"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

Friday 31 May 2013


.   As with many of the great feasts of the Church there is a fascinating history associated with the establishment of this holy day, which involves a saint and a miracle.

God’s instrument on this occasion was a woman known to history as Saint Juliana of Liege, or Julian of Mount Comillon where she was educated as a girl by the Augustinian nuns at the convent there, after the death of her parents when she was only five.  She was accepted into the order, made her religious profession, and became the mother superior of the convent.

Juliana had an ardent love of Our Lady, and also cultivated an extraordinary devotion to the Blessed Sacrament.  As she grew in her vocation, she increasingly longed for a special feast in honor of the Sacrament.  She had a vision of the Church as a full moon with one dark spot, symbolizing the lack of such a feast.  Juliana expressed her to desire to the Bishop of Liege and the Archdeacon of Liege, who received her request favorably.  In 1246 the Bishop at a synod of bishops from lands now in the country of Belgium, successfully proposed that a feast in honor of the Blessed Eucharist  be instituted in the dioceses respresented at the Synod.  The Archdeacon of Liege, Jacques Pantaleon, in time became the Bishop of Verdun, then Patriarch of Jerusalem, and, on August 29, 1261, was elected Pope under the name of Urban IV.

Shortly after this, in an example of that synchronicity that often reveals the Hand of God in history, one of the great Eucharistic miracles of the Church occurred.  In 1263 Peter of Prague, a German priest, stopped at a town called Bolsena while on pilgrimage to Rome.  He was a pious priest but had difficulty in believing that Christ was truly present in the consecrated host.  While celebrating Mass in the Church of Saint Cristina, he finished saying the words of consecration, when blood started to seep from the consecrated host and trickled over his hands and onto the altar cloth and corporal

Totally bewildered, he at first attempted to hide the blood, but then interrupted the Mass and asked to be taken to the neighboring city of Ovieto where Pope Urban IV was residing.  The Pope listened to the priest’s account and absolved him of the sin of doubt.  He then ordered that the Host and the linen cloths bearing the blood stains be taken to the Cathedral of Ovieto.  The assembled Bishops, Cardinals and other dignitaries formed a procession and with pomp and dignity the Host and altar cloth were installed in the Cathedral, where the linen corporal is on display to this day.

Pope Urban IV was prompted by this miracle to commission Saint Thomas Aquinas to compose a Proper for a Mass and an Office honoring the Holy Eucharist as the Body of Christ.  One year after the miracle, in August 1264, Pope Urban IV introduced the saint’s composition, and instituted, by papal bull, the feast of Corpus Cristi.

After visiting the cathedral of Ovieto, many pilgrims and tourists journey to Saint Christina’s Church in Bolsena to see for themselves the place where the miracle occurred.  From the north aisle of the church pilgrims enter the Chapel of the Miracle, where the stains on the paved floor are said to have been made by the blood from the bleeding Host.  The altar of the miracle, surmounted by a 9th century canopy, is now situated in the grotto of Saint Christina.  A reclining statue of the saint is nearby.  In Aust of 1964, on the 700th anniversary of the institution of the feast of Corpus Cristi, Pope Paul VI celebrated Holy Mass at the altar where the holy corporal is kept in its golden shrine in the Cathedral of Ovieto.

Twelve years later, the same pontiff visited Bolsena and spoke from there via television  to the 41st International Eucharistic Congress, then concluding in Philadelphia.  During his address the Pope spoke of the Eucharist as being “a mystery great and inexhaustible’.

ROME, May 31, 2013 – The visit of Pope Francis, on Trinity Sunday, to the parish of Saints Elizabeth and Zechariah to the far north of the city, the first of a series of his visits to Roman parishes, immediately distinguished itself by several original characteristics.

The pope arrived early in the morning, before the time announced, and the first thing he wanted to do was to meet one-on-one the children baptized in the past year, about fifty of them, together with their parents.

Jorge Mario Bergoglio is highly sensitive about the baptism of children. On the previous day, in the morning homily at Saint Martha's, he had cited the example of a teenage mother who had asked to have her child baptized and was refused. “The child is in no way at fault for the marital status of his parents” - this has been his principle since he was a bishop in Argentina - and in fact baptism “often becomes for the parents a new beginning.” Woe to those who set up a “pastoral customs agency" in front of this gate of entry into the Christian life: “So many times we are supervisors of the faith, instead of becoming facilitators of the faith of the people.”


The second novelty of the visit took place shortly afterward. The pope entered the sacristy, closed the door, and before celebrating Mass he heard the confession, one after another, of eight parishioners chosen at random. There were supposed to have been five, but three were added unexpectedly. The reporter from “L'Osservatore Romano” wrote: “When that door opened there came out a radiant face, most of the time furrowed with tears.”

Before him, John Paul II and Benedict XVI had heard confessions at St. Peter's during Holy Week. Pope Joseph Ratzinger had also heard confessions at World Youth Day in Madrid, in 2011. 

Francis, however, wanted to hear confessions in the parish, right before Mass. He gave a good example to priests and faithful. He wanted to make visible the connection between confession and communion, which must be received only when one is “in the grace of God.”

A third innovation, less unexpected this time, took place during the homily. The pope set aside the pages with the text provided and improvised completely, cobbling together with the children present in the first rows a dialogue of question and answer, in the style of the classic catechism, on the theme of that day's feast, the Trinity.

The text of his homily, transcribed word for word, is on the website of the Vatican and is presented in its entirety further below. But a simple reading of it is not enough to make it comprehensible. One must above all see and hear how Francis conducted the dialogue with his little listeners and the faithful crowded into the space in front of the church. And this is possible thanks to the video recording that the Vatican television center has made available on the internet.


Fourth. Communion. Pope Bergoglio usually does not give it to anyone. He does not wish - and he has said so - that persons should present themselves before him to receive it who are seeking publicity, or worse, from an unclear position with respect to the doctrine and morality of the Church. He does not wish, that is, that there should happen with the pope what for example happened a few hours before, on Saturday, May 25 in Genoa, during the funeral for Fr. Andrea Gallo, when to receive communion from the hands of Cardinal Angelo Bagnasco came the famous transvestite Vladimir Luxuria, and the photo ended up in the newspapers.

But this time Francis did give out communion. To the sixteen boys and girls who received it from him for the first time, and to the dozens of other children who had made their first communion in the parish during the previous months. He gave it only to them, who were the emblem of the pure heart with which one must approach the sacrament. They received it standing, not kneeling as with Benedict XVI. In any case Francis clearly wanted to highlight the sanctity of this culminating moment of Christian initiation.

Fifth. At the end of the Mass, the sixteen children who shortly before had received their first communion gathered around the pope (see the photo) and sang for him the blessing of St. Francis of Assisi. And he, Pope Francis, listened to the singing of the children with his head bowed and hands clasped, accepting the blessing with profound devotion, as he had done on the very evening of his election, on the loggia of the basilica of Saint Peter, when he asked for and received the blessing beseeched by the people. In both cases closing with: "I thank you for this.”


At the end of this morning spent “on the periphery,” Francis returned to the Vatican, where he was awaited for the midday Angelus, with a crowded St. Peter's Square .

But it is likely that his upcoming visits to other Roman parishes will last longer and will bring more innovations.

The following, then, is the complete transcription of the homily of May 26, 2013, the video of which is also available on the internet:

> Visita parrocchia romana dei santi Elisabetta e Zaccaria

When at a certain point, dialoguing with the children, the pope says that the one who is able to answer the question “wins the derby," he is alluding to the soccer game scheduled for the afternoon of that same day between the two teams of the capital, Roma and Lazio, with the winner receiving the Coppa Italia.



Dear brothers and sisters, the pastor, in his words, reminded me of a wonderful thing about the Blessed Mother. The Blessed Mother, as soon as she had received the annunciation that she would be the mother of Jesus, and also the annunciation that her cousin Elizabeth was pregnant - the Gospel says - went off in haste; she did not wait. She did not say: “But now I am pregnant, I must take care of my health. My cousin must have friends who may help her.” She heard something and “she went off in haste.”

