Sunday, November 27, 2011

Preparing the Way of the Lord this Advent

JMJT! Praise be Jesus Christ! Now and Forever!

Dear Ones-

It is hard to believe that the Advent season has commenced and we are in the final weeks of the calendar year. Of course, today marks the New Year for the Church as we begin to prepare for the Coming of Christ on Christmas.  Our hearts are to become cribs for Him to reside, our minds are to be filled with thoughts of Him, are hands and feet are to be following His light as we seek to make His Kingdom known and present here on earth among our fellow men.

One may wonder how these next four weeks of Advent are to become a time of reflection, penance, and fostering a deeper interior silence amidst the almost manic materialistic norms and preparations that so often eclipse spiritual preparations during this season in our culture today.  I would note that Advent used to be 40 days in length and was a time of penance similar to Lent. It was not about celebrating the birth of the Christ child now, but instead a time to prepare one's heart and soul through prayer and practices that lead to a more open soul in receiving Christ, His love, light, and truth. We seek a birth and rebirth in our souls, but must prepare for such an occurrence as evidenced by so many of our beloved saints. 

St. Teresa of Jesus of the Andes wrote a beautiful letter just before the onset of Advent to her girlfriend, Herminia Valdes Ossa. (Carmelites are not allowed to write letters during Advent unless for serious reasons). The letter advises her on how to prepare during the season of Advent, which I wish to share with you today.

"Prepare yourself for the birth of Christ. Think every day, think of Jesus, who, though the eternal God, was born as a fragile Child. Though all-powerful, He was born poor with nowhere to go from the cold. He needed His Mother to live though He was Life itself. I'm sending you a list of things to prepare a set of baby clothes for Jesus; and, when you write, tell me if you did these things.

Little shirts to keep Him warm: Five acts of love a day and longings to receive Him in Communion. 'My Jesus, come to my poor heart, which wants to beat only for you.'

Little blankets to cover His tiny feet: Since He can't walk, you will go and do acts of charity to all, sacrificing yourself and setting aside your own comfort.

Swaddling bands to wrap around Him: Never grumble when they tell you to do something you don't like. Just do what they tell you.

Little cap: Study and do everything for Jesus, thinking of His love.

Crib: Don't sleep late in bed. Go to Mass and Communion.

Pieces of Straw: Do some little act, like giving up candy or eating what you don't like.

Do it all for love of Jesus.

What a beautiful starting point to this Advent season, if we set our wills to caring for the Christ Child and being mindful of Him throughout the day. When we prepare room for Him in our inn, He will come to lodge within us. May you have a prayerful Advent season ahead. Amen.

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Celebrating the Bride of Christ- the Church

JMJT! Praise be Jesus Christ! Now and Forever!

The past three days have pointed to the beauty of the Church.  We all walk into and out of our beloved Catholic Church each Sunday, if not daily. Perhaps we forget about the incredible freedom that we have in this country to worship as we wish, but also perhaps we have become complacent about the sublimity of the Church and where we tread when we walk into a sanctuary of prayer.

The Church is not just an institution, but a supernatural creation that reflects the Glory of God as Mother of the faithful. This is written of extensively by Bl. Francisco Palau y Quer, ocd, whose memorial we celebrated on Monday, November 7th.  He revealed that the person of the Church spoke to him in supernatural revelations concerning her person and how to relate to Her. He recorded what She stated as follows, "I am the Daughter of the Eternal Father and yours, I am the congregation in Christ of all those who have to be saved by his blood, I am your Spouse, the Church militant."  (p.152)  In another passage, "My name is Mary. I am the Virgin without spot or wrinkle or afflictions, I am the universal Church, I am the Queen and Lady of the world.  I am your Spouse, your Mother, your Queen." (p.149)  Our Lady explained to Blessed Francisco that She is not the Church Herself, but instead "a bright, pure mirror in which she is represented..See in me the image of the Church, your beloved engraved by the finger of God Himself." (My Revelations with the Church, 1861-1867, p. 72-73)

From these writings, it is evident that we are to relate to the Church in a very intimate way, seeking to find our role within her. We can move from the macro-level to the micro-level and look within. One way to do this is to look at the architecture of the structure of the Church itself.  We can start at the door and ponder on whether or not the door to our hearts is open or locked. Our Lord is always knocking, but He will not force His way in.   Fear, pride, or hatred can close our hearts to His grace and His entrance into the place that He wishes to reside the most - inside each one of us.   He wants to make our hearts the 'roads to Zion'  where he can 'build a spiritual house' in which He can dwell and radiate within.  If we open up to Him and trust, He will 'pass through the gates, prepare the way for the people. Build up the highway, clear it of stones, and raise up a standard.' (Is 62:10)

The porter at the gate is the Holy Spirit, along with Our Lady who is the gate of Wisdom, the one through whom we want to enter and pass into the interior of our temple.  Jesus' Word is the Divine Builder. He commands and it is done. We must surrender to His loving word, which is infinite as His commands are truth and everlasting life. We know that the foundation of our interior temples is Jesus Christ. St. Paul reminds is that, 'you are a temple of God, and the Spirit of God dwells in you.' (1 Cor: 3:16) We are reminded that, "Every house is founded by someone, but  the founder of all is God' (Heb 3:4).  Furthermore, Jesus has been "placed over his house.  We are his house if we only hold fast to our confidence and pride in our hope.' (Heb 3:6). We must do His Will and keep His word, and then the  Holy Trinity will come to dwell in us.. Jesus will come to sup within.  

As always, Jesus gives us the road map. He tells us, "I will show you what someone is like who comes to me, listens to my words, and acts on them. That one is like a person building a house, who dug deeply and laid the foundation on rock; when the flood came, the river burst against the house but could not shake it because it has been well built' (Lk 6:47-48).

How well Blessed Elizabeth understood this reality, and realized the indwelling of the Holy Trinity within her through her surrender to His grace and loving movements within. She kept the gate of her heart open and allowed the gentle movement of the Holy Spirit to draw her ever more deeply into the foundation of her interior tabernacle to be united with the Three. She recognized Christ's desire to 'remain in me and I in him'.  She wrote many times of her special desire to allow him to build his little dwelling within the cell of her heart. She advised her mother in a letter, "Like me, you must build yourself a little cell within your soul; you must think that the good Lord is there and from time to time go there; when your nerves are on edge, when you are unhappy, quickly take refuge in there and confide it all to the Master. (Conrad de Meester, ocd Your Presence is My Joy, p.69)

Today we celebrate the Dedication of the Church of Saint John Lateran. As St. Augustine so eloquently puts it, "we too are a house of God. If we are a house of God, its construction goes on in time so that is may be dedicated at the end of time."  He points out that the key to this coming to fruition is the commandment of love and unity with one another.  If we cooperate as the saints did, we will be made into a joyful 'house of prayer' (Is 56:7).  Inspired by the Holy Spirit, and in imitation of our Blessed Mother we can ask that Our Lord shape our hearts to become His tabernacle, His temple. 

My Sweet Jesus,
My Master Builder,
My Divine Architect
The foundation upon which I live and breathe and am.
Rebuild the temple of my heart
into a spiritual home
fit for my King, my All.  Amen.

Saturday, November 5, 2011

The New Roman Missal Translation

JMJT! Praise be Jesus Christ! Now and Forever!

I just viewed this excellent You Tube video on the new liturgy that is to take effect in just three short weeks. I want to share this with all of you. Enjoy!