Sunday, December 18, 2011

Fr. Doug's November and December homilies

JMJT! Praise be Jesus Christ! Now and Forever!

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.

December Homily

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.

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

St. John of the Cross - Maxims that bring us closer to the Miracle of Christmas

JMJT! Praise be Jesus Christ! Now and Forever!

Today we celebrate the Feast Day of our Founder, St. John of the Cross.  Through his untiring determination to climb Mount Carmel through interior poverty and humility, he reached the highest peaks of union with God.  As we approach the last week before Christmas, our eyes are still seeking the Star of Bethlehem where we will find the Christ Child.

St. John has a couple of maxims that can assist us on this last leg of our Advent journey.

The first:
The poor man who is naked will be clothed, and the soul that is naked of desires and whims will be clothed by God with His purity, satisfaction, and will.

We know that this is exactly the way that Jesus entered the world. Naked. Poor. In Simplicity and silence.  By doing so, He was perfectly fused with the Divine Will of His Father at all times. Things were not overcomplicated. He grew up in simplicity with the Holy Family listening and learning, in obedience. When he began his public ministry, He prayed and fasted for forty days to prepare and do the Will of the Father. He rejected the enemy's temptations and empty promises. Our Lord listened attentively to each person's needs. He met them where they were at and was amongst the people, not the elite.  His soul was naked of any personal ambition, and He was truly clothed in purity and humility.  We can pray for the same grace and purity. We must cooperate with this grace by stripping ourselves of the attachments and vices that hinder us from realizing such purity in this nakedness of spirit. In these last days before celebrating His birth, let us look within and seek not to add more stuff, but to purge more of the superfluous baggage, whether it be material, emotional, physical, etc.

Second maxim:

The Father spoke one Word, which was His Son, and this Word He speaks in eternal silence, and in silence must It be heard by the soul.

We can only truly hear and subsequently listen to the Spirit's still, small voice if we strive to keep ourselves in a spirit of calm and quiet.  This is not easily accomplished in our day and age.  We need to foster the presence of Our Lord throughout the day, in the midst of our daily duties and routine by returning to brief loving thoughts of Him, when a moment of quiet sneaks up on us.  One can surmise that the reason the shepherds were the ones to hear the glad tidings of joy at the birth of our Savior was due to their quiet disposition and keen listening skills.  This doesn't mean we need to go live in the woods or desert to realize such an interior state of being, but we must make efforts and steps towards carving out such times of silence. He is the Word who can soak into our very being and transform us from the inside out.  This is the true miracle and promise of Christmas, and of the silence we seek in prayer each and every day.  The Christ Child offers us this hope in simplicity and silence, as long as the eyes and ears of our hearts stay open.

Let us ask St. John of the Cross to intercede for us during this last week of Advent, whether we find ourselves in joy or in pain. He has experienced the transformational power of the Cross that leads to resurrection and rebirth.  His advice to adapt a spirit of naked simplicity and silence is well taken.

Friday, December 9, 2011

Our Lady, the Immaculata, Light of purity in Advent

JMJT! Praise be Jesus Christ! Now and Forever!

The Feast of the Immaculate Conception was celebrated yeterday, a perfect time to reflect on our own purity of heart and where we have placed our treasures. Are the desires of our hearts gazing heaven-ward or are they earthbound? Are we carving out time to dwell in the silence of the All or have we added on unnecessary activities that are preventing our spirits from soaking in the purity of Our Lord within? Blessed Mother shows us the way, as in her immaculate being of mind, body, soul, and spirit she was completely enveloped in the presence of Her Son, while He was housed within the perfectly pure and peaceful abode of her womb. We need to go in there. We need to follow Her ways and then entrust ourselves to her as Our Mother within Her womb. This is the safest place for us as Her children. This is where the Babe resided for 9 months and can teach us His secrets and lessons, and as Our Mother, she can gently nourish and protect us in prayer and in our daily lives throughout this busy season of Advent.

Let us place ourselves in Her womb and commend ourselves to the Holy Family. St. Joseph, Our Lady, and Jesus Himself were preparing for His coming during the last weeks prior to His birth. They were on a journey for the mandated census, and were not sure of what they would find. They placed all of their trust in the Divine Providence of God. So must we, as we seek to come closer to the crib in simplicity and with open hearts. Come, Lord Jesus, Come!

I live my Advent in the womb of Mary
And on one night when a great star swings free
From its high mooring and walks down the sky
To be the dot above the Christus i,
I shall be born of her by blessed grace.
I wait in Mary-darkness, faith's walled place,
With hope's expectance of nativity.
I knew for long she carried me and fed me,
Guarded and loved me, though I could not see,
But only now, with inward jubilee,
I come upon earth's most amazing knowledge:
Someone is hidden in this dark with me.

