A Mother torn, …the Agony

As I meditated on the icon of the immolatedsorrowswtheotokos (460x600) Bridegroom with Mary as Bride, the Church [also representing the individual soul], I began to see something else revealed there. Not only does the Bride embrace the immolated Bridegroom, but the suffering Mother embraces His members–us.   Turning to my talk on “Mary, Mother of the Church,” I noted a link: http://www.opusangelorum.org/English/Marymother.html

There I read, “Mary became our spiritual Mother when she offered to the Eternal Father the life of her beloved Son on Mount Calvary, with such bitter sorrow and suffering, so that St. Augustine declares: “as she then cooperated by her love in the birth of the faithful to the life of grace, she became the spiritual Mother of all who are members of the one Head, Christ Jesus.”

“Thus we are given to understand the following verse of the sacred Canticles, which refers to the most Blessed Virgin: “They have made me the keeper in the vineyards; my vineyard I have not kept.” St. William says, that “Mary, in order that she might save many souls, exposed her own to death”, meaning, that to save us, she sacrificed the life of her Son. And who but Jesus was the soul of Mary? He was her life and all her love. And therefore the prophet Simeon foretold that a sword of sorrow would one day transpierce her own most blessed soul.

“Our most loving Mother was always, and in all, united to the will of God. “And therefore,” says St. Bonaventure, “when she saw the love of the Eternal Father towards men to be so great that, in order to save them, He willed the death of His Son; and, on the other hand, seeing the love of the Son in wishing to die for us: in order to conform herself to this excessive love of both the Father and the Son towards the human race, she also with her entire will offered, and consented to the death of her Son in order that we might be saved.”

Mary, totally committed to living in the Will of the Father and Son, would give her Fiat to anything which They wanted. What they loved and wanted at any cost was the human race, all of these pitiful souls, so weak and infected with sin. Even as They knew that the death of Christ would not save all, simply because not all cared to be saved, the Eternal Trinity willed the ultimate sacrifice of Jesus and of Mary, his mother.

This last part of the passage pierced me to the heart as I realized in a new way that Mary was torn in two as she realized that the only way her other children could be saved was in the death of the love of her life, Jesus. Imagine a mother being told, “You have to choose between your children: in order to have even a chance of saving your younger children, you have to sacrifice your first-born son. He must die. Furthermore, this is what God and your son most desire—give Him up completely.”

Realize also that the salvation of the younger children was never guaranteed to her; not only must her beloved Son die, but whether the other children would be saved would depend on their choice. And many would refuse to cooperate and would die anyway.

The agony in the garden centered around this conflict: Jesus was prepared to die for many who would laugh in His face and go their own way—totally insensitive to the sacrifice of His Mother and of Himself. Whatever He went through—and He saw it clearly–would fail to save so many. Multitudes couldn’t care less.   What agony to His sensitive heart! No wonder that his sweat became blood.

agonyin garden

His heart was wrung, torn with the realization that regardless of how much He suffered, it wouldn’t be enough for so many who would ask nothing of Him and receive nothing of Him, no matter how much He gave. He would suffer from the moment of His incarnation [according to Venerable Conchita] throughout His life the ultimate mental, spiritual, and physical agony to no avail for those who would dance on his cross and desecrate His body.

Calvary itself was desecration, and His mother was there to see all. Yet when Jesus turned to her and said, regarding John, “Behold your son,” she accepted all of us without reservation. She would embrace as children those who killed her child.

Look at the icon again. Do you see the pieta-luis-de-moralesMother torn, giving up her son?

Do you see the sorrowing Mother embracing us, the members of her Son’s body as she had embraced the Head?

Mary lived in full this reality: she suffered with Him, no longer two but one, in His sacrifice of love.

When the saints tell us, “Go to Mary,” they know of what they speak. Is there anything she would not do for us that the sacrifice of her precious Jesus not be in vain?

PRAYER

Sweet Mother of Christ and our mother, as the Church enters more deeply into her passion, hold us, the body of Christ in your arms and comfort us. Help us to persevere, as you did, in living in His adorable Will.  Help us to abandon ourselves to the power of the Holy Spirit, as you did, and to suffer all with Him, no longer two, but one in His sacrifice of love. 

