Tag Archives: Holiness

A Brief Reflection on the Anglican-Use Mass

This past Sunday, I had the distinct privilege to attend the approved Anglican Use Mass at St Jean Baptiste here in Victoria.  Ever since Sunday, I have been telling every single Catholic I see to go to it and experience it for themselves.  I walked away thinking to myself “This is what the Council had always intended; this is what the Mass is supposed to be like”.

It is, indeed, quite a different Mass than the Third Typical Edition of the Roman Missal that is normative in Catholic parishes throughout the world.  It is also different in certain ways from the Extraordinary Form that I have experienced on various occasions.   It was very simple – only 20 – 30 people were in attendance as the community is currently quite small – but extraordinarily beautiful.  The prayers are exquisite, aesthetically pleasing, moving, etc.  I walked away with a real sense of the sacred, a deeper sense of the sacred.  It did not need pomp and circumstance in order to be beautiful for it was structured so as to not need that.  However, I would very much love to experience their liturgy in the form of a High Mass one day.  The choir – 3 people – sang the Introit, Hymns, etc the way music is meant to be sung: with life!  Finally, the community itself is so very welcoming and delightful.

I have only been once, but already I am itching to attend again.  I pray I have one or two more opportunities to come out to experience their form of the liturgy.  The position ad orientem, the posture of the congregants, etc.  All of this stamped upon me a deep and profound sense that we were in the holy of holies: Christ was coming down to us to lift us up to sit with Him on His heavenly throne.

I write this brief reflection with one singular purpose: to encourage anyone who reads this to do all that is in their power to go and experience this beautiful tradition of the Mass for themselves.  Hopefully – and I believe Benedict XVI is thinking this way – it will inform how we celebrate our current form of the liturgy to bring it back in greater conformity with our ancient traditions.

in Christ

-Harrison

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The Call to Absolute Fidelity in Holiness

Recently, for a reading course, I read Kierkegaard’s famed “Fear and Trembling” and will, eventually, have to read it again.  Reading it I could not help but be moved to desire a deeper conversion upon my life.  It evoked reflection in me.  If a book, a saying, or a person evoke reflection in us, then we have encountered something beautiful that points us to God.

In this book, Kierkegaard gives his famed reflection upon Abraham and his call by God to sacrifice Isaac.  Kierkegaard is, on one level, struggling to reconcile God telling Abraham to sacrifice Isaac with the moral commandment “Thou shalt not kill”.  It is not the only concern of the book, but is the basis for his reflections upon the concepts of relation with the Absolute and the hiddenness and silence this evokes in ones life by responding to this Absolute.  It is this relationship with the Absolute – with God – that I wish to focus on (perhaps I can deal with Kierkegaard’s solution re: the ethical dilemma on a later post).

I must confess that I have only read it once and will need to read it again, so if anyone reads this who vehemently disagrees, please let me know so I can be quick to remedy my miserable misreading.  What I took away from my reading of the book is this: that when one is in an absolute relationship with God, then there is always a call that is so very and deeply personal to the point that no one can understand it fully except for yourself.  Thus you have a duty to follow this call with an almost revolutionary force, regardless of what is being told to you by others.  Yet, at the same time, you ought not to explain yourself to others.  One must, instead, remain hidden in their response to the absolute call of God because of the very reason that explaining such an intrinsically personal call can do nothing but damage relationships with others as well as dissuade you from following that which God is asking of you.  The hiddenness, then, is also expressed through silence.

I must admit that there are definite strong Protestant overtones to Kierkegaard’s writings here.  However, that need not be a bad thing.  Perhaps one thing that the Protestant movement has done better at times is the emphasis on the personal character of Christianity.  Of course, one cannot neglect the ecclesial character – a character that is imbedded in the Catholic ethos – of the Christian life, but to be ecclesially based, one must first personally encounter the Lord Jesus.  I think, when it comes to the personal realm, Kierkegaard is actually dead on and, in fact, gives a strong account of the meaning of holiness.  Reading “Fear and Trembling” evoked in me with a sense that this is an amazing existential account of the Saint.

