My online Advent calendar is being updated for 2013… and the first door opens next Sunday (December 1).
If you’d like to add this Advent calendar to your website, you can copy and paste the code below:
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You can change the height and width as needed to make it fit on your site.
For your Easter meditation, here are a couple of excerpts from an RCIA Hollywood podcast on The Last Things: Death, Judgment, Heaven and Hell/Purgatory…
the Christian life: comfort by way of upset
It would be interesting to take a survey, asking people two questions:
“What is the most comforting religion in the world?”
“What is the most upsetting religion in the world?”
It would be interesting to know what people would say to these two questions.
I think that the most comforting religion in the world would be Christianity, without question. And as far as what would be the most upsetting religion in the world, I think it also would be Christianity. I think it’s both. It is the most upsetting, and the most comforting, because of original sin. There’s just no way back to the Garden except through the experience of death.
Our life, right now, as we live it, in all of its comfort — in its native form for us… I don’t think we always want to leave this comfort nest, even if there’s something better, because we don’t know that something better.
Our life has really been turned upside-down by the Fall, and to turn it upside-right, we had better be ready for an upset. Imagine a boat sitting in Paradise on the waters of creation. Then imagine the boat being capsized. That’s what original sin has done to our existence. We’ve gotten very used to being in that tipped-over boat. That’s become our native home, that’s what we understand, that’s what we know: the experience of sin and of fear. And so now Christ comes, and He wants to right the boat again, but how do we receive that? We’re afraid, we’re threatened, we’re challenged by that. How dare he turn this boat over? How dare he upset our life? In fact, he’s righting the boat, but we experience it as an upset.
So the idea of Christianity is really that comfort comes by way of upset. We just don’t know it yet. When it’s all upset in our life, I think we discover the truth that finally the boat is being righted, and what we had become so familiar with was in fact just the pilgrim state of this valley of tears, and now we are discovering our true home in the Father’s house….
Evaluating one’s life in the light of the Last Things
I think it’s kind of good to make an annual self-evaluation during Holy Week.
Here’s a reflection on the last things, which I’ve based on Dr. Peter Kreeft’s discussion in his book Fundamentals of the Faith. He has a chapter on each of the Last Things. From those essays, I’ve constructed a self-interview of sorts. It’s an opportunity to make an evaluation of our lives in light of things ultimate.
The first question is about death:
What death am I facing — whether little or large — and how can I meet it with Christ? It might be fun to re-visit that question in a year and see if there has been any resurrection in this area or not.
The second question has to do with judgment:
The experience of judgment is the experience of being laid bare… everything is revealed. So the question is: What most needs to be laid bare in me or seen through the eyes of justice… (That’s what justice does… it sees everything)… for the sake of living more justly now, and so that Christ can touch and heal it? Christ is the divine Physician, but unless we show Him our wounds…. It’s not that He doesn’t know the wounds are there, but He needs us to relax enough so that He can actually tend to them.
The third question has to do with heaven:
The question is: What are my false heavens? Or what is my counterfeit paradise? Maybe I have several: maybe it’s the weekend; maybe it’s my job; maybe it’s a relationship. What are those things in my life which are not Paradise but for which I am happy to stop along the way because I’ve found this counterfeit? What keeps me from remembering that this is not a place of rest? I mean, the sabbath is, but other than that? We’re on pilgrimage. What will I do to keep a sense of pilgrimage alive? What will I do to keep my heart alive to the true goal of my existence? So we’re moving from a kind of examination to a resolution: What are we going to do about this?
Then lastly, hell:
What are the areas of drift or complacency in my life? Because I think for those of us who have decided to become Christians… to be baptized and to follow Christ and so forth… we have sort of set out on pilgrimage. It isn’t a question of whether or not I have heaven as a goal for me, but what will keep me from that is if I drift, if I get lax, if I get complacent. Where am I kind of drifting? And what am I going to do about that?
So give yourself some time this week to ask yourself these questions. It has been interesting for me to complete this exercise each year since a Triduum retreat in 2007; it’s been a grace to go back over it each year and to notice that I need to revisit some of them, but with others there really has been grace active in my life.
Blessed Easter! May the Resurrection of Christ transfigure every corner of your existence. May your every tear be joy-stained; behind every upset, may you experience the joy of being discovered by the One who has upset it all, for love of you.
