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To “walk orderly” as a Quaker is to appreciate the feelings of people with whom you disagree.
To “argue charitably” as a Dominican is to understand and state clearly and fairly thoughts with which you disagree.
To “speak poetically” is to coherently combine feelings and thoughts.
If a stray reader comes across this blog and wonders, ‘What’s with the label Essays from a Little Library?’ Well, hopefully the essays will come, now that I’ve finally settled on the little library. Being in no hurry, I took several years getting the foundation just as needed.
Here’s a list of poems from the Liturgy of the Hours (mostly):
Anonymous, I Sing of a Maiden, I
Anonymous, The Bellman’s Good-Morrow, I
Ben Jonson, A Hymn to God the Father, II
Ben Jonson, A Hymn to God the Father, III
Ben Jonson, A Hymn to God the Father, IV
Ben Jonson, To Heaven, III
Ben Jonson, To Heaven, IV
Brother Antininus, Zone of Death, II
Brother Antoninus, The Flight in the Desert, I
Brother Antoninus, The Making of the Cross, II
Christina Rossetti,In the Bleak Mid-Winter, I
Dante, Saint Bernard’s Prayer, I
Dante, Saint Bernard’s Prayer, III
Dante, Saint Bernard’s Prayer, IV Continue reading
“In the professions of faith of the New Testament, only men are remembered as witnesses of the Resurrection, the Apostles, but not the women. This is because, according to the Jewish Law of the time, women and children were not considered reliable, credible witnesses. In the Gospels, however, women have a primary, fundamental role. Here we can see an argument in favor of the historicity of the Resurrection: if it were a invented, in the context of that time it would not have been linked to the testimony of women. Instead, the evangelists simply narrate what happened: the women were the first witnesses. This tells us that God does not choose according to human criteria: the first witnesses of the birth of Jesus are the shepherds, simple and humble people, the first witnesses of the Resurrection are women. This is beautiful, and this is the mission of women, of mothers and women, to give witness to their children and grandchildren that Christ is Risen! Mothers go forward with this witness! What matters to God is our heart, if we are open to Him, if we are like trusting children. But this also leads us to reflect on how in the Church and in the journey of faith, women have had and still have a special role in opening doors to the Lord, in following him and communicating his face, because the eyes of faith always need the simple and profound look of love. The Apostles and disciples find it harder to believe in the Risen Christ, not the women however! Peter runs to the tomb, but stops before the empty tomb; Thomas has to touch the wounds of the body of Jesus with his hands. In our journey of faith it is important to know and feel that God loves us, do not be afraid to love: faith is professed with the mouth and heart, with the word and love.” – Pope Francis, 3 April 2013
While heresy takes various forms, I’m inclined to view all heresy as having an underlying unity: opposition to the Incarnation. As is written in 1 John 4:2
By this you know the Spirit of God: every spirit which confesses that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is of God
Denying that confession takes various forms and even the mistaking of ‘reconciliation’ to be with the dominant political opinion rather than with God has, I think, a connection with mistaking the Incarnation. As we endeavor to respond graciously and irenically to this mistake, it is useful to read what the early saint, Irenaeus, had to say against the heresies. Hans Urs Von Balthasar has edited a useful selection of St Irenaeus’ writings titled ‘The Scandal of the Incarnation’, about which the publisher of the English translation writes:
Saint Irenaeus was the first great Christian theologian. Born in Asia Minor in about 130 A.D., he became Bishop of Lyons and died as a martyr early in the third century. His main work, Adversus Haereses (Against the Heresies), is as relevant today as it was eighteen hundred years ago. It is a critique of Gnosticism, the ‘anti-body’ heresy, which, far from dying out, continues to flourish as the main threat to the Christian faith in our own day. With serenity and good humor, Irenaeus unfolds the unity of God’s purpose in creation and redemption, in Old and New Testaments. The flesh and blood which Gnosticism so despised has been assumed by God in the womb of the Virgin Mary, and glorified in the Resurrection and the Eucharist.
