November 14, 2019

KINGDOM OF THE SUN Colossians 1

Where night is merely a memory
and stars a faded story
the moon eclipsed by fire light
dark shadows too have died
another world, a new earth
radically begotten from an uncreated spark
fresh secret, single key opening every door
the bright alpha and omega forever
living within us.

            Scott Eagan
                November 8, 2019

November 12, 2019

A Meditation on Renewing Formation

The Lamb’s love lavishing
Unrecognized Gifts of Priestly Calling
And myriads more too beautiful to name —
Amid  those sinking vestiges of Christendom
Amid that drifting emptiness of aimless progress
Amid jetsam of broken families, broken wombs and broken hearts,
So many broken shards of the Bride’s radiance
To be found, to be gathered, to be made whole:
New living unities of Office, Teaching and Holiness
Forged in the Divine Furnace
for the salvation of the world

A disciple does not take or make,
but receives identity from his Master:
Integrity is not given but by battle,
Intensity untapped but by the loss of all things,
Truth not suffered but by humiliation,
Beatitude not possessed but in that poverty,
unmasked with careful kindness
In the difficult questions and puzzles of the heart
Proposed by the Son of the Father.





Availing oneself of that silent fullness
that contains and is contained in the Word’s Real Presence
Is never safe, never comfortable, never convenient:
Fire can burn
flaming forth with mysteries
of Love, Death and the Bearing Away of Sin.

All this joining on those relentless waves
of faith’s obedience, humility, and mercy
        Islands of humanity prostrate before
That threshold of the Cross,
That pouring forth of blood and water,
That ocean of deep currents and infinite horizons
in the heart of the Father.

November 3, 2019

Silence, Judgment and Freedom

Contemplative prayer flows from and leads to worship of the Living God, and somewhere in this great moment, we learn to live. Christian prayer, when offered in this context, is never an escape from the voice of our conscience but a coming to terms, a necessary change of heart, a surrender to the power of God. This unfolds in Revelations 8:1 when silence is observed in heaven:

"When the Lamb broke open the seventh seal, there was silence in heaven for about a half an hour" (NAB).

This celestial silence is alway before us, and it would be reductionistic to presume that it is only a mystery of the future. We are meant to anticipate its mystery now. Contemplative prayer lives in the thanksgiving and adoration of the Eucharist. After receiving Holy Communion, we should keep a brief a period of silence that is open to this heavenly silence. We should also allow the silence of Eucharistic Adoration to take us into this same great stillness. If someone discovers this silence after pondering the Bible, it is because the Word of God is the pathway that leads into it. The holiness of the saints is filled with this same silence for the silence of heaven searches out and finds the Lamb who was slain only to humble itself before what He reveals.

The silence of St. John is occasioned by the opening of the seventh seal. The Seventh Seal, as did the seventh day of creation, represents the final seal of God's plan. Before the coming of Christ, we could not know the ultimate destiny of the heavens and the earth. The Lamb who offered Himself for us reveals the definitive judgment of God. His wounds concern the world and sin, humanity and its integrity, man and woman before God, the Blood from above that falls on all that is below, and the failure of what is below to respond to what has come from above.

The silence of heaven is not empty or meaningless. It is receptive and responsive, and this receptivity to the Word overthrows all the powers of hostility to God in the world below, turning them upside down, purifying the world of them for the sake of new life. Trumpet blast after trumpet blast fills the silence in St. John's Apocalypse. The seventh seal is followed by seven angels blowing seven trumpets: an image of the Eternal Sabbath, a culmination of God's plan, a judgment, a blessing, and the definitive decision in which lives the completion of His saving work. In the end, as it is now, it will be on earth as it is in heaven. This should make us tremble: for what ought to be already is whether we are aware of it or not. We live as if this were not so unto our own peril.

The great silence and the sound of trumpet are not a remote realities to be avoided by cleverness or luck. They are to be sought, longed for, hoped for. Whether by the Rosary or Lectio Divina, spiritual exercises or a sudden grace that seizes our hearts, contemplative prayer takes us into this moment, and the liturgy of the Church teaches us to remain there.

The worship of the Church takes us out of the work-a-day world, out of the exigencies of the moment, out of the limits of time and into the solemn moment where heaven adores the Lamb. We may not be aware of it but that stillness that haunts every moment of our lives and serves as the forgotten backdrop of our existence. There is great jubilation and thanksgiving before the Lamb because His risen humanity surrounded by the saints is a sign that our sinfulness does not get the last word about where we stand with the Father.

