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Twentieth Hour – “Father forgive them…”
My Crucified Good, I see You on the Cross, as on the Throne of your triumph, in the act of conquering everything and all hearts, and of drawing them so closely to You, that all may feel your superhuman power. Horrified at such a great crime, nature prostrates itself before You, and waits in silence for a word from You, to pay You honor and let your dominion be recognized.
The sun, crying, withdraws its light, unable to sustain your sight, too sorrowful. Hell is terrified and waits in silence. Everything is silence. Your pierced Mama, your faithful ones, are all mute; and petrified at the sight of your torn and dislocated Humanity – alas, too painful, they are silently waiting for a word from You. Your very Humanity is silent, lying in a sea of pains, among the harrowing spasms of agony; so much so that they fear You are going to die at each breath!
What more? Even the perfidious Jews and the ruthless executioners who, up to a little while ago, were offending You, mocking You, calling You impostor, criminal; even the thieves who were cursing You – everyone is silent, mute. Remorse invades them, and if they try to launch an insult against You, it dies on their lips.
But as I penetrate into your interior, I see that love overflows; it suffocates You and You cannot contain it. And forced by your love that torments You more than the pains themselves, with strong and moving voice, You speak as the God You are; You raise your dying eyes to Heaven, and exclaim: “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they are doing!” And, again, You close Yourself in silence, immersed in unheard-of pains.
Crucified Jesus, how can so much love be possible? Ah, after so many pains and insults, your first word is of forgiveness; and You excuse us before the Father for so many sins! Ah, You make this word descend into each heart after sin, and You are the first to offer forgiveness. But how many reject it and do not accept it; your love is then taken by follies, because You anxiously desire to give your forgiveness and the kiss of peace to all!
At this word, hell trembles and recognizes You as God; nature and everyone remain astonished; they recognize your Divinity, your inextinguishable love, and silently wait to see where it reaches. And not only your voice, but also your Blood and your wounds, cry out to every heart after sin: “Come into my arms, for I forgive you, and the seal of forgiveness is the price of my Blood.” O my lovable Jesus, repeat this word again to all the sinners which are in the world. Beseech mercy for all; apply the infinite merits of your most precious Blood for all. O good Jesus, continue to placate Divine Justice for all, and concede your grace to those who, finding themselves in the act of having to forgive, do not feel the strength to do it.
My Jesus, adored Crucified, in these three hours of most bitter agony, You want to give fulfillment to everything; and while, silent, You remain on this Cross, I see that in your interior You want to satisfy the Father in everything. You thank Him for all, You satisfy Him for all, You beseech forgiveness for all, and for all You impetrate the grace that they may never again offend You. In order to impetrate this from the Father You go through all of your life, from the first instant of your conception, up to your last breath. My Jesus, endless love, let me go through all your life together with You, with the inconsolable Mama, with Saint John, and with the pious women.
In Dostoevsky’s great last work, The Brothers Karamazov, the story is told of Markel, brother of the Elder Zossima. Diagnosed with tuberculosis, he is dying. In those last days he came to a renewed faith in God and a truly profound understanding of forgiveness. In a conversation with his mother she wonders how he can possibly be so joyful in so serious a stage of his illness. His response is illustrative of the heart of the Orthodox Christian life.
’Mama,’ he replied to her, ‘do not weep, life is paradise, and we are all in paradise, but we don’t want to realize it, and if we did care to realize it, paradise would be established in all the world tomorrow.’ And we all wondered at his words, so strangely and so resolutely did he say this; we felt tender emotion and we wept….’Dear mother, droplet of my blood,’ he said (at that time he had begun to use endearments of this kind, unexpected ones), ‘beloved droplet of my blood, joyful one, you must learn that of a truth each of us is guilty before all for everyone and everything. I do not know how to explain this to you, but I feel that it is so, to the point of torment. And how could we have lived all this time being angry with one another and knowing nothing of this?’ [He spoke even of being guilty before the birds and all creation] …’Yes, he said, ‘all around me there has been such divine glory: birds, trees, meadows, sky, and I alone have lived in disgrace, I alone have dishonored it all, completely ignoring its beauty and glory.’ ‘You take too many sins upon yourself,’ dear mother would say, weeping. ‘But dear mother, joy of my life. I am crying from joy, and not from grief; why, I myself want to be guilty before them, only I cannot explain it to you, for I do not know how to love them. Let me be culpable before all, and then all will forgive me, and that will be paradise. Am I not in paradise now?’
