The Jesus Prayer–For Times of Greatest Difficulty

With the hurricanes, the quake in Mexico City, and now the massive shooting in Las Vegas for no perceptible reason, my heart, like that of so many, feels exceedingly sad.  I sit before orthodox-greek-10WOOL PRAYER ROPEthe Blessed Sacrament and don’t know what to say.  Silence speaks for me.  Yes, I plead for those suffering so grievously, but really, all that I find in my spirit is the groaning.  I pray that the Holy Spirit speaks for me in His unspeakable groaning.

When prayer is so difficult, when the land of our heart is arid and dry and often confused, how can we pray? I’ll tell you what I have done.  I’ve gone back to the Jesus Prayer:  “Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me, the sinner.”  In 2013 I was so deeply attracted to this prayer which is truly the backbone of the Eastern Orthodox contemplative life, that I researched it and spent much time reading about it and practicing it.  So much so that I lived and breathed it, even praying it in my sleep. [I remember waking up with the prayer in my heart and on my lips.]

At that time I wrote a talk on the prayer and shared it with several women in my parish church.  Several of them took it much to heart and grew in prayer as they prayed it.  One elderly black woman told me,  “The Holy Spirit comes in between the words.” This is precisely how it works on the heart—”the use of a sacred phrase as a “prayer word” for focusing one’s attention while learning to pray through the splendor of the silence that exists “between the words” of our thinking minds “ [according to St. John Cassian (360-435 ad)].

When your heart seems dead or sad, struggling, and your mind is distracted and unfocused, this prayer word will help you reach interior silence.  It will center you in the presence of God through its utter simplicity and humility.  Don’t be deceived by its simplicity, however;  this prayer will draw you to a profound place in prayer.  It’s an ideal way to prepare for contemplation.

I helped my ladies make “Jesus beads”:  a simple crucifix with 100 beads on a circular cord (like the rosary), resembling the prayer ropes of wool made by the Eastern Orthodox monks and nuns.  But you can use your rosary just as well. I pray that you find, like my dear friend,  “The Holy Spirit comes in between the words.”

Here you will find the talk that I gave four years ago providing historical and liturgical background, some of  the deeper considerations to keep in mind as you enter the practice of the Jesus Prayer: 

SOUL FOOD Talk 2:    THE JESUS PRAYER – Part 1

[1.]   THE JESUS PRAYER   — The classical form of the Jesus Prayer is,  “Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me, a sinner.”  The actual words of our short prayers can vary.  We might say the classic version of the Jesus Prayer, or we might say, “Lord Jesus Christ, have mercy on me.”  We may say, “Lord Jesus, have mercy.”  A favorite ejaculation or scripture would be excellent–try to incorporate the name of Jesus.  You can make the prayer intercessory by adding: [have mercy] “on the whole world.”   MAKE THE PRAYER YOURS; MAKE IT FIT YOU.  Try to use the same form/s continuously so that it will enter deeply into your subconscious and into your heart.

[2.]   BIBLICAL ORIGIN:  Theologically, the Jesus Prayer is considered to be the response of the Holy Tradition to the lesson taught by the parable of the Publican and the Pharisee, in which the Pharisee demonstrates the improper way to pray by exclaiming:  “Thank you, Lord, that I am not like the Publican,” whereas the Publican prays correctly in humility, saying,  “Lord, have mercy on me, a sinner.”  (Luke 18: 10-14)

[3.]    THE HISTORY OF THE JESUS PRAYER goes back, as far as we know, to the early sixth century, with Diadochos, who taught that repetition of the prayer leads to inner stillness.  Even earlier, St. John Cassian (360-435 ad) who spent quite a few years in the Egyptian desert, did bequeath one absolutely essential gift to western contemplation:  the use of a sacred phrase as a “prayer word” for focusing one’s attention while learning to pray through the splendor of the silence that exists “between the words” of our thinking minds. 

[4.]  PRAY CEASELESSLY  –We are all called to pray without ceasing, says St. Paul  in Thess. 5:17.  The real question is, how.  The Jesus Prayer provides one good way to pray constantly.  In fact, the Jesus Prayer is the widespread and most specifically Orthodox spiritual prayer.  Our task is to draw nearer to God.  St. Isaac of Syria says that it is impossible to draw near to God by any means other than increasing prayer.

 [5.]  THE POWER IN THE NAME   –Biblically, knowing a person’s name gave power over that person.  Name was linked with being. To speak God’s name, YAHWEH, was to invoke the power, presence, and being of God Himself, so the Hebrews would not say it, but out of respect used ADONAI  (Lord) instead.  In the New Testament, Jesus explicitly gives us God’s name, FATHER, and tells us to use the name in prayer.  Jesus gives us access to the Godhead through the name.   Jesus told His Apostles that they hadn’t really used His Name in prayer enough.  “Hitherto you have asked nothing in My Name; ask and you will receive, that your joy may be full” (John 16:23).

[6.]  WHEN TO PRAY The Jesus Prayer is recommended in a block of 10-30 minutes once a day, at your preferred prayer time. (Begin with 10, and increase as you mature in prayer). This is the “formal” use of the prayer. The second form of the Jesus Prayer is the “free” use of the prayer. This means at any and all other times of the day, or night. This is especially true for the semi-automatic tasks such as driving, doing dishes, walking, being unable to sleep, etc. The Jesus Prayer is notably useful in time of extreme concern, upset, or temptation.

When alone, we might find it helpful to pray the Jesus Prayer, out loud. This can help lower the distraction level. In the beginning, you can also use a beautiful chanted or sung version to help you get started.

 7.]  SOME PRACTICAL SUGGESTIONS: Don’t feel hurried or pressed to “finish” the beads. Lovingly “work” each bead with all the longing and adoration and humility of your heart. Don’t feel compelled even to “finish” the words of the prayer form you have chosen. Sometimes it is enough to taste the name of the Lord and let it linger on the tongue and the heart. Don’t hesitate to change your prayer in the middle of the beads if a different prayer enters your heart, but gently return to the rhythm of the prayer when it is next feasible for you. To close, even if you are in the middle of the beads, say a spontaneous prayer to the Lord or to Mary, make the sign of the Cross, and kiss your crucifix.

 [8.]  PRAYER OF THE HEART – The Jesus Prayer is also called the Prayer of the Heart. In Orthodoxy, the mind and heart are to be used as one. St Theophan tells us to keep our “mind in the heart “at all times. Heart means the innermost core of the person, the spirit. Heart means our innermost chamber, our secret dwelling place where God lives. There is within us a space, a field of the heart, in which we find a Divine Reality, and from which we are called to live. The mind, then, is to descend into that inner sanctuary, by means of the Jesus Prayer or wordless contemplation, and to stay there throughout our active day, and evening. We descend with our mind into our heart, and we live there. The heart is Christ’s palace. There, Christ the King comes to take His rest. I like to think of the Jesus Prayer as my “door” to enter my inner sanctuary any time I can.

