family, but Joseph had to deal with more mental anguish: Archelaus, Herod’s son, now reigned in Judea; thus Joseph was once again instructed by a heavenly visitor to take Mary and Jesus to Nazareth (cf Mt 2, 19-23). When Jesus is presented to Simeon in the temple, Simeon prophesies that Jesus was set for the fall and the rising of many in Israel, a sign which shall be contradicted. And for His beloved Mother, a sword would pierce her soul (cf Lc 2, 21-35). And also when Jesus was twelve, He was missing for three days (cf Lc 2, 41-50).

But through it all, not a single word is recorded in Sacred Scripture that was spoken by Saint Joseph. Could it be that his silence was influenced by a deeper, interior silence? From the moment he learned how Mary’s pregnancy came to be, surely he was graced with a sense of wonderment. When Mary visited Elizabeth while carrying Jesus in her womb, and John the Baptist leaped with joy in the womb of Elizabeth (cf Lc 1, 40-44), surely our blessed Lady shared that story with Saint Joseph. How could he not be awestruck? This Child is «Emmanuel» – ‘God with us’ (Mt 1, 23).

How many times did Joseph sit there in silent meditation and contemplation as Mary fed Jesus? How many times, as Joseph was teaching Jesus his trade, step back to watch the Son of God do the work, only to be astounded and overwhelmed by Who He is? After Jesus was found in the temple when He was twelve years of age, what followed is what is termed as ‘the hidden years’. What were those years like for the Holy Family, a life hidden in God, a life hidden with God-made-Man?

Our Holy Father of loving memory, Pope John Paul II, wrote: ‘The silence of Joseph has its own special eloquence, for thanks to that silence we can understand the truth of the Gospel's judgment that he was a just man (cf Mt 1, 19). The total sacrifice, whereby Joseph surrendered his whole existence to the demands of the Messiah’s coming into his home, becomes understandable only in the light of his profound interior life. In Joseph, the apparent tension between the active and the contemplative life finds an ideal harmony that is only possible for those who possess the perfection of charity. We can say that Joseph experienced both love of the truth - that pure contemplative love of the divine Truth which radiated from the Humanity of Christ -- and the demands of love -- that equally pure and selfless love required for his vocation to safeguard and develop the Humanity of Jesus, which was inseparably linked to His divinity’ (Redemptoris Custos).

All of us can learn from Saint Joseph and most especially through his intercession that our daily duties can still be accomplished without ever having to sacrifice our adoration of Jesus, Who is present sacramentally in the Tabernacles of our parishes and is also present within each of us.

18 March 2011

Convertimini ad Me in toto corde vestro

«Qui autem dixerit: Fatue, reus erit gehennæ ignis» (Mt 5, 22).

“And whoever shall say, ‘You fool’, shall be in danger of hell fire.”

The Saviour calls the torments of hell Gehenna: a name believed to be derived from the name of a valley dedicated to idols. It is close to Jerusalem, and was formerly filled with the bodies of the dead. ~ Blessed Maurus Magnentius Rabanus

[Jesus] makes the first mention of hell, after He had already spoken of the Kingdom of heaven: showing that the gift of the latter is from His love towards us, but the former is the consequence of our own neglect. To many it seems grievous that we should suffer a great punishment for a word, and so claim that He is speaking figuratively. But I fear that by deceiving ourselves here with words, we shall there suffer indeed this extreme punishment. Do not then think this severe; for many are the sins and crimes that had their beginning from a word. For often has a slight word led to murder, and to disaster for many a state. ~ Saint John Chrysostom

16 March 2011

Words of Wisdom from Ioannes the Sinaita

Repentance is the renewal of baptism. Repentance is a contract with God for a second life. A penitent is a buyer of humility. Repentance is constant distrust of bodily comfort. Repentance is the daughter of hope and the renunciation of despair. Repentance is reconciliation with the Lord by the practice of good deeds contrary to the sins. Repentance is purification of conscience. Repentance is the voluntary endurance of all afflictions.

Do not be surprised that you fall every day; do not give up, but stand your ground courageously. And assuredly the angel who guards you will honour your patience, While a wound is still fresh and warm it is easy to heal, but old, neglected and festering ones are hard to cure, and require for their care much treatment, cutting, plastering and cauterization. Many from long neglect become incurable. But with God all things are possible.

We must carefully consider whether our conscience has ceased to accuse us, not because we are good, but because it is immersed in evil. A sign of deliverance from our falls is the continual acknowledgment of our indebtedness.

Nothing equals or excels God's mercies. Therefore the one who despairs is committing suicide.

A sign of true repentance is the acknowledgment that we deserve all the troubles, visible and invisible, that come to us, and even greater ones. Moses, after seeing God in the bush, returned again to Egypt, that is, to darkness and to the brick-making of Pharaoh, symbolical of the spiritual Pharaoh. But he went back again to the bush, and not only to the bush but also up the mountain. Whoever has known contemplation will never despair of himself. Job became a beggar, but he became twice as rich again.

The forgetting of wrongs is a sign of true repentance. But those who dwell on them and think that they are repenting are like a man who dreams he is running while he is actually asleep.

