June 17, 2019

Mysterious Currents of the Trinity

The journey out of self and into God is long and arduous. This pathway traverses a bottomless abyss, and we row along unaware of the doom that threatens beneath us. Progress is measured only by a greater freedom to love - for only in love is the truth of our lives unfurled. The One God is not indifferent to our plight but will not force us as we make our way. Yet, His long forgotten love is the ocean on which we sail. So He subtly draws us with Love's own dynamism until we believe and choose to set our course by His voice.

The Lord is motivated only by His desire that we should not perish but, know Him in the deepest and most personal way. In this excelling knowledge, eternal Friendship Himself offers the astonishing promise of true friendship. In the face of this tender and sincere offer, we discover our poverty: that deep dark hostility to God and the things of God. This abyss of death pulls at us and threatens to imprison us until nothing good, noble or true about our lives is alive at all. To be trapped in our own ego - this is to be already dead. Only the freedom to love beyond ourselves allows us to live. Here, before the mystery of death where our voids and inadequacies make themselves felt, we also discover grace.

We ask for help because this gift has evoked our prayer - that gift of new life won for us by Christ's passion and death. It is grace that enables us to struggle against our hostility to God. By sheer grace, we find that steep passage out of the prison of our own ego and into those open seas on which alone freedom to love is found.

If we think we are doing all the work because of the determination and perseverance the freedom to love demands, we are mistaken. All the trials, hardships, sacrifices and renunciations that love requires are only a frail response to a greater love already lavish on us. The Father carefully draws us by His Word and the Gift of the Holy Spirit into this hidden mystery. If we are timid and not confident in the immensity of His love, the Holy Spirit engenders a new confidence and the Word not only reveals why we should be confident in the Father, but communicates His own confidence in us, the confidence of a child of God.

So, the Trinity is patient and gentle, accomplishing the most delicate work even in our inconstancy and lukewarmness. We avoid, we delay, we put off. He waits, He runs, He embraces. With longing expectation, He orders events, even making use of catastrophes, so that, though we are unaware, we will suddenly find ourselves implicated in His love. Such are the deep currents of the Holy Trinity.

We set out on a peaceful sea and believe we have found peace until unexpected mighty swells take us under into depths we did not know existed - abysses deeper than death. We would never have desired to go into such difficult places, and yet our faith helps us realize that somehow this present heartbreak is good though that goodness seems hidden from our sight. Yet we believe -- for in these depths are found the heights of God's love - its length and breadth - cruciform dimensions too great for this frail world to hold.  And only here are we at last at rest in that peace for which we were made.

What a paradox - the Trinity takes away a certain peace that we thought we held secure to give another, more wonderful peace. He Himself holds us safe in this quiet stillness with an assurance more sure than death itself. For in these mysterious currents of the Holy Trinity, love's freedom fully lives.

June 15, 2019

The Radiance of the Bride - Source of Contemplative Prayer

The world may fear Fire from above, but not the Bride of Christ. For her, this Eternal Flame flashes down as torchlit sign of hope in the present moment - infusing the difficult circumstances that threaten humanity with those possibilities that eyes still subject to death cannot see. Hearts not satisfied with a half-lived life, not ready to settle for anything other than the truly authentic, need this source of contemplative prayer.  The radiance of the Bride comes from Heaven as a pure gift, and she shines with this resplendent peace precisely for those longing for the rushing stillness of a truly meaningful life.

The Church possesses the Light which contemplation seeks. As a dark cloud of accusing fingers rush forward claiming victim status in social myths indifferent to the innocent, the gentle dignity of truth remains the uncompromising standard of her heart, the only ground that she allows to bear her weight and the weight of that encounter for which she longs. Woe to those who preach another standard in her name and claim that such darkness is light- their myths entrap in self-contradiction putting at risk one's integrity and dignity.

All that is not chaste, simple, and obedient under the Light of the Church fails to find the footing that she offers. Sensational controversy, intrigue, and political maneuvering remain ignorant of even the passing shadow of her Great Mystery.  Calculated spin, social stratagems, and clever agendas can never access her deepest treasures. Instead, only a heart surrendered in truth to love can know that Surrender into which she has surrendered herself. Only a mind whose every thought is held captive by the ignominy of the Cross can know that unfamiliar brightness whose wound heals.

The Church is captivated and captivates by the uncreated Light unveiled in the suffering and risen humanity of the Lord. The Bride of Christ, in the warm radiance of this mysterious splendor, silently processes forward to Him who awaits her. She presses on in trust and confidence through the deep currents of humanity's doom, carrying a candle lit in the darkness of the world by that flaming Word who would not be dimmed.  He is the way - the way for humanity as a whole, and the way for each heart to whom He calls.

Illuminating this pathway for humanity, the Bride's faithful shadow discloses a true alternative to all social and psychological idealisms of our time. Her light is her own - it is Him, the Light - not a light of our time, but Eternal Light. Nihilisms of contemporary conventions, deprived of the Light that shines in the darkness, never lead out of the dark, no matter the supposed nobility of their cause. In the end, they betray, in slanted labyrinths of twisted thought, those enclosed in concentric circles of egoism.  Even here, if a heart will strive to seek Him, Christ's raised Lantern provides an escape. For she knows these dark prisons whom her Bridegroom harrowed and her pathway to Him takes her through those barred gates and locked doors - for nothing is denied her as she follows the footsteps of her Crucified Master.

In her maternal brightness, all that is good, noble and true about holy humanity is set aglow even if largely unrecognized save by some mysterious relief, if only momentary, from the ennui haunting the secure routines of a half lived life. Immaculate and holy by the Blood shed for her she shines. Though ravenous wolves violently tear at her to devour her children and render her fruitless, the brightness of her Shepherd fills her gaze. The constant object of malicious schemes, she knows not to yield even when engulfed in humiliation and utter failure to all earthly eyes. Yet, even as her most vulnerable members are falsely accused and slaughtered, she lives unvanquished and remains undeterred in her magnificent purpose until every drop of innocent blood is vindicated.

Consider this: countless of her conquerors now find themselves head bowed and kneeling before her Bridegroom. The blood of her witnesses evokes and conceives new life all the more that it is discounted and abused. Even as the world turns upside down, this Bride is ever confident in the Lamb that was slain for He is even more confident in her. This trust of the Bride protects the poor of spirit who take refuge in her. Thus, by the Fire that burns within her, Mother Church fiercely defies all worldly powers and rulers of darkness until terror overtakes them and the light of truth exposes the shame that they presumed would never be known. Here, repentance and the hope for humanity - ushered by fasting and welcomed by prayer, a chastisement that makes us whole because of the chastisement already suffered for our sake.

As she journeys in such saving brightness, she tenderly gathers in the wounded to heal and provide a little safe-harbor even as the harsh storm of secularism surges on every side. With words whose silent weight tip the scales in favor of the poor and humble, she sings canticles that reverberate farthest star of remotest galaxy with harmonies too beautiful for this world to hold. Reflected and magnified, Heaven's brilliant glory shines forth from her least movement, while with unrelenting determination she presses forward to what lies ahead. 

