Monday, July 30, 2012

Six Critiques of the Mentality of the Church since the Second Vatican Council: Part Two

As some of you may know, I am continuing my series on six critiques of the mentality and actions of the Catholic Church since the Second Vatican Council. My apologies for the long wait between the first, and now the second, critiques. Here is a link to the first post of this series.

2) This second critique is more or less a second aspect of the first critique, for I am approaching the same topic from a different angle; it should therefore sound very similar. In the Catholic Church since the Second Vatican Council, among both the majority of the sacred Hierarchy and the majority of the laity, the true understanding of what 'holiness' means has been either partially or totally obscured and replaced with a concept of a more open, ecumenical notion of widespread sacredness, a sacredness which is believed to be more or less present in a blurry but particular way in the Catholic Church, but also spilling out beyond its visible boundaries and truly present in many other religions, systems of thought, cultures, and localities. The two concepts, the widespread sacred, and holiness, are not at all the same; sacred carries the import of merely different from the ordinary and somehow connected with the Divine; something to be reverenced and honored because of its connection to God or to grace. Holiness, on the other hand, carried the import of separateness from other people and spiritual entities and total consecration singularly to God. Sacredness in the modern conception, then, is pseudo-unifying in a false way of blurring distinctions; holiness in its true sense is the epitome of divisive, it is what Christ said would divide family members from family members as some chose to follow Christ as Lord and God, and some chose to be scandalized of him.

Now that I have introduced the topic, let me give some broad background. Both the concept of sacredness and of holiness are good, and are part of our human and also Judeo-Christian patrimony as Catholics. That is why both terms are indeed used in their respective functions within Catholic vocabulary. Of the two, however, holiness is the more critical to understand. One of the single most distinctive marks of the Hebrew religion from the very beginning is that above all else, the concept of holiness distinguishes it from all other systems of religion in that age. It shared the concept of sacredness with the other pagan religions that surrounded it, but the true and full concept of holiness was uniquely Hebrew, just as the concept of a single, infinite, omnipotent Creator God that created all things ex nihilo, out of nothing, was originally uniquely Hebrew. You don't have to be a theologian or a historian to know this about the Hebrew religion and holiness, all you have to do is scan through the Torah, the Nevi'im, and the Ketuvim; the Law, the Prophets, and the Writings, what Christians would recognize as the Old Testament. I will here provide you with some quotes to demonstrate this singular understanding of holiness in the Hebrew Old Testament, as well as from the Deuterocanon that Catholics and Eastern Orthodox recognize as Scripture. All quotes taken from the Knox version of the Scriptures, unless otherwise noted:

"IN the beginning God created the heavens and the earth. The earth was without form and void, and darkness was upon the face of the deep; and the Spirit of God was moving over the face of the waters. And God said, "Let there be light"; and there was light. And God saw that the light was good; and God separated the light from the darkness."- Genesis 1:1-4, RSV-CE

St. Augustine, Doctor of the Church and arguably second only to St. Thomas Aquinas as far as Latin theologians, expounded this to be first about the creation of the entire cosmos and then particularly of the world, but also about the story of salvation, and the New Creation. In the beginning, God created man, but man became corrupt and void, and darkness was over his entire soul, blocking the light of God grace from shining upon him. In the fullness of time, through Jesus Christ, all we who are Baptized under the waters, also are renewed and regenerated and made New Creations by the Holy Spirit, who hovers over the waters at Baptism. Through this New Creation in Baptism, the Light of Christ is shed abroad in our hearts to illumine us; hence did the Apostolic Fathers, such as St. Justin the Martyr, call Baptism "the Enlightening." One we are enlightened by the Light of the World through Baptism, God separates us through that Baptism and makes us set apart, separate, and divided from the darkness of this world, separating the Light from the darkness. This is who we are as the Catholic Church, and this is God's testimony of salvation to us. If you have been Baptized, this is your calling: to be separate from the darkness of this world, and shine forth the Light of Christ to a lost and dying world.

"[Moses was told by the Lord God,] Do not come nearer; rather take the shoes from your feet, you are standing on holy ground."- Exodus 3:5

Holy ground, distinct ground, separated ground from the rest of the ground.

"[The Lord said to Moses,] Listen, then, to my voice, and keep your covenant with me; and I, to whom all the earth belongs, will single you out among its peoples to be my own. You shall serve me as a royal priesthood, as a consecrated nation; tell the Israelites this."- Exodus 19:5-6

Again, this is explicitly what holiness entails, from God's own mind. God is in effect saying: 'The whole earth belongs to me, but it is under the power of evil and the peoples of the earth give in to that power. There is corruption and disobedience everywhere. But you, as a people, I am singling out to be distinctly and separately my own. You shall be consecrated to me, and my presence will dwell with you, hallowing you and separating you from the rest of the world.'

"This veil will be held up by rings. The ark is to be set down behind it, and thus it will be a division between the sanctuary and the inner sanctuary."- Exodus 25:33

God is here describing the building of the Tabernacle and teaching the Hebrew people how he is to be worshiped properly, and here he divides that which is more holy from that which is less holy. It is precisely this division that so many Catholics of all dignities and ranks today are offended at. They will not think nor speak of the division which holiness requires between that which is God's own and where His personal, sanctifying presence dwells, and where it does not dwell.

"It is your task to distinguish between what is holy and what is profane, what is defiled and what is clean; and to teach the sons of Israel all these commandments of mine, the Lord's word to them through Moses."- Leviticus 10:10-11

This is a powerful passage, because it is a solemn charge from the Lord God Almighty to his Levitical priests that it is their sacred and official duty to distinguish and divide that which is holy from that which is profane, and that which is defiled from that which is clean, which is the Lord's word and command. It is also their sacred duty in the sight of God to teach all of God's separated people what is holy and what is profane, and to distinguish the two in their eyes. This is powerful because it is a statement of mission that applies to the Priests of the Order of Melchisidech even more fully now than it did then, because they have the ministry of the Word made flesh. Any Priest or Bishop or Archbishop or Cardinal or even Pope who fails in this mission, fails a substantial portion of what it means to be a Priest of the Most High God.

"I am the Lord your God; you must be set apart, the servants of a God who is set apart. Do not contaminate yourselves with any of these beasts that creep along the ground. I am the Lord your God, who rescued you from the land of Egypt; I am set apart and you must be set apart like me."- Leviticus 11:44-45

"The Lord, too, spoke to Moses, bidding him give the whole company of Israel this message: You must be men set apart, as I am set apart, I, the Lord your God[, as] worshippers of such a God..."- Leviticus 19:1-3

"You must be set apart for my service, as I am set apart, I, your God, who have chosen you out among all the nations of the world, to belong to me."- Leviticus 20:26

"They must not let their thoughts and eyes wander free, into all manner of unfaithfulness, but rather bethink them of the Lord's decrees and carry them out, a people set apart for their God; and that God the Lord, who brought them out of the land of Egypt to make them his own people."- Numbers 15:39-41

" shew that yours is a people set apart for its own God, chosen by its own God, out of all the nations on earth, as his own people."- Deuteronomy 7:6

" [are] a people set apart for the Lord, chosen out of all nations on earth to be his very own."- Deuteronomy 14:2

"In this camp of yours the Lord your God goes to and fro, waiting to deliver you and give you victory over your enemies; all must be holiness there, no defilement be seen in it, lest his Presence should be withdrawn."- Deuteronomy 23:14