Today, on Holy Saturday, Lent is over. We spend three days enveloped in the liturgy of the Triduum, and we’re right in the middle of it. It is, as T.S. Eliot once said, “the still point in the turning world” (“Burnt Norton,” II, Four Quartets). At the eye of the hurricane, there is a great silence.
There is a beautiful ancient homily on Holy Saturday — we don’t even know who wrote it but it’s beautiful — in the Office of Readings today. Here is a short excerpt:
Something strange is happening — there is a great silence on earth today, a great silence and stillness. The whole earth keeps silence because the King is asleep. The earth trembled and is still because God has fallen asleep in the flesh and he has raised up all who have slept ever since the world began. God has died in the flesh and hell trembles with fear.
He has gone to search for our first parent, as for a lost sheep. Greatly desiring to visit those who live in darkness and in the shadow of death, he has gone to free from sorrow the captives of Adam and Eve, he who is both God and the son of Eve… The Lord approached them bearing the cross, the weapon that had won him the victory….
I am your God, who for your sake have become your son. Out of love for you and for your descendants I now by my own authority command all who are held in bondage to come forth, all who are in darkness to be enlightened, all who are sleeping to arise. I order you, O sleeper, to awake. I did not create you to be held a prisoner in hell. Rise from the dead, for I am the life of the dead. Rise up, work of my hands, you who were created in my image. Rise, let us leave this place, for you are in me and I am in you; together we form only one person and we cannot be separated.
The mystery of Holy Saturday is a mystery of communion, of restored union: what was separated has now been reunited.
How does this happen? What is this mystery of communion which we are anticipating and which we celebrate tonight?
It is, primarily, the mystery of the Eucharist, the sacrament of communion. It is the most exalted mystery of God’s own heart, and of His love.
We’re on pilgrimage today into the very heart of God. Who does the Church give us to accompany us in this time? Who can really show us the way?
It’s Mary. She alone did not flee… did not panic… and did not despair. She is our guide through Holy Saturday, because she is the steward of the great mystery of the Eucharist.
I want to make a brief examination of her life, as it relates to her Son, who is the Bread of Life (John 6:35).
First we go back to the Annunciation. In this moment when the angel Gabriel appears to her, Mary becomes, in a very real way, Bethlehem. The word Bethlehem literally means “the house of bread”.
She is Bethlehem more truly than the town she visits nine months later: she received the Bread that the “house of bread” would not (Luke 2:7). She becomes the dwelling place of the Bread of Life, and she tends to this Bread for thirty years in a mystery of silence we know very little about.
Like the centurion, she calls out to God at the Annunciation: “Lord, I am not worthy to have you enter under my roof, but only say the word…” (Luke 7:6-7). She gives her assent: “Be it done to me according to your word” (Luke 1:38).
Now did she know what she was saying yes to? In the details? No.
But she was docile. She was receptive to the One who has come to her. You see, she said yes to a Someone, not a something. It wasn’t a yes to a plan, or a schedule, or a series of foreseen events.
The somethings of her yes were constantly being challenged and purified. Think of the Presentation in the Temple, when she was told that her heart too would be pierced by a sword (Luke 2:35). Think also of her discovery of Jesus in the Temple after a long search. Her Son asked her: “Did you not know that I must be in my Father’s house?” (Luke 2:49)
The beauty of Mary is that, when confronted with the unknown and the unexpected, she does not flinch, cower or rant, but she receives it all, and ponders the word in her heart (Luke 2:51). Whatever word is spoken to her — whatever word — she receives confidently as a word of love coming from the very heart of God.
This strong, serene faith is seen at the wedding feast at Cana, when, in response to the news that they have no more wine, she responds by calling her Son into action. She tells the servants, “Do whatever he tells you” (John 2:5). Notice that she doesn’t spell out the plan of action herself, but simply refers them to her Son, trusting in His loving wisdom and power.
Fast forward now three years… to the very end of the life of her Son. As she receives the body of her Son when it is taken, lifeless, from the cross, she receives it lovingly. She kisses Him and gazes out at us as she holds Him. Her eyes are filled with grief, but no bitterness. “This is for you,” her eyes say to us. She is the gracious hostess of the divine meal, expressing a hospitality that has cost her everything.
Her Son in her arms is no longer the thriving infant He once was, but a lifeless corpse. This is the annihilation of everything a mother’s heart could want for her child. And yet she is not raging. She’s not bitter. She’s not angry. She’s not clinging desperately to the body of her Son. Instead, she is holding Him with great tenderness and affection.
