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51. The Third Point of Preparation: Representing the Mystery to be Meditated to Your Imagination
(Lord, May I Only Experience According To Your Will)
Following upon these two ordinary points, there is a third, which is not necessary to all meditation, called by some the local representation, and by others the interior picture. It is simply kindling a vivid picture of the mystery to be meditated within your imagination, even as though you were actually beholding it. For instance, if you wish to meditate upon our Lord on His Cross, you will place yourself in imagination on Mt. Calvary, as though you saw and heard all that occurred there during the Passion; or you can imagine to yourself all that the Evangelists describe as taking place where you are.
When it is a question of such mysteries as God’s Greatness, His Attributes, the end of our creation, or other invisible things, you cannot make this use of your imagination. At most you may employ certain comparisons and similitudes, but these are not always opportune, and I would have you follow a very simple method, and not weary your mind with striving after new inventions. Still, often this use of the imagination tends to concentrate the mind on the mystery we wish to meditate, and to prevent our thoughts from wandering hither and thither.....
–St. Francis de Sale (Introduction to the Devout Life) (CCEL)
What would it have been like to be at the Transfiguration? (My God!!) Was it "visionary" or was it "in this world?” (I think in this world since Jesus said one of His most frequently mentioned commands: Do not be afraid.) Would I have been less stunned than Peter, James and John? (I'm sure I'd be more stunned; especially if I had to talk to Moses and Elijah. What would I say? How do you like the weather?) What would I have felt if I were there? (awe, humility, fear for my sanity!)
52. Being Perfected in Martyrdom
(May I Learn To Die To Myself)
Perfection of some kind is to be found in this life, and the martyrs achieved it. That’s why, as the faithful know, Church custom has it that at the place where the names of the martyrs are recited at God’s alter, we don’t pray for them, while we do pray for the other departed brothers and sisters who are remembered there. It is insulting, I mean, to pray for martyrs, to whose prayers we ought rather to commend ourselves. They have tackled sin, after all, to the point of shedding their blood. To people on the other hand, who were still imperfect and yet partly justified, the apostle says in his letter to the Hebrews: “For you have not yet fought to the point of shedding blood, as you struggle against sin.” So if they hadn’t yet shed their blood, there can be no doubt that others had. Who had got to the point of shedding their blood? The holy martyrs, of course.
—St. Augustine, Sermon 159 (JTG)
I hate to say it, but I feel very uncomfortable about the “martyr experience” of the Church. In part, this is due to the way I was brought up in the 1950's believing that suffering was somehow a good thing. To this day, my siblings and I still get angry when we talk at our mother who, in spite of all her wonderful qualities, considered herself martyred. It has taken me many years to get over this thing about the “glory of suffering.” Even when I think about St. Peter, I think about the fact that he seems to have almost insisted on being crucified upside down because he didn’t deserve to die like his Lord. He needed to add to his suffering to amend for his betrayal of Jesus.
Now that I’ve said this, I can also say that I know that Jesus didn’t just suffer for the sake of suffering but to prove the love of God for man. I also had to learn to embrace necessary suffering in order to grow out of various ego traits such as codependency and chemical addiction. It’s not that I love pain. It’s that I evidently needed the “refining fire” of suffering to grow out of deeply entrenched behavior. I am growing healthier as I learn the difference between “martyrdom” and “legitimate suffering.”
In what ways is suffering necessary for my growth as a human being? In what way is suffering in my life a pathological problem?
53. On Conversion
(Lord, May You Search For and Find Me)
Conversion is love in action between God and the soul. The principle obstacle to conversion is sin. That is why the tenderness of God’s love is so great that he gave us Jesus to wash away all of our sins. He does this in confession through the merits of his Precious Blood. For that reason we go to confession and we become sinners without sin. This is true conversion: the love of God in the vivifying action of tender and merciful love. The pure of heart can see God in every person. Then naturally such a person will want to share the joy of love with one’s own family and neighbors, especially those who have done us harm or those whom we have harmed. This is truly the fruit of authentic conversion, because where there is love, there is God.
—Mother Teresa, Letter to the Eucharistic Congress at Seoul, S. Korea, 10/89 (JTG)
These sayings of Jesus have always taken me aback. If I had 100 sheep and lost one or had 100 coins and lost one, I would not think it practical or reasonable to search for the one lost sheep at the expense of the other 99 (not worth the money) or spend a large amount of time searching for one coin (not worth the time). Jesus, however, said these things as if it were completely understood by his audience and very reasonable. Either people have changed radically or Jesus was trying to jolt his listeners out of complacency. Mother Teresa says that the pure of heart can see God in every person and that they naturally want to share the joy of love with those who have done us harm or those whom we have harmed. Mother Teresa's thought is like Jesus'. In no way would I find it comfortable to search out the person who has hurt me or who I have hurt and to reconcile with them. I would much rather hold a grudge or retain my guilt even if I were mostly hurting myself!
Am I grateful that God is willing to search for me even if I believe that I am not worth the effort? Who are the lost sheep in my life that I should pursue?
54. Every Virtuous Life Leads to God
(Lord, I Offer You All That I Am and Do)
When God the Creator made all things, he commanded the plants to bring forth fruit each according to its own kind, he has likewise commanded Christians, who are the living plants of his Church, to bring forth the fruits of devotion, each one in accord with his character, his station, and his calling.
I say that devotion must be practiced in different ways by the nobleman and by the working man, by the servant and by the prince, by the widow, by the unmarried girl, and by the married woman. But even this distinction is not sufficient; for the practice of devotion must be adapted to the strength, to the occupation, and to the duties of each one in particular.
Moreover, just as every sort of gem, cast in honey, becomes brighter and more sparkling, each according to its color, so each person becomes more acceptable and fitting in his own vocation when he sets his vocation in the context of devotion. Through devotion, your family cares become more peaceful, mutual love between husband and wife becomes more sincere, the service we owe to the prince becomes more faithful, and our work, no matter what it is, becomes more pleasant and agreeable.
It is therefore an error and even a heresy to wish to exclude the exercise of devotion from military divisions, from the artisan’s shops, from the courts of princes, from family households. I acknowledge ...that the type of devotion which is purely contemplative, monastic and religion can certainly not be exercised in these sorts of stations and occupations, but besides this threefold type of devotion, there are many others fit for perfecting those who live in a secular state.
Therefore, in whatever situations we happen to be, we can and we must aspire to the life of perfection.
—St. Francis de Sales, The Introduction to the Devout Life (JTG)
The more I read about St. Francis de Salle and his "Introduction to the Devout Life,” the more I am impressed by his relevance and timeliness. He is one of the very few 16th century saints that speak most clearly to me in the early 21st century on how to live a holy life in a secular society. His writing in this selection reminds me of St. John the Baptist and his advice to soldiers, tax collectors and other "nonreligious" types on how to welcome the Kingdom of God.
How can I add devotion and holiness to my life as an engineer, a husband, a grandfather, etc.?
55. Why Do We Fritter Away Our Lives?
(Lord, May I Bare Fruit For Your Kingdom)
Let us attend to ourselves, brothers, let us learn self-control while we have time. Why do we neglect ourselves? Let us be doing something good all the time so that we may find help in the time of trial. Why do we fritter away our lives? We are always hearing a great deal about the spiritual life and we don’t care about it; we even despise it. We see our brothers snatched away from our midst and we don’t abstain (from passion and excess) even when we know that in a little while we too shall be near death. Look!! Since the time we sat down at this conference, we have used up two or three hours of our time and got that much nearer to death. Yet we take care to exclude time from our thoughts and we have no fear. Why do we not remember that saying of the Senior that ,”If a man lose gold and silver, he can always find more to replace it. Time once lost cannot be found again by living in idleness and negligence. No matter how hard we try to regain one hour of this time, we shall never find it.” How many desire to hear the word of God and find no one to expound it, while we hear and despise it and are not stirred up by it. God knows, I am frightened by our imperviousness. We who can be saved, and do not even desire it. For we can cut off our unruly desires when they are newly born and we don’t think about it, we allow them to grow up and harden against us, so that we make the last evil greater than the first. For, as I often tell you, it is one thing to uproot a blade of grass and another to uproot a great tree....If we neglect them as mere trifles they harden, and the more they harden, the more labor is needed to get rid of them. But if they grow to any degree of maturity inside us, we shall no longer be able to remove them from ourselves no matter how we labor unless we have the help of the saints interceding for us with God.
—St. Dorotheos of Gaza (4th cent. desert father, Discourses and Sayings) (JTG)
I can cut off my unruly desires when they are newly born, but if I neglect them, they harden. The more they harden, the more labor will be required to uproot them. If I let them mature, no amount of labor will uproot them. St. Paul says that being busy tending my own garden (working on my own spiritual growth), and not being a busybody, is the best way to avoid disorderly behavior and will insure that my well-disciplined life will be an example to others.