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“Food is where the heart is…” — Spiritual Communion

Here I am again with re-pentare—this time revisiting Spiritual Communion. My guideline is this one by Anthony Lilles: Conversatio morum –one’s whole manner of life constantly submitted to Christ–This is an ongoing commitment to examine every aspect of one’s life in light of the Gospel and to submit everything to Christ every moment of each day come what may.”

Several years ago I became committed to acts of Spiritual Communion when I read about St. Catherine of Siena: “She had begun to question whether her spiritual Communions had any real value compared to sacramental Communion. Suddenly she saw Christ holding two chalices. ‘In this golden chalice I put your sacramental communions. In this silver chalice I put your spiritual communions. Both chalices are quite pleasing to me.’”

On another website I found these words of Christ to Blessed Consolata Betrone: “Make as many Spiritual Communions as possible, to supply for the many Sacramental Communions which are not made. One every quarter of an hour is not enough. Make them shorter, but more numerous.”

I read also: “Spiritual Communion, as St. Thomas Aquinas and St. Alphonsus Liguori teach, produces effects similar to Sacramental Communion, according to the dispositions with which it is made, the greater or less earnestness with which Jesus is desired, and the greater or less love with which Jesus is welcomed and given due attention,” stated Father Stefano Manelli, O.F.M. Conv., S.T.D., in his book Jesus our Eucharistic Love.

With all of this in mind, for Christmas this past year, I gifted myself with a chiming clock and determined to make an act of Spiritual Communion each time it struck the hour. I even wrote 10 acts of Spiritual Communion and created a prayer card to make my devotion more effective.

I began well, but Christ showed me something last night. I realized I had let too much busyness creep into my quiet time for reading and reflecting at night,(time apart from my Mass and hour of adoration), and I determined once again to set this time apart also, to make it sacred by beginning it with the sign of the cross and cutting away from the computer which I often use for prayer and reading. The internet was corrupting this time for me.

After soul-searching, writing about this in my prayer journal, I made the sign of the cross. Then my clock chimed. I made my act of spiritual communion, but entered into it with my whole spirit, mind and heart.

Christ pierced my heart suddenly, showing me the inadequacies of so many of my spiritual communions since Christmas, those prayed hurriedly, in a distracted state, even with the television playing in the background.

His disappointment was palpable to me. I was shocked. How could I have done this? If I can’t give my whole self for one minute or less, then what is the point at all? I decided that from now on, I will remove myself bodily from whatever I am doing, or as soon as possible, and give my entire attention, heart, mind, and soul to Christ, even if is only for 30 seconds.

This leads me to tonight’s reflection. What I have observed in my spiritual communions is that the essence of the act is not just longing for Christ to feed me, but a mutual communion—we feed each other. This hunger by Christ for me is the same as the thirst which Mother Teresa of Calcutta observed on the Cross, His terrible thirst for souls. I have been meditating on that thirst for a long time now. But it is in the acts of Spiritual communion (as well as sacramental communion), that He longs to feed on us as we need to feed on Him.

I keep returning to one of the Acts which I wrote before Christmas, observing a truth there which my heart recognized then though I did not see its implications: “You come to me, Jesus, hungry and thirsty? So am I, my Lord! Drink from my heart, Eat from my substance, And I will do the same, feasting on Your love.”

Among so many rich realities, that moment of communion is also the moment in the garden. When I made the commitment to spend one hour of adoration a day, I told Him, “Now what?” What exactly did He want me to do for one full hour EVERY DAY?

I opened my bible and read: “My Lover christ_spouse_chiesaSposaMonasterodiSantaMariadiMontelucePerugiahas 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” (Cant. 6,2-3).

This is communion, sacramental and spiritual. That moment in the garden when we are hungry to walk together, to gather the spices and flavors of our love from one another. We don’t even have to speak. To look. To gaze is all. “God is in love with us and we are his love-dream,” as Pope Francis says.

So the revisiting of all the practices of my life continues as the Spirit leads me. I know now what my act of Spiritual Communion must be, and what I must do if I love Him. FOOD IS WHERE THE HEART IS.