~ Saint John Climacus ~

14 March 2011

Lent Is Now At Hand

The most hallowed days of Lent are now at hand, in the keeping of which all past slothfulness are chastised, all negligence alerted for, they direct all the force of their spite on this one thing, that they who intend to celebrate the Lord's holy Passover may be found unclean in some matter, and that cause of offence may arise where propitiation ought to have been obtained. Dearly beloved, the beginning of Lent, which is a time for the more careful serving of the Lord, because we are, as it were, entering on a kind of contest in good works, let us prepare our souls for fighting with temptations, and understand that the more zealous we are for our salvation, the more determined must be the assaults of our opponents. But stronger is He that is in us than he that is against us (1 John 4:4), and through Him are we powerful in Whose strength we rely: because it was for this that the Lord allowed Himself to be tempted by the tempter, that we might be taught by His example as well as fortified by His aid.

For He conquered the adversary, as you have heard , by quotations from the law, not by actual strength, that by this very thing He might do greater honour to man, and inflict a greater punishment on the adversary by conquering the enemy of the human race not now as God but as Man. He fought then, therefore, that we too might fight thereafter: He conquered that we too might likewise conquer. For there are no works of power, dearly beloved, without the trials of temptations, there is no faith without proof, no contest without a foe, no victory without conflict. This life of ours is in the midst of snares, in the midst of battles; if we do not wish to be deceived, we must watch: if we want to overcome, we must fight. And therefore the most wise Solomon says, My son in approaching the service of God prepare your soul for temptation (Sirach 2:1). For He being a Man full of the wisdom of God, and knowing that the pursuit of religion involves laborious struggles, foreseeing too the danger of the fight, forewarned the intending combatant; lest haply, if the tempter came upon him in his ignorance, he might find him unready and wound him because he is unprepared.

Let us who instructed in divine learning come wittingly to the present contest and strife, hear the apostle when he says, for our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against principalities and powers, against the rulers of this dark world, against spiritual wickedness in heavenly things (Ephesians 6:12), and let us not forget that these our enemies feel it is against them all is done that we strive to do for our salvation, and that by the very fact of our seeking after some good thing we are challenging our foes. For this is an old-standing quarrel between us and them fostered by the devil's ill-will, so that they are tortured by our being justified, because they have fallen from those good things to which we, God helping us, are advancing. If, therefore, we are raised, they are prostrated: if we are strengthened, they are weakened. Our cures are their blows, because they are wounded by our wounds' cure. Stand, therefore, dearly beloved, as the Apostle says, having the loins of your mind girt in truth, and your feet shod in the preparation of the Gospel of peace, in all things taking the shield of faith in which you may be able to extinguish all the fiery darts of the evil one, and put on the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the Word of God (Ephesians 6:14-17).

See, dearly-beloved, with what mighty weapons, with what impregnable defences we are armed by our Leader, Who is famous for His many triumphs, the unconquered Master of the Christian warfare. He has girt our loins with the belt of chastity, He has shod our feet with the bonds of peace: because the unbelted soldier is quickly vanquished by the one who suggests immodesty, and he that is unshod is easily bitten by the serpent. He has given the shield of faith for the protection of our whole body; on our head has He set the helmet of salvation; our right hand has He furnished with a sword, that is with the word of Truth: that the spiritual warrior may not only be safe from wounds, but also may have strength to wound his assailant. Relying, therefore, dearly beloved, on these arms, let us enter actively and fearlessly on the contest set before us: so that in this fasting struggle we may not rest satisfied with only this end, that we should think abstinence from food alone desirable. For, it is not enough that the substance of our flesh should be reduced, if the strength of the soul be not also developed. When the outer man is somewhat subdued, let the inner man be somewhat refreshed; and when bodily excess is denied to our flesh, let our mind be invigorated by spiritual delights. Let every Christian scrutinise himself, and search severely into his inmost heart.