These seven passages from the Law are perhaps the single most important series of passages in the entire Scriptures on what holiness means; Holiness is the very identity of God as separate and unique from all evil and corruption, and it is consequently the very identity of His Church, at that time Israel. It is the sacred and solemn marital relationship between God and His People that is separate from the rest of the world. Egypt typologically represents the sin that God has saved us as Catholics from, and the beasts that creep along the ground typologically represent satan and the demons, and all power and workings of evil and darkness in this world. We who have been called out of sin and rescued by God, must no longer have communion with or an affection for the devil or his demons or his workings in this world, his workings in other religions, his workings in heresies, his workings in other cultures of men and systems of thought that fall far short of God's will and which do not have the sanctifying and personal presence of God in them. These seven passages ought to be the character of the Catholic Church and our mentality, and were our mentality and character for almost 1970 years. We are by nature as the Church of God set apart, separate, worshipers of the set apart and separate God, belonging to God alone as His Bride; we are the Church Militant by nature and have true and perfect enemies, the powers of darkness in this world, satan and the demons, and to a lesser extent those human beings who wittingly or unwittingly do the will of the evil one in acting spiritually and physically against the knowledge of the Glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ, the One who was declared the set apart and holy Son of God by the set apart and holy Spirit in the Resurrection (c.f. 2 Corinthians 4:6; Romans 1:1-4). I beg you, dear Catholic, whoever you may be, read the writings of the Church Fathers, read the Ecumenical and Infallible Councils prior to the Second Vatican Council, read the Papal encyclicals over time, and for goodness sake read the Sacred Scriptures! Recall your identity as the Church Militant, set apart and holy, and speak it boldly and proudly, even if it costs you your life some day.

"Praise the Lord our God, and do worship on the holy mountain where he dwells; the Lord our God is Holy."- Psalm 98:9

"In the year of king Ozias death, I had a vision. I saw the Lord sitting on a throne that towered high above me, the skirts of his robe filling the temple. Above it rose the figures of the seraphim, each of them six-winged; with two wings they veiled God's face, with two his feet, and the other two kept them poised in flight. And ever the same cry passed between them, Holy, holy, holy is the Lord God of hosts; all the earth is full of his glory."- Isaiah 6:1-3

"For thus saith the High and the Eminent that inhabiteth eternity: and his name is Holy, who dwelleth in the high and holy place, and with a contrite and humble spirit, to revive the spirit of the humble, and to revive the heart of the contrite."- Isaiah 57:15, Douay-Rheims

"Many a son of Israel refused the unclean food, preferring death to defilement; and die they must, because they would not break God's holy law."- 1 Maccabees 1:65-66

These passages continue the same message as the Law of Moses, and are simply a small sampling of the many passages of Sacred Scripture that continually demonstrate this revelation of the essential nature of God as set apart, and us as His Church likewise set apart from the world and the evil in the world.

The passages I have already quotes are from the Old Testament Sacred Scriptures, in order to show that the concept of the holiness of God and his people as being set apart from the world and its evil is as old as the Judeo-Christian revelation itself. Now, the question before us is, Is the God of the New Testament different from the God of the Old Testament? Does He no longer care about His Church being set apart and separated from the world and the evil therein, and does He no longer reveal Himself as the One who is preeminently set apart and hold? Not by a long shot! Again, just a few quotes from the New Testament to demonstrate this point:

"You must not give that which is holy to dogs. Do not cast your pearls before swine, or the swine may trample them under foot, and then turn on you and tear you to pieces."- St. Matthew 7:6

"And the Angel answered her, The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the most High will overshadow you. Thus this holy Offspring of yours shall be known for the Son of God... And Mary said, My soul magnifies the Lord; my spirit has found joy in God, who is my Saviour, because he has looked graciously upon the lowliness of his handmaid. Behold, from this day forward all generations will count me blessed; because he who is mighty, he whose Name is holy, has wrought for me his wonders."- St. Luke 1:35; 46-49

"In the synagogue was a man who was possessed by an unclean spirit, that cried out with a loud voice: Nay, why do you meddle: with us, Jesus of Nazareth? Have you come to make an end of us? I recognize you for what you are, the Holy One of God. Jesus rebuked it; Silence! he said; come out of him. Then the unclean spirit threw him into a convulsion before them all, and went out of him without doing him any injury. Wonder fell upon them all, as they said to one another, What is this word of his? See how he has authority and power to lay his command on the unclean spirits, so that they come out!"- St. Luke 4:33-36

"I have no longer much time for converse with you; one (the devil) is coming, who has power over the world, but no hold over me. No, but the world must be convinced that I love the Father, and act only as the Father has commanded me to act. Rise up, we must be going on our way."- St. John 14:30-31

"I am remaining in the world no longer, but they remain in the world, while I am on my way to you. Holy Father, keep them true to your name, your gift to me, that they may be one, as we are one... I have given them your message, and the world has nothing but hatred for them, because they do not belong to the world, as I, too, do not belong to the world. I am not asking that you should take them out of the world, but that you should keep them clear of what is evil. They do not belong to the world, as I, too, do not belong to the world; keep them holy, then, through the truth; it is your word that is truth."- St. John 17:11; 14-17

"Do you not understand that you are God's Temple, and that God's Spirit has his dwelling in you? If anybody desecrates the Temple of God, God will bring him to ruin. It is a holy thing, this Temple of God which is is nothing other than yourselves."- 1 Corinthians 3:16-17

"You who are husbands must show love to your wives, as Christ showed love to the Church when he gave himself up on its behalf. He would hallow it, purify it by bathing it in the Water to which his word gave life; he would summon it into his own presence, the Church in all its beauty, no stain, no wrinkle, no such disfigurement; it was to be holy, it was to be spotless."- Ephesians 5:25-27

"No, it is a holy God who has called you, and you too must be holy in all the ordering of your lives; You must be holy, the scripture says, because I am holy."- 1 St. Peter 1:15-16

" too must be built up on him, stones that live and breathe, into a spiritual fabric; you must be a holy priesthood, to offer up that spiritual Sacrifice which God accepts through Jesus Christ... you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a consecrated nation, a people God means to have for himself; it is yours to proclaim the exploits of the God who has called you out of darkness into his marvellous light."- 1 St. Peter 2:5; 9

"Each of the four figures had six wings, with eyes everywhere looking outwards and inwards; day and night they cried unceasingly. Holy, holy, holy is the Lord God, the Almighty, who ever was, and is, and is still to come."- Revelation of St. John 4:8

You see, God has not changed one bit. God is the same from the beginning of His Revelation to the end of it; from the beginning of the Sacred Scriptures, to the end of it, and all throughout Sacred Tradition. Now that I have laid the foundation in describing the concepts I am trying to communicate, I want to now look at the source of the current confusion in the Catholic Church about this very fundamental aspect of the Catholic Faith, and discuss some of the theological issues surrounding it. The source of the confusion is a movement within the Catholic Church in the mid-twentieth century till today among the sacred Hierarchy and among the laity to 'be more open and more ready embrace and love the world and its people. To open the windows of the glory of the Catholic Church and share it with the world, and be open with it, and not stingy.' That movement of ideology was given voice in many of the documents of the Second Vatican Council; indeed, that ideology is one of the main clarion calls of the Council.

Let me now be clear, just as I was in my previous post in this series: I am not questioning the Ordinary Magisterium of the Catholic Church, which was invoked in the Second Vatican Council. We must understand that some of the Council documents contain Ordinary Magisterial teachings on Faith and Morals; that is, they contain pastoral clarifications of perennial Catholic dogmas from an Ecumenical Council, and these documents that contain this Ordinary Magisterium have the most dogmatic authority in the Church regarding Faith and Morals short of Infallible Magisterium, which is invoked in all previous Councils save this one. Ordinary Magisterium, however,  has two distinctions that must be remembered: 1) It is not the same as Infallible Magisterium. It has utmost authority just short of Infallible authority that must be given religious submission of intellect and will, but it is not of itself infallible except in repeating previously stated infallible Catholic dogmas. Because of this, 2) All of the documents of the Second Vatican Council, including those that contain the Ordinary Magisterium, must be interpreted in light of the twenty Infallible Councils prior to the Second Vatican Council, along with the whole Sacred Deposit of Scripture and Tradition, including Papal Encyclicals. This means that every statement in the Council that is given to the Church as Ordinary Magisterium, especially where they are ambiguous or vague, or seem very unclear, or even suggest rupture of Tradition, must at every location be interpreted by previous Infallible Magisterium.

