Monday, 29 September 2014

115: The Angels and the Word of God

We imagine the invisible world as having God (the Father, Jesus, and the Holy Spirit) and the Saints. Seeing the Saints as friends, filled with the love of Jesus, we understand that their friendship, prayer and help doesn't stop with their death.
Sometimes we tend to forget the existence of the Angels, with all their grades, while in fact they have a very important and constant role to play in our life and salvation. If you want to remove the Angels, then not only will you have to remove large portions of the Scriptures and Tradition, but as well, many things will be lacking.
We think that during our prayer the interaction is only about God and us. Our understanding of prayer and “intimacy” with God is thought of as something of a silent and empty world, which only God and us inhabit. Significantly, however, Zachariah was at Prayer when God sent him his Messenger, GABRIEL. Similarly Mary was very probably at Prayer when God sent her his Messenger, GABRIEL.
Intimacy with God is often seen as something exclusive. However, Saint John of the Cross gives us an important answer to this question (in the Spiritual Canticle):

1- The Angels will always continue to be present in our lives, from day one, till the last day, so it is better to pay attention to this spiritual Friend, sent by God to help us and protect us. If you doubt this, you can contemplate Jesus himself, who is in His Human Nature Holy, the Holiest, and see how the Angels are present ans serve and help him (when He is tempted in the Desert, and when He prays in the Garden before his Passion). Are we better than Jesus? Stronger than Jesus? More intimate with God the Father than the Son Incarnate? So, keep this in mind, you will have them and need them. Your Master did, as a man, so you will have to.. with all the more reason.

2- Saint John of the Cross says (in the Spiritual Canticle) that the Angels play an important role in the long first stage of Spiritual Life Growth. They Transmit to us God's Messages, God's Word. Do you have doubts about this? Well remember what Gabriel says about himself and what Elisabeth says about Mary:
“I am Gabriel, who stands in the presence of God, and was sent to speak to you and bring you these glad tidings. But behold, you will be mute and not able to speak until the day these things take place, because you did not believe my words which will be fulfilled in their own time.” (Luke 1:19-20)
“Blessed is she who believed, for there will be a fulfilment of those things [words] which were told her from the Lord.” (Luke 1:45)
We see, then, that a Messenger is a being who transmits a Message, in our case, a Word from God. He carries something that doesn't belong to him, something sacred. This is what you see in the first quote from St Luke: Gabriel makes it clear: he is not doing something on his own, of his own personal private initiative: He is Standing in Front of God. No games, no tricks, this is SERIOUS. He is not doing or transmitting anything that is not From God, willingly sent by God himself. So the respect you owe to the Sender (God) is the same respect you owe to the Message his messenger is sending according to His order. This is why St Thomas Aquinas, in his Summa Theologica, says that this is the way God governs the world: He sends orders, He sends Messengers, and they execute his orders. He uses myriads of Angels to govern the world. So, there is nothing wrong in considering that the Angels are God's Messengers, God's Transmitters. This is the meaning of the word Angel: messenger.
“Behold, I send an Angel before you to keep you in the way and to bring you into the place which I have prepared. Beware of Him and obey His voice; do not provoke Him, for He will not pardon your transgressions; for My name is in Him. But if you indeed obey His voice and do all that I speak, then I will be an enemy to your enemies and an adversary to your adversaries. For My Angel will go before you […].” (Exodus 23:20-23)
But, when the spiritual person is growing, you reach a point where two things happen at the same time: one may confuse the messenger with the Sender, and the Message itself needed is becoming of greater significance. This is why St John of the Cross says to God at that spiritual juncture: “stop sending me Messengers of your beauty, the one I need is you Jesus”. It doesn't mean that from day one the Messengers are not serving this purpose. Not at all. It means only that the growth of the Soul, and the possible confusion this produces, make the Soul become wider and wider, more thirsty, and make her shout loudly: I want more, and the One I want is you Jesus.
As we said above, this doesn't mean that the person, now reaching a new step in her growth, will then forget completely about the Angels; no. It is just means a huge step forward is being taken. Remember as well, in order to be faithful to St John of the Cross, he thought that he was asking God not only to stop “fooling” him with smaller “messengers of his beauty” like Angels, but he mentions as well Nature, as a Messenger of God's beauty. You can apply this distinction and desire for Christ himself and His entirety to everything (think of the small things we stop to look at sometimes in the Bible, while at a certain point the soul is that purified and ready that its thirst for Christ becomes huge: thirst for Christ in a new way, i.e. in His entirety).
Small words (like crumbs) now are not enough, the soul wants THE WORD of GOD Incarnate: Jesus.

