March 27, 2022

Silence and the Order of Holiness

Those who would prayerfully ponder the silence of Mary discover that the sacred has a certain structure - it is structured out of and into silence in a manner that evokes awe and reverence. That is, Mary helps us see that the sacred unfolds as hierarchy. It has the form of a heavenly temple: a hierarchy of love and truth in which evermore tender silences enter and from which they flow.  Such silences are not empty - they bear glory, the splendor of truth, the radiance of goodness. One is ever more set apart from the merely mundane the closer one draws.  The more one descends this deepest center in humility, the more one ascends this dazzling height in hope.  The Word made flesh unveils the pathway of descent and ascent by the mystery of the Cross. In this revelation, the Church is made holy and immaculate. He began this great work when he chose to raise humanity to the right hand of the Father by going down into the silent depths of His mother's womb. By her profound "Let it be done", humanity's deepest silence conceived heaven's greatest Canticle.  Her Immaculate Heart resounds with this mystery and to enter this sanctuary is to be bathed in Mercy.  God has shown here a merciful holiness, one opening to ever more meaningful silences, fullnesses of life. Souls that would dare ponder such manifestation of God's power discover the greater the reverence and awe, the more mercy flows.  

March 20, 2022

The Annunciation and Consecration to Jesus through Mary

The solemnity of Annunciation, the great mystery of Gabriel announcing to Mary that she would be the Mother of "the Son of God" opens a new pathway for our anxious world today. To embark on this journey, the Church invites us to consecrate ourselves to Jesus through her -- and so we place ourselves as well as our communities and even our nations in her heart.  It is within the act of faith that she made that we too will receive Jesus until His reign extends through us as well.  

In the angelic greeting, a new sovereignty is revealed, an authority to govern. The legitimacy of this authority is not rooted in earthly powers but instead in the fulfillment of a divine promise that does not pass away. Unlike any kingdom of this world, this kingdom rests not on the temporary peace that comes through conquest of an enemy. Instead, the "yes" of a woman to God's promise has brought a new kind of peace. The conception of Jesus in the womb of Mary introduces into this passing world an new order and legitimacy in human affairs that will never pass:

Then the angel said to her: Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God. Behold, you will conceive in your womb, and bear a son, and you shall name him Jesus.  He will be great and will be called Son of the Most High, and the Lord God will give him the throne of David his father, and he will rule over the house of Jacob forever, and of his kingdom there will be no end. (Luke 1:30-33)

Mary's openness to the blessings of God chart a way forward for humanity toward an eternal sacred order before which the exigencies of each historical moment must yield.  Not by forced subjection or brutality, but by love, this is a trail of humility and fearlessness on which the Son of the Most High leads us.  Consecrating ourselves to Jesus through Mary expresses the commitment to follow this pathway.  To set one's existence under a power and authority not of this world is to open oneself to what is primordial, an order of things more powerful than the disorder of the present moment. This new kingdom is not in competition with what passes away but rescues everything that its noble and true about our lives from every threatening evil.  Rooted in a mystery that transcends time, all earthly kingdoms fall and rise before this throne and Mary who is the first to receive this into her heart is also the one who helps us sing with her, "He has cast down the mighty from their thrones and has lifted up the lowly."

Unlike the kingdom announced by Gabriel, the kingdoms of this passing world come to an end. This is because we tend, as individuals and communities, away from humility before the truth of our situation. Yet great humility is called for since the common good often eludes our grasp.  We do not understand what really binds us together and we are weak in the face of our own avarice. Without humility before a reference point that transcends our own desires, the foundation on which we build our communities lack the solidity of truth and, over time, fail to bear the weight of human existence. 

At the brink of a world war, today's earthly kingdoms seek salvation by technological force. It is presumed that developments in economic and military capabilities through advances in technology can build and protect a better humanity. Indeed, tremendous wealth, honor and control have been realized through technological advancement. 

Yet there is a caveat. When nations or businesses rely on the power of technology to coerce or manipulate, it is at the expense of their own legitimacy and so they fall.  The legitimacy of any institution rests on the degree to which it protects human dignity and freedom. Such things that flow from our divine image and likeness do not pass even when we act against them. When we betray them, they testify against us because we betray ourselves. This is true of our own acts of freedom .... its also true of our institutions and businesses.  Whether our own tent cities or new refugee camps, we have lived to see that new ways to nudge, shame and coerce into compliance do not yield a cohesive society or world peace.  The opposite is true. The more limits imposed on human dignity, the more out of control the discord becomes. This is as true for nations as it is for neighborhoods, dinner tables and hearts.

The Annunciation opens humanity to the kingdom of heaven, a kingdom all about saving human dignity from dehumanizing powers.  Only under the rule of Christ can human freedom finally find room to unfold and disclose its full potential - not just for individuals but also in the societies we form together. This is because the throne of this kingdom to does rest on coercion or manipulation, but on love and love alone. Yet this love is hidden, disguised in poverty, rejection and humility. 

