Tuesday, 31 July 2012

37: The Spiritual Journey 10b/11


After having presented the whole picture of the "Christian Journey", we need now to come back to the final goal of Christian life, which is as well the goal of the second part of the journey we are exploring: "dying out of love", or more classically expressed: "martyrdom", or simply "Christian death" (not any death).

Martyrdom is the Royal way. The best imitation of Jesus, "the highest level of holiness" in the understanding of the Church, the closest transformation in Jesus. When Jesus sees a Martyr He can say: “now I have a real brother” (saint Francis of Assisi said that when 5 of his brothers died, killed for their faith, in Morocco).
“There is no greater love than to give one's life to his brothers” (John 15:13). “the disciple is not greater than his master”, he'll have to die like him: He is the Martyr par excellence.

When we say “holiness is the goal of our Christian life” we need to be more precise and state it this way: “becoming martyr is the goal of our life”.
- Who set that goal? Us (the Church) or Jesus?
- Jesus obviously, and He did it when He asked us to follow his footsteps: “I have the power to give my life and to take it”.

Jesus, The first Martyr

Jesus is the first Martyr. He is "The Way", He is our Way. We are invited to follow Him, to do as He did, to allow Him to come in us and continue the mystery of His Salvation through us. “Since Jesus, the Son of God, manifested His charity by laying down His life for us, so too no one has greater love than he who lays down his life for Christ and His brothers.” (Vatican II, Lumen Gentium 42) Indeed, Jesus is our example.

Martyrdom, the highest ideal

From the earliest times, then, some Christians have been called upon - and some will always be called upon - to give the supreme testimony of this love to all men, but especially to persecutors.” (Vatican II, Lumen Gentium 42) In dying as martyrs, we participate to the work of Salvation of Jesus. Help spreading the Good News in a very powerful way. We help the Grace of God change the world. "The blood of the Martyrs is the seed of the Church" (Tertullian), it allows the transformation of people. See Saul - who is supporting the killing of Stephen, first Deacon - is touched by the Grace of the death of the first Martyr. It is a kind of a mysterious "exchange".

S. Stephen's Martyrdom (Acts 7). One can see Saul, sitting, watching and approving.
As saint Paul will say later in one of his letters: "death works in me, and Life in you". Jesus involves him in the work of salvation, by the Power of the Holy Spirit he receives the evil that is working in people, and "transforms" it (the Spirit does that) into Higher Good. This is "the Power of the Cross", "the Power of the Blood of Jesus", this is "the Power of the Lamb"! The Crucified only had that unique power, capable of really changing the Evil into a Higher Good.
The blood of the Martyr is the most sacred thing after Jesus. In the early Church, christians used to celebrate Mass on the body of the Martyrs; they are transformed to the highest point into His Body and His Blood. The Perfect imitation of Jesus.
Not only the blood of the Martyrs is the most sacred thing after Jesus, but it is capable of being (by the power of Jesus, and by His unique Merits, being the Only Saviour) seeds for new Christians. Watering the earth with their blood, one can see new shoots of Christians blossoming. This is how Christianity can change the World. The Power of the Martyrs, the Power of their Love, the Love of God outpoured in them.

What is Martyrdom?

The Church, then, considers martyrdom as an exceptional gift and as the fullest proof of love. By martyrdom a disciple is transformed into an image of his Master by freely accepting death for the salvation of the world - as well as his conformity to Christ in the shedding of his blood.” (Vatican II, Lumen Gentium 42)

What about me?

Though few are presented such an opportunity, nevertheless all must be prepared to confess Christ before men. They must be prepared to make this profession of faith even in the midst of persecutions, which will never be lacking to the Church, in following the way of the cross.” (Vatican II, Lumen Gentium 42) Are you aware that this text expresses our Faith, yours, mine, and that this teaching is for all of us. This text alone sums up for me all the Council Vatican II. This is how the Church becomes everyday "Sacrament of Salvation" (Vatican II, Lumen Gentium 48).

This means that: I have to be prepared for martyrdom. This is simply frightening! But in the same time, attracting... fascinating... it puts everything in my life upside down. This is THE measure, THE criteria of being Christian, wouldn't you agree? So let us "get serious" about our GOAL in life.

Dying out of love, deepening Martyrdom

Since we are all called to the fullness of love, and martyrdom is the classical common expression of this love, it is important to deepen our understanding of martyrdom, so it becomes more accessible to any person. It is important to bring it to its right proportions.
Many many saints desired to reach martyrdom. Just to mention two of the most known ones: saint Francis of Assisi, and saint Thérèse of Lisieux. Both of them desired Martyrdom with great great aspirations and sought it. They both failed in finding it, but for different reasons. The main reason is that God wanted to show them that if the realisation of it is rather rare, realising "the essence of Martyrdom” is accessible to any person, without necessarily dying killed out of hatred of faith (or of any virtue related to faith).