Now, let us remain in the long first stage of spiritual life (in the majority of persons is takes sadly years, and very few cross it, not that God doesn't want this to happen, but the “engines” that push for growth aren not well known and used): God Messengers are conveying to us His Word. Of course with the Holy Spirit.

Don't you think that like the word of God we have words that are not from God? The Word of God carries Divine Life, the Holy Spirit. The words that don't come from God, are carrying death, the reduction/shrinking, of our being. These words exist. There are hardly any neutral words. And if there are, they reduce our being to a small object of consideration. Take Science for example: Science is science, it is rampant, it doesn't fly to God. It needs God to open our soul, so that Science becomes the sign of a bigger Being. Science then belongs to a different level of contemplation! One has to go from it, and be elevated by God, in order to be able to see the beauty of God in it. This is illustrates the neutral words one can meet in one's life.
What about the rest of the words that nourish our mind, will, heart and freedom everyday? What about the words that shape our decisions everyday? From where do they come? Are they all from God?

Let us remember that we have three sources of words that are NOT Divine Life and Holy Spirit. Those sources are very well present to us, often unconsciously, but very well acting in us.
1- The world, 2- the flesh, and 3- the Devil/Satan and his angels. The three of them convey to us words, constantly, often unconsciously, but efficiently, and bear their fruits in us, through us.
These are three messengers, carriers, of words that are not Life and Spirit, Divine Life, and Holy Spirit.

As we acknowledge the existence of Angels, as Messengers of God, daily carriers of His Words, we have to acknowledge the existence of three other carriers, who carry other words, that are very bad, carrying death, death of our mind, death of our will, making us shrink more and more, and fall into darker areas. Mind you, sometimes we are so used to those words coming from the world, the flesh, and the devil, that we are not aware anymore about what the Light is and what difference it makes. We get used to the darkness and to its light. It is like when you go out dancing: you are in a big room, that is dark, full of loud noise, and you spend hours there, and you are not aware at all of what is happening to you. On the contrary, you call this life, fun, entertainment! Well, for a while!

So, let us become more aware of these different messengers, and let us become aware of the words they send us. Let us open our minds to a deeper and more differentiated way to understand the word: “words”. What is that food that we feed our souls with? Are they good or poisonous? It is exactly like certain things we eat: we find the taste delicious but when we read about the ingredients, we find that a lot of will power is needed to decide to overcome that fake artificial taste and attraction to it, in order to refrain from that “rubbish” that you are eating and “liking”.
Yes it requires awareness, Grace of God, to stop eating dead words, and turn to God, and listen to His Messengers, and to the Message, Divine Word, they carry to you.

I am sure “you are with me”! Let us pray for each other, let us choose our friends, let the choice fall on the ones who took the determined decision to seek the Divine Words, that give Divine Life. Are you ProDivineLife? Are you ProDivineWords?

Let us pray for each other, let us ask the Prayers of the Angels, let us be attentive to their Constant Presence and service to our soul, searching our Good all the time, always available to help and rejoicing when we turn, determined, to God, and God's Words.


St. Padre Pio
Prayer to the Guardian Angel


"O Holy Guardian Angel,
take care of my soul and my body.

Enlighten my mind to know the Lord better

and love Him with all my heart.

Assist me in my prayers to do not fall into distractions

but you keep the greatest attention.

Help me with your advice, to recognise the good and perform it with generosity.

Rescue me from the snares of the infernal enemy
and uphold me in temptations to always win them.

