Tuesday, July 15, 2008

A Point on the Way to Beatitude

Today is the Franciscan feast of St. Bonaventure.  I was really hit by the selection chosen by the bishops for the office of readings so I figured I'd share it with you.
"Christ is both the way and the door.  Christ is the staircase and the vehicle, like the throne of mercy over the Ark of the Covenant, and the mystery hidden from the ages.  A man should turn his full attention to this throne o mercy, and should gaze at him hanging on the cross, full of faith, hope, and charity, devoted, full of wonder and joy, marked by gratitude, and open to praise and jubilation.  Then such a man will make with Christ a pasch, that is, a passing-over.  Through the branches of the cross he will pass over the Red Sea, leaving Egypt and entering the desert.  There he will taste the hidden manna, and rest with Christ in the sepulchre, as if he were dead to thing outside.  He will experience, as much as is possible for on who is still living, what was promised to the thief who hung beside Christ: Today you will be with me in paradise.
For this passover to be perfect, we must suspend all the operation of the mind and we must transform the peak of our affection, directing them to God alone.  This is a sacred mystical experience.  It cannot be comprehended by anyone unless he surrender himself to it; nor can he surrender himself to it unless he longs for it; not can he long for it unless the Holy Spirit, who Christ sent into the world, should come and inflame his innermost soul.  Hence the Apostle says that this mystical wisdom is revealed by the Holy Spirit.
If you ask how such things can occur, seek the answer in God's grace, not in doctrine; in the longing of the will, not in the understanding; in the sighs of prayer, not in research; seek the bridegroom not the teacher; God and not man; darkness not daylight; and look not to the light by rather to the raging fire tat carries the soul to God with intense fervour and glowing love.  The fire is God, and the furnace is in Jerusalem, fired by Christ in the ardour of his loving passion.  Only he understood this who said: My soul chose hanging and my bones death.  Anyone who cherishes this kind of death can see God, for it is certainly true that: No man can look upon me and live.
Let us die, then, and enter into the darkness, silencing our anxieties, our passion and all the fantasies of our imagination.  Let us pass over with the crucified Christ from this world to the Father, so that, when the Father has shown himself to us, we can say with Philip: It is enough.  We may hear with Paul: My grace is sufficient for you; and we can rejoice with David, saying: My flesh and my heart fail me, but God is the strength of my heart and my heritage forever, and let all the people say: Amen.  Amen!"
from The Journey of the Mind to God by St. Bonaventure

Wednesday, July 9, 2008

The Meaning of the Paschal Mystery

If God himself has lived out this ultimate experience of this world, a world which, through human freedom, has the possibility of withdrawing obedience from God and so of losing him, then he will no longer be a God who judges his creatures from above and from outside.  Thanks to his intimate experience of the world, as the Incarnate One who knows experientially every dimension of the world's being down to the abyss of Hell, God now becomes the measure of man.  The Father, as Creator, grants to the Son as Redeemer 'all judgement' (John 5:22; cf. Enoch 51), which henceforth will mean:
  • Behold, he is coming with the clouds, and every eye will see him, every one who pierced him, all the tribes of the earth will wail on account of him ... (he who is) the Alpha and the Omega ... who (as the Pierced One) is, and was and is to come (Apocalypse 1:7-8; John 19:37; Zechariah 12:10-14).
The cross (Matthew 24:30) or, better, the Crucified, is therefore, the term to which all human existence, whether personal or social, tends.  It is a term which is final judgment and redemption, 'as through fire' (1 Corinthians 3:15).  We must show how, in all this, the fundamental prophetic charge of the Old Testament is brought to its fulfillment.  But above all, if we can speak in one breath of these four points, we should say that, in this happening, not only is the world enabled by God to reach its goal (compare the term 'soteriology'), but God himself, in the moment of the world's very perdition, attains his own most authentic revelation (compare 'theology') and glorification (compare 'doxology').
from Mysterium Paschale by Hans Urs Von Balthasar

Thursday, July 3, 2008

The Christian is Obedient to the Obedient One

Therefore, in Christian life obedience is something essential; it is the practical and necessary turning-point in accepting the lordship of Christ.  There can be no lordship in action without man's obedience.  In baptism we accepted a Lord, a Kyrios, but an 'obedient' Lord, one who became Lord precisely because of his obedience (cf. Ph 2:8-11), one whose lordship, so to say, consists in obedience.  Obedience, from this point of view, is not so much subjection as likeness.  To obey such a Lord is to be like him, because he, too, obeyed.  We find a splendid confirmation of the Pauline thought on this point in Peter's First Letter.  The faithful - the Letter tells us at the beginning - 'have been chosen in the foresight of God the Father, to be made holy by the Spirit, obedient to [= in order to obey] Jesus Christ' (1 P 1:2).  Christians were chosen and sanctified 'to obey;' the Christian calling is a call to obedience!  A little further on in the same Letter, the faithful are defined rather suggestively as 'sons of obedience:' 'Do not allow yourselves to be shaped by the passion of your old ignorance, but as obedient children' (tekna hypakoes) (1 P 1:14).  It is not sufficient to translate this expression 'obedient son' (as if we were dealing with a simple hebraism), because here, as the context clearly shows, the reference is to baptism.  'Sons of obedience' which immediately follows in the text (cf. 1P 1:22).  The context is not, therefore, ascetic, but mysteric; the Apostle is talking about 'a new birth from the word of God' (cf. 1 P 1:23).  Christians are children of obedience, because they are born as such from the obedience of Christ and from their own decision to obey Christ.  Like little fish born in water who cannot survive out of water, so Christians, born in obedience, can live spiritually only through obedience, this is, in the state of constant and loving submission to God, in contact with the Paschal Mystery of Christ.  The sacramental link with Christ's obedience does not end, in fact, with baptism, but is daily renewed in the Eucharist.  When celebrating Holy Mass, we recall, - and more than recall - the obedience of Christ unto death.  We put on obedience as a mantle of justice and thus arrayed we present ourselves to the Father as 'children of obedience.'  In receiving the Body and Blood of Christ, we nourish ourselves with his obedience.
from Obedience: The Authority of the Word by Fr. Raniero Cantalamessa