It is wonderful to think this about the Virgin Mary, about our Mother, who goes off in haste because she has this inside: to help. She goes to help. she does not go to brag and to tell her cousin: "But listen, I'm in charge now, because I am the Mamma of God!" No, she did not do this. She went to help! And the Blessed Mother is always like this. She is our Mother, who always comes in haste when we are in need.

It would be nice to add to the litanies of the Blessed Mother one that would say this: "Our Lady who goes in haste, pray for us!" This is nice, right? Because she always goes in haste, she does not forget her children. And when her children are in difficulty, are in need and call upon her, she goes in haste. And this gives us reassurance, it gives us the reassurance of having Mamma near, always at our side. We go, we walk better in life when we have mamma near. Let us think of this grace of the Blessed Mother, this grace that she gives us: of being close to us, but without making us wait. Always! She is - let us trust in this - there to help us. The Blessed Mother who always goes in haste, for us.

The Blessed Mother also helps us to understand well God, Jesus, to understand well the life of Jesus, the life of God, to understand well what the Lord is, how the Lord is, who God is.

I ask you children: "Who knows who God is?" Raise your hand. Yes, you? That's it! Creator of the earth.

And how many Gods are there? One? But they told me that there are three of them: the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit! What is the explanation for this? Is there one or are there three? One? One? And how is it explained that one may be the Father, the other the Son, and the other the Holy Spirit? Speak up, speak up! That's right. They are three in one, three persons in one.

And what does the Father do? The Father is the beginning, the Father, who created everything, created us.

What does the Son do? What does Jesus do? Who knows what Jesus does? He loves us? What else? He brings the Word of God! Jesus comes to teach us the Word of God. That's great! What else? What did Jesus do on earth? He saved us! And Jesus came to give his life for us.

The Father creates the world; Jesus saves us. And what does the Holy Spirit do? He loves us! He gives you love! All the children together: the Father creates everything, he creates the world; Jesus saves us, and the Holy Spirit? He loves us! This is the Christian life: to speak with the Father, to speak with the Son, and to speak with the Holy Spirit.

Jesus has saved us, but he also walks with us in life. Right? And how does he walk? What does he do when he walks with us in life? This is difficult. The one who gets it wins the derby. What does Jesus do when he walks with us? Speak up! First: he helps us. He guides us! Great! He walks with us, he guides us and he teaches us to go forward. And Jesus also gives us the strength to walk. Right? He sustains us! Good! In difficulties, right? And also in our homework! He sustains us, he helps us, he guides us, he sustains us. That's it!

Jesus always goes with us. Very well. But listen, Jesus gives us strength. How does Jesus give us strength? You know this, how he gives us strength! Speak up, I can't hear you! In Communion he gives us strength, he really helps us with strength. He comes to us. But when you say, "he gives us Communion," does a piece of bread give you so much strength? That's not bread? It's bread? This is bread, but that on the altar, is it bread or not? It looks like bread! It's not really bread. What is it? It is the Body of Jesus. Jesus comes into our hearts.

Here, let's think about this, everyone: the Father has given us life; Jesus has given us salvation, he accompanies us, he guides us, he sustains us, he teaches us; and the Holy Spirit? What does the Holy Spirit give  us? He loves us! He gives us love.

Let us think of God this way and let us ask the Virgin Mary, the Virgin Mary our Mother, always in haste to help us, to teach us to understand well how God is: how the Father is, how the Son is, and how the Holy Spirit is. So be it.


The following is the partial transcription, as broadcast by Vatican Radio, of the homily of Pope Francis in the chapel of the Domus Sanctae Marthae, on the morning of Saturday, May 25.

An exemplary homily for understanding his vision of the Church's pastoral practice:


When people approach the Church they should find open doors and not supervisors of the faith. This is what the pope affirmed during the Mass at Saint Martha's:

"The Gospel of the day speaks to us of Jesus who reproaches the disciples who want to send away the children whom the people bring to the Lord that he may bless them. Jesus would embrace them, kiss them, touch them, all of them. But Jesus would get so tired.” And the disciples wanted to stop this. And Jesus became indignant: “Jesus got angry sometimes.” And he says: “Let them come to me, do not hinder them. To those who are like them, in fact, belongs the Kingdom of God."

“The faith of the people of God,” the pope observes, “is a simple faith, it is a faith perhaps without much theology, but with a theology within that does not err, because the Spirit is behind it.” The pope cites Vatican Council I and Vatican II, where it is said that “the holy people of God cannot err in belief." And to explain this theological formulation he adds: “If you want to know who Mary is, go to a theologian and he will explain well to you who Mary is. But if you want to know how Mary is loved, go to the people of God and they will teach you better.” The people of God - the pope continues - "always approaches to ask something of Jesus: sometimes it is a bit insistent in this. But it is the insistence of one who believes.”

“I remember one time, going out into the city of Salta on the patronal feast day, there was a humble lady who asked a priest for a blessing. The priest told her: 'Very well, ma'am, but you have already been to Mass!' And he explained to her the whole theology of the blessing at Mass. He did this well. 'Ah, thank you, Father; yes, Father,' the lady said. When the priest went away, the lady turned to another priest: 'Give me the blessing!' And all of these words did not reach her, because she had another need: the need of being touched by the Lord. That is the faith which we always find and this faith is sustained by the Holy Spirit. We must facilitate it, make it grow, help it to grow.”

The pope then cites the episode of the blind man of Jericho, reproved by the disciples because he was crying out to the Lord: “Jesus, son of David, have pity on me!”:

"The Gospel says that they wanted him not to cry out, they wanted him not to cry out and he cried out even more, why? Because he had faith in Jesus! The Holy Spirit had put faith in his heart. And they were saying to him: 'No, this is not done! One does not cry out to the Lord. Protocol does not allow it. He is the second person of the Trinity! Watch what you're doing,' as if they were saying this, no?”

And he thinks of the attitude of many Christians:

"We think of good Christians, with good intentions; we think of a parish secretary. 'Good evening, good day, we are engaged, we want to get married.' And instead of saying: 'But how wonderful!' they say: 'Ah, very well, make yourselves comfortable. If you want the Mass, it costs a lot.” These, instead of receiving a good welcome - 'It is a good thing to get married!' - receive this: 'You have the baptismal certificate, everything is in order.' And they find a closed door. When this Christian has the possibility of opening the door, thanking God for this fact of a new marriage. . . So many times we are supervisors of the faith, instead of becoming facilitators of the faith of the people.”

It is a temptation that has always been there - the pope explains - which is that “of taking ownership, of appropriating the Lord a bit.” And he recounts another episode:

"Think about a teenage mother who goes to church, to the secretary of the parish: 'I want to have my child baptized.' And this Christian tells her: 'No, you cannot because you are not married!' But look, this girl who had the courage to carry her pregnancy forward and not return her child to sender, what does she find? A closed door! This is not a good kind of zeal! It drives people away from the Lord! It does not open doors! And so when we are on this path, in this attitude, we are not helping persons, the folk, the people of God. But Jesus instituted seven sacraments and we with this attitude institute the eighth: the sacrament of the pastoral customs agency!"

“Jesus is outraged when he sees these things” - the pope emphasizes - because the one who suffers is “his faithful people, the people he loves so much”:

“Let us think today of Jesus, who always wants everyone to draw near to Him; let us think of the holy people of God, a simple people that wants to draw near to Jesus; and let us think of so many well-meaning Christians who go wrong and instead of opening the door close it. And let us ask the Lord that all those who draw near to the Church may find the doors open, may find the doors open, open to encounter this love of Jesus. Let us ask for this grace.” 