At mount Alverna, Saint Francis of Assisi received the Stigmata. One can see in them the answer (finally) to his prayers wanting to become a martyr. But Thérèse of Lisieux as well sought martyrdom, with all her heart and all her life, and her desire grew exponentially with her spiritual life (see Manuscripts A and B where she mentions it). Instead of dying killed, or receiving the Stigmata, she just simply "died in a bed", as she said. Apparently one can say: "what a disappointment!". But in fact, it was an occasion for her and for all the Church to deepen the understanding of the "essence of Martyrdom". This is an important step for all the Church toward understanding the Way (the stages) that leads to Perfection, to the fullness of the Christian vocation. Remember that Thérèse's mission was to offer a Way, valid for everybody, and that any person can practice. This is very important.

She understood (and made us understand) many aspects related to martyrdom. We can't right now explore all of them but we can mention at least the followings:
1- Through her reading saint John of the Cross and his explanations of the deep transformation in God, she understood better Martyrdom, and that it is, in its essence: "dying out of Love". One finds his explanation of dying really Christianly, in his last Masterpiece: “The Living Flame of Love”. You can read as well something that I am not sure Thérèse did read: his fantastic, and luminous explanation of the essence of Martyrdom, in the third book of the “Ascent of Mount Carmel”.
2- She understood that her desires of Martyrdom are inspired by God. If God inspires something to us, this means that He is capable of realising it.
3- She understood that there is a way to reach martyrdom, starting with the small acts of martyrdom: the daily faithfulness to Jesus. Not dying "out of a sword", but dying on a daily basis by the "little needles" of daily normal struggles, lived in Jesus, with the help of His Grace... the "little needles" as well of the “dry land” of the apparent absence of the Beloved. Please read her letters to her sisters from her noviciate until early 1893.
4- On day, after that first stage of preparation, purification, transformation, she is lead to discover to which extent she has to rely on the Fire of Love of God, the Holy Spirit, and understands to which extent Jesus-God wants to be love by her (9th of Jun 1895). She offers* herself to the Transformative Power of the Love of the Holy Spirit.  She understands that her desires for martyrdom can finally be fulfilled.

I will leave you here for now... with many things to meditate on.

(to be continued)

Saturday, 28 July 2012

36: The Spiritual Journey 10a/11

We meet Jesus' Passion and His Cross two times

It is important to understand that in our life time, we are supposed to meet the Lord's Passion, Crucifixion and Death (and Resurrection, it goes without saying) twice. Of course, this is in case we fulfil all our call to follow Jesus, if we realise the whole journey. (Otherwise, some steps are “aborted”.) The two moments are quite different. The first time is – we may say – an “ascending moment”, toward the union with Jesus-God. So when we meet the Passion, it is a fundamental purification time for us. The deepest purification that prepares us for the Spiritual Betrothal and the Spiritual Marriage. This purification is what S. John of the Cross calls: “Dark night of the spirit”.

Note: Let us remember the deep meaning of the “Spiritual Marriage”. It is a deep and real “union with Jesus” who is God. It is something that one has to really study, in order to understand the new synergy that emerges from it, and constitutes it. Saint Paul says something about it when he says: “it is not me who lives but Jesus who lives in me”. Do we really understand what is to have Jesus living in us? Do we know the exact proportion between “Jesus' Spirit” (the Holy Spirit) and “us” in this synergy? Do we grasp “how it works”? These are fundamental questions each Christian should know, should study. Because this is the meaning of Baptism, and it's first realisation (the Union with Jesus), this is the meaning of our life on earth.
Jesus lives in us, acts with us, through us. The merits of our acts are His'. It is only by understanding the greatness of this spiritual state that we can address the second part of the Spiritual Journey. To my eyes it is a condition, otherwise we will make a very un pleasant psychological projection.

While the second time (that will usually come much after) we meet the Passion of the Lord happens when we start to understand the “weight of love” (as saint Augustine calls it), how it brings us down toward the earth, toward our brothers, toward the “lower parts of the earth” (see Isaiah 9:2), the people who are walking in the darkness, waiting for their deliverance. Saint Thérèse of the Child Jesus, in her Manuscript C mentions as well the “weight of Love”.
The power of the Holy Spirit in us, starts to make us hear in a much greater strength the voice of “those living in the land of deep darkness” (Isaiah 9:2). So we “roll up our sleeves” and start to lay down our life (see John 15:13), in the Hands of the Holy Spirit who offers us (as a “lab” or “womb”) for our brothers and sisters, where salvation can happen: my little children, for whom I am again in the anguish of childbirth until Christ is formed in you!” (Ga 4:19) says a man, saint Paul.