In this book, quotations from Saint Irenaeus have been arranged thematically in order to show the unity of his Christian view of the world. The texts have been selected and are introduced by the late Hans Urs von Balthasar, who is widely regarded as one of the greatest Catholic theologians of this century. They are translated by John Saward. “Everything in Irenaeus is bathed in a warm and radiant joy, a wise and majestic gentleness. His words of struggle are hard as iron and crystal clear, … so penetrating that they cannot fail to enlighten the unbiased observer.”
— Hans Urs von Balthasar
HOMILY OF POPE FRANCIS
HOLY THURSDAY CHRISM MASS
ST PETER’S BASILICA
28 MARCH 2013
HOLY THURSDAY CHRISM MASS
ST PETER’S BASILICA
28 MARCH 2013
Dear Brothers and Sisters, This morning I have the joy of celebrating my first Chrism Mass as the Bishop of Rome. I greet all of you with affection, especially you, dear priests, who, like myself, today recall the day of your ordination.
The readings of our Mass speak of God’s “anointed ones”: the suffering Servant of Isaiah, King David and Jesus our Lord. All three have this in common: the anointing that they receive is meant in turn to anoint God’s faithful people, whose servants they are; they are anointed for the poor, for prisoners, for the oppressed… A fine image of this “being for” others can be found in the Psalm: “It is like the precious oil upon the head, running down upon the beard, on the beard of Aaron, running down upon the collar of his robe” (Ps 133:2). The image of spreading oil, flowing down from the beard of Aaron upon the collar of his sacred robe, is an image of the priestly anointing which, through Christ, the Anointed One, reaches the ends of the earth, represented by the robe.
The sacred robes of the High Priest are rich in symbolism. One such symbol is that the names of the children of Israel were engraved on the onyx stones mounted on the shoulder-pieces of the ephod, the ancestor of our present-day chasuble: six on the stone of the right shoulder-piece and six on that of the left (cf. Ex 28:6-14). The names of the twelve tribes of Israel were also engraved on the breastplate (cf. Es 28:21). This means that the priest celebrates by carrying on his shoulders the people entrusted to his care and bearing their names written in his heart. When we put on our simple chasuble, it might well make us feel, upon our shoulders and in our hearts, the burdens and the faces of our faithful people, our saints and martyrs of whom there are many in these times…
From the beauty of all these liturgical things, which is not so much about trappings and fine fabrics than about the glory of our God resplendent in his people, alive and strengthened, we turn to a consideration of activity, action. The precious oil which anoints the head of Aaron does more than simply lend fragrance to his person; it overflows down to “the edges”. The Lord will say this clearly: his anointing is meant for the poor, prisoners and the sick, for those who are sorrowing and alone. The ointment is not intended just to make us fragrant, much less to be kept in a jar, for then it would become rancid … and the heart bitter.
A good priest can be recognized by the way his people are anointed. This is a clear test. When our people are anointed with the oil of gladness, it is obvious: for example, when they leave Mass looking as if they have heard good news. Our people like to hear the Gospel preached with “unction”, they like it when the Gospel we preach touches their daily lives, when it runs down like the oil of Aaron to the edges of reality, when it brings light to moments of extreme darkness, to the “outskirts” where people of faith are most exposed to the onslaught of those who want to tear down their faith. People thank us because they feel that we have prayed over the realities of their everyday lives, their troubles, their joys, their burdens and their hopes. And when they feel that the fragrance of the Anointed One, of Christ, has come to them through us, they feel encouraged to entrust to us everything they want to bring before the Lord: “Pray for me, Father, because I have this problem”, “Bless me”, “Pray for me” – these words are the sign that the anointing has flowed down to the edges of the robe, for it has turned into prayer. The prayers of the people of God. When we have this relationship with God and with his people, and grace passes through us, then we are priests, mediators between God and men. What I want to emphasize is that we need constantly to stir up God’s grace and perceive in every request, even those requests that are inconvenient and at times purely material or downright banal – but only apparently so – the desire of our people to be anointed with fragrant oil, since they know that we have it. To perceive and to sense, even as the Lord sensed the hope-filled anguish of the woman suffering from hemorrhages when she touched the hem of his garment. At that moment, Jesus, surrounded by people on every side, embodies all the beauty of Aaron vested in priestly raiment, with the oil running down upon his robes. It is a hidden beauty, one which shines forth only for those faith-filled eyes of the woman troubled with an issue of blood. But not even the disciples – future priests – see or understand: on the “existential outskirts”, they see only what is on the surface: the crowd pressing in on Jesus from all sides (cf. Lk 8:42). The Lord, on the other hand, feels the power of the divine anointing which runs down to the edge of his cloak.
