“I am stripped of my garments.”

My Love Crucified community has been trying to help me understand that we all have wounds, that Satan often infects our wounds with his lies. He is able to do this because we defensively try to mitigate our vulnerability, shutting down parts of ourselves, closing ourselves off emotionally, often becoming numb, altering our true identity.

How can your identity before God be truthful if it is built on lies which you tell yourself? How can you be completely open to God if you have closed off any part of yourself? Full adoration requires complete vulnerability. I thought I was being completely open, but my community was telling me no, that I wasn’t.

One deep wound which I received years ago, in
1973, occurred with a vicious rape. I write about it in my book, WARRIOR FOR JUSTICE: The George Eames Story [which will be released by the publisher in May 2015], so I don’t mind talking about it here. I can’t begin to imagine how many women, like me, have struggled all their lives to figure out how to deal with the same or similar wounds. Many never deal with them. Many never realize that our wounds should be submitted to the light of Christ on our spiritual journey. Consequently, if I can help anyone understand this a little better, I’m determined to do so.

The Simple Path to Union [used by my Love Crucified community] makes this recommendation:  “…begin to journal the wounds you have discovered and the lies from these wounds you have come to believe.  Next to each lie write the truth.  Practice speaking the truth out loud to yourself.  This practice should lead us to praise and thanksgiving to the Lord for the truth.  It is very common that when you begin to say the truth, you believe it with your intellect but not yet with your heart.  The truth feels foreign to us because the lie has been our lifetime identity.”

Though I honestly could not see where this wound occurring from my rape was a problem in my life after all these years, I promised myself recently to do the inner work needed to work through it completely. I journaled several pages, trying to see my way through it. Then during adoration: I AM STRIPPED OF MY GARMENTS. I am given this one sentence.

My deepest wound: I am stripped of my garments. This happened to me during the rape; every covering was taken away from me. I was denuded. For hours. I see immediately Jesus being stripped of his garments.stripped crucifixion

Suddenly I understand. This is the wound which gives me entrance into Jesus’ wound. Stripped of power, stripped of control, exposed, and completely vulnerable. My response for years–I covered myself with the lies: I have to be in control. I can’t be vulnerable. I have to be self-sufficient. I don’t want anyone to see me this way. I can’t bear to be touched in an intimate way.

I covered myself, and now Jesus wants to strip all away in order for me to enter His vulnerability. I cannot be crucified with Jesus till I am stripped of my garments.

I understand His vulnerability for the first time. I literally feel again my pain, and in that pain, I feel His in a remarkable, sharp way. This wound of Christ is hidden from us because it does not appear as an actual wound, but it was a deep wound to his soul, his spirit as a man, to his psyche. As it was to mine.

This is our greatest fear and discomfort –to uncover our inner selves, to expose what is sacred, what is inviolable to all who pass by. To expose ourselves. There is no greater vulnerability. Yet God asks it of us. All women, all men. This is where our crucifixion begins. It is in our vulnerability that we become truly accessible, to God and to one another.

The Epistle today incorporated Isaiah 53:7-8. The Ethiopian eunuch was reading Isaiah and could not understand, so he asked St. Philip to explain to him:
“Like a sheep he was led to the slaughter,
and as a lamb before its shearer,
so he opened not his mouth.
In his humiliation, justice was denied him….”

The lamb—sheared, denuded, stripped, then sacrificed—the Lamb of God. Jesus on the cross is the epitome of vulnerability: stripped, exposed, violated, powerless.

I revisit George, my husband, in his final months, days, the same image of one utterly exposed, vulnerable, powerless. How powerfully I saw in him Jesus Crucified and suffering; and I embraced him, his body, his vulnerability. That kind of intimacy is available only when we allow ourselves to be truly vulnerable to another.

I see now how through all my wounds, I enter the wounds of Jesus, stripped, exposed, rejected, abandoned, alone. Now I am one with Jesus Crucified. The only access to the Resurrection is through the Passion.

PRAYER

O my God, every man and woman undergoes a passion. Help us to go through it, not numbing ourselves, not burying our hurting hearts and spirits, but truly entering into Your own vulnerability through our own vulnerability. Help us to suffer everything with You, no longer two but one in Your sacrifice of love.

[Pre-orders of my autobiography are available at Amazon.com and at many other sources, as well. Just google my name!]

 

Feeling Sullied & Smudged

FEELING SMUDGED AND SULLIED… 4-19- 2015
Tonight, My Lord, I’m feeling overwhelmed by the intense sense of my own impurity—not as though I have committed some sin, but more that I am smudged, sullied through the endless imperfections with which I do everything. I keep going back to St. Catherine of Genoa: “After God has given a soul the light in which she perceives the truth that she cannot even will, much less work, apart from Him, without always soiling and making turbid the clear waters of His grace….”