In what ways is my life undisciplined and disorganized? How can I uproot this chaotic behavior?
56. The Bond of Charity
(Lord, May I Love As You Do)
Do not think of the poor as only those with no money. Look at each person’s needs. Perhaps you are well off in something when someone else is in need of just that. Perhaps you give someone a helping hand –and that is far more important than money. You may give advice without toil or loss, but you have given an alms.
Friends, since we are teaching, it is as if you, the congregation, are the poor, because God has given us what we can bestow on you. But we all receive everything from Him who alone is rich. This is how the Church, the Body of Christ, maintains itself. We the members are held together and are made one in charity and in the bond of peace when each one gives what he has to the one who lacks it. It is what you have that makes you rich: it is what you lack that makes you poor. In this way we can all be truly affectionate to one another and to all around us who are in need.
—St. Augustine, Sermon on Psalm 125,(JTG)
St. James said it quite succinctly: Mercy triumphs over judgment. According to St. Augustine, mercifully supplying someone’ needs (it need not be money), is how the Church, the Body of Christ, maintains itself. By meeting the needs of those around me and allowing others to help me meet my own needs, I am reducing my tendencies toward being judgmental. This means that I, myself, will be judged less severely by God.
How am I reducing my tendency toward being judgmental of others by learning to receive graciously the gifts that others have to offer?
57. Prayer of Someone Fallen Into Sin
(Lord, May I Forgive As You Do)
O my Jesus! What a sight it is when You through Your mercy return to offer Your hand and raise up a soul that has fallen in sin after having reached this stage! How such a soul knows the multitude of Your grandeurs and mercies and its own misery! In this state it is in truth consumed and knows Your splendors. Here it doesn’t dare raise its eyes, and here it raises them up so as to know what it owes You. Here it becomes a devotee of the Queen of heaven so that she might appease You; here it invokes the help of the saints that fell after having been called by You. Here it seems that everything You give it is undeserved because it sees that it doesn’t merit the ground on which it treads. Here, in approaching the sacraments, it has the living faith to see the power that God has placed in them/ it praises You because You have let such a medicine and ointment for our wounds and because this medicine not only covers these wounds but also takes them away completely. It is amazed by all of this. And who, Lord of my soul, wouldn’t be amazed by so much mercy and a favor so large for a betrayal so ugly and abominable? I don’t know why my heart doesn’t break as I write this! For I am a wretched person!
—St. Teresa of Avila (Life, Chapter 19) (JTG)
Whenever I feel uncomfortable about a reading from the saints, I better examine myself and understand why I feel this discomfort. Although there is no indication of what the nature of St. Teresa’s sin was, this is one of those readings where it sounds like she is being over scrupulous (like St. Augustine and his stealing of pears). I almost want to turn up my nose and scoff at such self flagellation!
Then I remember what Jesus said: If any man will come after Me, let him deny himself and follow Me. Whoever will save his life will lose it but whoever loses his life for My sake will save it. What gain is there if a man gains the whole world and loses his soul in the process. What can a man give in exchange for his life?
The deeper lesson is that as the grace of Christ encourages changes in my life, if I am to cooperate with that grace, I must examine my behavior. While I may not have stolen the life savings of some poor, elderly person, are my mind set and behavior free from the tendency towards robbery; or am I still stealing pears?
When some saints’ writings seem ludicrous to me, am I sure that my feelings are not self-serving? Am I willing to examine my life to understand these feelings?
58. Spiritual Principle
(Jesus, Teach Me To Give Up What Is Not For My Growth In Your Kingdom)
Man is created to praise, reverence, and serve God our Lord, and by this means to save his soul. And the other things on the face of the earth are created for man and that they may help him in prosecuting the end for which he was created. From this it follows that man is to use them as much as they help him on to his end, and ought to rid himself of them so far as they hinder him as to it.
For this it is necessary to make ourselves indifferent to all created things in all that is allowed to the choice of our free will and is not prohibited to it, so that, on our part, we want not health rather than sickness, riches rather than poverty, honor rather than dishonor, long rather than short life, and so in all the rest; desiring and choosing only what is most conducive for us to the end for which we are created.
—St. Ignatius of Loyola, The Spiritual Exercises (CCEL)
These writings of St. Paul and St. Ignatius of Loyola hit me with the power of a left hook. It appears that everything that I want from a human (bodily) perspective (health, riches, honor, long life) are anathemas to the real reason for which I was created: to praise, reverence and serve God ,and by this means, to save my soul. St. Paul says: If I live according to the flesh, I will die, but if by the spirit I put to death the deeds (desires?) of the body, I will live.
How can I change my thinking about why I am here and learn to live accordingly?
(May We Be One)
Ignatius, who is also called Theophorus, to the Church which is at Ephesus, in Asia, deservedly most happy, being blessed in the greatness and fullness of God the Father, and predestined before the beginning of time, that it should be always for an enduring and unchangeable glory, being united and elected through the true passion by the will of the Father, and Jesus Christ, our Goal; Abundant happiness through Jesus Christ, and his undefiled grace.
I do not issue orders to you , as if I were some great person. For though I am bound for the name (of Christ), I am not yet perfect in Jesus Christ. For now I begin to be a disciple, and I speak to you as fellow-disciples with me. For it was needful of me to have been stirred up by you in faith, exhortation, patience, and long-suffering. But inasmuch as love suffers me not to be silent in regard to you, I have therefore taken upon me first to exhort you that ye would all run together in accordance with the will of God. For even Jesus Christ, our inseparable life, is the (manifest) will of the Father, as also bishops, settled everywhere to the utmost bounds (of the earth), are so by the will of Jesus Christ.
Take heed, then, often to come together to give thanks to God, and show forth His praise. For when ye come frequently together in the same place, the powers of Satan are destroyed, and the destruction at which he aims is prevented by the unity of your faith. Nothing is more precious than peace, by which all war, both in heaven and earth, is brought to an end. My soul be for yours and theirs whom, for the honor of God, ye have sent to Smyrna; whence also I write to you, giving thanks unto the Lord, and loving Polycarp even as I do you. Remember me, as Jesus Christ also remembered you. Pray ye for the Church which is in Syria, whence I am led bound to Rome, being the last of the faithful who are there, even as I have been thought worthy to be chosen to show forth the honor of God. Farewell in God the Father, and in Jesus Christ, our common hope, and in the Holy Ghost. Fare ye well. Amen. Grace (be with you).
–Ignatius of Antioch, (pupil of St. John) Epistle to the Ephesians (CCEL)
Ignatius talks much about unity, unity in the Church hierarchy through its bishops and priests; and unity of the faith through the frequent coming together in the Eucharist. Behind these unities are the unity with Jesus Christ with God which is learned, in addition to the above, through the Scriptures. “All scripture is given by inspiration of God and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction and for instruction in righteousness.”
Do I build my faith on Scripture or do I try to “go beyond” scripture?
60. Lectio Divena
(Lord, Make Me Holy)
Our father, St. Dominic, had yet another manner of praying at once beautiful, devout, and pleasing, which he practiced after the canonical hours and the thanksgiving following meals. He was then zealous and filled with the spirit of devotion which he drew from the divine words which had been sung in the choir or refectory. Our father quickly withdrew to some solitary place, to his cell or elsewhere, and recollected himself in the presence of God. He would sit quietly, and after the sign of the cross, began to read from a book opened before him. His spirit would then be sweetly aroused as if he heard Our Lord speaking.....As if disputing with a companion he would at first appear somewhat impatient in his thought and words. At the next moment he would become a quiet listener, then again seem to discuss and contend. He seemed almost to laugh and weep at the same time, and then, attentively and submissively, would murmur to himself and strike his breast.
Should some curious person have desired to watch our holy father Dominic, he would have appeared to him like Moses....who there beheld the burning bush and heard the Lord speaking to him as he was bowed down in the divine presence. This holy custom of our father seems, as it were, to resemble the prophetic mountain of the Lord inasmuch as he quickly passed upwards from reading to prayer, from prayer to meditation, and from meditation to contemplation.
— St. Dominic (The Nine Ways of Prayer of St. Dominic) (CCEL)
As I picture St. Dominic passing from spiritual reading, to thoughtful reflection on the readings, to prayer to contemplation on the Lord, I think of the words of St. Paul: Be careful for nothing, but by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known unto God. Whatsoever things are true, honest, just, pure, lovely, of good report; think on these things.
Are my times with God joyful and full of growth? What can I do to improve my contacts with God?