Forgive this technical theology; it is necessary to make these distinctions, and now it is necessary to make one more distinction: within the documents of the Second Vatican Council, what I question is not the Ordinary Magisterium, but specifically the manner in which things are presented, the language that is used, and most especially, the way that statements are phrased with regard to other world religions or other sects of Christianity. It is my conviction that the false understandings of holiness in the Church today can be traced back to this inclusive, ecumenical movement that seeks to embrace all people of the world at almost any cost, irregardless of their religious opinions or errors; irregardless of what the devil is doing in their midst to blind them to the Truth, to Jesus Christ our God. And this inclusive, hyper-ecumenical movement was given its most powerful voice in the language of the documents of the Second Vatican Council and the statements that were made within the Council regarding the world, and the religions of the world. These statements, while we can believe they were intended from a good heart in order to embrace the people in these religions themselves, in reality obscured the difference between loving people and embracing all religious thought and cultural thought, whether it contains the evil of religious error or not. The language and statements also pass over the activity of evil in the world to blind men to the Truth of the Gospel of Christ, God Incarnate, and so by passing over that critical truth so fundamental to the Catholic Faith, the Council served to confuse Catholics of all rank and stripe and in the end confused the understanding of holiness and separateness in the popular belief of the Church, in both laity and hierarchy. This confusion has been with us ever since in this last half century or so, and still continue to plague our understanding to this day.

Here's the thing: It's perfectly right and true to say that there are elements of sanctification and grace outside of the visible boundaries of the Catholic Church, which is simply acknowledging the Scriptural and Traditional understanding that the Word does indeed enlighten and call, to a limited extent, every person that comes into this world. Where the Word is active in calling and enlightening men, there too is His grace. This is all fine, and this is one of the main teachings of the Ordinary Magisterium of the Second Vatican Council. Likewise, it is also perfectly accurate to say that it is important for the Church to embrace people and to evangelize fervently, and both act and speak with charity and sensitivity to all religions and not act pompous or too good for the world; that too, another main point Ordinary Magisterium of the Council, is right and proper.

What is NOTTTTTTT right and proper is to FORGET that the Church, by its essential nature as the Bride of the Triune God and the Body of Christ, in the Blessed Virgin Mary who is both of these in her person, is holy, separate, and divided from the world; and that the world, on the other hand,  together with all its false religions, erroneous thought, and evil, is to a certain extent corrupted and under the power of the devil.  Likewise, it is NOT accurate to suggest, believe, teach, or act like you believe that the devil is not the principle entity responsible for religious error and heresy present in the world that deviates from Catholic, absolute Truth, that religious error and heresy are not evil, or that we can overlook the activity of the devil in other religions and systems of thoughts and simply forget that we are the Church Militant, sworn to fight evil wherever it shows its head and confront it, not allow it into our doors and embrace it!

Neither of these two heresiesand that is what they are, follow necessarily from the two Ordinary Magisterial truths that I called to attention above; Nay, God forbid that the Church, the set apart and separate and divided from the world spotless Bride of Christ, should have to change her nature as the set apart Temple of God in order to bring grace to the world, either remotely as an aura that, as mediated by her, goes out from her visible boundaries in the Word born from her; or immediately as her fervent actions to love all men through her members, regardless of their religious thought or cultural location. We cannot help the world come to know God and get to Heaven to dwell with Him forever if we become something other than the Church, which is exactly what the second two propositions would do to us if we accept them.

This is incredibly important to understand, and is the main thrust of this post: even though other religions in the world and other systems of thought represent a fundamental reaching of man's soul toward the Divine, the souls of men are hijacked in this desire to reach for the true God, which the Word enlightens them to, and are taken captive by the devil lest they should accept the Gospel of Christ, which Christ would lead them to were they not to some extent under the power of the devil. This means that we, the Catholic Church, are holy, set apart, separate from the world, and divided from it fundamentally by our very identity as the Church, and this fundamental division between Church and world simply cannot be ignored in favor of a false unity. Anything that suggests a contrary position, that this division does not in reality exist between the Church, which is holy, and the world and its religions, which is profane, is simply heresy. You see, there are two parties involved when God establishes the Church as His own separated people, just as there are two parties involved when the Church reaches toward God with all her might. In both cases, the devil and all evil have no part whatsoever in that fundamental relationship between God and His Bride; the devil persecutes the Church from without, but he cannot worm his way into the core of that connection between God and His Church any more than sin can worm its way into the relationship between Jesus and Mary. However, when the world and all the people in it, no matter which false religion they happen to belong to, reach for the vague Divine as they are made aware of Him through natural revelation, the prompting of the Word, and the grace of the Spirit, there are in reality THREE parties at work: The Triune God, the man in the world religion, and the devil. The man, as prompted by grace, reaches toward the one true God, but as under the power of the devil and of evil, he cannot clearly see God as Triune and One, nor Jesus Christ as God the Son Incarnate to be the Savior of the world, but rather sees simply a vague picture of the Divine. Because of this interference by the devil who blinds him to the truth, he ends up believing things that are abhorrent to or at least in conflict with the one true God's Revelation of Himself to His Church. Therefore the religion that he believes, though it contains elements of grace and truth within it due to the Word calling every individual man within that religion to Himself, is in and of itself a corrupt and a profane thing that is not willed by God nor hallowed and made separate and holy by His personal presence, because it is not that singular marriage between God and man which God has willed for all men from all nations to enter into. The devil is responsible for this corruption, and therefore, his involvement in that religion makes it, the religion itself, an abomination in the sight of God. All truth and grace within this religion therefore CANNOT be ascribed to the religion itself, but simply as grace mediated through the Catholic Church but outside her visible boundaries and present among these poor, lost souls in said religion, through which the Word calls all men to himself in the Catholic Church.

So again, dear Catholics, accept that the identity of the Church is set apart and separate from the world; do not give in to hyper-ecumenism that insists on blurring the distinction between the holy Catholic Church and the profane world, or that naive unspiritual idiocy that claims that we, after 1970 years warring against evil as the Church Militant on earth, are suddenly in Heaven already where the devil will never attack us or blind the world again. This. Is. Madness. Wake up, Catholics, wake up and reject this lunacy, this poison that has woven its way into the consciousness of the Church of the last half century. Accept Magisterial teachings and only the Magisterial teachings, and interpret even those in light of infallible Catholic dogma contained in Scripture and Tradition. As for the naive optimism, the pandering to the world, the willing ignorance to the work of the devil in religious error and in blinding minds to Christ, His Church, and His Truth, and the ignoring of the set apart and separate nature of the Church, whether it be contained in the language and presentation (as opposed to Magisterial teaching) of the Second Vatican Council, or whether it be dripping from the lips of the Hierarchy today, reject it, for the love of God and His Holy Church, reject it!