Here is one of the best descriptions of the work of the Holy Spirit in this crucial period of descent, when we meet again Jesus' Passion: Very truly I tell you, when you were younger you dressed yourself and went where you wanted; but when you are old you will stretch out your hands, and Someone else will dress you and lead you where you do not want to go” (John 21:18).
It deserves a commentary. “stretching out our hands”... becoming, because of spiritual marriage, so humble, and in total synergy, docile under the Action of the Holy Spirit. “Someone else”: the Holy Spirit.

Or if you prefer, there is a more “symbolic” description: you get up “from the meal” of the Wedding (its joys, celebrations, enjoyment), like Jesus (see Philippians 2) you “take off your outer clothing”, you empty yourself like Jesus, in Jesus (see Philippians 2), you “wrap a towel around your waist” (purified, and transformed, the Power of the Holy Spirit has much greater grip over you), After that” you “pour water into a basin and begin to wash your friends' feet, drying them with the towel that was wrapped around you” (See John 13:4-5) Great and deep description of what is offered to the bride of the Lord. He truly made of her a “mother” for others.

The two periods (I- ascent and II- descent) will probably be separated by a “resting” time, an enjoyable time. We may call it a “honey moon”. Right after the “spiritual marriage”, the soul needs to rest a bit, after the deep radical toughness of the purification. Spiritual growth continues, always, there are no limits in Love, in the Action of the Holy Spirit.

So, as we see, in a synthetical way, we have two journeys that end with the Passion (see the Cross on the diagram). One ascending: the purification, always deeper and deeper, and the other, descending: the participation to the Passion of Jesus, for the sake of our brothers.

Dark night” or “Participation to the Passion”

The two are very different. The description made by the saints of each spiritual stage might look the same (same words, same darkness, same toughness, ...), and the bad trend today is to call anything that is a bit tough a “dark night”. “Dark night” is an expression taken from Saint John of the Cross (see his book called: “The dark night”). It is a bad trend/fashion to do that because he is the one who shaped that expression, and in his writings it has one main meaning: purification (and not just any suffering).

You can't then use that expression and apply it to what happens to the soul when it is invited to “sit at the table of the sinners” (see the Gospel when it is said that Jesus is sitting amongst the sinner for a meal. It is an expression of saint Thérèse of the Child Jesus, Manuscript C). You can't help in the purification process of your brothers if you are not even in the Light yourself!! Totally absurd! But the “spiritual literature” today is full of these absurdities that some still call: spiritual theology.

Of course, some small purifications will always continue to happen after the Union with Jesus (Thérèse speaks about them, see Manuscript B, the little bird), but the state of a human being is totally different before the “great trial” of the great purification (end of the ascending curve, meeting the Passion) and after it. By the "great purification", the soul joins the group of the anawim, the poors of spirit, lead by Mary, the Mother of Jesus.

So, again: we meet the Cross, the Passion, in at least two main moments, ascending and descending. But not in the same way, and not for the same purposes.

One should read the deep and correct analysis Father Louis Guillet ocd made of Thérèse's so called “trial of faith”, in the end of her life: “Gethsémani ou l'amour crucifié”. He obviously reaches the “conclusion” that what she is going through can only be a participation to the Passion of Jesus, and not the “dark night of the spirit” as many still say.

The “dark night of the spirit” happened much before in Thérèse's life, just check her letters before early 1893. The years before, she goes through something very tough: it is “the dark night of the spirit”. We'll come back to that another day.

Just enjoy the vision of the total shape of the spiritual journey.

For the Dark night: please have a look at this post.
(To be continued...)

Tuesday, 24 July 2012

35: The Spiritual Journey 9/11

The complete shape of our Spiritual Journey


We are continuing the discovery of the shape of our Spiritual Journey, of our spiritual growth, the new goal and the new stages. The last diagram (8/11) showed us a new part in our spiritual journey. It showed us that the goal of Christian life is not just to reach the “union with God-Jesus” (reaching the top of the mountain). It showed us that, after reaching the Union with Jesus-God, we still have a lot to do, like the Son of God himself when He took flesh. He didn't jut incarnate, he went much further, He realised a mystical union with each one of us, and the final step in this “mystical union” was our Redemption realised during his Passion, especially during the Crucifixion, bringing us from “darkness” to “Light”. We know how much this cost Him.