61. All for God
(May I Have Ears to Hear, Eyes to See)
Vouchsafe, O gracious and holy Father, to bestow upon me intellect to understand Thee, perception to perceive Thee, reason to discern Thee, diligence to seek Thee, wisdom to find Thee, a spirit to know Thee, a heart to meditate upon Thee, ears to hear Thee, eyes to behold Thee, a tongue to proclaim Thee, a conversation pleasing to Thee, patience to wait for Thee, and perseverance to look for Thee. Grant me a perfect end, Thy holy presence, a blessed resurrection, and Thy recompense, everlasting life.
—St. Benedict (P&M)
As a person who has partial eyesight and hearing, passages like this one can make me feel like I'm behind the "eight ball" when it comes to receiving and passing messages from God. But then I realize that sometimes having eyesight that is too sensitive or hearing that is too acute can make it difficult to sort out important information from background "noise.” In addition, I recognize that many of the qualities described by St. Benedict are interior qualities: understanding, perception, discernment, diligence, wisdom, knowledge, a willing spirit, a gentle heart, an ability to meditate, ears to hear spiritually, eyes to behold spiritually, a tongue to proclaim truth, soothing conversation, patience, and perseverance.
Are any "disabilities" that I have been spiritually incapacitating? Can some of these disabilities have a positive spiritual effect?
62. God's Will and Faith
(Thank you for faith)
O God, if only our wills be right toward Thine, do to us whatever it may please Thee. If it be Thy will that we should be in light, be Thou blessed; if it be Thy will that we should be in darkness, be Thou also blessed; if Thou vouchsafe to comfort us, be Thou blessed; if Thou afflict us, be Thou also blessed. We cheerfully receive whatsoever Thou dost appoint, and for all that befalls us, we give thanks.
—Thomas a Kempis, The Imitation of Christ (P&M)
The readings indicate that while God's will may not seem like light/comfort, they may even seem like darkness/affliction (to the point of being thrown into a fiery furnace!), obeying Him will result in our highest good. The ultimate faith in God's goodness ad love is a great gift to be thankful for.
When and how have I been tested? Can I be thankful, even when God's will is painful?
63. Pleasing God Through Service
(Make Me An Instrument of Your Peace)
Teach us, good Lord, to serve Thee as Thou deserved; to give and not to count the cost; to fight and not to heed the wounds; to toil and not to seek for rest; to labor and not to ask for any reward, save that of knowing that we do Thy will.
—St. Ignatius of Loyola (T&M)
O Lord, Grant me prudently to study, rightly to understand, and perfectly to fulfill that which is pleasing to You, to the praise and glory of Your name. Amen
—St. Thomas Achaeans, God At Every Turn, LF
Serving and pleasing God by serving others with our gifts is at the heart of the Christian message. But what are our gifts? I’m sure that while Paul talked about specific spiritual gifts (tongues, interpretation, discernment, etc.) , this was not all that he was referring to. Paul was a tent maker–not very prestigious or exciting–but it allowed him to pursue his real spiritual mission without burdening others since a laborer is worth his wage. In the last several years, I’ve recognized that God is allowing me to use my technical skills to earn resources to pursue my more relevant spiritual work, whether that is social work, volunteer work, writing or a combination of these.
Is God calling me to use my more technical gifts to pursue a more spiritual course of action?
64. Branches and Vessels
(You Are the Vine, I–the Branch)
Make me, O Lord, an instrument of thy peace. Where there is hatred, let me sow love; where there is injury, pardon; where there is doubt, faith; where there is despair, hope; where there is sadness, joy; where there is darkness, light.
O divine Master, grant that I may not so much seek to be consoled as to console; not so much to be understood as to understand; not so much to be loved as to love. For it is in giving that we receive; it is in pardoning that we are pardoned; it is in dying that we are born again into eternal life.
—St. Francis of Assisi (T&M)
This is my favorite prayer. At this stage in my life, I recognize that being God’s “vessel” or “branch” is the greatest of blessings. To experience God using me to heal others is worth more than money, power, or prestige. Every day I ask God not to let me build my life on false Gods (jobs, relationships, skills/talents, security) because these are all gifts from God to me. I do not want to build my life on my insatiable ego fears or desires either. I ask that I may only build my life on my relationship with God and His will for me.
Do I recognize that being God’s “vessel” or “branch” is among the greatest of blessings?
65. Searching Without End
(Lord, Where Do You Live)
It is a great good to seek God; the soul knows no greater blessing. It is the first gift of the soul as well as the final stage in its progress. This gift is inferior to none, and yields place to none. What could be superior to it, when nothing has a higher place?
What virtue can be attributed to anyone who does not seek God? What boundary can be set for anyone who does seek Him? The psalmist says: "Seek his face always". This seeking is never fulfilled, for even when it has found God, it will not cease to seek.
Not with steps of the feet is God sought but with the desire of the heart. When the soul happily finds Him, its desire is not quenched but kindled...there will be a fullness of joy, but there will be no end to desire, and therefore no end to the search.
Think of this eagerness to see God as not caused by His absence, for God is always present, and think of the desire for God as without fear of failure, for grace is abundantly present.
—St. Barnard of Clairvaux, Love Without Measure, (LF)
My eagerness to seek God is not caused by His absence from my life but by His nearness to and love for my soul. John and Andrew recognized this in Jesus and followed Him, asking where He lived so that they could spend time with Him. The other disciples obviously did the same shortly thereafter. This thirsting for God, this desire of the heart, leads to all good things. I must recognize where this longing comes from and not be distracted by the things of the flesh and the world which will never satisfy this longing.
Do I go to “broken cisterns” to quench my spiritual thirst? Do I recognize where my thirst really comes form?
66. Accepting My Weakness
(Only Say the Word and I Will Be Healed)
If Christ submitted Himself to human misery so that He might not simply know of it, but experience it as well, how much more ought you not (try to deny) your human condition, but pay attention to what you are, because you are truly full of misery. This is the only way to respond, if you are to become merciful. If you have eyes for the shortcomings of your neighbor and not for your own, no feeling of mercy will arise in you but rather indignation.
You will be more ready to judge than to help, to crush in the spirit of anger than to instruct in the spirit of genteelness....You should treat an ailing brother or sister with the same spirit of genteelness with which you would like to be treated yourself in your weakness.
—St. Barnard of Clairvaux, Love Without Measure, (LF)
This remarkable reading of St. Barnard sounds like modern psychology. Unless I deal with my own issues/shortcomings, I will externalize them into others and then act harshly toward these other even when they are mostly mirrors of me. Jesus will then have to respond to me as he responded to the Pharisees when asked why he hung around with “sinners”: I have not come to call the (self) righteous but sinners (those who recognize that they need healing.)
Do I understand that unless I treat others with the same gentleness that I would like to be treated, I am judging myself? Do I recognize my need for healing?
67. Names for God
(Yahweh, I Know You Are Near)
Thee, O brightness of the glory of the Eternal Father, who was revealed in the body of our manhood, and dist. enlighten our darkness by Thy light, we confess and bless and glorify at all times. Glory be to the eternal mercy, which sent Thee unto us O Christ, Light of the world.
O Wisdom that calmest out of the mouth of the Most High reaching from one end to another mightily and sweetly ordering all things, come and teach us the way of understanding. O dayspring, splendor of the Eternal Light and Sun of Righteousness, come and enlighten those who sit in darkness and the shadow of death.
—Liturgy of the Nestorians, Roman Breviary (P&M)
These two writings from ancient liturgies and the verses from St. John give many names for Jesus: Bread of Life, Good Shepherd, Son of God, Lamb of God, Resurrection and Life, Savior of the World, the Way, Truth and Life, Glory of the Eternal Father, Christ, Wisdom, Dayspring, Eternal Light, Son of Righteousness, etc.
In addition, there are many more obscure animal metaphoric names for Jesus. For example a plain chant from medieval Germany indicates the following;
The Unicorn is taken captive and brought to the court of kings in the snare of the hunters A Snake is lifted upon a pole, He who was wounded is healed by the Serpent's presence.
By the Pelican's wounds, life returns to those laid low for their sin in wretched death.
The light of the Phoenix is burnt out and with it, all the wrongs of the whole world.
The water snake enters the Crocodile, tears out his entrails and kills him-He comes back alive.
The Lion slept three days and then the raging serpent restored him.
What metaphoric names do I use for Jesus?
68. Light = Truth
(God Is Light)
Lord Jesus Christ, who for the redemption of the world did ascend the wood of the Cross, that You might enlighten the whole world which lay in darkness; pour that light, we pray You, into our souls and bodies, whereby we may be enabled to attain to the light eternal; who, with the Father and the Holy Ghost, lives and reigns, One God, world without end.
We beseech You, O Lord, let our hearts be graciously enlightened by the holy radiance of Your Son's incarnation, that so we may escape the darkness of this world, and by His guidance, attain to the country of eternal brightness.