Sacred Music Colloquium, CMAA from Corpus Christi Watershed on Vimeo.
 This video above from Brazil is dedicated to Brother Bernard

Wednesday 29 May 2013


Wednesday May 15, 2013:

Dear brothers and sisters, good day! Today I want to focus on the action that the Holy Spirit accomplishes in guiding the Church and each one of us to the Truth. Jesus says to his disciples: the Holy Spirit, “he will guide you to all truth" (Jn 16:13), he himself being "the Spirit of truth" (cf. Jn 14:17; 15:26; 16:13). We live in an age rather skeptical of truth. Benedict XVI has spoken many times of relativism, that is, the tendency to believe that nothing is definitive, and think that the truth is given by consent or by what we want. The question arises: does "the" truth really exist? What is "the" truth? Can we know it? Can we find it?

Here I am reminded of the question of the Roman procurator Pontius Pilate when Jesus reveals the profound meaning of his mission: "What is truth?" (Jn 18,37.38). Pilate does not understand that "the" Truth is in front of him, he cannot see in Jesus the face of the truth, which is the face of God yet, Jesus is just that: the Truth, which, in the fullness of time, "became flesh" (Jn 1,1.14), came among us so that we may know it. You cannot grab the truth as if it were an object, you encounter it. It is not a possession, is an encounter with a Person.

But who helps us recognize that Jesus is "the" Word of truth, the only begotten Son of God the Father? St. Paul teaches that "no one can say, “Jesus is Lord,” except by the holy Spirit" (1 Cor 12:3). It is the Holy Spirit, the gift of the Risen Christ, that helps us recognize the Truth. Jesus calls him the "Paraclete", meaning "the one who comes to our aid," who is by our side to support us in this journey of knowledge, and at the Last Supper, Jesus assures his disciples that the Holy Spirit will teach them all things , reminding them of his words (cf. Jn 14:26).

What is then the action of the Holy Spirit in our lives and in the life of the Church to guide us to the truth? First of all, remind and imprint on the hearts of believers the words that Jesus said, and precisely through these words, God’s law - as the prophets of the Old Testament had announced - is inscribed in our hearts and becomes within us a principle of evaluation in our choices and of guidance in our daily actions, it becomes a principle of life. Ezekiel’s great prophecy is realized: "I will sprinkle clean water over you to make you clean; from all your impurities and from all your idols I will cleanse you. I will give you a new heart, and a new spirit I will put within you. …I will put my spirit within you so that you walk in my statutes, observe my ordinances, and keep them"(36:25-27). Indeed, our actions are born from deep within: it is the heart that needs to be converted to God, and the Holy Spirit transforms it if we open ourselves to Him

The Holy Spirit, then, as Jesus promises, guides us "into all truth" (Jn 16:13) he leads us not only to an encounter with Jesus, the fullness of Truth, but guides us "into" the Truth, that is, he helps us enter into a deeper communion with Jesus himself, gifting us knowledge of the things of God. We cannot achieve this on our own strengths. If God does not enlightens us interiorly, our being Christians will be superficial. The Tradition of the Church affirms that the Spirit of truth acts in our hearts, provoking that "sense of faith" (sensus fidei), through which, as the Second Vatican Council affirms, the People of God, under the guidance of the Magisterium, adheres unwaveringly to the faith given once and for all to the saints, (113) penetrates it more deeply with right thinking, and applies it more fully in its life (cf. Dogmatic Constitution, "Lumen gentium", 12).

Let's ask ourselves: are we open to the Holy Spirit, do I pray to him to enlighten me, to make me more sensitive to the things of God? And this is a prayer we need to pray every day, every day: Holy Spirit may my heart be open to the Word of God, may my heart be open to good, may my heart be open to the beauty of God, every day. But I would like to ask a question to all of you: How many of you pray every day to the Holy Spirit? Eh, a few of you I bet, eh! Well, a few, few, a few, but we realise this wish of Jesus, pray every day for the Holy Spirit to open our hearts to Jesus.

We think of Mary who "kept all these things and pondered them in her heart" (Lk 2,19.51). The reception of the words and the truths of faith so that they become life, is realized and grows under the action of the Holy Spirit. In this sense, we must learn from Mary, reliving her "yes", her total availability to receive the Son of God in her life, and who from that moment was transformed. Through the Holy Spirit, the Father and the Son come to dwell in us: do we live in God and of God, is our life really animated by God? How many things do I put before God?

Dear brothers and sisters, we need to let ourselves be imbued with the light of the Holy Spirit, so that He introduces us into the Truth of God, who is the only Lord of our lives. In this Year of Faith let us ask ourselves if we have actually taken a few steps to get to know Christ and the truths of faith more, by reading and meditating on the Scriptures, studying the Catechism, steadily approaching the Sacraments. But at the same time let us ask ourselves what steps we are taking so that the faith directs our whole existence. Do not be a ‘part-time” Christian, at certain moments, in certain circumstances, in certain choices, be Christian at all times! The truth of Christ, that the Holy Spirit teaches us and gives us, always and forever involves our daily lives. Let us invoke him more often, to guide us on the path of Christ's disciples.

English summary:

Dear Brothers and Sisters: In our catechesis on the Creed, we have been considering the person and work of the Holy Spirit, whom Jesus calls “the Spirit of Truth” (cf. Jn 16:13). In an age skeptical of truth, we believe not only that truth exists, but that it is found through faith in Jesus Christ, the incarnate Son of God. The Holy Spirit brings us to Jesus; he guides the whole Church into the fullness of truth. As the “Paraclete”, the Helper sent by the Risen Lord, he reminds us of Christ’s words and convinces us of their saving truth. As the source of our new life in Christ, he awakens in our hearts that supernatural “sense of the faith” by which we hold fast to God’s word, come to a deeper understanding of its meaning, and apply it in our daily lives. Let us ask ourselves: am I truly open, like the Virgin Mary, to the power of the Holy Spirit? Even now, with the Father and the Son, the Spirit dwells in our hearts. Let us ask him to guide us into all truth and to help us grow in friendship with Christ through daily prayer, reading of the Scriptures and the celebration of the sacraments.

Symeon focused his reflection on the Holy Spirit's presence in the baptized and on the awareness they must have of this spiritual reality. "Christian life", he emphasized, "is intimate, personal communion with God, divine grace illumines the believer's heart and leads him to a mystical vision of the Lord". Along these lines, Symeon the New Theologian insisted that true knowledge of God does not come from books but rather from spiritual experience, from spiritual life. Knowledge of God is born from a process of inner purification that begins with conversion of heart through the power of faith and love. It passes through profound repentance and sincere sorrow for one's sins to attain union with Christ, the source of joy and peace, suffused with the light of his presence within us. For Symeon this experience of divine grace did not constitute an exceptional gift for a few mystics but rather was the fruit of Baptism in the life of every seriously committed believer.

A point on which to reflect, dear brothers and sisters! This holy Eastern monk calls us all to pay attention to our spiritual life, to the hidden presence of God within us, to the sincerity of the conscience and to purification, to conversion of heart, so that the Holy Spirit may really become present in us and guide us. Indeed, if rightly we are concerned to care for our physical, human and intellectual development, it is even more important not to neglect our inner growth. This consists in the knowledge of God, in true knowledge, not only learned from books but from within and in communion with God, to experience his help at every moment and in every circumstance. Basically it is this that Symeon describes when he recounts his own mystical experience. Already as a young man, before entering the monastery, while at home one night immersed in prayer and invoking God's help to fight temptations, he saw the room fill with light. Later, when he entered the monastery, he was given spiritual books for instruction but reading them did not procure for him the peace that he sought. He felt, he himself says, as if he were a poor little bird without wings. He humbly accepted this situation without rebelling and it was then that his visions of light began once again to increase. Wishing to assure himself of their authenticity, Symeon asked Christ directly: "Lord, is it truly you who are here?". He heard the affirmative answer resonating in his heart and was supremely comforted. "That, Lord", he was to write later, "was the first time that you considered me, a prodigal son, worthy of hearing your voice". However, not even this revelation left him entirely at peace. He wondered, rather, whether he ought to consider that experience an illusion. At last, one day an event occurred that was crucial to his mystical experience. He began to feel like "a poor man who loves his brethren" (ptochós philádelphos). Around him he saw hordes of enemies bent on ensnaring him and doing him harm, yet he felt within an intense surge of love for them. How can this be explained? Obviously, such great love could not come from within him but must well up from another source. Symeon realized that it was coming from Christ present within him and everything became clear: he had a sure proof that the source of love in him was Christ's presence. He was certain that having in ourselves a love that exceeds our personal intentions suggests that the source of love is in us. Thus we can say on the one hand that if we are without a certain openness to love Christ does not enter us, and on the other, that Christ becomes a source of love and transforms us. Dear friends, this experience remains particularly important for us today if we are to find the criteria that tell us whether we are truly close to God, whether God exists and dwells in us. God's love develops in us if we stay united to him with prayer and with listening to his word, with an open heart. Divine love alone prompts us to open our hearts to others and makes us sensitive to their needs, bringing us to consider everyone as brothers and sisters and inviting us to respond to hatred with love and to offence with forgiveness.

