“REMAIN With Me” — Reflections by Lourdes Pinto

A couple of weeks ago, our spiritual mother, Lourdes, sent a beautiful reflection on the Joyful Mysteries to our community, “Remain with Me.”  I have been praying the rosary, meditating on the main ideas; but what stays with me are the beginning and part of the meditation on the Presentation. This I have entered deeply, or it has penetrated my mind and my heart in a way it never has before:

 “…REMAIN with Me as I continue to shed tears for Jerusalem… remain with Me in My continuous agony for souls, to participate with Me in the salvation of the world, as you choose daily to receive the brokenness of the souls I have placed in your lives and to suffer with Me for them.” [Emphasis mine]

 Also, during this time I have been watching some videos on GMO’s, [genetically modified organisms] which pervade our food, and fluoride, a toxic additive in much of the water in the United States.  [See also The Real Truth about GMO’s and Seeds of Death.] How are these two activities related?  Watching the videos, surveying the health damage to so many lives, the genetic destruction of creation, the animals and plants, my heart was pierced with sorrow, great heaviness hanging over me till I had to cry,  “My Lord, what have they done to You?” In her contemplation of Christ’s Passion, St. Faustina cried out:  “O eternal and infinite God, what has love done to You?….” [Diary of St. Faustina, #267]

Not only all of humanity, but all of creation suffers in agony and anguish from sin, since greed and corruption strike not only the people, all people whom God loves so much, but also His creation.  How can the Lord of all creation not groan when He sees what is happening?  St. Paul tells us:  “For in Him were created all things in heaven and on earth…all things were created through Him and for Him…and in Him all things hold together” (Col. 1: 16-17). And also, St. Paul tells us further in Romans 8: 20-22 that creation is a slave to corruption and “all creation is groaning in labor pains even until now” as we wait for the redemption of our bodies.

I can’t help but realize that Christ is weeping over Jerusalem, over His people, His whole creation now, every day; and that His suffering in us intensifies daily as even creation waits for its liberation and “we wait for the redemption of our bodies.”

The teaching from the reflection on the Presentation is this:       Remain with Jesus as our hearts are pierced. How? By REMAINING IN THE PAIN….enter, through deep contemplation, the sorrows of the brokenness of the souls we live amongst. This deep and hidden pain must consume the heart of a hidden victim soul so that we live more-and-more consumed in the pain and love of the Sacred Heart, until that subtle transformation is accomplished in us – no longer I live, but Christ’s pain and love lives in me.

            Remaining in the sorrows of Christ becomes our means to ‘pray without ceasing’!”

 Our community teaches us that we first have to enter our own wounds, core wounds, mother/father wounds, etc. To peel back the layers with which we have buried them, running away from them, denying them.  To cleanse from the wounds the lies with which Satan has infested them, the lies which led us into disordered reactions, defensive devices, even sinful ones.  First we must cleanse our personal  wounds through pure repentence and abandonment of our wounds to Christ.  Then only can we enter the pain and suffering of Christ. First, we must fully experience our own pain and suffering. We must remain in the pain.  Not block it, dodge it, or deny it. And we must continue to do this daily as we are wounded daily in so many ways.

To touch the wounds of Christ with our wounds is to touch His love. To enter the wounds of Christ through our wounds is to suffer as One with Him,  creating intimacy, Union.  We read in The Path:  “Lived this way, our wounds become a passage into His Sacred Heart.” [Simple Path, 3-A-1, p. 94]

I was amazed to realize that the sorrow and great heaviness that I felt on watching these videos indicated new personal wounds, and like all our personal wounds, I needed to enter through them into the suffering of Christ.

Through the intimacy of suffering with Christ, our personal pain is transformed into the pain of Christ for his beloved souls and for creation.

 It is, as Lourdes explains to us, that we must “enter, through deep contemplation, the sorrows of the brokenness of the souls we live amongst.” Truly, as soon as we become consumed by the pain and agony of the Sacred Heart, we become consumed by the brokenness of the souls who are the focus of His anguish.

 What to do with this pain?  REMAIN in the suffering of Christ.  For “Remaining in the sorrows of Christ becomes our means to ‘pray without ceasing’!”

St. Paul tells us in Rom. 8:17 that if we suffer with Him, then we will be glorified with Him.  The point is that we must suffer with Him first.

Lourdes refers also to St. Paul’s beautiful scripture in Galatians 2:19-20:  “I have been crucified with Christ; yet I live, no longer I, but Christ lives in me.”  What she actually says is this:  …”no longer I live but Christ’s pain and love lives in me.” What has happened in the process of taking my wound to the wounds of Christ is transformation:  “we live more-and-more consumed in the pain and love of the Sacred Heart, until that subtle transformation is accomplished in us: no longer I live but Christ’s pain and love lives in me.”

Through this transformation into the Heart of Christ, we become His living hosts, suffering and praying ceaselessly for His entire creation, assuaging His anguish for the souls He so loves.