~ Pope Saint Leo the Great ~

12 March 2011

Dominica Prima Quadragesimæ

First Reading, Genesis 2:7-9; 3:1-7
The breath of life blown into the nostrils is the soul of the formed man. Eden may have been the name of a country but Saint Jerome interprets it to signify pleasure. “The Lord God planted a garden in Eden, in the east.” This verse in the Latin is translated as: “The Lord God had planted a paradise of pleasure from the beginning.” Saint Jerome’s interpretation of Eden to signify “pleasure” comes into play here; but notice the difference at the end of that verse: “in the east” from the American liturgy’s translation and “from the beginning” which is the Latin Vulgate’s translation. The ancient Hebrew word creating these two very different interpretations is “mikedem”. Some interpreters understood it to mean “towards the east”. The Septuagint is in agreement with that interpretation. Saint Jerome, however, along with many ancient interpreters understood it to mean “old” or “everlasting” or “from ancient times” which led to the “from the beginning” interpretation. The exact location of Eden is unknown: East of Palestine, Armenia and Babylon are only a few of the scholarly conjectures. Some have even theorized that Eden still exists and is the place where Enoch and Elijah were taken until Christ’s glorious Ascension into heaven. According to Sacred Scripture, Enoch walked with God and was seen no more because God took him (cf. Genesis 5:24). And Elijah was taken to heaven in a fiery chariot (cf. 2 Kings 2:11). The “tree of life” is understood literally as a tree in which its fruits would keep man in a constant state of good health and thus man would never die. Prophetically, it is the Cross of Christ. The “tree of the knowledge of good and evil” in which the serpent lured our first parents into thinking it supplied superior knowledge, has been defined as a fig tree or an apple tree. Of course, it’s impossible to know for certain but whatever it was, it most likely was the only one of its kind in the Garden of Eden. What the tree of knowledge did supply was knowledge of evil, which before eating of its forbidden fruits our first parents were uninformed. It would be difficult to say that the woman succumbed to temptation in the same sense that we define temptation. We know that what waits on the other side of temptation is not good for us, spiritually unhealthy and in some cases downright evil. But the woman could not have known this at this point because she had no knowledge of evil and could not have suspected that the serpent was up to no good. One thing we learn from the very first book of the bible is that Satan is more acquainted with the ways and word of God than we are and thus is able to pervert it and twist it to fit his own diabolical plan. Saint Bernard, using this story from Genesis, asks us to reflect on this question: “Placed between God and the devil, whom shall we yield our assent?” The plan of the serpent is not to say that God lied about the tree of knowledge because to the woman that would be unthinkable. It would also be evil to have such thoughts and she has no knowledge of evil. Instead, the ploy of the serpent is to suggest to the woman that she misunderstood what God was saying to her. We hear Satan’s twisting of the word of God today by suggesting to us that we’re misinterpreting Scripture by our understanding of the Real Presence, for example. As soon as the man and the woman ate the fruit their eyes were opened and they realized that they were naked. Being naked is not evil but what is interpreted from this is that suddenly the two became filled with the intense craving known as lust. English poet and scholar John Milton (1608-1674), in his epic poem titled, “Paradise Lost” describes humanity’s fall from grace with these words: “She gave him of that fair enticing fruit, with liberal hand he scrupled not to eat: Against his better knowledge; not deceived, but fondly overcome with female charm. Earth trembled from her entrails, as again in pangs, and nature gave a second groan; sky lured and muttering thunder, some sad drops wept at completing of the mortal sin.”

Second Reading, Romans 5:12-19
Our physical connection with Adam brings us sin and death; our spiritual bond with Christ brings us salvation and eternal life. Adam’s fall is the cause of our sin and death; Christ’s redemption is the cause of our salvation and eternal life. While our destiny of sin and death because of one man’s fall might seem unfair, it would then be equally unfair to say that we deserve salvation and eternal life because of one Man’s Sacrifice. Perhaps it’s best understood to say that Adam’s fall was like a contagious disease which spread to all humanity; and Christ’s Sacrifice was the antidote. This whole scenario does make the body of Christ theology more easily understood as we can see from the very beginning that we’re all connected. To make the case for original sin, Saint Paul uses history from the time of Adam to Moses whereby everyone born into the world died; but until the Law of Moses individual sin was never accounted for. Therefore, all eventually die because all were conceived and born in sin. Adam is the beginning; Christ is a new beginning. Adam brought an end to paradise; Christ restored it. Saint John Chrysostom reminds us that we have been exalted to the dignity of being the brothers and sisters of Christ, the Son of God, and are made joint heirs with Him; and so by the grace of Christ we have a greater dignity in this world, and we shall be exalted to a greater and more eminent degree of glory in the Kingdom of His glory for all eternity.