Replace me in my coldness while worshipping of the Lord:
not cease to attend to my custody

until you will bring me to Paradise,

where together we will praise the Good Lord for all eternity."

Wednesday, 24 September 2014

Monastic and Scholastic Theology

Pope Benedict XVI

A natural friendship between faith and reason

On Wednesday, 28 October [2009], at the General Audience in St Peter's Square, the Holy Father reflected on the flourishing of Latin theology in the 12th century. The following is a translation of the Pope's Catechesis, which was given in Italian.


Dear Brothers and Sisters,

Today I am reflecting on an interesting page of history that concerns the flourishing of Latin theology in the 12th century which occurred through a series of providential coincidences. A relative peace prevailed in the countries of Western Europe at that time which guaranteed economic development and the consolidation of political structures in society, encouraging lively cultural activity also through its contacts with the East. The benefits of the vast action known as the "Gregorian reform" were already being felt within the Church. Vigorously promoted in the previous century, they had brought greater evangelical purity to the life of the ecclesial community, especially to the clergy, and had restored to the Church and to the Papacy authentic freedom of action.

Furthermore, a wide-scale spiritual renewal supported by the vigorous development of consecrated life was spreading; new religious orders were coming into being and expanding, while those already in existence were experiencing a promising spiritual revival.

Theology also flourished anew, acquiring a greater awareness of its own nature: it refined its method; it tackled the new problems; advanced in the contemplation of God's mysteries; produced fundamental works; inspired important initiatives of culture, from art to literature; and prepared the masterpieces of the century to come, the century of Thomas Aquinas and Bonaventure of Bagnoregio.

This intense theological activity took place in two milieus: the monasteries and the urban Schools, the scholae, some of which were the forerunners of universities, one of the characteristic "inventions" of the Christian Middle Ages.

It is on the basis of these two milieus, monasteries and scholae, that it is possible to speak of the two different theological models: "monastic theology" and "scholastic theology". The representatives of monastic theology were monks, usually abbots, endowed with wisdom and evangelical zeal, dedicated essentially to inspiring and nourishing God's loving design. The representatives of Scholastic theology were cultured men, passionate about research; they were magistri anxious to show the reasonableness and soundness of the Mysteries of God and of man, believed with faith, of course, but also understood by reason. Their different finalities explain the differences in their method and in their way of doing theology.

In 12th-century monasteries the theological method mainly entailed the explanation of Sacred Scripture, the sacra pagina to borrow the words of the authors of that period; biblical theology in particular was practised. The monks, in other words, were devout listeners to and readers of the Sacred Scriptures and one of their chief occupations consisted in lectio divina, that is, the prayed reading of the Bible. For them the mere reading of the Sacred Text did not suffice to perceive its profound meaning, its inner unity and transcendent message. It was therefore necessary to practise a biblical theology, in docility to the Holy Spirit. Thus, at the school of the Fathers, the Bible was interpreted allegorically in order to discover on every page of both the Old and New Testaments what it says about Christ and his work of salvation.

Last year, The Synod of Bishops on the "Word of God in the life and mission of the Church" reminded us of the importance of the spiritual approach to the Sacred Scriptures. It is useful for this purpose to take into account monastic theology, an uninterrupted biblical exegesis, as well as the works written by its exponents, precious ascetic commentaries on the Books of the Bible.

Thus monastic theology incorporated the spiritual aspect into literary formation. It was aware, in other words that a purely theoretical and unversed interpretation is not enough: to enter into the heart of Sacred Scripture it must be read in the spirit in which it was written and created. Literary knowledge was necessary in order to understand the exact meaning of the words and to grasp the meaning of the text, refining the grammatical and philological sensibility. Thus Jean Leclercq, a Benedictine scholar in the past century, entitled the essay in which he presents the characteristics of monastic theology: L'amour des lettres et le d├ęsir de Dieu (Love of words and the desire for God). In fact, the desire to know and to love God which comes to meet us through his words to be received, meditated upon and put into practice, leads us to seek to deepen our knowledge of the biblical texts in all their dimensions. Then there is another attitude on which those who practise monastic theology insist: namely an intimate, prayerful disposition that must precede, accompany and complete the study of Sacred Scripture. Since, ultimately, monastic theology is listening to God's word, it is impossible not to purify the heart in order to receive it and, especially, it is impossible not to enkindle in it a longing to encounter the Lord.