[9.]  SILENCE is a choice. Silence, at its best, is God-awareness. We quiet down our outer and inner lives, and listen to God speak. Someone said that when God speaks, His words are like the sound of a flutter of a bird’s wings. We need to be attentive if we are to hear anything. Inner silence can usually be achieved only by substituting one thought for another. Hence, the Jesus Prayer overrides our usual compulsive stream of consciousness about our own anxieties. Beginning with this form of prayer, then we might be led to deeper inner stillness, prayer without words (CONTEMPLATION). The caution here is that prayer without words is not heaviness, semi-sleep dullness. Rather, wordless prayer is alive, vigorous God-awareness.

 [10.]  CONTEMPLATION is a gift of God, a direct meeting with a personal God, on God’s terms. This special kind of inner silence, inner stillness, is experienced by wordless sitting, imageless contemplation. When consciousness strays, a phrase like “Lord Jesus” can be used to bring the mind back, and then the person sits quietly in the presence of the Lord. The desire of wordless sitting awareness is to open oneself to God, to listen to God. Both the Jesus Prayer and contemplation make us single-centered, concentrating upon the here and now, focused, one-pointed. The point is God.

 [11.]  PRAYER ROPES/BEADS- Orthodox prayer ropes are usually soft and made of wool. The purpose is to help us concentrate, not necessarily to count. In the famous book, The Way of the Pilgrim, the pilgrim said the prayer 2,000, then 6,000, then 12,000 times. Is 12,000 Jesus Prayers better than 2,000? Absolutely not. Quantity has nothing to do with love, and a living relationship with Jesus. The pilgrim did 12,000, no more and no less, as an act of obedience to his spiritual father, not because he was “making progress.” He also prayed much because that was his “heart’s desire.” Every prayer is an act of love, made to the Author of Love, Who is waiting expectantly for our desire, and our acceptance of His Love.

 [12.]  THE JESUS PRAYER AS HEALING – As medicine, the Jesus Prayer is destructive of the passions and altering of conduct. Just as a doctor places a dressing on a patient’s wound, and the dressing works without the patient’s knowing how, calling on the Name of God “removes the passions” without our knowing how and why, according to Sts. Barsanupius and John of the Egyptian desert.

The Holy Name, when repeated quietly, penetrates the soul rather like a drop of oil, spreading out and impregnating a cloth. Our modern translation of “mercy” is limited and insufficient. “Mercy” comes from the Greek eleisonEleison has the same root as elaion which means olive and olive oil. In the Middle East, olive oil provides physical healing for many sicknesses, particularly respiratory. “Have mercy” means to pour “healing oil” on my soul.

The Fathers tell us that praying the Sacred Name changes our personality, from overstrain to joy. “Hitherto you have asked nothing in my Name; ask, and you will receive, that your joy may be full” (Jn 16:24). The Jesus Prayer functions as therapy, much like healing oil, transforming our personality from overstrain to joy, and by our continuing to pray, these changes become permanent.

[Primary source, Part 1:  SAYING THE JESUS PRAYER]

THE JESUS PRAYER – PART 2,   FURTHER CONSIDERATIONS

 [13.]   In the free use of the prayer the mission is to find Jesus everywhere.   In the fixed or formal use of the prayer the mission is to create silence.  It’s often hard enough to achieve exterior silence, to find a quiet time and place to pray.  Even harder is to find interior silence;  because of the way we are made, we hold a constant conversation with ourselves, our imaginations and minds constantly moving from trivial fleeting thoughts to those of greater consequence.   As you settle down to prayer in a comfortable chair, after you have begun to quiet your spirit, you may want to read briefly from a favorite book or scriptures, or even to pray the rosary or other prayers meaningful to you.  Then, as you begin the Jesus prayer, pray with your eyes closed.

[14.]   The repetition of the simple formula, while being a heartfelt prayer, occupies our mind and imagination so that our hearts can enter into a deep silence, as we become conscious of the presence of the Lord.  Fingering the Jesus beads occupies our bodies so that they too become participants, entering their own quiet– we do not fidget.

 [15.]   Focus on the words of the prayer to reduce distractions, even praying it aloud in the beginning.  Central to the prayer is the name of Jesus:    Lord Jesus Christ.  All power is in that name above every other name.  Son of God:  beloved of the Father.  In John 14, Philip tells Christ,  “Show us the Father and it will be enough for us.”  Jesus replies,  “Philip, whoever sees me sees the Father.”  Jesus is the outpouring of the Father’s heart.  “Have mercy on me/us.”  Remember the origin of “eleison” – from the root word for “olive”–the mercy of God is an anointing, a healing oil that soothes as it is absorbed. “On me, a sinner:   These words name the depth of our poverty, our frailty, our misery before the all-majestic and pure God.    As soon as we empty ourselves of our pride and know our poverty, we can be truly filled.    Remember that God is one,  His mercy is one with His peace, His love, His light, His purity, His anointing Spirit that makes us one with Him.  What we are really asking for is for our greatest and deepest need,  whatever it is. Inevitably, it is the Holy Spirit itself.  The more we pray the prayer, the deeper the teaching we will receive from the Holy Spirit.

[16.]  As we pray, embrace your Lord in three ways:

Embrace his feet in repentence, as you weep with Mary for His mercy.     We ever have a need to embrace His feet in repentence.  St. Philip Neri used to tell Jesus,  “Keep your eye on Philip, Lord;  he is likely to betray you.”  Embracing the feet of Jesus is one of the hallmarks of the purgative way.

[17.]  Embrace the Sacred Wound in His side as you pray to embrace the Father’s will along with Christ, more perfectly, entering into His passion.    When we embrace His Sacred Wound in His side, His sacred heart, we recline on the breast of Christ like St. John at the last supper.  There is no better place to learn our theology.

[18.]  Embrace His sacred face as you pray, “Let Him kiss me with the kisses of His mouth” (Song of Songs, 1,1)-­-as His mercy flows into you in the anointing of the Holy Spirit, making you one with Him as bride and beloved.  St. Bernard of Clairvaux explains that Christ is the mouth of God (His incarnate Son).  St. Bernard says:  “Christ kisses us with the kisses of his mouth by giving us the Holy Spirit who makes possible this most intimate union between us individually and Christ.”   Receiving the kisses of His mouth is one of the hallmarks of the unitive way.

[ 19].    As we are more and more greatly purified and illumined, we prepare ourselves like eager brides for the kisses of His mouth, the greater and deeper abiding in the Holy Spirit, in the Holy Trinity.

[20.]     In short,  embrace Jesus, embrace the Father’s Will, embrace the Holy Spirit in repentence, in poverty, in reverent humility, in the fullness of your longing and desire to be one with the Blessed Trinity.

