Month: August 2017

SALVATION AND GOOD WORKS

 

(The Good Samaritan)

“All Scripture is inspired by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for training in righteousness; so that the man of God may be adequate, equipped for every good work.” (2 Timothy 3:16)

“We are truly his handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to lead the life of good deeds which God prepared for us in advance.” (Ephesians 2:10}

 
“There is no faith without good works” says Dietrich Bonhoeffer, the great Lutheran theologian who died in a German concentration camp; and so he is right since the scriptures tell us in no uncertain terms (in language as plain as the nose on your face) that “faith without works is dead” (James 2:20).
 

The great debate in the early Church was whether Christians were obligated to keep the Mosaic law, those ceremonial and ritual requirements that St. Paul referred to as the “works of the law.” In the Council of Jerusalem described in Acts 15 the apostles, with Peter taking the lead, declared that Christians were not obligated to observe the Mosaic law “because we are saved through the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ” (Acts l5:ll). It is for this reason that St. Paul declared in Romans (at 3:28) that we are justified by faith apart from the works of the law, i.e., justified by faith apart from observing the`Mosaic law.

Some Christians have confused the phrase “works of the law,” which refers to the legal requirements of the Mosaic law, with the term “good works,” as if to say that we are justified by faith apart from good works, even though we have been assured that faith without works is dead. But when Christians talk about good works, they are talking about acts of love which proceed from the Holy Spirit. Without these acts of love, which more specifically are acts of charity, i.e., acts of selfless love, faith is dead. Paul agrees wholeheartedly with James that faith without works is dead, for he states at l Cor.13:2 that if I have faith without charity (love) then I am nothing. And at Galatians 5:6 the apostle Paul tells us that we are justified by a “faith which worketh by love” (KJV). Jesus’ Parable of the Final Judgment at Matthew 25 emphasizes in dramatic terms the critical importance of good works (see CCC 544), pertaining specifically to how love of the Lord is shown through our treatment of those who need our help.

St. John also tells us that faith without charity is dead: “He that loveth not, abideth in death” (1 John 3:14). And: “He that abideth in charity abideth in God, and God in him” (1 John 4:16). The new law which Christians are required to keep is not the works of the law contained in the Mosaic code, but rather the law of love. Thus, as Paul states, “Serve one another, rather, in acts of love, since the whole of the law is summarized in a single command: Love your neighbor as yourself” (Galatians 5:13-15). And: “Anyone who does not look after his own relations … has rejected the faith and is worse than an unbeliever” (1 Tim. 5:8).

We have been created in Christ Jesus for good works (Ephesians 2:10) . We will be judged, according to Rev. 20:13, each one according to their works. Our good works evidence the presence of the Holy Spirit living within us, transforming us more and more into the image of Christ.

I AM THE VINE
YOU ARE THE BRANCHES
WHOEVER REMAINS IN ME, WITH ME IN HIM
WILL BEAR MUCH FRUIT,
BECAUSE WITHOUT ME YOU CAN DO NOTHING
(John 15:5)
 
It is Jesus Christ who produces good works in us. These works evidence the fact that our faith in Jesus is alive and that God is working in our lives. Otherwise, our faith is dead. “Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only the one who does the will of my father in heaven” (Matt. 7:21.). “Ye see then how that by works a man is justified, and not by faith only” (James 2:24 KJV).    

Tom Mulcahy, M.A.

Primary Reference: Various Scott Hahn Scripture Studies on tape; see also topical essay in the Ignatius Catholic Study Bible entitled, “The Works of the Law” at Galatians 3, p.335.

Note: The key is to do our good works out of love for God (as sons, rather than as employees seeking to earn a wage). The question is not whether we have done enough good works, but rather what more can we do. The model for justification in the scriptures is divine sonship, whereby we cry out, “Abba. Father” in the POWER of the Holy Spirit indwelling us. It is an “inward process”. The “model is growth in relationship with God”. The more we love God, the more we will be willing to give ourselves to him.   

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BEING ATTENTIVE TO THE BEAUTY OF NATURE ENHANCES OUR WELL-BEING

 

“The personal inability to perceive truth and beauty is related…to a lack of wonder….It is troubling that in a universe replete with mind-boggling fascinations masses of people live dull and drab lives.” (The Evidential Power of Beauty by Father Thomas Dubay).

“The contemplative attitude – such as the contemplation of an object of great beauty and the pure, restful joy it yields – is free from that dynamic tension towards the future: it implies, not a hastening forward but a dwelling in the present.” (Dietrich von Hilderbrand)

We are talking here about what Father Thomas Dubay calls “being alive to beauty,” especially beauty in the external/natural world, and also about the impediments which prevent us from perceiving, experiencing and living beauty. Our conclusion will be that beauty can be trans-formative – truly enhancing our well-being –  if we are open to it.

Father Irala, in his popular book, Achieving Peace of Heart, tells us that “we must live beauty.” He maintains that we need to be “reeducated” to “receive the external world.” This means, in one context, that if we are looking at a beautiful river we should spend some time peering into it –contemplating it – so that we may receive the vital influx of its beauty. Father Irala says that we should let the beauty “enter deep into us.”

Pope Francis made this observation in his recent encyclical on the environment, saying, “In some places, rural and urban alike, the privatization of certain spaces has restricted people’s access to places of particular beauty” (no. 45). Thus, one formidable impediment to experiencing the beauty of the natural world can simply be our access to it. Another obstacle, as Father Dubay points out, is our lack of wonder. We need to nurture a desire to explore and experience the beauty of the natural world, freeing ourselves from that technological world of artificially created images that keep us trapped in a world of inner-subjectivity detached from truth and beauty.

But most of all I want to stress in this note the mechanics of being receptive to beauty in the natural world, a simple process which will have powerful and tangible results. Father Irala calls this process the “reeducation of receptive power.” It is critical that we re-learn to be receptive to the beauty of the external world and the vital influx of its beauty.

Father Irala laments that many of us fail to have “clear sensations” of the beauty of the external world. “Only rarely,” he says, do we come out into the exterior world, beautiful and joyful as it was created by God” (especially if we are experiencing emotional difficulties). We are preoccupied, worried, and caught up in our own subjective world. Some people even find it difficult to put down their cell phones as they walk along a beautiful nature trail.

However, we can relearn to receive the true “sensations” of nature’s beauty. Here are instructions given by Father Irala to improve our receptive power in areas of sight and sound.

Sight: “For your re-education you should apply your sense of sight for about ten or twenty seconds to a landscape, an object, a detail. Keep a tranquil or almost passive attention. Take your time. Consider the object before you and no other. Pay no attention to any other idea. Let the object enter within you as it is in itself, without any special effort. Look at it the way a young child does. [Remain] loose and relaxed.”