Theology thus becomes meditation, prayer, a song of praise and impels us to sincere conversion. On this path, many exponents of monastic theology attained the highest goals of mystic experience and extend an invitation to us too to nourish our lives with the word of God, for example, through listening more attentively to the Readings and the Gospel, especially during Sunday Mass. It is also important to set aside a certain period each day for meditation on the Bible, so that the word of God may be a light that illumines our daily pilgrimage on earth.

Scholastic theology, on the other hand — as I was saying — was practised at the scholae which came into being beside the great cathedrals of that time for the formation of the clergy, or around a teacher of theology and his disciples, to train professionals of culture in a period in which the appreciation of knowledge was constantly growing.

Central to the method of the Scholastics was the quaestio, that is, the problem the reader faces in approaching the words of Scripture and of Tradition. In the face of the problem that these authoritative texts pose, questions arise and the debate between teacher and student comes into being. In this discussion, on the one hand the arguments of the authority appear and on the other those of reason, and the ensuing discussion seeks to come to a synthesis between authority and reason in order to reach a deeper understanding of the word of God. In this regard St Bonaventure said that theology is "per additionem" (cf. Commentaria in quatuor libros sententiarum, I, proem., q. 1, concl.), that is, theology adds the dimension of reason to the word of God and thus creates a faith that is deeper, more personal, hence also more concrete in the person's life. In this regard various solutions were found and conclusions reached which began to build a system of theology.

The organization of the quaestiones led to the compilation of ever more extensive syntheses, that is, the different quaestiones were composed with the answers elicited, thereby creating a synthesis, the summae that were in reality extensive theological and dogmatic treatises born from the confrontation of human reason with the word of God. Scholastic theology aimed to present the unity and harmony of the Christian Revelation with a method, called, precisely "Scholastic" — of the school — which places trust in human reason. Grammar and philology are at the service of theological knowledge, but logic even more so, namely the discipline that studies the "functioning" of human reasoning, in such a way that the truth of a proposal appears obvious. Still today, in reading the Scholastic summae one is struck by the order, clarity and logical continuity of the arguments and by the depth of certain insights. With technical language a precise meaning is attributed to every word and, between believing and understanding, a reciprocal movement of clarification is established.

Dear brothers and sisters, in echoing the invitation of the First Letter of Peter, Scholastic theology stimulates us to be ever ready to account for the hope that is in us (cf. 3:15), hearing the questions as our own and thus also being capable of giving an answer. It reminds us that a natural friendship exists between faith and reason, founded in the order of Creation itself. In the incipit of the Encyclical Fides et Ratio, the Servant of God John Paul II wrote: "Faith and reason are like two wings on which the human spirit rises to the contemplation of truth". Faith is open to the effort of understanding by reason; reason, in turn, recognizes that faith does not mortify her but on the contrary impels her towards vaster and loftier horizons.

The eternal lesson of monastic theology fits in here. Faith and reason, in reciprocal dialogue, are vibrant with joy when they are both inspired by the search for intimate union with God. When love enlivens the prayerful dimension of theology, knowledge, acquired by reason, is broadened. Truth is sought with humility, received with wonder and gratitude: in a word, knowledge only grows if one loves truth. Love becomes intelligence and authentic theology wisdom of the heart, which directs and sustains the faith and life of believers. Let us therefore pray that the journey of knowledge and of the deepening of God's Mysteries may always be illumined by divine love.
 
Taken from:
L'Osservatore Romano
Weekly Edition in English
4 Novembeer 2009, page 12

Saturday, 20 September 2014

Newsletter: "Bible and Spiritual Life" Course

IMPORTANT MESSAGE

Dear All,

This is a special email regarding the Intermediate Course: The Bible and Spiritual Life

1- The course on "Bible and Spiritual life" is important in strengthening our personal practice of Lectio Divina. With this course it is as if Jesus was giving each one of us the Bible in his hands, as His Word.

