June 28, 2021

Mary and New Outpourings of the Holy Spirit

The Holy Spirit moves over the chaotic forces of this world to communicate the Word of the Father. This Eternal Meaning always brings order and peace so that the mystery of love might unfold. Friendship and fullness, joy and communion overflow wherever this creative power is unleashed. Even His first movement brings into darkness: light; and into emptiness: life.  In all this, He never comes the same way twice and to miss the Breathe of God is to miss all that makes life worth living.  If this Spirit is ever grieved, His mercy is only increased until all hostility is humbled. In this way, the Spirit of Truth breaths the Word into this passing world with ever new and astonishing effect. No matter the evil, God's purpose holds - the glory of the Trinity is given to us even in the most difficult and unlikely moment.

To bring peace to the world, the Holy Spirit set aflame the heart of a virgin in a new whirlwind of love never before unleashed. Such love had never been before because no one had ever welcomed love as fully as did she. She allowed herself to be overshadowed until the Giver of Life breathed into her a fullness of life. Divine Fire conceived Saving Mystery in her and through her, became manifest. Her being was lit with this love. 

Such an outpouring of the Spirit was not despite her body and sexuality, but instead flowed into the very nuptial mystery of her whole humanity from highest heights to deepest depths. The very Holiness of God sanctified secrets of her womanhood that only God Himself knew were there, receiving all from her and giving all to her. Not only her spirit but her body burned with this Uncreated Gift. Thus, the Creator Spirit set Her womb ablaze with the Word until she bore Him forth into the world. Working through humanity, including this new relationship to Mary, reveals the fullness of how God wants to work in our lives even now. Wherever the Holy Spirit leads the Word, we confess that the Son of God is present to humanity through His humanity, and thus, through his Mother: the Virgin become Theotokos, the Daughter of Zion become Mother of God, the Handmaid become Queen of Peace.

This is the great mystery that plays out by a certain analogy in everyone who believes in her Son. The relationship of Mary to every new outpouring of the Holy Spirit helps us see how we are all caught together in a web of sanctified and newly established human relationships - because our humanity is in relation, personally implicating us in each other's lives, and the Gift of the Holy Spirit perfects this solidarity emerging in time, realizing it in the eternal love of the Holy Trinity. 

To believe in the Lord Jesus Christ leads to a communion of humanity aflame in Holy Fire of the Father. Wherever this Furnace of Love descends, the Word Incarnate renews His whole saving mystery with power to enlarge our capacity for love and discrete enough to protect our integrity no matter how close we draw to God. Not just in spirit, but in our flesh and blood relationships, in the concrete particularities of life, in those nitty-gritty moments that seem so ordinary and inconvenient, in that single unnoticed decision to love without counting the cost. This is the hope of humanity - the humble "yes" to God that allows Him to give what He most yearns for us to have - His Uncreated Love dwelling in us, bringing us into a new unity more powerful than the sting of death.

June 24, 2021

Medjugorje - My Experience

The Apparitions of the Virgin Mary in Medjugorje have been important for my spiritual life. While we are still waiting a definite judgment by the Church, the small town in Bosnia and Herzegovina is an approved place for pilgrimage. My first pilgrimage was in 1986 and I am here now for the 40th Anniversary of the Apparitions. 

What most impresses me about the visionaries is their piety and hospitality. They are well formed in the faith - as if they had the best of teachers.  In fact, the piety and the hospitality of the whole village extended to so many pilgrims over so many years is remarkable. It was heroic when offered during Communism and it persecution of the Church. It is difficult not to see the grace of Christ at work in the kindness shown from what generation to the next in a people who are very much God's "little ones"- that is a people poor enough to need to rely on the Lord in the midst of all kinds of trials and hardships. Somehow Mary is magnified in this and somehow her song sings in these lives lived by faith: Holy is his Name.

Similarly, the content of the messages reported over the last forty years is not something that I have kept close tabs on. However, the basic message of frequent confession, going to daily Mass, praying the rosary daily, fasting on Wednesdays and Fridays, and reading the Bible daily has challenged me to be a better Christian. What is more, both the visionaries and the whole community have been a faithful witness to these practices through four decades in midst of oppression, wars and the rebuilding of their country. 

Forty years ago, I stayed in a farm house where the mother and grandmother would walk with the children to daily mass. It was at least a mile away and when we arrived at the parish church of St. James, I was edified to see a whole contingent of farming families who had made a similar trek by foot. The simplification of making one's way with one's own two legs slows down life and inclines to prayer. This is especially true in climbing Cross Mountain. These paths were not then and are not now smooth. They remain rugged and serve as a reminder that we follow in the footsteps of a crucified God. 

Now, though thousands come to daily mass from all over, it is still the piety of the villagers that speaks most to me. They have deeper Catholic sensibilities than one finds among the theologically sophisticated in America - and as an American, I let this truth sink in.  Prayer and liturgy is not rushed. Instead, it is the center of life. The local Franciscans together with scores of priests gather every evening for liturgies and devotions that last for over two hours. This is in addition to daily adoration and long confessional lines. Though so much time is devoted to prayer and piety, very few leave early. A rhythm of prayer carries life.  Seeing the locals now, just as it did so many years ago, draws me to prayer too.  

Probably the grace that has had the greatest impact on me is my devotion to the Blessed Virgin Mary. Here, during the long homilies and devotional prayers offered in Croatian, I realized so many years ago that Mary is a real person, a true mother, and that Christ has given her to us as a gift. Just as she was his mother, Mary can be ours if we would welcome her into our homes - as did the Beloved Disciple. Ever I have found that she helps me encounter Jesus with greater humility and faith, and no matter how much I try to offer the Lord, He never ceases giving Her together with a host of other undeserved gifts even more. In the face of so much generosity from God, what else can I do but read the Bible, go to confession, go to Mass, fast and pray? 

