December 26, 2017

Christ Child Awakening

Just as when He awoke in swaddling clothes in a manger, Christ can awaken in our hearts in prayer. In that mysterious moment His eyes communicate the same invincible joy that they did when they gazed into the eyes of His virgin mother. We know in that single instant what she knew -- that He has given Himself to us and for us, and that we are the object of His delight.  If we allow ourselves to be captivated by His gaze of love, we will soon find that we cannot but give ourselves to Him in return.

Just as He opened His eyes and saw the world for the first time, when we allow Him to open His eyes in our prayer, it is as if we have been seen for the first time. When we rest with Him in silent prayer, the Word who made the world opens His eyes anew and sees us and the whole world again through our own human eyes.  It is so silent and subtle -- so easy to miss. The delight that He first took at the first moment of creation is suddenly renewed. It is a profound but secret moment of of recognition and affirmation that both Christ and the soul share together.

When Christ awakens as we pray, His gaze imparts a delicate blessing. The moment of recognition and the delight that He takes in seeing us causes a mysterious movement in the deepest part of our own being.  All of creation is taken up in its wake.  We are recognized and in that loving recognition, something is etched in the very substance of our being, and as he snuggles back to sleep, all of creation awakens to new life.

December 13, 2017

Advent and John the Baptist

In the Season of Advent, we should allow ourselves to experience the mystery of John the Baptist. His voice rings in our conscience and when we hear it, God is able to make space in our hearts for the joy of Christmas. The Baptist's voice sets a limit on the power and authority of the world in our lives. His voice reminds us of the truth about marriage and family, about faithfulness and sin, about God and our neighbor.

If we are comfortable, the Baptist makes us uneasy.  If we are arrogant, His voice humbles us. If we are confused, he is there to clarify. If we are discouraged, he helps us find the heart we need. This inner voice prepares for the Coming of Word of the Father. It is a voice that helps us recognize the truth that we need. If we do not hear this voice, it is easy to forget what it means to be, not only a Christian. but even decent human being. Such is the mission of the Baptist in the life of the Church and the plan of God.

We need to listen to the voice of John the Baptist anew. In our great wealth and power, we have become spiritually dull. In our self-conceit and self-interest, we live imprisoned in our egos - and remain powerless to help others find freedom.  In our fear of discomfort and inconvenience, we have robbed ourselves of the greatness of God's love. The witness of the Baptist cuts through fear, self, wealth and power - and makes us vulnerable to the truth once again.

To listen to the voice of the Baptist requires us to withdraw into our hearts and be still.  It requires the confession of sin and the readiness to commit ourselves to reparation for what we have done and not done for others. It requires us to listen to the suffering of those often alienated and sometimes tormented souls that God has entrusted to us. The voice of the Baptist can be in the distressing outburst of an autistic child, or in the quiet sobs of a grieving widow. His voice whispers among the brokenhearted who have lost it all and it calls out among the cynical who risk being lost forever. This call to love requires patient vigilance.  To make space for this voice in our lives, we must welcome the inconvenience and discomfort it causes - this suffering is salvific.

None of this is comfortable, but it makes all the difference in life. If we let what this prophet says change our judgments about ourselves, the world, and God, a pathway to reconciliation, integrity and fulfillment is opened before us. Listening to the Baptist and heeding his call to repentance fills in valleys of indifference and levels mountains of sin. Our whole being and existence is made ready for the coming of Word of the Father into the reality of our lives - a suffering joy that not only makes life meaningful, but lifts up everyone around us.

December 7, 2017

Advent of that Mysterious Joy

Broods the cosmos in painful rending
Beyond infinity’s gentle bending
Over misery’s edge, in galaxy far,
Cries the lost, under lonely star,
While glory, in virgin womb, abides

Superintelligences cannot fathom
The hidden secret’s tender anthem
For they from above all time and space charge hastening
To the garden, to guard, to wield swords in chastening
Where envy’s deceit resides

Until heaven, song and peace bestowing
On lowly shepherds with their flocks and cattle lowing,
Beheld revolving all hearts, and stars, and years, and land
Around what humble Godhead offers man,
And that mysterious joy besides.

November 27, 2017

Of Word and Silence

Only those who do not understand silence believe that all kinds of silence are the same. Not limited to the mere absence of noise, there are different kinds of silence on earth, in the heavens and in hell - though a deeper silence informs them all. We are made to listen to this quiet stillness that lives even in the midst of noise and is never disturbed by its ambiguity.

Many fear an emptiness that silence sometimes sustains. There is, however, a silence that is not empty. A vulnerable silence is shared in the glancing recognition of hearts that love one another. Something too great for mere words lives in the reassuring hand offered to the broken soul. More than any word can convey is quiet solidarity that one offers a friend in death.