Liturgy, our service for the Church and the world, makes that joy known on earth. This great work of prayer enters into the sanctuary not made by hands because it lives in the Body of Christ. The Risen Lord stands before the Father on our behalf because He has loved us to the end and this is why only He can unseal the final judgment on our existence. To enter into the throng of heaven is a super moment of supreme love, a completely humbling instance of eternity in which the truth of our hearts is laid bare as the heart of Love Himself definitively bares Himself to us. The proper response to this definitive moment of God's work is reverence and awe in adoration, bowed and prostrate.

Let the lips quiver and the tears flow, for until now we have not yet lived. We have avoided life in a sea of contradictions, afraid of the truth, fearful of who God is and who we are in His presence. His judgment is ever before us, and we, until this moment indifferent, have not let it into our hearts as we know we should. So, let it in! Open wide the doors to Christ ... there is nothing to lose and everything to gain. Fear is useless ... only trust and confidence in Him can save us. Now is the time to repent and to reconcile, for the silence in which we find ourselves, that very silence into which lead every humble prayer and hopeful cry of petition, is a silence that resounds with truth telling, soul saving and peace establishing trumpet blasts from heaven. And before this fullness of love and life, nothing is ever the same again.

Yet to have this so close but to continue on as if nothing were to change, as if everything would continue on as it always has, this is to cling to a perilous illusion, a dehumanizing myth. It will not stand. In the vigilant humble silence that angelic trumpet blasts fill, all illusion is unmasked and the sense of security into which we lulled ourselves is dispelled.

Here, we find ourselves deciding on our role in the great drama of life, the true story that the heavens tell, the primal story from which all stories worth telling are taken: God's saving plan. Cain or Abel? Abraham or Lot? Moses or Pharaoh? Myth, magic thinking and resistance to the voice of God mark the storyline of Pharaoh. Faith, obedience and holiness open the path of Moses and the Prophets. Myths of men appeal to the imagination and stir hubris, but cannot bear the weight of our existence. Faith in God challenges the heart and offers the only firm ground on which freedom is found.

We hear His voice for the Word became flesh and dwells among us. Our created silence rings with His great uncreated canticle and this changes everything, even the doubts and questions we face. His fire blazes and the bush of creation is not consumed: will we take off our shoes and listen to His voice? In that silence, not to be changed, to be indifferent to the call of truth, this is already to be plagued with scorching hail, burning sea, torched rivers, and darkened skies. Yet relief is swift if we contritely confess our sins and offer acts of penance in thanksgiving for the mercy of God.

The image of Revelations 8 unveil the crisis and hope of our lives: prayers and petitions rise up to heaven while a hot censer of coals is hurled to earth. Thundering angelic trumpet blasts over earth fill the silence of heaven. Catastrophe and salvation together in invincible movement, unavoidable certainty, that final reckoning, that eternal setting things straight. Injustice shall not continue as it has: we may be saved from it or perish with it. Grace makes this great self-defining act possible, even if our choice is not to choose, and we live or die with the consequences of our free decision because our liberty before God is taken serious by all of heaven. How I hope that you and I will always choose God, and find each other in Him!

Whatever we decide, the heaven sent plagues that liberated the People of God from Egypt will liberate the Church from the arrogant. Christ is the New Adam, the New Moses: pillars of fire on land and sea will open a way forward now as they did for Moses - no demonic undercurrent, no earthly power, not even heaven can stop Him. Enslavement, oppression and manipulation will be confronted by the justice of the Most High until the Children of God, safe from every abuse and self-contradiction, are free at last to worship Him and to live life to the full. 

October 27, 2019

The Battle for Integrity and the Gift of the Holy Spirit

Often, the lack of peace in our relationships with others is a symptom of the contention we carry in our hearts. Something is wrong with the world first of all because something is wrong inside me. My conscience convicts me of sin. The sin is never anything I really wanted, but there are forces at work in me that oppose one another - movements of passion that oppose who I want to be in relation to Christ and how I truly desire to act. These passions result in self-contraction whenever I allow them to sway. And they do sway as long as I also allow a host of inordinate attachments dissipate the inner resources required to live a life worthy of the call that I have received. Something deep inside me groans over this -- and that groan is one particular instance of a groan that rises in all creation. Something is out of order in the world, in my relationships with others, and, most of all, in me. What should I do?

St. Paul gives us a little secret when he declares, "Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ" (Romans 7:25). Rather than leave the field of battle or surrender to our enemies, he finds reason to thank the Lord.  This state of affairs does not stop the love of God or frustrate the Divine Plan. For St. Paul, God's plan unfolds precisely here, in this difficult paradox of conflicting desires, good and evil, within us. God knows our very integrity is on the line, and we can be grateful to Him that He has not abandoned us but found a way to accompany us in the midst of our plight. He leads us to victory, to true peace, if we will persevere in trusting and giving thanks to Him.