[21.]     As time passes, you will find yourself embracing Christ in all three ways, depending on where you are in your spiritual journey.  There are three definite stages in our spiritual journey acknowledged by the saints and by theologians:  the purgative,  the illuminative, and the unitive. [ See Soul Food Talk 1, Expressions of Prayer]  We generally find traces of all three in ourselves at different times.  God has his rhythm and way with each one of us in our uniqueness.   Yet one thing is sure,  He calls every one of us to holiness; and holiness is perfect union with the Trinity.

From a Catholic Theologian, Dr. Peter Kreeft:   “Jesus”: The Shortest, Simplest, and Most Powerful Prayer in the World

 

 

 

Advertisements

“The Root of Spiritual Self-Love” – St. Catherine of Siena

Before Hurricane Harvey, before Irma, I wrote in my journal:  For the last few weeks I have been in somewhat of a spiritual Limbo—going to Adoration and Mass, yes, but rather dry, tired mostly from continuing insomnia.  I have felt myself pulling back. I don’t know how else to say it.  It was not from choice, but from feeling; I was, at best, only half conscious of this, but it grieved me.  I felt I was being unfaithful. 

            Then, this week, while trying to walk in the mall for exercise, I made an unwise purchase, a vanity purchase, a frivolous act which is truly not in character for me; and it distresses me, pushes me to repentance.  I ask myself and Jesus:  “What is happening here?”

            This dryness has physical cause, I know, the insomnia—but how did I come to this frivolous act so unlike me?  I say with the Gospel:  “An enemy has done this!”

            I am little and weak, Lord.  As with David, give me five stones for my slingshot:  humily, purity, simplicity, trust, and courage

            Mother, help me to live always in the inner chamber of Fiat.

Trying to work myself through this strange ennui, still confused about what I had done and why I had done it, I returned to a continual meditation on FIAT, reading and reflecting on this little paragraph which I wrote last spring on HARDNESS OF HEART:  “Mary’s FIAT was the unqualified, open response of a heart utterly divested of design, plan, or expectation–a heart free to receive the completely unexpected….” And also on THE INNER CLOISTER OF FIAT, Jesus tells Blessed Conchita:  “You are to live cloistered in the very inner sanctuary of your soul, for there is where dwells the Holy Spirit. …enter into the innermost regions of your soul…. The ‘inner cloister’ is essential for the sanctification of the soul wishing to be all Mine.”  The Holy Spirit then revealed to me:  ““In the perfect FIAT of my Mother, I find my inner cloister.”

I felt I had moved outside of God’s will—outside of FIAT, for as short time as perhaps it had been—that I had been unfaithful, having failed humility, prudence, and charity.  For what I had spent I could have sent much relief to Texas, and now Florida.  I determined that my penance would be to wear the cosmetic products, and every time I did, I would see and feel the humiliation on my very face, the shame, the disgrace I had brought upon myself—so well deserved.

Over the last few years, I cannot tell you how many times I have prayed with Blessed Conchita, her words from a holy hour [which I read and first prayed in Oct. 2014]:  “I want to live and die hidden in a sacrifice…immolation, far away from every human glance, burning myself like incense in the midst of my roughness, with a constant death to all my self-will.  Help me, my Life, to destroy within my heart every self-indulgence, consuming myself silently as the candle flame before your altar.”

Now God had hit me between the eyes with a 2X4, showing me my vanity—very much alive and well, my self-will, self-love, self-indulgence.              I have been humbled, so very humbled.

Then today the Holy Spirit led me to a little book, Rev. Garrigou-Lagrange’s book PROVIDENCE, largely based on Father de Caussade’s classic.  I came upon this quotation by St. Catherine of Siena:  If My servants are confused at the knowledge of their imperfection, if they give themselves up to the love of virtue, if they dig up with hatred the root of spiritual self-love… they will be so pleasing to Me… that I will manifest Myself to them…. My charity is manifested in two ways; first, in general, to ordinary people. The second mode of manifestation… is peculiar to those who have become My friends…. When I reveal Myself to her it makes itself felt in the very depths of the soul, by which such souls taste, know, prove and feel it”.

God consoles.  Yes, this servant is confused by the knowledge of my imperfection despite my love of virtue, and oh yes—I am digging with hatred the root of spiritual self-love…. Yet He promises to reveal Himself to me: “to those who have become My friends…. When I reveal Myself to her it makes itself felt in the very depths of the soul, by which such souls taste, know, prove and feel it.”

Certainly it is this root of spiritual self-love, self-indulgence or vanity on the sensual level, that trips us up and makes us fall.  I have crawled back into my little inner cloister of FIAT humbled and grateful to my Consoler. I continue to pray Conchita’s prayer because this love of virtue is the greatest desire of my heart.  The more fiery my desire for virtue, the greater the hatred with which I will attack the root of spiritual self-love. I have my five stones which served David well against Goliath:  humility, purity, simplicity, trust, and courage—and they will also serve me well.

“Suffering the Absences” — Ven. Conchita Cabrera de Armida

           In one of her last retreats with Venerable Archbishop Luis Martinez, Conchita reflects on “Absences”—especially the palpable absence of Jesus in this retreat:  “Lord,” I said to Him with my heart heavy, “why haven’t You let me feel Your presence during this retreat, as in the others? Why does it seem to me that You are veiled and have hidden so as not to let me see You clearly, as on other occasions?”

Conchita uses the plural, “absences” because most of the time in her spiritual life she has enjoyed the delights of His presence as intimacy.  Yet the experience of absence, whenever it occurs, invites her to a deeper level of redemptive suffering for souls and for priests. How appropriate in this retreat which probes the meaning of the mystical carnation, her vocation to be a living host, that she deeply suffers His absence.

Jesus explains to her:  “… if, through My absence, through not letting you experience My sensible presence, other souls and priests give Me glory, then, do you not want it?

            “Is it not true that you willingly and out of pure love for the glory of My Father, do without consolations, caresses, My nearness to your soul, for the sake of priests and especially for the glory of My Father?

“If you only understood what this detachment offered out of pure love is worth in the presence of God!

            “…offer yourself in union with Him, painfully deprived of what you hold most dear: My consolations, apparent absence, veiled presence and the sensible caresses of My pure love.

            “I alone understand the magnitude of this hidden martyrdom; it is the supreme sacrifice of a soul on earth, and what gives My Father the most glory, because it is a loving, motherly sacrifice.

            “How few souls penetrate the secret which I reveal to you today! They see the external, but do not arrive at the very depth of My heroic sacrifice on the Cross. How could I do without the love of My Father, which wrenched a loving groan from My soul full of bitterness, a cry of infinite suffering, because the divinity had hidden itself, in a certain sense, from My sight?”

            Tears came to my eyes and Jesus, so good, gentle and compassionate told me:

            “Weep, weep over this more or less intense apparent separation from what you love most; but even these tears, this very sensitive and holy suffering, unite it to My suffering and offer it exclusively for the glory of My Father. Promise you will do it, won’t you?”