Because our hearts ache for a silence that we do not have, some seek pathways that would still the unquenchable gnaw of unfulfilled desire. Some strive to be mindful of the present moment in an effort to find relief from their tormenting thoughts and memories. Others strive for a psychic state to set themselves above the turmoil of the day to day grind. Others pursue the next evolutionary step for human consciousness with the hopes of charting a new spiritual course. Yet all of these kinds of silence, no matter how effective in consoling and surmounting painful exigencies, cannot avoid the finality of death and its disintegrating power. These natural modes of interior serenity cannot overcome sin or forgive it -- and are, therefore, as subject to its futility as is every other unaided human activity.

There is, however, a silence that heals, uplifts, and ignites a desire for something greater.  This majestic calm can live in the soul even the the midst of racing thoughts and oppressing anxieties. Such serenity is hidden from human industry and calculation though it can permeate bone and marrow, highest thoughts and deepest instincts. No technique or method discovers the secret fountain that floods human existence in this way. Yet, its call haunts us in our pride and provides the boundary for our despair.  The humble cry of faith invites its mystery.

When approached in humility and faith, this merciful silence is ready to run and embrace us while we are still far away.  Unearned, unmerited, unexpected, for the price of our tears, this quiet stillness pays us in full, no matter how little we have labored. This silent plethora binds our wounds and restores our dignity, no matter how beat up we are on the path of life. A mere mustard seed of this tender lull fulfills every desire and surpasses all our hopes. In the form of a pure gift, the wisest have sacrificed all they have to acquire this buried treasure, while only the most childlike fully possess this precious pearl. Each human heart and the whole human adventure were born out of the hope that this silence holds for us.

We bear the image and likeness of this great mystery, and we live to make known its glory.  Never imposing itself, the secret of this immense solitude provides the space for self gift and self possession, of relation and communion, of action and contemplation. A hidden and humble quietude, if we deny it, it will deny us. It never abandons us, however, no matter how often we abandon it, because this eternal silence is faithful to itself. This mysterious speechlessness beckons between the beats of one's own heart, in the space between the inhale and exhale of a single breath, at the end of one thought and before the beginning of the next.

That we might know this ever-flowing Spring, the Truth who has always proceeded from the silent stillness of the Father's heart was conceived when this same Stillness overshadowed the woman's womb. Born in poverty and nurtured in exile, the Father's Son established the still point around which all of human history and each human heart revolve. Living among us, with every heartbeat, every breath, every thought, every word, every work until, climaxed in wordless cry and final breath, the silenced Word fully disclosed the great secret that the Father yearned to entrust to us in crucified glory.

When the Word humbled Himself in rejection, betrayal, humiliation, denial, injustice, and death, all this evil was at once implicated in the Father's silent love. Because the secret of the Father is more powerful than the rancor of sin and death, He raised His Crucified Word. In raising Mary's Son, He gave Christ's obedient love the power to raise all of creation, making all things new.

Having implicated Himself in our plight, the crucified Word can give us life even as we die in dissonant restlessness. Each of us can claim this Truth and cling to it even as our last life breath leaves us.  In all the noise and confusion that threaten to reduce us to mere cogs in the wheel of human industry, our union in faith to the Word of the Father makes us vulnerable to that tender silence that heaven knows.

Beyond the power of death, the hidden eloquence of God's immense love defines human existence.  So full, so rich, so beautiful -- all words fail, speechless adoration overcomes the soul - the same speechlessness that the Divine Persons share imprints itself in us. New meaning floods over our existences even now, in this difficult hour and in this grace filled moment. A saving silence rises above the silence of death and cacophony of sin.


November 10, 2017

On the Ocean of Christ's Love

The power of Christ is immense and at the same time hidden.  It is as if we were in the hull of a ship unaware of the great ocean on which we rest or even that we are in a ship at all.  We feel tossed and turned, and upset that this has disturbed our rest, completely oblivious that great currents are directing our ship homeward.  We are irritated with fellow passengers who are as ignorant as we are – and don’t you know that there are some rats on board as well, disgusting and frustrating us – even to the point that we think their stench is ours.

It’s time to wake up, shake off your slumber and to remember who you are.  You are a baptized son of the Most High and you are sailing forth on the great Bark of Peter, sailing across the ocean of Christ’s love to our Fatherland, to the place prepared for us – for the Father has made us for greatness.  You are not made for the filth of wrath or self-pity or scrupulosity – but to stand like a man on the shores of salvation and cry out to the Living God and be heard by Him, to His great delight! 

Remember who you are and do not let the rats distract you.  The rats are but demonic vermin who frighten, steal food and make a mess. Ignore them unless you can throw one overboard into immensity of the blood of Christ.  

To remember who you are, simply climb out of the hull of the daily grind and step out into the starlight of prayer. Walk across the deck of silence and do not fear the plank of solitude. Shake off the squalor of scrupulosity – and bath yourself in the love that holds up the whole Church.  

As you plunge into Christ, search for the Star of the Sea – her light reassures you that you have found your way.  Let her maternal presence comfort you as a mother her son – for she understands your agony and stands with you through it all – just as she did her own Son.  Then refreshed, cloth yourself anew with Christ and climb back down to the hull and give your fellow travelers a word of hope.  This is your great mission and purpose.