Valentine’s Day

Happy Valentine’s Day!

I can see the love in Your eyes
Laying yourself down
Raising up the broken to life
— “Broken Vessels (Amazing Grace),” Hillsong

This song is wonderful. Look at your Savior, who is love itself. Let His love fill you. Then be a bearer of His great love to the world.

Advent: Walk with Mary to Jesus

Posted by: Zealoussheep

The glorious season of Advent is approaching. The superabundance of graces poured forth for us in the Incarnation of Jesus Christ are so vast! We are invited to make ready our hearts and dispose them for his coming. I invite you to consider during the next three weeks some ways to intentionally seek the disposition of heart that will allow Christ’s coming to bear fruit in our souls. Then, come November 30th, I invite you to put those intentional plans into action out of love for your humble Redeemer. Then, as the great drama comes to its pinnacle in the late evening hours of December 24th, not only will you find yourself immersed in festive lights, colors and attire, but you will also find that His LIFE has been born in you in more plentiful ways than ever before.

I will share one of my plans and invite you to journey with me. I intend to walk with Mary to Christmas. Why? Because Mary is the preeminent model of a perfectly disposed heart!

And who was the best disposed for the coming of the Word to earth? Without any doubt, it was the Blessed Virgin Mary. At the moment when the Word came into this world, He found Mary’s heart perfectly prepared, and capable of receiving the Divine riches which He willed to heap upon her. – Christ in His Mysteries, Abbot Marmion, O.S.

I can’t think of anyone better to assist me in preparing my heart than Mary! To facilitate this journey, I plan to reread Walking With Mary by Dr. Edward Sri this Advent.

Walking-with-Mary

This book is one that I can see myself reading over and over again because of its spiritual riches and the light it pours into crevices of Mary’s life I had not previously considered. Join me! Let’s walk together with Mary toward her Son this Advent. May our hearts be tilled soil, readied to receive the Word of Life as Mary did in Nazareth.

Life & Death

Posted by: zealoussheep

Sometimes, I am tempted to think that the world, societies, and cultures are caught in a downward spiral toward darkness and destruction. I look around and wonder if my fellow human beings are taking care to cultivate Life in their souls or are they hurtling towards death. On a whim as I began to type this, I pulled up the Patheos Catholic Channel and clicked on one of my favorite bloggers, Elizabeth Scalia, and one of her most recent posts confirmed that my temptation toward this line of thought is not held in isolation.

[We are in] a unique ‘time’ of global crisis: governments failing at every level, everywhere; churches are divided, their freedoms challenged; citizens are distracted, dissatisfied and distrustful, their election mechanisms in doubt; schools are losing sight of the primary mission of education; families are deconstructed and the whole concept ripe for dissolution; respect for human dignity is doled out in qualified measures; there is a lack of privacy; a lack of time to think, to process and to incarnate; a lack of silence… the ugly landscape [is] all around us; the one we have wanted to pretend was neither so vast nor so damaged and fragile.

Let me be clear, in no way do I disagree with The Anchoress. But concurrent to this line of thought, sometimes I carve out for myself silence, privacy and time to think. And I find that in those moments—especially if I’m in a hammock in the backyard—I am overwhelmed by how much LIFE is exploding around me. Untold numbers of crickets chirping, the insects are prolific, trees are taking root and climbing… Since the very beginning life has sprung forth from the earth, and continues even in the harshest conditions. At a much faster rate than the downward death spiral of my thoughts, life is bursting from every crevice.

Perspective is a funny thing.

It took living abroad and studying philosophy to jar my mind out of the doldrums of my previously monotonous life, characterized by the somewhat glazed staring that catches only the biggest action and has lost sight of all the details. Suddenly I was paying attention in great detail to the world around me, and it awakened in me a deeply buried sense of wonder. Since those days, I overwhelm my companions with loud exclamations of joy over the perfect iridescent rainbow of colors that reflects of the wings of insects or the soft bright green burst of brand new pine needles in the spring. I am amazed at creation and creatures.