—Sarum Missal, Sarum based on Galasian (P&M)
As an engineer, I often need clear equations to understand reality. It helps to give me light!
Light = Truth,
Truth = Separation from God is sin,
Acceptance of Truth = Cleansing from Sin - Attaining eternal brightness,
Darkness = Falsehood,
Falsehood = I have not sinned or separated myself from God,
Acceptance of Falsehood = God's word has no place in my heart.
Do I accept the truth about God's Son? Do I accept the truth about myself?
69. Renewing Our Minds
(Renew Me, O Holy Spirit)
O God, who in Thy eternal wisdom, did make man when as yet he was not, and in Thy mercy did restore him when he was lost; grant we beseech Thee, to those souls of ours, so made and so restored, that, by Thine inspiration, we may love Thee with all of our minds , and turn unto Thee with all of Thy hearts.
Grant to us, O Lord, not to mind earthly things, but rather to love heavenly things; and while all things around us pass away, we may ever fast hold on to those things which abide for evermore.
—Gallican Liturgy of Alcuin, Leonine Liturgy (P&M0
"Do not model your behavior on the contemporary world, but let the renewing of your mind transform you, so that you may discern for yourself what is the will of God..." How? This is done by cooperating with God's inspiration to love heavenly things including God Himself. By modeling my behavior on that of Jesus, I will not be overcome by this world.
What in my life needs transformation? In what ways am I free of the lure of this world?
70. Forgiveness of Sins Brings Love In Action
(Your Sins Are Forgiven)
Those who really love God love all good, seek all good, help forwards all good, praise all good, and invariably join forces with good men and help and defend them. They love only truth and things worthy of love. Do you think it possible that anyone who really and truly loves God, can love vanities, riches, worldly pleasures or honors? Can he engage in strife or feel envy? No: for his only desire is to please the Beloved. Such persons die with longing for Him to love them and so they will give their lives to learn how to love Him better. Will they hide their love? No: if their love for God is genuine they cannot...There are degrees of love for God which shows itself in proportion to its strength. If there is little of it, it shows itself but little; if there is much, it shows itself a great deal. But it always shows itself, whether little or much, provided it is real love for God.
—St. Teresa of Avila, The Way of Perfection
To convert theoretical love for God (love on the "inside")into actual love for God (love on the "outside") requires forgiveness. This forgiveness is the result of my willingness to be forgiven by recognizing my need for forgiveness. Jesus says: "Her many sins have been forgiven hence she has shown great love. But the one to whom little is forgiven, loves little." St. Teresa says: "There are degrees of love for God...If there is little, it shows itself but little, if there is much it shows itself a great deal."
Do my actions suggest that I love God and that my sins have been forgiven? Do I believe God is withholding this forgiveness, therefore, I cannot act with greater love? What do I need to do on the "inside" to act with greater love on the "outside"?
71. The Love of a Father
(Father, Accept Me Home)
It must be realized...that these two things--surrendering our will to God and forgiving others--apply to all. True, some practice them more and some less as has been said: those who are perfect will surrender their wills like the perfect souls they are and will forgive others with the perfection that has been described. For our own part, sisters, we will do what we can, and the Lord will accept it all. It is as if He were to make a kind of agreement on our behalf with His Eternal Father, and to say: Do this, Lord, and my brethren will do that." It is certain that He for His own part will not fail us. Oh, how well He pays us and how limitless are His rewards!
—St. Teresa of Avila, The Way of Perfection
These readings from St. Teresa and the parable of the Prodigal Son bring tears to my eyes this morning. God, my Father, is willing to accept my best even when it is not very good (although He will keep nudging me to the dreaded "P" word: Perfection) and He is always scanning the horizons waiting eagerly for my return home so that He can celebrate His love for me! All I need to do is accept His gift (His will) and act on it through the forgiveness of others. This is so much more beautiful than the fear and isolation I felt in growing up around my alcoholic father. It is also much more lenient than the angry, punishing Father God I was raised to believe in.
How has my image of God changed since my youth? Do I still equate images of God with my earthly father?
72. Advice for Husbands!
(I Value Your Love)
Whenever you give your wife advice, always begin by telling her how much you love her. Nothing will persuade her so well to admit the wisdom of your words as your assurance that you are speaking to her with sincere affection. Say to her: “Our time here is brief and fleeting, but if we are pleasing to God, we can exchange this life for the kingdom to come. Then we will be perfectly one both with Christ and each other, and our pleasure will know no bounds. I value your love above all things, and nothing would be so bitter or painful to me as our being at odds with each other. Even if I lose everything, any affliction is tolerable if you will be true to me.” Show her that you value her company, and prefer being at home to being out. Esteem her in the presence of your friends and children. Praise and show admiration for her good acts; and if she ever does anything foolish, advise her patiently.
Pray together at home and go to Church; when you come back home, let each ask the other the meaning of the readings and the prayers. If you are overtaken by poverty...remind one another that nothing in life is to be feared, except offending God. If your marriage is like this, your perfection will rival the holiest of monks.
—St. John Chrysostom, Sermon on Ephesians (JTG)
These readings raise a tough issue: Which relationship is most important and should take precedence in my life–relationship with myself, my spouse, my children or God? In this self-centered “me” period of history, the answer seems clear, but does it work? The large number of broken homes and marriages indicates that it does not. Should my children rule my life? I wouldn’t want a three-year-old driving my car or making my financial decisions. It appears that if my household serves the Lord, if my relationship with Jesus is primary, every other relationship falls into place in the long run.
Who or what rules my life? Does it work?
73. Practicing The Presence of God
(Lord, Be My Brother and Friend)
Dear Friend: I write because you want to hear from me so badly about how I arrived at the habitual sense of God’s presence. This sense is God’s gift... I sought for no more than how to be God’s and God’s alone. I renounced–because I loved Him so much– everything not of God. Now I began to live as if He and I were the only ones alive in the world....Sometimes I thought of Him as my Father. Always I worshiped Him as often as I could, keeping my mind in His holy presence. When I wandered, I brought Him back to my mind. This was a painful exercise, but I persisted, even through all difficulties. But never did I trouble or disquiet my mind when my thoughts wandered involuntarily. I made practicing His presence my business as much right through the day as at the appointed times of prayer. .... Though I have practiced His presence very imperfectly, I have greatly benefitted from what I have done. The benefits...all come from God-His mercy and goodness-because we can do nothing without Him.... But when we stand firm to keep ourselves in His holy presence and to make Him absolutely central in our lives, this not only hinders us from offending Him...it also gives rise to freedom...and ...a familiarity with God that makes possible asking and receiving the graces we need..
To summarize: Repeating these acts often translates them into habit, then the presence of God becomes...natural to us. Please join me in giving Him thanks for His great goodness to me; I can never wonder enough at the many favors He has done for so miserable a sinner as I! I want the whole world , material things included, to praise Him. Amen
–Brother Lawrence of the Resurrection, Practice of the Presence of God (JTG)
Both St. Paul and Brother Lawrence talk of a personal relationship with God. Brother Lawrence indicates that this relationship gives him freedom and familiarity with God (remember Jeremiah?) that makes it possible to ask for and receive the grace he needs. But, as Paul indicates, God can and will say ”˜no’ to specific requests that are not for our highest spiritual good.
Am I willing to accept my “thorns of the flesh” that teach me humility and dependence on God? How would I describe my relationship with God?
74. Testing the Spirits
(He Who Is In Me Is Greater Than He Who Is In The World)
The most important work in spiritual struggle is to enter the heart and there to wage war with Satan; to hate Satan and to fight him by opposing his thoughts. If a man outwardly keeps his body free from lusts and corruption, and yet inwardly commits adultery before God by fornication in his thoughts, then is there no profit whatever in keeping the body pure. There is adultery committed by the body and there is adultery of the soul, communing with Satan.
—St. Macarius the Great, Philokalia: On the Prayer of the Heart
I rarely think of my spiritual battle as one against Satan. I see it mostly as a battle against my own lusts (the flesh) and the attitudes of society (the world). I suspect that since Satan is a defeated enemy (he has lost the war but still tries to do some skirmishing), he relies more on the flesh and the world to do his work than his own presence. His presence may only be felt when his other two allies fail. Perhaps this is why the desert fathers of the early Church mention him so much: they had given up the world, they were constantly working on their fleshly issues. The “general of darkness” had to become involved.
Do the “spirits” of society and the flesh that I listen to acknowledge Jesus? How comfortable am I when my “guiding principles” do not acknowledge God?