This is then for us a “turning point”. Our Journey doesn't aim only toward “candies” it aims as well (at the image of Christ's journey) toward Redemption, trial, real love. Instead of aiming to a higher point (God, the very Nature of God, a final Union with the immensity of God, the Beatitude, the Eternal Happiness), we change the angle, and start to look down, and start to “study” the descent... a descent toward a more intense, grounded, serious love to our brothers. We will learn it from Christ, and He will come in us to live it! Pursuing His mission through us.

There is no greater love than to lay our soul, our life, for our brothers and sisters, says Jesus. My new Commandment is to do as I did: to love as I did. You can't do it just by yourself, you can do it only if you are transformed in Me and Me in you. Otherwise you can't bare it, its too heavy! When the disciple will be totally formed, he'll be like his Master (and not “greater than Him”: just seeking Beatitude, not wanting to follow his footsteps). Saint Paul says it: “I am offered like a libation” (2 Tm 4:6), and “I complete in my flesh what lacks in Jesus' Passion “for his Body””. All the Apostles went through martyrdom (even John who didn't die from it, went through it). The perseverance in the imitation of Jesus should reach its full realisation, reaching its end goal.

So, when we reach the Union with Him, we are like brought to the point of His Incarnation (when the Son of God takes flesh). We are ready to start the journey of collaborating with Him in the work of Redemption, or more precisely: we are ready to take our share in the application of the Redemption He acquired for each one of us on the Cross, in its application to the rest of the human beings, our brothers and sisters.
The work of “acquiring” Redemption depends totally on Him (because He is the only being who is in the same time God and man, therefore the only Redeemer), but the work of “application” depends on His Mystical Body, us. This is His choice and His will, out the of the mystery of His love for us. He wants us to work with him, to take our share in the work of salvation of our brothers and sisters (its application).

It is already a great love for us, His love that makes us be united with Him (reaching the top of the mountain). But there is even a greater love : to make us share His work of Redemption, so we can work on applying it to our brothers and sisters, and be part of the their salvation.

The full shape of our Journey

The full shape of our Journey is to complete both parts of the Journey: ascending, and descending. With this diagram, we can start from now to see the full shape of the journey: we start our ascent from the bottom of the mountain, we climb the Mountain (Christ himself), being purified by the Holy Spirit, step by step, until we reach the Union with Jesus, and then after a while we start our descent, attracted by the weight of Charity, heading toward a greater love of our brothers and sisters.
Again, going up we are following Jesus' journey in the Gospel, receiving the purification from Him, and going down, we are following Jesus' journey in the Gospel, but this time, He is in us and us in Him, giving Him to our brothers and sisters, participating in their growth, purification, reception of the Redemption realised by Christ.

The full shape of our Journey

Both ways we meet Jesus, His Mission and His Passion; we follow the same journey of His. The first part by receiving Jesus, and the second by rather giving Jesus to our brothers.

We are all invited to reach this great love:  There is no greater love than to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.” (John 15:13)

(To be continued...)

Thursday, 19 July 2012

34: The Spiritual Journey 8/11

The Descent

With this 8th diagram, we start a totally new part of the journey, the second and final part: the descent.
The descent, at the imitation of Christ.
Once we reach the “union with God”, once we reach the top of the mountain, we are not meant to loose that state, but we are meant to imitate Jesus, Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be used to his own advantage; rather, he made himself nothing by taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness. And being found in appearance as a man,
 he humbled himself
 by becoming obedient to death - even death on a cross!” (Phil 2:6-8) Having reached the Union with Jesus, He is our Master, our example, we are not higher than Him, we are just invited to become like him. “A disciple is not above his teacher, but everyone when he is fully trained will be like his teacher.” (Luke 6:40) Like him, we have to start our descent.

When Jesus is humbling himself, He never stops from being God. Something similar happens to the person that reaches "Union with Jesus". When we reach the Union with Jesus-God, we do not stop from being united with Him, deep deep in us, but we do strive to imitate Him, in order to continue the application of the Salvation to our brothers and sisters. We are lead by the Holy Spirit toward this descent.

Paradoxically, after the Union with God, it is not death that is awaiting for us (as many manuals of Spiritual Theology seem to say), but the second part of our journey: continuing Jesus' Journey on earth.
Instead of aiming “higher”, toward a death that will give us God, we are invited to look down, to go down, following Jesus, the Logic of Redemption. We are invited to start a new journey of great achievements. Note that the frame remains Christological.
So from a Greek (Greek Philosophers) vision of the climbing journey toward the One, we switch to a christian, christological, vision. This point is fundamental in order to have the right global vision of the whole journey, in its entirety.