In thinking about this figure of Symeon the New Theologian, we may note a further element of his spirituality. On the path of ascetic life which he proposed and took, the monk's intense attention and concentration on the inner experience conferred an essential importance on the spiritual father of the monastery. The same young Symeon, as has been said, had found a spiritual director who gave him substantial help and whom he continued to hold in the greatest esteem such as to profess veneration for him, even in public, after his death. And I would like to say that the invitation to have recourse to a good spiritual father who can guide every individual to profound knowledge of himself and lead him to union with the Lord so that his life may be in ever closer conformity with the Gospel still applies for all priests, consecrated and lay people, and especially youth. To go towards the Lord we always need a guide, a dialogue. We cannot do it with our thoughts alone. And this is also the meaning of the ecclesiality of our faith, of finding this guide.

To conclude, we may sum up the teaching and mystical experience of Symeon the New Theologian in these words: in his ceaseless quest for God, even amidst the difficulties he encountered and the criticism of which he was the object, in the end he let himself be guided by love. He himself was able to live and teach his monks that for every disciple of Jesus the essential is to grow in love; thus we grow in the knowledge of Christ himself, to be able to say with St Paul: "It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me" (Gal 2: 20).


Here is the text of the sermon that I gave on Monday evening at the Votive Mass of the Holy Ghost as part of the celebrations for the 150th anniversary of the parish of St Mary Magdalen, Brighton.

We speak of the Holy Spirit as the soul of the Church. The first to use this analogy was St Augustine. In one of his sermons, he said:
What the soul is for the body of man, that the Holy Spirit is for the body of Christ, that is, the Church, The Holy Spirit operates in the whole Church that which the soul operates in the members of the one body. (1)
Pope Pius XII in his encyclical Mystici Corporis Christi, said that the Holy Spirit is “the principle of every supernatural act in all parts of the Body.” (2)

Of course we also speak of the Church as the Bride of Christ and the Body of Christ, we affirm with St Augustine that:
Peter may baptise, but this is He that baptises; Paul may baptise, yet this is He that baptises; Judas may baptise, still this is He that baptises. (3)
The role of the Holy Spirit in the Church is to “activate” Our Lord’s living presence, so to speak. At the Last Supper, Our Lord instituted the Holy Eucharist and the sacrament of Holy Orders, so there was a Church in embryo. When we say that Pentecost was the birthday of the Church it was, like a human birth, the occasion on which the Church went out to the world to proclaim the gospel and, on that first day, to baptise 3,000 people in Jerusalem.

We adore and glorify the Holy Spirit as the Lord and giver of life. The last part of the creed unfolds for us the work of the Holy Spirit. There is a mistake in the new ICEL translation: "I believe in one, holy, catholic and apostolic Church."

There is no “in” in the Latin text. We do not believe in the Church in the way that we believe in the Father, Son and Holy Spirit. We believe in the persons of the Blessed Trinity as truly God. We believe the Church both in the sense of trusting the Lord in Her, and of believing what she teaches us.

Henri de Lubac in his exposition of the apostles creed draws attention to this distinction. The Church is the first gift of the Holy Spirit through which all the other gifts are received. So we say:
I believe in the Holy Spirit, the holy catholic Church, the communion of saints, the forgiveness of sins, the resurrection of the body, and life everlasting. Amen.
De Lubac points out that this is not the jumbled list that it might appear to be at first sight. Through the Church we receive the communion of spiritual things (the original meaning of communio sanctorum) the principal holy thing that we share the Holy Spirit presence bringing life to all the things that the Church makes available to us. The forgiveness of sins is received first and foremost through Baptism by which we enter the Church, the resurrection of the body fulfils the preaching of the apostles which was focussed on the resurrection of Christ, so as to bring us to share in the resurrection of Christ. And the life everlasting is the ultimate purpose of the work of Christ, the work of the Holy Spirit in the Church, and the aim of the Church herself. We should not forget that everlasting life is the ultimate point of everything that we do in the Church.

We are aware that in terms of its human members, not all is well in the Church. It never has been, yet the presence of the Holy Spirit makes the affirmation of the holiness of the Church to be true, not only in theory but also in practice through the lives of the saints. Nevertheless we are aware of sin and failure in the Church. I am indebted to Archbishop Chaput for this story which he used in one of his sermons:
Heinrich Himmler, the chief of Adolph Hitler’s security services during the Nazi era in Germany, once threatened the Archbishop of Berlin, Cardinal Konrad Graf, with plans to crush the Catholic Church. Cardinal Graf listened politely and then responded: "Well, good luck. We’ve been trying to do that for 2,000 years, and [the Church is] still here." (4)
Evelyn Waugh put it more bluntly when he said that the Church must be divine because no purely human institution run with such knavish imbecility would last a fortnight.

That is why the Holy Spirit works in the Church to give that divine assistance to the magisterium so that we may know the truths necessary for salvation with certainty through her infallible teaching. It is also why the sacraments work ex opere operato, such that despite the unworthiness of the minister, the grace of the sacrament is given infallibly if he uses the correct matter and form, and at least intends to do what the Church does.

Monday 27 May 2013


podcast by Fr John Hainsworth (Orth)
please read: click title

 God’s Grandeur

THE WORLD is charged with the grandeur of God.
  It will flame out, like shining from shook foil;
  It gathers to a greatness, like the ooze of oil
Crushed. Why do men then now not reck his rod?
Generations have trod, have trod, have trod;         
  And all is seared with trade; bleared, smeared with toil;
  And wears man’s smudge and shares man’s smell: the soil
Is bare now, nor can foot feel, being shod.

And for all this, nature is never spent;
  There lives the dearest freshness deep down things; And though the last lights off the black West went
  Oh, morning, at the brown brink eastward, springs— Because the Holy Ghost over the bent
World broods with warm breast and with ah! bright wings.

by Fr David Bird (Cath)

The theology expressed in this poem is typically Jesuit.   It takes full advantage of the omnipresence of God, drawing out the consequences for the practice of the Catholic Faith.   Closest to Gerard Manley Hopkins is another Jesuit, or rather, an ex-Jesuit who remained always Ignatian in his spirituality, called Hans urs von Balthasar, the theologian of beauty, but we must also include other members of a net-work of theologians, Jesuits, Dominicans and others, who were centred around Father Henri de Lubac and  whose work was called by their enemies la nouvelle theologie.   Mention must be made of Teilhard de Chardin.  Far back in the 18th Century we also have the great Jesuit spiritual director, Fr Jean-Pierre de Caussade. who the English Benedictine monks adopted for their own.  

Reading Orthodox blogs, like that of Fr Stephen, Glory to God for All Things, it is evident that much Orthodox thought shows a remarkable resemblence to that of Hans urs von Balthasar, perhaps because, when he was a young student,  Hans urs von Balthasar used to put cotton wool in his ears during theology lectures, and used to read the Greek Fathers under his desk: he wanted to read real theology!