Wednesday, July 4, 2012

Six Critiques of the Mentality of the Church since the Second Vatican Council: Part One

1) Since the Council, there has been a profound lack of awareness on the part of the Church that the devil is, indeed, real, coupled with an over-emphasis that all men, in a shadowy and incomplete way, partake of the Logos. Furthermore, there has been a complete ignoring of the fact that the evil one and the demons are really and truly active outside of the safe and sanctified boundaries of the Catholic Church, hence why we have powerful weapons against evil like the Holy Mass, the Rite of Exorcism, the Charismatic Gifts, the Holy Rosary, and many others. The devil and the many demons are at work to varying degrees in various religions and groups of men, but rest assured, all error that is outside the Catholic Church and her absolute Truth is ultimately due to sin, and sin is ultimately the domain of the devil. This means that any religion or group of men that is outside of the Church and that contains error is to a certain extent and as allowed by the Triune God, under the devil's power. Even the various groups of Protestants are, to varying degrees corresponding to their level of divergence from Catholic Truth, under this category; hence, St. Ignatius of Antioch clearly declares that if anyone does anything relating to the Faith without the lawful Bishop, he does in reality do service to the devil.

You can clearly see a number of ways that this skewed mentality has played out in the Latin Church, from the removal of the office of Exorcist from the Church, to the editing of the sacramental blessings, to the tinkering with the Rite of Exorcism, to the over-openness to other religions, to the dropping of the term Church Militant, and too many other horrible litanies of doing away with or radically altering many of our greatest weapons and holiest possessions. In the Byzantine and other Eastern Rites of the Catholic Church, as well as in the Anglo-Catholic Rite, thanks be to God, there hasn't been nearly as much of a disaster; both have kept the purity of their Faith largely intact. This issue mainly affects the Latin Church. In the Second Vatican Council itself there is a repeated obsession to be overly-reverential of other religions to the point where the Church was almost tripping over herself to respect and reverence other religions. The reason why the Council was declaring this reverence was because of the elements of grace that exist outside of the Church's visible boundaries, and the universal enlightenment of the Logos to all men born into the world. The problem with this attitude is that it was never counterbalanced in the Council's documents, nor in the mentality of the Church since the Council, with the reality that the devil is active in promoting error and that he is very much present in religious error and, yes, blasphemy. For instance, wherein Islam blasphemes Jesus Christ by denying that He is the Son of God, true God and true man, this is the evil one at work in this religion to present to them a warping of the Truth and keep them from the grace of the Catholic Church. Hence does the St. Paul the Apostle say:

And if our Gospel be also hid, it is hid to them that are lost, in whom the god of this world (the devil of Hell) hath blinded the minds of unbelievers, that the Light of the Gospel of the Glory of Christ, who is the Image of God, should not shine unto them. For we preach not ourselves, but Jesus Christ our Lord; and ourselves your servants through Jesus. For God, who commanded the Light to shine out of darkness, hath shined in our hearts, to give the Light of the knowledge of the Glory of God, in the face of Christ Jesus.- 2 Corinthians 4:3-6

St. Paul also continues this theme in another place, confirming moreover that we are in a constant spiritual warfare with the devil and the demons for the souls of men, and that we are also in warfare to be salt in our society and prevent it from rotting under the weight of sin:

Finally, brethren, be strengthened in the Lord, and in the might of his power. Put you on the armour of God, that you may be able to stand against the deceits of the devil. For our wrestling is not against flesh and blood; but against principalities and power, against the rulers of the world of this darkness, against the spirits of wickedness in the high places. Therefore take unto you the armour of God, that you may be able to resist in the evil day, and to stand in all things perfect.- Ephesians 6:10-13

The problem is, you never hear this truth from the Catholic Church today; her hierarchy is completely silent on this matter. There is an entirely lopsided and unbalanced focus on part of this truth told to us by St. John:

In the beginning was the Word (Logos), and the Word was with God, and the Word was God... That was the true Light, which enlighteneth every man that cometh into this world. He was in the world, and the world was made by him, and the world knew Him not. He came unto his own, and his own received Him not... And the Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us, (and we saw His Glory, the Glory as it were of the only begotten of the Father,) full of grace and truth.- The Gospel according to St. John 1:1, 9-11, 14

St. John here tells us that the Logos does indeed enlighten and guide every man that comes into the world, and calls all men by His grace. He does all this outside of the visible boundaries of the Church, even though the grace that He dispenses to all men is mediated mysteriously through His Church, which is His Body and completely united to Him. This activity of Logos outside of the visible boundaries of the Church clearly justifies the Second Vatican Council declaring as much, and thus, at least theologically and relating to Faith and Morals, the Council is accurate. St. John also clarifies, however, that the world did not (and still does not) know the Logos personally and perfectly, this knowledge of the Logos brings holiness and sanctity, and it is precisely for this reason that the Logos was made man, in order to join Himself in righteousness to His Church and make Himself known in holiness to her. It is this balance that is missing, this understanding of both the theological truth that the Logos and His grace is active outside of the visible boundaries of the Church, and on the other hand, that the devil is also at work outside of the Church viciously spreading error and encouraging sin and blasphemy against Jesus Christ among men and religions. Ignore this truth to your own peril, for it is very real. The longer we refuse to balance our vision in this regard, the longer we will be willingly ignorant of the devices and practices of the devil, as St. Paul encourages us not to be. Both truths are indeed complementary and based on Apostolic Christian doctrine taught in Scripture, but there must be a clear hierarchy to these two truths; the activity of evil in this world and the sinister nature of the evil one's work in other religions is no mere fairy tale, and it must be firmly believed and must inform and restrain our understanding of the presence of the Logos, together with the Church's grace, throughout the whole world. We must embrace and reverence those elements of truth and grace outside of the visible Catholic Church only because they are in fact the Church herself; we must not embrace nor reverence the other religions of the world as themselves; for as themselves, they are a gross blindness imposed by the power that the evil one has over this world. The lack of this common sense and essential understanding of Christianity is alarming when your read the Council's documents, as there is a very strong emphasis on embracing other religions and reverencing them without due caution being taken to emphasize the reality of the evil one acting to sow blasphemy and error against the Triune God. Indeed, when you take this unbalanced attitude into perspective together with the "pious pelagianism" and completely unwarranted optimism of the Pastoral Constitution Gaudium et Spes (as Cardinal Ratzinger put it) regarding culture in the West, you get a glimpse of an almost naive vision on the part of the Council Fathers that is dangerously dismissive of evil, as if we had already entered Heaven and positive, supernatural evil was now a fairy tale to be remembered no more. When we understand this essential mindset starting in the Council's documents themselves and bleeding over in tenfold strength into the later decades, we can understand the complete collapse of Latin Catholic worship, identity, and life: the Latin Catholic Church let her guard down almost entirely and allowed the evil one to strip her down to shameful nakedness.

Let me be clear, I do not mean to claim that the Second Vatican Council is heretical. All of its Magisterial teachings on Faith and Morals are sound and within the scope of Catholic orthodoxy, and they are faithful to Sacred Scripture as well. However, the manner in which these truths were presented, the language that was used to present them, and the undue reverence and naivete that was shown to other world religions and secular Western culture in the Council without the counterbalancing emphasis that sin, error, and blasphemy are the domain and power of the devil in the world, are all truly frightening and dangerous to good Faith in Christ and His Church, which is His fullness and His Body.

Sunday, April 15, 2012

When Israel Shall Turn to the Lord: Christ Mystically Present in the Orient

One thing that has really been turning over in my head lately is the concept of the Divine Liturgies of the Church of God being celebrated toward the people or toward the East, toward God. Something that is just striking to me is that there are many, many within the Church today who do not recognize the fact that celebrating the Liturgy with the Priest(s) and the congregation of the priestly people facing East is not, repeat, NOT so that the Priest can have his back to the people. There is an beautifully rich and mystical reason regarding practice of ad orientem Liturgy, one that can be found throughout Scripture and in the organic and Living Tradition of the Catholic Church. Here are eight passages of Scripture (and one, from the Didache, of Sacred Tradition interpreting that Scripture) that give us a sense of the Church's understanding of what worshipping toward the East means, and the mystical Truth that it has been in the Church since the first century.