May 19, 2019

Contemplation and the Renewal of the Church

Contemplative prayer remains a largely untapped resource for the renewal of the Church. Many understand it to be no more than an esoteric or at most therapeutic exercise.  Others show little regard this spiritual activity or anyone who dedicates his life to this effort. Even still, this most simple and hidden movements of heart avails the world of a power too great for time and space to hold. This surrender to the surrender of God is the unseen spark the ignites the Church into a fiery icon of Divine Presence when light and warmth are most needed.

Contemplative prayer is a unifying reality that integrates our judgments and our desires, our being and our actions before the glory given to us by the Risen Lord. Some love to distinguish affective and intellectual modes contemplative prayer, and there is no harm in this as long as the sovereign freedom of the Most High is revered. On the other hand, a soul that resists truth is as deprived as a heart that will not be pierced in prayer.

While moments of truth and wonder may enflame a soul with love and other moments of divinized passion explode into love revealed in personal action, we make these distinctions only to humble ourselves before the life-giving work of the Holy Spirit and the self-communication of the Word. The Living God moves emotions with fear and trembling when He discloses His inexhaustible mystery. He baptized intelligence in understanding and knowledge when His eternal splendor baths the soul. His whole mystery impacts the mystery of our own hearts until the jubilation of this encounter is born  in our whole manner of life - its every moment aflame in glory and given over in thanksgiving.

How this happens is so unique for each of us, but the Good Shepherd leads each of us to the same verdant pastures and living springs. When we withdraw from noise of the mundane to take time for God, He guides us into his own great stillness. The terrain of this wilderness is open to ever deeper and more beautiful kinds of meaningful silence. Does our mind race with thoughts and distractions? Quieting ourselves before the Lord allows us to surrender all our judgments to Him so that He might hold every thought captive. Are we anxious about many things or crushed by worries? Stillness in His presence allows Him to calm the interior storms that threaten to rob us of peace, the peace that only He can give.  On such the frontiers to which He guides us, we finally find the freedom to leave our "self" and allow ourselves to be vulnerable to a still greater mysteries.

What happens when human freedom surrenders to the incomprehensible surrender of God? Prayer open to this mystery knows He gives Himself irrevocably in the measure that we welcome Him and the gift of His Presence is always at work, accomplishing the work of His Father. He does not come disembodied, a pure spirit, an idea. When the soul beholds the Risen Lord in faith, it is His whole mystery that is present: Body and Blood, Soul and Divinity. His Body is One and this One Body is the Church - no one who encounters Christ ever encounters Him apart from His Body.

Because ecclesial and therefore, catholic, this contemplation is enfleshed - an encounter of our whole humanity with the Holy Humanity of the Lord. No matter our solitude or the depths of silence, the creative Word of the Father always comes through His Mystical Body the Church and, through the Church, makes our own bodies into living sacrifices, our true spiritual worship. Thus, in this actual renewal of the Church, each new and unrepeatable moment we give Him makes space in the world for Him to do something new, something that has never happened before and will never happen again.

He is a courteous guest. If we will only partially accept His presence, He holds back what we will not receive. If we take the time to show Him hospitality, He gladly remains with us, showering us with gifts that exceed the limits of our wildest imagination.  No matter how much time we pour out on Him diligent for His Heart's desire, it is never enough for all that He longs to accomplish in us and through us. Indeed, He has lavished us with so much more than we could ever deserve, and, even so, eagerly longs to pour out still more - such inestimable wonders to be enfleshed in our own humanity until His whole mystery is renewed in us for the salvation of the world.

May 17, 2019

The Archangel Gabriel to the Men of St. John's Seminary - a Commencement Poem


Salve, brothers of this New Day,

In-shadowed in early silences before first light,
Framed in Renaissance cloistered sight
Vestiges of Paradise cloaked in failing light
Palms and pines, rosemary and roses -- right
Reminders strewn of Him who before you lay.

Enter those Sienese walls of Catherine’s garden
Where mirrored Sphinx of Pietas find
Woman’s son offered, where tabernacled glories bind
Fast bended knees seeking unfamiliar sound
Of fiery words from Word aflame, where resound
Ache and wonder through yawning vastness within.




Before rising hymns of stained-glass sails.
Shot with splendor through mysterious painted veils,
Echoing heart-piercing shadows, secret radiances disclose
Priests – by whose mysterious ministry angelic choirs propose
That Silent Presence hastening to free with Love’s wound.


Here, under Byzantium sky, unfolds the battle for the hearts of men
Waged in mind, paid in flesh, and fought to free from sin
Those who have fallen yet strive to rise again
New martyrs of that banquet blessed, broken, given,
Blood amid palms and pines, rosemary and roses --
Charges forth the Lamb with His war arrayed forces.

Will you too step into the arena of life and for life stand?
Not with shadows, nor mere flesh, to contend
But against worldly powers and spiritual forces to defend:
When humiliated, stay unvanquished and fight, not yield;
When victorious, not on laurels sit lest for certain ruin;
Instead, for those littlest ones take courage wherein
To shield those unable themselves to shield;
For holy humanity, for Heaven’s Queen, for your true homeland.




Citizens of Heaven, on that ground of truth which alone can bear
The weight of your existence, as innumerable hosts process,
As cherubim and seraphim with Spirit and Bride profess,
As mysteries given on and under signs from above,
As born anew on silent canticles in each humble act of Love
That Bridegroom Who, by sacrifice blessed, broken stays
No spirit, no myth, but enfleshed -- for those whose feet He baths.
Call His Name on bended knee, a fellowship of lifted hearts breathing incensed air.

As day and life run their course and close their story
Renew again that oath that once you made in water 
To sail beyond sunsets to the shores of Our Father,
To sing with her who magnifies Who is blessed, broken, given - 
To offer a paternal blessing not your own, yes, Anointed One,
As priests in palms and pines, rosemary and roses.
For even on the remotest horizon courses
The eye of Him who at the sight of you, his son
Will run with robes, and rings, and endless glory.

Dean Anthony Lilles, May 13, 2019

May 12, 2019

Mary, Mother of Contemplative Hearts

Mary pondered a profound mystery. She discovered the inexhaustibility of the gift God had given to her. By humbly assenting to the gentle action of the Holy Spirit, He surrendered such unimaginable riches that she could think of nothing else but the magnificence of His Love. She marveled over the Word of the Father, conceived not only in her womb but first in her mind.  Always fruitful when He is allowed to enter into the drama of human freedom, He infused her freedom with such fullness it enveloped her whole being and established her in such a peaceful stillness that nothing but love alone could move her.  This divine fruitfulness became the wellspring that overflowed her interiority and transformed her whole humanity.

The inner reality of human life, that question that we carry without being fully aware of it, this is where the Word brought her when she entered under the shadow of the Most High.  She entered the Word even as the Word made His home in her heart and womb. There, the most tender exchange, so subtle and gentle, all unaided natural powers were completely oblivious, left in the dark. There, a death to earthly dreams, conventions of acceptability, pre-conceptions too small for God, and all other ways circumscribed by merely visible standards here below.  There, space is made for something new, exceeding all expectation, an unfamiliar truth that astonishes the world, a dawning of mysterious freshness from above. Thus, this Ray of Darkness made the Virgin's whole existence radiant, and a new glory too great for this tired old world flashed through her. As lightening to the earth, He thundered toward the Cross, exploding with meaning so powerful that not even death could hold it. Hope for humanity was born even as she held with heart piercing love and faith the lifeless body that would have seemed a contradiction to everything she believed. The prayer of faith is never defeated. Such is the power of this mother's cry and, and by that faith filled silence, the hearts of many have been laid bear.