      “For this I brought you here to make you taste this bitterness, to make you know its salvific consequences in all its extension on behalf of so many priests, so that you may sprinkle the Church in her members with your tears” [Under the Gaze of the Father, pp. 85-86].

We read in the New Testament that after the death of Jesus, two of Jesus’ disciples left Jerusalem mourning and confused about the loss of their Lord.  After the Resurrection, He appeared to them on the road to Emmaus, walking and talking with them, finally revealing Himself to them in Emmaus.  As they hurried back to Jerusalem from Emmaus, they said to one another:  “Were our hearts not burning within us?” [Lk 24:32].

The burning of the heart occurs in the conviction of His presence, in the sweetness of intimacy.  The suffering of absence turns this burning into ashes, no longer even warm.  Sometimes it feels as though the intimacy of His presence had never been nor ever will be again. We wonder if we have deluded ourselves, that this burning delight of the heart has been merely a figment of our imagination.

This piercing sorrow of absence has been experienced by many saints, Mother Teresa of Calcutta, for example.  This dark night of the soul lasted throughout most of her life.  [See “The Kiss of Jesus”: https://soulfoodministries.wordpress.com/2016/11/18/the-kiss-of-jesus-mther-st-teresa-of-calcutta/

Isn’t this “suffering of absences”  also the essence of the Soledad of our Sorrowful Mother Mary? Father Philipon, the editor of Conchita’s Diary explains soledad in this way:  solitude,” “isolation,” and silent martyrdom in pure faith, in the apparent absence of God…” [Conchita:  A Mother’s Spiritual Diary, p. 172].

He adds further:  “Mary’s solitude is the most perfect association with the redemptive act of Christ. The drama of our salvation is decided at the very moment when Jesus was abandoned mysteriously by His Father, and when He Himself abandoned Himself, in response, with confidence and love, into His hands. It is the consent of a man in supreme agony” [Diary, 177].

            Furthermore, Jesus Himself explains to Conchita:  “You had for long pondered the first solitude of Mary, that is, the exterior solitude, but you had not thought about the cruelest and the bitterest, the interior solitude which tore her to pieces and in which her spirit felt an agony on account of being abandoned.
“The martyrdom of Mary after My Ascension was not caused solely by My material absence. She suffered terrible tests of abandonment like to that I Myself underwent on the Cross. My Father united her to Mine which gained so many graces.
“As co-redemptrix, Mary heard in her soul so wholly pure the echo of all My agonies, humiliations, outrages and tortures, felt the weight of the sins of the world which made My Heart bleed, and the moving sorrow of the abandonment of heaven which obtains graces.
            “You are to be a faithful echo of this Mother of Sorrows. You must experience the pure abandonment, My own abandonment, this desertion which through purification acquires graces.”

            He clarifies for us that this suffering of absence is the abandonment of the “Trinity, which hid itself from her, leaving her in a spiritual and divine abandonment….

             This abandonment of Mary, this vivid and palpitating martyrdom of her solitude, the desolating martyrdom of divine abandonment, which she suffered heroically with loving resignation and sublime surrender to My will, is not honored.

            “Imitate her in your littleness, in your poor capabilities strive with all the strength of your heart: you must do it in order to obtain graces and to purify yourself” [Diary, 177-178].

Christ makes it clear that this abandonment, the suffering of absence, is redemptive:   “It is a great honor for souls when the Father calls them to associate them with Redemption; with the co-redemption uniting them with Me and Mary; with the apostolate of the Cross, that is, with that of innocent suffering, of sorrow full of love and pure, expiatory and salvific sorrow on behalf of the culpable world” (Diary, June 23, 1918) [178-179].           

            Love Crucified pleads with us to “suffer all with Me, no longer two, but one in My sacrifice of love.”  Mary suffers all with Him, including the pinnacle of His passion—the abandonment of the Father—which tears from the humanity and heart of Jesus these words:  “My God, my God, why have You abandoned me?” Mt. 27:46]. As we suffer with Jesus and Mary the hidden martyrdom of the suffering of absence, we too participate in redemptive love. In the Diary we read:  “Solitude is participation in the inmost Passion of Christ’s Cross and a consequence of the mystical incarnation” [p. 174].

If we are nailed to the Cross with Love Crucified, if we are living hosts, we must also participate in the grievous sorrow of abandonment by the Trinity, the tangible loss of His presence, the cold ashes of the dark night of the soul.  In her last days Conchita wrote in her Diary:

       “Mother of Sorrows whom I love so much, teach me to suffer as You suffered and to love Jesus as You loved Him in your awful solitude” (Oct. 13, 1936). “I promise Him with all my heart to abandon myself in the God who abandons me” (Oct. 6, 1936) [179].

 

 

“Canticle of the Cross” — Ven. Archbishop Luis Martinez

Today I was stunned by the profound beauty which I found in UNDER THE GAZE OF THE FATHER, a retreat on the mystical incarnation, which Archbishop Luis Martinez gave in 1935 to Venerable Concepción Cabrera de Armida, our beloved Conchita.  On the ninth day of her retreat, Archbishop Luis spoke of sacrifice.

Having referred often to the mystical incarnation, living host, as well as a host of other beautiful teachings, I am humbled by the difficulty of explaining or even showing in the remotest way how all of this is related to our life in the Spirit.  It occurs to me that this gift of our baptism, our new life in the Holy Spirit, could be compared to a splendid jewel with thousands of brilliant facets.  Jesus himself compared the Kingdom to the pearl of great price.  I think what I try to do in each post is to explore one tiny facet of this jewel of our spiritual life, yet all remains deepest mystery which we can only touch upon, but never fathom.

In his meditation on sacrifice, our beloved Archbishop explains that Jesus loves Abba so much that He willingly sacrifices Himself on the Cross, but he also explains why the Cross is the ultimate vehicle for that love.  He says,  “…because divine love is infinite, its expression is infinite, its gift is infinite, and its canticle is infinite.  In heaven, in the bosom of God, the expression of love is the ineffable communication of the Divinity in the inscrutable divine processions.” [Under the Gaze, p. 77]

What he means is that divine love in heaven, in the bosom of God, expresses itself in the interplay of the persons of the Trinity, the Father pouring himself wholly and completely into His Word, the love of the Father and the Son expressing through the Holy Spirit—the entire mystery of the Trinity—the uninterrupted outpouring of infinite, eternal  love.

But on earth, in Jesus, now the God/man, how can this “uninterrupted outpouring of infinite, eternal love” hope to express itself in finite flesh?  As Archbishop Luis exclaims,

            “When this love is transplanted on earth, as it was when Jesus appeared on it, what will its expression, gift and canticle be like? What will Jesus, who bears eternal love in His Heart, do in order to tell His Father that He loves Him, in order to intone the full and just canticle to God’s glory?”

