"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

Thursday 28 June 2018




St Peter's Basilica
Wednesday, 29 June 2005

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

The Feast of the Holy Apostles Peter and Paul is at the same time a grateful memorial of the great witnesses of Jesus Christ and a solemn confession for the Church: one, holy, catholic and apostolic. It is first and foremost a feast of catholicity. The sign of Pentecost - the new community that speaks all languages and unites all peoples into one people, in one family of God -, this sign has become a reality. Our liturgical assembly, at which Bishops are gathered from all parts of the world, people of many cultures and nations, is an image of the family of the Church distributed throughout the earth.

Strangers have become friends; crossing every border, we recognize one another as brothers and sisters. This brings to fulfilment the mission of St Paul, who knew that he was the "minister of Christ Jesus among the Gentiles, with the priestly duty of preaching the Gospel of God so that the Gentiles [might] be offered up as a pleasing sacrifice, consecrated by the Holy Spirit" (Rom 15: 16). 
The purpose of the mission is that humanity itself becomes a living glorification of God, the true worship that God expects: this is the deepest meaning of catholicity - a catholicity that has already been given to us, towards which we must constantly start out again. Catholicity does not only express a horizontal dimension, the gathering of many people in unity, but also a vertical dimension: it is only by raising our eyes to God, by opening ourselves to him, that we can truly become one.

Like Paul, Peter also came to Rome, to the city that was a centre where all the nations converged and, for this very reason, could become, before any other, the expression of the universal outreach of the Gospel. As he started out on his journey from Jerusalem to Rome, he must certainly have felt guided by the voices of the prophets, by faith and by the prayer of Israel.

The mission to the whole world is also part of the proclamation of the Old Covenant: the people of Israel were destined to be a light for the Gentiles. The great Psalm of the Passion, Psalm 22[21], whose first verse Jesus cried out on the Cross: "My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?", ends with the vision: "All the ends of the earth shall remember and turn to the Lord; all the families of the nations shall bow down before him" (Ps 22[21]: 28). When Peter and Paul came to Rome, the Lord on the Cross who had uttered the first line of that Psalm was risen; God's victory now had to be proclaimed to all the nations, thereby fulfilling the promise with which the Psalm concludes.

Catholicity means universality - a multiplicity that becomes unity; a unity that nevertheless remains multiplicity. From Paul's words on the Church's universality we have already seen that the ability of nations to get the better of themselves in order to look towards the one God, is part of this unity. In the second century, the founder of Catholic theology, St Irenaeus of Lyons, described very beautifully this bond between catholicity and unity and I quote him. He says: "The Church spread across the world diligently safeguards this doctrine and this faith, forming as it were one family: the same faith, with one mind and one heart, the same preaching, teaching and tradition as if she had but one mouth. Languages abound according to the region but the power of our tradition is one and the same. The Churches in Germany do not differ in faith or tradition, neither do those in Spain, Gaul, Egypt, Libya, the Orient, the centre of the earth; just as the sun, God's creature, is one alone and identical throughout the world, so the light of true preaching shines everywhere and illuminates all who desire to attain knowledge of the truth" (Adv. Haer. I 10, 2). The unity of men and women in their multiplicity has become possible because God, this one God of heaven and earth, has shown himself to us; because the essential truth about our lives, our "where from?" and "where to?" became visible when he revealed himself to us and enabled us to see his face, himself, in Jesus Christ. This truth about the essence of our being, living and dying, a truth that God made visible, unites us and makes us brothers and sisters. Catholicity and unity go hand in hand. And unity has a content: the faith that the Apostles passed on to us in Christ's name.

I am pleased that yesterday, the Feast of St Irenaeus and the eve of the Solemnity of Sts Peter and Paul, I was able to give the Church a new guide for the transmission of the faith that will help us to become better acquainted with and to live better the faith that unites us: the Compendium of the Catechism of the Catholic Church. The essential content of what is presented in detail in the complete Catechism, through the witness of the saints of all the ages and with reflections that have matured in theology, is summed up here in this book and must then be translated into everyday language and constantly put into practice. The book is in the form of a dialogue with questions and answers.

