Wednesday, August 15, 2007

In Honor of the Assumption

Gone to Mass yet today? Good. Now, in honor of the Assumption, why not pray a decade of the spiritual rosary? (It's cool how some of these passages in their own way may allude to the Assumption.) Enjoy!

The Assumption

Our Father

1- She is a reflection of eternal light, a spotless mirror of the working of God, and an image of his goodness. (Wis 7:26) Hail Mary

2- “When I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and will take you to myself, that where I am you may be also.” (Jn 14:3) Hail Mary

3- Arise, O Lord, and go to thy resting place, thou and the ark of thy might. (Ps 132:8) Hail Mary

4- My beloved speaks and says to me, “Arise, my love, my fair one, and come away; for lo, the winter is past, and the rain is over and gone.” (Song 2:10) Hail Mary

5- The woman was given two wings of the great eagle that she might fly from the serpent into the wilderness, to a place where she is to be nourished. (Rev 12:16) Hail Mary

6- Draw me after you. Let us make haste. The king has brought me into his chambers. (Song 1:4) Hail Mary

7- “O daughter, you are blessed by the Most High above all women on earth.” (Jud 13:18) Hail Mary

8- Rejoice and exult with all your heart, O daughter of Jerusalem…The King of Israel, the Lord, is in your midst. (Zeph 3:14, 15) Hail Mary

9- “Behold, henceforth all generations will call me blessed.” (Lk 1:48) Hail Mary

10- “For he who is mighty has done great things for me, and holy is his name.” (Lk 1:49) Hail Mary

Glory be

Sunday, August 12, 2007

O my Strength!

Mastering strength as a virtue in the spiritual life can be tricky. I say this because when most of us think of strength, what comes to mind are characteristics of one's ability to firmly assert oneself in an entirely self-sufficient manner. Spiritual strength as a virtue, which helps us to persevere in charity and remain firmly rooted in peace of mind amidst assaults from within and without, is fostered in an entirely different manner than that image of strength with which we are familiar.

There are many people whom others would describe as strong-willed. We may ask ourselves if it is these who are more well disposed to strength from God as their nature need only be purified and perfected by grace. I'm sure that, fortunately, this is the case with many. On the other hand, one's natural strong-mindedness may also work against the soul's growth as it often espouses pride and self-reliance. Conversely, those whom we would describe as impressionable and weak when faced with adverse moral or spiritual pressures may, with self-knowledge, be at an advantage in relying totally on God for strength. They also have the assurance, "God chose what is weak in the world to shame the strong" (1 Cor 1:27). However, the naturally weak-willed more acutely face the danger as one "sown on rocky ground...who hears the word and immediately receives it with joy; yet he has no root in himself, but endures for a while, and when tribulation or persecution arises on account of the word, immediately he falls away" (Mt 13:20, 21). I would say what makes one more well-disposed to strength from God is the firmness of one's faith and trust in God, as opposed to whether one is naturally a strong-willed person, as I describe further below.

The well-known phrase of St. Paul's, "For when I am weak, then I am strong" (2 Cor 12:10), immediately informs us against the popular notion of strength as being a matter of self-sufficiency. Strength as virtue relies entirely on the Lord's providing it for us. Paul intimates that it is during times of utter hardship, when he has little choice but abandon himself to the Lord, when the Lord's "power is made perfect in weakness" (2 Cor 12:9).

There seems to be a contradiction in the notion that in remaining weak we are made to be strong. It seems that any strength we receive from the Lord would not in any way manifest itself in ways we would attribute to the virtue, for then there would be little room for weakness. Yet the strength the Lord provides us on our journey through this life is to be constantly used to ensure steadfastness and perseverance in doing good and resisting or enduring evil. With his endurance of "weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities" (2 Cor 12:10), Paul of all people, knew this. This contradiction seems apparent because we would still be attributing to strength characeteristics associated with human strength, as opposed to that which comes from the Lord.