75. The Stairway To Heaven Is Also the Door to My Soul (Knock And the Door Will Open)
Try to enter your inner treasure-house and you will see the treasure-house of heaven. For both the one and the other are the same, and one and the same entrance reveals them both. The ladder leading to the Kingdom is concealed within you, that is, in your soul. Wash yourself from sin and you will see the rungs of the ladder by which you can ascend thither.
—St. Isaac of Syria, Philokalia: On the Prayer of the Heart
Much labor and effort are needed in prayer to attain to an untroubled state of thought; that other heaven of the heart where, according to the Apostle, Christ dwells: Know ye not your own selves; how that Jesus Christ is in you, except ye fail the test? (2 Cor. 13:5)
--St. John of Karpothos, Philokalia: On the Prayer of the Heart
Jesus said (in one translation): The Kingdom of God is within you. The door or ladder to the Kingdom of Heaven is planted in my own soul! Jacob saw it in a dream and thought it was a characteristic of the “place” where he slept, not realizing he was looking through a window into his own soul. How do I learn to recognize this ladder or door? I must purify myself from sin and attain a calm mind through prayer and meditation.
Am I willing to continue the process of purification and prayer so as to cooperate fully with God’s grace to enter His Kingdom?
76. The Cleansing of Mental Clutter
If...you do not succeed in entering into the realm of the heart...do what I shall now tell you and, with God's help, you will find what you seek. You know that in every man inner talking is in the breast. For, when our lips are silent, it is in the breast that we talk and discourse with ourselves, pray and sing psalms, and do other things. Thus, having banished every thought from this inner talking..., give it the following short prayer: "Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy upon me!"--and force it, instead of all other thought, to have only this one constant cry within. If you continue to do this constantly, with your whole attention, then in time this will open for you the way to the heart which I have described. There can be no doubt about this, for we have proved it ourselves by experience. If you do this with strong desire and attention, ...a whole host of virtues will come to you...
—Nicephorus the Solitary, Philokalia; On Prayer of the Heart
"Lord Jesus, have mercy on me....for Your love endures forever.” What the mind dwells on it becomes. If it dwells on undisciplined and random thoughts, it will become chaotic. If it concentrates on beauty and simplicity, it becomes calm and clear. The Jesus Prayer and responsorial psalms can both be used to calm the mind and open it to devotion.
Am I committed to practicing centering prayer that will lead to the prayer of silence? What are my favorite centering prayers?
77. Purity and Passionlessness
True reason, such as man had in the beginning, cannot be had or acquired by any man, who has not first been purified and become passionless. Of purity we are deprived by unreasoning tendencies of the senses, and of passionlessness--by the corrupted state of the flesh.
True reason belongs only to those who have become saints through acquiring purity. None who are wise in words have ever had pure reason, because, from birth, they let their reasoning powers be corrupted by unseemly thoughts. The sensory and prolix spirit of the wisdom of this age, so rich in words, which create the illusion of great knowledge but actually fills one with the wildest thoughts, has its stronghold in this prolixity, which deprives man of essential wisdom, true contemplation, and the knowledge of the one and indivisible.
—St. Gregory of Sinai, Philokalia; On Prayer of the Heart
The readings indicate the importance of the prayer of silence. "The spirit of this age, rich in words, deprives me of true contemplation and knowledge which goes forth throughout the world with no word or sound...." This "silence" is the hardest thing for me to achieve. I must continue to make the time to practice silence.
How do I avoid discouragement with my imperfect attempts at silent prayer and meditation?
78. Awakening to True Life
give life to all life,
moving all creatures,
root of all things,
washing them clean,
wiping out their mistakes,
healing their wounds,
you are our true life,
awakening the heart
from its ancient sleep.
—St. Hildegarde of Bingen (EH)
May the Holy Spirit awaken me from my slumber to be what I was created to be: a Son of God. Teach me, Holy Spirit, to both live in You and follow You by cultivating Your fruits of love, joy and peace. Amen.
How will I know if I am "awake"? How can I cooperate with the Holy Spirit to awaken?
79. Canticle of the Sun
(Lord, How Majestic Your Name)
Most high, all powerful, sweet Lord,
yours is the praise, the glory, and the honor
and every blessing.
Be praised, my Lord,
for all your creatures,
and first for brother sun,
who makes the day bright and luminous.
And he is beautiful and radiant with great splendor,
he is the image of you, Most High.
Be praised, my Lord,
for sister moon and the stars,
in the sky you have made them brilliant and precious and beautiful.
Be praised, my Lord, for brother wind,
and for the air both cloudy and serene and every kind of weather,
through which you give nourishment to your creatures.
Be praised, my Lord, for sister water,
who is very useful and humble and precious and chaste.
Be praised, my Lord, for brother fire,
through whom you illuminate the night.
And he is beautiful, and joyous, and robust, and strong.
Be praised, my Lord, for our sister, mother earth,
who nourishes us and watches over us,
and brings forth various fruits with colored flowers and herbs.
Be praised, my Lord, for those who forgive through Your love,
and bare sickness and tribulation;
blessed are those who endure in peace,
for they will be crowned by you, Most High.
Be praised, my Lord, for our sister, bodily death,
from whom no living thing can escape.
Blessed are those whom she finds doing your holy will,
for the second death cannot harm them.
Praise and bless my Lord,
and give thanks to Him and serve Him with great humility.
—St. Francis of Assisi (EH)
The beauty and diversity of the natural world always fill me with joy and awe, especially when I'm in the back country of our national parks. God has made us the conscious witnesses to His artistry. He has created us as little less than "gods”, angels in training, perhaps. What a shame and loss if I do not take the time to be conscious of this beauty. By not doing so I may trivialize creation and myself. This can lead to destruction of the natural world, including ourselves, and reduce our respect for the importance of humankind's place in creation.
Do I make enough time to leave man's creation and return to God's creation?
80. Awakening In Christ
(The Body of Christ, Amen)
We awaken in Christ's body as Christ awakens our bodies,
and my poor hand is Christ, He enters my foot and is infinitely me.
I move my hand, and wonderfully my hand becomes Christ
becomes all of Him (for God is indivisibly whole, seamless in His Godhood).
I move my foot, and at once He appears like a flash of lightening.
Do my words seem blasphemous?-- Then open your heart to Him and let yourself receive the one who is opening to you so deeply.
For if we genuinely love Him, we wake up inside Christ's body, where all our body, all over, every most hidden part of it, is realized as joy in Him, and He makes us, utterly, real and everything that is hurt, everything that seemed to us dark, harsh, shameful, maimed, ugly, irreparably damaged, is in Him transformed and recognized as whole, as lovely, and radiant in His light we awaken as the Beloved in every last part of our body.
—St. Symeon the New Theologian (EH)
What part of Christ's Body am I? As I ponder this, no specific part comes to mind. While I cannot imagine myself as an "eye" given my poor eyesight, I can imagine being a part of Christ's spiritual eye--consciously watching the world. The same can be said for the other body parts. I suspect that ultimately I am meant to be a mirror image of Christ in all aspects.
How am I becoming a mirror image of Jesus?
81. The Saints Are United With Us
(Hail Mary....The Lord Is With You)
Inasmuch as God continually sends us inspirations by means of His Angels, we may fitly send back our aspirations through the same channel. The souls of the holy dead, resting in Paradise, who are, as our Lord Himself has told us, "as the Angels in Heaven,” are also united to us in their prayers. My child, let us gladly join our hearts with these heavenly blessed ones; for even as the newly-fledged nightingale learns to sing from the elder birds, so by our sacred communing with the Saints we shall learn better to pray and sing the praises of the Lord.
Honor, revere and respect the Blessed Virgin Mary with a very special love, she is the Mother of our Sovereign Lord, and so we are her children. Let us think of her with all the love and confidence of affectionate children, let us desire her love and strive with true filial hearts to imitate her graces.
Seek to be familiar with the Angels; learn to realize that they are continually present, although invisible. Specially love and revere the Guardian Angel of the Diocese in which you live, those of the friends who surround you, and your own. Commune with them frequently, join in their songs of praise, and seek their protection and help in all you do, spiritual or temporal.
—St. Francis de Sales, An Introduction to the Devout Life (CCEL)
We are fellow citizens with the saints and members of God's household. Before my mother died, she said that she would pray for us if she could when she entered Heaven and that we should all place rosaries in her casket. To this day, seventeen years after her death, I can still feel her presence at times, knowing that she is praying for me as much as she did when she was in the world. While I do not know if the angels and saints need our prayers, I do know that as members of a loving and extended family, they love us and long for our good.
What does the "communion of saints" mean to me?
82. How to Hear and Read God's Word
(The Law of the Lord Is Perfect)
Cultivate a special devotion to God's Word, whether studied privately or in public; always listen to it with attention and reverence , strive to profit by it, and do not let it fall to the ground, but receive it within your heart as a precious balm, thereby imitating the Blessed Virgin, who "kept all these sayings in her heart." Remember that our Lord receives our words of prayer according to the way in which we receive His word s in teaching.