We need to “go out,” then, in order to experience our own anointing, its power and its redemptive efficacy: to the “outskirts” where there is suffering, bloodshed, blindness that longs for sight, and prisoners in thrall to many evil masters. It is not in soul-searching or constant introspection that we encounter the Lord: self-help courses can be useful in life, but to live by going from one course to another, from one method to another, leads us to become pelagians and to minimize the power of grace, which comes alive and flourishes to the extent that we, in faith, go out and give ourselves and the Gospel to others, giving what little ointment we have to those who have nothing, nothing at all.
A priest who seldom goes out of himself, who anoints little – I won’t say “not at all” because, thank God, our people take our oil from us anyway – misses out on the best of our people, on what can stir the depths of his priestly heart. Those who do not go out of themselves, instead of being mediators, gradually become intermediaries, managers. We know the difference: the intermediary, the manager, “has already received his reward”, and since he doesn’t put his own skin and his own heart on the line, he never hears a warm, heartfelt word of thanks. This is precisely the reason why some priests grow dissatisfied, become sad priests, lose heart and become in some sense collectors of antiques or novelties – instead of being shepherds living with “the smell of the sheep”, shepherds in the midst of their flock, fishers of men. True enough, the so-called crisis of priestly identity threatens us all and adds to the broader cultural crisis; but if we can resist its onslaught, we will be able to put out in the name of the Lord and cast our nets. It is not a bad thing that reality itself forces us to “put out into the deep”, where what we are by grace is clearly seen as pure grace, out into the deep of the contemporary world, where the only thing that counts is “unction” – not function – and the nets which overflow with fish are those cast solely in the name of the One in whom we have put our trust: Jesus.
Dear lay faithful, be close to your priests with affection and with your prayers, that they may always be shepherds according to God’s heart.
Dear priests, may God the Father renew in us the Spirit of holiness with whom we have been anointed. May he renew his Spirit in our hearts, that this anointing may spread to everyone, even to those “outskirts” where our faithful people most look for it and most appreciate it. May our people sense that we are the Lord’s disciples; may they feel that their names are written upon our priestly vestments and that we seek no other identity; and may they receive through our words and deeds the oil of gladness which Jesus, the Anointed One, came to bring us. Amen.
“In the Simplicity of my Heart I have gladly given You everything”
Fr Luigi Giussani’s testimony during the meeting of the Holy Father John Paul II with the ecclesial movements and the new communities.
St Peter’s Square, Rome, 30 May 1998
I shall try to say how an attitude was born in me —an attitude that God was to bless, as He wished — and that I could not have foreseen nor even wished for.
1) “What is man that you should keep him in mind, mortal man that you care for him?” (Ps 8:5). No question in life has ever struck me like this one. There has been only one Man in the world who could answer me, by asking another question, “What would it profit a man if he gain the whole world, and then lose himself? Or what could a man give in exchange for himself?” (Mt 16:26). I was never asked a question that took my breath away so much as this question of Christ’s! No woman ever heard another voice speak of her son with such an original tenderness and unquestionable valuing of the fruit of her womb, with such a wholly positive affirmation of its destiny; only the voice of the Jew Jesus of Nazareth. And more than that, no man can feel his own dignity and absolute value affirmed far beyond all his achievements. No one in the world has ever been able to speak like this!
Only Christ takes my humanity so completely to heart. This is the wonder expressed by Dionysius the Areopagite (5 th Century): “Who could everspeak to us of the love that Christ has for man, overflowing with peace?” I’ve been repeating these words to myself for more than fifty years!
This is why Redemptor Hominis appeared on our horizon like a beam of light in the thick darkness covering the earth of present-day man, with all his confused questions.
Thank you, Your Holiness.
It was a simplicity of heart that made me feel and recognize Christ as exceptional, with that certain promptness that marks the unassailable and indestructible evidence of factors and moments of reality, which, on entering the horizon of our person, pierce us to the heart.