As difficult as it may sound, the reality described by Dostoevsky can be summed up very simply: forgive everyone for everything. Stated in such a blunt fashion, such a goal is overwhelming. How can I forgive everyone for everything? This life of forgiveness, which is nothing other than the life of Christ within us, is our inheritance in the faith. The life of blame, recrimination, bitterness, anger, revenge and the like are not the life of Christ, but simply the ragings of our own egos, the false self which we exalt over our true life which is “hid with Christ in God.”
The rightness of a cause, or the correctness of our judgment do not justify nor change the nature of our ragings. For none of us can stand before God and be justified – except as we give ourselves to the life of Christ, who is our only righteousness.
The question of forgiveness is not a moral issue. We do not forgive because it is the “correct” thing to do. We forgive because it is the true nature of the life in Christ. As Dostoevsky describes it: it is Paradise. In the same manner, the refusal to forgive, the continuation of blame, recrimination, bitterness, etc., are not moral failings. They are existential crises – drawing us away from the life of Christ and Paradise, and ever deeper into an abyss of non-being.
Permanent link to this article: http://bookofheaven.org/2014/03/22/forgive-everyone/
St. Isidore the Labourer
A Spanish daylabourer; b. near Madrid, about the year 1070; d. 15 May, 1130, at the same place. He was in the service of a certain Juan de Vargas on a farm in the vicinity of Madrid. Every morning before going to work he was accustomed to hear a Mass at one of the churches in Madrid. One day his fellow-labourers complained to their master that Isidore was always late for work in the morning. Upon investigation, so runs the legend, the master found Isidore at prayer, while an angel was doing the ploughing for him. On another occasion his master saw an angel ploughing on either side of him, so that Isidore’s work was equal to that of three of his fellow-labourers. Isidore is also said to have brought back to life the deceased daughter of his master and to have caused a fountain of fresh water to burst from the dry earth in order to quench the thirst of his master. He was married to Maria Torribia, a canonized saint, who is venerated in Spain as Maria della Cabeza, from the fact that her head (Spanish, cabeza) is often carried in procession especially in time of drought. They had one son, who died in his youth. On one occasion this son fell into a deep well and at the prayers of his parents the water of the well is said to have risen miraculously to the level of the ground, bringing the child with it, alive and well. Hereupon the parents made a vow of continence and lived in separate houses. Forty years after Isidore’s death, his body was transferred from the cemetery to the church of St. Andrew. He is said to have appeared to Alfonso of Castile, and to have shown him the hidden path by which he surprised the Moors and gained the victory of Las Nevas de Tolosa, in 1212. When King Philip III of Spain was cured of a deadly disease by touching the relics of the saint, the king replaced the old reliquary by a costly silver one. He was canonized by Gregory XV, along with Sts. Ignatius, Francis Xavier, Teresa, and Philip Neri, on 12 March, 1622. St. Isidore is widely venerated as the patron of peasants and day-labourers. The cities of Madrid, Leon, Saragossa, and Seville also, honour him as their patron. His feast is celebrated on 15 May.
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Prayer of St. Francis of Assisi
Most High, glorious God, enlighten the darkness of my heart; Give me right faith, sure hope, and perfect charity. Fill me with understanding and knowledge, that I may fulfill your command.
-St. Francis of Assisi
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Saint of the day: Enda of Aran
The following comes from the CNA:
On March 21, four days after the feast day of Ireland‘s patron Saint Patrick, the Catholic Church honors Saint Enda of Aran, a warrior-turned-monk considered to be one of the founders of Irish monasticism.