What has been achieved until now (the Union with Jesus), allows us, allows Him in us, to perform “great works”, “completing in our flesh” the work of Salvation, or better said: the application of the Salvation obtained by Christ on the Cross on our brothers and sisters.

It is only “being rooted in Jesus” that something so high could be achieved, with total synergy between Christ and us.

Let us now read carefully this 8th Diagram, it deserves all our attention:

Seeing the diagram, first of all one has to notice the curve. Once one reached the top of the mountain, there is curve, a descending curve. If part of our being remains “on top of the Mountain” (the spirit (and therefore the whole being) remains united to Jesus), the rest of our being (soul and body) has to come down, be mystically united to our fellow brothers and sister (by the Holy Spirit), in order to help them, helping Jesus' apply his Redemption to them. Of course all our being is now rooted in Jesus.

Secondly, one has to notice that this descending journey of the soul, after “the Union with Jesus-God” is following Jesus' journey. There is nothing “new”, there is no new journey. The Disciple now is much more at the resemblance of his Master. The Master is alive in him. The disciple is not inventing another journey, the Truth is that he has flesh, like the Son of Man, and the latter is in fact his role-model, showing the way for him.

The second part of the journey has the following main stages:
1- Acquisition of the Holy Spirit
2- Turning toward the depth of Charity (the curve)
3- Enrolled in participating into Christ's Passion
4- Death, out of love, giving our life to our brothers (martyrdom or equivalent)

This is a rapid outline. A lot should be said about each stage, and all what is happening inside.
The “mystical dimension” in the disciple's life is constant. It has been inaugurated by the Union with Jesus. Of course it started to exist and grow much before, with the Growth of Charity in us, during the purification time.

It would be good to see the diagram, to contemplate it and meditate on the various quotes and thoughts that are on it, in order to engage in this “turning point”: from the ascent to the descent.

Again: the "descent" is not about loosing Jesus, it is about letting Charity (the Power of Love of the Holy Spirit in us) guiding us toward “greater things”. “Truly, truly, I say to you, whoever believes in me will also do the works that I do; and greater works than these will he do, because I am going to the Father.” (John 14:12) The works we do in the descending curve are much “greater” than the ones done in the ascending curve. Why? The reason is simple: the Union with Jesus makes all the difference. The Merit of any act after the union is different. This is why it is very urgent to grow in love and in the quality of love, then to make ourselves busy, noisily busy, with a thousands of things, thinking that we serve the Lord, forgetting that the One Who gives efficiency to our acts is the Holy Spirit.

Let us read what saint John of the Cross says:

Observe, however, that if the soul has not reached the state of unitive love, it is necessary for it to make acts of love, as well in the active as in the contemplative life. But when it has reached it, it is not requisite it should occupy itself in other and exterior duties—unless they are matters of obligation— which might hinder, were it but for a moment, the life of love in God, though they may minister greatly to His service; because an instant of pure love is more precious in the eyes of God and the soul, and more profitable to the Church, than all other good works together, though it may seem as if nothing were done. Thus, Mary Magdalene, though her preaching was most edifying, and might have been still more so afterwards, out of the great desire she had to please God and benefit the Church, hid herself, nevertheless, in the desert thirty years, that she might surrender herself entirely to love; for she considered that she would gain more in that way, because an instant of pure love is so much more profitable and important to the Church.

When the soul, then, in any degree possesses the spirit of solitary love, we must not interfere with it. We should inflict a grievous wrong upon it, and upon the Church also, if we were to occupy it, were it only for a moment, in exterior or active duties, however important they might be. When God Himself adjures all not to waken it from its love, who shall venture to do so, and be blameless? In a word, it is for this love that we are all created. Let those men of zeal, who think by their preaching and exterior works to convert the world, consider that they would be much more edifying to the Church, and more pleasing to God—setting aside the good example they would give—if they would spend at least one half their time in prayer, even though they may have not attained to the state of unitive love. Certainly they would do more, and with less trouble, by one single good work than by a thousand: because of the merit of their prayer, and the spiritual strength it supplies. To act otherwise is to beat the air, to do little more than nothing, sometimes nothing and occasionally even mischief; for God may give up such persons to vanity, so that they may seem to have done something, when in reality their outward occupations bear no fruit; for it is quite certain that good works cannot be done but in the power of God.
O how much might be written on this subject! this, however, is not the place for it.” (Spiritual Canticle B, 29:2-3)

(To be continued...)