             “On earth, there is no infinity! Here all expressions are narrow and all gifts limited, and all canticles are poor in harmony, faded and ephemeral, since they cannot fill the universe with sonority, nor contain in their poor notes the infinite fullness of harmony!”

            “On earth, heavenly love found its expression and canticle in the Cross….  The suffering and death which are symbolized by the Cross are the infinity of earth, the infinity of poverty and misery, but in the end, infinity.”  [ p. 77]

The Cross is the ultimate canticle of the God/man.  In the Cross lies earth’s infinity of suffering, self-giving, and holocaust of love.  If Christ could have given more, He would have.  The very fact that the Cross was the way He chose to express the completeness, the fullness of outpouring of His love for the Father tells us that there was simply no other way to do it.  The Cross is the ultimate kenosis.  No other way for Him.  No other way for us.

Ven. Luis gives us this:

“On earth, the expression of the divine love is the Cross, which is the self-giving of something finite made in an infinite manner and the canticle of this love is the “Consumatum est” of Calvary. It is the voice of the Spirit which cries out, of the blood which is shed, of the water which flows out of the open side.”  [p. 78]

But the Canticle of the Cross is not for Jesus alone.  He speaks to each of His baptized children:  “If you would come after Me, deny yourself, take up your cross and follow me.”  [Lk. 9:23]       Archbishop Luis adds:

“… in order to show its love for the Father, in order to find its expression and canticle, the soul seeks the mysterious and unspeakable canticle of the Cross. On the Cross, the soul offers Jesus and nails itself to it with Him.”

             I wrote in an earlier post,  “The Cross is the bridal chamber where union takes place in the intimacy of suffering.”  Nailed to the cross with Christ, the victim with the Victim outpours to Abba from a finite little heart the infinity of an eternal Canticle of Love. Here is “the self-giving of something finite made in an infinite manner” of which Archbishop Luis speaks.  St. Theresa understood this kind of canticle, doing the little things with great love.  Like St. Theresa, we are crucified, too, in the ordinary tedium of our little lives.

Most beautiful is the way Archbishop Luis ended his meditation.  After reflecting on the Works of the Cross and those points particular to Conchita, he says:

“…the transformed soul… fused with the Heart of Jesus, sings with Him the canticle of suffering and death to the glory of God on earth.”  [p. 79]

The transformed soul is, of course, the soul which has received the gift of mystical incarnation.    For a long time I wondered if this gift was special, only for Conchita, but Archbishop Luis refers on several occasions to “mystical incarnations.” For example on p. 68-69, he tells Conchita,

“How, without being Jesus, could the soul realize the intimate and fine work of the sacrifice and the intimate priesthood of Jesus?”

And on p. 74:

Being Jesus, the soul loves the Father, reflecting Jesus’ love and seeking His glory as Jesus sought it so that the love, suffering, actions and life of the soul aim with perfect unity and intense concentration at one point, just as all the activities of Jesus’ soul converged to the glory of the Father, the center and crowning of Jesus’ life.”           Don’t we have here in the “love, suffering, actions, and life of the soul,” the Canticle of the Cross?  One Victim, one Song.       

The Holy Spirit transforms the soul, if it is faithful; it is in and through the Holy Spirit that the Canticle of the Cross pours forth to the glory of the Father.   I learned from Archbishop Luis long ago, that “wherever the little Dove nests is the Heart of Jesus.”  When the Holy Spirit nested in the Blessed Virgin, she incarnated the Son of God.  So it is with us.  Only through the power of the Holy Spirit and in our complete abandonment to Him can our hearts be fused to the Heart of Christ and we become one spirit.

It is through the Holy Spirit that we are transformed into His living hosts [which is another way of expressing Conchita’s “mystical incarnation”]. We read in A SIMPLE PATH TO UNION, in message 49 on the Eucharist:

Your ordinary and hidden life through the Cross becomes united to My Eucharistic life. Your hidden life takes on the same power as My hidden life because we are no longer two but ONE. These are My living hosts. In this union of love, you enter and live in the realm of God. Through Me, with Me and in Me your most ordinary life is the power of God. Your thoughts, words, deeds, but most especially your tears and sorrows of heart, possess the power of God to bless the world. Your hidden life not seen by anyone is seen by God; and through Me, with Me and in Me, He blesses many. Your life as ONE with My Eucharistic life moves beyond time and space.” [A SIMPLE PATH TO UNION, P. 162]

             This is the end for which we were created, for which we were baptized.  From the hearts of His living hosts, the Canticle of the Cross rises to the glory of the Father:  “…the transformed soul… fused with the Heart of Jesus, sings with Him the canticle of suffering and death to the glory of God on earth.”

+++++

See also:  “To Be Jesus Crucified,”      “The Cross & the Mystic Mass of the Bride”  and “The Kiss of Jesus.”

“My little tabernacle of ordinary life…” – from Ammie’s testimony on being a LIVING HOST

[For my sister Monica, a living host whose faithful heart and soul are being stretched in union with Love Crucified upon a most bitter cross…]

Ammie’s revealing testimony was so piercing, so clear in its sorrow and meaning.  Among the many things which she said, was this little phrase, “My little tabernacle of ordinary life,” a phrase which pulled so many feelings and ideas together for me.

Exactly five years ago this July, before my husband died, before I joined Love Crucified, I made what seemed at the time a tremendous commitment:  30 minutes of meditation/ contemplation (if the Lord would grant it) a day.  Then I asked Him,  “What do You want me to do for this 30 minutes?  For the answer, I did something I rarely do—open the Scriptures at random—I was driven to tears when I read:

“My lover has come down to His garden,

   to the beds of spice,

To browse in the garden and to gather lilies.

My lover belongs to me and I to Him;

   He browses among the lilies.”

In the last five years, as my commitment grew to one hour of Adoration before the Blessed Sacrament and daily Mass, He has driven my naiive heart past the intimacy of the enclosed Garden where He browses among the lilies—the virtues, the lilies which He daily gathers.

Through Ven. Conchita, He has led me to plumb the inner sanctuary of my heart, my “inner cloister of Fiat” in Mother Mary.  It was to Conchita that He first said,  You are to live cloistered in the very inner sanctuary of your soul, for there is where dwells the Holy Spirit. It is in this sanctuary you must live and die. There are your delights, your consolations, your repose. Do not look elsewhere for it, you will never find it. It is for this purpose I have created you specially. From today on, enter into the innermost regions of your soul, into those areas so unknown to so many others but where is found that happiness which I am. Enter into it never to leave it…. The ‘inner cloister’ is essential for the sanctification of the soul wishing to be all Mine. You must never leave this inner sanctuary, even in the midst of your outside obligations.”