Born during the fifth century, Enda inherited control of a large territory in present-day Northern Ireland from his father Conall. His sister Fanchea, however, had already embraced consecrated religious life with a community in Meath, and looked unfavorably on the battles and conquests of her brother.
Enda is said to have made a deal with his sister, promising to change his ways if he could marry one of the young women of her convent. But this was a ruse on Fanchea’s part, as the promised girl soon died. Fanchea forced him to view the girl’s corpse, to teach him that he, too, would face death and judgment.
In this way, Fanchea – whom the Church also remembers as a saint – succeeded in turning her brother not only from violence, but even from marriage. He left Ireland for several years, during which time he became a monk and was ordained as a priest.
Upon his return to Ireland, he petitioned his King Aengus of Munster – who was married to another of Enda’s sisters – to grant him land for a monastic settlement on the Aran Islands, a beautiful but austere location near Galway Bay off Ireland’s west coast.
During its early years, Enda’s island mission had around 150 monks. As the community grew, he divided up the territory between his disciples, who founded their own monasteries to accommodate the large number of vocations.
Enda did not found a religious order in the modern sense, but he did hold a position of authority and leadership over the monastic settlements of Aran – which became known as “Aran of the Saints,” renowned for the monks’ strict rule of life and passionate love for God.
While living on an Irish island, Enda’s monks imitated the asceticism and simplicity of the earliest Egytian desert hermits.
The monks of Aran lived alone in their stone cells, slept on the ground, ate together in silence, and survived by farming and fishing. St. Enda’s monastic rule, like those of St. Basil in the Greek East and St. Benedict in the Latin West, set aside many hours for prayer and the study of scripture.
During his own lifetime, Enda’s monastic settlement on the Aran islands became an important pilgrimage destination, as well as a center for the evangelizations of surrounding areas. At least two dozen canonized individuals had some association with “Aran of the Saints.”
St. Enda himself died in old age around the year 530. An early chronicler of his life declared that it would “never be known until the day of judgment, the number of saints whose bodies lie in the soil of Aran,” on account of the onetime-warrior’s response to God’s surprising call.
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A PRAYER FOR PRIESTS
Lord Jesus, present in the Most Blessed Sacrament,
and living perpetually among us through Your Priests,
grant that the words of Your Priests may be only Your words,
that their gestures be only Your gestures,
and that their lives be a true reflection of Your life.
Grant that they may be men who speak to God on behalf of His people,
and speak to His people of God.
Grant that they be courageous in service,
serving the Church as she asks to be served.
Grant that they may be men who witness to eternity in our time,
traveling on the paths of history in Your steps,
and doing good for all.
Grant that they may be faithful to their commitments,
zealous in their vocation and mission,
clear mirrors of their own identity,
and living the joy of the gift they have received.
We pray that Your Holy Mother, Mary,
present throughout Your life,
may be ever present in the life of Your Priests. Amen
Permanent link to this article: http://bookofheaven.org/2014/03/21/a-prayer-for-priests/
Ioannes Paulus PP. II
DOMINUM ET VIVIFICANTEM
On the Holy Spirit in the Life of the Church
and the World
6. The Risen Christ Says: “Receive the Holy Spirit”
At the Jordan, Isaiah’s proclamation is given a concrete form: Jesus of Nazareth is the one who comes in the Holy Spirit and who brings the Spirit as the gift proper to his own Person, in order to distribute that gift by means of this humanity: “He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit.”76
Coming from the Father the Holy Spirit is sent by the Father.80 The Holy Spirit is first sent as a gift for the Son who was made man, in order to fulfill the messianic prophecies. After the “departure” of Christ the Son, the Johannine text says that the Holy Spirit “will come” directly (it is His new mission), to complete the work of the Son. Thus it will be He who brings to fulfillment the new era of the history of salvation.