Why? Because she understands what it takes to make bread… in this case, the Bread of Life.
You see, all along the way of the Cross, her Son, the Bread of Life, was kneaded, pushed, contorted and bruised by the crowds. And now the bread will be covered with a shroud, and placed in the darkness, so that, three days later, it can rise.
So Saturday is a day of waiting. It’s a day of waiting for the Bread to rise, to be baked and to be ready for us. Saturday is Mary’s day, a day to wait with her, in stillness and in hope. And it’s a time to consider her service to the Eucharist, the Bread of Life.
What can this mean for us?
This evening, as you attend the Easter Vigil (or tomorrow, if you attend Mass then), as you go to receive the Eucharist after this long fast, think of giving delight to the hostess of this divine meal.
Give joy to her heart by letting her know that her task, her stewardship of this Bread, has been accomplished. Give her joy by letting her overhear you say to the Father, as you approach the Bread of Life, “Let it be done to me according to your word” (Luke 1:38).
Let her hear you expressing the words of the True Bethlehem: “Lord, I am not worthy to have you come under my roof, but only say the word and I shall be healed” (Luke 7:6-7).
Let this voice of the True Bethlehem rise up across the face of the whole Church today, as all of us, Mary’s spiritual children, raise our voices in a single cry of hope and of love: “Give us this bread always” (John 6:34).
In keeping with an twelve-year tradition, I’ve updated my home page for the season of Lent. It includes links to Pope Benedict’s Letter for Lent; various versions of Stations of the Cross; and RCIA Hollywood podcasts.
One housekeeping note: the primary address for this blog is soon returning to: doxaweb.wordpress.com.
Have a blessed Lent!
I was surprised to find this link come across my phone this morning on the way to work.
Surprised, and yet, as I think on it, it seems so characteristic of this Pope. Ever humble, ever listening, ever attentive to the promptings of grace in his heart. It is the sort of gesture that has been such a hallmark of his writings, and of his papacy.
God bless you, Pope Benedict XVI. Thank you for your nearly eight years of service in the chair of St. Peter, for bearing a load “so heavy that only humility could carry it” (to borrow a phrase from C.S. Lewis). Your witness has stirred my heart.
I was recently given an advance copy of a book coming out this month by David Hartline entitled The Catholic Tide Continues to Turn. The book chronicles many signs of hope in the Church over recent years, with a particular focus on developments from the time of Pope Benedict XVI’s election until the present. It’s a birds-eye view that ranges over a wide terrain: the growth of faithful colleges, the Church’s purification by way of the sexual abuse scandal, the Pope’s trips to the US and Britain, the growing number of converts, and more. The accumulation of evidences for hope in a single volume makes it a worthwhile read. In an age of widespread cynicism in the media — even in Catholic media, at times — it’s refreshing to read a book that accentuates the many good things God is accomplishing in the communion of the Church.
For all of its positivity, and its broad rather than deep analysis, this is a volume about hope, not simple optimism. A passage from the end of his chapter on men and women religious says it best: “None of this is to whitewash any obvious problems. To ignore certain data and highlight the above information is not to look at the Catholic world with rose-colored glasses. Rather, it is to accentuate the positive…. Today is a new day. It’s a day of hope, the sort of hope Our Lord Jesus Christ always encourages us to have, come what may. There are just so many good things happening for which to praise and thank him….” (81).
You can pick up a copy of the book over at Aquinas and More Catholic Goods.
This looks to be an educational and inspiring conference to kick off the Year of Faith:
The Immaculate Conception Center, 7200 Douglaston Parkway, Douglaston (Queens), New York 11362
Friday, October 12, 2012, from 4:45-9 p.m.
Saturday October 13, 10 a.m.- 6 p.m., followed by Mass in the chapel
For too long, we have had to endure the foolish conspiracy theories, the baseless speculation, the many different versions of the “real” Pope John Paul I put forward by those who in reality know nothing about him.
We want to set the record straight and put knowledge of this Pope on a sound historical basis. We want the world to know about the brilliant scholar, the compassionate pastoral bishop, the sparkling writer, the saintly man who was Albino Luciani.
Thanks to Lori Pieper for passing along the tip. Get all the details over at jpicentenary.org.