You should always have some good, devout book at hand, such as the writings of Saints Bonaventura, Gerson, Denis the Carthusian, Blosius, Grenada, Stella, Arias, Pinella, Da Ponte, Avilla, the Spiritual Bombat, the Confessions of St. Augustine, St. Jerome's Epistles, or the like, and daily read some small portion attentively, as though you were reading letters sent by the Saints from Paradise to teach you the way thither, and encourage you to follow them. Read the Lives of the Saints too, which are as a mirror to you of Christian life, and try to imitate their actions according to your circumstances; for although many things which the Saints did may not be practicable for those who live in the world, they may be followed, more or less. Thus, in our spiritual retreats we imitate the solitude of the first hermit Saint Paul, in the practice of poverty of St. Francis, and so on. Of course some Lives throw much more light upon our daily course than others, such as the Life of St. Theresa, the first Jesuits, St. Charles Borronomeo, St. Louis, St. Bernard, St. Francis, and such like. Others are more the subjects of our admiring wonder than of imitation such as St. Mary of Egypt, St. Simeon Stylites, St. Catherine of Genoa, and St. Catherine of Sienna, St. Angela, etc., although these should tend to kindle a great love of God in our hearts.
—St. Francis de Sales, An introduction to the Devout Life, (CCEL)
“The precepts of the Lord are right. By them your servant is formed.” While I've read scripture for the last thirty years, I have only recently begun to read the writings of the Saints and the early Church fathers. (A wonderful source of such writings can be found at www.ccel.org) Along with Scripture, other meditative sources and more recent writings, I am encouraged to live a holy life. Overall, I spend at least one hour each day in spiritual reading.
Do I spend enough time with spiritual reading? How can I create more time for this?
83. Converting Evil Into Good
(Jesus, Be My Light)
Jesus said, "If you bring forth what is inside you, what you bring forth will save you. If you don't bring forth what is inside you, what you don't bring forth will destroy you.
Jesus said: "Blessed are those who have chosen their solitude, for they will find the Kingdom of Heaven."
—The Gospel of Thomas (EM)
These short readings are from one of the uncanonical Gnostic gospels from the first century. They warn me to take the time for silent self-examination to ensure that the light in me (my reason, my spirit), is not actually in darkness (fear based). Until the last twelve years, I was often afraid to examine myself. I thought I would find the devil. Instead, I found a wounded and lonely child that would act out to get love and attention. I needed to help this part of me "grow up" or it would ultimately destroy me.
How do I take ownership of the darkness within me?
84. Speaking By Example
(I Am To Be A Light of the World)
While he was staying in Siena, he was visited by a Doctor of Theology from the Order of Preachers, a man who was both humble and sincerely spiritual. When he had discussed the words of our Lord with blessed Francis for some while, this Doctor asked him about the passage in Ezekiel: “When I threaten the sinner with doom of death, it is for thee to give him word and warn him.”
And he said, “Good Father, I know many people who are in mortal sin, and do not warn them of their wickedness. Will their souls be required at my hand?” Blessed Francis humbly answered that he was no scholar , so that it would be more profitable for him to receive instruction from his questioner than to offer his own opinion on Scripture. The humble Doctor then added, “ Brother, although I have heard this passage expounded by various learned men, I would be glad to know how you interpret it.” So blessed Francis said, “If the passage is to be understood in general terms, I take it to mean that a servant of God should burn and shine in such a way by his own life and holiness that he rebukes all wicked people by the light of his example and the devoutness of his conversation; in this way the brightness of his life and the fragrance of his reputation will make all men aware of their own wickedness.”
Greatly edified, the Doctor went away, and said to the companions of blessed Francis, “My brothers, this man’s theology is grounded on purity and contemplation, and resembles a flying eagle, but our knowledge crawls about the ground on its belly.”
—St. Francis, Mirror of Perfection (JTG)
“(I) am the light of the world and my light must shine before others so that they may see my good deeds and give glory to God.” This reading teaches me that while I grow in holiness for my own joy and salvation, the living of the holy life is also the greatest of teachers to others and silently shouts volumes to others, much more than an ability to quote Scripture, chapter and verse.
How does my life proclaim the Gospel?
85. The Holy Discipleship of Marriage
(I Am Part of Christ's Bride)
Both celibacy and marriage have their own different forms of service and ministry to the Lord; I have in mind the caring for one’s wife and children. For it seems that the particular characteristic of the married state is that it gives the man who desires a perfect marriage an opportunity to take responsibility for everything in the home which he shares with his wife. The apostle says that one should appoint bishops who by their oversight over their own house have learned to be in charge of the whole church. Let each man therefore fulfill his ministry by the work in which he was called, that he may be free in Christ and receive the proper reward of his ministry.
In general all the epistles of the apostle Paul teach self-control and continence and contain numerous instructions about marriage, begetting children, and domestic life. But they nowhere rule out self-controlled marriage. Rather they preserve the harmony of the law and the gospel and approve both the man who with thanks to God enters upon marriage with sobriety and the man who in accordance with the Lord’s will lives as a celibate, even as each individual is called, making his choice without blemish and in perfection...
Paul says that the unmarried cares for the things of the Lord, but he who is married how he can please his wife. What then? Is it not lawful also for those who wish to please their wives according to the will of God to give thanks to God? Is it not allowable for both the married man and his wife to care for things of the Lord together? But just as the unmarried woman cares for the things of the Lord, that she may be holy both in body and spirit, so also the married woman cares in the Lord for the things of her husband and the things of the Lord, the one as a wife, the other as a virgin.
—St. Clement of Alexandria, Miscellanies (JTG)
As a married man with no children, I pray daily that the Lord will heal my wife and me of all our weakness and problems so that we may more fully use the gifts we have been given for God’s glory and our joy. I pray that we may be used as healing vessels to a greater extent as a couple than we could if we were single. In a way, Christ is meant to be the third partner in our marriage, which makes us a little church.
In what ways can I make the Lord an increasingly important part of my marriage?
86. Ready To Leave
(Love Never Dies)
I am now ready to leave. I have my passport for Heaven, and it is my dear father who has obtained this grace for me. On the 29th he gave me the assurance that I would soon go to join him.......
I have to tell you, little brother, that we don’t understand Heaven in the same way. You think that, once I share in the justice and holiness of God, I won’t be able to excuse your faults as I did when I was on earth. Are you forgetting that I shall also share in the infinite mercy of the Lord? I believe that the Blessed in Heaven have great compassion for our miseries. They remember that when they were weak and mortal like us, they committed the same faults themselves and went through the same struggles, and their fraternal tenderness becomes still greater then it ever was on earth. It’s on account of this that they never stop watching over us and praying for us....
A Dieu, dear little brother, may God give us the grace to love Him and to save our souls for Him. This is the wish of your unworthy little Sister Therese of the Child Jesus and of the Holy Face.
—St. Therese of Lisieux, Letter to Maurice Belliere, seminarian for the diocese of Baeux (JTG)
The earliest written example of the intercession of the saints in Judaism occurs in the Book of Maccabees from the second century before Christ. It relates a dream in which Jeremiah, the beloved prophet of Israel, is still praying and interceding for Israel out of love several hundred years after his death. St. Theresa, 2,000 years later, also indicates how much the saints love us and share in the infinite mercy of God (not just His holiness and justice). I take comfort in this belief that love never dies, and neither does the power of prayer!
Do I pray for others every day, even when I don’t feel moved to do so?
87. The Manifestation of Christ
(Lord, Bid Me Come)
God Himself, who is almighty, the Creator of all things, and invisible has sent from heaven, and placed among men, Him who is the truth, and the holy and incomprehensible Word, and has firmly established Him in their hearts. This messenger He sent to them. Was it then, as one might conceive, for the purpose of exercising tyranny, or of inspiring fear and terror? By no means, but under the influence of clemency and meekness. As a king sends his son, who is also a king, so sent He Him, as God He sent Him, as to men He sent Him, as a Savior He sent Him, and as seeking to persuade, not to compel us, for violence has no place in the character of God. As calling us He sent Him, not as vengefully pursuing us, as loving us He sent Him, not as judging us. For He will yet send Him to judge us , and who shall endure His appearing?
–Epistle of Mathetes to Diognetus, (early 2nd century) (CCEL)
“Take my yoke and learn of me and you will find rest for your souls for I am meek and humble of heart.” Jesus never inspired terror or fear, was never violent or vengeful, and always acted with love and clemency. Even the cleansing fire of His judgment doesn’t inspire fear in me anymore. Although it is painful at times to experience His judgment, it is the pain of healing at the hands of One who loves me and wants my highest good.