The gift made by the Son completes the revelation and giving of the Eternal Love: the Holy Spirit, who in the inscrutable depths of the Divinity is a Person-Gift, through the work of the Son, that is to say by means of the Paschal Mystery, is given to the Apostles and to the Church in a new way, and through them is given to humanity and the whole world.
“A new heart I will give you, and a new spirit I will put within you,…My Spirit”83; and on the other hand he fulfills His own promise made to the Apostles with the words: “If I go, I will send him to you.”84 It is he: the Spirit of truth, the Paraclete sent by the Risen Christ to transform us into His Own Risen Image.85
PART III – THE SPIRIT WHO GIVES LIFE
“…the divine filiation planted in the human soul through sanctifying grace is the work of the Holy Spirit. “It is the Spirit himself bearing witness with our spirit that we are children of God, and if children, then heirs, heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ.”215 Sanctifying grace is the principle and source of man’s new life: divine, supernatural life.
“… there is a supernatural “adoption,” of which the source is the Holy Spirit, love and gift. As such he is given to man. And in the superabundance of the uncreated gift there begins in the heart of all human beings that particular created gift whereby they “become partakers of the divine nature.”219
4. The Holy Spirit Strengthens the “Inner Man”
The hidden breath of the divine Spirit enables the human spirit to open in its turn before the saving and sanctifying self-opening of God. Through the gift of grace, which comes from the Holy Spirit, man enters a “new life,” is brought into the supernatural reality of the divine life itself and becomes a “dwelling-place of the Holy Spirit,” a living temple of God.253 For through the Holy Spirit, the Father and the Son come to him and take up their abode with him.254 In the communion of grace with the Trinity, man’s “living area” is broadened and raised up to the supernatural level of divine life. Man lives in God and by God: he lives “according to the Spirit,” and “sets his mind on the things of the Spirit.”
59. Man’s intimate relationship with God in the Holy Spirit also enables him to understand himself, his own humanity, in a new way. Thus that image and likeness of God which man is from his very beginning is fully realized.255
“…precisely by reason of this divine likeness which “shows that on earth man…is the only creature that God wishes for himself”…
(Vatican II adds that the Church is “a sacrament. . . of the unity of all mankind. “Obviously it is a question of the unity which the human race which in itself is differentiated in various ways-has from God and in God. This unity has its roots in the mystery of creation and acquires a new dimension in the mystery of the Redemption, which is ordered to universal salvation. Since God “wishes all men to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth,”279 the Redemption includes all humanity and in a certain way all of creation. In the same universal dimension of Redemption the Holy Spirit is acting, by virtue of the “departure of Christ.” Therefore the Church, rooted through her own mystery in the Trinitarian plan of salvation with good reason regards herself as the “sacrament of the unity of the whole human race.” She knows that she is such through the power of the Holy Spirit, of which power she is a sign and instrument in the fulfillment of God’s salvific plan.)
The Holy Spirit is the gift that comes into man’s heart together with prayer. … the Holy Spirit not only enables us to pray, but guides us “from within” in prayer: He is present in our prayer and gives it a divine dimension.283 Thus “he who searches the hearts of men knows what is the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for the saints according to the Will of God.” 284 Prayer through the power of the Holy Spirit becomes the ever more mature expression of the new man, who by means of this prayer participates in the divine life.
6. The Spirit and the Bride Say: “Come!”
It is the eschatological hope, the hope of definitive fulfillment in God, the hope of the Eternal Kingdom, that is brought about by participation in the life of the Trinity. The Holy Spirit, given to the Apostles as the Counselor, is the guardian and animator of this hope in the heart of the Church. …
“…she (the Church) implores the joy and consolation that only He (the Holy Spirit), the true Counselor, can bring by coming down into people’s inmost hearts295; the Church implores the grace of the virtues that merit heavenly glory, implores eternal salvation, in the full communication of the divine life, to which the Father has eternally “predestined” human beings, created through love in the image and likeness of the Most Holy Trinity.
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It turned a few heads at Mass on Christmas Day when in my homily, among other things, I reiterated a line of Christology dating back to the Fathers of the Church, often formulated as: “God became man, that man might become God.”