* * * * *

AN ACT OF SPIRITUAL COMMUNION

THE KISSES OF HIS MOUTH
My Beloved Christ,
Kiss me with the kisses of Your mouth—
—the kiss of Union
—which is the Holy Spirit.
I long to satisfy Your thirst,
—so feed on me, Jesus,
—and drink deeply.
I, too, feed on Your Sacred Heart,
—my precious cup,
—my wine of infinite Love and Immolation.

Our communion is so precious to me, Lord–
—I will it to continue in the sacrament of the moment
—as I abandon myself without reservation to You,
—with the Father,
—in the power of the Holy Spirit.

 

[See also PRAYERS for the other Acts of Spiritual Communion]

 

“God is in love with us and we are His LOVE-DREAM…” — Pope Francis

From the homily of  Pope Frasorrowswtheotokos (460x600)ncis – Mar. 16, 2015:

“God is in love with us

and we are his love dream,

no theologian  can explain this,

we can only cry out of joy.” 

Note the intimacy of Mary, who in the icon represents the Bride, the Church in Union with her immolated Bridegroom.

In my recent retreat with LOVE CRUCIFIED Community, Father Jordi led us into Brant Pitre’s 2014 book, Jesus the Bridegroom.

Brant Pitre’s teachings tap into the wells of Jewish Scripture and tradition, unlocking the secrets of the cross of Christ.

In this thrilling exploration, Pitre shows how the suffering and death of Jesus was far more than a tragic Roman execution. Instead, the Passion of Christ was the fulfillment of ancient Jewish prophecies of a wedding, when the God of the universe would wed himself to humankind in an everlasting nuptial covenant.

In Ez. 16:4-ff. we see how Yahweh lifts up his people, as He would lift up a castaway girl-child, “weltering in your blood.” He cleanses her, nurtures her to beauty, till she betrays Him with her “whoring with false gods.” Yet God wants to to make of us, His people, a love-dream—a Bride after His own heart.

A New Name for Zion [Isaiah 62:1-5]
1* For Zion’s sake I will not be silent,
for Jerusalem’s sake I will not keep still,
Until her vindication shines forth like the dawn
and her salvation like a burning torch.
2  Nations shall behold your vindication,
and all kings your glory;
You shall be called by a new name
bestowed by the mouth of the LORD.
3  You shall be a glorious crown in the hand of the LORD,
a royal diadem in the hand of your God.
4  No more shall you be called “Forsaken,”
nor your land called “Desolate,”
But you shall be called “My Delight is in her,”
and your land “Espoused.”
For the LORD delights in you,
and your land shall be espoused.
5   For as a young man marries a virgin,
your Builder shall marry you;
And as a bridegroom rejoices in his bride
so shall your God rejoice in you.

To see the full intimacy which God expects of His Bride, we must meditate deeply the Canticle of Canticles of Solomon.

“Let Him kiss me with the kisses of His mouth!  More delightful is Your love than wine!       Your name spoken is a spreading perfume–that is why the maidens love you.     Draw me–!    (Canticle 1, 2-4)                    St. Bernard tells us that the “kisses of His mouth” is the Holy Spirit,  the kiss of Union.

“His mouth is sweetness itself;      He is all delight.       Such is my Lover, and such my friend,      O daughters of Jerusalem” (Cant. 5,16).

Even as the Bride seeks the Bridegroom, He searches for her, to enjoy her beauty and purity:  “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”           (Cant. 6,2-3).

In the New Covenant, Jesus is our Messiah Bridegroom and the marriage is

– everlasting
– tied to repentance
– tied to reception of the Holy Spirit

In Ezechial 36:27 ff. Yahweh describes how He will give Israel a new heart and place His own spirit within her that she may become faithful and loving—no longer with a stony heart, but with a heart of flesh.

St. John the Baptist, the link between the Old and New Covenant, inaugurates the new Exodus, telling those who follow him: “I am not the Bridegroom,” but that “He must increase, while I decrease.”(John 3:30)

In Jewish tradition, a man may not marry till he has built a home for the bride, and Jesus told us, “I go to prepare a place for you—in my Father’s house are many mansions.” (John 14:3).