The 14 images associated with the various areas of faith are an invitation to contemplation and meditation. In other words, a visible summary of what the written text develops in full detail. At the beginning there is a reproduction of a 6th-century icon of Christ, kept at Mount Athos, that portrays Christ in his dignity as Lord of the earth but at the same time also as a herald of the Gospel which he holds in his hand. "I am who am", this mysterious name of God presented in the Old Testament, is copied here as his own name: all that exists comes from him; he is the original source of all being. And since he is one, he is also ever present, ever close to us and at the same time, ever in the lead: an "indicator" on our way through life, especially since he himself is the Way. This book cannot be read as if it were a novel. Its individual sections must be calmly meditated upon and, through the images, its content must be allowed to penetrate the soul. I hope that it will be received as such and become a reliable guide in the transmission of the faith.

We have said that the catholicity of the Church and the unity of the Church go together. The fact that both dimensions become visible to us in the figures of the holy Apostles already shows us the consequent characteristic of the Church: she is apostolic. What does this mean?

The Lord established Twelve Apostles just as the sons of Jacob were 12. By so doing he was presenting them as leaders of the People of God which, henceforth universal, from that time has included all the peoples. St Mark tells us that Jesus called the Apostles so "to be with him, and to be sent out" (Mk 3: 14). This seems almost a contradiction in terms. We would say: "Either they stayed with him or they were sent forth and set out on their travels". Pope St Gregory the Great says a word about angels that helps us resolve this contradiction. He says that angels are always sent out and at the same time are always in God's presence, and continues, "Wherever they are sent, wherever they go, they always journey on in God's heart" (Homily, 34, 13). The Book of Revelation described Bishops as "angels" in their Church, so we can state: the Apostles and their successors must always be with the Lord and precisely in this way - wherever they may go - they must always be in communion with him and live by this communion.

The Church is apostolic, because she professes the faith of the Apostles and attempts to live it. There is a unity that marks the Twelve called by the Lord, but there is also continuity in the apostolic mission. St Peter, in his First Letter, described himself as "a fellow elder" of the presbyters to whom he writes (5: 1). And with this he expressed the principle of apostolic succession: the same ministry which he had received from the Lord now continues in the Church through priestly ordination. The Word of God is not only written but, thanks to the testimonies that the Lord in the sacrament has inscribed in the apostolic ministry, it remains a living word. Thus, I now address you, dear Brother Bishops. I greet you with affection, together with your relatives and the pilgrims from your respective Dioceses. You are about to receive the Pallium from the hands of the Successor of Peter. We had it blessed, as though by Peter himself, by placing it beside his tomb. It is now an expression of our common responsibility to the "chief Shepherd" Jesus Christ, of whom Peter speaks (I Pt 5: 4). The Pallium is an expression of our apostolic mission. It is an expression of our communion whose visible guarantee is the Petrine ministry. Unity as well as apostolicity are bound to the Petrine service that visibly unites the Church of all places and all times, thereby preventing each one of us from slipping into the kind of false autonomy that all too easily becomes particularization of the Church and might consequently jeopardize her independence. So, let us not forget that the purpose of all offices and ministries is basically that "we [all] become one in faith and in the knowledge of God's son, and form that perfect man who is Christ come to full stature", so that the Body of Christ may grow and build "itself up in love" (Eph 4: 13, 16).

In this perspective, I warmly and gratefully greet the Delegation of the Orthodox Church of Constantinople, sent by the Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew I to whom I address a cordial thought, and led by Metropolitan Ioannis, who has come for our feast day and is taking part in our celebration. Even though we may not yet agree on the issue of the interpretation and importance of the Petrine Ministry, we are nonetheless together in the apostolic succession, we are deeply united with one another through episcopal ministry and through the sacrament of priesthood, and together profess the faith of the Apostles as it is given to us in Scripture and as it was interpreted at the great Councils. At this time in a world full of scepticism and doubt but also rich in the desire for God, let us recognize anew our common mission to witness to Christ the Lord together, and on the basis of that unity which has already been given to us, to help the world in order that it may believe. And let us implore the Lord with all our hearts to guide us to full unity so that the splendour of the truth, which alone can create unity, may once again become visible in the world.