Here is something about Hans urs von Balthasar, taken from HANS URS VON BALTHASAR—
Joan L. Roccasalvo 

At Fourvière, von Balthasar complained about ‘a grim struggle’ with the ‘dreariness of theology’ and ‘what people had made out of the glory of revelation’. He recalled, ‘I could not endure this presentation of the Word of God. I could have lashed out with the fury of Samson’. Only his teacher and mentor, the philosopher Erich Przywara, ‘understood everything; I did not have to say anything. Otherwise, there was no one who could have understood me.

Fortunately, von Balthasar came to be inspired by the older, French 
Jesuit Henri de Lubac (1896-1991), who lived in the same house of studies and also influenced Jean Daniélou, Henri Bouillard and others. 
De Lubac’s dedication to patristic renewal laid the groundwork for a theological renewal, the nouvelle théologie. De Lubac’s small circle founded the two series Théologie and Sources Chrétiennes—that great collection of patristic sources encompassing ‘sacred scripture, modern philosophy and theology, the investigation of the human sciences, but above all, the whole tradition of the Church’. Until this time, schools of theology had given little attention to the treasury of patristic literature. Under de Lubac’s aegis, von Balthasar embraced ‘the symbolic-holistic understanding’ of the Church Fathers ‘and not the critical-analytic reflection of the 

Nouvelle théologie formed the basis of von Balthasar’s transcendentals—beauty, goodness and truth—and on the unity between them.   This new theology overcame ‘“the two-storey thinking” of the neo-scholastic doctrine of grace’ with its dualism ‘between nature and grace’, between history and revelation on the one hand, and experience and faith on the other.

For von Balthasar, beauty is a dynamic event: what is objectively beautiful ‘apprehends’ and transforms the beholder, drawing him or her into a kind of union with itself. ‘Beauty’ therefore refers both to whatever is beautiful and the response, and so embraces both the objective and the subjective. When confronted with beauty’s revelation, people are drawn to it beyond themselves. Something good and true has taken place in this experience. 

Let us look at the objective and subjective aspects in turn.

The Objective Given

The beauty of a rose is something given. In the classical view, this beauty, this great radiance, comes ‘from within’ (GL I:20). Indeed, a thing of beauty reveals God’s beauty, because it is God’s creation and  participates in God’s own perfection of beauty (GL I:19-20). In the  end, things can only be known in and through God (GL I:164). The  world does indeed blaze forth with God’s glory (GL IV:19-20; VII:242- 243); it is ‘charged with the grandeur of God’. Nothing that exists can  be totally devoid of this radiance. Von Balthasar notes that all great art
is religious because it is an act of homage before the God of glory (GL


For Christians, Jesus, ‘the image of the invisible God’ (Colossians 1:15), surpasses any other worldly beauty. Yet there are some parallels between our experience of beauty and our response in faith to Jesus Christ. He is God’s radiant splendour in human form, and the light  which shines forth through him is poured out on the senses. In the incarnation, Christ descended into our human flesh in order to show us the way to beauty, goodness and truth. 

In the incarnation, however, the divinity of Jesus remains hidden. Nevertheless, his infinite depth reveals itself as the glory of God in human form, God’s kâbôd. He is the pre-eminent beauty in the world; he transforms those who behold him and draws them  out to himself. Jesus makes faith a fully human act, and  therefore an act which engages the senses, a sensory act. In him life and culture assume a new meaning. The Christian is  called to perceive Jesus as God’s radiance, bathing the whole world with the sheer revelation of his glory.
If for Hans urs von Balthasar "the Holy Ghost" who "over the bent world broods with warm breat and ah! with bright wings" is the source of beauty in the world, for Teilhard de Chardin he is the Spirit of God who hovers over the formless primaeval soup of pure energy and draws out of it an intelligible universe.   He is also "deep down things", directing everybody and everything towards the final end of the universe, the cosmic Christ through whom it will be refashioned into a "new heaven and a new earth."   If Hans urs von Balthasar is the "Theologian of Beauty", Teilhard de Chardin is the theologian of God's energy acting in synergy with the energy of the universe in creation and redemption.   The following is from the Encyclopedia Britanica:

Teilhard's attempts to combine Christian thought with modern science and traditional philosophy aroused widespread interest and controversy when his writings were published in the 1950s. Teilhard aimed at a metaphysic of evolution, holding that it was a process converging toward a final unity that he called the Omega point. He attempted to show that what is of permanent value in traditional philosophical thought can be maintained and even integrated with a modern scientific outlook if one accepts that the tendencies of material things are directed, either wholly or in part, beyond the things themselves toward the production of higher, more complex, more perfectly unified beings. Teilhard regarded basic trends in matter – gravitation, inertia, electromagnetism, and so on – as being ordered toward the production of progressively more complex types of aggregate. This process led to the increasingly complex entities of atoms, molecules, cells, and organisms, until finally the human body evolved, with a nervous system sufficiently sophisticated to permit rational reflection, self-awareness, and moral responsibility. While some evolutionists regard man simply as a prolongation of the Pliocene fauna – an animal more successful than the rat or the elephant – Teilhard argued that the appearance of man brought an added dimension into the world. This he defines as the birth of reflection: animals know, but man knows that he knows; he has "knowledge to the square."
Another great advance in Teilhard's scheme of evolution is the socialization of mankind. This is not the triumph of herd instinct but a cultural convergence of humanity toward a single society. Evolution has gone about as far as it can to perfect human beings physically: its next step will be social. Teilhard saw such evolution already in progress; through technology, urbanization, and modern communications, more and more links are being established between different peoples’ politics, economics, and habits of thought in an apparently geometric progression.
Theologically, Teilhard saw the process of organic evolution as a sequence of progressive syntheses whose ultimate convergence point is that of God. When humanity and the material world have reached their final state of evolution and exhausted all potential for further development, a new convergence between them and the supernatural order would be initiated by the Parousia, or Second Coming of Christ. Teilhard asserted that the work of Christ is primarily to lead the material world to this cosmic redemption, while the conquest of evil is only secondary to his purpose. Evil is represented by Teilhard merely as growing pains within the cosmic process: the disorder that is implied by order in process of realization.