And it is with that observation that I wish to write about for the remainder of the post.  When one reads the lives of the saints, one cannot help but be amazed by their zealous sense of a mission given them by God.  Some missions were, in the eyes of the world at least, more substantial and greater than others.  Not all the saints are Mother Teresas; some are Bl Pier Georgio Frassatis.  However, if there is one factor that unites them all, it is the zealous desire to fulfill the mission God has given them.  They do this with a strong sense of mission because they have had that intimate encounter with the Lord Jesus to the point that all other voices are phased out of their life of discernment.  God is asking something of them, and nothing will get in the way of their fulfilling that.  Their encounter with God has achieved in them an absolute response to Him.

This absoluteness, however, implies hiddenness and silence.  One cannot help but think of the great Bl Teresa of Calcutta when contemplating the reality of silent suffering, of hidden passion and interior crucifixion.  Yet she did it because she knew it came from the Lord and, though she did not understand it completely, she kept it to herself save for her spiritual director because she knew it was part of that intimate relationship she had with the Lord, an intimacy no one could understand.  The great misunderstandings of Mother Teresa’s spiritual life – both by the secular media who called her a hidden atheist and Catholics who called her spiritual life a ‘dark night of the soul – is a great witness to the necessity of hiddenness.  To reveal God’s love to the world, our relationship with Him, so long as it is absolute, total, complete, entails that this relationship will also be hidden.

Each of us is called to choose God absolutely for our lives.  We do so because we have first encountered Him throug His effects in the world, through the sacraments, and through His identification with humanity and the whole created realm.  After this encounter, after truly seeing the Lord, we come to know that He really is Lord of the Universe, He is our Master, He is our Redeemer, our Beloved, our Friend.  To know this as the only true reality, the only reality that truly fulfills our humanity demands that we give to this reality our whole being without any reservation at all.  Because we have encountered the real fact that He loves us, to know His love, this is what will strengthen us in that complete and absolute devotion to God.  We will be willing to be persecuted, misunderstood, maligned, rejected, because we know it is He Who asks it of us, and we know that it is He whom we are made for.

To foster this, we need to devote time of silent prayer each day to listen to Him, to seek Him.  Though He is more present to us than the things we see and yet invisible, so too we hear Him more profoundly in the silence of our hearts.  Silence is the place where we hear and is the basis for being open to listen.  Until we are willing to daily give time over to Him and listen to His desire for us, we will never have Him as the absolute and will remain within the realm of the ethical, of the moralistic, the natural, and the sub-human.  Catholicism is not moralism.  Catholicism becomes moralism because we are unwilling to be open to the absolute demand of God upon our lives, thus we send ourselves to the realm of the moral because it is easy, graspable, and something that we do on our own.  God demands that we allow His power to work in our lives, and this demands absolute devotion; it demands a move beyond the merely ethical.

in Christ

-Harrison

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Faith in Jesus is Very, Very Rare

In today’s Daily Round Up, I mention the life and sanctity of Fr. Alfred Delp, SJ.  In particular, I linked to the following article by a British Jesuit and his encounter with Fr. Delp.  When I read the article, I must say, I was deeply moved by it, and it prompted me to begin reflecting on our devotion to Jesus Christ.

In particular, Fr. Holman challenges us to ask: our we being the prophetic witness to Jesus Christ in our world?  In relation to this question, he quotes Ruth Burrows, OCD, who says that “faith in Jesus is very, very rare”.

The question that immediately comes to mind is a personal one: “do I have faith in Jesus?”  Hearing the words of Ruth Burrows, hearing the prophetic story of Fr. Delp, one can’t help but be sobered and say: “I do, but I need more.”  Why is that the answer?  Because I would not be challenged by those words or that life if I did not have a conviction that Christ is Lord of my life and of history.  When I hear them, I think “Yes, I want a greater intimacy with the Lord.”  What is faith but the firm conviction that the Lord is present in one’s life and loves you.  But faith can grow insofar as we open ourselves to receive the grace of His Person in our heart. Thus, when Ruth Burrows speaks of faith in Jesus, she is talking about the faith which Fr. Delp walked by: the assured presence of the Lord in our lives, the knowledge of a Person that is guaranteed by an intimate heart-to-heart.

