May 30, 2021

The Holy Trinity and Christian Prayer

Christian prayer is founded in the mysterious wisdom of the Holy Trinity. Such prayer has gained access to the Holy of Holies because of all that Christ has done to reveal the love of the Father and send the gift of the Spirit. Such prayer participates in the very creative act of God and it shares in His saving power in such wise that the more simple it becomes, the more the entire cosmos, visible and invisible is renewed and raised is the praise of glory.  

Prayer's simple movement is hidden in one's innermost being, in secret depths infused with the Life-Breath of the Word and stamped with the Image of the Invisible God. Such oblations of self are baptized in a splendor too great for this world to hold. This cry of the heart is ecstatic in the self-emptying humility of God who descends into the mess of our concrete particularity and enraptured in the power that raises up even to the bosom of the Most High.  This surrender descends not only humanity's abysses of misery, but also the deep things of God. If this inestimable knowledge is conceived in pits deeper than Hell, it proclaims with great praise an  understanding firmly grounded above the Heavens.  Carried on high by those same pinions that conquered death by death, made to ache by that Divine Thirst that no amount of evil can quench, this prayer dares to enter that Spacious Place which alone is vast enough to be the dwelling of the human heart. 

Here, christian prayer is inundated with such immense silences of Three-ness and One-ness. This prayer thrills in those un-resistible currents of Subsistent Eternal Relations. This prayer fully welcomes those stillnesses of  Being, of Life, of Love: always at rest and always active, at once always fully present but never grasped, in the very face of destruction, in frailty riddled limits of one's own life, making all things new.

May 23, 2021

Come, Welcome the Fire of the Holy Spirit

Jesus has sent His Holy Spirit into the Church and He yearns that this Lord and Giver of Life fill our hearts.  Beg the Holy Spirit to come and He will.  The Holy Spirit burns in the center of the Church with unquenchable love, and when this Love is in the center of hearts who welcome Him, He makes all things new.  

Sometimes He is difficult to welcome because of our pride and laziness.  We do not want to change but He comes to convince us of sin and of the righteousness of God. If however we do not humble ourselves and rouse ourselves to show the Spirit of Truth hospitality, we are lost. To show the Breath of God hospitality, we must choose to live and we must decide to let go of every rash judgment about ourselves, others and God. 

To beg the Holy Spirit to come means weeping over sin. To welcome Him means contrition. To receive Him means humble recognition of faults and a readiness to descend from our own vantage point and be raised by the Spirit to see life circumstance from God's perspective. This means the willingness to put one's life on the line that there might be justice in our communities, that the weak and vulnerable be protected and cared for.  This means readiness to forgive and to seek forgiveness. This means compassion for those who hurt us and learning to plead for them before God. This means a resolution to do whatever it takes to restore the dignity of my neighbor, especially when I am the one who has caused his misery.  This means being vulnerable enough as to allow my heart to be pierced over the plight of the stranger whom the Lord has sent to me. 

Welcoming the Holy Spirit means openness to the inconvenient, the uncomfortable and the unfamiliar, for unless we allow Him to root our love in this, we have not yet learned to love in a manner worthy of a follower of Christ. Christ has sent Him to us so that we might finally learn to love as He has loved us.  Such love begins with welcome, with receiving the Gift, with showing hospitality to the Divine Guest.

To welcome the Holy Spirit, we must be open to being astonished. When the Creator Spirit comes, the power of our imagination is freed from narrow fantasies.  When the Advocate enters, the eye of our intelligence is opened to horizons far beyond personal failure and death. Where this Wind blows, barriers of frustration and disappointment are cleared away. Before the Deluge of God, levies of hubris and cowardliness are flooded over and washed away. All small-mindedness and pettiness are shattered in this Light. When the Sanctifier moves within, wonder seizes the soul and we are baptized in a joy that confounds the world.  When the Soul of our Soul stirs in the substance of our being, the whole cosmos is filled with New Life through us. 

May 16, 2021

Ascension and Abiding Presence

The Risen Lord ascended from our midst and remains more present to us that we are to ourselves. He went to offer the Father worship that is right and just. His holy humanity, no longer bound by this world below, is raised above itself in excellence and blessing. Having already conquered death, material extension and duration no longer circumscribe his manhood. He is fully present even as He is taken from our sight. He at once abides with us until the end of time and goes before us, to prepare a place for us. That place is as no place in this world. It is where we do not know what we shall be, where we will be like Him, for it is where we shall see Him as He is.