33: The Spiritual Journey 7/11

Christ is our Way”

Christ said: “I am the Way, the Truth, and Life” (John 14:6).

- He is our “Life”, our “inner breath”, “the way we connect to the Grace of God”. Saint Paul says it his way: “it is not me who lives, it is Jesus who [dwells in me and] lives in me” (Ga 2:20).

- He is the “Truth”, our Truth, who we are according to God and who we should be. He has a human nature like us, perfectly man: body, soul and spirit, like us. He is our truth, the “Son of Man”. We have to worship God the Father “in Him”, the Truth. true worshipers will worship the Father in Spirit and in Truth (John 4:23).

- He is “the Way”: He opens the way for each one of us, He acts “for us”, he makes all the acts we will have to do during our life, so we are made ready (by receiving the Grace) to do them.

He opened this “New Way” for us on the Cross: we have confidence to enter the holy place by the blood of Jesus, by a new and living way which He inaugurated for us through the veil, that is, His flesh […]”. (He 10:19-20). We can't reach the Father if we don't go through this Way of transformation: “nobody can reach the Father without going through Me” (John 14:6).

Let us contemplate the “Way” He opened for us, the “Journey of Transformation” He “ploughed” for us with His Body, His Soul and Hi Spirit. He opened in himself our Journey so we can grow, climb Him, until we reach His Heart, or Side. The Side of Jesus is the exact place of our New Birth: one of the soldiers pierced Jesus’ side with a spear, bringing a sudden flow of blood and water. The man who saw it has given testimony, and his testimony is true. He knows that he tells the truth, and he testifies so that you also may believe. (see John 19:33-37)

The different moments of Jesus' life are like stages of transformation for us, transformation in Him. Step by step, our body, our soul, and our spirit are transformed in His body, His soul and His spirit.

The “new man”, the “new creature” can then appear.

The journey shown here in the diagram (see below) could be seen as the journey of climbing a Mountain (Christ Himself).

This journey, the Layout of the journey, is our secure “Spiritual Way”, the journey of our realisation and transformation, the only Adventure that is worth living here on earth, the meaning and purpose of the journey of our life on earth, the definition of the core of our life.

Spiritual Theology: Part I of the Journey

Technically wise, according to “Spiritual Theology”, we cannot invent a different Journey and other Stages than the ones shown by Christ, in the Gospel. Our Journey is fundamentally “christological”: it follows Jesus' path. The transformative action of the Holy Spirit in us aims fundamentally to conform us to Christ, following the trail of His “Ploughing”.

The theological exposition of the “Spiritual Journey” and its “Stages” in “Spiritual Theology” manuals should follow very closely Christ in the Gospel. Otherwise, the risk is to invent steps that are not the Truth, our Truth. Jesus is our Truth, the shape of our Journey.

We need to understand and study “Christ the Way”, the reason why there are stages in our formation and transformation, and deepen this understanding by doing proper “theological research”. Some people should dedicate their life to this study and Service in the Church. The need is immense.

The easiest way to understand this journey is just to put ourselves in the shoes of Peter, and just follow the curve of the Gospel, of Jesus' life, and Peter's way of following Him, as presented in the Gospel.

For now we have 6 main Stages. Later we will see how the Journey continues after these 6 stages, because the “Union with Jesus”, and “being filled with the Holy Spirit” are the end of “Part I” of the Journey and the beginning of “Part II”. So there is a lot to come in the next posts.

The stages of course start with “Jesus' call” for us. This doesn't mean that there is no life before, no preparation, on the contrary. When Jesus calls Matthew to follow Him and he leaves everything and follows Him (see Mt 9:9-13), certainly there are hidden stages of preparation before.

When we start to follow Jesus, we can discern the presence of at least 6 stages. The “stages” are the “stages of the work of purification and transformation pursued by the Holy Spirit in us”. These stages, as shown on the diagram, are as follow:

1- Purification of the sense
2- Purification of the soul
3- Purification of the spirit
4- Spiritual Betrothal
5- Spiritual Marriage (Union with Jesus-God)
6- Acquisition of the Spirit

As we repeatedly said, they follow all together 6 stages in Jesus' public life and 6 stages of Peter and the Apostle's response to Jesus.

(to be continued)

Wednesday, 18 July 2012

Amazing teaching on Mary!

Monsieur Olier, one of the greatest French Catholic mystics of the 17th Century did contemplate the deep and spiritual relationship that exists between Jesus and Mary. For Olier this is the mystery of mysteries – up to now so little known, loved and respected.