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Another Advent Meditation

JMJT! Praise be Jesus Christ! Now and Forever!

Peace and Joy!

Here is a simple, heartfelt prayer meditation by St. Anselm that is perfect for us as we continue our journey through Advent. Enjoy!

From the "Proslogion" of Saint Anselm
        Longing to see God

Flee your preoccupations for a little while. Hide yourself for a time from your turbulent thoughts. Cast aside, now, your heavy responsibilities and put off your burdensome business. Make a little space free for God; and rest for a little time in him.
 Enter the inner chamber of your mind; shut out all thoughts. Keep only thought of God, and thoughts that can aid you in seeking him. Close your door and seek him. Speak now, my whole heart! Speak now to God, saying, I seek your face; your face, Lord, will I seek. And come you now, O Lord my God, teach my heart where and how it may seek you, where and how it may find you.
  Lord, if you are not here, where shall I seek you when you are absent? But if you are everywhere, why do I not see you present? Truly you dwell in unapproachable light. But where is unapproachable light, or how shall I come to it? Or who shall lead me to that light and into it, that I may see you in it? Again, by what signs, under what form, shall I seek you? I have never seen you, O Lord, my God; I do not know your face.
  Lord, you are my God, and you are my Lord, and never have I seen you. You have made me and renewed me, you have given me all the good things that I have, and I have not yet met you. I was created to see you, and I have not yet done the thing for which I was made.
   Teach me to seek you, and reveal yourself to me when I seek you, for I cannot seek you unless you teach me, nor find you unless you reveal yourself. Let me seek you in longing, let me long for you in seeking; let me find you by loving you and love you in the act of finding you.

Sunday, December 4, 2011

St. John of the Cross' Homily for the Second Week of Advent

JMJT! Praise be Jesus Christ! Now and Forever!

I came across this lovely reflection by St. John of the Cross to continue to assist us as we journey towards that Star of Bethlehem this Advent season. May you continue to experience the joy and anticipation of the season.  This is taken from

This excerpt from The Ascent of Mount Carmel by St. John of the cross (Lib 2, cap. 22) is used in the Roman office of readings for Monday of the second week in Advent.  It is a clear and forceful expression of the faith of the Church that in Christ, God the Father has given us his complete and ultimate revelation of Himself and His plan for our lives.  The glimples of God and partial revelations of the Old Testament prophets and patriarchs find their completion in Him and we await no further revelation before his final and glorious return.

The principal reason why the Old Law permitted us to ask questions of God, and why prophets and priests had to seek visions and revelations of God, was because at that time faith had no firm foundation and the law of the Gospel was not yet established; and thus it was necessary that men should enquire of God and that he should speak, whether by words or by visions and revelations or whether by figures and images or by many other ways of expressing His meaning. For all that he answered and revealed belonged to the mysteries of our faith and things touching it or leading to it.

But now that the faith is founded in Christ, now that in this era of grace the law of the Gospel has been made manifest, there is no reason to enquire of God in that manner nor for him to speak to us or answer us as he did then. For, in giving us, as he did, his Son, who is his one and only Word, he spoke to us once and for all, in this single Word, and he has no occasion to speak further.

And this is the meaning of that passage with which the Letter to the Hebrews begins, trying to persuade the Hebrews that they should abandon those first ways of dealing and communicating with God which are in the law of Moses, and should set their eyes on Christ alone: At various times in the past and in various different ways, God spoke to our ancestors through the prophets; but in our own time, in the last days, he has spoken to us through his Son. That is, God has said so much about so many things through his Word that nothing more is needed, since that which he revealed partially in the past through the prophets, he has now revealed completely by giving us the All, which is his Son.

Therefore if someone were now to ask questions of God or seek any vision or revelation, he would not only be acting foolishly but would be committing an offence against God – for he should set his eyes altogether upon Christ and seek nothing beyond Christ.

God might answer him after this manner, saying: This is My beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased; listen to him. I have spoken all things to you in my Word. Set your eyes on him alone, for in him I have spoken and revealed to thee all things, and in him you shall find more than you ask for, even more than you want.

I descended upon him with my Spirit on Mount Tabor and said This is My beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased; listen to him. You have no reason to ask for new teaching or new answers from me because if I spoke to you in the past then it was to promise Christ. If people asked questions of me in the past then their questions were really a desire of Christ and a hope for his coming. For in him they were to find all good things, as has now been revealed in the teaching of the Evangelists and the Apostles.