He has opened to humanity a new horizon. He sets before us yet to be explored and forever unfathomable frontiers. What He sees stirs us with desires that haunt our hearts. He sees glory, the glory that was His from before time began. And the Father who gave Him this glory has given us to Him as well. As He treasures all that the Father gives us, so He treasures and cares for us, wanting us to share in His glory with Him. 

He is above us now and raises us with Him to the life we are meant to share. Circumstance has no hold on Him but He is Lord over every exigency. He has left what is outside humanity's deepest center and entered the heavenly sanctuary, the temple not made by human hands. There He establishes the ultimate reference point for all created existence, the measuring point for how we live and move and have our being. For we are meant to worship God and in Him, we finally realize our great purpose - yet this worship is above what we can see, and so He needed to go where only our faith can take us.

He was taken from our sight because this dying world is too small for the greatness of the praise that mankind is meant to offer. Politics and public policy, the work-a-day world, hegemonies of science and technology, and the enchantments of all earthly dreams are overshadowed by His Mystery raised on high. All this will pass away before His face, but He who is over all is the same yesterday, today and forever. Prisons of fear and alienation below are flung open by His Mercy above. Below no one is every alone because He was raised to light, to life, to love - the only space where one can fully be a man. His humanity is taken up into unseen glory and in that, his full manhood raises up perfect praise in every heart that will call to Him.  In this praise of glory, the perfect unity of God and man in his very person reverberates with such harmonies as make all things new. 

How can He lead us to be where He is so that we at last might fulfill the purpose for which we were made? He who is fully God and fully man was raised far above anything our natural powers can penetrate or grasp, so high that our human powers must be prostrate in surrender, must let go, accept and be ready in reverence and awe. Sanctified humanity is completely directed to a new kind of worship for it is finally and completely vulnerable before God. To welcome the unveiled Holy Trinity and to accept this uncreated love evokes the deepest going forth from self, a sacrificial gift that realizes at once perfect self-possession.  Every act of worship now prepares us for that sacred aching jubilation ready to bust open with unceasing fullnesses of meaning and love. 

The ascension of Christ in his abiding presence that is always at work roots humanity into a mystery this world cannot hold. We belong not to the profane, to what is outside the temple, but to the all holy, to the most sacred - every holy place is a reminder of this secret.  All our life, every banal and mundane moment, must be oriented to what is above or else what we do in the world is at risk. We can live this way by faith because the Word made flesh is raised above all time. This means every moment is subject to His humanity and therefore is directed to a fullness that it cannot contain. Because the Man born of Woman has gone above all space, He is the orientation point for every place and establishes the whole cosmos into a new astonishing order.  Our lives are meant to witness to this new creation. He has opened for all humanity a pathway into the depths of the heart of the Father and so we journey as pilgrims in this world to the home that has been prepared for us. He longs that where He is, we too might also be so that we might see the glory that the Father has given Him from before the foundation of the world.

May 12, 2021

To Worship the Living God in Time and Space

We are made to worship the Living God.  Because we are creatures who live in time and space, this means we need physical time and space for this worship -- not as an extra benefit of life, but to address what is most essential, what is truly human. We need sacred festivals and temples, Sundays and Churches - or all that is most wonderful about life is diminished. 

Humanity is ordered, not to what is outside the temple, the profane, the world, but to what is within, the sacred space set apart for God and the things of God, the holy place around which the world turns.  By this reference point, love, family and friends take their proper place and the work-a-day world is ordered to it -- rather than the other way around. This holy mountain is hidden, above our sight, and we need divine help to see what only the heavens know. Yet, the way has been laid open by the Word became flesh. He has opened a path so that we find and arise above ourselves. 

The Risen Lord leads us into the deepest places of human intimacy and tenderness to give a strength and fruitfulness that this tired old world has never seen before - but longs for all the same.  This secret garden cannot be grasped by the keenest intellect. Yet, the most humble of prayers unlocks its gate and enters. Here, in this place of reverence, worship and adoration, we learn to rest, to be who we are meant to be, to do what alone can satisfy our hearts: the praise of the glory of God.  

Holiness is the reference point of life, our burning bush, our orientation to peace. With the reporting of each new calamity, strife and disaster that strikes our communities, our news outlets are confirming what we most know in our hearts: humanity is lost, enslaved to destructive impulses, imprisoned in enmity. Our own industry and accomplishments are ineffective in countering this tendency. 