June 20, 2021

Eucharistic Coherence and Co-inherence

The Eucharist, the great thanksgiving that Christ instituted the night before He died, imposes on those who share in it a certain cohesion of belief and life.  It was not a one time event - but because He is God and Man - it has an eternal quality. When we share in it, we join in the intercession He makes for us before the Throne of the Father even now. It is above us, eternal, heavenly and yet given to us in the nitty-gritty of life, in the fiery furnace, in the Lion's Den.  This supreme act of thanksgiving is meant to be the orientation point, the standard, the source and summit in navigating the whole of our existence. Such is the gift of the Most High God to humble humanity.

This great act of worship cannot be rendered if one does not believe and live in accord with it.  This is because the praise and blessing Christ offers establishes a new relationship between God and humanity, a new covenant, a certain co-inherence so that my life is implicated in the plight of everyone entrusted to me just as Christ has implicated Himself in my own plight - because I am given to Him by the Father in this very act of worship.  Moreover, this act establishes and demands my own integrity - the alignment of my mind, instincts and heart with the will of God. Such an alignment is not required because the Divine Will is some extrinsic force imposing itself into human affairs. Rather, all that is most personal and intimate about my life comes from Him and goes to Him, and only by my whole manner of living and being in accord to His can I ever realize the truth that He has will into existence. He is counting on us to pursue interior integrity so that He can help us realize the spiritual harmony that we are meant to know.

This implication in one another's plight is an ecclesial relationship. It participates in the Body of Christ, not as a metaphorical analogy, but as a perfected act of creation, a previously unknown alignment of Uncreated and created being, an organic whole of various functions co-inhering in one life, one act of love. In this act of worship, a communion of persons is established in reality, grounded in the truth of existence. This act of worship establishes a people and makes them holy so that through their communion, every people, every person has a reason for hope. In Christ's divine and human blessing, He has brought into being a whole new society by offering a whole new act of worship.  Only building culture of life and civilization of love are a coherent response to the atonement this worship offers.

What characterizes this great mystery is spousal in that each is given to God the Father through the Son in the power of the Spirit with a Divine Faithfulness even before the mystery of death. Our participation is Bridal in that we are given and give ourselves over to the Bridegroom who has bestowed on us every good gift and longs that we should be fruitful, that we should bear new life in this tired out and dying world. Indeed, what He engenders in us is newness in the face of all that passes away, the only sure hope against everything that oppresses holy humanity and threatens its dignity. 

This act of worship established by Christ as "the breaking of the Bread" was entrusted to humanity at such great price. It is an act that involves sacrifice: the shedding of God's own blood, the breaking of God's own body.  Nothing is held back and so those who enter into this offering must respond in kind. Christians who offer such worship too must not hold anything back from God but surrender to Him their whole lives, entrusting Him every joy and sorrow, even plans and dreams. Whatever is offered is never lost but blessed, sanctified and made perfect in a love that will last forever - and in this love, the Lord and Giver of Life restores what we have destroyed. 

This Trinitarian worship binds us together in Christ to God. We participate in his very Sonship so that we see the same glory that the Father has given His Son because He has loved Him from before the foundation of the world.  Such is this communion that the very inner movements of his Heart are communicated to us in the power of the Holy Spirit and this especially when we assist in offering the Mass together. Yet, what we share at Mass would become a dangerous self-contradiction if we did not share it in the rest of our lives. In every communion that we receive, all that the Holy Spirit communicates in that particular act of worship is completed and nourished in us to strengthen and deepen our love for one another in the day to day, moment to moment challenges of life.  When we are caught up into this mystery, when we share in it, we bind ourselves to lay down our lives for one another just as Christ sealed His act of worship by laying down his life for us.  

This is why those who participate in the Holy Eucharist of Christ must stand with life. Bound by He who is Life Himself, we must serve life as did He.  It is incoherent even to remain a bystander when policies and laws are advocated that intend harm to the unborn, the elderly and the impaired. Holy Communion establishes a spiritual bond with the prisoner, the homeless, and the unwanted children of the world. Indifference is never an option. Instead, our Eucharistic sacrifices should pierce our hearts until we must act - or else how we worship and how we live have not yet matured into the coherence the human vocation requires.  Our worship knows a certain co-inherence with strangers and even our enemy in our prayer so that we can even suffer for them, substituting ourselves in prayer for their freedom just as Christ has done for us. The marvels of such mercy have hardly been tasted even after two millennia of offering such a sacrifice. Every political cause and agenda pales before the brightness that Christ would have shine through us that our neighbor and even our enemy might have life.  

June 2, 2021

Symposium on Contemplative Culture

The first ever Symposium on Contemplative Culture is being held at Holy Transfiguration Monastery in Ukiah, CA from June 4 through June 13. About 20 thinkers, theologians, artists, poets, priests and contemplatives are gathering with the Byzantine Monks for discussions on a wide range of topics related to the Glory of God including our current cultural crisis, the mystery of atonement, the musical character of the human person, psalms, icons, contemplation, the relationship of human and divine action in Christian perfection, poetry readings, photography, and St. Elizabeth of the Trinity. The event is co-hosted by the John Paul II Center for Contemplative Culture, an initiative proposed before his death by Father Raymond Gawronski, S.J. who was also a monk of Mt. Tabor. The purpose of this Center is to help form "islands of humanity" to support our Christian faith in the aftermath of Christendom. Please pray for its success.