Hearing: “Apply your hearing to a near or distant noise. Let yourself be penetrated by the sounds, as above, naturally, without mental discussion of the fact or its cause. Be a mere receiver of sound and perceive it with pleasure and relaxation.”

valley-1309222_1920

Father Irala tells an interesting story about a businessman who was on the verge of a nervous breakdown. It was apparently felt that the overworked businessman needed some time away from his hectic office to unwind and rejuvenate, but since this remedy wasn’t feasible his physician requested that “an aquarium of tropical fish built in his private office and that he spend an hour every day peacefully watching the graceful convolutions of those little creatures.” It is related that “before the year was out he sent a donation to [his physician’s] hospital as a token of gratitude for his cure” (p.41).

fish-961953_1920

“At first,” says Father Irala, it is not so easy to practice these fully conscious sensations with no attention at all paid to anything else. So, in your first attempts, you might find yourself thinking about the process itself, or the cause, effect, or some circumstances, instead of what you perceive. But in a few days, after a series of good tries, you will succeed in separating the pure sensation from accessory mental processes. And then you will find joy or rest in the sensation itself.”

Commenting on the healing power of nature, Saint Pope John Paul II made the following observation: “The aesthetic value of creation cannot be overlooked. Our very contact with nature has a deep restorative power; contemplation of its magnificence imparts peace and serenity. The Bible speaks again and again of the goodness and beauty of creation, which is called to glorify God.”  (John Paul II, 1990 World Day of Peace Message, no. 14.)

And the great Catholic philosopher, Jacques Maritain, states: “The part played by the senses in the perception of beauty is even rendered enormous in us, and well nigh-indispensable…only sense knowledge possesses perfectly in man the intuitiveness required for the perception of the beautiful.”

In conclusion, our senses open to us a world of incredible beauty that has a “deep restorative power” to heal us and make us happy. We can train ourselves to be more perceptive to the “clear sensations” and the “vital influx” of the beauty of the natural world. To shut ourselves off from this beauty is certainly unwise and most likely harmful. But to immerse ourselves in the beauty of the natural world is profoundly healthy and rejuvenating – the way God meant it to be.

woman-546103_1920

Tom Mulcahy, M.A.

Ref. Achieving Peace of Heart by Father N. Irala and The Evidential Power of Beauty by Father Thomas Dubay.

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THE INCREDIBLE VALUE OF OUR TEMPTATIONS   

“For because [Jesus] himself has suffered when tempted, he is able to help those who are being tempted.” (Hebrews 2:18)

“[Jesus] this High Priest of ours understands our weaknesses, for he faced all of the same testings we do, yet he did not sin. So let us come boldly to the throne of our gracious God. There we will receive his mercy, and we will find grace to help us when we need it most.” (Hebrews 4:-15-16)

An adaptation from Father Faber’s essay on the great value of our temptations…

Temptations wear us down. They gnaw at us; they irritate us. Sometimes they even overwhelm us. As Catholics, our duty is to mortify each and every evil desire or thought that comes our way. It is a life-time occupation (this mortification of the senses and the will): we will not be free from temptation to sin until we have journeyed beyond this present life and are “safely home” in the “bosom of the Father.” It is wonderful to reflect on the fact that in Heaven there will be no sin!  In Heaven we will be “singularly attracted” ever-more to the Infinite Goodness of our tender Father: and since God is infinite there will ever be “fresh and new motives” for loving God throughout all eternity!

Shall we not – as Father Faber says –  throw a little sunshine on our temptations? Must they always be so dreary and vexing to us? Can we not see the great good that comes to us when we resist temptation by trusting in God and resting in His grace? Do we expect victory to come to us without trials and struggles?

Temptations are, as one great spiritual writer has pointed out, the raw material of our  glory. Whenever we resist temptation, we grow in grace – and what is there in this life, as Faber asks, more important than grace? Who can explain better than Father Faber the amazing graces we receive when we resist a basic temptation. Reflect intently on the following words and you may very well begin to see your temptations in a new light – in a light which helps you to see the marvelous work God is accomplishing in your soul when you cooperate with his grace and courageously resist a temptation:

“We know well that one additional degree of sanctifying grace is of more price than all the magnificence of the universe. The objects upon which we often fasten our affections, or employ our ambition, during long years of concentrated vigilance and persevering toil, are less worthy of our endeavors and less precious in the possession, than one single particle of sanctifying grace.

Yet, let us suppose that a momentary temptation has assailed us, and we have resisted it, or that we have lifted up our hearts for an instant in faith and love to God, or that for the sake of Christ we have done some trifling unselfish thing, scarcely has the action escaped us before then and instantly the heavens have opened invisibly, and the force of Heaven, the participation of the Divine nature, the beauty, power, and marvel of sanctifying grace, has passed in viewless flight and with insensible ingress into our soul. There is not the delay of one instant. Moreover, these ingresses of grace are beyond number, and yet, if we correspond and persevere, the influence and result of each of them is simply eternal. Each additional degree of sanctifying grace represents and secures an additional degree of glory in Heaven, if only we correspond thereto, and persevere unto the end. At the moment in which we receive each additional degree of sanctifying grace our soul is clothed before God in a new and glorious beauty which a moment ago it had not got.
 
The communication of sanctifying grace to the soul is itself a marvelous and mysterious disclosure of the divine magnificence and liberality.”
(The Creator and the Creature, pp. 216-217)
 
Is all of this biblical? At James 1:2-3 we read:
 
“Count it all joy, my brothers, when you fall into various temptations, knowing that the testing of your faith produces endurance.  Let endurance have its perfect work, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.”
 
God will give us the grace to overcome temptation and to grow in grace. It is a promise he specifically made in his Word:
 
“No temptation has overtaken you that is not common to man. God is faithful, and he will not let you be tempted beyond your strength, but with the temptation will also provide the way of escape, that you may be able to endure it” (1 Cor 10:13 RSV).
 
Let us not be too downcast about our temptations. By resisting them with courage – and even cheerfulness – we are gaining (as Faber points out) many graces for ourselves, and giving glory to our Father in Heaven. What wonderful graces we gain by resisting temptation – they are, indeed, the raw material of our future glory!
 
Tom Mulcahy, M.A.
 

Image: Jesus Tempted in the Wilderness by James Tissot, around 1886, Public Domain, U.S.A. 

References: This note is primarily an adaptation of and is drawn from Chapter 16, “Temptations,” in Father Faber’s book, Growth in Holiness; and The Creator and the Creature (F.W. Faber).

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WHY PARAGRAPH 301 OF AMORIS LAETITIA IS SO PROFOUNDLY TROUBLING

“When it is a matter of the moral norms prohibiting intrinsic evil, there are no privileges or exceptions for anyone. It makes no difference whether one is the master of the world or the “poorest of the poor” on the face of the earth. Before the demands of morality we are all absolutely equal.” (Saint Pope John Paul II, Veritatis Splendor, no. 96)

Here is the very troubling passage from Amoris Laetitia (no. 301) which clearly suggests that a person can be in a “concrete situation” where he has no choice but to live in mortal sin (and is thus not guilty of  any sin):

301.  For an adequate understanding of the possibility and need of special discernment in certain “irregular” situations, one thing must always be taken into account, lest anyone think that the demands of the Gospel are in any way being compromised.  The Church possesses a solid body of reflection concerning mitigating factors and situations. Hence it is can no longer simply be said that all those in any “irregular” situation are living in a state of mortal sin and are deprived of sanctifying grace.  More is involved here than mere ignorance of the rule.  A subject may know full well the rule, yet have great difficulty in understanding “its inherent values”, or be in a concrete situation which does not allow him or her to act differently and decide otherwise without further sin.  