And if that is the faith we are speaking about – the faith of Fr. Delp, then yes, faith in Jesus is very, very rare.  The question we must then ask ourselves: does such a faith need to be rare?  I think not.  Why, then, is such a faith so rare?  I think there are two reasons which we can give.

The first reason is that we do not see the rare faith.  We don’t see it either because we do not have the eyes to see it, or that these people are, simply, rare.  In terms of not having the eyes to see, that will be the focus of the next point.  The rarity, then, is a scandal to the world.  “Where is your Lord?  If He is so real, why are there so few of you who really live according to the pattern of His life?”  The world, despite its blindness, sees one thing clear: to be a Christian means to be Christ-like, it means to be Christ to the world.  Their accusation, in the end, is a cry for help: they too want to encounter the Lord, but the Lord is not presented to them.  We cover Him with the filth of our egocentrism, our politics, our points-of-view, our selfishness, our greed, our complaints, our gossip, our inability to recognize Jesus in others, in our unwillingness to help the poor, the helpless, the downtrodden.  How can the Lord shine through us when we are in the way?  It is simple: He can’t, and He doesn’t.  He doesn’t because He respects our freedom, and every time we sin, we choose to put ourselves in front of Him.  So, the world sees us, not Him.  The saint, the rare Christian, the true Christian is the one in whom we see the Lord and, seeing the Lord in Him, we see that person in their fullness.  It is the great paradox of Christian life: the more we allow Jesus to shine through us, the more we put ourselves to the side, the more we are ourselves and that our true selves are seen.  But that is where the struggle arises.

In this struggle, there is a drama.  A friend of mine recently said to me that they don’t understand how there can’t be drama for the Lord, how people do not accept the drama of holiness.  My friend is dead on.  To the world, most Christians are an apologetic against Christianity.  But the saint is the apologetic for Christianity.  And how is it that we can become the saints that the world demands of Christianity?  As I have said: by becoming Christ to the world.  But how does this happen?  It means entering the drama of holiness.  In us there is a conflict of a million competing desires.  What we do is choose Christ, and choose the will of His Father in each action we do.  Thus we ‘habituate’ ourselves according to the life of holiness.  And the greatest action the Christian can do is pray.  To pray is to be with the Lord.  It means not just talking, not just saying the breviary, nor just saying the rosary, nor just reading the Scriptures, nor just going to Mass.  Those things are important, to be sure.  But it means having a heart-to-heart with the Lord.  It means both speaking and listening.  We cannot become the saints God wants us to be if we do not sit back and listen to His desire for us.  It means shutting up and listening.  If we do not listen to Jesus, we will not become the Saint His love calls us to be.  Prayer is the encounter of love and love both speaks and listens.  We tend to speak, we do not make an effort in listening.

By prayer, our desires become manifest to us, and we begin to see with greater clarity what the Lord asks us to act on and what we ought not to act on.  Thus we begin doing fasting and asceticism: giving up things that turn us away from the Lord and take on that which brings us closer to Him.  Thus we start to live the Christian life.  Thus we start loving others.  We speak to the homeless, help them with what they need.  We visit the sick and the imprisoned: we love others because, by loving them, we will see the Lord in them.  In the encounter with others, we encounter Jesus: the encounter is a revelation of His love to us.  We become the radical saints God calls us to be.

The second point is that the rare sanctity is in the world, but some do not have the eyes to see it or accept it.  I am thinking of those who harden their lives with sin by consciously turning away from God.  I do not mean the drug addict, the drunkard, the prostitute: they tend to not do their activities as a conscious act against the Lord.  I am speaking of the one who denies God and their denial is lived out in their actions, or the one who refuses to allow God the slightest sliver of openness.  They become so engrossed in themselves and their reality that they cannot see beyond their own ego.  With those, we can only do two things.  We continue to love them, and we pray, fast, and do penance for them.  Even if we do not know them, we do this.  With the Lord as our source, these actions receive a graced existence and are effective in the lives of those closed to God.   We may never know the effects.  But we know it works.