Gospel, Saint Matthew 4:1-11
The Spirit Who made an appearance at Christ’s Baptism now leads Him into the desert to be tempted by the devil. The desert is the devil’s playground and Christ is led there to confront him on his own turf. Desert hermits know very well from experience that there are many temptations to overcome in the silence and solitude of the desert; but they also know that with God’s help they can overcome those temptations and become closer and more intimate with the Almighty. Our desert is anywhere we choose to sit in solitude to be with God. There are many temptations there to overcome as well. Silence and solitude invites distractions but they can be overcome once it is understood that solitude does not mean being alone -- but instead, being alone with God, the Victor over all unnecessary distractions. Our Lord’s first temptation deals with His forty day fast which our Lenten fast is modeled after. Here our Lord is fulfilling an Old Testament prefigurement when Moses went up Mount Sinai for forty days and forty nights and neither ate bread nor drank water (cf. Exodus 34:28). It is Elijah’s experience that may actually prompt the devil’s temptation because Elijah ate and drank while walking in the strength of that food for forty days and forty nights to Mount Horeb (cf. 1 Kings 19:8). We might be able to conclude that the devil heard the Voice at Christ’s Baptism proclaiming Jesus as God’s Son (cf. Saint Matthew 3:17) because the devil immediately addresses Christ by saying: ‘If you are the Son of God…’ God’s Incarnation at this point might very well be as much of a mystery to the devil as it is to us; and thus he seeks to tempt our Lord into displaying His divine Power. Later on in His ministry Jesus will multiply loaves of bread for the multitudes (cf. Saint Matthew 14:19-21) but here refuses to perform such a miracle for His own need. The devil tries to persuade Jesus to turn stones into bread. This is another indication that the evil one was hanging around during Christ’s Baptism because just before His plunge into the Jordan, John the Baptist was proclaiming to the Pharisees and Sadducees that God is able to raise up children to Abraham from the stones (cf. Saint Matthew 3:9). Jesus passes the test of His first temptation by quoting from Deuteronomy 8 [verse 3]. The First Reading’s Commentary mentions that Satan is well-acquainted with Scripture. And since Jesus used the sacred texts to escape the first temptation, the devil’s next strategic move, then, is to throw another temptation at Jesus by quoting Scripture. The evil one tries to get Jesus to throw Himself down from the parapet of the temple because Psalm (90) 91 [verses 11-12] states that God’s angels will support Him. Jesus fights back with more Scripture from Deuteronomy 6 [verse 16]: “You shall not tempt the Lord your God.” The devil’s final temptation is an attempt to entice Jesus into worshipping him by offering all the kingdoms of the world. Satan’s deceitfulness really comes to the forefront here since the world’s kingdoms are not his to give. He is sometimes referred to as the “prince of this world” but that refers only to the evil that exists in the world. Jesus finally says: “Get away, Satan! It is written: ‘The Lord, your God, shall you worship and Him alone shall you serve”’ (Deuteronomy 6:13). Theologically, because Jesus is God He is incapable of sin and is without original sin. And so, He cannot be tempted from within by concupiscence, a consequence of original sin. Even though He could not be tempted on the same level as our lower nature, He could be tempted by exterior suggestion, meaning that Satan’s temptations can be introduced to Christ’s senses, imagination and His ability to reason or discern. His reasoning and judgment, however, cannot be in error because He is God. The reason our Lord even allows Satan to approach Him is to teach us that even the most pious of souls are prone to temptation and consequently instructs us how to firmly deal with temptation. He also brings Himself as close to our human experience as His sinless Nature would allow and thus is able to sympathize with us.

10 March 2011

Cum metu et tremore vestram salutem operamini

If you are disheartened, pray as the apostle says: Pray with fear, trembling, effort, with inner watchfulness and vigilance. To pray in this manner is especially necessary because the enemies are so malignant. For it is just when they see us at prayer that they come and stand beside us, ready to attack, suggesting to our intellect the very things we should not think about when praying; in this way they try to take our intellect captive and to make our prayer and supplication vain and useless.

For prayer is truly vain and useless when not performed with fear and trembling, with inner watchfulness and vigilance. When someone approaches an earthly king, he entreats him with fear, trembling and attention; so much the more, then, should we stand and pray in this manner before God the Father, the Master of all, and before Christ the King of kings. For it is He Whom the whole spiritual host and the choir of angels serve with fear and glorify with trembling; and they sing in unceasing praise to Him, together with the Father Who has no origin, and with the all-holy and co-eternal Spirit, now and ever through all the ages. Amen.

~ Evagrii Monachi, Capita Cognoscitiva ~

09 March 2011

Immutemur habitu, in cinere et cilicio

Decency has gone, honesty disappeared, religious devotion has fallen on bad times, and like an army on the march, the throng of all the holy virtues has withdrawn at a distance. 'All are bent on their own purposes' (Philippians 2:21), and despising every aspiration for heaven, greedily yearn for the earth. And since, as the world is coming to an end, they never cease longing for the world, it seems that after experiencing the high seas and being carried to the shore, they row in vain toward land and stubbornly try to operate the boat. And because peace and quiet are without a doubt the objective of all our effort for those who at length await a resting place, as a punishment they are worn out by their useless endeavour.

Be that as it may, the children of this world are swamped by a flood of stormy secular affairs, and they now scatter the seeds to which they are especially addicted, so that afterwards they may reap the fruits on which they had not planned. Yet as the apostle says: 'What business is it of mine to judge those who are in the world'? (1 Corinthians 5:12). We who are known to have renounced the world, who brag that we have escaped shipwreck in an earthly storm, why do we again fall back into it as if we were violently swallowed up by some whirlpool? Why do we return to those things that we have despised for the love of God, there to be rekindled by the flame of evil desire? Why are we not ashamed, at the urging of improper ambition, to resort to that which neither earthly rights nor the authority of God's law had forbidden us to have? Without the slightest provocation and of our own accord, we rashly stir up war, and now have no fear of fighting against the decisions of sacred Scripture.

~ Saint Peter Damian ~

'Let us change our garments for ashes and sackloth: let us fast and lament before the Lord: for plenteous in mercy is our God to forgive our sins' (Joel 2:13).

08 March 2011

Message of His Holiness Benedict XVI for Lent 2011

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

The Lenten period, which leads us to the celebration of Holy Easter, is for the Church a most valuable and important liturgical time, in view of which I am pleased to offer a specific word in order that it may be lived with due diligence. As she awaits the definitive encounter with her Spouse in the eternal Easter, the Church community, assiduous in prayer and charitable works, intensifies her journey in purifying the spirit, so as to draw more abundantly from the Mystery of Redemption the new life in Christ the Lord (cf. Preface I of Lent).