Today's Gospel tells of the profession of faith of St Peter, on whom the Church was founded: "You are the Messiah... the Son of the living God" (Mt 16: 16). Having spoken today of the Church as one, catholic and apostolic but not yet of the Church as holy, let us now recall another profession of Peter, his response on behalf of the Twelve at the moment when so many abandoned Christ: "We have come to believe; we are convinced that you are God's holy one" (Jn 6: 69). What does this mean?

Jesus, in his great priestly prayer, says that he is consecrating himself for his disciples, an allusion to the sacrifice of his death (cf. Jn 17: 19). By saying this, Jesus implicitly expresses his role as the true High Priest who brings about the mystery of the "Day of Reconciliation", no longer only in substitutive rites but in the concrete substance of his own Body and Blood. The Old Testament term "the Holy One of the Lord" identified Aaron as the High Priest who had the task of bringing about Israel's sanctification (Ps 106[105]: 16; Vulgate: Sir 45: 6). Peter's profession of Christ, whom he declares to be the Holy One of God, fits into the context of the Eucharistic Discourse in which Jesus announces the Day of Reconciliation through the sacrificial offering of himself: "the bread I will give is my flesh, for the life of the world" (Jn 6: 51). So this profession is the background of the priestly mystery of Jesus, his sacrifice for us all. The Church is not holy by herself; in fact, she is made up of sinners - we all know this and it is plain for all to see. Rather, she is made holy ever anew by the Holy One of God, by the purifying love of Christ. God did not only speak, but loved us very realistically; he loved us to the point of the death of his own Son. It is precisely here that we are shown the full grandeur of revelation that has, as it were, inflicted the wounds in the heart of God himself. Then each one of us can say personally, together with St Paul, I live "a life of faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me" (Gal 2: 20).

Let us pray to the Lord that the truth of these words may be deeply impressed in our hearts, together with his joy and with his responsibility; let us pray that shining out from the Eucharistic Celebration it will become increasingly the force that shapes our lives.

© Copyright 2005 - Libreria Editrice Vaticana


Introit to the Feast of SS Peter and Paul

Gospel Cycle Cycle B
Matthew 16:13-19
When Jesus went into the region of Caesarea Philippi he asked his disciples, “Who do people say that the Son of Man is?” They replied, “Some say John the Baptist, others Elijah, still others Jeremiah or one of the prophets.” He said to them, “But who do you say that I am?” Simon Peter said in reply, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.” Jesus said to him in reply, “Blessed are you, Simon son of Jonah. For flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but my heavenly Father. And so I say to you, you are Peter, and upon this rock I will build my church, and the gates of the netherworld shall not prevail against it. I will give you the keys to the kingdom of heaven. Whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven; and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven.”


Two of the readings today, the first one and the Gospel, are about Saint Peter. The first reading tells us about his miraculous escape from prison because an angel came and freed him. The Gospel tells us why Saint Peter is so important in our Christian history: Saint Peter proclaims clearly about Jesus that he is the Christ and the Son of the living God. Jesus in His turn says that he will establish His Church on Peter.

Anyone who reads the New Testament cannot help but understand Peter. Peter is always presented as a fully human person who makes lots of mistakes, but who is so loyal to Jesus that it can take our breath away. With all of his human defects, Peter believes so strongly and is willing to give His life for Jesus—which eventually he does.

Saint Paul seems a much more complex character! He is so strong in his opposition to the early Christians! He is a religious zealot! When he is converted to Christianity, he is just as strong now in favor as he used to be opposed. He always tends to preach first to the Jewish population. Slowly he comes to understand Christ more and more and begins to preach to the non-Jewish peoples, where he has great success.

He begins a series of what we now call “missionary” journeys. In this second letter to Timothy, which is the second reading today, we have Paul’ own testimony to God’s work within him.

As we think about these two great apostles in the early Church, we can wonder about our own energies to proclaim Jesus as our Lord and as the Christ. Each of us who follow Jesus has a responsibility to make Him known. Each of us can do that in our own way, whether that way is public and well-know or more private and quiet.

Always this proclamation of Jesus must begin with our own faith: You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.

"Tu es Petrus" in Rome 2016 (3.30mins)

Patriarch of Moscow serves Divine
Liturgy on this feastday. (4.5 mins)

SS Peter and Paul  

   Homily by Dom Paul Stonham, Abbot of Belmont                                                                                 2018

“I have kept the faith.” 