As Mother of the Word incarnate, she is mother of interior souls. She teaches those dedicated to prayer those most exquisite and delicate movements of heart in response to the inestimable gift gently surrendered to them. The Holy Spirit invites and she encourages, and these heroic hearts, no matter their age or bodily frailty, learn to be bold children of the Father. When all seems dark and their deepest hopes are challenged, her maternal love patiently accompanies them and silently teaches them the same fruitfulness that she discovered. Surrendered to the Spirit of Truth, these souls receive the Word as did Mary, and allow all that He reveals to be accomplished in them. What beautiful things for God and humanity spring forth because of the confidence in Christ that they learn from the Mother of God.

May 5, 2019

The Words of the Word and the Language of the Soul

When the Word made flesh rose from the Dead, human speech was freed from the futility of sin and death. Endowed with power and authority to express the hidden judgments of God, this new kind of speech unveils truth deeper than death and stronger than sin. This is hidden from those who live by the spirit of this dying world - for those still subject to death are deaf to the "alleluia" that resonates deep in the hearts of those who behold the Risen Lord. To all those who accept the remarkable friendship that the Word freely offers, His voice enfolds their whole existence with a meaning so beautiful and complete, the limitedness of time and space cannot contain it.

In the words that the Word of the Father speaks to the heart, the silence of death is no longer humanity's last word and misery no longer circumscribes the meaning of our lives. Instead of alienation and loneliness, a new relationship, a new connection with God, the ability to cry out "Abba!" is born where once was only an empty cavity of pain. Eternal significance that once was impossible to hold now takes hold of each one of us, if only we would welcome this astonishing Gift.

He in us, we in Him, He in the Father, the Father in Him, we where He is: by the Gift of the Holy Spirit, the Word of the Father has infused human words with Divine Authority and Power - power to bring back to life, to transform, to recreate, to make all things new. New beginnings, new hopes, new dreams live in each sacred syllable of this language. Speak this undying speech and rejoice with holy tears beyond the fate that Christ has overthrown.

If we let the language revealed in the Bible and preached by the Church become the language of our soul, the words that we offer in prayer are more powerful than death itself. This is because the words of Sacred Scripture bear the Truth whom death could not defeat and these words of the Word open our hearts to His undying Presence:

When the humblest petition, "Lord, have mercy," is offered with faith, this simple cry is made pregnant with a newness that changes everything.

When infused with the obedience of the Risen Lord, the "I believe" of the Creed becomes language that boldly speaks against the mystery of sin and turns it against itself until the soul finds ground to stand on.

When "Holy, Holy, Holy" echos in the heart of a believer, this sacred cry raises the soul far above the exigencies that otherwise weigh down the heart.

When lips move to offer the "Our Father," heavenly desires are born and  the irrevocable judgments unveiled.

This is the language of the resurrection. There is so much more to be said, but words fall short. In every case such holy speech makes space for a tender love and inner strength that do not come from the soul but the Risen One, and what He gives is everything that soul and every soul ever needs.

The language of a whole new creation, no spiritual power can be an obstacle to the riches that flood the heart that lives by the words of the Word and nothing can thwart the new communion that this spiritual language establishes. These words that the Son of the Father entrusts to us in prayer are a shield against everything that would threaten our integrity and they turn every disappointment and hardship into a floodgate of mercy. This prayerful speech confounds the malignant plans of any creature that would oppose the eternal plan of God. The Lord, for His part, uses all things, even the malice of those who hate His disciples, to make all things new - for His Word is Life.

May 2, 2019

Prayer and Truth, Theology and Contemplation

There are some who attain with strenuous effort a sophisticated understanding of their faith without ever having learned to truly pray. It is not that they do not pray at all. They go to Mass. They murmur the psalms in the Liturgy of the Hours. They may even rattle off a chaplet of the Rosary. Yet, they have not taken up that deeper heart to heart with the Living God. Instead of an understanding of the faith that opens to the mystery of the Fire of Love, they have insulated themselves against its igniting  sparks.  They cleave to the formulas that bear the articles of our Faith more than they do to the One who the articles bear. Though they may feel self-satisfied in their intellectual mastery of many beautiful truths, their neglected hearts remain parched for Living Waters. Unless they allow the Lord to address the misery that haunts them by learning how to pray, the intellectual artifice that they have created will crash down around them in ruin.

There are others who are given an awareness of the Divine Presence but presume that sacred doctrine is an obstacle rather than a pathway. They are dazzled by Divine Splendor or else confounded in its shadow. Yet, because they do not know the teachings of the Church, they easily misunderstand and misconstrue the heart-piercing reality that has dawned upon them in an unmerited and unanticipated moment of prayer.  Their hearts are bathed in jubilation, heart-break and silence all at once, but for lack of having heard Him preached, they do not recognize or know how to respond to the Bridegroom who contemplates them in His Bride. Their loving surrender into His love is impeded for lack sound teaching and the winds of myth and error threaten their very integrity.

Blessed the soul humble enough to submit every thought to Christ and simple enough to confidently surrender to the Father's will made known in the life of the Church. The one who will baptize his whole manner of life into the mystery of Christ allows the Holy Spirit to question his secret judgments and his deepest desires while the Church, as a good mother, accompanies him along the way. Rooted in the language of the Church, the Holy Bible, he is not afraid when the Holy Spirit scrutinizes his every action and shines the light of truth into darkened motives. Instead, tears of contrition and the water from the side of Christ bath this disciple with hope until body and soul, word and action, desire and decision align with the most beautiful mysteries in the depths of God. New presences of the Trinity so much more subtle, more meaningful, and more transforming await those awake to such an embodied spiritual devotion, the living devotion of the Bride of Christ.

The mind without the heart is lifeless, and the heart without the mind is lost. Faith that does not spring from the Heart of the Bride cannot know the Bridegroom. Theological wisdom without mystical wisdom cannot draw from the wellsprings of worship, and mystical wisdom without sound teaching is vulnerable to shipwreck.  Prayer bereft of God's Word lacks soul, and study not carried out on one's knees is dis-embodied. Silence without the Word of the Father is empty, and so are words that do not flow from the fullness that resounds in the Silence of the Word. This silent fullness fills the heart of the Church and her true teachings allow it to fill our hearts.

May 1, 2019

First Day - by Scott Eagan


- FIRST DAY -

From midnight on
the prospect of sun rising
first day in the week, a sleeping
Savior prepares to open his eyes.
Second Adam touched by the Father’s
helping hand, who is speaking silently the invitation
‘Wake, come cross the frontier.’
Sitting up, stars far above, overhead
points of light in eon’s black dome
deep in the tomb, the day has already dawned
new flower unfolding on a bed of old dreams
casting off the slumber of time
sparking a new order hidden in stone
sharp ray of light slicing the bonds.
Six days we work and worry
they slide into the hope, the incredulity
beyond our control, a Root splitting rock
Seedling transforming its old shell
revelation has become charged with energy
Sunday step into the cradle of truth
and the opening rhyme of resurrection.