For the first time in history, extracts from his letters – an incomparable treasure – are translated into English; a message with great influence for our own spiritual life and world today. You are invited to discover what Olier calls: "The Interior of Mary", invited to dive in it. What a groundbreaking exploration!

You can find this eBook on amazon (click here), you can read it on your computer if you want, on your iPad or on many other equipments, by downloading the Kindle application for free.

Sunday, 15 July 2012

Are you sure you know Jesus? 3/..

Wrapping up what we said

The capacity to believe” in the Resurrection, we don't have it. Nobody (except Mary) was capable of believing the Word of God in the Annunciation, nobody was capable of believing the Word of the Son of God saying that He will die and rise. So nobody (except Mary) was waiting for Him, was expecting Him, nobody was there. They all struggled to believe in His Resurrection, even when they saw Him risen, many had doubts (see .

Dear reader, you might find that all this “is normal”. That “He had to rise anyway”. That “anyway He had to do it all by Himself”. Well, with all due respect, this is not totally true.

The Marian dimension of the Church

Let us go back to a very simple (but striking) statement made by Pope John Paul II and, afterward, introduced in the “Catechism of the Catholic Church” (CCC). “The "Marian" dimension of the Church precedes the "Petrine"” (CCC 773) “Petrine” means: “of Peter”. It alludes to the hierarchical dimension of the Church. But we should ad as well: it alludes to the Apostolic dimension of the Church.

Here is what the Pope John Paul II says about that: “The Second Vatican Council, confirming the teaching of the whole of tradition, recalled that in the hierarchy of holiness it is precisely the "woman", Mary of Nazareth, who is the "figure" of the Church. She "precedes" everyone on the path to holiness; in her person "the Church has already reached that perfection whereby she exists without spot or wrinkle (cf. Eph 5:27)".” (Mulieris Dignitatem, 27)

At this point in this text, there is a “note”, note 55, that says:

This Marian profile is also - even perhaps more so - fundamental and characteristic for the Church as is the apostolic and Petrine profile to which it is profoundly united. […] The Marian dimension of the Church is antecedent to that of the Petrine, without being in any way divided from it or being less complementary. The Immaculate Mary precedes all others, including obviously Peter himself and the Apostles. This is so, not only because Peter and the Apostles, being born of the human race under the burden of sin, form part of the Church which is “sancta ex peccatoribus” (holy, but taken from sinners), but also because their triple munus (function) has no other purpose except to form the Church in line with the ideal of sanctity already programmed and prefigured in Mary. A contemporary theologian has well commented: “Mary is ‘Queen of the Apostles’ without any pretensions to apostolic powers: she has other and greater powers (von Balthasar, Nette Klarstellungen, Ital. transl., Milan 1980, p. 181).” (Annual Address to Roman Curia,
 H. H. John Paul II, 
December 22, 1987)

All this intuition and understanding of the relationship between the Apostles, the Church and Mary, has been introduced in a more formal way in the “Catechism of the Catholic Church” as follows: ““the "Marian" dimension of the Church precedes the "Petrine”” (CCC 773).

It looks simple? Maybe. To me, it should be simply mind blowing to everybody. Because it has plenty of consequences in our daily life.

In our name, Elisabeth says to Mary: "blessed is she who believed" (Luke 1:45). 

This statement is not at all an isolated statement in the “Catechism of the Catholic Church”. In many places the Catechism, you'll find it speaking about “Mary's Faith” being the Archetype of the Church's Faith, it's perfection. Here are few striking quotes:

The Virgin Mary most perfectly embodies the obedience of faith. […] It is for this faith that all generations have called Mary blessed.” (CCC 148)
the Church venerates in Mary the purest realization of faith.” (CCC 149)
The Virgin Mary is the supreme model of this faith” (CCC 273)
Mary “because of her faith, became the mother of believers” (CCC 2676)
The Virgin Mary is its most perfect embodiment [of the obedience of faith].” (CCC 144)
Mary goes before us all in the holiness that is the Church's mystery as "the bride without spot or wrinkle. This is why the "Marian" dimension of the Church precedes the "Petrine."” (CCC 773)
By her complete adherence to the Father's will, to his Son's redemptive work, and to every prompting of the Holy Spirit, the Virgin Mary is the Church's model of faith and charity. Thus she is a "preeminent and . . . wholly unique member of the Church"; indeed, she is the "exemplary realization" (typus) of the Church.” (967)

I guess you've got the message.

Not a matter of degree, but of “another order”

After all, one can think that if Mary “is an exemplary [the best] realisation of the Church” we still have other realisations: Abraham (as stated by the Catechism, see 148 and following), Peter, the rest of the Apostles, the Martyrs, all the Saints. What I was pointing out in the previous posts, is that, while comparing Mary's faith (and her role in our life) with other saints one (the Apostles for instance), the comparison is not at all a matter of degree. Mary's faith, belongs to another order.