At Caesarea Philippi Jesus asked his disciples, “But who do you say that I am?” Peter replied in the name of the Twelve, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.” On the road to Damascus Saul asked, “Who are you, Lord?” It was the Christ, the Son of the living God, who replied, “I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting.” Both Peter and Paul came to realise, not through human inspiration but divine revelation, that Jesus was indeed the Messiah, the Christ, the Son of the living God. This belief bought with it the realization that they had also been chosen and called by him to be his apostles despite their many weaknesses and failures. “My grace is enough for you.” That sense of mission motivated the rest of their lives. 

Beside the Sea of Galilee, after the Resurrection, Jesus asked Peter three times, “Do you love me?” He replied, “Lord, you know everything. You know that I love you.” That declaration of love led Peter to over thirty years’ fruitful ministry and service, above all in the Jewish community. Paul, whose mission of over thirty years was to the Gentiles, wrote to the Corinthians, “If I have prophetic powers, and understand all the mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing. Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.” Love separated from faith can become a dangerous emotion, while faith separated from love can become sterile and sectarian. Faith has to be lived in love, while love can only be truly experienced in a life of faith. We live in difficult times to be men and women of faith, to be Christian and Catholic. The forces of evil, often camouflaged as good, are ranged on every side against us. 
The example and teaching of Peter and Paul encourage us never to give in but to persevere, and to do so with joy and confidence. Always remember Peter’s miraculous escape from prison: he thought he was seeing a vision. “Now I know it is all true. The Lord really did send his angel and has freed me.” Just as there is no faith without love, so there is no faith without martyrdom or love without suffering. Paul wrote to Timothy, “The Lord stood by me and gave me power. The Lord will rescue me from evil and bring me safely to his heavenly kingdom.”
This then is what it means to keep the faith: to live a life firmly rooted in Christ and grounded in the love of God. At the last supper Jesus told his disciples, “Whoever has seen me has seen the Father.” Just as in Jesus we see God and know him, so in Peter and Paul we see Jesus, the Christ, the Son of the living God, and know him.  Today may others see Jesus in us so that we can say with the apostles, “I have fought the good fight to the end; I have run the race to the finish; I have kept the faith; all there is to come now is the crown of righteousness.” I have kept the faith.

Q & A on the Mass (Bishop Barron)

Sister Vassa "SS. Peter and Paul

Tuesday 26 June 2018


Pope Benedict XVI consecrating the altar of La Sagrada Familia

 "The liturgy is the time of God and space of God, and we must put ourselves there in the time of God, in the space of God, and not look at our watches. The liturgy is nothing less than entering into the mystery of God, allowing ourselves to be carried to the mystery and to be in the mystery. It is the cloud of God that envelops us all."(Pope Francis)

The church is holy because it houses the gathered Church; and the altar is holy because it is on this table that Mass is celebrated. The real church is the Christian community: the building is only a "church" by association. Realising this has led many to conclude that the value of the church building lies only in its function, and that it is not a holy place as the Temple in Jerusalem was holy. They believe that only the community is holy, the building an optional extra. This has been reflected in the architecture of churches which often look like secular buildings; and movements like the Neo-catechumenists have been known to prefer to celebrate the Eucharist outside church buildings. After all, the earliest christians had no church buildings.

 If Le Corbusier defined a house as a "machine for living in", many modern churches look very much like "machines for praying in", sheltering the real Church from the elements and nothing more, without being holy themselves.

In this post I am going to argue that this is contrary to Catholic Tradition, that a Catholic church is superior in its level of holiness to anything in the Jerusalem Temple, including the Holy of Holies. If reverence and awe were appropriate in the Temple, as the Old Testament shows us they were, even more are they appropriate wherever the Catholic liturgy is celebrated, even if this holiness is only a reflected glory, its source in the liturgical celebration of the Christian community. 

Genesis gives a cosmic role to Adam and Eve, naming all the animals, giving meaning to Creation. They were made in his image, and so became the means by which God's holiness is poured out on Creation, giving it meaning, as well as being Creation's voice by which it praises and gives thanks to the Lord. That is why Adam's fall was of cosmic importance, messing up everything. Christ’s salvation would restore us as human beings to this central role in the world’s sanctification.

