Monday, September 15, 2008

The Humility of the Mother of God

And what matter for surprise is it that God, Who is said and Who is seen to be "wonderful in his saints," has shown Himself still more wonderful in the His Mother? O all ye who are engaged in the married state, look with admiration on the incorruption of the the flesh in corruptible flesh! Ye consecrated virgins, wonder at this alliance of virginity and motherhood! Children of Adam all, imitate the humility of God's mother! And do you, O holy angels, honour the Mother of your King whilst you adore the Child of our Virgin, Him Whom both you and we acknowledge as our Sovereign Lord, Who is the Redeemer of our race and the Restorer of our city. To the Same, with us on earth, let us all unite in showing the reverence which his Majesty requires, and the honour and glory which is due to His condescension both now and forevermore. Amen.
from a "Sermon on the Virgin Mother" by St. Bernard of Clairvaux

Saturday, September 13, 2008

Necessity of the Foundation of Natural Law for Civil Law as the Failsafe of Total Subjectivism

Authority must recognize, respect and promote essential human and moral values. These are innate and "flow from the very truth of the human being and express and safeguard the dignity of the person; values which no individual, no majority and no State can ever create, modify or destroy," (JP II Evangelium Vitae 70). These values do not have their foundation in provisional and changeable "majority" opinions, but must simply be recognized, respected and promoted as elements of an objective moral law, the natural law written in the human heart (cf. Rom 2:15), and as the normative point of reference for civil law itself. If, as a result of the tragic clouding of the collective conscience, scepticism were to succeed in casting doubt on the basic principles of the moral law, the legal strucuture of the State itself would be shaken to its very foundations, being reduced to nothing more than a mechanism for the pragmatic regulation of different and opposing interests.
from Compendium of the Social Doctrine of the Church by the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace

Society as Spiritual

Human society must primarily be considered something pertaining to the spiritual. Through it, in the bright light of truth men should share their knowledge, be able to exercise their rights and fulfill their obligations, be inspired to seek spiritual values, mutually derive genuine pleasure from beauty of whatever order it be, always be readily disposed to pass on to others the best of their own cultural heritage and eagerly strive to make their own the spiritual achievements of others. These benefits not only influence but at the same time give aim and scope to all that has bearing on cultural expressions, economic and social institutions, political movements and forms, laws, and all other structure by which society is outwardly established and constantly developed.
from Pacem in Terris by Blessed Pope John XXIII

"Poverty or Anxiety?" That is the Question

Left to ourselves, we still remain the prisoner of our own Being. We cannot successfully hide fro long our mysterious Being. If we attempt this, the truth of our Being haunts us with its nameless emissary: anxiety. This becomes the prophet of the repressed mystery of our Being; with its alienation, anxiety takes the place of the scorned poverty. In the final analysis we have one of two choices: to obediently accept our innate poverty or to become a slave of anxiety.
From Poverty of Spirit by Johannes Baptist Metz

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

Prayer as the Formator of Hope

St. Augustine, in a homily on the First Letter of John, describes very beautifully the intimate relationship between prayer and hope. He defines prayer as an exercise of desire. Man was created for greatness--for God himself; he was created to be filled by God. But his heart is too small for the greatness to which it is destined. It must be stretched. "By delaying [his gift], God strengthens our desire; through desire he enlarges our soul and by expanding it he increases its capacity [for receiving him]." Augustine refers to St. Paul, who speaks of himself as straining forward to thing that are to come (cf. Phil 3:13). He then uses a very beautiful image to describe this process of enlargement and preparation of the human heart. "Suppose that God wishes to fill you with honey [a symbol of God's tenderness and goodness]; but if you are full of vinegar, where will you put the honey?" The vessel, that is your heart, must be first be enlarged and then cleansed, free from the vinegar and its taste. This requires hard work and is painful, but in this way alone do we become suited to that for which we are destined. Even if Augustine speaks directly only of our capacity for God, it is nevertheless clear that through this effort by which we are freed from vinegar and the taste of vinegar, not only are we made free for God, but we also become open to others. It is only becoming children of God, that we can be with out common Father. To pray is not to step outside history and withdraw to our own private corner of happiness. When we pray properly we undergo a process of inner purification which opens us up to God and thus to our fellow human beings as well. In prayer we must learn what we can truly ask of God--what is worthy of God. We must learn that we cannot pray against others. We must learn that we cannot ask for superficial and comfortable things that we desire at this moment--that meagre, misplaced hope that leads us away from God. We must learn to purify our desire and our hopes. We must free ourselves form the hidden lies with which we deceive ourselves. God sees through them, and when we come before God, we too are forced to recognize them. "But who can discern errors? Clear me from hidden faults" prays the Psalmist (Ps 19:12). Failure to recognize my guilt, the illusion of my innocence, does not justify me and does not save me, because I am culpable for the numbness of my conscience and my capacity to recognize the evil in me for what it is. If God does not exist, perhaps I have to seek refuge in these lies, because there is no one who can forgive me; no one who is the true criterion. Yet my encounter with God awakens my conscience in such a way that it no longer aims at self-justification, and is no longer a mere reflection of me and those of my contemporaries who shape my thinking, but it becomes a capacity for listening to the Good itself.
from Spe Salvi by Pope Benedict XVI