This is the way I feel, every action is tainted, soiled by me just when I want to be all pure and full of purity of intention. I feel dirty, Lord, and will always feel dirty in Your Presence which is Purity itself.

Then in Monday’s reading for the Liturgy of the Hours, I found: “The Egyptians who oppressed the people of God, and who can also stand for darkness or trials, are an apt symbol of the sins that once oppressed us, but have now been destroyed in baptism.”

I am being oppressed by my own “Egyptians”—darkness, trials, so vague and cloudy that I cannot even name them, though I feel their presence at my back. Another good analogy, the “Parasites” that Archbishop Luis Martinez says infect us, and we cannot even find them.

But if this oppression is lifted or destroyed by baptism, then I should feel redeemed, like one of those who follow the Lamb in white robes—yet I do not.

“Baptism…” reminds me of my latest reflections on the sign of the Cross—a renewal of my baptism. I resolve that when I feel oppressed, disturbed by the turbid waters of my own intentions, I will renew my baptism by making the sign of the cross with humility and faith that Jesus will flood me with the Holy Spirit to make me whole, to purify me, and to fill me with His Light.

On one of her retreats, Venerable Conchita asked Jesus, “Isn’t it true that here You want to rest among the lilies?” and I remember what Jesus told me when I committed to intimate prayer a couple of years ago, that He wanted to come to His garden and browse among the lilies. I understood that I was His garden, and the lilies were virtues, including purity. [Canticle of Canticles 6:2-3]

My Lord, more than anything else, I want to be Your Garden of intimacy, where You can rest and enjoy browsing among the lilies, garden of liliesthe lilies of humility, purity, poverty of spirit, charity.
Conchita also asked Jesus how purity could be in the will, and Jesus told her: “By its likeness with the Divine Will which is always pure, luminous, and holy.” Jesus also said, “The fragrance of this virtue attracts My Father’s gaze and love, and My Mercy…” and he remarked how fond He is of “beloved purity.”

PRAYER:

Above all things, my God, I long to be pure for You in my body, mind, will, and spirit. My humanity is weak, inattentive, and clumsy, and like a little child who falls down, I soil myself constantly. Lift me up, O Holy Spirit and cast Your fire on me to purify me and make me a garden of intimacy for my God, a garden brimming with pure lilies which will delight His Holiness and Purity.

Put to death all sin and imperfection in me as I renew my hatred of sin and Satan in my baptismal vows [with the sign of the Cross]: “ In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.” In this sign I denounce all that is imperfect and impure. I throw myself on Your Mercy, into Your Crucified arms on the Cross, abandoning my weakness to Your power and love, abandoning my imperfect will to my adorable Father, always in the fire of the Holy Spirit.

O Holy Spirit, in utter emptiness of heart I wait for Your Fire, Your Wind, and Your living water to rush upon me that I may live Christ, and Him Crucified.

To Be Jesus Crucified– part 1

I hardly know how to begin. I am rereading a little book which recounts Venerable Conchita’s retreat with Archbishop Luis Martinez in 1928. I thought I understood it the first time I read it, but tonight, I am speechless in response.

So deep, so powerful, so intense, but I want to share at least one part of it. Let me begin where Archbishop Martinez begins: “You must be Jesus for the Heavenly Father. Jesus is the only one in whom the Father is pleased….How? Gazing on the Father through the eyes of Jesus or letting Jesus gaze on Him through your eyes….”

Before we can be Jesus Crucified, we must be Jesus. How—the kiss of the Holy Spirit. Just as the Holy Spirit made Jesus incarnate in the womb of the Virgin Mary, the Holy Spirit transforms those whom He anoints into Christ—we are progressively transformed into Jesus. Regarding the Holy Spirit, “my young dove” as Conchita affectionately called Him, “the heart of Jesus is the real nest of the Holy Spirit.” Wherever “the little dove” nests becomes the Heart of Jesus.

Several months ago I often began praying in this way: “Let me enter into the Love of Jesus for the Father….” or “Let me enter in the Love of the Father for Jesus….” For this is truly God’s intent for us, to enter wholly into Trinitarian love in the fullest way possible through the power of the Holy Spirit.

But to continue with Archbishop Martinez: “The core of Jesus’ intimate life was this ineffable gaze….Jesus put all of His soul into that gaze, because that gaze was contemplation, love, self-giving, abandonment, longing to glorify the Father, an abyss of tenderness and a firm, loving, full commitment to His will.”

He goes on to say: “The gaze of your soul must be the reflection of Jesus’ gaze on the Father. This gaze must be the heart of your interior life.” [p8]

The editor explains: “The perfect interior life…is attained when the soul occupies itself only in glorifying the Father, in consuming all its energies, desires and love in only one will and love, in the Holy Spirit; when it offers itself to the Father in union with the Word as a victim of perennial expiation, only to give Him glory.”