This very life was already bestowed upon us on the day of our Baptism, when we "become sharers in Christ’s death and Resurrection", and there began for us "the joyful and exulting adventure of His disciples" (Homily on the Feast of the Baptism of the Lord, 10 January, 2010). In his Letters, Saint Paul repeatedly insists on the singular communion with the Son of God that this washing brings about. The fact that, in most cases, Baptism is received in infancy highlights how it is a gift of God: no one earns eternal life through their own efforts. The mercy of God, which cancels sin and, at the same time, allows us to experience in our lives "the mind of Christ Jesus" (Philippians 2:5), is given to men and women freely. The Apostle to the Gentiles, in the Letter to the Philippians, expresses the meaning of the transformation that takes place through participation in the death and Resurrection of Christ, pointing to its goal: that "I may come to know Him and the power of His Resurrection, and partake of His sufferings by being molded to the pattern of His death, striving towards the goal of Resurrection from the dead" (Philippians 3:10-11). Hence, Baptism is not a rite from the past, but the encounter with Christ, which informs the entire existence of the baptized, imparting divine life and calling for sincere conversion; initiated and supported by Grace, it permits the baptized to reach the adult stature of Christ.

A particular connection binds Baptism to Lent as the favorable time to experience this saving Grace. The Fathers of the Second Vatican Council exhorted all of the Church’s Pastors to make greater use "of the baptismal features proper to the Lenten liturgy" (Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy Sacrosanctum concilium, n. 109). In fact, the Church has always associated the Easter Vigil with the celebration of Baptism: this Sacrament realizes the great mystery in which man dies to sin, is made a sharer in the new life of the Risen Christ and receives the same Spirit of God Who raised Jesus from the dead (cf. Romans 8:11). This free gift must always be rekindled in each one of us, and Lent offers us a path like that of the catechumenate, which, for the Christians of the early Church, just as for catechumens today, is an irreplaceable school of faith and Christian life. Truly, they live their Baptism as an act that shapes their entire existence.

In order to undertake more seriously our journey towards Easter and prepare ourselves to celebrate the Resurrection of the Lord – the most joyous and solemn feast of the entire liturgical year – what could be more appropriate than allowing ourselves to be guided by the Word of God? For this reason, the Church, in the Gospel texts of the Sundays of Lent, leads us to a particularly intense encounter with the Lord, calling us to retrace the steps of Christian initiation: for catechumens, in preparation for receiving the Sacrament of rebirth; for the baptized, in light of the new and decisive steps to be taken in the sequela Christi and a fuller giving of oneself to Him.

The First Sunday of the Lenten journey reveals our condition as human beings here on earth. The victorious battle against temptation, the starting point of Jesus’ mission, is an invitation to become aware of our own fragility in order to accept the Grace that frees from sin and infuses new strength in Christ – the way, the truth and the life (cf. Ordo Initiationis Christianae Adultorum, n. 25). It is a powerful reminder that Christian faith implies, following the example of Jesus and in union with Him, a battle "against the ruling forces who are masters of the darkness in this world" (Ephesians 6:12), in which the devil is at work and never tires – even today – of tempting whoever wishes to draw close to the Lord: Christ emerges victorious to open also our hearts to hope and guide us in overcoming the seductions of evil.

The Gospel of the Transfiguration of the Lord puts before our eyes the glory of Christ, which anticipates the Resurrection and announces the divinization of man. The Christian community becomes aware that Jesus leads it, like the Apostles Peter, James and John "up a high mountain by themselves" (Matthew 17:1), to receive once again in Christ, as sons and daughters in the Son, the gift of the Grace of God: "This is My Son, the Beloved; He enjoys My favor. Listen to Him" (Matthew 17:5). It is the invitation to take a distance from the noisiness of everyday life in order to immerse oneself in God’s presence. He desires to hand down to us, each day, a Word that penetrates the depths of our spirit, where we discern good from evil (cf. Hebrews 4:12), reinforcing our will to follow the Lord.

The question that Jesus puts to the Samaritan woman: "Give me a drink" (John 4:7), is presented to us in the liturgy of the third Sunday; it expresses the passion of God for every man and woman, and wishes to awaken in our hearts the desire for the gift of "a spring of water within, welling up for eternal life" (John 4:14): this is the gift of the Holy Spirit, Who transforms Christians into "true worshipers," capable of praying to the Father "in spirit and truth" (John 4:23). Only this water can extinguish our thirst for goodness, truth and beauty! Only this water, given to us by the Son, can irrigate the deserts of our restless and unsatisfied soul, until it "finds rest in God", as per the famous words of Saint Augustine.

The Sunday of the man born blind presents Christ as the light of the world. The Gospel confronts each one of us with the question: "Do you believe in the Son of man?" "Lord, I believe!" (John 9: 35, 38), the man born blind joyfully exclaims, giving voice to all believers. The miracle of this healing is a sign that Christ wants not only to give us sight, but also open our interior vision, so that our faith may become ever deeper and we may recognize Him as our only Savior. He illuminates all that is dark in life and leads men and women to live as "children of the light".

