"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

Tuesday 22 May 2012

THE POWER FROM ABOVE by Fr R. Cantalamessa O.F.M. Cap

Everyone has on some occasion seen people pushing a stalled car trying to get it going fast enough to start. There are one or two people pushing from behind and another person at the wheel. If it does not get going after the first try, they stop, wipe away the sweat, take a breath and try again. ... 

Then suddenly there is a noise, the engine starts to work, the car moves on its own and the people who were pushing it straighten themselves up and breathe a sigh of relief. 

This is an image of what happens in Christian life. One goes forward with much effort, without great progress. But we have a very powerful engine ("the power from above!") that only needs to be set working. The feast of Pentecost should help us to find this engine and and see how to get it going.

The account from the Acts of the Apostles begins thus: "When the time for Pentecost was fulfilled, they were all together in the same place." 

From these words, we see that Pentecost pre-existed Pentecost. In other words, there was already a feast of Pentecost in Judaism and it was during this feast that the Holy Spirit descended. One cannot understand the Christian Pentecost without taking into account the Jewish Pentecost that prepared it. 

In the Old Testament there were two interpretations of the feast of Pentecost. At the beginning there was the feast of the seven weeks, the feast of the harvest, when the first fruits of grain were offered to God, but then, and certainly during Jesus' time, the feast was enriched with a new meaning: It was the feast of the conferral of the law and of the covenant on Mount Sinai.

If the Holy Spirit descends upon the Church precisely on the day in which Israel celebrated the feast of the law and the covenant, this indicates that the Holy Spirit is the new law, the spiritual law that sealed the new and eternal covenant. A law that is no longer written on stone tablets but on tablets of flesh, on the hearts of men. 

These considerations immediately provoke a question: Do we live under the old law or the new law? Do we fulfill our religious duties by constraint, by fear and habit, or rather by an intimate conviction and almost by attraction? Do we experience God as a father or a boss? 

I conclude with a story. At the beginning of the last century a family from southern Italy emigrated to the United States. Not having enough money to pay for meals at restaurants, they took bread and cheese with them for the trip. As the days and weeks passed the bread became stale and the cheese moldy; at a certain point their child could not take it anymore and could do nothing but cry. 

The parents took the last bit of money that they had and gave it to him so that he could have a nice meal at a restaurant. The child went, ate and came back to his parents in tears. The parents asked: "We have spent all the money we had left to buy you a nice meal and you are still crying?" 

"I am crying because I found out that one meal a day was included in the price and this whole time we have been eating bread and cheese!" 

Many Christians go through life with only "bread and cheese," without joy, without enthusiasm, when they could, spiritually speaking, every day enjoy every good thing of God, it all being included in the price of being Christians.

The secret for experiencing that which John XXIII called "a new Pentecost" is called prayer. That is where we find the "spark" that starts the engine! 

Jesus promised that the heavenly Father would give the Holy Spirit to those who asked for him (Luke 11:13). Ask then! The liturgy of Pentecost offers us magnificent words to do this: 

"Come, Holy Spirit ...

Come, O Father of the poor, 
Ever bounteous of Thy store, 
Come, our heart's unfailing light. 
Come, Consoler, kindest, best, 
Come, our bosom's dearest guest, 
Sweet refreshment, sweet repose. 
Rest in labor, coolness sweet, 
Tempering the burning heat, 
Truest comfort of our woes!"
Come Holy Spirit!

[Translation by Joseph G. Trabbic]

Fr. Raniero Cantalamessa is a Franciscan Capuchin Catholic Priest. Born in Ascoli Piceno, Italy, 22 July 1934, ordained priest in 1958. Divinity Doctor and Doctor in classical literature. In 1980 he was appointed by Pope John Paul II Preacher to the Papal Household in which capacity he still serves, preaching a weekly sermon in Advent and Lent.

I conclude this post by Fr Raneiro Cantalamessa, Preacher to the Papal Household with a few remarks.  

  •  I have had enough experience of the Charismatic Renewal to know that it is a genuine renewal in the Spirit and leads many people to holiness, even though many have an over-use of imagination on the way and some are led astray.   Much the same can be said for any popular movement, like the monastic movement in the 4th century
  • If the way of the Old Testament was the Law, the way of the New Testament is to live in synergy with the Holy Spirit as we give up our self-will in favour of the will of God, moment by moment, and also - in the words of St Seraphim of Sarov - holiness is nothing less than "the asquisition of the Holy Spirit"..
  • Our model is the Blessed Virgin who replied to the Good News conveyed by the angel, "Behold the handmaid of the Lord.   May it be done to me according to your word."   She gave birth, but it was the Holy Spirit that enabled her to become the God-bearer which was far outside her powers alone.   So with us: we respond to God's invitation, and the Holy Spirit enables us to be and live by being sons and daughters of God "in Christ".
  • History and our own experience have shown that the Holy Spirit can act in ways thatare obviously externally dramatic, but that he usually doesn't.  Ordinary, every-day events can be just as charged with the Holy Spirit and, in the sacraments, even more so.   An authentic Christian life is shot through with the Holy Spirit all the time; and
  • We don't have to act in our prayer like descendents of African slaves in Los Angeles, to dance around and clap our hands, to be genuinely charismatic; even though no harm is being done and much good achieved by doing so if it helps us to respond to the Holy Spirit.  I used to tell the students in a "charismatic" seminary where I worked for a year, that all the clapping and dancing around is like shaven heads and bells and smells in the monastery, mere froth on the beer.   It is not what is essential.   On the other hand, if beer is without froth, then it is probably dead and needs to be replaced: but each to his particular kind of froth.- F
  • Do not despise another man's froth, whether it be happy clappy behaviour or birettas and old lace.   It might be the best way he has to tap the riches of the Spirit, and you may find yourself separated from your brother by something that has no importance in itself.- Fr David


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