Scripture draws a distinction between human and divine strength. David contrasts those who boast in horses and chariots as opposed to boasting in the Lord for help in battle (see Ps 20:7). David also sings,
"A king is not saved by his great army; a warrior is not delivered by his great strength ... The eye of the Lord is on those who fear him, on those who hope in his steadfast love, that he might deliver their soul from death, and keep them alive in famine." (Ps 33:16).

I would note here, too, that the distinction between human and divine strength is not merely a matter of distinguishing physical from spiritual strength. The psalms are absolutely riddled with prayers to God for strength. God himself is addressed with the the very title, "O my Strength" twice in Psalm 59. Much of the time, too, the strength invoked is that needed for fighting or protection in physical battle (see, for example, Ps 18:39; 55:18; 68:25, 38; 118; 140:7; 144:1). (Though these same psalms may very well be prayed as petitions for spiritual strength.) The difference is that this strength - physical or spiritual - came from God, as his strength, and by trusting in him for it rather than by trusting in oneself or in others: "it is better to take refuge in the Lord than to put confidence in man" (Ps 118:8).

In the book of Isaiah, God tells Israel that, as opposed to attaching itself as a nation to other, stronger nations for strength and security, that the people of Israel will only find its strength in turning back to God himself. "In returning and rest you shall be saved, in quietness and trust shall be your strength" (Is 30:15).

"In quietness and trust shall be your strength." Strength from God goes hand in hand with a degree of quietness, or serenity, of soul. The consistent quietness of the soul in which God's peace is firmly established finds little disturbance in fear of trial or in face of situations demanding heroic courage. "Fear not, for I am with you" (Is 41:10). Persons face and work through such demanding situations using the strength which God provides them. It is this very strength, too, which safeguards and maintains the quietness of the soul in which the strength itself blossoms. This quietness as its conveyed in Isaiah may be also related to the silencing of ambitious thoughts of self-reliance. Such tranquility resides in the heart through humble submission to God's dominion over one's life. This dominion is that for which we pray when we say, "thy kingdom come"; and it is what allows God to take over and transform the feeble heart, infusing it with his own strength.

Besides quietness, the book of Isaiah relates that Israel's strength will also result from trust. Strength as a virtue comes from God, as opposed to oneself, and so, if strength is to remain constant in one's soul, it will result from trust in him for that strength. Strength may very well be the immovable trust itself which confides that all creation continues to exist in and through Christ (Rom 8:6, Col 1:17) and that God himself will direct life's affairs according to his will, using us as his willing instruments when he sees it fit. Such trust in God stems from steadfast faith that God is always with us, that he himself is our strength (Ps 73:26). Such faith enables God to act in us and carry us through the most demanding of situations. "I can do all things through him who strengthens me" (Phil 4:13).

Knowledge of God's faithfulness enlivens such faith. God wants to provide us with the strength we need to faces life's demands; we know this because he has promised such faithfulness (Ps 89:24, 33; Is 61:8; Jer 31:3; 1 Thes 5:23, Heb 10:23). Those who strive to remain in God's grace may be confident of his readiness to help them (Deut 7:9, Ps 25:10). And, if we have fallen out of God's grace, we remain confident that his steadfast love for us will continue to warrant such faithfulness when we turn back to him (2 Chr 7:14, 2 Tim 2:13, 1 Jn 1:9). We direct our trust to such initiative on God's part, that he himself will be our strength.

The Lord is my strength and my shield; in him my heart trusts; so I am helped, and my heart exults, and with my song I give thanks to him. (Psalms 28:7)

Wednesday, August 8, 2007

Using the Faith God Gave Us

Mt. 17:14-20 relates the story of the father of the epileptic boy who begs Jesus to heal his son after his disciples are not able. As this story relates, Jesus was not too impressed with the "little faith" of either the father or of his disciples which resulted in the failure to heal the boy.