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Faith through Persecution – SILENCE, directed by Martin Scorsese

Flowing from the manger in Bethlehem and the radiance of the Christ Child, we have today the feast of the first martyr, St. Stephen—in true counterpoint.  I could not help but think of the film which I watched recently on Amazon prime, director Martin Scorcese’s SILENCE, 28 years in the making, his great passion and dream.

      This heart-piercing, soul-rending film explores in great depth the persecution of the faith, of both Christians and Catholics in Japan in 1633.  Purportedly about the apostate priests of the time, to me it renders better what faith is, the suffering and perseverance of these great martyrs, as well as the cunning cruelty of those who persecuted them, who used every trickery especially to make the priests, themselves, apostasize.  The film will stay with you long after you watch it.  It is most humbling.

 See also Scorsese’s dramatic interview on youtube:  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TbYiGdinejU

CANTICLE of CANTICLES–St. Bernard of Clairvaux’s Sermons

Just a few days ago, I found a treasure online, a profound work by St. Bernard which I had never seen before.  However, the format of the files was so difficult to read that I was moved immediately to edit it myself, making it user friendly and scaled to fit on phone or tablet.  The Table of Contents is on p.. 16.  Pages are designated in blue; find titles in bold red.  Enjoy!

B-_ST_BERNARD_-Canticle_of_Canticles_Sermons

“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.”

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

“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.

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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.

 

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“Consume me incessantly!” St. Theresa of Lisieux

            One of my regular spiritual practices is frequent spiritual communions.  Through the last two years, I have often reflected on the practice, constantly struggling to enter more deeply, to keep my prayer spontaneous and fresh.  Then today, I revisited New & Divine, St. Theresa’s “To live in One Single Act of Perfect Love”—as I pray with each chime of my clock all through the day, it seems that this truly is what I seek.

Hugh Owens explains on p. 83:  “…the love of God is not a series of acts but a single successionless act in which a soul can actually abide through perfect abandonment.

“Thus on the Feast of the Most Holy Trinity, 1895, St. Therese performed the most important act of her life, her ‘great offering.’  She wrote:

‘In order to live in one single act of perfect love, I offer myself as a victim or holocaust to your merciful love, asking You to consume me incessantly, allowing the waves of infinite tenderness shut up within You to overflow into my soul, and that thus I may become a martyr of Your Love, O my God.’”

            What a tender, extraordinary prayer of the heart!  Yet what most struck me is the central short phrase:  Consume me incessantly.”  This should be the constant prayer of our hearts—this act of spiritual communion.

            In Sept. 2015 I read in The Simple Path to Union with God:  “Advice from St. Cajetan:    ‘Do not receive Christ in the Blessed Sacrament to use Him as you judge best, but give yourself to Him and let Him receive you in this Sacrament, so that He Himself, God your Savior, may do to you and through you whatever He wills.’”

            Recognizing something new in this phrase “let Him receive you,”  I realized that Communion works both ways: I consume Jesus and Jesus consumes me. I am communion, bread for Jesus.  Together, we are communion, bread for the Father.

            I was reminded of a letter to the Romans by St. Ignatius of Antioch; so rich is this word of one of the earliest bishops and martyrs of the church that I repeat it in its entirety here:

A letter to the Romans  by St. Ignatius of Antioch (c.35-108 A.D.):

            “I am God’s wheat and shall be ground by the teeth of wild animals. I am writing to all the churches to let it be known that I will gladly die for God if only you do not stand in my way. I plead with you: show me no untimely kindness. Let me be food for the wild beasts, for they are my way to God. I am God’s wheat and shall be ground by their teeth so that I may become Christ’s pure bread. Pray to Christ for me that the animals will be the means of making me a sacrificial victim for God. No earthly pleasures, no kingdoms of this world can benefit me in any way. I prefer death in Christ Jesus to power over the farthest limits of the earth. He who died in place of us is the one object of my quest. He who rose for our sakes is my one desire.

“The time for my birth is close at hand. Forgive me, my brothers. Do not stand in the way of my birth to real life; do not wish me stillborn. My desire is to belong to God. Do not, then, hand me back to the world. Do not try to tempt me with material things. Let me attain pure light. Only on my arrival there can I be fully a human being. Give me the privilege of imitating the passion of my God. If you have him in your heart, you will understand what I wish. You will sympathize with me because you will know what urges me on.

“The prince of this world is determined to lay hold of me and to undermine my will which is intent on God. Let none of you here help him; instead show yourselves on my side, which is also God’s side. Do not talk about Jesus Christ as long as you love this world. Do not harbor envious thoughts. And supposing I should see you, if then I should beg you to intervene on my behalf, do not believe what I say. Believe instead what I am now writing to you. For though I am alive as I write to you – still – my real desire is to die. My love of this life has been crucified, and there is no yearning in me for any earthly thing. Rather within me is the living water which says deep inside me: “Come to the Father.” I no longer take pleasure in perishable food or in the delights of this world. I want only God’s bread, which is the flesh of Jesus Christ, formed of the seed of David, and for drink I crave his blood, which is love that cannot perish.

