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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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Thursday, 22 February 2018

2nd SUNDAY OF LENT, year B. 2018

Image result for icon of the transfiguration
My sisters and brothers in Christ,

Let us give all to the Lord and receive from the Lord whatever He sends us.  That is the invitation of the readings today.  Give all and receive whatever is given back.

Although we want to give all the Lord, we often find that what the Lord wants of us seems more than we can give.  Most of us don’t have the faith that we see in Abraham in the first reading today from the Book of Genesis.  We should recognize that even the early Christian commentators on this passage found it difficult.  Would God actually ask a father to kill his own son?  This is God asking something immoral from a human.  The only answer to this difficulty is that God does not actually, in the end, ask Abraham to kill his own son.

The point of the account in Genesis is not about God asking Abraham to do something immoral, but about Abraham being willing always to do the will of God.  Abraham is called “our father in faith” because of his complete dedication to doing whatever God asks of him.

We may doubt at times what God might ask of us.  We find it difficult to accept the evil that is in our world, the bad things that happen to good people, the atrocities against people that go unpunished, the school shootings.  Always people ask how a good God can allow such evils to happen.  Yet such questions are truly not about God but about us humans with our sinfulness.  We are broken beings who don’t always choose what is right and good.  God gave us this freedom.  And we misuse our freedom.

The real question is this:  why don’t we humans always choose what is good and what is right?  The only answer is that something is broken in us.  What do we do about the brokenness?  All the laws in the world are unable to redeem us and to force us to choose good.  Only salvation from God brings about a true conversion.

And how difficult that is!  The Letter to the Romans, from which is taken the second reading today, speaks to this problem:  “Christ Jesus it is who died–or, rather, was raised—who also is at the right hand of God, who indeed intercedes for us.”  The only way of redemption is to embrace the path of God, who gave His own Son for us.

The Gospel today, from Saint Mark, is the account of the Transfiguration of Jesus.  Jesus is changed in front of his own followers, at least some of them, so that they can believe that He is truly God even when they see Him undergo crucifixion.  At the heart of our Christian believing is this deep awareness that Jesus is born for us, that Jesus dies for us and that Jesus has indeed been raised to life for us.  This is not a philosophical argument but an experienced reality of the early Christians that we later Christians have come to see as true because of their testimony.

So our readings today are clear:  seek to do the will of God in all things, believe that Christ died and was raised from the dead for us and see in the Transfiguration of Christ that we also can be transfigured by our complete belief in Him.  Let us give all to the Lord and receive from the Lord whatever He sends us.

Your brother in the Lord,

Abbot Philip

SOME NOTES BY FATHER DAVID

Just as the date of the feast of the Transfiguration is aligned with that of the Exaltation of the Holy Cross on September 14th so that they form a pair of feasts that explain each other, so the scene of the Transfiguration and that of the Garden of Gethsemane also form a pair.   Both take place apart from the crowd that usually accompanied Jesus.   Jesus takes Peter, James and John with him on both occasions.  On both occasions, they witness his intimate relationship with his Father, and on both occasions, they lose consciousness, the first out of sheer awe, the second out of sadness and fatigue.   Both scenes are resplendent with Christ's glory that is nothing less than his utterly self-giving love that reflects and manifests what God is, the Love of the undivided Trinity.  Christ's self-giving love is both the light of the Transfiguration and the exaltation of the Holy Cross.   This is depicted in the wonderful mosaic in Ravenna of the Transfiguration.
Image result for the cross in the apse of the church of Sant Apollinare in clase in Ravenna
In Lent, we prepare ourselves to share in the Passion and Resurrection of Christ in the Pascha.   In the words of one of the holy founders of the Cistercian order, we must learn to live in order to love and to die in order to rise again with Christ.   Each moment of our lives manifests for us the will of God.  If in each moment, we respond with a whole-hearted "Yes" to his will, we will find our cross and we and the world around us will become resplendent with the light of Tabor. 

I do not pray for these alone, but also for those who will believe in Me through their word;  (John17:20-21)
my source: excerpt from a wonderful blog Glory to God for All Things

The Elder Sophrony, together with St. Silouan, wrote about the “whole Adam.” By this, they meant all the human beings who have ever existed and those yet to come. For Silouan and Sophrony, this was something known in the present tense, a “hypostatic” knowledge of the fundamental unity of the human race. Sophrony described it as a necessary component in the Christian life of prayer. We have not been taught to pray, “My Father,” but “Our.”

This primal unity is completely present in Christ. His death on the Cross is not His alone – He dies the death of every single human being – bearing the sins of all. The insight of the saints tells us that this same reality must be ours as well. Christ has not done something for us in our absence. The Cross He endured is the same Cross He invites us to take up. And that Cross is also a universal Cross (the Cross of the whole Adam). We do not go there only for our own death, but for the death of everyone (and thus the resurrection of all).

The privatization of our religious faith has obscured this fundamental reality. We hear the command of Christ as directed solely to ourselves as a private matter. But the nature of that Cross includes its universal aspect. The Cross cannot bear my sins if it does not bear the sins of all. It is one of the primary meanings of Christ’s title, the “Second Adam.” For He is not a mere repeat of the First, but the recapitulation of all, just as the First Adam was the head of all. (Romans 5:18-19)

I am often aware of the burden of sin that we inherit (ancestral sin). Most of the problems that infect the world are not of this generations’ making (as is always true). We do not enter the world as a blank slate. Our DNA, our cultural inheritance, the vast sum of what will be our existence is given to us in a deck that has already been stacked. As Fr. Alexander Schmemann once said, the spiritual life consists in “how we deal with what we’ve been dealt.” And it is even more complex than that. We are sitting at a table in which every hand in play has this same givenness. We are all playing in a game that we might not have chosen for ourselves.

I am also growing ever more aware of those who will come after me. As a grandfather, I observe the inevitable inheritance within my own family, to say nothing of the world they will inherit. When I think of the generations to come my mind is also drawn to the vast multitude of those whose lives have been destroyed in the silent violence of our modern world. This is a bitter planet and one that gives too little thought to such things.

But when we pray as the whole Adam, then we must give thought to all of these things. Is it any wonder that the Church teaches us to cry out, “Lord, have mercy!” over and over again?





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