Saint Pope John Paul II specifically rejected the above argument proposed in AL 301, stating the following in no. 76 of his encyclical, Veritatis Splendor:

“Such theories however are not faithful to the Church’s teaching, when they believe they can justify, as morally good, deliberate choices of kinds of behavior contrary to the commandments of the divine and natural law. These theories cannot claim to be grounded in the Catholic moral tradition…. The faithful are obliged to acknowledge and respect the specific moral precepts declared and taught by the Church in the name of God, the Creator and Lord. When the Apostle Paul sums up the fulfillment of the law in the precept of love of neighbor as oneself (cf. Rom 13:8-10), he is not weakening the commandments but reinforcing them, since he is revealing their requirements and their gravity. Love of God and of one’s neighbor cannot be separated from the observance of the commandments of the Covenant renewed in the blood of Jesus Christ and in the gift of the Spirit.”

We are faced then with at least a hypothetical or conceptual heresy from Pope Francis, to wit: that a person may be justified in intentionally committing mortal sin. If this be the case, then the foundation of Catholic morality has been fractured, and who is to say what is right or wrong? Pope John Paul II warned of this very situation, saying:

“It is quite human for the sinner to acknowledge his weakness and to ask mercy for his failings; what is unacceptable is the attitude of one who makes his own weakness the criterion of the truth about the good, so that he can feel self-justified, without even the need to have recourse to God and his mercy. An attitude of this sort corrupts the morality of society as a whole, since it encourages doubt about the objectivity of the moral law in general and a rejection of the absoluteness of moral prohibitions regarding specific human acts, and it ends up by confusing all judgments about values.” (Veritatis Splendor, 104).

Pope Francis, in AL 301,  has attempted to alter the understanding of justification pronounced at the Council of Trent, where it was infallibly said:

“If anyone says that the commandments of God are impossible to observe even for a man who is justified and established in grace, let him be anathema” (Session 6, canon 18)

I conclude with this final quote from Pope John Paul II, which should have served as an impenetrable road block against theories of moral relativism such as AL 301:

“Each of us knows how important is the teaching which represents the central theme of this Encyclical and which is today being restated with the authority of the Successor of Peter. Each of us can see the seriousness of what is involved, not only for individuals but also for the whole of society, with the reaffirmation of the universality and immutability of the moral commandments, particularly those which prohibit always and without exception intrinsically evil acts” (no. 115, Veritatis Splendor)

What motivated Pope Francis to go against the entire Tradition of the Church, and thus to compromise the moral law, is a very perplexing consideration? May the Holy Spirit guide the Church back to the fullness of truth.

Tom Mulcahy, M.A., J.D.

Image: Saint Peter by Peter Paul Rubens, between 1610 and 1612 (Public Domain, U.S.A.)

P.S. Significantly, one of the Church’s most prominent theologians has recently addressed errors in Amoris Laetitia. See link that follows:

Leading theologian: change canon law to correct papal errors …

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WHAT IS THE IGNATIAN PRINCIPLE OF INDIFFERENCE AND WHY IS IT HELPFUL?

(Saint Ignatius of Loyola, Founder of The Society of Jesus)

“We must make ourselves indifferent to all created things, as far as we are allowed… Consequently…we should not prefer health to sickness, riches to poverty, honor to dishonor, a long life to a short life. The same holds for all other things. Our one desire and choice should be what is more conducive to the end for which we were created” (#23 of The Spiritual Exercises of Saint Ignatius of Loyola).

Discussion: 

This is the famous Ignatian principle of indifference (of being dispassionate about what happens to us as long as it is for the glory of God). It is a foundational principle of The Spiritual Exercises. Since the battle for our souls is won in the mind, Ignatius is training us to think with apostolic wisdom and fortitude, namely, to train our pattern of thinking to be “indifferent to all created things.” This principle is not always easy to grasp, but I will try to explain it in the following manner (relying heavily on Father Hardon’s book, Retreat With the Lord, and an essay by Karl Rahner, S.J.):

1. Because of our fallen nature we have very strong attachments to persons and things that are not necessarily conducive to our salvation.

2. The main purpose of our life is to know, love and serve God and thus to attain eternal life: next to this goal everything else amounts to practically nothing (unless it is used in service of this goal).

3. People on earth tend to act in this manner: they are indifferent to God and very attentive to creatures and things. Ignatius advises that this situation should be exactly the opposite: we should be very attentive to God and indifferent to all created things except to the extent that these created things help us to serve and give glory to God. Thus, detachment from and mortification of our inordinate desire for earthly things is necessary. Therefore, we should make use of created things only insofar as they help us to attain our eternal destiny.

4. Thus, the main purpose of created things is to help us reach heaven. To the extent created things hinder me from reaching my eternal destiny, they are to be discarded. Everything in our lives is to be brought under the Lordship of Christ.

5. And yet this principle of indifference goes deeper. If we are to develop apostolic strength of mind, and thus avoid or minimize disabling anxiety, we need to become indifferent to what happens to us – provided we are trying to accomplish the will of God and lead a holy life. Thus, as an extreme example, if you were kidnapped tomorrow and forced to live in a small dungeon away from your loved ones, you would accept this unfortunate turn of events as God’s permissive will and do your best under the circumstances. This state of mind trains us to understand that nothing happens to us except by God’s permission. He knows every hair on our heads. If misfortune comes, despite our good efforts, we are to accept it as God’s will and to make the best of the circumstances. This apostolic strength of mind makes us less hostile to the crosses that God will call us to carry –  as we will see them as part of His amazing plan for our salvation. Developing this state of mind leads to peace of soul under trying circumstances. Ignatius is basically teaching us to trust God no matter what happens because we are always under the Father’s providential care. Boldly ask the Holy Spirit for apostolic strength of mind. This is the type of strength St. Maximilian Kolbe demonstrated when he ministered the gospel at the Auschwitz extermination camp – he having achieved such a high degree of apostolic strength of mind that he even volunteered to take the place of a man who had been sentenced to death by starvation. Kolbe was placed in a small cell to endure the slow and painful death of starvation.

6. By exercising this principle of indifference, we do not become dispassionate stoics, but rather we seek God’s will whether in pain or pleasure, health or sickness, success or failure, etc.,  knowing that whatever God allows to happen to us is ultimately, in His mysterious providence, for our ultimate welfare (see Philippians 4:12).

7. This indifference does not make us “aloof to the world,” but reaffirms the fact that all of history is rooted in the “eschatological goal of salvation.”

I hope this may be of some help to you, since this principle of indifference is a foundational principle of Ignatian spirituality. It helps us to order our lives for the glory of God and is of immense value when strong winds or even hurricanes come into our lives.

Tom Mulcahy, M.A.

Image: Saint Ignatius of Loyola by Peter Paul Rubens, 1600s, Public Domain, U.S.A.