What we make is not much because every self-determined end is too small, another indulgence of our inflated ego. The fantasy of secular existence - a life in this world without reference to another - has no orientation to what most matters in life. Without an orientation point, we are lost in ourselves, lacking direction to truly live. When even religion is reduced to our own spiritual industry, no matter how therapeutic, it also falls short of taking us into the truly holy. Lost we cannot find rest. Far from peace, humanity needs a reference point if it is to find its way. Indeed, it is in God that we live and move and have our being.

We need a savior.  We have lost our sense of the sacred not because it is remote. Rather, in our lack of reverence and wonder, we are unaware of how close it is. The ticktocks of the office clock deafen us to angels songs because the noise materially measuring moments rings too loud in our ears. Life is more than a succession of neatly divided periods of duration that we fill with activity or waste on silliness. If we go on living one moment as if it were just like the last, enter one space with the same self-occupied desire as we had in the one we left, we will never find our place, the home where we belong.  When life is driven by weight and measure, a cubicle, a punchcard, we will eventually either cave into despair or lash-out in rage. Unless Someone from the outside offers a path of escape, we live imprisoned in the measurable limits of our own selfishness. 

We live in an age converted to medical science for salvation. The prevailing social narrative "follow the science" supposes, if we will just work together to contain this disease, isolating ourselves as if patients in a giant hospital, we will be okay - for indeed we are all in this together, we were told. As ever new treatments are arbitrarily required, not for the science but for sheer conformity, we should question the role of technology. Does it open human possibilities or render impossible being human? What deception lulls us to accept that virtual meeting rooms and digital liturgies suffice for our spiritual needs - as if prayer were some narcissistic indulgence of pious sentiment for therapeutic needs! 

Our toys fail to direct our existence beyond ourselves because these instruments are simply self-extensions, limited by the measurable, what our natural powers can grasp. We need liberation from our gadgets, our mediocre ambitions, the narratives that appeal to our imaginations. We need a greater freedom, freedom from self, if we are to enter into a meaningful life. 

Truth is the pathway to this freedom and it leads to bodily action in space and time. Truth is sacramental. Human life, as is the case for time itself, has come from and leads to what is immeasurable and beyond the limits of created intelligence. If secularism has entrapped our hearts, God Himself will set us free from the hunter's snare. 

The Word of the Father reveals that no moment of our lives is without reference to the first moment when God ushers us into existence and the last moment which opens into eternity.  All the time and space of our lives, in other words, are filled with supernatural, divine meaning. Part of God's creation, these realities witness to a love that has summoned them into existence for us and when ordered for his glory, this wondrous part of his creation points us to an existence beyond themselves.  

Life is not a monotony of moments in which each moment is the same as the last. Each moment is unique. It comes from and goes to God.  The world in which we move is not a monotony of places, each one interchangeable or calculated only in terms of its usefulness as a means to an end. Every place is characterized by its relation to the sacred.  For humanity is meant to participate in the holiness of God Himself in each moment, and in every place. Offering praise to God where we are right now in this moment sanctifies the dimensions and duration of our lives. It is to realize our purpose in the cosmos - to reveal the glory of God. 

May 9, 2021

The Remarkable Work of God in our Times

The Lord God is a jealous God. He is concerned about those who cleave to medical science as their savior. He sees how fear of disease and death reigns in the hearts of those who He loves. Because they live in this fear instead of in Him, He is concerned over all the ways that they allow themselves to be manipulated. Under the spell of algorithmic social enchantments, He knows that many are losing the only firm ground that can bear the weight of human existence. With no grounding, He sees how the changing winds of each new political fashion or social agenda blow his children this way and that.  

The culturally and politically powerful find the current state of affairs advantageous: never let a good disaster go to waste they whisper to themselves. Indeed, the possibility of God's existence dethrones the absolute claim governments want to make over human affairs. This is why secular polemicists revel in interpreting science as a weapon against God. 