If all the passion of Jesus is for the Father, how can we be transformed into Jesus without the Father’s becoming the very passion of our own interior life, our whole gaze, our whole will poured out in tenderness and abandonment to Him?

Now, let us move on: “Jesus loved His Father for all souls…All our souls were in Jesus because He is the Head of regenerated humanity, the new Adam, in whom we are all spiritually present….Alas! Many souls will not love the Father, but Jesus loves His Father for souls that would never love Him!”

Remember, that we are to be Jesus; and in order to be Jesus we must love the Father in the way that Jesus loved Him, never, of course, with Jesus’ own intensity, but as a faithful reproduction in miniature of Jesus’ love. “Your love for the Father must be unique, total, everlasting, ardent, tender, unselfish, active…the love of self-abasement and adoration, of abandonment and sacrifice.”

MOREOVER, if we are to be Jesus…”You, too, like Jesus, must love the Father on behalf of all your children and for all the souls that God has linked with you through the outstanding grace of spiritual maternity….Some of your children will love the Father with many limitations. You must supply for them. Perhaps some of them—may the Lord not permit it!—will never love. You must love for them. With what desire you must try to love for all in order that the Father may not lack even a spark of love from your spiritual family.”

Like Jesus, standing in the gap for us, we stand in the gap for our whole territory of souls—“ for all the souls that God has linked with you through the outstanding grace of spiritual maternity…your spiritual family.” Then Archbishop Martinez helps us to pray: “Yes, I love You for all souls that will be associated with me until the end of time.”

When Jesus was anointed by Mary Magdalene with the fragrant spikenard before his death, the broken alabaster jar filled the whole house with the fragrance of His anointing.alabaster_box_lg So it is that His fragrance of love goes up to the Father for all of us; and with us, like Jesus, the fragrance of our love spills over all the souls who surround us, rising to the Father.

So awesome is our responsibility that it may frighten us. Archbishop Martinez assures us: “Your duty is immense, but do not be afraid, because in order to fulfill it you received and you will continue to receive in abundance the Gift of God, the Holy Spirit, the love which filled the divine Heart of Jesus. Love with the Holy Spirit and your love will be like Jesus’ love, as high as the sky, as deep as the ocean, pleasing to the Father and very fruitful for souls. So be it.”

This is the hidden life to which we are called. Our hidden martyrdom of heart as we gather to ourselves those broken souls who surround us. We suffer for them and love for them. We tell them often, “Yes, of course I’ll pray for you.” They have no idea what that entails—that for their dear sakes we gaze with the eyes of Jesus on the Beloved Father as we offer all. The fragrance of all that we are and all that we have.

In your hidden prayer closet, never doubt your role in the salvation of souls. United with the Heart of Christ, the fragrance of your love and sacrifice rises always to the Father, pleasing Him greatly.

PRAYER:
Heavenly Father, my beloved Abba,
through the pure heart of my Immaculate Mother,
in union with Jesus, my Love Crucified,
and in the power of the Holy Spirit,
I offer you all that I have and all that I am.
I abandon myself to Your perfect Will,
and I love You for all souls that will be associated with me
until the end of time.

The Sign of the Cross

A couple of weeks ago, I stumbled on an interview with Bert Ghezzi. So impressed was I with what he had to say that I ordered his book, SIGN OF THE CROSS: RECOVERING THE POWER OF THE ANCIENT PRAYER. I had already been in the process of revisiting, re-visioning my life, especially my spiritual practices in light of the Gospel—and I knew immediately that I needed to revisit this sacramental. Most of us understand that the sign of the cross is basic to our faith, having learned it as children; but probably we make it in a routine way, barely conscious of the words.pope benedict sign of the cross We have never learned to appreciate the depth of meaning in this most basic sacramental of Catholic life.

Ghezzi explains that a sacrament is a sign or symbol that causes what it signifies. Thus it is an outward sign of grace. The sacrament actually gives grace. A sacramental, on the other hand, does not confer divine grace; “rather it prepares us to receive God’s blessing and disposes us to receive it.” Its power derives from the praying Church.

To begin with, our modern understanding of “name” does not do justice to the ancients’ understanding of it, especially of the ancient Hebrews. Ghezzi explains: “When you say the words and pray in someone’s name you are declaring their presence and coming into their presence—that’s how a name is used in scripture” [article]. Furthermore, “By praying in God’s name I am aligning my nature and substance with His nature and substance” [p. 38]. “The sign of the cross, then, with its lovely gesture and words, declares our decision to remain one with God and to embrace His will as our own. So praying in the name of the Blessed Trinity ensures that the Lord will answer our prayers because we are learning how to pray for what He holds foremost in His heart” [p. 40].