Scott Eagan
March 10, 2019

Pierced - by Scott Eagan


Everyone will see Him, including those who pierced Him.
                                                                                     - Revelation 1:7


PIERCED

When the sharp point pricks the skin
or the razor edge parts the flesh
blood flows freely, pain raises its head
alarm spreads through the body – brain, heart, spirit
and unless the crimson river is staunched
the wound attended to, panic sets in
trauma, shock, anger and fear fill the senses.

Retaliation is often our immediate response
wounded, we must defend ourselves, fight back
...puncture for a puncture…
...threat and cut and injury for every infliction…
at least a sanction, a barrier to address the attack
some form of offensive action, retribution to right the wrong
that is unless we are in Christ.

God-become-man knew all the wounds
bled from cuts of the scourge, bruised pride of religion
suffered pricks of long thorns and deep insults of words
His life ending in blood and water on the Cross
with nary a word, a rebuttal, a defense
offering up spirit and truth in the Father’s love
and inviting us all to do the same.


Scott Eagan
November 28, 2018

April 29, 2019

Notre Dame Burning - by Scott Eagan


                                                She is a vast symphony in stone – Victor Hugo
                                        NOTRE – DAME BURNING
                - Holy Week Tuesday -  Allegro con brio -
Somewhere within the ‘forest’
    in the wooden heart of that complex community
    of primal oak beams, interweaving rafters,
    a renovating spark spawned a flame – and hungry to destroy
    tongues and tails of demons licked the branches
    until the forest was burning with a violent, evil blaze
    spreading is wiles throughout the woods
    toppling the mighty spire – its tall head high above the canopy
    while the gargoyles, stone faced, grimaced unwaveringly.
    In the bosom of the Île de la Cité, having survived Reformation and Revolution
    and modern unbelief, standing steadfast, the citizens
    rushed to the rescue – water, prayer, hymns – and a human chain
    of saving hands in that crucible of Gothic alchemy.
        A whirlwind of crackling notes, a cacophony of roaring incense.

                          - Holy Saturday -  Allegreto -
Within the ashes of wreckage
    smoke stained walls and buried pews
    ravaged roof, damaged stained glass windows,
    the teary cry of a city, of the world – and a smokey silence
    tomb-like, not even the curious tourist’s chatter,
    poor stilled heart wounded in a Passion of fire and water.
    Scarred body wrapped in a shroud of love
    awaiting the touch of God and man, encased in stone
    the crown of thorns removed in the age old battle against beauty
    she is laid to rest, the poignant price of neglect.
    Music, paused in a chiseled silence, holds a hidden note -
        hope remains in the place of Golgatha.

                     - Easter SundayAllegro con spiritu -
Still standing, the luminous cross
    surmounting a pietá. Mother and Son a midst
    twisted and blackened pipes, timbers – the forest fallen in ruin
    a tomb with a stone rolled across the sanctuary.
    Yet, a strange beat begins in resurrection
    with the centuries of faith, of craftsmanship and artistry
    a response to the Conductor’s baton, phoenix-like the promise
    rising again from death, the notes in recapitulation of its creation.
    A heart burning in the cinders of Notre Dame de Paris -
    the forest will grow back, the music will return
        and with it, the strength to begin again. 

                  Scott Eagan  April 23, 2019

April 23, 2019

The Risen Lord's Victory over Death and Sin

In His Divine Person, the New Adam united Himself to the destruction men suffer in death, to vanquish and transform what would most threaten human dignity into a gateway of eternal glory.  Sin is our hostility to Life Himself, and death in sin is the destruction of human life. Sin is the source of our guilt and wraps our existence in shame so that death's shadow haunts our lives. Yet, into this shadow, the Good Shepherd went in search of us, and that we might dwell in His house forever, the Risen Lord bought us with His own blood.

The loss of integrity and alienation that sin causes finds its full bodily expression when a cold corpse is lowered into its grave and so the Word most fully expressed the Father's love when His body was sealed in the tomb. We are not comfortable with the world, or our neighbors, or ourselves because we have defied our Maker, and the lifeless body of the visible image of the invisible God proclaims just how uncomfortable the Almighty is with our defiance. We feel thwarted before death because, in His humility, the Source of Life thwarts the proud. The Creator does so not as an angry God who seeks vengeance, but rather as a father whose heart is broken over the plight of his son, as a bridegroom who is distraught that his beloved is in grave danger. The power of sin and the depths of its mystery is great. Greater still is the Divine Mercy that has suffered and overthrown it for our sake.

The Risen Lord has the power to forgive sin because He wants us to have the antidote for death. Death in sin not only alienates the human body from its soul, but the soul from its God. This does not happen all at once - but unfolds despite every effort to avoid or prevent it.  Death's dehumanizing power rips the principle of human life away from its body until life-less body and body-less life are incapable of meaningful connection with others, and the soul has nothing to pull it back into relation with the Lord. Even for a person of great faith, hope is tested and love itself is questioned as the unfolding of death's mystery is suffered. Trapped in sterile alienation and unfulfilled desires, death subjects all that is good, noble and true about our humanity to futility. Death becomes a great spiritual contest, one in which the very meaning of our lives and our loves are on the line. The Word of the Father chose to suffer this for us - not to prevent it or provide an escape from it, but to transform it into a mystery that leads to the perfection of faith, the invincibility of hope, and the final triumph of love.

The Father did not wish humanity to perish even as it suffered death. Desiring that the Father's dream for humanity might be realized, after the Word became flesh for our sake even to the point of embracing the annihilation to which our human existence was subject. He did not abandon His dead humanity. He was personally present to both his dead body and his soul in death, suffering in them all that death means and yet, because suffering death, also infusing it with His saving presence so that death no longer has the last word about humanity. Instead, the love of the Father revealed by His Son is become the deepest truth of human existence, deeper than any misery or absence of life. 

His Divine Person united His lifeless body and his departed soul even as death corrupted the bonds by which one animates the other and the other expresses the one. Cut off from all human connection and bereft the love of the Father for which his humanity lived, the Word with eternal meaning plunged into the futility that threatens the meaning of our lives. This means that the Son of the Father held fast to his lifeless body so that even when wrapped in burial cloths deep in the darkness of a sealed tomb, His earthly tent was never separated from His Divine Nature.  This means that the Word clung to his human soul even as it plunged in the depths of human misery, so that though suffering places so alienated from the love of God no unaided human power can escape, his human spirit was never cut-off from His Divine Life. Though completely hidden from the living and seeming not to be accomplishing anything that can be measured- the life of God was fashioning a great new hope for humanity.

In these colliding polarities, His Divine Person bore such sanctifying paradox to transform what was once our curse into humanity's greatest moment, an offering rendered acceptable because infused by His sacrifice. Indeed, no matter how sealed away His Body in death and no matter how deep into the sleep of death His soul, the Savior would not abandon His Body or His Soul because of the immensity of His love for each one of us - until he opened for each of us the way home, no matter how lost we find ourselves.