Note: The Spiritual Exercises of Ignatius of Loyola, “composed between 1522–1524, are a set of Christian meditations, prayers and mental exercises, written by Saint Ignatius of Loyola, a 16th-century Spanish priest, theologian, and founder of the Society of Jesus (Jesuits). Divided into four thematic “weeks” of variable length, they are designed to be carried out over a period of 28 to 30 days. They were composed with the intention of helping participants in religious retreats to discern the will of God in their lives, leading to a personal commitment to follow Jesus whatever the cost” (from Wikipedia).

JEAN-PIERRE DE CAUSSADE, a Jesuit, says in his spiritual classic, Abandonment to Divine Providence: “…they [don’t] find anything tedious in life or anything to  complain about, for they have a settled assurance that they are following the most perfect way. They enjoy supreme bliss because they see the fullness of God’s power being exercised in whatever conditions of body or soul they find themselves, in whatever happens to them internally or externally and in what ever befalls them at each and every moment… If [God] takes from them their powers of thought and speech, their books, their food, their friends, their health, and even life itself, it means no more to them than if he did the exact opposite…. They do not reason about what He does, but approve of it” (Chapter III).

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THE BIBLICAL BASIS FOR MARY’S ASSUMPTION INTO HEAVEN

“A great sign appeared in heaven: a woman clothed with the sun, with the moon under her feet and a crown of twelve stars on her head” (Revelation 12:1).

Every Catholic firmly believes that Mary is in Heaven right now interceding for the faithful here on planet earth. Vatican II speaks of Mary’s intercession in these profound words:

“This maternity of Mary in the order of grace began with the consent which she gave in faith at the Annunciation and which she sustained without wavering beneath the cross, and lasts until the eternal fulfillment of all the elect. Taken up to heaven she did not lay aside this salvific duty, but by her constant intercession continues to bring us the gifts of eternal salvation. By her maternal charity, she cares for the brethren of her Son, who still journey on earth surrounded by dangers and difficulties, until they are led into the happiness of their true home” (Lumen Gentium, 62, Documents of Vatican II).

The dogma of Mary’s Assumption into Heaven, body and soul, was declared infallible from the Chair of Peter in 1950 by Pope Pius XII, who wrote in Munificentissimus Deus:

“Hence the revered Mother of God, from all eternity joined in a hidden way with Jesus Christ in one and the same decree of predestination, immaculate in her conception, a most perfect virgin in her divine motherhood, the noble associate of the divine Redeemer who has won a complete triumph over sin and its consequences, finally obtained, as the supreme culmination of her privileges, that she should be preserved free from the corruption of the tomb and that, like her own Son, having overcome death, she might be taken up body and soul to the glory of heaven where, as Queen, she sits in splendor at the right hand of her Son, the immortal King of the Ages” (40).

It is fascinating to note, in a Church overflowing with relics dating back even to Jesus’ crucifixion, that T. L. Frazier points out in his essay, Assumptions About Mary, “Yet among all the relics there is not be found a single one said said to be a relic of Mary’s actual body.”

Biblically speaking, Jesus entrusted Mary to the care of Saint John (see John 19: 25-27). In the Book of Revelation – the final book in the Bible – John recalls a vision he experienced on the island of Patmos where he saw the Blessed Virgin Mary clothed in glory. He states:

“A great sign appeared in heaven: a woman clothed with the sun, with the moon under her feet and a crown of twelve stars on her head” (Revelation 12:1).

Saint Pope John Paul II explains that this woman “clothed with the sun” is preeminently Mary, “the woman of glory”:

“The mutual relationship between the mystery of the Church and Mary appears clearly in the “great portent” described in the Book of Revelation: ‘A great portent appeared in heaven, a woman clothed with the sun, with the moon under her feet, and on her head a crown of twelve stars’ (12:1). In this sign the Church recognizes an image of her own mystery: present in history, she knows that she transcends history, inasmuch as she constitutes on earth the ‘seed and beginning’ of the Kingdom of God. The Church sees this mystery fulfilled in complete and exemplary fashion in Mary. She is the woman of glory in whom God’s plan could be carried out with supreme perfection” (Redemptoris Mater, 103; see also no. 47 – “And by her ecclesial identification as the “woman clothed with the sun” (Rev. 12:1), it can be said that ‘in the Most Holy Virgin the Church has already reached that perfection whereby she exists without spot or wrinkle.'”)

And in the encyclical letter, Ad Diem Illum Laetissimum, Pope Saint Pius X wrote:

“A great sign,” thus the Apostle St. John describes a vision divinely sent him, appears in the heavens: “A woman clothed with the sun, and with the moon under her feet and a crown of twelve stars upon her head.” Everyone knows that this woman signified the Virgin Mary, the stainless one who brought forth our head…John therefore saw the Most Holy Mother of God already in eternal happiness, yet travailing in a mysterious childbirth. What birth was it? Surely it was the birth of us who, still in exile, are yet to be generated to the perfect charity of God, and to eternal happiness. And the birth pains show the love and desire with which the Virgin from heaven above watches over us, and strives with unwearying prayer to bring about the fulfillment of the number of the elect.

Revelation 12:1 shows Mary with a body, not as an disembodied spirit. She is seen, head to toe, with a Queenly crown on her head and the moon under her feet. The Ignatius Catholic Study Bible (ICSB) points out that the “woman of Revelation 12” is “Mary, the Mother of the Messiah and the spiritual mother of his disciples….And because the woman is a queen who wears a crown and a mother who bears a royal male child, she is also the Queen Mother of the Davidic kingdom reestablished by Jesus [Mary, the mother of Jesus].” The ICSB further states: “She also represents the faithful of Israel, crying out for the Messiah, as well as the Church, attacked by the devil for witnessing to Jesus.”

It is often argued that belief in Mary’s Assumption came late in the history of the Church, not even being formally defined until 1950. But as T.L. Frazier demonstrates, there was a genre of popular stories “enjoyed by the early Christians” and “devoted to just this single theme of of the Assumption of Mary.” This literature is known as the Transitus Mariae (Passage of Mary). Frazier explains:

What does the Transitus literature teach us? It teaches that the Assumption didn’t just pop up out of nowhere in 1950, which is often the vague assumption of non-Catholics. Indeed, the belief was so widespread in the fifth century that it is hard not to conclude that it must have originated at a much earlier date. Many scholars place the Syriac fragments of the Transitus stories as far back as the third century, and noted Mariologist Michael O’Carroll adds, “The whole story will eventually be placed earlier, probably in the second century–possibly, if research can be linked with archaeological findings on Mary’s tomb in Gethsemani, in the first [century].”(Michael O’Carrol C.S.Sp., Theotokos: A Theological Encyclopedia of the Blessed Virgin Mary (Wilmington: Glazier, 1982) s.v. “Assumption Apocrypha,” 59.) This conclusion would seem to be supported by the fact that the doctrine flourished without anyone, especially the bishops, protesting against a growing “superstition.”

CONCLUSION: The dogma of Mary’s Assumption into Heaven stands on a strong foundation, Biblically, theologically and historically. For faithful Catholics it has been proved over and over again in approved apparitions such as Lourdes and Fatima, and, of course, Guadalupe, imaged above.