But how? This is where the Gift of the Holy Spirit comes in.  The Holy Spirit is the Gift that Jesus won for us through His passion and death. He ascended into heaven so that this very Breath of God that He shares with the Father might also breathe in our own hearts. A Fire from Heaven, this Furnace of Love is meant to give new light and new warmth to this earthly life. If we let it, our whole existence can suddenly be ablaze with this Living Flame of Love.

The Holy Spirit does not make the winds of self-contradiction vanish all at once. He blows through and in them, purifying them, transforming them from dispositions of sin into moments of conversion. In this way, the Spirit of God suffers our human spirit with us, in all its brokenness, and moans with us over our desire for integrity and wholeness. Foretastes of something beautiful are found, even in the midst of failure, and a new beginning awaits even when everything ends poorly. Indeed, we are not meant for a frustrated existence, dissipated and turned in on itself, but in the Divine Image and Likeness, we live our short and frail lives
to make known that eternal peace born in love and truth, the source of all that is, the happy ending for which all things were made.

The Lord and Giver of Life who dwells in us longs for us to know the peace that reigns with the Father and the Son -- and the cry of the Holy Spirit takes up our own cry and the cries of the whole world into one great hymn of praise, a canticle so magnificent that it moves the very depths of God Himself. This Gift from Above brings into harmony all the misery of our lives with the passion of our Risen Lord -- and with desires to beautiful for words,  the Word cries with us in the same Spirit to the Father. And, in the great silence of Divine Love, the Father blesses this great sacrifice of praise with His tender mercy until the pathway to conversion and peace opens before us. 

October 19, 2019

Fighting Against Lethargy

There are periods of prayer that must endure "storms of destruction" (Psalm 57:1). These storms can be exterior events - whether meteorological or else political, sometimes familial.  Currently, it seems we are in the midst of an ecclesial storm. There are also internal storms. There are tempests of temptation that, if you ever timed them, you would find last about 30 minutes - less than fifteen minutes of which are really intense (if resolutely resisted). Sometimes, an external storm and internal storm converge with demonic force. What does a person of prayer do against such fierce threats to interior peace?

Failure to take the right steps can end in disaster.  What can happen if we are not careful is that we can lose ourselves in thundering torrents of anger or sudden chills of self-pity or in flooding escapism. A dark lethargy soon follows. We lose our heart to continue on and, thus, discouraged, lose our way.

If presumption is to be avoided in the face of a storm, how should we instead proceed?  Anxiety does not help either. Too often we permit anxiety to add to the storms that we have been given to endure. Similar to presumption's anger, self-pity and escapism, unholy forms of unchecked anxiety rob a disciple of the heart needed to follow our Crucified Master.

Devotion stands against the distaste for spiritual things that sometimes seizes us. In fact, the movements of presumption and anxiety are not far apart at all if discerned against devotion. They are both movements away from it. Without the holy oil of devotion how can we rouse up desire for holy things, rejoice in a way that gives strength to others, or stand firm though the whole world falls down around us? Such oil is wasted in the lethargy of anxiety and presumption.

There is a holy anxiety that love knows, and it gives birth to that mysterious prayer that under night and olive sweats blood. There is nothing more powerful in the world than a prayer offered in such close solidarity to the Man of Sorrows. For, He is the One who is praying in such a soul.

Holy agony in prayer rises on wings of love and obedience. This prayer is animated with the unvanquished hope of the Lamb who was slain. The triumph of this prayer goes high above the bog of fear and insecurity into which the worrisome mind often slips.

Holy anxiety, however, is not the starting point, even for the repentant sinner. Rather, Christ's saving agony is born when all other anxiety is surrendered through humble repentance and grateful tears. How do we rouse ourselves from lethargy, avoid presumption and sanctify the agony that we face? Trust and confidence in the One who has gone before us.

Rather than presumption and anxiety, only trust in the Lord can endure a storm of destruction.  Trust is the pathway to devotion - its safeguard, its source. Trust in the Lord, keeping our confidence in His power and mercy, this is what it means to hide "under the shadow" of the Lords "wing" (Psalm 57:1). As we "cling" to the Lord, He "holds fast" to us (Psalm 63:8).  This is true even when the storm is our own emotional baggage and rash judgments. Devotion grows and matures the more our trust in God takes us through these trials. Trust in Him and all else passes away. For the soul that will wait with vigilant trust, the truth, in solemn stillness, remains, and with silent majesty, the Word resounds.