Man becoming God? Really? To many ears in the congregation, it probably sounded like a throwback to the New Age movement.
That just goes to show that this truth is as startling today as it was back in the day of Irenaeus, or Athanasius or Leo the Great.
At First Vespers for the Solemnity of Mary the Mother of God on January 1st, the Church prays this antiphon that dates back to the fifth century A.D.:
O marvelous exchange! Man’s Creator has become man, born of the Virgin. We have been made sharers in the divinity of Christ who humbled himself to share our humanity.
O marvelous exchange! In Latin, it’s O Admirabile Commercium, which in later centuries was beautifully transformed into a five-part motet by Palestrina.
The late theologian Franz Josef van Beeck observes that the antiphon “alludes to the condemnation, at the first Council of Constantinople (AD 381) of Apollinarius’ denial of Christs’ human soul…[and] the strong emphasis on Mary and her virginity strengthens the impression that the Latin text goes back to a Greek original composed shortly after the Council of Ephesus” (God Encountered, Vol. 1, 87).
The antiphon is echoed in the prayer which the priest says quietly as he prepares the gifts at the altar at the offertory of the Mass: “By the mystery of this water and wine may we come to share in the Divinity of Christ who humbled Himself to share in our humanity.”
The “marvelous exchange” here referred to is something that would send the Fathers of the Church practically into ecstasy—and it should have the same effect on us.
It’s a truth that made St. Leo the Great famously exclaim, “O, Christian, remember your dignity, and now that you share in God’s Own Nature, do not return by sin to your former base condition.” And says the great St. Athanasius:
[God] gave Himself to us through His Spirit. By the participation of the Spirit, we become communicants in the Divine Nature. . . . For this reason, those in whom the Spirit dwells are Divinized.
Yes, but not in some New Age sense. The truth, rather, is that in Jesus, divine nature and human nature have been intimately brought together; and this has cosmic consequences for us: it means we can come to share in God’s Own Divinity.
And ‘O Marvelous Exchange’ has been a way of expressing our excitement about that for nearly sixteen hundred years. It’s an expression that historically emerges from a context in which goods were exchanged by means of a bartering system; ‘commercium’ is the root of our English word ‘commerce.’ Today, we might say, in more earthy language, “O What a Deal!” God becomes man, so that we can become God-like!
As Catechism 460 puts it quoting both Irenaeus and Athanasius:
The Word became flesh to make us “partakers of the divine nature” (Cf. II Peter 1:4): “For this is why the Word became man, and the Son of God became the Son of man: so that man, by entering into communion with the Word and thus receiving divine sonship, might become a son of God” (Irenaeus, Adversus haereses 3.19.1). “For the Son of God became man so that we might become God” (Athanasius, De Incarnatione, 54.3).
And even St. Thomas Aquinas does not shrink from an audacious formulation: “The only-begotten Son of God, wanting to make us sharers in His Divinity, assumed our nature, so that He, made man, might make men gods.” He goes on to teach that the foretaste of this divinization in our present state is the experience of sanctifying grace in our lives which is itself, he explains, “nothing other than a kind of shared impression of the Divine Nature” upon us.
The Incarnation of the Son of God does not only mean that God becomes humanly present, in the flesh, in Jesus of Nazareth, but that he gives us a Divine calling at our own creation, and a capacitation through Baptism, one day, to attain a destiny that far exceeds the possibilities of human nature considered in itself. In Heaven, we will be fully who we were meant to be from all Eternity, daughters and sons of God living in intimacy with Father, Son, and Holy Spirit and in the joyful company of all the elect in the bliss of Heavenly Union for all Eternity—that is our “divinization.” And that is at the heart of the Good News about Jesus, and Christmas. O, what a deal!
Imagine what 2014 could be like… if we really let this truth sink in.
Fr. Thomas Berg
Professor of Moral Theology
Saint Joseph’s Seminary
Archdiocese of New York
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