On the fifth Sunday, when the resurrection of Lazarus is proclaimed, we are faced with the ultimate mystery of our existence: "I am the Resurrection and the Life… Do you believe this?" (John 11:25-26). For the Christian community, it is the moment to place with sincerity – together with Martha – all of our hopes in Jesus of Nazareth: "Yes, Lord, I believe that You are the Christ, the Son of God, the One Who was to come into this world" (John 11:27). Communion with Christ in this life prepares us to overcome the barrier of death, so that we may live eternally with Him. Faith in the resurrection of the dead and hope in eternal life open our eyes to the ultimate meaning of our existence: God created men and women for resurrection and life, and this truth gives an authentic and definitive meaning to human history, to the personal and social lives of men and women, to culture, politics and the economy. Without the light of faith, the entire universe finishes shut within a tomb devoid of any future, any hope.

The Lenten journey finds its fulfillment in the Paschal Triduum, especially in the Great Vigil of the Holy Night: renewing our baptismal promises, we reaffirm that Christ is the Lord of our life, that life which God bestowed upon us when we were reborn of "water and Holy Spirit", and we profess again our firm commitment to respond to the action of the Grace in order to be His disciples.

By immersing ourselves into the death and resurrection of Christ through the Sacrament of Baptism, we are moved to free our hearts every day from the burden of material things, from a self-centered relationship with the "world" that impoverishes us and prevents us from being available and open to God and our neighbor. In Christ, God revealed Himself as Love (cf. 1 John 4:7-10). The Cross of Christ, the "word of the Cross", manifests God’s saving power (cf. 1 Corinthians 1:18), that is given to raise men and women anew and bring them salvation: it is love in its most extreme form (cf. Encyclical Deus caritas est, n. 12). Through the traditional practices of fasting, almsgiving and prayer, which are an expression of our commitment to conversion, Lent teaches us how to live the love of Christ in an ever more radical way.

Fasting, which can have various motivations, takes on a profoundly religious significance for the Christian: by rendering our table poorer, we learn to overcome selfishness in order to live in the logic of gift and love; by bearing some form of deprivation – and not just what is in excess – we learn to look away from our "ego", to discover Someone close to us and to recognize God in the face of so many brothers and sisters. For Christians, fasting, far from being depressing, opens us ever more to God and to the needs of others, thus allowing love of God to become also love of our neighbor (cf. Mark 12:31).

In our journey, we are often faced with the temptation of accumulating and love of money that undermine God’s primacy in our lives. The greed of possession leads to violence, exploitation and death; for this, the Church, especially during the Lenten period, reminds us to practice almsgiving – which is the capacity to share. The idolatry of goods, on the other hand, not only causes us to drift away from others, but divests man, making him unhappy, deceiving him, deluding him without fulfilling its promises, since it puts materialistic goods in the place of God, the only source of life. How can we understand God’s paternal goodness, if our heart is full of egoism and our own projects, deceiving us that our future is guaranteed? The temptation is to think, just like the rich man in the parable: "My soul, you have plenty of good things laid by for many years to come…" We are all aware of the Lord’s judgment: "Fool! This very night the demand will be made for your soul…" (Luke 12:19-20). The practice of almsgiving is a reminder of God’s primacy and turns our attention towards others, so that we may rediscover how good our Father is, and receive His mercy.

During the entire Lenten period, the Church offers us God’s Word with particular abundance. By meditating and internalizing the Word in order to live it every day, we learn a precious and irreplaceable form of prayer; by attentively listening to God, Who continues to speak to our hearts, we nourish the itinerary of faith initiated on the day of our Baptism. Prayer also allows us to gain a new concept of time: without the perspective of eternity and transcendence, in fact, time simply directs our steps towards a horizon without a future. Instead, when we pray, we find time for God, to understand that His "words will not pass away" (cf. Mark 13:31), to enter into that intimate communion with Him "that no one shall take from you" (John 16:22), opening us to the hope that does not disappoint, eternal life.

In synthesis, the Lenten journey, in which we are invited to contemplate the Mystery of the Cross, is meant to reproduce within us "the pattern of His death" (Philippians 3:10), so as to effect a deep conversion in our lives; that we may be transformed by the action of the Holy Spirit, like Saint Paul on the road to Damascus; that we may firmly orient our existence according to the will of God; that we may be freed of our egoism, overcoming the instinct to dominate others and opening us to the love of Christ. The Lenten period is a favorable time to recognize our weakness and to accept, through a sincere inventory of our life, the renewing Grace of the Sacrament of Penance, and walk resolutely towards Christ.

Dear Brothers and Sisters, through the personal encounter with our Redeemer and through fasting, almsgiving and prayer, the journey of conversion towards Easter leads us to rediscover our Baptism. This Lent, let us renew our acceptance of the Grace that God bestowed upon us at that moment, so that it may illuminate and guide all of our actions. What the Sacrament signifies and realizes, we are called to experience every day by following Christ in an ever more generous and authentic manner. In this our itinerary, let us entrust ourselves to the Virgin Mary, who generated the Word of God in faith and in the flesh, so that we may immerse ourselves – just as she did – in the death and Resurrection of her Son Jesus, and possess eternal life.