Lk. 12:40, Jesus tells us, “I came to cast fire upon the earth,” and tells the critical Pharisees that his disciples do not fast because, “One does not fast when the Bridegroom is present.” (Mark 2:19). We fast on Good Friday because the Bridegroom is taken away from us, His sorrowing Bride.

The twelve apostles represent the 12 tribes of Israel—the unfaithful bride, and through His Cross Jesus teaches his Bride that the essence of marriage is immolation, oblation, which leads to union.

Jesus didn’t just pull us out of our misery, our pit, where we sat “weltering in our blood,” but came to MARRY US.  When we gaze on the Cross, the Eucharist, we should see the Bridegroom.

As in Jewish tradition, in Cana, Jesus fulfilled the role of the groom, providing the best wine. On Calvary, on the Cross, like the traditional Jewish groom, He wears the crown—the only crown Jesus ever wore in His life. Like the groom, He is dressed in the seamless tunic for which the soldiers drew lots.

It is the Holy Spirit who transforms us into the willing, perfect on-fire Bride ready for oblation and union with her Bridegroom. Jesus prayed for union: “I in them and You in me, that they may be brought to perfection as one, that the world may know that You sent me and that You loved them even as you loved me” (John 17:23).

At the last supper, Jesus and the apostles left for the Garden of Olives after the third cup, but tradition called for a fourth cup—this would be the cup that he would drink on Golgotha, the last cup of sour wine. In the Garden of Olives, Jesus prayed that the Father would let this cup pass—“yet not My will, but Thine, be done.”

When Jesus said from the Cross, “It is finished,” the correct translation is “IT IS CONSUMMATED,” –the union of the Bridegroom / Messiah and His Bride. (John 19:30).

When His heart is pierced,Blood and Water, the Church, issues from His side, just as Eve issued from Adam’s side. In truth, we have here only one mystery: the Cross / the Eucharist / the Messiah Bridegroom Who immolates Himself for His Bride, the Church. She is born of the wound in his side, His heart.

St. Paul tells us in Eph. 5:25-27: “ Husbands, love your wives, even as Christ loved the church and handed himself over for her  to sanctify her, cleansing her by the bath of water with the word,  that he might present to himself the church in splendor, without spot or wrinkle or any such thing, that she might be holy and without blemish.”

In the last book of the bible, the Book of Revelation, (Rev. 19:7-9) we celebrate the wedding feast of the Lamb: “ Let us rejoice and be glad and give him glory. For the wedding day of the Lamb has come, his bride has made herself ready.  She was allowed to wear a bright, clean linen garment.” (The linen represents the righteous deeds of the holy ones.)  Then the angel said to me, “Write this: Blessed are those who have been called to the wedding feast of the Lamb.”

The Book of Revelation concludes: “The Spirit and the Bride say ‘Come!’” (Rev. 22:17).

Our picture of the wedding is the Crucifix, the Bridegroom in the Nuptial Act.

Our entire salvation history, from the Old Testament through the Book of Revelation, is the” love-dream” of our God who is so in love with us that He dreams of us, longs to marry us for all eternity, drawing us from our filth and infidelity, cleansing us, and making us His delight of purity and holiness in the Heart of the Trinity. 

PERFORMED IN JERUSALEM, ISRAEL

[Other icons of Jesus the Bridegroom/Spouse:  http://www.lovecrucified.com/jesus/spouse_icons/icon_spouse_jesus.html ]

[Pope Francis’  entire homily:  http://www.news.va/en/news/pope-make-space-for-gods-love-so-he-can-change-you ]

“Re-pentare — to rethink or to think in a new way” – Anthony Lilles

Conversatio morumone’s whole manner of life constantly submitted to Christ

Tonight I came upon a reference to Hidden Mountain, Secret Garden, A Theological Contemplation of Prayer, by Anthony Lilles. To my astonishment, I remembered that I had ordered this book some time ago. Another resource for our ongoing adventure in contemplative life and prayer! Earlier this evening, as I washed the dishes, I thought to myself, I have yet to spend my hour of prayer with Christ. “Lord, please do not let me waste it in reading and studying about contemplation, but in real prayer.”