"For behold the day shall come kindled as a furnace: and all the proud, and all that do wickedly shall be stubble: and the day that cometh shall set them on fire, saith the Lord of hosts, it shall not leave them root, nor branch. But unto you that fear my name, the Sun of Justice shall arise, and health in his wings: and you shall go forth, and shall leap like calves of the herd." - Malachi 4:1-2

"For as lightning cometh out of the East, and appeareth even into the west: so shall the coming of the Son of Man be... And then shall appear the sign of the Son of Man in heaven: and then shall all tribes of the earth mourn: and they shall see the Son of Man coming in the clouds of heaven with much power and majesty. And he shall send his angels with a trumpet, and a great voice: and they shall gather together his elect from the four winds, from the farthest parts of the heavens to the utmost bounds of them." - St. Matthew 24:27, 29-30

(Notice: Our Lord, Jesus Christ, teaches us that His final and conclusive coming to judge the quick and the dead occurs somehow mystically from the East; when the Eucharist is celebrated toward the East and the faithful worship Jesus Christ present in the Eucharist, the coming of Our Lord in the Eucharist is superimposed over that grand and final coming, becoming itself both a real accessing of the people of God to that day of His Revealing at the end of time, and a type and symbol of that Day. This is all vital Sacred Tradition, and it is unspeakably beautiful. When the Priest(s) proclaims "Lift up your hearts," He means it; we are encountering the Risen Savior coming at the end of time from the East; time and eternity have become interwoven and joined in His Presence in the Eucharist; angels accompany His coming. It is the Revelation of Jesus Christ in the Hidden Manna, and the proclamation of His final coming.)

"Then the Lord shall go forth, and shall fight against those nations, as when He fought in the day of battle. And His feet shall stand in that day upon the Mount of Olives, which is over against Jerusalem toward the East: and the Mount of Olives shall be divided in the midst thereof to the East... and the Lord my God shall come, and all the saints with him... And the Lord shall by King over all the earth: in that day there shall be one Lord, and His Name shall be one.

Behold, the Lord cometh with thousands of his saints, to execute judgment upon all, and to reprove all the ungodly for all the works of their ungodliness, whereby they have done ungodly, and of all the hard things which ungodly sinners have spoken against God. it was said: The Lord shall come and all His saints with Him. Then shall the world see the Lord coming upon the clouds of heaven." - Zechariah 14:3-5, 9, St. Jude 1:14-15, and Didache 16:15-17

"When Jesus therefore was born in Bethlehem of Juda, in the days of king Herod, behold, there came wise men from the East to Jerusalem. Saying, Where is He that is born King of the Jews? For we have seen His Star in the East, and are come to adore him." - St. Matthew 2:1-2

"And when they were drawing near to Jerusalem and to Bethania at the Mount of Olives, He sendeth two of his disciples, and saith to them: Go into the village that is over against you, and immediately at your coming in thither, you shall find a colt... And many spread their garments in the way: and others cut down boughs from the trees, and strewed them in the way. And they that went before and they that followed, cried, saying: Hosanna, blessed is He that cometh in the Name of the Lord.
Blessed be the Kingdom of our father David that cometh: Hosanna in the highest.
And He entered into Jerusalem, into the temple..." - St. Mark 11:1-2, 8-10

(Notice: Christ came from the East, from the Mount of Olives and Bethania, in order to enter the Temple on Palm Sunday, and cleanse it. This calls to mind the following passage from the prophet Ezekiel, which is prophetic of the cleansing of the Temple by Jesus Christ, who is the Image and Glory of God the Father, and it is also prophetic of the Second Coming, as all of these passages are.)

"And he brought me to the gate that looked towards the East. And behold the glory of the God of Israel came in by the way of the East: and His Voice was like the noise of many waters, and the earth shone with His majesty... and I fell upon my face.
And the majesty of the Lord went into the temple by the way of the gate that looked to the East.
And the Spirit lifted me up and brought me into the inner court: and behold the house was filled with the glory of the Lord.
And I heard one speaking to me out of the house, and the Man that stood by me,
said to me: Son of man, the place of My throne, and the place of the soles of My feet, where I dwell in the midst of the children of Israel for ever: and the house of Israel shall no more profane My holy Name...
Now therefore let them put away their fornications, and the carcasses of their kings far from Me: and I will dwell in the midst of them for ever.
But thou, son of man, shew to the house of Israel the temple, and let them be ashamed of their iniquities..." - Ezekiel 43:1-10

(Notice as well: What did Ezekiel do when the Glory of God descended upon Him from the East? He fell upon his face. Again, those who do not understand what they are doing (at least, I hope they don't) abolish kneeling before the Presence and Glory of God present even more profoundly to us and in us via the Eucharist, and rarely do you see Priests or anyone else prostrate in adoration before the Sun of Righteousness rising from the East in the Eucharist. Do not doubt this: Everything in the Sacred Liturgy of all the ancient rites is there because the Holy Spirit intended it to be and moved the Church to this symbolism over millennia. This does not mean that Liturgy does not grow and develop, and it doesn't mean changes like altering whether the people receive under one or both species, altering the precise number and types of Clergy celebrating, or other such things should not be done, since indeed both of those and many other things have place in Sacred Tradition and the various Rites present in the Church today. But if there is something that is changed in the Liturgy that is present in no current Rite at all, but is a complete innovation and rupture, that is just... painfully sad and in some cases, impious; for many ought to know better and commit Liturgical abuse and radical alteration anyway.)

"But all things that are reproved, are made manifest by the Light; for all that is made manifest is LightWherefore he saith: Rise thou that sleepest, and arise from the dead: and Christ shall enlighten thee." - Ephesians 5:13-14

"And that knowing the Season; that it is now the hour for us to rise from sleep. For now our salvation is nearer than when we believed. The night is passed, and the Day is at hand. Let us therefore cast off the works of darkness, and put on the armour of Light. Let us walk honestly, as in the Day: not in rioting and drunkenness, not in chambering and impurities, not in contention and envy: But put ye on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make not provision for the flesh in its concupiscences." - Romans 13:11-14

"Since we have such a hope, we are very bold, not like Moses, who put a veil over his face so that the Israelites might not see the end of the fading splendor. But their minds were hardened; for to this day, when they read the old covenant, that same veil remains unlifted, because only through Christ is it taken away. Yes, to this day whenever Moses is read a veil lies over their minds; but when a man turns to the Lord the veil is removed. Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom. And we all, with unveiled face, beholding the glory of the Lord, are being changed into his likeness from one degree of glory to another; for this comes from the Lord who is the Spirit... For it is the God who said, "Let Light shine out of darkness," who has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Christ." - 2nd Corinthians 3:12-18, 4:6

This is the point: the Scriptures are full of mysteries and mystical types, with connections we could scarcely fathom. They truly are divine and sacred Writ, beautiful to behold. When I look back upon the Early Church of the first number of centuries and the very early development of the Liturgies of the Church, this is what I see: I see sacred mystery, I see holy mysticism, I see profound Christian spirituality, I see a Church learning and understanding more and more about the infinite Gift it has in the Eucharist, and I see the Spirit of Christ enlightening His Church how best to honor the Lord in the Holy Mystery of the Eucharist. When you look at how the Liturgy developed very early in the infancy of the Church to the point that the Priest(s) and the people faced East, you can really connect with the mystery they were experiencing and understanding. When the Priest(s) utter the Epiclesis over the holy Gifts, and when they bless them with the prayer of Christ's words, the Spirit and the Bride are indeed calling with one voice to the one who is Light itself, the One who is called the Sun; for He descends down from the Heavens to Hell and disappears for three days, to rise gloriously as the risen Sun, in splendor in the East, to Lighten the world. This is the Mystery! This is the Faith! Those who tamper with the Liturgy do not understand that profound mystical theology of the first, second, third, and fourth century Church. They do not realize that those who first worshipped Christ, had this complex theology already seen in the AD 50's and 60's in St. Paul's writings of Christ being patterned after the Rising Sun, and these and later Christians realized that when they were encountering the Lord Jesus Christ present among them in the sacred Mystery of the Eucharist, by facing East they were greeting their Bridegroom, coming both now and truly present in the Eucharist, and greeting Him in earnest expectation of His final and conclusive Appearing. The night of this world is indeed far spent; Day draws near. Let Grace come to us from the East, and let this world pass away. Let that Place in Eternity where Christ is the only physical and spiritual Reality descend to us now in the Eucharist, and transform us into His Reality of Being, true Reality, for we are in poverty of His Being. Let us draw near to Christ, the Light of the World, the Sun of Justice, and submit to this divine Tradition. Do not be one who stands by as the spirituality of the ancient and Catholic Church is diminished or disregarded, and when you are at the Liturgy, recall to mind these passages, and worship Jesus Christ, who comes into your presence to dispel all night.