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There are about 950,000 species of insects on earth.
300,000 species of plants.
1.2 million species of invertebrates.
We really have no idea how many species of animals exist on Earth and some 10,000 species of animals are discovered each year. Projections for the total number of species on Earth range from 2 million to 50 million.
Until very recently, our galaxy, the Milky Way was thought to be part of a cluster of 2,000 galaxies in Virgo. Recent research has shown that the Milky Way’s 100 billion stars are actually part of something 100 times bigger: a supercluster of galaxies astronomers have named Laniakea, which means “immense heavens” in Hawaiian. Laniakea is 520 million light-years across and astronomers say the supercluster is as massive as 100 million billion suns.

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It is a big, big world out there. And it is full of vibrancy and life.

A couple of years before I was born Mount St. Helen erupted in the most deadly volcanic explosion in U.S. history. The destruction was beyond comprehension and the President said the damaged landscape was more desolate than the surface of the moon. In all, Mount St. Helens released 24 megatons of thermal energy, 7 of which were a direct result of the blast. This is equivalent to 1,600 times the size of the atomic bomb dropped on Hiroshima. A devastating death-blow.

More than 30 years have passed since the blast. Peter Frenzen is a scientist who studies the blast zone. He says,

“One of things that we’ve learned here at Mount St. Helens is that things that initially look dead are usually anything but dead. Those things that look messy to our eye are in fact the critical ingredients of the next thriving ecosystem.”

Out of the devastation has come incomprehensible richness and Mt. St. Helen is literally teeming with life.

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I think we can learn a lot from the world around us. As far as plants and animals go, we are literally immersed in life in vast and innumerable quantities. The soul of a Christian at baptism is drenched, immersed, inundated with divine life that cannot be compared to the 50 million possible species on earth or the 520 million light years’ wide supercluster of galaxies we live in. We are beyond soaked in life. And when darkness and death seem to crash in on every side, we know that we have the Death-Conquerer, Jesus himself dwelling in our souls. He is able even from the rocks to raise up children. And as centuries of Christianity have shown, the blood of the martyrs is the seed of the Church. And like Mount St. Helens and the Saints who have gone before, it still remains the case that life blooms in deserts and things that initially look dead are usually anything but dead. Those things that look messy and broken beyond repair to our finite eyes, can in fact be the very thing that tills and nourishes the soil for revival, restoration and renewal in the hearts of men longing for their God.

HERALD BOTH IN LIFE AND DEATH

Few people are saved (cf. Matthew 7:14).  Fewer yet are those enlisted in the canon of Saints of Holy Mother Church.  But who receives remembrance and praise like John the Baptist? Two feasts, honoring his two births: his birth from Elizabeth’s womb, and his birth into eternity!

To continue with a liturgical study, it is interesting to look at things old and new.  The new Confiteor at Holy Mass gets straight to the point: I confess to God (and everyone else in Heaven), and I confess to you, my brothers and sisters (and everyone else on earth).  The old Confiteor took the time to acknowledge a few other people, including John the Baptist, both in the first part (the confession), and in the second part (the petition for prayer).  The Baptist was brought to the memory of the Faithful at every offering of the Holy Mass, along with his name being mentioned in the Roman Canon.  Such is his import and prestige among the disciples of Our Savior.

John was the privileged herald of the Messiah.  And on the feast of his Passion, we see that he was a herald both in life and in death.  In life, he went about proclaiming “ECCE, AGNUS DEI!” (Jn 1:29).  In death, with joy he proclaimed to the souls in captivity, ‘the Messiah has come, he will come soon to save us’!

Our reflection upon what happens after death is of utmost import.  Most people fear death (natural enough I suppose), but this leads very often to a failure of even thinking of what comes after death.  This, in effect, can lead to a false understanding, and a practical unbelief in the Afterlife! 