To consecrate ourselves to Jesus through Mary is to choose this pathway even when it may seem that the powerful and mighty of this world are in control. It is to live by faith that the reality of the God who saves us is ever greater and more present - more real to the human reality than what seems conventional, comfortable and convenient. Mary opened the heart of humanity to this truth. Thus, we entrust worldly powers to the Lord through her until our own hearts sing, "He who is mighty has done great things."


March 17, 2022

The Breastplate of St. Patrick 2022

St. Patrick offered a prayer called the Deer's Song or the Lorica with his brethren as they walked into an ambush. As the Irish began to renounce paganism and believe the Gospel, they abandoned the conventional myths of their culture. Yet, there were some who were afraid of what would happen without paganism to hold Ireland together. To preserve a social order that benefited them, they plotted violence.  Instead of being intimidated, St. Patrick turned to prayer.

Myth can be a vehicle for truth.  When it is, it is an appeal to our imagination that helps us search for things that do not change in this passing world.  Myth can also be a tool for manipulation, an appeal to the imagination to establish the legitimacy of something that is not really legitimate in itself. This was as true of the pre-Christian pagan myths then as it is true of the post-Christian secular myths today. What appeals to the imagination is never enough for the human spirit and places it at grave risk of self-contradiction.  If we are not careful, myths can dispose us to what is irrational - for it is easy to be carried away by myth into strife and violence. 

As Christ challenged the conventional myths of pagan society, social standing, privilege, wealth, cultural influence were all at stake.  Those who used the myths of the day for their own benefit became convinced that the peace preached by this missionary had to be suppressed at any cost. They hatched the plot against St. Patrick believing in the power of violence. But the peace of Christ is more powerful than the rage that lives in the hearts of men.

His enemies were prepared to kill him and his comrades. St. Patrick's response was to continue his mission undeterred. The prayer called the Lorica or the Breastplate was born in this holy determination. He taught this prayer to those who assisted him in the ministry. As they prayed together, their would be assailants could not see them - an unseen glory cloaked them.  Indeed, all the attackers could see was a few deer walking across a meadow. They were confounded. The prayer became known as the Deer's Song. 

If true, the story is not surprising. There are many accounts of missionaries being delivered in miraculous ways.  Those who cling to the status quo and fear losing their power will always attempt to stand in the way of Christ.  But a new power that evil cannot overcome is unleashed - the same Power that holds together Creation is poured out for the salvation of those who will cry out to Christ.

In a special way, I ask you to pray this Deer's Song in solidarity with our brothers and sisters in the Ukraine surrounded by the rage of war -- for their safety and protection during these days of great trial.  The peace of Christ is more powerful than human rage and our prayers can help His victory be realized in the hearts of those who are given to violence.

Now, I stand clad for battle in that Mighty Power

Of the Name of the Trinity:

Believing in the Three-ness,

Holding fast the One-ness

Creator of Heaven and Earth.

This day I stand ready with

The power of Christ’s Birth and Baptism;

The power of his Crucifixion and Burial;

The power of His Resurrection and Ascension;

The power of His coming to judge on Judgment Day.

I go forth today bound

By virtue of the Seraphim’s devotion,

By angels’ obedience,

By resurrection’s hope unto reward,

By Patriarchs’ prayers

By Prophets’ word of power,

By Apostles’ preaching

By Confessors’ faith,

By Holy Virgins’ purity,

By righteous men’s deeds.

I bind unto myself this day 

Heaven’s might,

Sun’s shine,

Moon’s gleam,

With fire’s glow,

Lightning's flash,

Wind's swiftness,

Sea's depths, 

Earth's firmness,

Solid rock.

Today, I rise up with 

God's Power guiding me,

God's Might upholding me,

God's Wisdom teaching me,

God's Eye watching over me,

God's Ear hearing me,

God's Word giving me speech,

God's Hand guiding me,

God's Way stretching before me,

God's Shield sheltering me,

God's terrible Army protecting me,

Against demon’s snares

Against vicious seductions

Against nature’s lusts

Against everyone who meditates injury to me,

Whether far or near,

Whether few or many.

I invoke all these powers, now

Against every hostile merciless force

Which may assail my body and my soul,

Against the false seer’s enchantments,

Against paganism’s dark laws,

Against heresy’s false standards,

Against idolatry’s deceits,

Against spells of witches, and smiths, and druids,

Against every knowledge that binds the soul of man.

Christ, protect me now

Against every poison, against burning,

Against drowning, against death-wound,

That I may receive abundant reward.

Christ with me,

Christ before me,

Christ behind me,

Christ within me,

Christ beneath me,

Christ above me,

Christ at my right,

Christ at my left,

Christ keeping the defense,

Christ setting the course,

Christ giving the orders,

Christ in every heart that thinks of me,

Christ in every mouth that speaks to me,

Christ in every eye that sees me,

Christ in every ear that hears me.

Today I bind unto myself Mighty Power, 

The Name of the Trinity:

Believing in the Threeness,

Holding fast the Oneness

Of the Creator of all the heavens and the earth.

Dominus est salus, Domini est salus, Christi est salus;

Salus tua, Domine, sit semper nobiscum.