It is done.
Once again the Fire has penetrated the earth.
Not with sudden crash of thunderbolt, riving the mountain-tops: does the Master break down doors to enter his own home? Without earthquake, or thunderclap: the flame has lit up the whole world from within. All things individually and collectively are penetrated and flooded by it, from the inmost core of the tiniest atom to the mighty sweep of the most universal laws of being: so naturally has it flooded every element, every energy, every connecting-link in the unity of our cosmos; that one might suppose the cosmos to have burst spontaneously into flame.
In the new humanity which is begotten today the Word prolongs the unending act of his own birth; and by virtue of his immersion in the world’s womb the great waters of the kingdom of matter have, without even a ripple, been endued with life. No visible tremor marks this inexpressible transformation; and yet, mysteriously and in very truth, at the touch of the supersubstantial Word the immense host which is the universe is made flesh. Through your own incarnation, my God, all matter is henceforth incarnate.
Through our thoughts and our human experiences, we long ago became aware of the strange properties which make the universe so like our flesh:
like the flesh it attracts us by the charm which lies in the mystery of its curves and folds and in the depths of its eyes;
like the flesh it disintegrates and eludes us when submitted to our analyses or to our failings off and in the process of its own perdurance;
as with the flesh, it can only be embraced in the endless reaching out to attain what lies beyond the confines of what has been given to us.
All of us, Lord, from the moment we are born feel within us this disturbing mixture of remoteness and nearness; and in our heritage of sorrow and hope, passed down to us though the ages, there is no yearning more desolate than that which makes us weep with vexation and desire as we stand in the midst of the Presence which hovers about us nameless and impalpable and is indwelling in all things. Si forte attrectent eum.2
Now, Lord, though the consecration of the world the luminosity and fragrance which suffuse the universe take on for me the lineaments of a body and a face — in you. What my mind glimpsed through its hesitant explorations, what my heart craved with so little expectation of fulfilment, you now magnificently unfold for me: the fact that your creatures are not merely so linked together in solidarity that none can exist unless all the rest surround it, but that all are so dependent on a single central reality that a true life, borne in common by them all, gives them ultimately their consistence and their unity.
Shatter, my God, though the daring of your revelation the childishly timid outlook that can conceive of nothing greater or more vital in the world than the pitiable perfection of our human organism. On the road to a bolder comprehension of the universe the children of this world day by day outdistance the masters of Israel; but do you, Lord Jesus, ‘in whom all things subsist’, show yourself to those who love you as the higher Soul and the physical centre of your creation. Are you not well aware that for us this is a question of life or death? As for me, if I could not believe that your real Presence animates and makes tractable and endless even the very least of the energies which invade me or brush past me, would I not die of cold?
I thank you, my God, for having in a thousand different ways led my eyes to discover the immense simplicity of things. Little by little, though the irresistible development of those yearnings you implanted in me as a child, through the influence of gifted friends who entered my life at certain moments to bring light and strength to my mind, and through the awakenings of spirit I owe to the successive initiations, gentle and terrible, which you caused me to undergo: through all these I have been brought to the point where I can no longer see anything, nor any longer breathe, outside that milieu in which all is made one.
At this moment when your life has just poured with superabundant vigour into the sacrament of the world, I shall savour with heightened consciousness the intense yet tranquil rapture of a vision whose coherence and harmonies I can never exhaust.
What I experience as I stand in face of — and in the very depths of — this world which your flesh has assimilated, this world which has become your flesh, my God, is not the absorption of the monist who yearns to be dissolved into the unity of things, nor the emotion felt by the pagan as he lies prostrate before a tangible divinity, nor yet the passive self-abandonment of the quietist tossed hither and thither at the mercy of mystical impulsions. From each of these modes of thought I take something of their motive force while avoiding their pitfalls: the approach determined for me by your omnipresence is a wonderful synthesis wherein three of the most formidable passions that can unlock the human heart rectify each other as they mingle: like the monist I plunge into the all-inclusive One; but the One is so perfect that as it receives me and I lose myself in it I can find in it the ultimate perfection of my own individuality;
like the pagan I worship a God who can be touched; and I do indeed touch him — this God — over the whole surface and in the depths of that world of matter which confines me: but to take hold of him as I would wish (simply in order not to stop touching him), I must go always on and on through and beyond each undertaking, unable to rest in anything, borne onwards at each moment by creatures and at each moment going beyond them, in a continuing welcoming of them and a continuing detachment from them; like the quietist I allow myself with delight to be cradled in the divine fantasy: but at the same time I know that the divine will, will only be revealed to me at each moment if I exert myself to the utmost: I shall only touch God in the world of matter, when, like Jacob, I have been vanquished by him.
Thus, because the ultimate objective, the totality to which my nature is attuned has been made manifest to me, the powers of my being begin spontaneously to vibrate in accord with a single note of incredible richness wherein I can distinguish the most discordant tendencies effortlessly resolved: the excitement of action and the delight of passivity: the joy of possessing and the thrill of reaching out beyond what one possesses; the pride in growing and the happiness of being lost in what is greater than oneself.
Rich with the sap of the world, I rise up towards the Spirit whose vesture is the magnificence of the material universe but who smiles at me from far beyond all victories; and, lost in the mystery of the flesh of God, I cannot tell which is the more radiant bliss: to have found the Word and so be able to achieve the mastery of matter, or to have mastered matter and so be able to attain and submit to the light of God.
Grant, Lord, that your descent into the universal Species may not be for me just something loved and cherished, like the fruit of some philosophical speculation, but may become for me truly a real Presence. Whether we like it or not by power and by right you are incarnate in the world, and we are all of us dependent upon you. But in fact you are far, and how far, from being equally close to us all. We are all of us together carried in the one world-womb; yet each of us is our own little microcosm in which the Incarnation is wrought independently with degrees of intensity, and shades that are incommunicable. And that is why, in our prayer at the altar, we ask that the consecration may be brought about for us: Ut nobis Corpus et Sanguis fiat. . .3 If I firmly believe that everything around me is the body and blood of the Word,4 then for me (and in one sense for me alone) is brought about that marvellous ‘diaphany’ which causes the luminous warmth of a single life to be objectively discernible in and to shine forth from the depths of every event, every element: whereas if, unhappily, my faith should flag, at once the light is quenched and everything becomes darkened, everything disintegrates.
You have come down, Lord, into this day which is now beginning. But alas, how infinitely different in degree is your presence for one and another of us in the events which are now preparing and which all of us together will experience! In the very same circumstances which are soon to surround me and my fellow-men you may be present in small measure, in great measure, more and more or not at all.
Therefore, Lord, that no poison may harm me this day, no death destroy me, no wine befuddle me, that in every creature I may discover and sense you, I beg you: give me faith.
If the Fire has come down into the heart of the world it is, in the last resort, to lay hold on me and to absorb me. Henceforth I cannot be content simply to contemplate it or, by my steadfast faith, to intensify its ardency more and more in the world around me. What I must do, when I have taken part with all my energies in the consecration which causes its flames to leap forth, is to consent to the communion which will enable it to find in me the food it has come in the last resort to seek.
So, my God, I prostrate myself before your presence in the universe which has now become living flame: beneath the lineaments of all that I shall encounter this day, all that happens to me, all that I achieve, it is you I desire, you I await.
It is a terrifying thing to have been born: I mean, to find oneself, without having willed it, swept irrevocably along on a torrent of fearful energy which seems as though it wished to destroy everything it carries with it.
What I want, my God, is that by a reversal of forces which you alone can bring about, my terror in face of the nameless changes destined to renew my being may be turned into an overflowing joy at being transformed into you.
First of all I shall stretch out my hand unhesitatingly towards the fiery bread which you set before me. This bread, in which you have planted the seed of all that is to develop in the future, I recognize as containing the source and the secret of that destiny you have chosen for me. To take it is, I know, to surrender myself to forces which will tear me away painfully from myself in order to drive me into danger, into laborious undertakings, into a constant renewal of ideas, into an austere detachment where my affections are concerned. To eat it is to acquire a taste and an affinity for that which in everything is above everything — a taste and an affinity which will henceforward make impossible for me all the joys by which my life has been warmed. Lord Jesus, I am willing to be possessed by you, to be bound to your body and led by its inexpressible power towards those solitary heights which by myself I should never dare to climb. Instinctively, like all mankind, I would rather set up my tent here below on some hill-top of my own choosing. I am afraid, too, like all my fellow-men, of the future too heavy with mystery and too wholly new, towards which time is driving me. Then like these men I wonder anxiously where life is leading me . . . May this communion of bread with the Christ clothed in the powers which dilate the world free me from my timidities and my heedlessness! In the whirlpool of conflicts and energies out of which must develop my power to apprehend and experience your holy presence, I throw myself, my God, on your word. The man who is filled with an impassioned love of Jesus hidden in the forces which bring increase to the earth, him the earth will lift up, like a mother, in the immensity of her arms, and will enable him to contemplate the face of God.
my source: Hymn of the Universe

Just in case you are one of those "conservatives" who dismiss Teilhard de Chardin as a weak-kneed liberal or a New Age guru, here are a few quotes:
Fulton J Sheen - Footsteps in a Darkened Forest,  (New York: Meredith, 1967) 73. - "It is very likely that within fifty years when all the trivial, verbal disputes about the meaning of Teilhard's "unfortunate" vocabulary will have died away or have taken a secondary place, Teilhard will appear like John of the Cross and St. Teresa of Avila, as the spiritual genius of the twentieth century."  (Secondary source for the above quote is from The Phenomenon of Teilhard: Prophet for a New Age by David H. Lane, Mercer University Press 1996. The reported Sheen quote is nearly identical to one by Claude Tresmontant on page 88 of his book Pierre Teilhard de Chardin - His Thought.