06 March 2011

The Need of Eternal Light

Today at Carthusian Matins for Quinquagesima Sunday:

As our Creator draws near to Jericho, a blind man receives his sight. While God takes unto Himself our weak human nature, man receives again the light which he had lost. By God’s suffering in the Manhood, man is raised up to the divine life. This blind man is also well described as sitting by the wayside begging; for the Truth says: I am the way. He that does not know Him Who is eternal light, is blind. But as soon as he believes in Jesus, the Redeemer, then he is sitting on the road leading to salvation. When man has faith, but is not continually asking to be enlightened by Divine light, he may, like the blind man, sit on the road, but he is not begging alms. But when by means of faith he begins to believe, when he recognises the blindness of his heart, and unceasingly asks to be delivered from it and to receive the light of truth, then he is like to the poor and unhappy blind man who, sitting by the wayside, was begging. Let him, therefore, who recognises his darkness, and the need of eternal light, cry out with all the desires of his heart and all the fervour of his soul: Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me!

Those who went before our Lord rebuked the blind man of Jericho, that he should hold his peace; and we learn therefrom the important lesson that, before Jesus comes into our hearts, the awful image of our sensual pleasures rises in our memory, so as to prevent the effects of our prayers. Our prayer must be the more ardent and assiduous, the stronger the noise of wicked thoughts that rise in our mind and endeavour to prevent it. When the stormy crowd of temptations call back the remembrance of our sins, and assail us from all sides, trying to make us neglect, if possible, our prayers, then our powerful and repeated cry towards heaven will render all these phantoms useless and powerless. For when we begin to tear our thoughts and desires away from the world, and to turn them to God; when we give up our mind to prayer, then the worldly thoughts and sinful pleasures of our former life return to attack and distract us. And this assault of our former thoughts is so strong that, in spite of good desires and even tears of repentance, it is only by the greatest care and watchfulness that we succeed in keeping our hearts in safety.

We may be sure that, if we persevere in our prayers, Jesus will remain with us, as He stayed for some time with the blind man. And Jesus, standing, commanded him to be brought unto Him. And the words of the Gospel tell us, not without a special motive, that Jesus was first passing by, then was standing. We learn from this that, when powerless phantoms endeavour to disturb us in our prayers, Jesus seems to be passing by; but that when, in spite of their attacks, we persevere in these prayers, Jesus remains standing by us, and delivers us from blindness. For when God takes His abode in our heart, He dispels darkness by His Divine light.

For our further instruction we hear Jesus, as soon as He saw the blind man, say to him: What do you want Me to do for you? Our Saviour, having the power to restore the sight to the blind man, was certainly not ignorant of that which he was going to ask. But He wished to teach us that it was His will we should ask Him, though He knows our desires and is willing to grant them. He, therefore, very often exhorts us to pray to Him, though He assures us that His Father in heaven knows all our needs before we ask. He wishes to encourage us to trust in Him, and to awaken in our hearts real love for prayer. We hear the blind man at once uttering his request, and asking to receive the light. He was asking neither for gold nor for riches of any kind, but for light, since, without this gift, all other goods could not satisfy him. Let us, then, beloved brethren, imitate this man in his prayer, for he received therewith the health both of soul and body. Let us beseech the Lord not for the riches of this world, nor for the perishable blessings of honour and fame, but for the true light, and not for the limited light, which for a moment only interrupts the long night, and is common to us with the unreasonable animals. Let us ask for the uncreated light to be seen in the company of the elect, that light having no beginning and being eternal in its duration. Faith will lead us to this light, according to the words of Jesus to the blind man: Receive your sight ; your faith hath made you whole.

~ Pope Saint Gregory the Great ~

05 March 2011

Ninth Sunday in Ordinary Time

The image is the Saint Bruno Chapel, a house built on rock, most fitting for this weekend's Gospel from Saint Matthew.

First Reading, Deuteronomy 11:18, 26-28, 32
Binding the words of Moses to the wrist and on the forehead would get the attention of any faithful Jew reading this passage from the Torah because this description would remind any faithful Jew of a phylactery. In fact, the Hebrew text translates the 'pendant on your forehead' portion of this verse as 'frontlets between your eyes'. A frontlet in Hebrew usage is a phylactery. A phylactery or tefillin, in Hebrew, is by description two small black leather cubes containing the scriptural verses of Deuteronomy 6:4-9, Deuteronomy 11:13-21, and Exodus 13:1-16. One of the leather cubes is attached to the left wrist and the other to the forehead. They are worn even to this day by Orthodox Jews during their weekday morning prayers. In Christianity, the early Church used phylacteries as containers for holy relics. A blessing or a curse solicits the free will of man. The Catechism of the Catholic Church teaches: 'Endowed with a spiritual soul, with intellect and with free will, the human person is from his very conception ordered to God and destined for eternal beatitude' (CCC 1711). Saint Paul tells us that Christ was made a curse for us and thus has redeemed us from the curse (cf. Galatians 3:13). He surely sees these words in the Old Testament as prophetic: 'He is accursed of God that hangs on a tree' (Deuteronomy 21:23).