Is it any wonder that when we come to Him with our sin, He is always ready to forgive it?  He has gone deeper into our misery than our own sin can know. No addictive behavior, no psychological brokenness, no self-loathing, no self-torment -- nothing we can bring to Him is too unbearable for Him, for He has already bore it all.  He has contended against the powers that would try to hold us down, and none of them could separate us from His love.  






April 20, 2019

The Word and the Sleep of Death in Christian Prayer.

Christian contemplation takes in the mystery of death and sees it transformed by the Word of the Father.  It is not more powerful than the love of God. It's hellish currents cannot drown out desire that the Lord has for us to live. This is a true spiritual reality, a great drama that God takes seriously - because His love is more serious than death.

St. John of the Cross observes that Christ suffered the annihilation in not only his body but also his spirit, arguing that this is why Christ calls out in the words of a psalm: My God, my God, why have you abandoned me?  To suffer the absence of the Father, says the mystical doctor, is the Lord's greatest suffering. It is a true spiritual death, and we could say, His pathway into the abyss of human misery. Yet in suffering this death, St. John of the Cross observes that Christ accomplished his greatest work: our salvation. So it is with us - when we enter by prayer into the mystery of Christ's death and allow our own existence to be shaped by His suffering for our sake, we also accomplish our greatest work. What is more, our friendship and union with Christ is perfected.

 On Holy Saturday, we realize the radical extent that Christ journeyed into death for our salvation includes His descent into Hell. For those who want to follow their Crucified God, this descent also informs their journey.Yet just how far do we go with this? The answer is the length that Christ went into the mystery of death - the depths to which He suffered his own separation from the Father is the pathway that we also must follow until we find those places where God seems absent to us too.

What this means in practical terms is that the Word of the Father waits for us in those miseries we would rather avoid. Our prayer must not keep Him waiting but should bravely go where we are awaited by Him. Our hidden poverties, miseries, affections, voids, inadequacies, failures, weaknesses, frustrations and disappointments are not places that God avoids or pretends does not exist. To say that the Son of the Most High has descended in hell is to proclaim that He has gone down into these abysses and embraced them as our Savior and as our Friend,

The Word made flesh descended into our miseries and afflictions no matter what they are and He awaits us in these painful places. If we will seek His presence even here, He who is the Truth Himself can teach us how to offer these most difficult parts of our personal existence - so that instead of such things damning us, the Good Shepherd can lead us out of them and onto higher ground. Whoever goes into these hidden poverties of our lives with hope in the Lord and seeks Him, the Son of Mary will raise up to new life.

This is the mystery of Holy Saturday.  Christian contemplation becomes a kind of sleep of death when we descend the abyss of our miseries in search of the Lord of Life. We do not do this to beat ourselves up or torment ourselves or accuse ourselves. We do this to find the Suffering Servant who has gone before us into these places and transformed them into springs of life.  No sin is too great that it cannot be surrendered to His mercy. No failure is so definitive that the Son of the Father cannot show us how His love is all the more definitive of who we are.

Christian prayer allows us to find God in our afflictions. Prayer that listens for the voice of Love Himself when all seems lost and there seems to be no way out, such prayer has already entered the sleep of death that the Living God embraced for love of us. Souls that have ventured with faith into "hell," that is all those memories and attitudes where God seems most absent in one's heart, these are the ones who are always astonished to find Christ in this same sleep with them, for them in unfathomable power and authority. They know the glory of Him awakening them to new life.

Out of the treasuries that these disciples discovered in the Lord, they can speak words of hope to those who also find their own lives threatened by the power of sin and death. Those who the Deliverer saves from the hellfire that threatens their own hearts, they know what true freedom is.  If we persevere in our search for the Conqueror of Death even in the miseries of our lives, the Lord of Life comes to us with His peace and offers to lead us home.  

April 18, 2019

The Father and the Mystery of Holy Thursday

The liturgies of Holy Thursday commemorate the institution of the Priesthood, the Eucharist and the mandate of Christian Charity. Each of these are beautiful mysteries for the heart to ponder, places of profound encounter with Christ where He unveils the mystery of the Father's love.  Each manifestation of the Father's love also unveils the deepest truth about who we are and the high calling that we have received.

When Christ's establishes his priesthood, this includes a participation in Christ's  priesthood that baptism makes possible. Christ instituted this priesthood based the ancient priestly character of humanity.  In human existence, visible and invisible realities are mediated one to the other through the beautiful reality of our body-soul personal existence. As stewards of creation, our first obligation was to order the whole visible cosmos to the true spiritual worship of the Creator. The  dominion that the Lord entrusted to us over the earth and its creatures was intended so that through humanity, the whole earth might know the glory of God and His holiness through our obedient surrender to His immense love.

This great purpose was impeded when we fell into disobedience. Without following the will of the Father ourselves, the rest of creation could not know His love through us. We ourselves, unable to fulfill the office of praise entrusted to us, suffered the misery of not knowing the great love that lives in the heart of the Father for us. And so, our disobedience has caused us to suffer the indignity of hostility to the Lord - a hostility that Christians are the special object of in these times.

The obedience of Christ restores the priestly office entrusted to humanity and confers it with a more perfect kind of priesthood - one from the very heart of the Trinity.  The Son of the Father offers His very person to the Father in the power of the Holy Spirit in an eternal moment of praise, one without beginning and end. Creation is simply a reflection of this immeasurable love, unending adoration and perfect praise through in time and space. Humanity was created in the image and likeness of the Holy Trinity - a communion of love -- because only such a communion could make such love known in the way the Father yearned that it should be manifest. Christ obedience not only restored this sacred reality of holy humanity, but opened up the possibility of spiritual worship beyond the limits of this presence life and the confines of time and space.

The priesthood of Christ is anticipated in the mysterious person of Melchizedek, who offered sacrifice of bread and wine for the Father of our Faith, Abraham (Genesis 14:18).  By tithing to this righteous priest and king, Abraham was able to offer acceptable worship and thanksgiving (Hebrews 7:1ff). Similarly, the priesthood founded in Christ's obedience to the Father enables us to offer true spiritual worship with our bodies when we join Him by faith and baptism.  Yet the form of this worship is Eucharistic - a thanksgiving that utterly transcends everything that pre-figured it.

In Christ's personal existence, His Divine Person mediates divinity and humanity, without mixing them, into a perfect harmony of salvation, mediating one to the other just as Melchizedek mediated between God and man for Abraham. Those who believe in Christ participate by faith in the restoration of the priestly dignity that belonged to humanity from the beginning. Just as Abraham experienced through the mysterious Melchizedek, but now in Christ, we have this priesthood in a more perfect and irrevocable way.

For with the institution of the Eucharist, the Bread of Life found a way that we might share in this harmony of God and man that He knows in His very person.  Moreover, He has done this in a manner that beautiful relations between humanity and divinity constituted in Him might be our strength and sustenance in this life.  He has made Himself into the Way, the Truth and the Life. To this end, the Lamb of God established a new covenant, a never before known relationship with humanity, in the Eucharistic Banquet of the Last Supper.