Salvation, putting things right, is not just about souls: it is about restoring God's proper relationship to Creation as a whole, making it transparent to his divine Presence - making it holy - through the activity of Christians who share by the Incarnation in the very life of God. In New Testament times, the Temple is replaced by Christ´s body and by Christians who are members of his body and share in the Spirit.  

This does not mean that the there are no sacred places or things. The very contrary is true; and they are all over the place. Wherever the Christian life is lived becomes holy by association, far holier than any pre-Christian site. It is the effect of the Incarnation.

Places are always holy to the degree that God is active in them; and things are holy to the degree that God uses them. God works in and through the Church and its members. Thus prisons and places of torture become holy because in them Christian martyrs have suffered and died; hospitals become holy because Gods loves the patients through the sisters that run them; the streets of Calcutta became holy through the activity of Mother Teresa's sisters; Christian homes become holy because of the Christian life that is nurtured there; music becomes holy to the extent that its beauty reflects the divine Glory. Most obvious of all, churches are holy because, within them, heaven and earth unite in the Eucharist and God acts at every level of church life.

 It is the function of Christian architecture and art to reflect this reality and mediate it to those who take part in the liturgy.   Salvation in Christ restores to the Church and its members the means to sanctify places and things we use in the Lord's service, because we become Christ's instruments.   Only at the Second Coming will the whole cosmos be holy in that way; but we Christians have a foretaste.   Because of it, God's revelation, which comes to us as a Word, directed at our hearing,  but then takes a myriad of shapes which are directed to all our senses.   Thus we say with St John:

We declare to you what was from the beginning, what we have heard, what we have seen with our eyes, what we have looked at and touched with our hands, concerning the word of life -  this life was revealed, and we have seen it.

Nowhere is this illustrated more than in a proper Christian church, whether from East or West.     It is the function of Church art to manifest the reality that it reflects. Hence, whatever the style, a church that does not look like a church is a failure from the very start. It must proclaim by its design the Gospel that is preached within it and aid the disciples to respond.      A church is a place where heaven and earth join together in Christ to gratefully receive and praise the Father in the unity of the Holy Spirit.  A church must speak to us of God, the angels and the saints and thus  help us to participate in a unity that transcends the local congregation.

It was Pope Benedict’s love of baroque art and architecture that is such a revelation.  He explains that
 “in line with the tradition of the West, the Council [of Trent] again emphasised the didactic and pedagogical character of art, but, as a fresh start toward interior renewal, it led once more to a new kind of seeing that comes from and returns within. The altarpiece is like a window through which the world of God comes out to us. The curtain of temperately is raised, and we are allowed a glimpse into the inner life of the world of God. This art is intended to insert us into the liturgy of heaven. Again and again, we experience a Baroque church as a unique kind of fortissimo of joy, an Alleluia in visual form.”
Pope Benedict looks at the Baroque church through the eyes that have been opened by an in-depth dialogue with Orthodoxy, a dialogue that is an essential ingredient of the authentic "spirit of Vatican II" and a characteristic of all the popes from Pope Paul VI to our present Pope Francis, and is absolutely pivotal in the theology of Pope Benedict who is, perhaps, one of the greatest Catholic theologians of the last hundred years.

We belong to the New Covenant in which all religious institutions of the Old Testament have been replaced by people. Christ is the temple, the priesthood, the only victim and the altar, and has also replaced the Law of Moses as the Way (). The Blessed Virgin Mary is the Ark of the New Covenant; and, when she was by Christ’s side while he was dying on the cross, she embraced both her Son and the whole human race in her love, and thus she came to represent all those down the ages whose synergy with the Holy Spirit would make them one with Christ on the cross: At the foot of the cross she was personally the Church in its relationship to Christ, the New Eve, and Mother of all the living.. As our icon depicts, she is personally what the Church is collectively: she is the Bride of the Lamb.. No longer is God’s dwelling place among the people on earth a building. Since Christ’s Ascension, the temple has been replaced by us who are participants in Christ; we are his body, the Church, in whom God dwells bodily, reconciling the world to himself. By participating in the Eucharistic fellowship we become “the one temple of his Spirit”. In the Old Testament, the covenanted presence of God depended on the temple and the fulfilment of the purification ritual on the Day of the Atonement; and the altar sanctified the offering so that it could be offered on no other altar; and hence the crisis when the temple was destroyed. In New Testament times, in contrast, it is the presence of God’s People that sanctifies the church; and it is the offering by Christ of himself that sanctifies our offering and the altar on which it is placed.