There is that temptation, you know. Earlier in my journey I fell to this on occasion, sometimes too frequently. When dark and dryness move in, the temptation is to DO SOMETHING. Set aside a time to read and study, but do not succumb to the temptation to read rather than pray. You will not grow; you will only disappoint Christ, and yourself.

As I leafed briefly through the book, reading a bit here and there, I came upon this section, the lines of which which struck me–Conversatio morum –one’s whole manner of life constantly submitted to Christ–This is an ongoing commitment to examine every aspect of one’s life in light of the Gospel and to submit everything to Christ every moment of each day come what may.

I wondered to myself, “Am I actually doing this? or do I just THINK I am doing this?” I read on: “Conversatio morum is not a one-time event, but an ongoing re-examination of our lives in light of the Gospel of Christ….Certain things we deem of little importance when we first set out take on a specific gravity the more we think like the Lord.”

The deeper we go, the closer we are to Christ, the more we need to revisit every aspect of our lives in continual conversion. As Anthony Lilles explains it: “The English verb ‘to repent’ come from the Latin re-pentare, to re-think or to think in a new way.” [56]

Then I came upon his chapter on “The Sign of the Cross.” Here is what he said, “The visible gesture signifies an invisible reality, the spiritual relationship between the Christian and the Risen Lord…This sign is meant to solicit faith even in the face of doubts. What is visible and physical is established in relation to what is invisible and spiritual. Tracing one’s fingers from head to gut could be understood to indicate how our salvation extends from the highest to the most humble of human activities, from the most spiritual of powers of the soul to the very core of ur bodily existence. As we touch from one shoulder and cross over to the other, it is as if we are declaring the power of our faith extends out to everything that is within the horizon of humanity to master, command, possess, influence, protect and love. “ [57] SIGN OF THE CROSS

He writes that the Sign is a sacramental, like a “seal of the heart”; that the action “forms a cross over our whole body in the center of which is our heart.” “The Sign of the Cross reminds us that the Living God has chosen to dwell with us in the substance of our soul. …indicates the very threshold to this innermost sanctuary.” [60]

This chapter is rich, indeed, and we have not even gotten to the heart of the book, to the “theological contemplation of prayer.” How humbling. I have not even gotten past the Sign of the Cross. Yes, in high school, the sisters taught me not to make the Sign of the Cross with my LEFT hand.  [Since I am left-handed, I had used my left hand for years, and no one had corrected me.] An elderly priest taught me not to make the Sign of the Cross like I was “swatting flies.” We all know this sacramental to be an important way to begin and to end prayer, even the Mass itself.

But to tell the truth, although I have reminded myself time and again to be mindful of reverence, to think about what I am doing when I make the Sign of the Cross, I have not yet begun to enter deeply into this remarkable sign of faith. And I need to. I need to revisit even this sacramental in light of the years of growth, my love for Christ, my understanding of the Cross. Mea culpa.

How astounding to realize that even the way I make the Sign of the Cross is only one tiny part of the “ongoing commitment to examine every aspect of one’s life in light of the Gospel and to submit everything to Christ every moment of each day come what may.”

I could very well spend my whole hour of prayer tonight on the Sign of the Cross.

An article on the Sign of the Cross from EWTNhttp://www.ewtn.com/library/Liturgy/ZSIGNCRO.HTM Catholic Encyclopedia:  http://www.newadvent.org/cathen/13785a.htm

Jesus, what are You doing in there? [in the tabernacle]

For a year, now, I have been praying for an hour a day before the Blessed Sacrament in the tabernacle. I wooden tabernaclebegan it as a Lenten practice last year, but it has grown to so much more. I look forward to it as to a “date” with Christ, my most intimate time with Him. Periodically throughout the year, I have looked at that wooden box, wondered, then asked, “Jesus, what are you doing in there?”

I have asked this almost as a mother would, should she open a dark closet, see her child sitting on the floor of the closet, and ask him, “What are you doing in there?” I have never gotten an answer, but I guessed, surmised, supposed all the sorts of answers that such a question might bring.