It is in offering Himself as our spiritual food that our Crucified Master has made of Himself the very means of sharing in His own life. Through this sacred banquet, the Risen Lord fills the soul with grace, helps us remember his passion and gives us a pledge of our future glory - for in this sacrificial offering, faith brings us face to face with the mystery of His Blood poured out and His Body broken for our salvation.

On Holy Thursday, this is expressed in the ritual acts of the Last Supper - where, by Jesus's own words, the ministry of a priest makes bread and wine the very Body and Blood of the Lord in such a way that we who partake in these gifts also mysteriously participate in the life of His Human Soul and Divine Nature. Christ Himself would ratify these sacred actions by offering Himself with complete love and thanksgiving to the Father by humbly accepting the full vent of our hostility to God.

The Apostles received the power and authority to continue this sacrificial offering in the life of the Church and they past this power and authority on to presbyters as their successors in this ministry. Thus, the ministerial priesthood is drawn from the priesthood of Christ to serve the baptismal priesthood - especially by offering the Eucharistic liturgy which is the source and summit of our whole life of grace, including the mysterious of Christian prayer.

This is why every priest bears a special relationship to the Eucharist. This sacrament of sacrifice, of communion and of presence characterizes the priestly existence of the ordained - they minister to offer sacrifice, to build communion, and to unveil the presence of Christ saving His people from their sins.  In this way, each priest is an image of God the Father - just as the Father gives us everything when He gives us His Son, a priest has only fully grown into his own vocation when he gives everything to give us Christ.

The secret of restoring the priesthood is to adore Christ in the Blessed Sacrament on their behalf. The more we pray for them to plunge more deeply into this mystery, the more the Lord can work to heal the many wounds our broken society and ecclesial divisions have caused them. We should not be alarmed if today we are aware of priests and bishops who have betrayed, denied and abandoned the Lord - all but one of those at the Last Supper did no less. Instead, we should thank God for the Beloved Disciple in our midst. This is the one who stands at the foot of the Cross come what come may. This is the one who out runs everyone else to the empty tomb. We must pray with and for such holy priests whenever we find them. We must remain constant in our prayers for the others until Christ is able to restore those who have scattered under tribulation.

Finally, the Word of the Father left us an example in washing the feet of his Apostles. Instead of using religion and the priesthood for worldly power and influence, what the Great High Priest has given us and sealed by His suffering and death is to be used in humble service of one another. He has enabled us to be the guardians of each other's dignity. So even our feet, the Living God has elected to wash with His own hands.  What is lowest is tenderly bathed by Him who is highest. The mandate of charity has the form of supreme humility.  There is no other way to love. To share in Christ's Body and Blood, Soul and Divinity means to allow one's whole existence to draw its sustenance from this humility and to be utterly formed by it.  In this divine humility, we contemplate what it means for us to share in his Divine Life.

April 6, 2019

The Silent Kiss of the Soul

Jesus reveals the Father to us in  adoration and He wants us to know that the Father is always at work - loving, healing, restoring, sanctifying and transforming our humanity in an infusion of Divine Love. This is why the Son wants us to know the Father: that we might allow ourselves to be baptized the immensity of the Father's love. This is where we belong - hidden deep in this unfathomable love. It should evoke adoration - the kiss of our soul given to God. In such a kiss, the soul surrenders its whole life over and abandons itself without reserve. Such a kiss thrills the heart of the whole Trinity and unveils the solemn greatness of humanity. That is why with every breath and heartbeat, Word made flesh poured Himself out - doing the works of the Father for us and adoring the Father because of the Father's goodness but also rendering adoration, the kiss of His soul to the Father, on our behalf.  To say that these were the works of His Father is to say that these were works of the Son's divine obedience in human flesh that flooded the world with a life - a life rejected, but in Him undaunted.

Until His death, Christ's every work surged with new life so that in His resurrection, we might draw our life from each them. Reflecting on even the most mundane and ordinary of Jesus's actions, this is to have flow into us a readiness to respond to the Father's slightest desire with astonishing generosity and thoughtful care. And the Son knows the desires that live in the depths of the Father's love as wellsprings that can never be exhausted - and so He never tired of adoring His Father and abandoning everything to Him with complete thanksgiving.  And the Father knows His Son, delights in Him, and hands everything over to Him. Each of the Lord's works are filled with this exchange of delight and thanksgiving, of handing over and abandonment, of a circumcession of love and truth, of mutual possession and surrender possible because the Father is in the Son and the Son is in the Father.

What was disclosed in even the most unnoticed acts of the Lord was an indomitable trust and confidence. The kiss He offered his mother. The smile He offered a stranger. The hope He offered to those who did not even know that they had lost it. The origins of this confidence were more ancient than humanity - but from this ancient source, humanity finally draws forth its deepest truth. With every decision, Christ His Sacred Heart unveiled this transforming infusion of overflowing Divine Trust until through His Heart pierced, the same trust surged to flow into every heart ... even the heart furthest away from His love. A new beginning was afforded each us from this Sacred Spring and the prayerful drink from it.

Through prayer, the Cross becomes the key that unlocks the meaning of every action of Christ. A prayerful thought tastes how the moment in which Christ acted could not contain the wonder that the work of the Father evokes. The sigh of faith ponders a glory too great for this world unveiled in the obedience of Christ. Eyes closed with reverence even glimpse the hidden secret about humanity in the Lord's every effort. The vulnerable stillness discovered on bended knee hears each word of wisdom, sees each healing, marvels over each miracle. Contemplative reading of the Bible searches for what is signified in each moment of Christ's life and knows without knowing something so much greater than the limits of the words can show. With unrelenting purpose, this surge of the heart follows the mysteries signified in each of those revealed moments until they crescendo upon the Cross. When brought to this threshold of the Father's heart, the ear of one's own heart can even hear the Lord's last wordless cry echoing. The meaning every work of Christ's life resounds in this sacred place where the silence of a soul kisses the silence of the Cross.

March 31, 2019

Rejoice in the Lord

Rejoicing in the Lord is a source of strength. As we strive to discipline ourselves and convert from sin, it is easy to be distracted by our failures and weaknesses.  Shame is a heartless task master and our inadequacies are often easier to find than Divine Providence. Yet, God is always there for us - more present to us than we are to ourselves, anxious that we might not delay, but God home.  What most defines who we are is not our voids, or foolishness, or inability to meet the ideals that we set for ourselves. The holiness of God is not a mystery that lends itself to our efforts at idealization. It is pure gift, freely given, from a Divine Wellspring of inexhaustible love and concern - ours for the asking, if only we will ask with humility and love.  Rather than caving into anxiety or depression because we do not measure up to the bar we have set to ourselves - climb out of the mud of self-pity.  Turn away from the pigsty of self-accusation. Rebuke the inner voices that would have you believe that God is not waiting for you to come home. Instead, search for God whose gentle voice calls to you in the silence of prayer. He watches for your coming and awaits you with an immense joy. Set out under the Standard of the Cross and let the Good Shepherd's rod and staff guide you home. Enter through the Gate of faith in Christ and find shelter under the banner of love. Let the Father welcome you with rings and robes and lead you into the feast He has prepared for you. Nothing has been held back. Everyone is invited. Rejoice that your brother has made his way back to life too - for in the Father's house, there is no more reason for sorrow.