The Consecration of a Church
Pope Benedict consecrating La Sacrada Familia in Barcelona (2 mins) 

When Russians drink a toast, they smash the glass afterwards to indicate that who or what they have toasted is of such importance that the glass should not be used for any inferior purpose. Where God speaks through his word, where the Holy Spirit transforms mere human beings into sons and daughters of God at baptism, where the Father responds to the prayer of the priest and sends the Holy Spirit to transform bread and wine into Christ’s body and blood and the praying congregation into the body of Christ and temple of the Holy Spirit, the Church thinks it appropriate that such a place, together with the chalice and pattern, are so holy that they should not be used for any inferior purpose. Changing uranium into nuclear fuel leaves behind material that remains radioactive for tens of thousands of years. The rite of dedication teaches us that a single Mass can make a building or an altar holy for as long as it exists. Of course, it is often necessary to celebrate the Mass and sacraments in places that cannot be reserved for worship and to use ordinary tables as altars; but it is so easy to underestimate the holiness of the Mass and sacraments if we do not give to those material things most associated with their celebration the kind of respect that human beings have naturally given to holy things throughout history. For this reason, it is better to consecrate the building that is used for Mass and to use it only for liturgical functions.  I have a gut feeling that something is wrong when we use a room or a table that has been used for Mass over a period of time for some other purpose. In saying this we recognize that, in practical terms, while the holiness of any Mass can consecrate a building, not every Mass does. There needs to be the intention of the bishop to dedicate the building exclusively for the liturgy for a dedication to take place, and the Mass needs to be celebrated for that purpose.

On entering the church and after greeting the people, the bishop solemnly blesses water which shall be used, he says, to remind the people of their baptism and a “symbol of the cleansing of these walls and this altar”. There we have the parallel between baptism and the sprinkling of holy water on the altar and walls. These are ‘purified’, cleansed of any harmful influences due to sin and dedicated to an unspecified Christian use. Sprinkling them with holy water is a way to lay claim to them on behalf of the Church. From now on they are to be used in the continual passing through death to life that is the very pulse beat and rythm of the body of Christ. After sprinkling, the meaning of this act is summed up as follows:

May God, the Father of mercies, dwell in this house of prayer. May the grace of the Holy Spirit cleanse us, for we are the temple of his presence. Amen

After the readings, the homily, and the Creed, the Litany of the Saints is said in place of the General Intercession. The next main part is the Prayer of Dedication which contains the epiclesis. This is a place in the liturgy where, normally, the purpose of the rite is expressed succinctly. In the epiclesis, what is the Church asking the Father in Jesus’ name? In the solemn prayer of dedication, the bishop first states the purpose of the occasion:

Father in heaven, source of holiness and true purpose (…) today we come before you, to dedicate to your lasting service this house of prayer, this temple of worship, this home in which we are nourished by your word and your sacraments.

It then says that this house reflects the mystery which is the Church. The Church is fruitful and holy by the blood of Christ. It is the Bride made radiant by his glory, a Virgin splendid in the wholeness of her faith, and Mother blessed by the power of the Holy Spirit. We have seen that these are titles given to Mary as a person in her relationship with Jesus. The Church too has thee titles The prayer continues to use metaphor to describe the Church. It is a vineyard with branches all over the world and reaching up to heaven. The Church is a temple, God’s dwelling place on earth, made up of living stones, with Jesus Christ as the corner stone. The Church is a city set on a mountain, a beacon to the whole world, bright with the glory of the Lamb.

Now we come to the invocation (epiclesis) proper:

Lord, send our Spirit from heaven to make this church an ever-holy place, and this altar a ready table for the sacrifice of Christ.

It continues by asking that the sacraments celebrated here will be efficacious, that baptism will overwhelm sin and that the people will truly die to sin, that the people gathered round the altar may celebrate the memorial of the Paschal Lamb and be fed at the table of Christ’s word and Christ’s body. Then the perspective changes; and the prayer goes on to ask that what happens here will have a world-wide effect. It asks that the Eucharist, which is the prayer of the Church, “resound through heaven and earth as a plea for the world’s salvation”. It asks that through it the poor may find justice and the oppressed liberation. It then goes on to ask:

From here may the whole world clothed in the dignity of children of God, enter with gladness your city of peace.