Sunday, April 8, 2012

Easter Sunday Meditations - Alleluia!

Rejoice, O Heavens; shout to the King, O Earth; bend the knee, specters of Hell! Let none entertain a single doubt, your King has risen, He is risen, He has proven Himself God before the face of men and demons. The evil one could inflict suffering upon the Word made flesh, and thinking the victory was his, Our Lord descends to the realm of the dead. Put to death in the flesh, but all the while alive in the Spirit and joined to His Body by His Divine presence. Not even death could sever His Divinity from His Body, and now at last, with release of all power, the Spirit descends over the body of the Lord and quickens it to life, glorifying and divinizing Him with the light of a thousand suns!

Let us be present there in our meditations, witnessing as the Holy Spirit comes to move over the Body of the Lord, as at the creation of the world, over the waters of death, over seeming chaos and despair; all is quiet, all is still. Contained within the Lord is all of the fulness of Divinity and humanity, the culmination of all creation, and entire world, nay, the realm of the infinite and the entire universe contained in the tomb. The Resurrection represents the complete recreation of the entire cosmos, the entire creation of God; in a sublime mystery, the miracle begun with the incarnation is completed here. God becomes present in the flesh and the paradigm is shifting, for from the moment He is conceived by the Holy Spirit in the Virgin's womb, to the moment He is risen to die no more, can be likened to One who Samson was patterned after. Like Samson, Our Lord in assuming the human race into Himself in His incarnation is coming in the midst of and bearing on His mighty shoulders the entire weight of sin, death, and pain that is represented in the crumbling building; He literally bore a crumbling world on His shoulders, not as in Samson's case due to His sin, but for the sin of the world He came willingly to bear its weight of guilt. Indeed, the world caved in on Him, and He like Samson died under the weight of our pain and darkness; but glorious Light of World, He rises from the rubble; not as an ethereal spirit, but bearing His Body that He laid down, and with it bearing the crumbling ruins of the world connected to it and pulling it up, assuming Earth into Heaven, which is none other than the One whose very life was Sacrifice.

Like the Almighty Sun of Righteousness, He falls in the evening of the world below the West to the realm of the dead, spiritually under the earth, and on the morning of New Beginnings, He comes bearing eternity on the fringes of His garment, lightening the world with His light! Soon it will be full noon, and soon He will return; can you not see the demons frightened? They have no where to hide from the Sun, for it shines all around them, risen in resplendent glory! As St. Paul says: "Meanwhile, make no mistake about the age we live in; already it is high time for us to Awake out of our sleep; our salvation is closer to us now than when we first learned to believe. The Night is far on its course; Day draws near. Let us abandon the ways of darkness, and put on the armor of Light. Let us pass our time honorably, as by the Light of Day, not in reveling and drunkenness, not in lust and wantonness, not in quarrels and rivalries. Rather, arm yourself with the Lord Jesus Christ; spend no more thought on nature and nature's appetites."- Romans 13:11-14

Let us always remember the One who, though He was the Lord God Almighty, glorious beyond all imaging and infinite in every goodness and perfection with the Father and the Holy Spirit, descended into the unfathomably deep abyss of not only Hell but our very corrupt nature that had aligned itself with Hell by the envy of the devil and our cooperation since the primordial times. For it is written of the Lord the following in the divine prophet:

"Come, let us return to the Lord: for he hath taken us, and he will heal us: he will strike, and he will cure us. He will revive us after two days: on the third day he will raise us up, and we shall live in his sight. We shall know, and we shall follow on, that we may know the Lord. His going forth is prepared as the Morning Light, and he will come to us as the early and the latter Rain to the earth."- Hosea 6:1-3

As it is written in the prophet, the one who is the Judge of all, the one to whom it belongs to mete Divine Justice, Retribution, and Wrath to we who deserve such, has Himself been made to not only represent us but mystically draw us into Himself, annihilating our sin as it came to Him on the Cross in suffering; for the sin and suffering could not bear His terrible and Divine Presence. Notice how the prophet has said that he speaks of us as mankind that the Lord will strike in judgment for our vileness of sin, and that it is us as mankind who will be raised after the third day; yet we know that he speaks not of us, but of our Merciful Savior, Jesus Christ. This signifies therefore that, lest we be entirely withered and die from His Wrath, the Lord comes unto us and joins Himself to us in so intimate a way that in Him mankind did endure His own wrath; in tremendous mystery God suffered in the flesh as man and mystically representing the entirety of mankind, wherefore the divine prophet may speak as though signifying us, when really it is our shared humanity that God has been made partaker of. And now! the meditation of Easter! The prophet says, if we follow on so that we may know the Lord Jesus, his going forth is prepared and destined and resolute as the Morning Light, as the Rising Sun in the East, to dispel all darkness for ever and ever, Alleluia! And in the meanwhile, as He says Himself in His own Gospel, He will not leave us orphans; for He will surely come to us as the Rain of His Spirit to comfort and console us on our journey; He will come in His Eucharistic Presence and in His Spirit, Blood mixed with Raining water pouring from His Side on High, coming to refresh the children of men - Alleluia to the Rock that is our sustenance in this our wilderness on Earth.

And lest we forget our Mother, let us remember her and her sharing in her Divine Son's victory on this day; victorious with Him as Queen of His Kingdom in Heaven and on Earth, and crushing Hell under her heel even now. For the vale of tears that is our exile, which we mention to her in our Rosaries, is none other than the spiritual wilderness that the Israel of the Spirit must walk through; through Our Lady's Fiat, through her commanding word ringing out in the darkness of this world falling apart, creation was renewed in the Body and Blood of Our Lord Jesus Christ; through the consent of Our Lady of the Eucharist, we receive Our Lord sustaining us as the Water mixed with Blood, and the Body, and the Spirit, coming unto us in His glorified flesh and in His Spirit, Alleluia! Let us remember that the entire Incarnation of our God is such that He assumed humanity into itself; therefore, the process of the Incarnation was brought to final and dramatic close here on Earth in the Assumption of Our Lady into the presence of the Blessed Trinity; the action of the Spirit in the Resurrection of Christ was brought to a perfect and loving finish when He as the Divine Spouse of Our Lady descended over her sacred Dormition, vivifying her in mystical union with her Son's Resurrection. O Christ, we adore you as our God; O Mary, we hail you as our Queen!

Glory be to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Spirit. As it was in the beginning, is now, and ever shall be, world without end. Amen, and Alleluia!

Hail, Holy Queen, Mother of Mercy! Our Life, our Sweetness, and our Hope. To thee do we cry, poor banished children of Eve; to thee do we send up our sighs, mourning and weeping in this vale of tears. Turn then, most gracious advocate, thine eyes of mercy toward us. And after this, our exile, show unto us the blessed Fruit of thy womb, Jesus. O Clement, O loving, O sweet Virgin Mary. Pray for us, O Holy Mother of God, that we may be made worthy of the promises of Christ.