So the acknowledgment of who Christ is in our lives invades the whole of our awareness of living: “I am the Way, the Truth and the Life” (Jn 14:6).
“Domine Deus, in simplicitate cordis mei laetus obtuli universa” (“Lord God, in the simplicity of my heart I have gladly given You everything”), says a prayer of the Ambrosian Liturgy; what shows that this acknowledgement is true is the fact that life has an ultimate, tenacious capacity for gladness.
2) How can this gladness, which is the human glory of Christ, and which fills my heart and my voice in some moments, be found to be true and reasonable to today’s man?
Because that Man, the Jew Jesus of Nazareth, died for us and rose again. That Risen Man is the Reality on which all the positivity of every man’s existence depends.
Every earthly experience lived in the Spirit of Jesus, Risen from the dead, blossoms in Eternity. This blossoming will not bloom only at the end of time; it has already begun on the dawn of Easter. Easter is the beginning of this journey to the eternal Truth of everything, a journey that is therefore already within man’s history.
For Christ, as the Word of God made flesh, makes Himself present as the Risen one in every period of time, throughout the whole of history, in order to reach from Easter morning to the end of this time, the end of this world. The Spirit of Jesus, that is to say of the Word made flesh, becomes an experience possible for ordinary man, in His power to redeem the whole existence of each person and human history, in the radical change that He produces in the one who encounters Him, and, like John and Andrew, follows Him.
Thus for me the grace of Jesus, in so far as I have been able to adhere to the encounter with Him and communicate Him to the brothers in God’s Church, has become the experience of a faith that in the Holy Church, that is to say the Christian People, revealed itself as a call and a desire to feed a new Israel of God: “Populum Tuum vidi, cum ingenti gaudio, Tibi offerre donare” (“With great joy, I saw your People, acknowledging existence as an offering to You”), continues the liturgical prayer.
So it was that I saw a people taking shape, in the name of Christ. Everything in me became truly more religious, with my awareness striving to discover that “God is all in all” (1 Cor 15:28). In this people gladness was becoming “ingenti gaudio”, that is to say the decisive factor of one’s own history as ultimate positivity and therefore as joy.
What could have seemed at most to be an individual experience was becoming a protagonist in history, and so an instrument of the mission of the one People of God.
This now is the foundation of the search for an expressed unity among us.
3) That precious text of the Ambrosian Liturgy concludes with these words: “Domine Deus, custodi hanc voluntatem cordis eorum” (“Lord God, keep safe this attitude of their heart”).
Infidelity always arises in our hearts even before the most beautiful and true things; the infidelity in which, before God’s humanity and man’s original simplicity, man can fall short, out of weakness and worldly preconception, like Judas and Peter. Even this personal experience of infidelity that always happens, revealing the imperfection of every human action, makes the memory of Christ more urgent.
The desperate cry of Pastor Brand in Ibsen’s play of the same name, (“Answer me, O God, in the hour in which death is swallowing me up: is the whole of man’s will not enough to achieve even a part of salvation?”) is answered by the humble positivity of St Theresa of the Child Jesus who
writes, “When I am charitable it is only Jesus who is acting in me.”
All this means that man’s freedom, which the Mystery always involves, has prayer as its supreme, unassailable expressive form. This is why freedom, according to the whole of its true nature, posits itself as an entreaty to adhere to Being, therefore to Christ. Even in man’s incapacity, in man’s
great weakness, affection for Christ is destined to last.
In this sense Christ, Light and Strength for every one of his followers, is the adequate reflection of that word with which the Mystery appears in its ultimate relationship with the creature, as mercy: Dives in Misericordia. The mystery of mercy shatters any image of complacency or despair; even
the feeling of forgiveness lies within this mystery of Christ.
This is the ultimate embrace of the Mystery, against which man — even the most distant, the most perverse or the most obscured, the most in the dark— cannot oppose anything, can make no objection. He can abandon it, but in so doing he abandons himself and his own good. The Mystery as mercy remains the last word even on all the awful possibilities of history.
For this reason existence expresses itself, as ultimate ideal, in begging. The real protagonist of history is the beggar: Christ who begs for man’s heart, and man’s heart that begs for Christ.