We have all personally experienced how, when this weapon is politicized, it becomes simply a tool for social manipulation. It is the survival of the fittest when scientists and psychologists replace priests and bishops. The end justifies the means if science says so.Threats, dire forecasts, and moralizing drive us to the crystalline utopias of scientific fantasies. All the while whole populations go neglected and abandoned - and to dare to question this is worse than heresy. Case in point: If someone approaches holy communion in a manner that does not conform to public policy, we have seen ministers dutifully withhold the sacrament. If however the communicant is policy compliant, no matter the sins on his hands, far be it from the minister to deny.  After all, it is reasoned, science knows that there are more culturally acceptable causes than life in the womb. Such abuse of science sews fear, hubris and ambition, but never firm hope or lasting peace. Science is human and the truly human needs the one true God.

God takes the side of the poor and vulnerable.  He accomplishes his purpose right under the smirk of the arrogant. In the end, a certain respect for reality and humanity's place in it will be recovered. In light of how God is working in our midst, the Church does not pose a simplistic choice between God and science. True science has a secular character but it is not reducible to a propaganda tool for secularism. Science is not opposed to truth and God Himself is Uncreated Truth. 

If those whom we love are subject to grave threat, instead of clinging tighter to the work of our hands, the Almighty is teaching us to let go and cleave to Him by faith. Only when we learn to revere the Maker of Heaven and Earth, and praise His wonders, can all our clever machines serve their proper purpose.

The Church exists to remind the world that God is real, that he made humanity to offer Him praise, and that, though we rejected this reality and lost ourselves in our own fears, He has come to bring us hope. This is the real world and to believe otherwise is to risk being imprisoned in what appeals to the imagination. The preaching of the the Body of Christ must dispel the myth that the merely material actually suffices for the spiritual needs of the heart.  Indeed, the Mystical Bride must not be afraid to witness how a purely secular existence is empty compared to what the Lord would have for us.   

The Truth from above humbly reveals Himself to humanity in our scientific discourse, if we accept its limits. If medicine reveals an evil threat, science does not absolve us from doing something to relieve the plight of others. Instead, what we learn can prick our conscience and pierce our heart until we relieve the plight of our neighbor.  

If the Lord wants science to see all it has the power to behold, the Conquerer of Death also points us to all the new possibilities beyond those horizons. Eyes no longer subject to death help us find that pathway into the heart that can raise a soul from death to life. God is ever ready to re-establish human dignity, even when it seems most lost. And by this hope we are saved. No matter the violence or the turmoil, Uncreated Truth continually brings the world to rest on a tender mercy far beyond the calculations of the clever and mighty.


May 2, 2021

Things Worth Dying For

Dying is a difficult fight.  Archbishop Charles Chaput sheds light on this struggle in his book, Things Worth Dying For.  What makes dying more difficult in our own days is that we live in a culture of
death.  This culture does not know the value of life and the civilization that it leads to lacks love. This is unmasked when we face our own mortality, when we are seized by the awareness that our time in this life is very short. 

When we realize that death is near, something deeper in us kicks in and we want to fight for life. This is not always the effort to live longer. It is a struggle for meaning and our integrity. For death confronts us with meaninglessness and disintegration.  It alienates our bodies from its generative power, our souls from our bodies, and our life from this world. We find ourselves haunted by memories that we have not yet dealt with and we feel the need to confront these -- to find the truth, to find meaning, to find mercy.

Sometimes, as a man dies, there are voices that try to shame him because he fights for life. Not only in the inner circle, these voices echo among the culturally powerful that are themselves afraid of death. Yet, faith unleashes a different power, one that confounds and consoles at once. The Word of God is not silenced by any cacophony of fear, shame, and anger. His Mercy is forever. 

In the majesty of His splendor, the Most High is not unconcerned about the trials faced by the dying. He knows the alone-ness of death, its terrible tedium. He knows that it takes courage to die well - for both the person dying as well for the family and friends who support him. If he who dies is haunted by memories, questions and disappointments, a man's death is still the most supreme moment of his life, his final offering to God. God waits for us to surrender the puzzles of our heart and He can make sense out of them all. The gift of faith, no matter how frail it may be, is enough to make this offering right and just, acceptable to the Lord.

The Lord has destroyed death by death, and at one's own death, the Fire of the Holy Spirit burns the brighter as we cling to the Lord by faith.  The Lord never abandons those who call to Him in this final battle. He rages with them against death and gives a love that is stronger than death.  This Bridegroom does not neglect the Bride for whom He laid down His Life. If shepherds abandon the sheep, this Shepherd stands firm. The Son of the Father has taken up our cause and the Fire of the Holy Spirit burns bright in this terrible darkness because the Holy Trinity His implicated Himself in our plight.