Thomas L. Mulcahy, M.A.

References: The Truth About Mary, Volume II, by Robert Payesko; “Assumptions About Mary” by T.L. Frazier, This Rock, Volume 3, Number 5 & 6May-June 1992; Ignatius Catholic Study Bible; and an EWTN note on Rev. 12:1 by Fr. John Echert containing the quote from Pope Pius X.

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TEN SUGGESTIONS FOR DRAWING CLOSER TO THE HOLY SPIRIT IN LOVE AND WORSHIP

“And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Advocate to help you and be with you forever – the Spirit of truth” (John 14:16-17)

 

Introduction: To discover the life-giving power of the Holy Spirit is one of the greatest experiences a human being can undergo. Consequently, here are ten suggestions for drawing closer to the Holy Spirit. In The Holy Spirit, a great spiritual writer, Father Edward Leen, says that “Christians do not dwell as they ought on the immense advantages that they may derive from the intimate friendship which the Holy Spirit is eager to establish between them and himself, as God.” Father Leen continues: “The Holy Spirit has…an infinite capacity for friendship….The Holy Spirit is laden with all the secrets of God – secrets not only of surpassing interest in themselves but of great import for the creature. These deep things of God the Holy Spirit is all eagerness to communicate to the soul, as in the tendency of friendship. Unfortunately, the creature, too often, is a listless and inattentive listener….” It is my hope that one or more of the following suggestions might increase your friendship with the Holy Spirit, who is the very source of the Divine friendship. 


1. Make a Novena to the Holy Spirit for the Seven Gifts of the Holy Spirit

Comment: 
Saint John Vianney states that “when we feel we are losing our fervour, we must instantly make a novena to the Holy Spirit to ask for faith and love….” The Catechism of the Catholic Church says the following about these seven gifts:

The moral life of Christians is sustained by the gifts of the Holy Spirit. These are permanent dispositions which make man docile in following the promptings of the Holy SpiritThe seven gifts of the Holy Spirit are wisdom, understanding, counsel, fortitude, knowledge, piety, and fear of the Lord. They belong in their fullness to Christ, Son of David.109 They complete and perfect the virtues of those who receive them. They make the faithful docile in readily obeying divine inspirations (1830-31).”

Father Faber adds:

“[The Holy Spirit]”has some very special gifts, seven in number, with which he works in souls; they are marvelous tools, undreamed possibilities of grandeur of soul, unsurpassed forms of beauty, working miracles with our nature without doing violence to them; by them we touch, and taste, and relish, what we know by faith” (F.W. Faber, Notes on Doctrinal and Spiritual Subjects,Vol. 1, p.80).

Here is an online

Novena to the Holy Spirit for the Seven Gifts


2. Make a Novena to the Holy Spirit for the Twelve Fruits of the Holy Spirit

Comment: 
The Catechism of the Catholic Church (CCC) at 1832 lists the twelve  the fruits of the Holy Spirit as follows:

The fruits of the Spirit are perfections that the Holy Spirit forms in us as the first fruits of eternal glory. The tradition of the Church lists twelve of them: ‘charity, joy, peace, patience, KINDNESS, goodness, generosity, gentleness, faithfulness, modesty, self-control, chastity’ [citing Galatians 5: 22-23].”

There is a powerful novena for the twelve fruits in Father Lovasik’s book, Favorite Novenas to the Holy Spirit (Catholic Book Publishing Company). Here’s a link to it: 

FAVORITE NOVENAS TO THE HOLY SPIRIT 61/04


3. Practice Calling on (or sensing the presence of) the Holy Spirit through the Mediated Symbols/Images of:
    

a. Fire

Comment: The Catechism of the Catholic Church (CCC) states:

Fire. While water signifies birth and the fruitfulness of life given in the Holy Spirit, fire symbolizes the transforming energy of the Holy Spirit’s actions. The prayer of the prophet Elijah, who “arose like fire” and whose “word burned like a torch,” brought down fire from heaven on the sacrifice on Mount Carmel. This event was a “figure” of the fire of the Holy Spirit, who transforms what he touches. John the Baptist, who goes “before [the Lord] in the spirit and power of Elijah,” proclaims Christ as the one who “will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and with fire.” Jesus will say of the Spirit: “I came to cast fire upon the earth; and would that it were already kindled!” In the form of tongues “as of fire,” the Holy Spirit rests on the disciples on the morning of Pentecost and fills them with himself The spiritual tradition has retained this symbolism of fire as one of the most expressive images of the Holy Spirit’s actions. “Do not quench the Spirit (696).”

b. Air

Comment:
 Father Faber draws heavily on this image, stating: Then I pictured Him [the Holy Spirit] as if He were the viewless air, which I breathed, which was my life as if the air were He, going into me and coming out, and He a Divine Person, sweetly envious of the Son, sweetly coveting the Sacred Humanity which He
Himself had fashioned, and coming into the world on beautifulest mission, seeking to be as near incarnate as He could be without an actual incarnation; and it was so near that he seemed almost human, though unicarnate. And this was the clearest view I ever could see of that Divine Person. May he forgive what I have written of Him…and bear with me a little longer, till I have dawn my last breath in Him, and breathed it forth again as my first breath of another life, a fresh son newly born at the Feet of the Eternal Father (Notes, Vol. 1, p.98)!” 

c. Wind

Comment: The rushing wind at Pentecost (Acts 2:2). Every rush of wind, every breeze, can serve as a powerful reminder of the Holy Spirit.

d. Water

Comment: Water is a powerful image of the Holy Spirit, and most especially in the Gospel of John:

On the last day of the feast, the great day, Jesus stood up and proclaimed, “If any one thirst, let him come to me and drink.  He who believes in me, as the scripture has said, `Out of his heart shall flow rivers of living water.'” Now this he said about the Spirit, which those who believed in him were to receive; for as yet the Spirit had not been given, because Jesus was not yet glorified. (John 7:37-39)

See also CCC 694. Just like we need water to live, so too do we need the Holy Spirit for spiritual life. We use water to cleans and nourish us: these are images which draw us into the life of the Holy Spirit. We can also use Holy water in our homes.

e. The Dove

Comment: The peaceful dove is a wonderful image of the Holy Spirit. The CCC discusses the symbol of the dove in the following manner:

“The dove. At the end of the flood, whose symbolism refers to Baptism, a dove released by Noah returns with a fresh olive-tree branch in its beak as a sign that the earth was again habitable. When Christ comes up from the water of his baptism, the Holy Spirit, in the form of a dove, comes down upon him and remains with him. The Spirit comes down and remains in the purified hearts of the baptized. In certain churches, the Eucharist is reserved in a metal receptacle in the form of a dove (columbarium) suspended above the altar. Christian iconography traditionally uses a dove to suggest the Spirit (701).”

f.  Oil

Comment: 
Oil can remind us that we have been annointed by the Holy Spirit by virtue of our baptism and Confirmation. Blessed oils are sacramentals which we can use in our own homes. The CCC states:

Anointing. The symbolism of anointing with oil also signifies the Holy Spirit, to the point of becoming a synonym for the Holy Spirit. In Christian initiation, anointing is the sacramental sign of Confirmation, called “chrismation” in the Churches of the East. Its full force can be grasped only in relation to the primary anointing accomplished by the Holy Spirit, that of Jesus. Christ (in Hebrew “messiah”) means the one “anointed” by God’s Spirit. There were several anointed ones of the Lord in the Old Covenant, pre-eminently King David. But Jesus is God’s Anointed in a unique way: the humanity the Son assumed was entirely anointed by the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit established him as “Christ.” The Virgin Mary conceived Christ by the Holy Spirit who, through the angel, proclaimed him the Christ at his birth, and prompted Simeon to come to the temple to see the Christ of the Lord. The Spirit filled Christ and the power of the Spirit went out from him in his acts of healing and of saving. Finally, it was the Spirit who raised Jesus from the dead. Now, fully established as “Christ” in his humanity victorious over death, Jesus pours out the Holy Spirit abundantly until “the saints” constitute – in their union with the humanity of the Son of God – that perfect man “to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ”: “the whole Christ,” in St. Augustine’s expression (695).

Comment: These symbols help us to image the invisible Holy Spirit. They are aids. The Holy Spirit is not air or water. We are not pantheists. However, God is present in nature by his power, presence and essence. Moreover, the Holy Spirit does truly indwell in our souls by sanctifying grace.


4. Engage in the Practice of Interior Prayer

Comment: 
By way of sanctifying grace received at baptism the Holy Spirit actually and really indwells our souls. Therefore in interior prayer the ultimate aim is to bypass mediated or symbolic knowledge to go directly to the Holy Spirit (the end result of which is entry into mystical prayer which is ultimately a grace). The CCC discusses interior prayer under the heading of “Contemplative Prayer” in paragraphs 2709-2719. Also, Saint Teresa of Avila’s classic, Interior Castle, discusses in detail the practice of interior prayer. It is prudent to have a spiritual director when attempting this form of prayer. Contemplative or interior prayer differs from meditation in that meditation involves discursive images and symbols whereby contemplative prayer seeks to transcend discursive or symbolic knowledge and go more directly to God. I would recommend, to begin this method of prayer, a short book called Progress in Divine Union by Father Raoul Plus.


5. Attend a Life in the Spirit Seminar

Comment: These seminars, which aim to draw one into a closer experience of the Holy Spirit, are offered from time to time at various Catholic parishes. The good folks at Renewal Ministries in Ann Arbor may have more information about attending such a seminar, and a wealth of information on devotion to the Holy Spirit (renewalministries.net).

6. Utilize the Rosary

Comment: When praying the third glorious mystery, The Descent of the Holy Spirit, close your eyes and imagine the Holy Spirit, through the symbol of the dove, flying towards you and entering your heart, or imagine a flame of fire (tongue of fire) resting over you and filling you with joy and love. See my post:

THE LIVING MYSTERIES OF THE ROSARY: A SOURCE OF …


7. Utilize Ejaculatory Prayer:

Comment: 
The Catechism of the Catholic Church specifically recommends that, throughout the day, we invoke the name of “Jesus,” which contains the entire economy of salvation, and also that we invoke the Holy Spirit saying, “Come, Holy Spirit” (CCC 2665-2672).  It is the Holy Spirit acting within us that makes prayer possible (CCC 2672). Example: while you are working or busy with some activity, you very briefly lift your heart to God and say, “Come, Holy Spirit.”


8. Maintain a Special Devotion to the Great Prayer to the Holy Spirit, Veni Creator Spiritus

Comment
Pray the Veni Creator Spiritus! In his book Mystics and Saints, the saint expert, Bert Ghezzi, states: “I have noticed an intriguing thread running through the lives of several mystics we have observed. God touched them in extraordinary ways when they prayed the Veni Creator Spiritus, the ancient hymn to the Holy Spirit.” This beautiful prayer is widely available on-line and is in most Catholic prayer books.


9. Utilize 
Devotion to Mary to Draw Closer to the Holy Spirit

Comment: There is a special relationship between Mary and the Holy Ghost. The Holy Ghost was responsible for Mary’s colossal sanctification in her Immaculate Conception, in her being covered by the Holy Spirit’s “unspeakable” shadow and thus conceiving the God-man Jesus (Luke 1:22-23), in Elizabeth’s Holy Spirit inspired utterance that Mary is “the mother of my Lord” (Luke 1: 12-78), in Simeon’s prophetic words that Mary’s heart would be “pierced by a sword” (Luke 2:12-34), in Mary receiving an influx of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost (Acts 2: 37-23), in Mary’s Assumption, and in Mary’s exalting Queenship and role as mediatrix in Heaven (Rev. 12: 23-56). In True Devotion to Mary Saint Louis De Montfort states the following:

“The more the Holy Ghost finds Mary , His dear and inseparable spouse, in any soul, the more active and mighty He becomes in producing Jesus Christ in that soul, and that soul in Jesus Christ” (#20).

10. Prayfully read and Meditate on Pope John Paul II‘s  Encyclical on the Holy Spirit

Comment: Here’s a link to this powerful encyclical:

Dominum et vivificantem – Ioannes Paulus PP. II – Encyclical

Tom Mulcahy, M.A.

Image: The lead image is a picture of a stained glass representation of the Holy Spirit as a dove from St. Peter’s Basilica in Rome, circa 1660, by Gian Lorenzo Bernini (Public Domain, U.S.A.).

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A LIFE-CHANGING GIFT: THE HOLY SPIRIT’S GIFT OF THE FILIAL LOVE OF THE FATHER

“For you have not received a spirit of slavery leading to fear again, but you have received a  spirit of adoption as sons by which we cry out, “Abba! Father!”  (Romans 8:15)

Jesus’ entire life centered on and flowed from his amazing love for God the Father. In his human nature Jesus possessed the Gift of Piety to its fullest extent, and we might say to an infinite extent. We too, by virtue of baptism, are called to this deep, filial love of God the Father, and the Holy Spirit’s Gift of Piety is geared to produce this supernatural love of God in our hearts. In this context, see my previous post on the crucial importance of devotion to the loving tenderness of God the Father (see “Recent Posts” directly to the right of this note).

Piety is one of the seven gifts of the Holy Spirit (see CCC 1831). People sometimes associate piety with Grandma saying the rosary, so please listen up: piety is a hugely important gift of the Holy Spirit, for it is the filial confidence of a son in his Father. And when we truly trust in God as our dear and tender Father there is practically no limit to the service we may render to Him. The Holy Spirit can fill our hearts with a tremendous love of God the Father!

In Hungry for God  Ralph Martin states that “knowing that we are fully sons and daughters of God and discovering the implications of this relationship makes all the difference for living a fruitful and Christian life. Being able to say and know, ‘God is my Father,’ makes all the difference for prayer, love of brethren and service to others” (26-27). Martin relates that “standing at a cold bus stop one day,” he just started saying “over and over again, ‘Father, Father, Father’,” and this revelation of God’s Fatherhood “was such a turning point in my awareness of who He is to me. There have been others, and each one has drawn me into a deeper freedom from anxiety and a greater confidence in what God has for me” (20-21). We must remember: the Holy Spirit will also give to us this amazing gift of piety – which is a filial confidence in our Heavenly Father.