If we wish to really follow the Lord, we must ask ourselves, right now, each day: “Do I have faith in Jesus?”  If I do, it better start showing in my life.  If I need to grow – and we all need to grow in our faith – then I need to begin doing greater actions of love towards Him and others, to listening to Him more.  We become the saints we are called to be not by radical actions and poverty, but radical love in each circumstance of our life.  Faith in Jesus indeed is rare, but it need not be.

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Daily Roundup – November 3, 2011

Here are some links I have come across that are well worth checking out:

Fr. Barron gives encouragement to priests to be holy and to become the saints they are called to be because they are in a privileged time in Church history to be the great saints God is demanding for His Church today.  Give it a read!

George Weigel speaks at First Things how the new translation offers a new opportunity for the Church to break bad liturgical habits.  Check it out here.

It seems that the SSPX has, unfortunately, rejected the doctrinal preamble given it by the Vatican.  I think this means that there is little chance, for a longtime, of re-unification of this group with Rome.  Unfortunately, the argument is not really about theology, despite the SSPX’s insistence that it is.  Their beef with the Church as she expresses herself after the council is more in regards to the method of theology.  Their concept of Revelation, for  example, is outmoded, to be frank, and not really of the tradition, but of a historical period.  In the SSPX you see an ossification of 19th century France.  I see them surviving in France for a while, but will eventually disappear as the Church in France returns to faithfulness and faithful liturgy.  Check out the report here.

Charles Lewis at the National Post  has an absolutely excellent article on the Press, the Vatican, and criticism of Vatican documents/press releases.  It is very much well worth the read.  Check it out.

Religious freedom, especially in Quebec, seems to be going out the window.

A friend of mine posted the following image on Facebook.  I think it is worth pondering:

A good friend of mine shared with me the following article which links the concept of adolescence and the Occupy Wall Street movement, and thus is an interesting commentary on my previous post: Extending Adolescence: the Loneliness of our Generation.  Did you know that for one New York Times analyst, he spoke about OWS and Auschwitz in the same sentence?!

I am shocked the media didn’t jump all over this one.  At Assisi, and even more bluntly to African bishops, Pope Benedict criticized the traditional African religions which can lead to senseless murder and that is still at the heart of many Africans who are now Christians.  In short, one can easily see that the genocidal activity in African countries is more from their religious pasts rather than their Christian present.  Demonstrates that all cultures are not equal in their moral rectitude, and that religion is not always a source of moral instruction.  But it should have been jumped on by the media because it is not a politically correct thing for Benedict to say, but he said it anyways.  Anyhoo, the ever insightful Sandro Magister writes more.

A mammal friend of mine blogs about life as a Catholic mother.  She has a short snippet on NFP, and it is well worth checking out.

There is an excellent article at “The Public Discourse” about the role of authority and hierarchy in society in relation to education.  It hits on many of the problems I see myself in education, as someone who has been through the public system, a public university, and am currently coming towards the end of my first grad degree.  It also is helpful for an article I am preparing on the present state of education and the academy.  I highly recommend the article.

I actually have many more articles, but maybe I can save those for tomorrow or for later :).

in Christ

-Harrison

 

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The Splendor of Jesus Christ is the Message of All Saints

Recently, for my class on the Theology of Revelation, I have been reading “Hans Urs von Balthasar’s Theological Aesthetics: A Model for Post-Critical Biblical Interpretation” by W.T. Dickens.  Don’t let the title scare you, the book is not what this post is eventually about.  I do, however, wish to use it to talk about the point of this post: the attractive splendor of Jesus Christ.  The book is an attempt to see what sort of impact Balthasar’s theological aesthetics (a fancy way of speaking about a theology of beauty) has on scriptural interpretation.  There is much that has been said so far in the book, and much I could speak about.  However, I just want to speak about one element that Balthasar speaks of that is important for Christianity: that there is a splendor to Jesus Christ.

What do I mean by splendor?  Splendor, for Balthasar, is a radiating light that presents itself to someone and attracts them to its ground in God.  There is an inner integrity to the Person of Jesus that sends us who experience Him into a sort of ecstasy: we are drawn out of ourselves into the beautiful radiance of Jesus.  We see in Him that He points to His Father, and there is an attractiveness about His Person that radiates to the whole world.