Think of it. Jesus is hiding away in his little closet in so many lonely, isolated places on earth, in the dark of night, left alone in His little box even by day—what in the world is He doing in there? What could lead the Lord of Heaven and earth to hide His Glory in such a confined, lonely place? For what purpose?

So today, as I prayed before the tabernacle, contemplating the Glory of God, I asked my Lord again, “Jesus, what are You doing in there?”

I heard in my soul, in my heart, in my head, as clearly as one hears a loved one speaking,         “I am knitting together the broken universe.”

“I  AM  KNITTING  TOGETHER  THE  BROKEN  UNIVERSE.”

My heart nearly stopped. My eyes welled with tears. So seldom do I hear Him speak so clearly. So simply. So sincerely. From His little box.

Then in my mind, He continued simply: “See, I am making all things new. I am simplifying everything in the unity of my Sacred Heart in order to plunge the whole universe into the bosom of the Trinity that God may be All in all. So give me everything! Whatever you do not give me will be excluded.”

Several months ago, I came across this passage in Ven. Luis Martinez’ book, Under the Gaze of the Father, and was struck by how succinctly he summed up Jesus’ mission: “The love of Jesus is very pure. His Heart contains all of us, yet He loves but his Father. He walked the earth doing good, pouring out graces, giving life with generous abundance, setting the earth on fire with fire from heaven, but in reality, He did not seek anything other than the glory of God, nor did He accomplish other work than of simplifying all things in the unity of His heart in order to plunge the universe into the pure bosom of God.”

The last part of this remarkable illumination pierced my heart, and I immediately turned it into a short prayer, one on which I have been meditating and chewing for several months now [eight months]. How beautiful that Jesus would answer this question of mine in words which have so deeply entered my soul. But the part which startled me with its reality, touched me so deeply, was, “I am knitting together the broken universe.”

And how dire the results if we fail to give Him everything—for whatever is left out will not be knit together and healed, but forever excluded. So much to think about, to pray about.

“Why do those tiny things stop you?” – Jesus to Venerable Conchita

Praying one day last Oct. with Venerable Conchita’s little book, HOLY HOURS, I came upon a short dialog between her and Christ which stopped me in my tracks. It could very well have been a conversation between me and Christ:

Why do those tiny things stop you? And why do you not see these open arms that are waiting for you? …you are stopped by little straws, by silly things…[you] will not walk if I do not drag you, because it is hard for you to sacrifice yourself.”

What a meditation for Lent. We feel sometimes that we could endure martyrdom easier than these tiny things which stop us. At least the martyrdom would be over with more quickly—we hope! But these “little straws…silly things” that hold us back–how humiliating! How weak we must be not to be able to overcome these little things.

Maybe that is the point. How humiliating. We cannot do the least thing right without Him.

But I continued in my meditation: WHAT WILL IT TAKE?

What will it take to overcome even these foolish straws which hinder me daily? In her conversation with Christ, Jesus tells Conchita: “And you still tell Me that you love me? O no! Love is not like that! Here, here in this Heart is where fire burns! How ungrateful you are!”

Now came the pain. For I do think I love Christ—and the last thing I want to be is ungrateful. And even less do I want Him to think me ungrateful. I protested as Conchita did, “No, Christ. Not ungrateful. That’s the last thing I want to be. Please don’t call me that!” Yet He is right in so many ways—WHAT WILL IT TAKE?

I keep going back to this meditation, and I grieve every time I reflect on it because I haven’t moved one step closer to solving my holy dilemma than I was the day I originally read it. I have little success, and all I can feel is real grief that my love is so pitiful. And I must agree with Him again and again “…[you] will not walk if I do not drag you, because it is hard for you to sacrifice yourself.”

What we do behind this gentle correction from Jesus is to fall down in humility and tears before Him, begging for strength, struggling to love a little bit more, with a little more resolve. And we feel to our core our unworthiness, our deep poverty.

Conchita herself responded at one point: “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 roughnescandle burnings, with a constant death to my self-will. Help me, my Life, to destroy within my heart every self-indulgence, consuming myself  silently as the candle before Your altar.”