Do I fear the judgment of Christ or do I try to cooperate with His judgment as a part of my healing and growth? Do I believe that God would ever do anything to “hurt” me? How and why?
88. The Relations of Christians to the World
(My Weakness Invites God’s Strength)
To sum up all in one word- what the soul is in the body, that are Christians in the world. The soul is dispersed through all the members of the body, and Christians are scattered through all the cities of the world. The soul dwells in the body, yet is not of the body, and Christians dwell in the world but are not of the world. The invisible soul is guarded by the visible body, and Christians are known indeed to be in the world, but their godliness remains invisible. The flesh hates the soul, and wars against it though itself suffering no injury, because it is prevented from enjoying pleasures, the world also hates Christians, though in nowise injured, because they abjure pleasures. The soul loves the flesh that hates it..., Christians likewise love those that hate them. The soul is imprisoned in the body, yet preserves that very body, and Christians are confined in the world as in a prison, and yet they are the preservers of the world. The immortal soul dwells in a mortal tabernacle, and Christians dwell as sojourners in corruptible bodies, looking for an incorruptible dwelling in the heavens. The soul, when but ill provided with food and drink, becomes better, in like manner, the Christians, though subjected day by day to punishment, increase the more in number. God has assigned them this illustrious position, which it were unlawful for them to forsake.
—Epistle of Mathetes to Diognetus, (early 2ond century) (CCEL)
God has chosen those who feel a need for Him to carry His message. This feeling of need requires humility borne of weakness, poverty, and other qualities that the world shuns as meaningless, foolish, and contemptible. Our own flesh may agree with this opinion of the world at the same time we are being transformed into the Body of Christ! Yet we, and our growth experience, are vitally important. The soul is imprisoned in the body, yet preserves that very body, and Christians are confined in the world, as in a prison, and yet they are the preservers of the world.
In what ways does my life help to preserve the world? Do I feel like a prisoner in this world? Do I feel like a prisoner in this body?
89. Plunging Into the Vision of God
(Jesus, May I Feel Your Presence)
When a man walks into the sea up to his knees or waist, he can see the water all around him. But when he dives into the water, he can no longer see anything outside, and he knows only that his whole body is in the water. This is what happens to those who plunge into the vision of God.
The more a man enters the light of understanding, the more aware he is of his own ignorance. And when the light reveals itself fully and unites with him and draws him into itself, so that he finds himself alone in a sea of light, then he is emptied of all knowledge and immersed in absolute unknowing.
Our mind is pure and simple. When it is emptied of thought, it enters the pure and simple light of God, and finds nothing but the light.
—St. Symeon the New Theologian (EM)
This reading says something very important. At some point, head knowledge becomes a hindrance to spiritual experience. While I may not have experiences like those of St. Paul or St. Symeon, I am meant to know God, not just know about God. I am meant to be in a relationship with God, not just acquiring facts about God. Relationships of all types, including with God, require time or there is no relationship.
Do I intellectualize my relationship with God too much? How can I avoid this?
90. Answering the Call
(May Your Thoughts Become My Thoughts)
O most merciful God, we pray that You would enter into our souls which You prepared for Your reception by the desire which You Yourself inspired. For before we called upon You, You had called us, and had sought us, that we might seek You. Give us then thyself, O our God.
—St. Augustine (P&M0
“Seek out the Lord while He is still to be found, call to Him while He is still near.” The Lord is always available to be found, He is nearer than my skin or my breath. I move away from Him, not He from me. The Lord is always calling me, knocking on the door of my soul and wanting to stay with me. Will I let Him in?
How do I shut out the Lord? How do I break down the barriers?
91. God Cannot Resist His Own Nature
(Faith Equals Healing)
God must act and pour Himself into you the moment he finds you ready. Don't imagine that God can be compared to an earthly carpenter, who acts or doesn’t act, as he wishes: who can will to do something or leave it undone, according to His pleasure. It is not that way with God: where and when God finds you ready, He must act and overflow into you, just as when the air is clear and pure, the sun must overflow into it and cannot refrain from doing that.
—Meister Johannes Eckhart (1260-1327), (EM)
"Your faith has saved you." This is what Jesus told the woman with the hemorrhage after she was healed without His conscious knowledge. Her faith removed a blockage that allowed the power of God to fill her with healing. He faith, a gift from God as well as something in her own control, made the difference.
What are the blocks to my faith? How can they be removed?
92. Nothing Defeats the Will of God
(I Was Created Good)
You might ask, "How can I know if something is God's will?" My answer is, "If it were not God's will, it wouldn't exist even for an instant; so if something happens, it must be His will." If you truly enjoyed God's will, you would feel exactly as though you were in the kingdom of heaven, whatever happened to you or didn't happen to you.
—Meister Johannes Eckhart, (12-60-1327), (EM)
Everything God created is good and everything that happens, God allows. This implies one of two things: (1) The things that I may consider evil that happen to me are in fact a good for me if I have the right attitude toward them; and (2) At the deepest level of reality (eternity), things that seem to be happening are not happening at all--almost like dreaming. The truth may be a mixture of the two.
How can I change my attitude about the "evil" that happens to me or in the world? What if the life I experience is a kind of "dream" from which I must awaken?
93. The Second Appearance of the Sacred Heart
(I Am Saved By the Blood of Christ)
I saw this divine Heart as on a throne of flames, more brilliant than the sun and transparent as crystal. It had it's adorable wound and was encircled with a crown of thorns, which signified the pricks our sins caused Him. It was surmounted by a cross which signified that, from the first moment of His Incarnation, ...the cross was planted in It; that it was filled....with all the bitterness, humiliation, poverty, sorrow and contempt His sacred humanity would have to suffer during the whole course of His life and during His holy Passion.
He made me understand that the ardent desire He had of being loved by men and drawing them from the path of perdition into which Satan was hurrying them in great numbers had caused Him to fix upon this plan of manifesting His Heart to men, together with all it's treasures of love, mercy, grace, sanctification, and salvation. This He did in order that those who were willing to do all in their power to render and to procure for Him honor, love and glory might be enriched abundantly... with these divine treasures of the Heart of God...It must be honored under the symbol of the Heart of flesh, Whose image He wished to be publicly exposed. He wanted me to carry it ...over my heart, that He might imprint His love there, fill my heart with all the gifts with which His own is filled, and destroy all inordinate affection. Wherever this sacred image would be exposed for veneration He would pour fourth His graces and blessings. This devotion was as a last effort of His love which was to favor men in these last centuries with this loving redemption, in order to withdraw them from the empire of Satan, which He intended to destroy, and in order to put us under the sweet liberty of the empire of His love. This He would establish in the hearts of all those who would embrace this devotion.
—St. Margaret Mary Alacoque, Letters, (JTG)
"Whenever the sacred image would be exposed for veneration, He would pour forth His grace and blessings." "Make a bronze serpent and mount it on a pole, and if anyone who has been bitten looks upon it, he will recover." When I read the account of Ezekiel's mystical vision and the case of God healing under the symbol of a bronze snake, I don't find it unusual for God to continue to work in a similar manner today.
Am I grateful for God's special revelations of love? Or do I doubt?
94. Total Surrender
(May I Love Through Service)
Our Call-- He has chosen us; we have not first chosen Him. But we must respond by making our society something beautiful for God--something very beautiful. For this we must give all--our utmost. We must cling to Jesus, grasp Him, have a grip on Him, and never let go for anything. We must fall in love with Jesus.
Our Response-- The spirit of our society is one of total surrender, loving trust and cheerfulness as lived by Jesus and Mary in the Gospel.
Our Way of Life-- Just as the seed is meant to be a tree, we are meant to grow into Jesus. Each of us will accept: to live the life of poverty in cheerful trust, to imitate the charity of Mary...and to offer cheerful obedience in inward joy.
Our Life of Prayer and Contemplation-- Jesus has drawn us to be souls of prayer. Jesus is our prayer and He is also the answer to all our prayer. He has chosen to be Himself in us the living song of love, praise, adoration, thanksgiving, intercession, and reparation to the Father in the name of the whole creation, especially the poorest of the poor and those who do not pray, who do not know how to pray, who do not dare and do not want to pray.
Our Life of Service and Evangelization-- Faith in Action is Love, Love in Action is Service. We need to be pure of heart to see Jesus in the person of the poorest of the poor. Therefore the more repugnant the work, or the more disfigured or deformed the image of God in the person, the greater will be our faith and loving devotion in seeking the face of Jesus, and lovingly ministering to Him in the distressing disguise.