The inner cloister is above all hidden, personal—where the presence of the Holy Spirit penetrates through the ordinary, unremarkable days of my life. Often I feel nothing, realize nothing, forget Him, yet He never leaves the inner cloister.—and one turn, one glance, one insignificant act of love in a trite day can draw me back to where He waits.

One of the lovely expressions of Love Crucified Covenant Community is “our domestic monastery”—which, it seems to me, fosters that inner cloister of which He spoke.

In Lourdes’ recent teaching, we visited again one of our central teachings on living hidden lives:  “You will live your hidden lives like me in prayer, sacrifice and suffering. Your hidden lives lived in your domestic monasteries will be a source of grace for the sanctification of priests”[Message 98].

As we reflected on the “Altar of the Cross” Lourdes cautioned us:  “To come to the altar of sacrifice in the Mass without having lived my daily sacrifice in the altar of my home or work, is a sterile sacrifice to the Father. The words of the Mass – through Him, with Him and in Him – must be lived out daily in the ordinary and tediousness of my life, in the sacrament of the moment. It is only in this way that my sacrifice is truly pleasing to God and made perfect in Jesus’ sacrifice of perfect love. “

In part 2 of our Eucharistic reflection, Jesus tells us:  “Your ordinary and hidden life through the Cross becomes united to My Eucharistic life. Your hidden life takes on the same power as My hidden life because we are no longer two but ONE. These are My living hosts. In this union of love, you enter and live in the realm of God. Through Me, with Me and in Me your most ordinary life is the power of God.

Your thoughts, words, deeds, but most especially your tears and sorrows of heart, possess the power of God to bless the world. Your hidden life not seen by anyone is seen by God; and through Me, with Me and in Me, He blesses many. Your life as ONE with My Eucharistic life moves beyond time and space[Message 49].

Intimacy with Jesus, with the Holy Trinity grows and takes place at the same time in the sweet intimacy of the enclosed Garden, in the sanctuary of the heart, in the inner cloister of Fiat where dwells the Holy Spirit, in the simple domestic monastery, in the hidden tabernacle of the Eucharist where Union makes us victim with the Hidden Victim of Love, in the daily, ordinary tedium of our lives as living hosts, one Heart, one Mind, one Will with Love Crucified.

How lovely Ammie’s little phrase, “the little tabernacle of my ordinary life” where sorrow and the bitterness of grievous suffering breaks open the heart and stretches the soul as wide as the altar of the personal cross.

In Under the Gaze of the Father, Ven. Luis Martinez tells Conchita:  “…interior suffering is especially for Him. The intimacy of joy or suffering, of light or darkness, is of little importance, since it will always be love and, in any case, it is intimacy with Jesus who is your Lord, Love and All.”

In her reflection, Ven. Conchita acknowledges the sorrow and bitterness of soul which has grown in her heart year after year:  “I must believe that at the bottom of my bitterness there is love, love which grows each year, and that Jesus unites Himself with my soul in ever closer union.”

Intimacy which begins in sweetness and browsing among the lilies grows with the years into an intimacy of suffering—but “it is of little importance, since it will always be love, and in any case, it is intimacy with Jesus….”

+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

Ammie, a Mother of the Cross in our community was recently diagnosed with lyme disease, six months after the similar diagnosis of her husband, a Missionary of the Cross. You may find part 2 of Lourdes talk on the Eucharist and Ammie’s testimony here:  TESTIMONY.  Part 1, the Eucharist:  LOURDES’ TALK.

RELATED POSTS: 

Hidden Force

The Inner Cloister of Fiat

Altar of the Cross

The Intimacy of SUFFERING WITH

The Kiss of Jesus

The Violence of Sorrow

“THE ALTAR OF THE CROSS “- from a teaching by Lourdes Pinto, Love Crucified Covenant Community

In her recent teaching to us on the Eucharist, I was struck by this phrase:  “the altar of the cross,” which Lourdes used.  What made it meaningful to me was the context of the phrase.  What she said was this:

“Wherever our cross is, there is our altar of sacrifice.  There is where our offering during the consecration of the Mass becomes real, our sacrifice as real flesh, the real pain of our suffering WITH Christ’s.” [Emphasis is mine..]

How often have you heard “Live the Mass”? This is the reality which Lourdes addresses.  I have been taught in Love Crucified to enter my sorrows, my pains, my core wounds—not to minimize them, not to gloss over them, not to ignore them.  We have the tendency to distract ourselves from pain.  And often our greatest sufferings are in our relationships with those closest to us, family, friends, co-workers– our altar of the cross.

Here is what is most critical:  “Wherever our cross is, there is our altar of sacrifice.  There is where our offering during the consecration of the Mass becomes real….”

We need to ponder deeply how the cross manifests itself in our lives.  Whoever we may be, single or married, divorced, widowed, rich or poor, one reality is a constant.  To live Christ, to live the Mass is to live in love in our relationships.  In A SIMPLE PATH TO UNION, Christ tells us:  “Ponder every relationship and situation in your lives where you are not loving with Me, through Me and in Me. Ask yourselves, “Why is it so difficult to love this person or to love in these situations?” It is precisely in those situations and with those persons where you need to be purified. It is only in this way that you can become ONE with My Eucharistic life and be transformed into Love”.[#57] For each of us the cross lies in that person in our lives who is most difficult to love.

Even clearer is this explanation:  “To come to the altar of sacrifice in the Mass without having lived my daily sacrifice in the altar of my home or work, is a sterile sacrifice to the Father. The words of the Mass – through Him, with Him and in Him – must be lived out daily in the ordinary and tediousness of my life, in the sacrament of the moment. It is only in this way that my sacrifice is truly pleasing to God and made perfect in Jesus’ sacrifice of perfect love. “

The Mass in my life is my sacrifice of the cross, those difficult relationships “lived out daily in the ordinary and tediousness of my life, in the sacrament of the moment” –this is the Mass which I live in union with my crucified Christ.  If I cannot bring my ordinary life to the cross in this way, my offering of the Mass is not real but insubstantial and shallow.

As our lives change, that difficult person may change, but the cross is a constant.  Jesus tells us to deny ourselves, pick up our cross, and follow Him.  As we struggle to confront that person with gentleness, tenderness, kindness, generosity, we live the Mass.  Our offering is a true holocaust, real, substantial, one with the sacrificial love-offering of Jesus, both on the domestic altar of our home and on the consecrated altar of our parish church.

Save

Save

DEVOTIONS

I thought I’d transfer most of the devotional links which I have on the DEVOTIONS page for my church:  Mass Readings, Daily  Mass, Adoration, Rosary, Chaplet of Divine Mercy, etc. for your convenience here.