“I am no longer willing to live a merely human life, and you can bring about my wish if you will. Please, then, do me this favour, so that you in turn may meet with equal kindness. Put briefly, this is my request: believe what I am saying to you. Jesus Christ himself will make it clear to you that I am saying the truth. Only truth can come from that mouth by which the Father has truly spoken. Pray for me that I may obtain my desire. I have not written to you as a mere man would, but as one who knows the mind of God. If I am condemned to suffer, I will take it that you wish me well. If my case is postponed, I can only think that you wish me harm.”

                                    ***

Who or what are the lions in our simple, ordinary lives?  Let us realize that we, too, are ground by the teeth of the beasts in our humble way, to be the bread of God.

How humbled and privileged should we be to long for this communion, to be consumed and to consume. I remember the words of Jesus.  When He said, “Eat my body,” he used the Aramaic word for chew.  We should pray: “As I receive you, my Jesus, receive me into Your Body, Your Sacred Heart.   Chew me up, swallow me entirely, consume me completely, Your little victim of love.  My love has been crucified, and there is no yearning in me for any earthly thing. Rather within me is the living water which says deep inside me: “Come to the Father.”

            Like St. Theresa, may I live as the perfect living holocaust, live in love, not through a series of acts but in a single successionless act, abiding in holy abandonment, crying, “Consume me incessantly!”

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Hardness of Heart, Part 2: Faith & Trust

As I continued to ponder Hardness of Heart,028-abraham-sacrifices-isaac I have had some additional thoughts, some of them related to earlier posts.

One of the consequences of hardness of heart is that it makes us deficient in faith and trust.  The object of faith is God Himself.  Faith, the theological virtue infused through the Holy Spirit at baptism, enables us to submit our intellect and will to God. It is only through faith that we are able to approach God.

Mary’s faith is the perfect example and model of faith.  As all of us do, Mary used her understanding to approach God, but did not rely on it, stand on it alone, for it would have failed her.  Her FIAT, “let it be done to me according to your word,”  was based, instead, on faith.  At some point, human understanding, however well developed it may be,  always fails.   Mary entered her Fiat,  Mary entered the Mystery of God through the darkness of faith.  Understanding will carry us only so far.

No transition exists between understanding and faith:  understanding is a human faculty; faith is a divine virtue.  Understanding requires use of the intellect; faith requires abandonment of the will to God along with intellectual consent. We must leap a gulf from understanding to faith.  One does not flow smoothly into the other.

Here is the irony:  our seeing, our human understanding and expectations blind us to Who God Is. It is only when we abandon understanding for naked faith, cleaving to God in the darkness of faith, that we truly see.

When we conceive a vision or understanding or expectation of God, our hearts are bound to that expectation, which is limited.  We cleave to the expectation, to our own vision of God and not to God Who Is.

Jesus Himself said:  “Blessed are the pure of heart, for they shall see God”  [Mt. 5:8].  To be pure of heart is to be emptied, divested of plans, designs, expectations and visions of our own devising—all of which blind us.

The aspect of the Mystery that we understand and perceive can be expected; but the greatest dimension of the Mystery is not understood by the intellect, is unknown, is unexpected, is apprehended only by faith, approached only by abandonment to it.  St. Albert the Great tells us:  “ He cannot be comprehended, but can be loved in his fullness with a pure heart, for he is above all lovable and desirable, and of infinite goodness and perfection.”   He tells us also:  “… simply cleave to God with faith and good will in naked understanding.”

For these reasons abandonment is superior to understanding.  Abandonment is consonant with faith—it is how faith operates in us.  Faith leaps forward into darkness leaving understanding behind in open-mouthed bewilderment.  Faith steps out unseeing, open arms clutching nothing, cleaving naked to the mystery of God.

All of our lives we have read and heard about the faith of Abraham.  God told him to take his only beloved son, Isaac, and to sacrifice him on the mountain.  This YES to God which he willingly gave was full of darkness, for it completely overwhelmed his understanding. It was not rational for him to kill the child of the promise—how then could he be the father of many?  God’s request made no sense—it contradicted events as Abraham saw them—in the natural order.  Yet he assented. In darkness he assented. His Yes was complete though he understood nothing about it at all except that he had to give his complete Yes.

How wonderfully do St. Albert’s words apply to Abraham as also to Mary:  “the devout man should cleave to God with naked understanding and will …for it is his delight to be with the sons of men, that is those who…seek him with a pure and simple mind, empty themselves for him, and cleave to him.”

As I wrote earlier:   “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….”  Doesn’t this also describe the faith of Abraham?  However powerful in the will and sincere the fiat of the heart, it doesn’t eliminate the sorrow, the pain of those who “empty themselves for Him.”  We can only imagine the struggle of Abraham within himself as he forced himself calmly to lead his only son to immolation—facing the destruction of the promise that God Himself had given him—that he would be the father of many. Yet he emptied himself, divested himself of all hope, all expectation, all desire, all plans, and cleaved naked to His God in the darkness of faith.

Not only does Abraham show faith, but also trust.  When we have divested ourselves of every last crutch, every last hope, nothing remains but for us to trust the God whom we cannot understand, but love. As Job 13:15 says,  “Though He slay me, yet will I trust Him.”

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