Second Reading, Romans 3:21-25, 28
Saint Paul has a unique and gifted way of enthusiastically showing us the path that leads to eternal blessedness, but at the same time kind of knocks us down a few pegs allowing us to experience a little humility by reminding us that we don’t deserve to be on this path. He teaches us that 'the righteousness of God' comes 'through faith in Jesus Christ' but never does he suggest that faith alone is sufficient. Faith is a gift from God and therefore must be shared which requires action. In this same book, Paul tells us that God will render to every man according to his works (cf. Romans 2:6). In that same chapter he says that it is not the hearers of the law but the doers of the law that shall be justified (cf. Romans 2:13). In his letter to the Galatians he writes that faith must include works of charity (cf. Galatians 5:6). Saint James tells us in the second chapter of his letter that faith without works is dead. In the Ten Commandments, keeping the Lord’s Day holy and honouring father and mother are acts of faith. All of the “thou shalt not” Commandments are warnings of what would be considered uncharitable, sinful acts motivating us to 'do' just the opposite. How could faith not have works? Even a contemplative monk who spends his entire day in prayer has works. And one of the mottos of monastic life is, 'ora et labora – pray and work'. Prayer is an act or work of faith. Faith and works actually do not stand side-by-side because it is more proper to say that they are a holy union and thus inseparable. The guilt of man made the written law of God necessary; but non-compliance to the written law made the guilty even guiltier. Because of the Incarnation, the justice of God and sanctification of man now comes to us by means of the graces of the Redeemer and faith in Christ Who God gave to all 'as an expiation'. For Christ alone is the Just One and the Justifier of all; and faith in Him calls us to service.

Gospel, Saint Matthew 7:21-27
Our Lord clearly is teaching us that it is not enough to have faith in Him and hear His words, but that works must be united with faith. 'On that day' which seems to suggest the Day of Judgment, not only will our level of faith be examined but also what we did with that gift of faith. Being a doer of faith means to be a missionary of Christ’s love or charity. Saint Paul, in the thirteenth chapter of his first letter to the Corinthians, outlines very well the importance of bringing our Lord’s love: 'If I should have all faith so that I could remove mountains and have not charity, I am nothing' (1 Corinthians 13:2). The intention of the heart seems to come into play as well since prophesying and doing mighty deeds, which are works, could nevertheless have our Lord saying: 'I never knew you'. Saint John Chrysostom reminds us that Balaam in the Old Testament, who was void of faith and probity, still by the will of God prophesied for the advantage of others. And Judas, our Saviour’s betrayer, was able to cast out demons (cf. homily XV, Chrysostom). Thus, the external display of good works must flow from an interior soul that is prepared to serve God unconditionally. In the Catechism are these words: 'The prayer of faith consists not only in saying Lord, Lord, but in disposing the heart to do the will of the Father. Jesus calls His disciples to bring into their prayer this concern for cooperating with the divine plan' (CCC 2611). Once again from Saint John Chrysostom are these words: 'Our Saviour dispenses His rewards to such as order their lives according to His instructions; but as before He promised the Kingdom of heaven, divine consolations, and other rewards, so here He promises them the numberless blessings attendant on virtue in this life. The just alone are surrounded with virtue as with a strong guard, and amidst the high swelling waves of worldly troubles, enjoy a calm and unchanging tranquility. Thus was Job strengthened by his virtue against the attacks both of men and Satan (homily XXV, Chrysostom). In an address to young people our Holy Father Pope Benedict XVI said: 'What does it mean to build a house on the rock? Building on the rock means, first of all, to build on Christ and with Christ. We are not listening to any person; we are listening to Jesus. We are not asked to commit to just anything; we are asked to commit ourselves to the words of Jesus. To build on Christ and with Christ means to build on a foundation that is called crucified love. It means to build with Someone Who, knowing us better than we know ourselves, says to us: You are precious in My Eyes and honoured, and I love you (Isaiah 43:4). It means to build with Someone, Who is always faithful, even when we are lacking in faith, because He cannot deny Himself (cf. 2 Timothy 2:13). It means to build with Someone Who constantly looks down on the wounded heart of man and says: I do not condemn you, go and do not sin again (cf. John 8:11). It means to build with Someone Who, from the Cross, extends His Arms and repeats for all eternity: O man, I give My life for you because I love you. In short, building on Christ means basing all your desires, aspirations, dreams, ambitions and plans on His will. It means saying to yourself, to your family, to your friends, to the whole world and, above all to Christ: Lord, in life I wish to do nothing against You, because You know what is best for me. Only You have the words of eternal life (cf. John 6:68). My friends, do not be afraid to lean on Christ! Long for Christ, as the foundation of your life! Enkindle within you the desire to build your life on Him and for Him! Because no one who depends on the crucified love of the Incarnate Word can ever lose” (2006 – Libreria Editrice Vaticana).