So we ought to reflect upon what is to come.  Leaving John’s first birth to another feast, let us ponder his second birth.  He had seen the Messiah.  He had proclaimed Him, pointed Him out, acknowledged His authority, and it was time for John to depart.  It has been the case that many Saints have died in a way that reflects the Death of Our Lord.  Stephen’s martyrdom is an example in the Acts of the Apostles (Acts 7:55-60).  Peter’s crucifixion, upside down, is another.  John is not so different.  He had been mistaken to be the Messiah!  He was arrested, as was Our Lord.  He was maltreated by Herod, as was Our Lord.  He dies in the midst of violence, immorality, and the thronging of a mob, as was Our Lord.  John Chrysostom speaks of the goodness of John and the wickedness of the circumstances:

John is the school of virtues, the guide of life, the model of holiness, the norm of justice, the mirror of virginity, the stamp of modesty, the exemplar of chastity, the road of repentance, the pardon of sinners, the discipline of faith – John, greater than man, equal to angels, sum of the Law, sanction of the Gospel, voice of the apostles, silence of the prophets, lantern of the world, forerunner of the Judge, center of the whole Trinity!  And so great a one as this is given to an incestuous woman, betrayed to an adulteress, awarded to a dancing girl! (“Golden Legend: Readings on the Saints” 520)

…and, we might add, handed over by a man mouthing evil oaths! (Mt 14:1-12)

To move from the evil circumstances of John’s Passion, what good news could we offer to rectify the injustice?  John’s Passion was not John’s end.  John’s first birth, as our first birth, was ordered to his second birth.  It does us little good to have been born, if we are not preparing for birth into eternity.  In Biblical language, “It would be better for that man to not have been born!” (cf. Mt 26:24)

John was born into eternal bliss on that day.  He was a herald both in life and in death.  He was now assured of such joy, and proclaimed it to those in captivity, those who had been waiting for a redeemer, those going back all the way to our first parents.  To Adam, John could say, “The New Adam has come!  He has come to save us!”  To the patriarchs and prophets, John could say, “the King and Ruler of Israel has come!”  No longer with distant promises, the faithful in captivity would rise, and look to the gates of deliverance, expectation renewed at the arrival of the Herald.  With what joy and elation did John and the rest greet Our Lord when He came in power to save, when He came and trampled the gates of Hell, when He opened the gates of Paradise, when John’s heralding was fulfilled!  And the last ‘ECCE’ was the best, for it was not in passing proclamation, but the beginning of an unending beholding.  John could fix his gaze on the Lamb of God, the Lamb once slain, never to die again! (Rev 5:6)

Sources:

The Catholic Encyclopedia. 8. New York: Robert Appleton Company, 1910. 486-491. Print.

The Golden Legend: Readings on the Saints. First single-volume paperback edition. Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2012. 520. Print.

The Navarre Bible: Saint Matthew’s Gospel. 3rd edition. New York: Scepter Publishers, 2005. Print.

Magnifying God

One night in worship, a song’s lyrics went like this:

We will magnify, We will magnify the Lord enthroned in Zion.

I was completely distracted by the word magnify.  I don’t know what it means!  I mean, I know what it means, but I couldn’t think of a tight definition at the time.  What does it mean to magnify God?  It led to a beautiful reflection.

After Mary greeted Elizabeth, she sang a song.  For centuries that song’s name has been called the Magnificat:  My soul MAGNIFIES the Lord.  What does it mean?

Think of the tool named for the word: a magnifying glass.  It makes things appear bigger.  It allows the viewer to see the object with more detail.

Think of a telescope.  It brings things that are barely recognizable into easy viewing.

Think of a microscope, and the tiny little object on the viewing glass.

We see the object as a whole.  As we zoom in, the object takes up more of the lens.  We are able to see the details of the object so much more clearly.  As we zoom in further, we can’t even see the whole object anymore, but we are able to see so many intricacies and aspects of the object.  The object is now too much for us to see all at once and has filled our entire vision.

So with God.  We can understand God as God.  And from a distance, God is God.  But what does that mean?  As we begin to zoom in on God in prayer, He comes into view and we begin to see Him as He is, a much bigger reality than how it may have seemed at first glance.  As we zoom in on Him, we begin to see so many of His attributes and qualities – His grace – His goodness – His mercy – His providing – His love – His patience.

All of these qualities begin to fill our vision and our lives. The thoughts we have used to think of other things we now use to think of Him and He is magnified.  The words we have used to speak of other things we now can use to speak of Him and He is magnified.    The actions we have used to do other things we now use for Him and He is magnified.  The praise that we have given to other people or things we now give to Him and He is magnified.

God doesn’t get bigger (magnified) over time; He is already infinite.  However, He does get bigger (magnified) over time, by becoming bigger (magnified) in our lives – our thoughts, words, actions, and praise.

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