DAILY MASS READINGS

DAILY MASS

LIVE ADORATION  (find the page on this link)

DIVINE OFFICE 1    

     DIVINE OFFICE, text only

     COMPLINE FOR SUNDAY NIGHTS 

DIVINE MERCY CHAPLET:

        Text

        Video

ROSARY:

       Video, all mysteries

Video, Scriptural:

                  JOYFUL

                   LUMINOUS

                  SORROWFUL

                  GLORIOUS

SEVEN SORROWS ROSARY

 

Save

Save

What My Soul Can Bear

Tonight I realized that Jesus does not give me what He needs or wants to give me in a moment of grace, but ONLY WHAT MY SOUL CAN BEAR.  This thought came to me as I began rereading part of UNDER THE GAZE OF THE FATHER, p. xxvi.  The author is explaining one such moment in the life of Ven. Conchita:

“That day she heard again:  The Father is here looking at you…the Son, offering you His Blood…and the Holy Spirit beating His wings to come to  your soul.  The Three Divine Persons desire to enter your heart, and to form in it their throne…their cross…their nest…This I heard, and I remained confused…overwhelmed… inflamed before such condescension.  He made me see His greatness…power… immensity… Wisdom…and Love…and I (…) placed my forehead on the ground, and I opened the doors of my soul to that most Blessed Trinity, which is real…imprisoned… locked…in a host.’

Just Friday I wrote my post,“HIDDEN FORCE,” which begins with my little question to Jesus in the tabernacle, “What are you doing in there?” and His response, “I am knitting together the broken universe.” I am dumbfounded by the comparison of my little conversation with the Lord, then Conchita’s situation—same Lord, same host—but what a profound difference!  Conchita seems to me , in her being overwhelmed, confused, inflamed, to be a perfect example of a soul receiving only what it can bear.  No matter how holy, humble, pure the soul, it is bound to be overwhelmed, confused, inflamed by the presence of the Gift  which ever threatens to annihilate our miserable incapacity.  Tears, prostration, abandonment—what other response can there be? Especially since the overwhelming Gift is “real…imprisoned…locked…in a host.”

This is, for me, a vision of Adoration: the adorer—naïve,  unsuspecting, assuming an ordinary posture and understanding, expecting the simplest gift—and the Adored, Holy, Majestic, Pure and Loving beyond all thought and imagination, containing Himself and all the Desires of His manhood and Divinity in a little white host so as not to overwhelm the little one. I have not even begun to process “the most Blessed Trinity, which is real…imprisoned…locked…in a host.”

 

Save

Save

Save

Save

‘Hidden Force” — The Simple Path to Union

       Unable to sleep early this morning, it was the Hidden Force that played on my mind.  As I lay half asleep, half awake, the Holy Spirit wrote an entire post for me drawing on memories, buried scriptures, and recent meditations on passages from The Simple Path to Union.

When I first began daily Adoration, I used to sit and gaze at the tabernacle.  I would ask the Lord,  “Jesus, what are you doing in there?”  Unexpectedly, one day He answered me,  “I am knitting together the broken universe”—an answer that drove me to tears.  You know the way a bone heals?  It knits together, drawn by the life-force, the powerful urge to healing.  This is the kind of knitting which Jesus does in His hidden life in the tabernacle, His Eucharistic life. [Post:  Jesus, What are You doing in there?]

The Holy Spirit drew me to the vision of the valley of dry bones of Ezechiel.  The famous prophecy of chapter 37 which depicted for Ezechiel how Yahweh could, from dry bones, separated and broken, bring to life a dead people.  I thought of another image from Simple Path, an interior vision similar to that of Ezechiel:

 134 – My Victim Souls Have the Power to Bring Back to Life Dead Hearts, Diary of a MOC — Feast of the Sacred Heart Jesus.

             This morning in Mass I saw Jesus interiorly in my heart in radiant Light holding His Heart in his left hand. His entire being was Light, not just His Heart. A Light moving out, expanding, penetrating…. A Light that also drew you into Himself.

             Then tonight I began to see Jesus again in the same way; but there was no light coming forth from Him, and the heart I was now seeing in His hand was small, shriveled and black. It seemed like a dead heart to me. I could not understand what the Lord was revealing to me. After the Mass, before the Blessed Sacrament, our Lord explained:

             “The Light of God will not shine forth for a time. It is you (meaning plural) that must keep My Light shining in the world. This heart dead in sin, which I reveal to you tonight, (this one dead heart represented many), will come back to life through the blood of My martyrs of love. Receive tonight on the Feast of My Sacred Heart these hearts….Water these hearts with your tears of sorrow, pray for them through the prayer of your pure suffering, bless them with your kiss of love and anoint them with the graces of My Eucharist. It is the life of My victim souls that has the power to bring back to life the dead. My daughter, raise up many victims of love, for many will be lost during the time of great darkness”. (6/15/12) [The Path, p. 354]

             How often we look around us at the broken world and feel so helpless.  The need is so great, and we are so small and helpless.  But we are not helpless.  Years ago, Jesus revealed to Conchita that from the moment of His conception, His heart suffered an interior martyrdom of agony for souls, an interior passion that would actually be assuaged in His physical passion.  Yet what the world continues to see is that exterior passion.  He told her:  “Through the external Cross, which all can see, I was a victim acceptable to the Father by shedding My blood, but it was above all through the interior cross that redemption was accomplished.”  Then later:  “I want, more than external martyrdom, interior martyrdom of the heart. That is why I want them to unite themselves to My Heart which is broken more than any other. “ [Conchita: A Mother’s Spiritual Diary, p. 317]

            Another passage from The Simple Path to Union:

  39 Martyrdom of the Heart, Diary of a MOC

            The martyrdom of the heart is the martyrdom of suffering with Love and for Love. My daughter, if you could only understand the fruit of the martyrdom of suffering, you would desire nothing else on earth. The hidden life of suffering with Love and for Love is of far greater worth than great and small works tainted with human recognition. Believe in the hidden force contained in the martyrdom of the heart. This is the purest fragrance of love that has the power to conquer the enemies of God. (11/9/12) [The Path, p. 139]

We see that it is in union with Christ in the Eucharist that we participate in martyrdom of the heart—it is this hidden martyrdom that generates the hidden force which brings to life dead hearts, that knits together the dry bones, the broken universe.  Jesus also tells Conchita:

            “I am the Head of the Church, and all who are Mine are the members of this same Body and must continue in union with Me, expiation and sacrifice till the end of time. My passion was consummated on Calvary, but those who form My Church must continue the passion in themselves, offering themselves in reparation for themselves and for others to the Trinity in union with Me, victims with the Victim, and having the same qualities of victims.” [Conchita, p. 327]

Such a life seems impossible to us, but the Path teaches us in Chapter 3 that our ordinary life is a hidden force:

            “In our daily hidden lives we are given the opportunity to live the hidden martyrdom of love. We make every one of our acts, including our daily chores, into acts of love. We become the “hidden force” that has the power to transform hearts and nations and to pierce all darkness. Jesus promised us this power to love through His words to St. Faustina, “And great will be your power for whomever you intercede.” [The Path, p. 152]