Some might be tempted to overlook the nature and value of the "Bible and Spiritual Life" course as well as the subsequent workshops on Lectio Divina and the Prayer of the heart. They might solely focus on attending the Second Level Course and this would be a huge error. One has to grow spiritually in order to reach the point where one would need the food of the Second Level Course - and this course helps us grow in Lectio Divina. Otherwise the "learning process" becomes too intellectual/theoretical.

We implore you to register for the ‘Bible and Spiritual Life’ course, in order to benefit fully from the Second Level Course.

2- Presentation of the Course:

September-October 2014: 4 Saturdays

Since 2007 many people in London have been attending the First Level Course, "Initiation into Spiritual Life". As a result, many have been encouraged to use their Bible more fervently and to practice Lectio Divina. However, support is still needed, as finding "food" in the Bible is not an easy task. This is why the "Intermediate 1 Course" is about deepening the relationship between the "Bible" and our "Spiritual Life": in a word, it aims at helping us view the Bible as the source of our daily nourishment.

What makes this course unique is, first, the choice of topics(important, "juicy" and rarely addressed topics) and, secondly,relating them to our Spiritual Life! As always, Our Lady continues to lead us on our journey.

A Certificate will be awarded to all those who attend the entire four days.

The dates are: Sat 27th Sept, Sat 4th Oct, Sat 18th Oct, Sat 25th Oct, from 10.00 am to 4:30 pm. Venue: St Mary of the Angels Parish hall, Moorhouse Road, W2 5DJ, Notting Hill. Spaces are limited for this course. The cost is £ 25.00 per day. Should there be any places remaining, we can accept those who did not follow the First Level Course.

To secure your place, a non-refundable deposit of £ 50.00 should be paid by cheque or bank transfer. Please send an email or call to confirm payment. Email: schoolofmarylondon@gmail.com or call 07908513762.

The Topics are:

1st Saturday:
Structure and meaning of the Gospel in relation to our Spiritual Life.
Reading and analysing essential and fundamental texts from the Gospel in relation to our spiritual life.

2nd Saturday:
The relationship between the Theory of Inspiration of the Holy Scriptures and our spiritual life. Explanation of the action of God in the human author and its practical consequences for us.
The new prophetical life inaugurated by Jesus for every human being: God makes of us a friend and wants to talk to us.
The practical meaning and the fruitfulness of this new prophetism.

3rd Saturday:
Exegetical questions: the Holy Spirit Exegete of the Bible; the intelligence of the Scriptures in the Fathers of the Church; the example of the Fathers of the Church; the relationship between the Old Testament and the New Testament; exegetical Rules for our spiritual life.
The Bible is the soul of God's Revelation to us, and is a treasure whose riches we can draw upon on a daily basis. Practical advice.

4th Saturday:
Difficulties when confronting an archaic text, a different language and culture. What is to be done with "modern" exegesis?
The Bible: doubt, power, pleasure and possession.
Conclusions.

3- Those who can't attend a full day on some of the Saturdays but would be able to make it either in the morning (10 to 1:30) or in the afternoon (2:20-4:30), can still come and attend. But one needs to commit to the entire course.

4- If you cannot attend half a day or an entire day you may still attend. An audio recording will be available at the end of the Course. So it is important to "commit" to the entire Course.

We look forward to seeing you and continuing the Journey toward Union with Jesus, led by His Mother.

In Her,

School of Mary

Thursday, 4 September 2014

Newsletter: Coming Courses in the School of Mary

Dear All,

We hope this post finds you well. We have some exciting announcements regarding some courses which will be taking place over the next months.

1. Bible & Spiritual Life Course

This is the intermediate course between the 1st level course, Initiation into Spiritual Life, and the 2nd level course. It will help to strengthen our knowledge and practice of Lectio Divina, which we gained in the 1st level course. The course is highly recommended!