This is a dimension of the Christian life little taught at an ordinary parish level. It asks that as we approach the heavenly Jerusalem with the blood of Christ and pass through the veil which is the body of Christ into the presence of the Father, we may take the whole human race with us. We are Catholics, not just for ourselves but for the salvation of the world, and the unity of the Church is an effective sign of the unity of the human race in the eyes of God The prayer ends with a doxology and the people answer, “Amen”.
Orthodox anointing/dedication of an altar (5 mins)

Next comes the anointing of the altar and the walls of the church with chrism.    In the Eastern churches, the altar is often called the “throne” which recalls God’s presence in the Holy of Holies on the “throne of mercy” or “mercy seat”.   Here is an ancient prayer at the altar, originally in Aramaic, the language of Our Lord:

“Before the glorious throne of Thy majesty, my Lord, and the high and exalted seat of Thy honour and the awesome judgement seat of the power of Thy love, and the absolving altar which Thy will has established and the place where Thy honour dwells, we, Thy people and the sheep of Thy pasture, with thousands of Cherubim which sing halleluiahs to Thee, ten thousand Seraphim and Archangels which hallow Thee, do kneel and worship and confess and glorify Thee at all times, O Lord of all, Father, Son and Holy Spirit, for ever. Amen.

 Symeon of Thessalonica wrote of the anointing of the altar:

The Altar is perfected through Holy Chrism.  A  prophetic hymn is chanted, signifying the incoming presence and praise of God.  “The Lord comes,” says the Bishop, referring to Christ’s First and Second Coming, and the continuous presence of the Spirit with us. …Since the Chrism is poured out in the name of Christ our God, and the Table represents Him Who was buried therein, it is anointed with Chrism; and it becomes Holy Chrism for it receives the Grace of the Spirit. And for this reason, as we have said, the “Alleluia” is chanted, for God dwells in there; and the Altar becomes the workshop of the Gifts of the Spirit. For on it the Awesome and Mystical Sacraments are celebrated: the ordination of priests, the most Holy Chrism, and the Gospel is placed thereon, and beneath it the Holy Relics of the Martyrs are deposited. Thus this table becomes an Altar of Christ, and a Throne of Glory, and the dwelling-place of God, and the Tomb and Grave of Christ and a place of Rest.
Prayer of Dedication
21. The celebration of the eucharist is the most important and the one necessary rite for the dedication of an altar. Nevertheless, in accordance with the universal tradition of the Church in both East and West, a special prayer of dedication is also said. This prayer is a
sign of the intention to dedicate the altar to the Lord for all times and a petition for his blessing.

Rites of Anointing, Incensing, Covering, and Lighting the Altar

22. The rites of anointing, incensing, covering, and lighting the altar express in visible signs several aspects of the invisible work that the Lord accomplishes through the Church in its
celebration of the divine mysteries, especially the eucharist.
a) Anointing of the altar: The anointing with chrism makes the altar a symbol of Christ, who, before all others, is and is called ‘The Anointed One’; for the Father anointed him with the Holy Spirit and constituted him the High Priest so that on the altar of his body he might offer the sacrifice of his life for the salvation of all.
b) Incense is burned on the altar to signify that Christ’s sacrifice, there perpetuated in mystery, ascends to God as an odour of sweetness, and also to signify that the people’s prayers rise up pleasing and acceptable, reaching the throne of God.20
c) The covering of the altar indicates that the Christian altar is the altar of the eucharistic sacrifice and the table of the Lord; around it priests and people, by one and the same rite but with a difference of function, celebrate the memorial of Christ’s death and resurrection and partake of his supper. For this reason the altar is prepared as the table of the sacrificial banquet and adorned as for a feast.

 Thus the dressing of the altar clearly signifies that it is the Lord’s table at which all God’s people joyously meet to be refreshed with divine food, namely, the body and blood of Christ sacrificed.
d) The lighting of the altar teaches us that Christ is ‘a light to enlighten the nations’;21 his brightness shines out in the Church and through it in the whole human family.