—Mother Teresa of Calcutta, Total Surrender
Mother Teresa and her community took their faith and works very seriously, just like the early Church as described in Acts. The main difference is that the lay-people of the early Church were expected to act like a “kingdom of priests” even though they were not clergy. While it is clear that a community like Mother Teresa’s could not be lay-people, it is also true that the lay-people of today fall far short in their faith and actions when compared with those of the early Church.
In what ways can my life as a layman be made similar to the laymen of the early Church?
95. Transforming Union
(Jesus, Make Me Transparent to Your Grace)
The center of the soul is God. When the soul shall have reached Him, according to its essence, and according to the power of its operations, it will then have attained to its ultimate and deepest center in God. This will be when the soul shall love Him, comprehend Him, and enjoy Him with all its strength. When, however, the soul has not attained to this state...it is not in the deepest center, because there is still room for it to advance...But if the soul shall have attained to the highest degree of love, the love of God will then wound it in its utmost depth or center, and the soul will be transformed and enlightened in the highest degree of its substance, faculties, and strength, until it shall become most like unto God. The soul in this state may be compared to crystal, lucid and pure, the greater the light thrown upon it, the more luminous it becomes by the concentration thereof, until at last it seems to be all light and indistinguishable from it; it being then so illumined, and to the utmost extent, that it seems to be one with the light itself.
—St. John of the Cross, The Living Flame of Love , (JTG)
St. John talks about what is, evidently, a process of deification of the soul through a “wounding” of love. The soul is gradually transformed into light; the image of God. The radiance of Moses after talking with the Lord is evidently one of the early stages of this process as is the Transfiguration of Jesus. The reading from Daniel seems to indicate a phase beyond the physical, human level. By the later phase, the recognition of the “being” as human and an individual is almost lost.
When in the presence of God, do I feel the beginning of a transformation? Am I slowly losing the hold of my ego so that I can be more Christ-like?
96. The Chain of Degradation
(Lord, May I Be Fruitful In Your Knowledge)
Take note that before thoughts, stand their causes; before imagination–thoughts; before passions–imagination; before the demons–passions, forming a kind of graded chain of degraded spirits holding on to one another. But nothing here comes to pass without the demons: neither does imagination paint images, nor does passion act without their hidden power. All the same, what gives them power over us is mostly our own carelessness.
—St. Gregory of Sinai, Philokalia: On Prayer of the Heart
I can take the chain of causation either up (toward God and my spiritual nature) or down (toward the demons and my earthy nature). Up, by empowering my faith with virtue, knowledge, self-control, endurance, devotion, mutual affection and love (God). Down, by my natural tendencies/actions which are empowered by my thoughts, imagination, passions (demons). As St. Gregory says, my own carelessness can break me while my own carefulness can help to save me.
In what ways am I careless in developing my faith? In what ways do I let my passions control me?
97. A Touch of the Angelic
(Lord, May I Minister Unto You)
It is said that in the life to come the angels and saints shall never cease to progress in increasing their gifts, striving for greater and ever greater blessings. No slackening or change from virtue to sin is admitted in that life.
In the future life (or in heaven) the saints hold inner converse with one another, the Holy Spirit speaking in them.
Minds equal unto the angels in freedom from corruption and deification, will be
those saints that are the children of the resurrection.
If we do not learn what we were created by God, we shall not know what we have become through sin.
—St. Gregory of Sinai, Philokalia: on Prayer of the Heart
The angels ministered to the Son of God after the temptation in the desert, in the garden of Gethsemane and other times when needed. I find the idea very comforting that, after death, we continue to grow in spiritual maturity and are to be of service to Jesus in His quest for souls. The future looks joyful!
How can I help prepare myself now to be a servant of Jesus in the afterlife?
98. The Stigmata of St. Francis
(May I Bare Your Marks, Lord Jesus)
On a certain morning about the Feast of Exaltation of the Cross, while Francis was praying on the mountainside, he saw a Seraph with six fiery and shining wings descend from the height of heaven...There appeared between the wings the figure of a man crucified, with his hands and feet extended in the form of a cross and fastened to a cross. When Francis saw this he was overwhelmed, and his heart was flooded with a mixture of joy and sorrow. He rejoiced because of the gracious way Christ looked upon him under the appearance of the Seraph, but the fact that he was fastened to a cross pierced his soul with a sword of compassionate sorrow.
Eventually, he understood by a revelation from the Lord...that, as Christ’s lover he might learn in advance that he was to be totally transformed into the likeness of Christ crucified, nit by the martyrdom of the flesh, but by the fire of his love consuming his soul.
Aft the vision disappeared, it left in his heart a marvelous ardor and imprinted on his body markings...Immediately the marks of nails began to appear in his hands and feet...His hands and feet seemed to be pierced through the center by nails, with the heads of the nails appearing on the inner side of the hands and the upper side of the feet and their points on the opposite side. The heads of the nails in his hands and his feet were round and black; their points were oblong and bent as if driven back with a hammer, and they emerged from the flesh and stuck out beyond it. Also his right side, as if pierced with a lance, was marked with a red wound from which his sacred blood often flowed, moistening his tunic and underwear.
When Christ's servant realized that he could not conceal from his intimate companions the stigmata that had been so visibly imprinted on his flesh, he feared to make public the Lord’s secret...He then with much fear recounted the vision in detail, adding that the one who had appeared to him had told him some things which he would never disclose to any man as long as he lived.
—St. Bonaventure, The Life of St. Francis of Assisi (JTG)
The transformation of the soul into the likeness of God evidently has a powerful effect on our physical, human nature. It may be being marked with the stigmata of Christ as happened to St. Francis, Padre Pio and, perhaps, St. Paul. It may be an ability to raise the dead (even after the transformed person has died!) like Elisha the Prophet. All manner of these manifestations were present in Jesus. In some cases, these manifestations seem to be graces and at other times, curses. In any event, these manifestations are distributed as God wills--just like the gifts of the Holy Spirit. The important thing is that my spiritual transformation should have an impact on my physical nature, however modest.
Are my actions becoming more Christ-like as a result of my spiritual growth?
99. The Example of Daily Resurrections
(Lord, May I Always Be With You)
Let us consider, beloved, how the Lord continually proves to us that there shall be a future resurrection, of which He has rendered the Lord Jesus Christ, the first fruits by raising Him from the dead. Let us contemplate, beloved, the resurrection which is at all times taking place. Day and night declare to us a resurrection. The night sinks to sleep, and the day arises; the day again departs, and the night comes on. Let us behold the fruits of the earth, how the sowing of grain takes place. The sower goes forth, and casts it into the ground, and the seed being thus scattered, though dry and naked when it fell upon the earth, is gradually dissolved. Then out of its dissolution the mighty power of the providence of the Lord raises it up again, and from one seed many arise and bring forth fruit.
Do we deem it any great and wonderful thing for the Maker of all things to raise up again those that have piously served Him in the assurance of a good faith?..
—St. Clement of Rome (friend of St. Paul and St. Luke) Epistle to the Corinthians (CCEL)
In addition to the teaching of Jesus, the daily resurrections I see give me hope for a blessed afterlife. While Jesus looked different after His resurrection and the grain of wheat certainly looks different when it sprouts, the essential character of each is still there. Maybe I won’t look like myself, but I know that I will be.
How can I study nature to nurture my hope in the resurrection?
100. A Godly Love
(May I Love and Do Rightly, O God)
Let him who has love in Christ keep the commandments of Christ. Who can describe the blessed bond of the love of God? What man is able to tell the excellence of its beauty, as it ought to be told? The height to which love exalts is unspeakable. Love unites us to God. Love covers a multitude of sins. Love bears all things, is long suffering in all things. There is nothing base, nothing arrogant in love. Love admits of no schisms; love gives rise to no seditions; love does all things in harmony. By love have all the elect of God been made perfect; without love nothing is well pleasing to God. In love has the Lord taken us to Himself. On account of the Love he bore us, Jesus Christ our Lord gave His blood for us by the will of God, His flesh for our flesh, and His soul for our souls.
You see, beloved, how great and wonderful a thing is love, and that there is no declaring its perfection. Who is fit to be found in it, except such as God has vouchsafed to render so? Let us pray, therefore, and implore of His mercy, that we may live blameless in love, free from human partialities for one above another. All the generations from Adam even unto this day have passed away; but those who, through the grace of God, have been made perfect in love, now possess a place among the godly, and shall be made manifest at the revelation of the kingdom of Christ.
—St. Clement of Rome (friend of St. Paul and St. Luke) Epistle to the Corinthians, CCEL
Without love, nothing is well-pleasing to God. And what does God require if I am to love Him? Simply, to do what is right, love loyalty and walk humbly with Him. Sacrifice is not required. Let us pray for the grace to love God like this.
In what ways do I still believe that God wants "sacrifices" from me? How can I improve my "walk" with God?
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