This course will start on Sat 27th September and will continue on Sat 4th October, Sat 18th October and Sat 25th October. The venue is St Mary of the Angels Parish Hall, Moorhouse Rd, Notting Hill, W2 5DJ.

Spaces are limited and it is important to book!

Please open this link as it contains more information on the course including payment and contents of the course.

2. Lectio Divina and Prayer of the Heart Workshops

The School of Mary will run some workshops on Lectio Divina and Prayer of the Heart. These will be held on Sat 8th November, Sat 15th November, Sat 22nd November and Sat 6th December. We will provide more information on these soon.

3. 1st Level Course - Initiation to Spiritual Life

The Initiation into Spiritual Life course is being held on Mondays, starting on 6th October. The course will be from 10.00am to 12.15pm. The venue is St Mary of the Angels Parish Hall, Notting Hill. If you may know somebody who would be interested in attending, please ask them to contact us.

In Easter 2015, the course will be offered again but this time over 7 Saturdays. We will provide further details on this course before the end of the year.

4. 2nd Level Course

The 2nd level course will be held in Lent 2015 and will take place over 7 Saturdays. We will provide further details before the end of the year.

We look forward to seeing as many of you as possible at the Bible and Spiritual Life course. We could not recommend the course highly enough!

Please do contact us should you have any questions on the forthcoming courses.

In Mary

Leonora and Rufaro

Wednesday, 3 September 2014

Intermediate Course: “Bible and Daily Spiritual life”

to my friend I say everything” (see John 15:15)
_____

Lecturer: Jean Khoury









September-October 2014 : 4 Saturdays

Since 2007 many people in London have been attending the First Level Course, "Initiation into Spiritual Life". As a result, many have been encouraged to use their Bible more fervently and to practise Lectio Divina. However, support is still needed as finding "food" in the Bible is not an easy task. This is why the "Intermediate 1 Course" is about deepening the relationship between the "Bible" and our "Spiritual Life": in a word, it aims at helping us view the Bible as the source of our daily nourishment.

What makes this course unique is, first, the choice of topics (important, "juicy" and rarely addressed topics) and, secondly, relating them to our Spiritual Life! As always, Our Lady continues to lead us on our journey.

A Certificate will be awarded to all those who attend the entire four days.

The dates are: Sat 27th Sept, Sat 4th Oct, Sat 18th Oct, Sat 25th Oct, from 10.00 am to 4:30 pm. Venue: St Mary of the Angels Parish hall, Moorhouse Road, W2 5DJ, Notting Hill. Spaces are limited for this course. The cost is £ 25.00 per day. Should there be any places remaining, we can accept those who did not follow the First Level Course.
To secure your place, a non-refundable deposit of £ 50.00 should be paid by cheque or bank transfer. Please send an email or call to confirm payment. Email: schoolofmarylondon@gmail.com or call 07908513762.

The Topics are:

1st Saturday:
Structure and meaning of the Gospel in relation to our Spiritual Life.
Reading and analysing essential and fundamental texts from the Gospel in relation to our spiritual life.

2nd Saturday:
The relationship between the Theory of Inspiration of the Holy Scriptures and our spiritual life. Explanation of the action of God in the human author and its practical consequences for us.
The new prophetical life inaugurated by Jesus for every human being: God makes of us a friend and wants to talk to us.
The practical meaning and the fruitfulness of this new prophetism.

3rd Saturday:
Exegetical questions: the Holy Spirit Exegete of the Bible; the intelligence of the Scriptures in the Fathers of the Church; the example of the Fathers of the Church; the relationship between the Old Testament and the New Testament; exegetical Rules for our spiritual life.
The Bible is the soul of God's Revelation to us, and is a treasure whose riches we can draw upon on a daily basis. Practical advice.

4th Saturday:
Difficulties when confronting an archaic text, a different language and culture. What is to be done with "modern" exegesis?
The Bible: doubt, power, pleasure and possession.
Conclusions.

Looking forward to seeing you. Continuing the Journey toward Union with Jesus, lead by His Mother.
www.AmorVincit.com