Pope Benedict XVI Homily at Vespers in Aosta, July 31, 2009 - "The role of the priesthood is to consecrate the world so that it may become a living host, a liturgy:  so that the liturgy may not be something alongside the reality of the world, but that the world itself shall become a living host, a liturgy. This is also the great vision of Teilhard de Chardin:  in the end we shall achieve a true cosmic liturgy, where the cosmos becomes a living host." 
 After this address by Pope Benedict, the Vatican spokesperson, Jesuit Fr. Federico Lombardi said "By now, no one would dream of saying that [Teilhard] is a heterodox author who shouldn't be studied." - John Allen at National Catholic Reporter online July 28, 2009

"It is doubtful if any Christian of this century can be fully aware of his religion until he has seen it in the cosmic light which Teilhard has cast upon it." Flannery O'Connor - The Presence of Grace.

"We need not concern ourselves with a number of detractors of Teilhard, in whom emotion has blunted intelligence".  Henri Cardinal de Lubac, S.J.  - The Religion of Teilhard de Chardin

If Hans urs von Balthasar sees the presence of the Holy Spirit deep down things as the source of Beauty,   and Teihard de Chardin saw him as the source of Truth behind all scientific enquiry and knowledge, so the 18th Century spiritual director Jean-Pierre de Caussade saw God's Presence in every moment, everywhere, as the source of Goodness and holiness.


“The power of the most High shall over-shadow thee” (Luke i, 35), said the angel to Mary. This shadow, beneath which is hidden the power of God for the purpose of bringing forth Jesus Christ in the soul, is the duty, the attraction, or the cross that is presented to us at each moment. These are, in fact, but shadows like those in the order of nature which, like a veil, cover sensible objects and hide them from us. Therefore in the moral and supernatural order the duties of each moment conceal, under the semblance of dark shadows, the truth of their divine character which alone should rivet the attention. It was in this light that Mary beheld them. Also these shadows diffused over her faculties, far from creating illusion, did but increase her faith in Him who is unchanging and unchangeable. The archangel may depart. He has delivered his message, and his moment has passed. Mary advances without ceasing, and is already far beyond him. The Holy Spirit, who comes to take possession of her under the shadow of the angel’s words, will never abandon her.

There are remarkably few extraordinary characteristics in the outward events of the life of the most holy Virgin, at least there are none recorded in holy Scripture. Her exterior life is represented as very ordinary and simple. She did and suffered the same things that anyone in a similar state of life might do or suffer. She goes to visit her cousin Elizabeth as her other relatives did. She took shelter in a stable in consequence of her poverty. She returned to Nazareth from whence she had been driven by the persecution of Herod, and lived there with Jesus and Joseph, supporting themselves by the work of their hands. It was in this way that the holy family gained their daily bread. But what a divine nourishment Mary and Joseph received from this daily bread for the strengthening of their faith! It is like a sacrament to sanctify all their moments. What treasures of grace lie concealed in these moments filled, apparently, by the most ordinary events. That which is visible might happen to anyone, but the invisible, discerned by faith, is no less than God operating very great things. O Bread of Angels! heavenly manna! pearl of the Gospel! Sacrament of the present moment! thou givest God under as lowy a form as the manger, the hay, or the straw. And to whom dost thou give Him? “Esurientes implevit bonis” (Luke i, 53). God reveals Himself to the humble under the most lowly forms, but the proud, attaching themselves entirely to that which is extrinsic, do not discover Him hidden beneath, and are sent empty away.. Review your life. Is it not composed of innumerable actions of very little importance? Well, God is quite satisfied with these. They are the share that the soul must take in the work of its perfection. This is so clearly explained in Holy Scripture that there can be no doubt about it: “Fear God and keep the commandments, this is the whole duty of man” (Ecclesiastes xii, 13), that is to say—this is all that is required on the part of man, and it is in this that active fidelity consists. If man fulfils his part God will do the rest. Grace being bestowed only on this condition the marvels it effects are beyond the comprehension of man. For neither ear has heard nor eye seen, nor has it entered the mind what things God has planned in His omniscience, 

...... Review your life. Is it not composed of innumerable actions of very little importance? Well, God is quite satisfied with these. They are the share that the soul must take in the work of its perfection. This is so clearly explained in Holy Scripture that there can be no doubt about it: “Fear God and keep the commandments, this is the whole duty of man” (Ecclesiastes xii, 13), that is to say—this is all that is required on the part of man, and it is in this that active fidelity consists. If man fulfils his part God will do the rest. Grace being bestowed only on this condition the marvels it effects are beyond the comprehension of man. For neither ear has heard nor eye seen, nor has it entered the mind what things God has planned in His omniscience, 

..... This is the grain of mustard seed which is the smallest of all the seeds, the fruits of which can neither be recognised nor gathered. It is the drachma of the Gospel, the treasure that none discover because they suppose it to be too far away to be sought. Do not ask me how this treasure can be found. It is no secret. The treasure is everywhere, it is offered to us at all times and wherever we may be. All creatures, both friends and enemies pour it out with prodigality, and it flows like a fountain through every faculty of body and soul even to the very centre of our hearts. If we open our mouths they will be filled. The divine activity permeates the whole universe, it pervades every creature; wherever they are it is there; it goes before them, with them, and it follows them; all they have to do is to let the waves bear them on.
Would to God that kings, and their ministers, princes of the Church and of the world, priests and soldiers, the peasantry and labourers, in a word, all men could know how very easy it would be for them to arrive at a high degree of sanctity. They would only have to fulfil the simple duties of Christianity and of their state of life; to embrace with submission the crosses belonging to that state, and to submit with faith and love to the designs of Providence in all those things that have to be done or suffered without going out of their way to seek occasions for themselves. This is the spirit by which the patriarchs and prophets were animated and sanctified before there were so many systems of so many masters of the spiritual life.1 This is the spirituality of all ages and of every state. No state of life can, assuredly, be sanctified in a more exalted manner, nor in a more wonderful and easy way than by the simple use of the means that God, the sovereign director of souls, gives them to do or to suffer at each moment.

Our whole science consists in recognising the designs of God for the present moment. All reading not intended for us by God is dangerous. It is by doing the will of God and obeying His holy inspirations that we obtain grace, and this grace works in our hearts through our reading or any other employment. Apart from God reading is empty and vain and, being deprived for us of the life-giving power of the action of God, only succeeds in emptying the heart by the very fullness it gives to the mind.

The order established by God and His divine will are the life of the soul no matter in what way they work, or are obeyed. Whatever connexion the divine will has with the mind, it nourishes the soul, and continually enlarges it by giving it what is best for it at every moment. It is neither one thing nor another which produces these happy effects, but what God has willed for each moment. What was best for the moment that has passed is so no longer because it is no longer the will of God which, becoming apparent through other circumstances, brings to light the duty of the present moment. It is this duty under whatever guise it presents itself which is precisely that which is the most sanctifying for the soul. If, by the divine will, it is a present duty to read, then reading will produce the destined effect in the soul. If it is the divine will that reading be relinquished for contemplation, then this will perform the work of God in the soul and reading would become useless and prejudicial. Should the divine will withdraw the soul from contemplation for the hearing of confessions, etc., and that even for some considerable time, this duty becomes the means of uniting the soul with Jesus Christ and all the sweetness of contemplation would only serve to destroy this union. Our moments are made fruitful by our fulfilment of the will of God. This is presented to us in countless different ways by the present duty which forms, increases, and consummates in us the new man. 

We began with a commentary by an Orthodox priest on a wonderful poem by Gerard Manley Hopkins about the world being charged with the grandeur of God.  This led us to look at the ideas of three other Jesuits who shared with Gerard Manley Hopkins a common patrimony that allows Jesuits to be contemplatives in action.   We remarked how close this is to Eastern spirituality.   We shall now finish with an article by Father Stephen Freeman, another Orthodox priest and links to other articles by him on the same subject.