             St. Faustina tells us:  “My sacrifice is nothing in itself, but when I join it to the sacrifice of Jesus Christ, it becomes all-powerful and has the power to appease divine wrath” (Diary 482)

In The Simple Path I find Pope Francis speaking about “martyrs of everyday life”:

            There is also the daily martyrdom, which does not result in death but is also a “loss of life” for Christ, people doing their duty with love, according to the logic of Jesus. These people are the fathers and mothers who every day put into practice their faith by devoting their lives for the good of the family. [The Path, p. 153]

The Holy Spirit brought to my mind all the hidden souls who live and suffer in union with the Eucharistic Christ, the many monks and nuns—not just those names whom we associate with sanctity, the St. Teresa’s, Padre Pio’s, St. Faustina’s—but of their unknown, innumerable companions, the little souls hidden away.  What is it that they did that was remarkable?  Their lives were simple and ordinary, even in the monasteries and convents:  intense daily prayer of course, but also cooking, baking bread, cleaning, washing dishes, tending gardens or fields, sewing church vestments, petting the monastic cat, etc.  All ordinary actions such as we do every day, but charged with the hidden power of martyrdom of the heart, the daily grind that chews us up and transforms us into God’s bread, the hidden force that knits together the broken universe.

Save

Save

Save

Save

The Intimacy of SUFFERING WITH

          In our Love Crucified Community, Jesus tells us,  “Suffer all with Me, no longer two, but one, in My sacrifice of Love.”  In an earlier post, “The Kiss of Jesus,” I commented,  “The Cross is the bridal chamber where union takes place in the intimacy of suffering.” I continue to come back to that reflection, that it is in suffering WITH Christ that we enter intimacy.

It is not enough that we “offer it up”—this offering I learned as a child from my mother.  No, to suffer with is intimate.  To offer up is to stand outside, independent, separate.  Love Crucified teaches us:

“…unless we touch His wounds, love remains an idea in our minds with no power to heal our hearts. By touching His wounds, we touch His love, the love by which He laid down His life for us. We touch Christ’s wounds by uniting our sufferings with His.

                        “This condition exists because only through our own sufferings are we able to come personally to touch the sufferings of Christ.…Because when we touch Jesus’ sufferings, we touch Love itself.

            “For example, if we never suffer the pain of rejection, we can never come to know and experience the rejection that Jesus suffered.

            “This is the necessary process to union with God. St. Paul tells us there is a condition for us to be “children of God” and “fellow heirs with Christ”: “provided we suffer with Him”  (Rom 8:12-17) (The Simple Path, p. 86-87).

            How long has it taken me to learn this:  only through my own sufferings can I experience the sufferings of Christ. If I dodge, distract myself, or complain, I dodge, distract myself from Christ who is Love Crucified. Or another way of putting it:  Through my wounds I enter the wounds of Christ.

This week I watched THE SEVENTH CHAMBER, the life of Edith Stein, canonized by Pope John Paul in 1998.  She has been on my heart all week.  The brilliant child of a Jewish family in Germany, she became a professor of philosophy, a skeptic of religion.  But when she read St. Teresa of Avila’s INTERIOR MANSIONS, her conclusion was, “This is the truth.”  St. Teresa led her to conversion, to the Catholic Church.  After persecutions began under the Nazis, she entered Carmel to become Sister Teresa Benedetta of the Cross—not to dodge persecution, but because she wanted an intimate relationship with Christ.

Her sufferings were great, as she endured  betrayal of professional friends and the agonized refusal of her family, especially her mother, to accept her conversion to Catholicism or her vocation to the Carmelites.  Even the order itself wondered if she had chosen Carmel as a refuge from persecution.  But Edith had realized finally that religion was not a set of moral directives but a Person.  Her joy in her suffering was in this extraordinary relationship as she learned intimacy through what she suffered.

Counseled to leave the country, she finally went to Carmel in Holland, where the Nazis intruded to extricate her and her sister, Rosa, to Auschwitz.  As her superior wept, Sister Teresa Benedetta  comforted her with these words—not to be concerned because,  “I have finally accepted my destiny.”

            One of the greatest sufferings endured by St. Teresa Benedetta was the crushing oppression of her people by Hitler whom she viewed as a satan.  What she meant by “I have finally accepted my destiny” is that she would embrace all suffering, one with her people, one with her Christ.

This word destiny recalled to me a reflection which I wrote on Romano Guardini’s article “Acceptance”:

“Destiny is not an accident.  It possesses a logical consistency which is determined externally by the connection of events but also internally by the nature and character of the person involved [29].”  Finally, acceptance of self means that I consent simply to be.  Here is the rub:  “I did not confront the possibility of my own existence and decide that I wished to be, but I was cast into being.  I came forth from the lives of my parents, of my ancestors, out of the condition of the age.

This “age” I remarked, “ is filled with the effects of unredeemed original sin…complicated by repeated, serious, unrepented personal sin.”

            How is destiny fair?  It is not, nor can it be; not for us, not for Edith Stein. But Romano Guardini reminds us:

“Through the Incarnation, He stepped into the space which forms a single chain of destiny for him who lives in it.  God stepped into history.  When the eternal Son became man, He did so in reality, without protection or exception, vulnerable by word and act; woven, like us, into the stifling web of effects that proceed from the confused hearts of men….He does this prepared for all that would happen to Him, without reservation, without evasion, without resorting to resistance or craft.  Men, who have really no power over Him to whom is given ‘all power in Heaven and on earth,’ inflict a bitter destiny upon Him.  But this is the form of His Father’s will for Him.  This will is His own will; to accomplish it is the ‘food’ of His life.”

Sister Teresa Benedetta of the Cross told her superior,  “I have finally accepted my destiny.”  THIS is the destiny which she accepted, cast as she was into her unique place in history, among her people, in her family—the sweet destiny of suffering with Christ.  For her, the Cross is the bridal chamber where union takes place in the intimacy of suffering.

Before she is sent to Auschwitz, she is explaining the seven chambers of St. Teresa of Avila’s INTERIOR MANSIONS to another sister.  After revealing the meaning of the first six chambers, the sister asks her, “and what of the seventh?”  The saint replies, “I have not yet entered the seventh chamber.”

Full union with Love Crucified would come with the saint’s embrace of all the sufferings that went with the gas chamber of Auschwitz, for her—the seventh chamber of Union. This suffering consisted not only of her personal physical distress and that of her sister Rosa, but also included her sufferings for the people around her, the Jewish men, women, and children who were also ravaged by Nazi oppression.

As I reflected on this precious saint, I realized once again that my unique sufferings are the key to the unique intimacy, Union, holiness, which God has chosen for me personally. To enter holiness is not to enter a state of being so much as to accept my destiny, God’s Will, the Cross.  Holiness is to embrace a Person, Christ, Love Crucified, through the intimacy of suffering.

 

Save

Save

Save

Save