In his book, Ghezzi describes the origins of the sign of the cross, gives directly the citations from early fathers of the church on this sign, describes what the movements of the hands mean in the signing, and explains the six meanings of this sacramental. The sign began with little crosses marked on the forehead by one or more fingers, evolving to the use of the sign marking the whole body. He distinguishes between the “left” sign of the Roman church and the “right” sign of the Eastern, Orthodox churches.

The sign of the cross is
1. a confession of faith
2. a renewal of baptism
3. a mark of discipleship
4. an acceptance of suffering
5. a defense against the devil
6. a victory over self-indulgence

Obviously we cannot be conscious of all six meanings or meditate significantly on any one of them while we are making the sign. However, we can reflect briefly and focus our attention on one of them, alternating our practice each time we make the sign. The significant emphasis is that our practice should never be inattentive and without focus or attention.

Each meaning is so rich as he explains it. For example, in the ancient world the spragis was the sign of ownership that a person put on his possessions, including his slaves. Thus tbaptized baby crosshe shepherd marked his sheep, the Roman general marked his troops with a tattoo on their forearms. In baptism, the mark of Christ, the cross, is signed on the neophyte several times, marking him or her as a disciple of Christ, as His property: “Hands off, Satan! This one is mine!” How effective the sign of the cross can be in time of temptation—I belong to the Lord—hands off!

Each movement of the hand in the sign of the cross also represents several beautiful meanings. For example, a 15th century document, MIRROR OF OUR LADY, taught the Brigittine Sisters of England “that the movement from forehead to breast meant that Christ came down from [His Father in] heaven to earth in His Incarnation. And the movement from the left to right shoulder indicated that Christ at His death descended into hell and then ascended to heaven to sit at the Father’s right hand” [p. 23].

Another slightly different interpretation: Even if we do not pronounce any words at all, the actions themselves show “that we believe that the Father sent his Son from heaven [forehead] to earth [touch the breast] to assume our human nature; touching the left shoulder confesses that the Son died on the cross to bring us salvation; and moving to the right shoulder professes our faith in his ascension to heaven and his sending of the Holy Spirit to sanctify us” [p. 32].

This is another interpretation of the movements: “ I trace the trunk of the cross from my forehead to my breast to pledge my love for God and the bar across my shoulders to pledge my love for others” [p. 68].

If you recall, one of the six basic meanings is our acceptance of sufferings, to “pick up our cross and follow Him.” Ghezzi explains “When we make the sign of the cross we invite the Lord to join us in our suffering. We touch our forehead and move down to our breast, telling the Lord with this gesture that we want Him to bend down to us. Then we cross our shoulders in a movement that asks Him to support us—to shoulder us—in our suffering. In many psalms, David sings of taking refuge beneath the Lord’s wings, which the Church Fathers understood as a prophecy of our finding safety in the shadow of His crucified arms….The Lord’s outstretched arms pledge that He understands our suffering and shares it with us” [p. 74].

It seems to me here that as I sign my body with the sign of the cross, I deliberately place myself under the outspread arms of the Crucified, my wings of refuge and protection.

Ghezzi offers for our reflection many beautiful sayings of the early Fathers of the Church, for example:

“When you sign yourself, think of all the mysteries contained in the cross. It is not enough to form it with the finger. You must first make it with faith and good will….When you mark your breast, your eyes, and all your members with the sign of the cross, offer yourself as a victim pleasing to God.” St. John Chrysostom

“Let us not be ashamed of the Cross of Christ, but even if someone else conceals it, you must carry its mark publicly on your forehead, so that the demons, seeing the royal sign, trembling, may fly far away. Make this sign…when you eat and when you drink, when you sit down, when you go to bed, when you get up, in short, on all occasions.” St. Cyril of Jerusalem

We must expect the cure of all our wounds from the sign of the cross. If the venom of avarice courses through our veins, let’s make the sign of the cross, and the venom will be expelled…. St. Maximus of Turin (ca. 380-467)

“Infinite Wisdom has chosen the cross because a slight motion of the hand is sufficient to trace upon us the instrument of the divine torture—the bright and powerful sign that teaches us all that we have to know and serves as a shield against our enemies.” Blessed Alcuim (ca. 730-804)

I can no longer make the sign of the cross in a perfunctory way. I make it thoughtfully, lovingly, different thoughts crossing my mind, as it humbles me with its enormity of meaning. This is the sign that announces the Presence of the Holy Trinity,the arms of my Savior spread in awesome love and protection, my constant weapon of defense and offense in the struggle for holiness of life and union with the adorable will of my God.