In All for Jesus, Father Faber talks about the gift of piety, stating:

“[So much stunted growth in the spiritual life] may be traced to an unaffectionate view of God. You must get clear of this. You must cultivate a filial feeling toward Him. You must pray to the Holy Spirit for His gift of piety, whose special office is to produce this feeling…. You will never be right until your view of God as your Father swallows up all your other views of Him….A man could do no better than to devote his whole life to be the apostle of this one idea: the compassionate paternity of God” (195-196, emphasis added)

Faber also reminds us that all of the seven gifts of the Holy Spirit can do truly breathtaking work in our souls:

“[The Holy Spirit]”has some very special gifts, seven in number, with which he works in souls; they are marvelous tools, undreamed possibilities of grandeur of soul, unsurpassed forms of beauty, working miracles with our nature without doing violence to them; by them we touch, and taste, and relish, what we know by faith” (F.W. Faber, Notes on Doctrinal and Spiritual Subjects,Vol. 1, p.80).

Oh! if we had greater confidence in God, what more might we do for Him! Pray to the Holy Spirit for the gift of piety, the gift of realizing that you truly are God’s beloved son or daughter. As mentioned above, the Spirit of piety rested on Jesus to an infinite degree, for he was consumed with love for His Father’s glory.

“In those days Jesus came from Nazareth of Galilee and was baptized by John in the Jordan.  And when he came up out of the water, immediately he saw the heavens opened and the Spirit descending upon him like a dove; and a voice came from heaven, “Thou art my beloved Son; with thee I am well pleased”  (Mark: 1:9-11).

I think it would be fair to say that all of the canonized Saints operated under the profound influence of the Holy Spirit’s Gift of Piety – a gift given to each of us in Baptism – which is why they loved God so intensely.

Tom Mulcahy, M.A.

Image: The Baptism of Christ by Leonardo da Vinci and Andrea del Verrocchio (Public Domain, U.S.A.)

Note: Jesus’ baptism, whereby he is anointed for service as the Messiah, also images for us the plenitude of the Holy Spirit He received from the very first moment of His human existence. The gift of piety has other implications, such as a love of religious practices, and meekness toward our neighbor.

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DEVOTION TO THE LOVING TENDERNESS OF GOD THE FATHER  

 
 

“God’s Fatherhood is the deepest mystery of his identity” (Ignatius Catholic Bible)

“For this cause I bow my knees to the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ,  Of whom all paternity in heaven and earth is named,  That he would grant you, according to the riches of his glory, to be strengthened by his Spirit with might unto the inward man” (Ephesians 3: 14-19)

“No one is father as God is Father” (CCC 239)

Here is some advice from Father Faber regarding the critical importance of developing a filial, loving tenderness toward God the Father. We know from the Scriptures that Jesus is the exact representation of the Father’s being, and so it follows that if Jesus is kind and meek and humble of heart – as we surely know Him to be – then so too is the Father in Heaven.  And yet Father Faber states that our spiritual growth is often stifled by a view of God that sees Him predominantly as a cold and harsh law-giver whom we can never satisfy in the carrying out of our duties. Francis Cardinal George once said that “All of us live in the shadow of a Puritan God” (ref. Call Him Father: How to Experience the Fatherhood of God, Scepter Press). “Fear of this God and His punishment easily becomes the driving force of the fulfillment of one’s duties.”

Faber goes to great lengths to warn us that such a view of God as an uncompromising law-giver – if it is our predominant view of God – will hold us back from growing closer to God. Faber states that it is essential that we develop a filial tenderness toward God the Father. He goes out of his way to emphasize how important this filial love of the Father is to our spiritual health (Growth in Holiness, beginning at page 46). He states that this view of God as our loving, tender Father must be our predominant view of Him.

Here is part of what Faber states (with some adaptations by me for context):

“The third deficiency [which holds us back], and I am inclined to suppose it by far the most common, may be want of a filial feeling toward God. I wish I could be very clear, as well as very strong about this, because so very much depends upon it. If our view of God is not uniformly and habitually that of a Father, the very fountains of piety will be corrupted within us.

We are tempted to look at God in almost any light than that of a Father….Yet our spiritual life depends entirely on the view we take of God. If we look at Him as our Master, then His service is our task, and the ideas of reward and punishment will pervade all we do….If we look at Him as our Judge, the thunders of His vengeances deafen us….If we consider Him exclusively, in any one of these lights, …it is plain our service of Him will take its characteristics from our views. Hardness, dryness, untempted fear and a consciousness of our being unable to stand upon our rights will necessarily make us cowardly and mean….

…there is no truth more certain than that God is our Father; and that all that is most tender and most gentle in all paternity on earth is but the merest shadow of the boundless sweetness and affectionateness of His paternity in Heaven. The beauty and consolation of this idea surpasses words. It enables us to trust in God for the problems we cannot solve and binds us by a sense of dear relationship to all our fellowmen. The idea – [of God the Father’s paternal tenderness] – enters into and becomes the master thought of even all our spiritual actions.

Out of this filial feeling toward our Heavenly Father comes ease of conscience as to past sin. We can trust Him, in sweet confidence … because He is our dear Father. Happy sunshine of this thought. It falls upon our souls with triple beam, more trust in God, more freedom with God, more generosity with God!

I have asked you to examine yourselves and see whether you are wanting in devotion to the ever-blessed Paternity [tender Fatherhood of God].”

You will not be right until you see God as your loving, tender Father. This must be your primary image of Him.  Many of you reading this post are wonderful, loving dads, but God the Father is the very perfection of such qualities and infinitely so. Faber states in All for Jesus:

“[So much stunted growth in the spiritual life] may be traced to an unaffectionate view of God. You must get clear of this. You must cultivate a filial feeling toward Him. You must pray to the Holy Spirit for His gift of piety, whose special office is to produce this feeling…. You will never be right until your view of God as your Father swallows up all your other views of Him….A man could do no better than to devote his whole life to be the apostle of this one idea: the compassionate paternity of God” (195-196).

As a lawyer, I think I have been tempted to see God too often as an impersonal and harsh judge, even though I know quite well He is my Father. Faber says we need to work on developing a filial relationship with God the Father – not just to talk about it. We need ongoing devotion to the paternal tenderness of God the Father. This is the remedy for a deficient view of God’s Fatherhood.

One way to do this is to find a loving and affectionate picture of God the Father and to paste it into your own devotional, and just to look at that picture and sense God’s loving tenderness. Another method may be to say the words “Our Father” with particular attention and love when we say that prayer which Jesus taught us. Whatever method you may choose, Faber contends that doing so is of considerable importance, calling it the master thought of all our spiritual actions. And Faber was an expert on how the saints loved God.

Pray for the Holy Spirit’s gift of piety, which produces a filial tenderness in our hearts for our Heavenly Father.