A Crisis of Beauty

There is a crisis of beauty within my culture. That is a very kind way to say that much of the world around me, at least the civilizational part, is ugly. It is not an ugliness born of poverty (though poverty is very ugly around here) – unless we understand that there is a poverty within the human spirit that begets ugliness. My thoughts on my environment are not just my opinion. In the late 1940′s, John Gunther, author of Inside USA, dubbed Knoxville (the hub of our metro area) the “ugliest city” in America. The city has worked hard to overcome the moniker.

Such a designation only makes our city the “ugliest of the ugly,” for the truth is, it looks like most of America. American towns have been driven by utility. There is no central, cultural notion of what a building should look like. The cozy villages of Europe were the products of a cultural consensus. American architectural landscape is best described with words like “sprawling,” and “franchise.”

The small town I live in, built in the 1940′s to house the “Manhattan Project,” America’s effort to build the first nuclear weapon, bears some of the marks of its wartime heritage, but is mostly just a collection of successful and unsuccessful franchised America. The unsuccessful ones tend to leave their “bones” behind (empty buildings). There’s a former Pizza Hut with its uniquely shaped windows that is now, I think, a medical clinic. It was a jewelry store for a while. At least the roof is no longer red.

Of course, I also live very near one of the most wonderful National Parks in America: the Great Smokey Mountains, part of a mountain chain that is perhaps the oldest in the world. Much of it is unspoiled – a treasure-trove of natural beauty.

It is tragic to associate human activity with ugliness. In our part of the world, those who champion beauty are also committed foes of development and the expansion of the human habitat. They have a point.

Beauty is a reflection of the Divine Nature. From the greatest expanse of stars to the most microscopic parts of creation, beauty is woven into all that exists. Human beings are beautiful as well – inherently so. It is for this reason that our modern penchant for the mundane, banal and empty is so striking.

I was recently interviewed by someone collecting opinions from area leaders about their take on our local needs. I was asked about “crisis” areas. I surprised myself when the first words out of my mouth were, “We have a crisis of beauty.” Surely I think something else is more important. But I’m not sure that I do. Our lack of beauty is both symptom and the lack of a cure. For the lack of beauty can only be healed by the presence of beauty. My region of the nation was also recently dubbed as the most “Bible-centered” city in America. This combination of civic distinctions is tragically ironic.

One of the instincts of Orthodoxy is that of beauty. Orthodox Churches are not accidentally beautiful. They vary across the world, but their beauty, even when simple, is as intentional as any aspect of the Liturgy. The doctrine of icons – their making and veneration – is a liturgical incarnation of the doctrine of beauty. Icons are not art – they are representations of beauty in the Truth of its Existence.

We are now in the season of Great Lent. It is a serious season – a time of fasting and of intense prayer. But it is not a season in which the Church is stripped bare and nakedness allowed to reign (I reflect on such tendencies in a number of Western Churches). Oddly, my Lenten vestments may be the most beautiful set that I own. They are dark (black) and intense. But on the night of Pascha, a rich hymn of beauty will be sung. We sang it (as a sort of farewell and remembrance of our goal) last Sunday during Forgiveness Vespers as we began the journey of Lent. It is a song of Pascha:

Pascha of beauty, the Pascha of the Lord, a Pascha worthy of all honor has dawned for us. 
Pascha! Let us embrace each other joyously. O Pascha, ransom from affliction! 
For today as from a bridal chamber Christ has shown forth from the tomb and filled the women with joy saying: 
Proclaim the glad tidings to the apostles.

This is the day of resurrection. Let us be illumined by the feast. 
Let us embrace each other. 
Let us call “Brothers” even those that hate us, and forgive all by the resurrection, and so let us cry:

Christ is risen from the dead, trampling down death by death, and upon those in the tombs bestowing life!Christ is risen from the dead, trampling down death by death, and upon those in the tombs bestowing life!

A Pascha of beauty begins in the soul. It is there above all that I find the crisis of beauty. Lord, have mercy.



Let us give Pope Benedict XVI the last word on Beauty in its relationship with Truth.

The Pope Theologian Says: The Proof of God Is Beauty
The beauty of art and of music. The wonders of sanctity. The splendor of creation. This is how Benedict XVI defends the truth of Christianity, in a question-and-answer session with the priests of Brixen 

1. "All great works of art are an epiphany of God" 

Q: Holy Father, my name is Willibald Hopfgartner, and I am a Franciscan. In your address in Regensburg, you emphasized the substantial connection between the divine Spirit and human reason. On the other hand, you have also always emphasized the importance of art and beauty. So then, together with conceptual dialogue about God in theology, should there not always be a new presentation of the aesthetic experience of the faith within the Church, through proclamation and the liturgy? 

A: Yes, I think that the two things go together: reason, precision, honesty in the reflection on truth, and beauty. A form of reason that in any way wanted to strip itself of beauty would be depleted, it would be blind. Only when the two are united do they form the whole, and this union is important precisely for the faith. Faith must constantly confront the challenges of the mindset of this age, so that it may not seem a sort of irrational mythology that we keep alive, but may truly be an answer to the great questions; so that it may not be merely a habit, but the truth, as Tertullian once said. 

In his first letter, St. Peter wrote the phrase that the medieval theologians took as the legitimization, almost as the mandate for their theological work: "Always be ready to give an explanation to anyone who asks you for a reason for your hope" – an apologia for the "logos" of hope, meaning a transformation of the "logos," the reason for hope, into an apologia, an answer addressed to men. He was clearly convinced of the fact that faith is "logos," that it is a form of reason, a light issuing from the creating Light, and not a hodgepodge resulting from our own thought. This is why it is universal, and for this reason it can be communicated to all. 

But this creating "Logos" is not a merely technical "logos." It is broader than this, it is a "logos" that is love, and therefore to be expressed in beauty and goodness. And in reality, for me art and the saints are the greatest apologia for our faith. 

The arguments presented by reason are absolutely important and indispensable, but there always remains some disagreement somewhere. If, instead, we look at the saints, this great luminous arc that God has set across history, we see that here there is truly a power of goodness that lasts over the millennia, here there is truly light from light. 

And in the same way, if we contemplate the created beauties of the faith, these simply are, I would say, the living proof of faith. Take this beautiful cathedral: it is a living proclamation! It speaks to us on its own, and beginning with the beauty of the cathedral we are able to proclaim in a visible way God, Christ and all of his mysteries: here these have taken shape, and are gazing back at us. All of the great works of art, the cathedrals – the Gothic cathedrals, and the splendid Baroque churches – all of them are a luminous sign of God, and therefore truly a manifestation, an epiphany of God. 

Christianity involves precisely this epiphany: that God has become a veiled Epiphany, he appears and shines. We have just listened to the sound of the organ in all its splendor, and I think that the great music born within the Church is an audible and perceptible rendering of the truth of our faith: from Gregorian chant to the music of the cathedrals to Palestrina and his era, to Bach and then to Mozart and Bruckner, and so on... Listening to all of these great works – the Passions by Bach, his Mass in B minor, and the great spiritual compositions of 16th century polyphony, of the Viennese school, of all of this music, even by minor composers – suddenly we feel: it is true! Wherever things like these are created, there is Truth. 

Without an intuition capable of discovering the true creative center of the world, this beauty cannot be created. For this reason, I think that we must always act in such a way that these two things go together, we must present them together. When, in our own time, we discuss the reasonableness of the faith, we are discussing precisely the fact that reason does not end where experimental discoveries end, it does not end in positivism; the theory of evolution sees the truth, but sees only half of it: it does not see that behind this is the Spirit of creation. We are fighting for the expansion of reason, and therefore for a form of reason that, exactly to the point, is open to beauty as well, and does not have to leave it aside as something completely different and irrational. 

Christian art is a rational form of art – we think of Gothic art, great music, or the Baroque art right here – but this is the artistic expression of a much broader form of reason, in which the heart and reason come together. This is the point. This, I think, is in some way the proof of the truth of Christianity: the heart and reason come together, beauty and truth touch. And to the extent that we are able to live in the beauty of truth, so much more will faith again be able to be creative, in our own time as well, and to express itself in a convincing artistic form. 

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