March 24, 2019

The Redeemer and the Gift of Lent

Each of us has a great task ... that of becoming who God made us to be. Were we without sin, this task would still be impossible for us, left to our own resources and abilities.  For indeed, the Lord created us in His Image and Likeness. This means that we are made to be the praise of God's glory, living icons of His hidden life and love in His visible creation. What creature could ever attain to such holiness and splendor?  Yet, we are made, though a little less than the angels, the very crown of God's creative action.

The great purpose entrusted to each one of us was long ago made subject to futility because of the mystery of sin.  From the very origins of humanity, the envy of Satan and the sin of our first parents has threatened our existence. Though we want to do what is good, noble and true, without Divine help, we are inclined to fall into an abyss of self-contradictions. Our desire to praise God, to make known His glory, never leaves us, even if it is utterly forgotten or resisted. Our restlessness and death remind us of our downfall and pride, but sin and its consequences are not the last word about humanity. Something more beautiful defines the mystery of our humanity, and every man and woman is invited to freely accept this calling if they will listen to the voice of God.

The Father, whose thought of us delighted Him so much that He summoned us into existence, could not bear that we should perish without hope. As He promised, He sent us a Redeemer who would enter into our plight and rescue us from sin and death. This Good Shepherd did not fear the wolves that threaten our existence and he did not allow the distance that we had strayed to discourage Him in His search for us. A physician of the body and spirit, His words of truth are the remedy for the wounds we bear and the mistaken judgments that have driven us into myths and alienation. He does this more over by entering into our misery so deep that in the face of our hostility, He patiently remains and will not forsake us, anxious that we should not suffer alone.

Call to Him. He actively works, holding nothing back, until our dignity is restored and our every humiliation redressed. Indeed, all that is most precious to Him - His obedience to the Father and His own devotion to His Mother, He freely offers as a gift to all those who ask. Most of all, by his passion and Crucifixion, He merited for our sake that Divine Gift whose presence not only remits our sins and consecrates us in holiness, but infuses us with the love that the Father has yearned for us to know. An inexhaustible fountain, this sanctifying Gift infuses every moment with treasures too precious for this present life to hold, but imperfectly, for a time, if only we ask and accept what He offers us.

Because even the most imperfect beginnings of this New Life offer so much hope to the world, we must also welcome Lent as a gift won for us by the Shepherd who laid down His life for His sheep. Lenten observance is no more than a participation in the graces already won for us -- and they point somewhere beyond the here and now, to mysteries so sacred and tender, even the greatest joys of this life are as nothing in comparison.  We step into an arena because the life of the Risen Lord in us enables us to be contestants in the battle for all that is good, noble and true. We fight with confidence against all that threatens not only our own integrity but that of our brothers and sisters too because Christ gives us a sharing in His confidence. We do not fear our weaknesses but surrender them in prayer and repentance as occasions for the power of God to be made perfect.  We run the race because the Spirit of the Lord quickens us on our way until nothing can hold us back from the prize.

The Lenten Discipline invites us to embrace in our own lives the victory won for us at such great price. If we practice self-denial, it is because in the blood and water that flowed from His sacrifice we have already received all we really need. If we fast, it is because we already feast on the Bread of Life who sustains us with truth that no earthly bread can provide. If we are merciful to those to whom the Lord sends us, it is only because it is His mercy in us that compels us. If we sorrow over our sins and imperfections, we are also compelled by Christ to share our joy with others at any cost.

We die to our earthly dreams so that Christ's dream for us might unfold in our heart and our spirit might finally awaken to love. In hours spent silently listening to the Word of the Father, we anticipate a reality too great for this world to contain, a fulfillment long ago yearned for by God and whose shadow calls to our existence even now. We offer our bodily existence in spiritual sacrifice because united to Christ in the Holy Spirit, our whole being finally begins to become what the Father predestined us to be: the praise of the Trinity's glorious grace.

Mysticism and Holiness - a seminar and retreat

March 23, 2019

Pilgrimage to France

To Savor the Presence of God

In Psalm 34:8, we are asked to taste and see the goodness of the Lord. What does it mean to taste the Lord's presence?  When it comes to savoring the presence of the Lord, Holy Communion comes to mind, in particular those moments in which time seems to stop and something beautiful is granted the heart. We savor a mystery even if we are unable to find words to express it. Without fully realizing it, faith opens at least to an instant where we find satisfaction for those deep needs that drive us in ways we do not understand, toward a destination that is hidden from our grasp, but in this hidden moment, suddenly is given in meaningful fullness. This is the Sacred Banquet in which Christ becomes our food, the memory of his passion is celebrated, the soul is filled with grace and a pledged of future glory given us.

While God is always present to everything at every moment, this food is fed to us in a form that our tradition calls "Real Presence." Such presence is called "real" not because all the many other modes of Christ's presence are less real, but because under this special presence, Christ as especially given Himself to us as true spiritual food. The Manna from heaven heals our many spiritual wounds, nourishes us for our journey to our heavenly homeland, fortifies us in the battle for integrity with each believer is entrusted, and binds us together around a single table, the altar of sacrifice. This personal presence of God is never static - but always explodes in encounter either for our eternal beatitude or diminishment. He always comes anew and never the same way, so that at each new coming, every moment might be sanctified. Here, through ancient rites instituted by Christ and handed on since the first ancient communities of faith, the Real Presence of the Risen Lord mysteriously transports us through the unrepeatable circumstances of our lives to the Cross, that threshold of the Father's heart suffered for our sake, uniting us anew and more wondrously than anything else until that moment in the power of the Holy Spirit, if we are disposed to Him, into a single fellowship of mutual abiding with the Living God.

To dispose us, the Holy Spirit convinces us of both sin and, even more, the merciful love of God.  Those who avail themselves of frequent confession and commit themselves to lives of penance understand this paradox. One is eager to take up ascetical practices, to fast, to pray and to render thousands of acts of service and love once one considers the great price that was paid and the great gift of having one's own sins remitted.  When we repent of our sins, weep over them and humbly confess them out loud, the Holy Spirit sanctifies our weaknesses to make us more confident in Divine Mercy than we are confident in our own human misery. Each time we remember the goodness of God, stand up, and go to Him by following the way of faith, hope and love, we learn to surrender into the arms of the Father and to accept ourselves for who we are before Him. The rejoicing of His heart at our return is more than this present life can bear, a mystery so beautiful that it causes one to weep and laugh all at once. Because it makes us vulnerable to such divine horizons in the Heart of God, a good confession always leads to a beautiful Holy Communion.

One other way to savor the Lord's presence is through mental prayer. Contemplation rooted in living faith sees the mystery disclosed in the Real Presence of Christ. In fact, adoration of the Blessed Sacrament can occasion such contemplative prayer.  In this kind of prayer, a holy conversation between the soul and the Lord unfolds - solemn questions and sober answers are poured out between the Heart of God and the human heart. Familiarity with the Bible, especially the psalms, helps us ponder and enter into this richness. Yet prayers as simple as repeating the Name of Jesus or the Holy Rosary enter this same sacred place. Woe to those who purposely remain ignorant of the words of the Word, for without allowing the Church to guide them, they risk all kinds of self-contradictions that will betray the Presence that they seek. Even so, there is a mystery here.  For it is most often the case that the less one understands or remembers of this holy exchange, the more meaningful this conversation becomes.