Let us pray.

Almighty, everlasting God, who by the cooperation of the Holy Spirit didst prepare the body and soul of the glorious Virgin-Mother Mary to become a worthy dwelling for Thy Son; grant that we who rejoice in her commemoration may, by her loving intercession, be delivered from present evils and from everlasting death. Amen, and Alleluia!

Let us praise the Lord;

Thanks be to God!

Saturday, April 7, 2012

Holy Saturday Meditations

Today, all is silent. The God of the universe has died in the flesh, He has been laid in the tomb. All around the world, the Mass has been silenced; the Pure Sacrifice is laid aside; the Eucharist, hidden away; the Altar candles, put out. All is in the ground, all is dead, all is in solemn quietude.

Christ our God has died on the Cross for our salvation and the undoing of the Curse of Adam, becoming a Curse for us, and His Soul has left His Body. Mystery of mysteries! as Our Lord's Body is laying in the tomb dead according to the flesh and separated from His human soul, even so the eternal Word never ceases to be united to it, preserving it incorrupt. True Life exists in death - the victory of the human race! And that same creative and eternal Word that is united to His Body speaks profoundly to our souls in the quiet silence of the tomb, though His physical mouth is fallen silent.

Let us return to the tomb with Our Lord, the tomb we entered in our Baptism. Let us not just remember, but be mystically present there in our meditation. The tomb and the Virgin's womb speak one testimony and one Life and are one in the Life of Christ they embody and make present, the Life we clothed ourselves with in Baptism, the Life that comes not otherwise than though the sufferings of this life and our many crosses. Christ is hidden once for the development of His Life and unutterable communion with His mother, and again He is hidden in the tomb for the salvation of mankind; and these two joined, hidden periods in Our Lord's life help us to remember that His Life Divine and Human comes not to us nor is embodied in Him except through suffering and death. At our Baptism we are born, and we die; we die, and we are born anew to eternal life; we clothe ourselves with Christ our God, from His conception in the waters of His mother's womb to His death in the tomb, in order that in rising from our enlightening by the Spirit, the eternal Word would enlighten our minds and our hearts and come to be present in our soul; that Jesus Christ would be born, death and life, Body and Blood, Soul and Divinity, whole and entire, in the midst of us; and so in His glory transform us body and soul into His own Body and members of Him so intimately that no more intimate can be imagined.

And this Holy Saturday night, we proclaim with one accord: Alleluia! for Christ, the Light of the World, is rising as an Almighty Sun from the depths of the earth and the realm of the dead; behold, He arises in the East. Turn, turn, behold, the Lord God Almighty comes; let us greet the Rising Sun.

Lord Jesus Christ, Son of the Living God, have mercy on us sinners, love us we pray, turn us not away in your Divine and terrible wrath, but be our Divine Spouse instead. We remember you now, and on Divine Mercy Sunday, as our incredible Divine Lover; be present to us this Easter in a deeper way. We seek you and we love you; behold, it is written of your Resurrection in the sacred prophet: Let us press on to know the Lord. If we press on to know Him, His coming to us is assured, and He comes as the rain upon the earth, as the latter and former rains thereof. Amen, and come swiftly to us by your Spirit, Lord Jesus, as in heavy rain, as in a dry and thirsty land, where there is no water; for we pant for thirst of you O Jesus, we are a desert, let it rain your Spirit upon our hearts that we may know you more intimately. Spark fervent devotion to you in all of us, that we may teach sinners your ways, and many may be converted to you. And we pray that you come, whole and entire, through your Divine and Eucharistic Presence, Body, Blood, Soul, and Divinity, and in your Spirit, for we thirst for you, O Lord our God.

We cling to the immortal and eternal power of the Resurrection of Jesus as our only Life.

Good Friday Meditations

Passages to foster a contemplative and meditative spirit on this hallowed day when Christ broke the curtain of His Body to reconcile us to His Father, and to poor out upon us poor children of wrath the riches of His life given through His Spirit, His Blood and Water, and His Body, the testimony of which is one in the Life given to us through the Eucharist. Let us remember that the humanity of Christ is the true Temple of God, the holy of holies, his Body being the curtain veiling His Divinity. He allowed the people that He had created, both Jews and Romans, to destroy the temple of His Body, to rend it asunder, in order to poor out the infinitely separate and holy God on a broken and sinful humanity. O necessary sin, O happy fault of Adam indeed; for through his sin, grace has far more abounded where there was evil; through sin God has broken the curtain to the holy of holies deep within the Sacred Heart of Jesus Christ, and allowed us to swim through that infinite Heart for all eternity as an infinite River of the Water of Life.

Let us remember the Cross, the true Tree of Life, the fruit of which we partake of for everlasting life in the Eucharist. St. John has told us that in the mystery of sin there are three centers and three prominent weaknesses that man succumbed to in original sin: the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life. In the primordial garden, the analogy of all sin and all that is wrong in our world, it is written that the first parents of our human race succumbed to the influence of the evil one through these same temptations which became our principle weaknesses. Eve, it is said, reasoned within herself that the fruit of this forbidden tree of the knowledge of good and evil was appealing to eat, was appealing to her eyes and to her senses, and was desirable to make one wise. It is said that the immortality that God Almighty destined man to have was blocked and taken from man by God who gave it, and that immortality which was pictured as the tree of life is blocked from man for age upon age. Until tonight. God is made manifest in the flesh for the renewal of eternal life and the restoration of the tree of life to all mankind.

But, what character does this Tree of Life take on? It comes as the absolute cancelation of the power of sin and death for those who now draw near to partake of its fruit. For the abolishment of sin and its fruit of death is also accompanied by the negation of the three weaknesses that gripped at the core of concupiscence. We behold the Cross of our Savior, Jesus Christ, let us take it in, and attempt to fathom its magnitude. The Lord reigns from the Tree, praised be He unto the ages of ages. On the Cross hung our Savior as its Fruit. This Fruit is not pleasing to the eye, it offends the eye, for as the divine prophet has said, 'So many look on in horror...was human beauty ever so defaced?' This Fruit is the annihilation of all lust, for as our Savior was crucified in the flesh but alive always in the Spirit, so those who draw near are purged of their bodily sins and their power is broken unto renewal in the Spirit. And lo! Its Fruit is foolishness to the Greeks, for who would ever have thought that a crucified Man could be desirable to make one wise - But to us who are being saved it is the power of God and the wisdom of God. And accordingly, New Adam and New Eve stand at this Tree, partaking together of the suffering of sin, the Fruit, but dwelling in untouchable holiness all the while. Redeemer, have mercy on us! Coredemptrix, pray for us in His Presence. Let us draw near, for the Fruit of this Tree of Life is given at ever Mass, the cancellation of all debt and the abolishment of the three centers of concupiscence. The Divine Eucharist, the Fruit of the Tree of Life, is in our midst - let us adore Him, our Eucharistic Lord. Praised be God unto endless ages in the Church, His Mother, Bride, and Daughter. Let our solemn praise of heart be profound and new in conversion afresh, for our sin is removed! Come now, and let us reason together, says the Lord. Though your sins be as scarlet, they will be white as snow - and I will remove the sins of that land in one day.

O Christ our God, glorious in your Cross, gateway to eternal life, our only Resurrection, we adore you. O you who did not abhor the waters of the All-Pure Virgin's womb for the renewal unto eternal life, but descended through the Holy Spirit and His Power, have mercy on us. For as the River of the Water of Life, your Spirit, descended in primordial time unto waters creating order out of the chaotic and dark earth, so now you have come through the the Spirit and the waters of the Holy and Sanctified Virgin's womb to make a new creation all who are mystically born of the same mother and the same womb in Baptism by the power of the Holy Spirit, children of God and Blessed Mary; new creations unto all ages; partakers of your Divinity, along with your mother, and sharers in the relationship Mary had with you, O Christ our God and our Divine Spouse.