She belongs to another league: she believes where nobody can believe. It is not that somebody was able to believe a little bit. No. You may want to go back to the previous Blogs in order to perceive that sharp cut, that sharp abyss that separates her from the rest of human kind.
It is certainly related to her Immaculate Conception, related to the fact that before the Cross, but because of the Cross, she is born with no sin, coming in fact from the side of Jesus on the Cross, “New Eve”, as “the First Saved Person”, but as well as “the Mother of all the Saved”. She is made “mother” by Jesus, and with Jesus.

Practical consequences

What are the practical consequences of all that? We can't start to believe, we can't grow in our Faith to it's fullness, to the total Hight of Jesus (at the level of His Side, from where we come) without the constant intervention of Mary. We have to draw our “capacity to believe” from Her... better: we have to receive Her from His Hands, as the best Gift: When Jesus saw his mother there, and the disciple whom he loved standing nearby, he said to her, “Woman, here is your son,” and to the disciple, “Here is your mother”. From that time on, this disciple took her into his home. (John 19:26-27)
We should hear Jesus' voice to each one of us saying: “here is your mother”, you can't reach Me without her. She'll form in you the new “capacity of believing”, she'll keep you “in her womb”, “in her Heart”, she'll form you, - you “my Body” - as she formed Me in her.

We need to deeply understand how sharply, radically, vitally it is indispensable to “take Mary into our home”. Our eternal life, its quality, depend on that!

We need to have the humility not to pretend to “follow Jesus” with our own means, but with the help of Mary's faith. Acknowledging that “she believed for me”, and using this asset, this huge Talent, received in our Baptism in order to grow. We need to discover how deeply we are “helpless” when it comes to follow Jesus till the end, till real-holiness, without the help of Mary.

Her help and presence are not something optional in our life. She is part of the structure itself of our Faith. Her faith becomes our faith (as John Paull II said in his Encyclical letter: “Redemptoris Mater”, 20)). Jesus, in our Baptism, gives us the “object of our faith” (Himself) and “the capacity to believe in Him”.

All what we have to learn is how to “receive her in our home”, in our daily life, receiving the gift of her presence, and using it for our growth.
We need to receive her from the Hands of Jesus, on the Cross, as our “spiritual Mother”.
In order to “receive Mary” in our life, we are invited to offer ourselves totally in Her Hands, to the full Action of the Holy Spirit (she is full of the Holy Spirit). This is what we want: the full action of the Holy Spirit, with no obstacles.
After that, we need constantly to let her act, show, guide, inspire us.

This way, “our poor way” of dealing with Jesus, is transformed into “her way of dealing with Jesus”. We go from a very weak, slow, radically incapable way to deal with Jesus, to a successful way, Mary's way.

If we want to reach our own resurrection (the Union with Jesus), if we want to reach the fullness of growth of our faith, there are no other ways than Mary's. Just don't loose your time with dead-ends.

Please, do keep meditating on how and to which degree Mary's action in our life is not just an optional thing, and that it is simply possible to do it in another way.
Let us have the right humility in order to accept God's means, not ours, in order to become saints, in Mary's womb.

Everybody accepts the fact that faith is a grace of God, something supernatural. Fine, this is right. But let us perfect this statement with the one: “all generations will call you Blessed” because you believed, and because we draw our faith in Jesus from you. Mary, you are truly our mother.

Jesus said: Truly, truly, I say to you, he who does not enter the sheepfold by the door but climbs in by another way, that man is a thief and a robber. (John 10:1) Jesus gives us “the door” (Mary, full of the Holy Spirit, as our Mother) at the Baptism. The “sheepfold” = “to be with Jesus”. Let us not to try to reach the father out of Jesus' way: “No one comes to the Father except through me.” (John 14:16) Jesus is “the way”, He shows us the way inviting us the consider Mary as our Mother, the Woman, the New Eve. He advices us not to try to reach God without Him. “he who climbs in (through the wall) to the sheepfold, that man is a thief and a robber”

Humility, humility, humility.

"Mary, thank you very much for all what you have done for us, for your Active Presence at our side... Help us, Mary, with your all-powerful intercession, to receive you from the Hands of Jesus, and give ourselves totally to Him, in your Hands. Mary, help us discover all the mysteries of our faith and reach our final destination: being united with Jesus-God, in you, with you."

Mary shows "The Way": Jesus.

(to be continued)