As always, we are blessed with the teaching of our community's Spiritual Assistant, Fr. Doug Lorig. His two most recent homilies focus on themes that tie in perfectly with this last week of Advent, as we prepare for Christmas.
In November, Fr. Doug spoke of Blessed Mother's fiat. Today, our Gospel Reading taken from Luke, chapter 1, recounted Mary's encounter with the Angel Gabriel:
|26||In the sixth month the angel Gabriel was sent from God to a city of Galilee named Nazareth,|
|27||to a virgin betrothed to a man whose name was Joseph, of the house of David; and the virgin's name was Mary.|
|28||And he came to her and said, "Hail, full of grace, the Lord is with you!"|
|29||But she was greatly troubled at the saying, and considered in her mind what sort of greeting this might be.|
|30||And the angel said to her, "Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God.|
|31||And behold, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus.|
|32||He will be great, and will be called the Son of the Most High; and the Lord God will give to him the throne of his father David,|
|33||and he will reign over the house of Jacob for ever; and of his kingdom there will be no end."|
|34||And Mary said to the angel, "How shall this be, since I have no husband?"|
|35||And the angel said to her, "The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you; therefore the child to be born will be called holy, the Son of God.|
|36||And behold, your kinswoman Elizabeth in her old age has also conceived a son; and this is the sixth month with her who was called barren.|
|37||For with God nothing will be impossible."|
|38||And Mary said, "Behold, I am the handmaid of the Lord; let it be to me according to your word." And the angel departed from her.|
Our Lady's fiat to God's Will was given, despite several dangerous uncertainties:
1. Due to her pregnancy she could be stoned to death or cause shame to her entire family
2. She faced possibly being without shelter or husband when giving birth
It should be noted that Mary, the Mother of God, did not know all. She would do whatever God planned, which often involved risks ie Slaughter of the Innocents, Flight to Egypt
My yes - to say 'yes' to God and to one's neighbor will cost you. It involves sacrifice. ie. Openness to life The opposite of this is self-absorption, self directed and full of ego.
We must measure our 'yeses'. Always say 'yes' to serve your family and others. This means saying 'no' to self. This is sacrificial love, when a husband or wife is totally focused on their family and being faithful to one another. Family life and the priesthood involve lots of interruptions. It is sacrificial in nature.
We are called to be gentle, humble servants to be lived out without being a doormat. We must say 'yes' with joy and determination. Jesus thanked His Mother for being so generous.
This past weekend, Fr. Doug spoke of the purpose of being Catholic as the call of unitive prayer. Unitive theology concerns sharing in the divinity of Jesus. We must change because we are fallen. How? Jesus shows us the way. He changed all of human life, by assuming the lowest position, although He was the most powerful of the entire universe. He made this descent first by becoming last. As He tells us, "The last will be first, and the first will be last" (Matthew 20:16). This is a complete upturning of our worldly power structure, where the rich and powerful are at the top and use their influence to increase power over those at the bottom, who are the nobodies of the world. i.e. the poor farmers, the homeless, etc.
Fr. Doug spoke of Archimandrate Zacharias' focus on the reversed power structure that Christ established. In Christ, Our Way and Our Life, he speaks of this reality as follows:
'Perfection is above all perfection in divine love. Fr. Sophrony identifies it with the 'greater love' (cf. John 15: 12-15) of Christ's sacrifice. He admires more than anything the example of Christ making his way alone to Golgotha, and enduring extreme sufferings to deliver mankind from death and bestow eternal, divine life upon all. Fr. Sophrony envisages as the 'ultimate perfection' the perfection of Christ's love, which overturns the pyramid of all created being and places Him at its inverted summit. Thus, Christ takes away the sin of all humans and takes upon Himself the curse of death, which had wounded them. This perfection flows from the incomprehensible love of Christ (cf. Eph. 3:18-19). It is the 'one eternal Act' of Christ's decent to the lowest places of the earth and His ascent 'above the heavens.' In a single act the 'only-begotten Son, co-eternal with the Father embraces heaven and earth and the nether regions' (Eph. 4:8-13). The descent and ascent of Christ are the source of all the gifts of the Holy Spirit, and in those who follow Christ, they are the confirmation of the Spirit's presence. These charisms are heavenly gifts (cf. Jas. 1:17) and they lead those who partake of them with humility to the perfection of the 'stature of the fulness of Christ' (Eph. 3:13).
'The path leading to the acquistion of perfection is the one traced by Christ. It is the path of the Cross; the path of Christ's self-emptying. For Fr. Sophrony, kenosis and perfection are closely bound together; as Christ Himself showed, 'utter self-emptying precedes the fulness of perfection.' If monasticism is not a human invention but 'the third grace', (St. Theodore the Studite, quoted in 'Principles', p. 260) it is because it ensures the conditions for a man's potential downward progression, which leads to spiritual perfection.
The Kingdom of God is a kingdom of reversals. Humility and love take the top place and the proud are put at the bottom and come into the Kingdom last, if at all. Jesus shows us this at the very outset, with the simple circumstances of His birth. May we contemplate this as we journey towards Christmas.