A few days ago, I posted some quotes and reflections from C.S. Lewis’ Mere Christianity. This will likely turn into a series, as I find more and more awesome Lewisian utterances! Consider the following:
What Satan put into the heads of our remote ancestors was the idea that they could ‘be like gods’–could set up on their own as if they had created themselves–be their own masters–invent some sort of happiness for themselves outside G0d, apart from God. And out of that hopeless attempt has come nearly all that we call human history–money, poverty, ambition, war, prostitution, classes, empires, slavery–the long terrible story of man trying to find something other God that will make him happy.
This quote by itself could generate a post (if not more) alone. To be brief, let me point out one point that struck me. I think Lewis is suggesting that man will most mess up, when he attempts to be his own author. The self cannot self-construct itself. It may only be discovered in others, and in sum, in the Ultimate Other, namely God who is the Creator.We possess nothing: not ourselves, not the capability to invent or construct the self, and certainly not the power to invent entities of happiness or self-satisfaction. I propose that the most mature self is the emptiest, most kenotic, self. That’s when the “self” is, in fact, most itself: when it is in the hands of God at the service of others.
In Jeffrey Morrow’s recent post, he suggests a prayerful reading of Pope Benedict XVI’s lenten message. I second that suggestion. The Holy Father’s words are touching, beautiful and enlightening. As somewhat a response to Morrow’s post, I have decided to write a brief, personal reflection over the text of the Pope’s lenten message. What I would like to do is develop this into a short series given each week of Lent. I propose this because the Holy Father, in his message, offers a theological synopsis of each Gospel reading on the given Lenten Sundays. Hence, he writes this message with a chronological, theological flow in mind. As best I can on a blog and with my limited theological knowledge, I want to reflect upon and follow the theology weekly. And I invite you, reader, to accompany me on the journey! Let us begin:
The Holy Father begins with an invitation to the Church: to intensify her journey in purifying the spirit, “so as to draw more abundantly from the Mystery of Redemption the new life in Christ the Lord”. Through this invitation, Benedict introduces Baptism, explaining that this life “was already bestowed upon us on the day of our Baptism, when we ‘become sharers in Christ’s death and Resurrection’, and there began for us ‘the joyful and exulting adventure of his disciples'”. After quoting from the writings of Paul, the Holy Father comes to a beautiful conclusion:
“We need to find God, and he cannot be found in noise and restlessness. God is the friend of silence. See how nature – trees, flowers, grass – grows in silence; see the stars, the moon and the sun, how they move in silence… We need silence to be able to touch souls.” -Blessed Mother Theresa
Wired with Sound
The average college-aged male spends between 4 and 14 hours a day in electronic media. If you add-in sleep, our time for work, and personal interactions, there’s not much time for anything else.
I often find myself having to really focus on paying attention to people in everyday surroundings; avoiding the temptation to multi-task while I’m around others.
Entering Into the Silence: Reflection
The silence of the church is so different than the constant sensation we find outside.
Coming from such a sound and media-saturated environment, it’s hard to get settled into the silence. Why do we find it so difficult?
In the letter to the Philippians, there is a beautiful passage, a hymn and prayer of the early Church that confesses faith in Jesus Christ:
[T]hough he [Christ] was in the form of God, [he] did not regard equality with God something to be grasped. Rather he emptied himself, taking the form of a slave, coming in human likeness…he humbled himself, becoming obedient to death, even death on a cross. Because of this, God greatly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bend, of those in heaven and on earth and under the earth. (cf. Phil 2:6-11)
Saint Claude la Colombiére is a 17th century Jesuit saint. It is unfortunate that there are not more of his writings in English translation, yet. However, of what we have, a small book of excerpts, there is a great deal of spiritual wisdom and depth to be found. In this post, I would like to highlight and briefly examine a few of the beautiful passages of such a reverent and intelligent servant.
In an excerpt of some retreat notes, the Saint writes on the power and beauty of prayer:
[Prayer] is the only means of purifying us, of uniting us to God, and of allowing God to unite himself to us and be glorified in us. We must pray to obtain the apostolic virtues; pray that we may use them to help others, and pray also that we may not lose them while serving others.
In the Second Reading of the Divine Office for the Fourth Sunday of Easter, the excerpt is from a homily on the Gospels by Pope Saint Gregory the Great. It is a beautiful passage about love, coming to know Jesus Christ, and eschatological joy. The aim of this post is to focus primarily on Gregory’s emphasis on love as read in this selection from the Liturgy of the Hours.
The primary Gospel message that Gregory is preaching on is Christ the Good Shepherd (Jn 10). He is speaking to encourage the flock to truly be flock, and by that he means true followers of the Heavenly Shepherd: “Ask yourselves whether you belong to his flock, whether you know him, whether the light of his truth shines in your minds. I assure you that it is not by faith that you will come to know him, but by love”. To be a sheep of the Good Shepherd is if to, not surprisingly, follow Him—and this requires love.
Last Tuesday, April 20th, Pope Benedict XVI delivered the homily at the funeral Mass for Cardinal Spidlík. As always, the words of the Holy Father are touching and practical; yet, at the same time, they are filled with great theological depth. In this particular homily, Benedict introduces themes of theology that appear consistently in his thought: hope, joy, and the significance of the heart. In this two-part post, I want to examine the homily of Benedict through the lens of these three theological subjects.
The Pope opens the homily with some of the Cardinal’s last words before his death. They are beautiful, and in themselves, a reflection could be written: “Throughout my life I have sought the Face of Jesus and I am now happy and at peace because I am about to go and see him”. In a recent post, we have already reflected—briefly—over the theological understanding of death, especially through the thought of Benedict. Not surprising, then, the Holy Father is drawing the same conclusion as before—this time, through the words of another Christian. In the person of Jesus Christ, the dark, unknown abyss has been opened, has been walked through; and not just that, but the abyss itself has been conquered. Love has defeated that sting of death (cf. 1 Cor 15:54-55 ); love has given birth to a hope, rooted in the supernatural, that grants man true life, thereby making it possible to overcome the burden of death.
In the Catholic Church, Masses are celebrated every day of the year (except Good Friday when only Communion Services are held), and from the Lectionary, Bible passages are read, on a liturgical cycle, every day at these liturgical celebrations [the readings for the day may be found here. My wife and I used to be members of an adult education group at our old parish in Dayton, Ohio, which hosts short reflections on each of the day’s readings [available here]. My wife and I each still usually write two reflections a week for their website. I try to provide points of application at the end of my reflections. Often, I’ve had people come up to me and ask how we lay people are supposed to put some of these applications into practice: how are we to pray continually? How are we to share our faith? How can we devote our lives to serving others day-to-day? I’ve often encountered objections like the following: sure, I could pray continually if I were a monk or nun in a monastery. Sure, I could share my faith with others if I were a full-time missionary, like a religious brother or sister in some foreign country. Sure, I could devote my life to service if I were a Franciscan. But what about those of us who stay at home all day with children? What about those of us who work long hours in our various occupations, with computers or in manual labor or in other professions?