O Christ our God, glorious in your wounds, we draw near to your Cross, have mercy on us. For never once did you, O Divine and Almighty Word of the Father, separate from your Body; accordingly we confess this mystery of you, O Christ: True Life in Death; praised be He unto all ages. You expired, Jesus, but the source of life gushed forth as a fountain of Divine Mercy and salvation for all the world. When you died, O Immortal  One, Hell quaked with fear, not understanding or fathoming the mystery - for you were united to your Body and your Soul, yet Body and Soul were separated in your Infinite Majesty for a time, so that you might descend unto the realm of the dead and save men and prophets. We confess your Mystery sublime, O One dead, and yet alive and Almighty. Hell could not hold you, O True Life, for you laid down your Life that you might take it up again. Your Body we confess did not receive corruption, for the Source of all Life was united all the while to it.

It is finished!

Purge out the leaven of sin, so that you may be a new loaf unto the Lord; for Christ our Pasch has been Sacrificed.

Thursday, March 15, 2012

Suffering and Sacramentalism

I've been thinking a lot about suffering lately. I think that it's difficult for humanity to see the good in suffering precisely because it does not understand the nature of material things and their relation to the metaphysical, namely God. The name of this blog is discovering the beauty of truth, and one of the most beautiful things that I've discovered about the Catholic Faith is the concept of the Sacrament. In the most absolute sense, the seven Sacraments of the Church are most properly termed Sacraments, and they are the physical means by which the Holy Spirit, through the words and actions of the Priest, brings Christ to us, into us, and thereby transforms us into His eternal Reality. The Sacraments supernaturally help us to leave behind the sinful world, which is ethereal and fades in your hands when you try to grasp it too tightly, and brings you to the place where this physical cosmos is sanctified in the universe that is Christ Himself.

This supremely Catholic concept of sacramentalism, however, applies beyond the sanctified and preeminently holy seven Sacraments of Baptism, Confirmation, the Holy Eucharist, Penance, Marriage, Holy Orders, and Extreme Unction, and goes to the heart of the essence of being Catholic, of looking at the world with Catholic eyes. The thing about the Sacraments is that, though all are holy and sacred, six of these Mysteries remain what they are, that is, normal physical material of this world that is sanctified and used by the Holy Spirit, in cooperation with the supernatural and metaphysical power of the Holy Spirit, to sanctify the Church of God. That is to say, in Baptism, the water is still water, though physically sacred and blessed by the Priest; the water and the Spirit of God brooding over the waters (Genesis 1:1-4) cooperate to wholly sanctify the man body and soul, transforming him into a new creation and enlightening Him with the Eternal Word. In Confirmation, the holy oil, though blessed by the Bishop and applied by the Bishop, is still oil, though sacred. The Holy Spirit is present over the oil, and through the oil totally fills and completes the Christian, and the Spirit works in cooperation with the physical reality. This is the same for all of the Mysteries, save one; that is, the Holy Eucharist. The Holy Eucharist is the only Mystery of the Church wherein the actual physical reality of bread and wine, which are sanctified and made sacred and holy by the Holy Spirit, is literally annihilated through the operation of the Holy Spirit working by the Word which spoke the universe into existence. So therefore, the other Sacraments are intrinsically subordinate to the Holy Eucharist, and are sanctified by the Eucharist, and the Eucharist is preeminent among the Mysteries.

This relationship between the Eucharist and the other Mysteries reflects, I believe, the relationship that the Sacraments have to the Church, and the relationship that the Church has to the rest of the cosmos. It also reflects the relationship every human being alive has to Reality Himself, Christ the Incarnate Word, and to nature His creation. The Mysteries as a group are preeminently holy and sacred in the Church of God, and are as a group the conveyer of God to Christians and are the Church's Sacraments. However, the Church itself is a Sacrament of God's presence to the world; a sacred means of grace to the world and a preservation of the same. You could even see mankind itself as a kind of contingent means of grace whereby God tends the natural order by us, the animals and plants, and in loving goodness uses us to convey his authority, power, and order in all of creation as we order it, subdue it, and often, love it and give it worth that it would not ordinarily have.

This all relates to suffering in this manner: when any man looks at material creation, and the suffering inflicted upon him by it in both body and soul, he must understand the nature of physical reality. Physical reality has a very much insubordinate and fleeting existence compared with God's eternal nature, which is TO BE, Being itself, the very Reason for His own existence. Even our own immaterial souls, though immortal and the image of God's own eternity (Wisdom 2:21-25), still are not eternally the reason for their own existence, in the manner God's is; we are wholly inferior in our existence to Being itself. In this way, when God allows suffering and emptiness to come into our lives, I believe that one of the lessons He is trying to convey to us is that all physical or temporal things, even other people, are valuable in and of themselves only if they are treated as Sacraments in which God is present. In other words, everything in your life, from your food and drink to your dearest friends, to your spouse, even your Priest, must be honored and reverenced and treated as a Sacrament of God's presence, and a means by which God sheds His love on you, and you love God.

You see, when you are surrounded by all that is good, when you have wonderful, large families and many friends, when food is plentiful and comfort everywhere, when life is so ordered that everything is good, it is nearly impossible for anyone save the Saints to not, in some fiber of their being, start to treat the temporal realities around them as good in and of themselves. This occurs more and more strongly the higher and more beautiful and more good the object of our affection is, such as intimacy with your spouse, or being surrounded by good Catholic friends. I see this strong bent in man's nature to honor the temporal objects around him more and more as the supreme goods in His life as nothing other than the bent of idolatry that St. John the Apostle earnestly warns us, his beloved children, against (1st John 5:21), by subconsciously replacing God with the temporal.

However, when your life is torn apart, when suffering abounds, when food is scarce and life is uncomfortable, nay, even painful and terrible, when friends are nowhere to be found, when family is nonexistent, when you have nothing to rely on, and no one to turn to; when you do not have the luxury of people to surround you and fulfill your emotional needs, when people abandon you or treat you terribly, when physical suffering and illness rock your body and soul, when those that you hold most dear die... all of these things only reveal the emptiness that is in ALL temporal things, if they are not to you Sacraments of God's presence, if you do not seek God through them and in communion with them without stopping in the things themselves. The emptiness and isolation and loneliness that you feel within these sufferings is not unusual or out of the ordinary; it is precisely the real character of all temporal things without God's Grace given to them, and the omnipotent strength of the Word, Christ, to sustain them. Even people themselves, in the Image of God, are nothing but the vacancy and nothingness of Hell if they, and you, do not cooperate to show the unseen God to your brother through yourself (1st John 4:11-13) so that in all things we may be shown, along with the cosmos, to be contingent upon and dependent upon God the Sustainer, and so that we may never fall into idolatry even regarding those people closest to us.

I say this as someone who has had my share of suffering in life, mostly of the kind of the absence of abandonment of friends and family, and that of isolation. In such a vacuum, I have realized this lesson from God. I have realized what He has taught me, and hopefully, will teach you as well. Looking out in absence and nonexistence and suffering around you teaches you more strongly than ever to rely only on God, who cannot be moved, and you must carry that lesson with you even if and when life becomes more pleasant and bearable, and people surround you, and love is everywhere, and comfort becomes preeminent, and thereby grow closer to Christian perfection even while life is comfortable. This is the way to view suffering, and to act while going through it. It is no accident that Our Lord prayed most passionately and most strongly during His suffering in the garden, and when abandoned by his disciples. As a model for us, He sought His Father in His humanity most strongly and most ardently when suffering and when utterly alone.