Such is the standard, the rallying point, of mental prayer if this prayer is to learn to savor the presence of God. The less we cling to what we understand and the more moved by love, the more deeply the Word and the Spirit etch into our hearts that exquisite truth that the Father yearns for us to know. This is a general loving knowledge, a taste for Divine things, an intelligence of the heart, an awareness baptized in Divine affections, and human affections grounded in a truth that the natural light of reason cannot know. We must learn to be caught in this delicate paradox of love and fear, joy and sorrow, encounter and absence, Mercy and misery in which the Holy Trinity has chosen to abide. There are even moments when all of this crescendos before this coming Threefold presence of unity and distinction, relation and possession, and we feel invited into a deeper surrender, pulled in fact as if by deep currents in a sudden storm of love. This is to be buried in the Divine Presence and to allow the Living God to bury Himself in the soul.

Those who allow prayer to take them into this unfamiliar place have tasted something not of this world and nothing in this world tastes the same them. To taste and see the Lord in this way is to have something about us die even as life becomes more intense than ever before. We ache, we pine, we hunger, we thirst - for we have savored the delight, the purpose, the Banquet, the Cup of God Himself. Even if our human weakness is terrified by this mysterious "I know not what," we swoon in the shadow of Him who comes for us.

March 17, 2019

The Love of the Father - Unfathomable Immensity

Christ Jesus, the radiant splendor of the Father's love, entered into our condition to infuse into human history a gentle blessing that was long ago misunderstood and rejected. This uncommon benevolence toward us in our present plight comes from the hidden depths of God's very Being. In those same depths, the Father conceived each one of us in His Word by an unfathomable ecstasy of goodness and truth. The Father asks us to listen to His Word now - to allow the words of His Word to enter our hearts.

The Father knew us in Christ in eternal jubilation from before the foundation of the world, and, by the delight of His heart with which He pondered each one, He summoned each of us into our own existence, in time and space, before Him to know the burning furnace of His love. By the power of the Holy Spirit, we came to be in all our uniqueness and particularity in the precise circumstances that He longed to entrust to us so that the blessings that He longed to lavish on us might be known. He does so with the tender hope that we might take up the task of becoming what He knows us to be: unrepeatable living instances of His infinite glory made known. For the world that the Father longs to bring to completion would not be complete without each soul that He has summoned into existence. It is with this same love that Christ comes to save us - and respectful of our freedom, by this very love He waits for us to allow Him to make known the vast horizons of the Father's Heart.

Time and space race behind the fruitful tenderness of such magnificent love. Unveiled in a multitude of unrepeatable surprises and astonishing moments of grace, the very newness of this love brings into being all that the Father's heart has most treasured. In the center between visible and invisible, holding together what is most lowly and most exalted in creation, He places the mystery of the human heart. All the cosmos holds its breath over the revelation of each new image and likeness of His love, each new end point in eternity showing forth a glory that would otherwise be hidden.

Such is the inestimable treasure entrusted to the world in each human life, this image and likeness begun and still in progress, for the sake of whose fullness the Holy Spirit with all of creation pants in labor. Not whimsical. Not accidental. Solemn, majestic, purposeful. Such eternal predilection toward humanity is irrevocable by virtue of being divine and, therefore, unchangeable, the still point around which all other cosmic and personal activity plays out. To choose this love is to choose a truth so meaningful that this present life cannot contain or fully express it. Yet in the shadow of this immense love, every other love finds its rest and solemn place in life even at the moment of death.

Such eternal love in its sheer sovereignty is not dissuaded by weakness or sluggishness, poor results or even betrayal. Instead, this mighty flood incarnate in human nature patiently suffers all things until fruition finally overflows the floodgates that attempt, in vain, to contain it. This self-emptying and humiliated love is forever confident and undaunted even as it breaks out in blood sweat prayers. Like a Bridegroom coming from His tent, nothing, not death nor any malicious power, thwarts His course. Those who would oppose the awesome majesty of this divine tenderness will be broken between the surging tides of Divine Mercy and the rocky fastness God's Justice. For, on this rugged solitary shore line, unveiled and realized is that singular cruciform greatness for which humanity is pre-destined.

Thus has Christ come to renew the Father's love. He plunged undaunted into our suspicions and self-contradictions, our drivenness and despair, our grasping for control and lack of self-control, our haughtiness and shame. He took hold of the cup that contained all the pain and bitterness that threaten the noble greatness for which we were made. He drank it in and suffered that hostility until He brought it with Him into death. Neither that death nor that hostility was enough to quench His love. For His love was given to Him by the Father -- and the Father's love raised Him up unvanquished.

Whenever invited, He enters the abysses of misery that we suffer with this same radiance of His glory. With gentle kindness, He exposes every threat to our integrity to the light of truth and, by moving us to tears, empties it of its power. He seeks us out even as we hide. He calls even as we try to close our ears. If we are asleep to love, Love Himself awakens us. He shines forth even as darkness draws near. The healing warmth of His radiant beauty is not diminished but revealed all the more wounded we come to Him.

Do not think that what you have done is too great for God's mercy or that the Father has utterly rejected you. Such thoughts do not please your Father who is heart-broken for you and patiently awaits your return. How can the Father ever delight in your condemnation and humiliation when He created you for love and honor? How can He ever be content with you being mistreated and homeless when He longs for you to come home and enter into your rightful place? You were not made for meaninglessness or self-contradiction. There is someone who stands ready to vindicate your integrity, who has the power to remit sins, to infuse you with a love far greater than anything you have done. Do not assume that you must content yourself by stealing what belongs to pigs when a banquet of eternal joy awaits you. Instead, think on what the Good Shepherd has suffered for you and that His heart burns for love of you as He seeks for you.

If you are lost, you are not abandoned. Leave what is beneath your dignity and set out for the greatness that your Father longs for you to know. Put away the deeds of darkness and make no provision for earthly desires. To put on Christ and be clothed in His light, ponder the radical lengths to which the Father has gone for you so that you might hear His Word and know how loved you truly are. In stillness, surrender yourself to Him and ask Him to help you. If you are sincere, He will not refuse you.

Since He has held nothing back for your sake, hold nothing back from Him. Put on the armor of light and live as if in the daylight - this is our pathway home. After Christ has suffered so much for your sake, do you think He will refuse your repentance or that your contrition will not be the source of heaven's joy?  The Good Shepherd will bind your wounds and help you find rest. The Lamb of God is ready to walk with you through any dark valley that you face and, and not even the shadow of death can stand between you and the love He has for you. With eager longing, He longs to sup with you. More than merely managing along, He yearns for you to share in the same abundant banquet of love that He shares with the Father. Untold riches are yours for the asking. A fount of mercy waits to quench your parched lips. With an overflowing cup of blessing, He is eager to give you cause to rejoice even in the face of your enemies. He knocks at the door even now hoping that you might open to Him. Fear not to open wide the doors to Christ.