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"Today the concept of truth is viewed with suspicion, because truth is identified with violence. Over history there have, unfortunately, been episodes when people sought to defend the truth with violence. But they are two contrasting realities. Truth cannot be imposed with means other than itself! Truth can only come with its own light. Yet, we need truth. ... Without truth we are blind in the world, we have no path to follow. The great gift of Christ was that He enabled us to see the face of God".Pope Benedict xvi, February 24th, 2012

The Church is ecumenical, catholic, God-human, ageless, and it is therefore a blasphemy—an unpardonable blasphemy against Christ and against the Holy Ghost—to turn the Church into a national institution, to narrow her down to petty, transient, time-bound aspirations and ways of doing things. Her purpose is beyond nationality, ecumenical, all-embracing: to unite all men in Christ, all without exception to nation or race or social strata. - St Justin Popovitch

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Friday, 30 March 2012

FRIDAY OF THE 5TH WEEK OF LENT: OUR LADY OF COMPASSION

THE ICON
This icon is normally called "The Marriage of the Lamb"; and it illustrates a theme in the Book of Revelation.   Jesus is dead but standing in his tomb.   Mary is dressed as a Byzantine bride and is embracing his body which is lit up from within.   This body is, at the same time, his crucified body and the Church and all the redeemed because the Incarnation means that Jesus is never just an individual because he is always united to the human race.   In embracing his natural body, Mary is also embracing the Church which is inseparable from him.   Jesus is the new Adam, the source of salvation for the whole human race which can now enter the"new heaven and new earth" inaugurated by his resurrection.   In comparison with Christ's head, his body is lit up to indicate that the head (Christ) died for the body (the Church).   In embracing the body of her Son, Mary is the New Eve, the Mother of all the living who belong to the new heaven and the new earth.   The letters  above the picture indicate "Do not cry for me, Mother!" in Old Russian.   Thus the icon has two levels of meaning.   It is an icon for Holy Saturday, with Jesus dead and Mary in mourning.   It also illustrates the relationship between Jesus, his Mother and the Church.

Our neighbours in Pachacamac are members of a new community in France called "Servants of the Presence of God" (CLICK TITLE).  In their house in France, the mother of one of the sisters "writes" icons and presented them with an icon with the same theme as ours.   They call it "Our Lady of Compassion".   When they came to visit us after we had settled in to Pachacamac, they noticed our icon and felt that, somehow, Our Lady had already established a link between the two communities.




A TALK GIVEN BY ABBOT PAUL TO THE COMMUNITY



                                      30th March 2012


            Dear Brethren,


            I was fascinated to notice in the new Missal, as I prepared for this morning’s Mass, that there are two collects given for today, Friday of the Fifth Week of Lent. I decided to use the second one that thanks the Lord for giving to the Church “the grace to imitate the Blessed Virgin Mary in contemplating the Passion of Christ”. This is the only Lenten collect that mentions Our Lady, so why this reference today to Mary contemplating the Passion of her Son? Those who are old enough might remember that until 1960 the feast of the Seven Sorrows was celebrated on the Friday after Passion Sunday, that is today, as well as on 15th September. Today’s is the older of the two feasts and one deeply rooted in popular tradition in many Catholic countries such as Spain and Italy and, of course, throughout Latin America. It was dropped entirely in 1969 when the new Roman Calendar came into effect. However, popular demand has, at least, managed to get the collect reinstated. Br Alex will tell you that, throughout Peru, solemn celebrations will be held in every town and village this evening in honour of the Virgen Dolorosa, Our Lady of Sorrows, with processions that go on long into the night. How vividly I still remember and long for it all from my days in Tambogrande. 


Can you remember what the Seven Sorrows are? According to the old Breviary they are as follows: the prophecy of Simeon, the flight into Egypt, the losing of the Child Jesus in the Temple, the meeting with Our Lord on the Way of the Cross, her standing at the foot of the Cross, the receiving of the dead Christ in her arms (the Pietà) and, finally, his Burial in the empty tomb.


How do we use the grace we have been given to imitate Our Lady in contemplating the Passion of Christ? First of all, of course, through reading the Gospel texts that refer to her sorrows and putting ourselves, as it were, in her shoes, that is if she ever wore shoes or sandals. We can try, in prayerful meditation, to see the life of Christ, particularly his suffering and death, through the eyes of his blessed Mother. That in itself is a rewarding and fruitful exercise. It will also help us realise how much we have caused our own parents, especially our mothers, to suffer, and it will help us to understand, in the confessional for example, the suffering of so many women for their children and grandchildren. However, I suspect the prayer thanks God for much more than that, though, in itself, it is a wonderful grace to see the Passion of Christ as Mary saw it and to be able to understand the sufferings of parents, having no children of our own.


