Friday, November 20, 2009

The Key

Jesus wept over Jerusalem as he drew near. His words on that occasion are still echoing through the corridors of time. “If you only knew what makes for peace.”[1]

During the life of Christ on earth, the religious, political, and economic powers at hand failed to recognize the time of their visitation. The general populace failed in this recognition as well. Their focus was on matters other than the Ideal that epitomized the ideals of faith, hope, and charity.

On that last fateful day, Christ was abandoned by all but his mother and a deeply devoted pitiful few. Anger and rejection gripped the masses of folk that Christ had miraculously healed and fed. The one thought to be their liberator had turned out to be nothing more than a docile lamb. Fear and confusion filled the hearts and minds of his carefully chosen inner circle of disciples driving them into hiding behind closed doors. Peter, the one Christ called Rock and placed over His Church, picked up his nets and went fishing.

Today’s Gospel causes me to pause and wonder.

Has anything really changed over the ages?

Is there any practicality in thinking that lasting and meaningful peace is possible without the Prince of Peace who infuses measures of himself into the lives of believers through the holy virtues of faith, hope, and charity?

There is no way to count the lives that have been changed through the Gospel over the Christian ages. There have been multitudes of life-changes in this regard and these changes continue to occur here and there where souls hungry for the truth accept and receive the living truth contained in the Scriptures. Despite all the diversity of dogma and doctrinal opinions, Christ continues to influence and change individual lives.

What of the second question?

I hardly think that it is and it is not that we don’t have the opportunity and means for it. Christ’s words still echo, calling out to ears that refuse to hear. Christ still offers his image to eyes that refuse to see. “If you only knew.”

It is here, in a world torn by conflict and strife, in a world ripe with injustice and inequality, in a world filled with the antithetical actions that work in opposition against the divine activity of God that I find myself laboring.[2] And I must confess that, more times than not, I perceive this laboring as swimming against an extreme outgoing tide that seeks to drown me in its dark depths – against a secular world that is diabolically opposed to Christ, against my own fallible and susceptible self.

Without the Death of the Victim, a Death that overcame all death, there would be no possibility of salvation for humanity. Christ’s foreknowledge of his suffering and death, the free offering of himself as the Victim, and the presentation of himself as the Model for all victims in all ages[3], something implicitly contained in Benedict’s ideal of conversatio morum[4], form a life-image that is both beautiful but difficult to personally realize.

It is, however, in the personal commitment to self-death and in the personal realization of this life-image that faith, hope, and charity are infused and find their greatest fulfillment.

[1] Luke 19:41-44
[2] RB Prologue 14-17
[3] Philippians 2:1-8
[4] RB 58:17

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

A Difficult Proposition

The theological virtues - faith, hope, and charity – are integrally and inseparably related. It is through the impartation of the theological virtues, the action of grace that leads to and participates in our profession of faith in Christ, that we receive, enter into, and become the nature of Christ in the world.[1] [2]

The whole of the Christian experience revolves around the relational aspects inherent in the theological virtues, in the divinely infused gift of faith, hope, and charity that works mysteriously within the interior being to form believers in Christ into the image of Christ.

I’m hard pressed to find a time in my cabinet of remembrance when I did not have some degree of assent to the actions of divine reality. It has, granted, been a lifetime of development. I have to admit that the developmental process includes times when I chose exercising my will in resisting the truth.

Alternatives, avenues that are easily chosen through ignorance and often chosen for one reason or another through willful defiance, are alluring and can seem so attractive. There have also been times when my best reasoning, thinking that I was discerning the will of God and living out that direction, brought about a crop of difficult and even victimizing consequences.

Dying to self[3] is a difficult proposition. It is, however, the proposition that presents itself. To be remade and staid in the image of Christ necessarily means losing the image of this self that I, and the world, have and would continue to make of me.[4]

This is not something that I can accomplish in my own strength. Nor is it a conflict won in a few skirmishes. The victory inherent herein is the antithesis of all that is held in esteem by the world’s ideals of success.

[1] Acts 17:28
[2] Ephesians 2:8-9
[3] 1 Corinthians 15:31 A.V.
[4] Mark 8:35

Saturday, November 14, 2009

Waiting


There are times when life's demands are such that it becomes all one can do to

. . . simply breathe

. . . simply rest

in faith,
in hope,
in the charity of God.

Thoughts become a jangled tangle. Words just a string of meaningless incoherent run-on symbols not worth the ink to print them.

And we wait. Doing what we can to simply manage life on its own uncertain terms.

Yet,

it is here.

More than anywhere.

That very life itself becomes a wordless prayer.

That we discover and experience the sustaining grace and mercy of God.

And waiting becomes our expression of the theological virtues.

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

And Now Abideth These Three

And now abideth faith, hope, and charity, these three; but the greatest of these is charity.[1]

They are the foundation of all Christian moral activity giving it animation, providing its special character.

The theological virtues (faith, hope, and charity) inform and give life to all the moral virtues. The theological virtues are infused by God into the souls of the faithful to make them capable of acting as his children and of meriting eternal life. They are the pledge of the presence and action of the Holy Spirit in the faculties of the human being.[2]

I do not recall any of the contemplative writers saying so in so few words, but I am coming more and more to understand, or at least suspicion, that it is the infusion of the theological virtues, accompanying spiritual reading, meditation, and prayer that carry the prepared and receptive praying soul into the desired but fleeting fruit of contemplation. The contemplative state, however, as a gift that challenges intellectual reasoning, can and will defy our best efforts to catalogue, define, or outline steps that it must follow.

Though it may involve multiple stages, the performance of the Christian life (and I use the word performance because living out the tenets of Christianity is indeed a personal performance[3]) is not something arbitrary or guided by chance. This is a performance written and orchestrated by God who knows where we are, considers where we are, and leads every honest searching soul in respect to these personal life-conditions.[4]

Accepting this, how then ought I to live as a follower of Christ on the stage that God has prepared for me?[5] Answering this question is integral to all that I am and all that I do as a Christian, as a Catholic Christian, and as an Oblate in the Order of St. Benedict.

This is the great pressing question that I must continually ask myself.

This is, I believe, also the great pressing question that spans the course of time and comes to bear most heavily on the whole of these turbulent modern times as the most important question imploring an answer. It’s the question that reaches over the obstacles created by borders, hedges, languages, and creeds and has no respect of national origin, sect, or race.

Over the course of the next several posts I will be making a little personal journey of reflective exploration into the values inherent in the theological virtues, virtues and their values that adapt human nature for participation in divine nature. It’s the theological virtues that dispose Christians, in monasteries and in the world, to live in a relationship with the Holy Trinity and provides the substance for every human virtue.[6]

Although we exercise disciplines of various sorts and in various measures in the course of our spiritual journey, and although we practices various human virtues in varying degrees and in sundry circumstances, it is through the infusion of the theological virtues, more than anything else, that the soul enters into fellowship with God.

For an increase in the virtues of faith, hope, and charity … let us pray to the Lord.

[1] 1 Corinthians 13:13 A.V.
[2] CCC, 1813,
[3] James 2:14-26
[4] John 15:16-17
[5] 2 Peter 3:11
[6] CCC, 1812