Tom Mulcahy, M.A.

Image: God the Father by Cima da Conegliano, 1510-17, (Public Domain, U.S.A.)

Note: See also CCC 239:  “By calling God “Father”, the language of faith indicates two main things: that God is the first origin of everything and transcendent authority; and that he is at the same time goodness and loving care for all his children. God’s parental tenderness can also be expressed by the image of motherhood, which emphasizes God’s immanence, the intimacy between Creator and creature. The language of faith thus draws on the human experience of parents, who are in a way the first representatives of God for man. But this experience also tells us that human parents are fallible and can disfigure the face of fatherhood and motherhood. We ought therefore to recall that God transcends the human distinction between the sexes. He is neither man nor woman: he is God. He also transcends human fatherhood and motherhood, although he is their origin and standard: no one is father as God is Father.”

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ALL HARM COMES WHEN WE FAIL TO SEE THAT GOD IS NEAR

(Jesus draws close to the woman at the well with the gift of sanctifying grace)

“If a man loves me, he will keep my word, and my Father will love him, and we will come to him and make our home with him.” (John 14:23)

“Do you not know that you are God’s temple and that God’s Spirit dwells within you.” (1 Cor. 3:16)

Here is an eye-opening fact with deep implications for the spiritual life: our first parents were created or constituted by God in sanctifying grace! The Catechism of the Catholic Church puts it this way:

The Church, interpreting the symbolism of biblical language in an authentic way, in the light of the New Testament and Tradition, teaches that our first parents, Adam and Eve, were constituted in an original “state of holiness and justice.” This grace of original holiness was “to share in. . .divine life” (CCC 375).

Dr. Ludwigg Ott, in his well regarded and classic work, Fundamentals of Catholic Dogma,  states that it is a De Fide proposition [of our Catholic faith] that “Our first parents, before the Fall, were endowed with sanctifying grace,” (p.103) “not merely for himself [Adam], but for all of us” (p. 105, Sent. certa.). 

The tremendous significance of this revelation – that Adam and Eve were constituted in the grace of original holiness – is what it tells us about God’s design for the human person: –  God created us to be united to Him in intimate fellowship! God created us for Himself! God created us to share in the Infinite Happiness of His Infinitely Blessed Life! Now I understand why I was created; now I understand the meaning of life: it is this: to grow closer and closer to God! Father Faber magnifies this point:

“It was to have been expected beforehand, that God would have created [the first man] in a state of perfect nature. It is a surprise that it is not so. On the very threshold of theology, we are arrested by this mysterious fact, that rational creatures came from their Creator’s hands in a supernatural state….This one fact seems to us the great fact of the whole of theology….” (The Creator and the Creature, p.43).

So what happened to Adam and Eve in the garden? What caused them to trust more in the serpent than in God? Simply this: they forgot that God was near; they forgot to turn to God – their only help – for help. And when they realized what they had done, and how they had sinned, they tried to hide from God. This forgetfulness of God is what caused the need for our redemption.

One of the Church’s greatest mystics, Saint Teresa of Avila, says that “ALL HARM COMES TO US WHEN WE FAIL TO REALIZE THAT GOD IS NEAR.” This is one of those great spiritual principles that can be so helpful to us. We are like Adam and Eve: we have forgotten that God is near, so “unspeakably near,” as Father Faber says. When we panic, when we cower in fear, when we seek refuge in the world, when we consent to sin, what has happened?: – yes, it is regrettably true, we have forgotten that God is “closer to us than we are to ourselves,” especially because we have been constituted by our baptism in a life of sanctifying grace – in a shared life of intimate fellowship with God. How was it that Saint Maximilian Kolbe could volunteer to enter into a starvation bunker in a German Concentration camp? Only because he knew God would be with him. We must become, as Faber says, more and more conscious of the presence of God.

Saint Augustine is a very useful example. He says, speaking to God, “Late have I loved Thee.” Why did it take Augustine so long to find God? The Saint explains that he had been looking for God on the outside, failing to see that God was inside! In very famous verses from his Confessions (chapter 27) Augustine sighs:

Late have I loved you, Beauty so ancient and so new, late have I loved you!

Lo, you were within,
but I outside, seeking there for you,
and upon the shapely things you have made
I rushed headlong – I, misshapen.
You were with me, but I was not with you.
They held me back far from you,
those things which would have no being,
were they not in you.

You called, shouted, broke through my deafness;
you flared, blazed, banished my blindness;
you lavished your fragrance, I gasped; and now I pant for you;
I tasted you, and now I hunger and thirst;
you touched me, and I burned for your peace.
 

Do you pass the test put forth by Saint Paul in 2 Corinthians? Do you realize that Jesus Christ lives within you (see 2 Cor. 13:5)? In our Catholic tradition there is a very helpful book by Brother Lawrence called The Practice of the Presence of God. We can practice being more open to the presence of God in our lives (see, for example, Susan Muto’s and Father van Kaam’s book,  Practicing The Prayer of Presence). 

A useful spiritual exercise suggested by Father Garrigou-LaGrange involves a certain paradigm shift: whereas we have a tendency to dialogue with our own self throughout the day, Father Garrigou-LaGrange recommends that we switch this inner dialogue to a conversation with God. Father Garrigou-LaGrange says:

“The interior life is precisely an elevation and a transformation of the intimate conversation that everyone has with himself as soon as it tends to become a conversation with God. *** The interior life thus becomes more and more a conversation with God, in which man gradually frees himself from egoism, self-love, sensuality, and pride, and in which, by frequent prayer, he asks the Lord for the ever new graces that he needs.” (The Three Ages of the Interior Life, Vol. 1, pages 43-45).

It is a “day to be remembered,” the day when we came to more fully comprehend in faith (“working in love”) that God truly dwells within us in our  baptized and sanctified souls –  in the very center of our be-ing (see CCC 260)! We were made for God.

Tom Mulcahy, M.A.

Image: Woman at the Well by Carl Heinrich Bloch (Public Domain, U.S.A.)

Note: The inspiration for this note comes from Father Faber’s brilliant book, The Creator and the Creature, especially pages 37-44. CCC 374 establishes that “the glory of the new creation in Christ” surpassed the grace of original holiness Adam and Eve were constituted in, which may be why the precise term, sanctifying grace, is not used in CCC 375. According to Dr. Ludwig Ott in Fundamentals of Catholic Dogmaat page 103, “Saint Thomas [Aquinas] and his school are of the opinion that the first men were created in the state of sanctifying grace,” but other theologians in the Franciscan school felt it was a gift given sometime before the fall, which is why The Council of Trent, and the CCC following Trent, use the word “constituted” rather than “created”; see  CCC 375. Father Faber obviously follows the lead of Saint Thomas. Dr Ott adds at page 103 that “Saint Thomas’ teaching is that of the Fathers.” In any event, it is De Fide that the grace of a supernatural holiness was given to Adam and Eve either at the moment they were created (Saint Thomas) or prior to the encounter with the serpent in the garden. Father Faber refers to the “Infinitely Blessed Life” of God  in The Creator and the Creature.

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