            I believe that God has also given us grace, through the intercession of the Sorrowful Mother, to see in our own sufferings and the sufferings of others the sufferings both of Our Lady and of her Divine Son. It was St Bernard who wrote that the sufferings of Mary were greater than those of Jesus because she was helpless to do anything practical to help alleviate those sufferings. All she could do was look on in grief as her Son was led to Calvary where he would be crucified. According to tradition she was only able to console him fleetingly as they met and embraced on the Via Crucis before being roughly cast aside by the soldiers. And when he hung on the Cross, all she could do was stand there and weep, helpless and confused, but, unlike the disciples, faithful to the end. Yet Jesus knew she was there and drew comfort from her presence so close to him and that mother’s love which he had known throughout his earthly life.


            How often have we felt helpless and inadequate at the suffering and death of another, as we accompany our brethren, our parents and friends, at times someone completely unknown to us, in their final agony? Yet Our Lady shows us that simply being there in our poverty and helplessness and the excruciating pain of being unable to do anything to help, has great value both in the eyes of God and for the person with whom we can only watch and pray and keep vigil. But, in truth, we are anything but helpless. All we need do is place everything in God’s hands, trusting that he knows best and will do what is best, and to persevere in prayer. By prayer, I don’t necessarily mean saying the prayers that are in the Ritual, beautiful and effective as they are, but pouring out our hearts to God in silence and in tears. It is at times such as these that we begin to see the power of prayer and the extraordinary effect it can have on ourselves and on those who are suffering. We have all experienced the efficacy of the Sacrament of the Anointing of the Sick as it heals both minds and bodies and not just of the person being anointed. We have also experienced the healing effect of the prayer of tears and of compunction.


            Then there are our own sufferings and the approach, both steady and sure, of our own death. The collect for today asks that, through Our Lady’s intercession, we “may cling more firmly to the Father’s Only Begotten Son and come at last to the fullness of his grace.” That word “cling” is both graphic and powerful. It’s what ivy does to a wall, what a child does to its mother and what we, as disciples, should do to Jesus. To cling to Jesus means to take up our cross each day and follow him. It also means to see in our sufferings, whatever form they take, the very sufferings of Christ, and in his death, our death, which opens wide the door to the fullness of grace. It is in suffering and death that we come to the fullness of grace and share in his Resurrection. Of course, when we’re going through the mill, it’s not always easy to understand and accept the theory of all this, the idealism of theology, if you like. But remember that Jesus himself cried out from the Cross, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” In our agony, especially in the small agonies of every day, we often feel abandoned or punished by God. It is then that the company and prayer of others bring us consolation. 


Our closeness and intimacy with those who nurse us, when we are in pain and fear, have the ability to transform our suffering into a peaceful, spiritual and life-giving experience. I think of the extraordinary kindness and friendship of surgeons, doctors and nurses who cared for me in Thessalonica and Hereford and here at Belmont. Often a smile, a kind word and the holding of a hand can take away the pain and instil new life and new hope.


            But let’s go back to the word “contemplation” and the phrase  “the grace of imitating the Blessed Virgin Mary in contemplating the Passion of Christ.” Now the Oxford Dictionary gives as one of the five definitions of contemplation “a form of Christian prayer or meditation in which a person seeks to pass beyond mental images and concepts to a direct experience of the divine.” That is as close as you will get to what we attempt doing in Mental Prayer. How do we “pass beyond mental images and concepts to a direct experience” of God, bearing in mind that the experience of something is not the thing itself but only an experience of it? I prefer to look at it this way. Obviously, we are talking about the effects of grace and the gift of faith and of God’s desire that, in Christ, we should live in him and he in us. In that case to contemplate the Passion of Christ means to enter into that Passion and to see it from within rather than from without. What better way to enter into the Passion of Christ than in and through our own passion, our own sufferings and our own cross? Just as the open wounds of the Risen Christ are proof of his Resurrection and New Life, so our sufferings in this life and our embracing them, clinging to them, if you will, can lead us to enter into and experience the mind of God and the mystery of Christ, not from afar or from outside but from within and in union with him. It is this experience, better still, this way of life, which I believe the monastery makes possible, that will reveal within us, as we progress towards death and, hopefully, towards heaven, “the fullness of grace”.


May Mary, full of grace, through her intercession, help us attain that same fullness of grace through the saving Passion and Cross of Christ her beloved Son, the Only Begotten of the Father. Amen. 
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