We must not underestimate Jesus' expectations for us, especially in regards to our maintaining a firm faith in him. When the father of the epileptic boy reports to Jesus about his his disciples' failed attempt to heal his son, it's almost as if "this generation"'s lack of faith and Jesus' intolerance with it came to a head. His expression of remorse, "O faithless and perverse generation, how long am I to be with you? How long am I to bear with you?", was prompted by the father's request for something which may not have been necessary were his disciples to have had adequate faith. Jesus would not have reacted so were a certain level of expectation he had for his disciples not let down. We, too, must respect our Lord's expectations for us and not fall into the trap of asking things of him without simultaneously maintaining a firm faith.

Monday, August 6, 2007

In Honor of the Transfiguration

Are you just sitting there, wondering to yourself what to do in honor of the Feast of the Transfiguration today? Pray a decade of the Scriptural Rosary! (Going to Mass if you can is also a good idea; better than the former, actually.)

The Transfiguration

Our Father

1- Jesus took with him Peter and James and John, and took them up a high mountain apart by themselves. (Mk 9:2) Hail Mary

2- And as he was praying, the appearance of his countenance was altered. (Lk 9:29) Hail Mary

3- And he was transfigured before them, and his face shone like the sun, and his garments became white as light. (Mt 17:2) Hail Mary

4- May God be gracious to us and bless us, and make his face to shine upon us. (Ps 67:1) Hail Mary

5- My heart says to thee, "Thy face, Lord, do I seek." (Ps 27:8)

6- Two men talked with him, Moses and Elijah, who appeared in glory and spoke of his departure, which he was to accomplish in Jerusalem. (Lk 9:30-31) Hail Mary

7- And as the men were parting from him, Peter said to Jesus, “Master, it is well we are here, let us make three booths, one for you, one for Moses, and one for Elijah” – not knowing what he said. (Lk 9:33) Hail Mary

8- He was still speaking, when lo, a bright cloud overshadowed them. (Mt 17:5) Hail Mary

9- And a voice came out of the cloud, “This is my beloved Son; listen to him.” (Mk 9:7) Hail Mary

10- He received honor and glory from God the Father and the voice was borne to him by the Majestic Glory. (2 Pet 1:17) Hail Mary

Glory be

Sunday, August 5, 2007

Defining Adoration

Have you ever been prompted by the Holy Spirit while in private prayer, perhaps before the Blessed Sacrament, into deep adoration and, upon conscious attempt to respond to such prompting, been totally at a loss as to what to do? Realization of our own inadequacy leaves us without any recourse as to know where to begin. It is at these times that we may remember the words of St. Paul: "The Spirit helps us in our weakness; for we do not know how to pray as we ought, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with sighs too deep for words" (Rom 8:26). Abandonment of our faculties for prayer to the movement of the Spirit may allow a glimpse of such workings of the Spirit in our souls. Sometimes, however, the abandonment itself can be so delicate a process - with distractions and futile attempts to silence our wandering minds for even a short while - that we may benefit from some sort of method for adoration.

The Compendium of the Catechism of the Catholic Church defines adoration as: "The humble acknowledgment by humans that they are the creatures of the thrice-holy Creator" (552).

This definition may serve as a simple guide to follow in order for us to practice, with the Spirit's aide, adoration of God. Please find below verses of Scripture which would also serve as such guides for adoration.

1) "Know that the Lord is God! It is he that made us, and we are his." (Ps 100:3)

2) "Be still, and know that I am God." (Ps 46:10)

3) "Apart from me you can do nothing." (Jn 15:5)

4) "As therefore you received Christ Jesus the Lord, so live in him,    rooted and built up in him."  (Col 2:6-7)

A deep but simple meditation specific to adoration before the Blessed Sacrament:

5) "That's Jesus. Whoa."

Thursday, August 2, 2007

Jesus' Sand Castle

I've learned of an allegory I'd like to share. Jesus is building a sand castle and stops to choose a grain of sand which he then holds in his fingers to look at with joy and intense love.

Jesus is using each one of us to build his kingdom. Though we are each but a grain of sand in this process, he loves each one of us intimately and infinitely.