Yet, to appreciate the sheer radiant beauty of the Person of Jesus, the subject (that is, us) must be open to receiving  Jesus and allowing Him to be Himself to us.  Behind this is St Ignatius’ Spiritual Exercises: a spiritual work that is at the heart of all Balthasar’s work.  St Ignatius speaks about the importance of indifference: we must abandon our own desires, our own willing of things, save for willing what God wills of us.  In short, our wills must be disciplined in order to be truly free and receptive to the beauty, radiance, and splendor of Jesus Christ.  It is not a stoic indifference, of allowing whatever happens to happen to us.  Rather, it is a desiring the will of God alone because it is this will of God that brings us true peace and happiness.  Balthasar speaks of this beautifully when he says that we must allow the beauty and splendor of Jesus Christ to master us so that we can accept Him as He is.  This is not a fatalism, nor a pure passivity, but rather a dynamic engagement with the ever present Word of the Father.

When we allow that splendor of Jesus to radiate towards us, we allow Him to in-form us: to become a likeness to Him and then His splendor radiates into the world.  And that is the ultimate point of this post.  Today is the Solemnity of All Saints, where we celebrate the victory of Christ’s redemption for those who are reigning with Him in the bosom of the Father.  They are there because they have allowed Jesus to in-form them: they allowed Him to be Himself to them and that formed them into His image and likeness.  They too carried – and still carry in Heaven – the splendor of Jesus Christ.  If you have ever met a saint, you know what I am speaking about.  Holiness radiates from them and we want to be like them.  We want to experience the radiant love of Christ as they have experienced it.  Ultimately, we celebrate All Saints day because it is really a celebration of Christ and His victory over sin and death in the lives of the faithful reigning with Him.  We celebrate them because Christ is in them: they are Christ to us and bring His radiant love to the world.

And that is their example for us.  We also celebrate All Saints day because it is a reminder of our call to holiness.  Yet, we can only become holy in so far as we allow Christ to be Himself to us.  We must put our selfishness and self-will out of the way so that we may simple, lovingly, and actively receive Christ as He is in our hearts.  Then we see His splendor, then we desire to be formed by Him, then we become saints because we become more like Him.

This is very important because it is an element that is missing in most preaching today, and it is difficult to preach to a world that is increasingly active and less receptive.  We don’t have “time” to see Jesus and to be with Him.  Balthasar argues that the only means of holiness is contemplation, which is indifferent, actively receptive, and desirous to become what the person contemplates.  In short, to contemplate, we need to put ourselves to the side and let God do the work (for true contemplation is not our own work), we need to allow the form of God to change us and to act on His promptings to change.  God calls us all to be saints and to be saints in a particular way.  St Ignatius was not called to be Mother Teresa, nor was JP II called to be St Francis.  Each saint has a particular charism, and some are more hidden than others: most of the saints in Heaven are “hidden” from us in that we do not know who all of them are!  But there are some there who are greater than Mother Teresa, but they lived their holiness in hiddenness, just as our Lord hid for 30 years before His public ministry.

Again, though, it is difficult to preach this to a world that does not appreciate silence, stillness, and receptivity.  How we preach the ever-new and ever-ancient splendor of Jesus Christ is difficult in an age of self-assertion.  Yet the best mode of preaching is to allow Jesus to impart His splendor and beauty in us so that we can be the manifestation if His Presence to the world.  Yet we can only do that when we give ourselves to Him in prayer, when we constantly participate in the sacraments, when we simply love others with the heart of Christ and seek Him in them.  It requires, in the end, immediate obedience to His Person, a willing to lay down all for Him, and to not condition His message to suit our own needs and selfish desires.  We must have only one desire: Jesus Christ.  When that becomes our true desire, then all we do and say finds an ever-fresh and ever-new source in Him Who brings all we say and do into the unitive power of His love present in His death and resurrection (hence why Mass is so important).

So, on the feast of All Saints, let us begin today to live the splendor of Jesus Christ in our lives and let the radiant beauty of His love shine through our hearts to the whole world.

In Christ

-Harrison

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