D. Celebration of the Eucharist

23. After the altar has been prepared, the bishop celebrates the eucharist, the principal and the most ancient part of the whole rite,22 because the celebration of the eucharist is in the closest harmony with the rite of the dedication of an altar:
For the celebration of the eucharistic sacrifice achieves the end for which the altar was erected and expresses this end by particularly clear signs.

The altar is the place where what is depicted in  icons is present for real.    A crucifix depicts Christ’s sacrifice on the cross, while on the altar is the sacrifice itself.   The Blessed Virgin, angels and saints are depicted in icons, but they are present at every Mass, joining with us in crying “Holy, holy, holy.”.   Everything that has a visual dimension can be depicted in icons, but the altar is the throne of Him who cannot be depicted.   For this reason our attention is not directed towards the structure of the altar, but to its surface and the empty space above it.  For this reason the empty space should not be cluttered up with unnecessary books or furniture - it is not a bench to put things on - so that priest and people will have a clear, uninterrupted view of the paten and chalice which are central to the whole action of the Mass.

This cannot happen without the Holy Spirit. As the anointing with chrism is done in silence, we must go to the epiclesis of the consecration of chrism on Maundy Thursday to look further into the significance of the anointing.

Only in the second consecratory prayer over the chrism is there any mention of the intended effect of anointing places and things. It asks:

May the splendour of holiness shine on the world from every place and thing signed with this oil.

The “splendour of holiness” is nothing less than the effect on people and things when God makes his presence felt. When the walls and altar are anointed, the bishop in the name of Christ and the Church is asking the Father to send the Spirit on them so that the church may become a place of contact between God and the world. The “splendour of holiness” may shine from the church building as a reflection of the “glory of the Lamb” which shines from the Church made up of living stones, so that the building will become a true symbol of the living Church.

“The nations will walk by its light. And the city has no need of sun or moon to shine on it, for the glory of God is its light, and its lamp is the Lamb. The nations will walk by its light, and the kings of the earth will bring their glory into it” This can only happen if God takes the initiative; but the bishop anoints them with the confidence that the Father will answer this prayer positively. The church and the altar have become a place of meeting with Christ where we contact him, because he takes the initiative, using this sacred space as his instrument through the power of the Spirit. We enter into the splendour of holiness when we enter a church, and the altar becomes the central point of focus when we celebrate. It is a challenge to the architect and to those who are responsible for the lay-out of the church building, as well as those who organise and celebrate the liturgy, to help people realise the holiness of this place of meeting between God and his people.

Other Parts of the Church

The General Instructions from the Roman Missal have more to say about a church.. There are other focal points in a church, though they all direct our attention eventually to the altar. The first is the ambo which is the desk from which the word of God is proclaimed. The sacredness of this proclamation recalls God’s proclamation of the Law on Mount Sinai and God speaking to Isaiah from his throne in heaven. When the reader says, at the end of the reading, “The word of God”, he is making an enormous claim, the impact of which is normally lost, because it is dismissed as mere ritual. He is saying that GOD is speaking,, as really and as immediately as in any theophany of the Old Testament. When reading the word of God, the reader has lent his voice to Christ who is speaking “whenever the word of God is read in church”. To underline this fact, in the General Instructions for the Roman Missal (272) it lays down that the ambo like the altar, should be permanent and fixed to the ground; it must not be used for any other purpose, except for responsorial psalms and the Prayers of the Faithful who are praying in Christ’s name. The priest is not to read the notices, the monitor is not to makes his admonition, nor the choirmaster direct the choir from the same ambo that is used for the word of God. This ambo must be where everybody can see and hear. Evidently, everything must be done not to give the impression those who read are only fulfilling a ritual, or only reading a not very interesting text, simply because it is written down. Reading the word of God is a ministry and should be reserved to those who have been designated and who know what they are doing and why they are doing it and are prepared spiritually for the task.

Let us now summarize what the liturgy tells about the church building. Firstly, the true temple, altar, priest and sacrifice is Christ, and, by extension, his body the Church. The true Church is the community which we enter by baptism and which is formed into the body of Christ by the Eucharist. The church building is an icon of the Church. It gets its name for this reason.  It gets its sacred character from the fact that the word of God is heard there and the sacraments celebrated there, and, most especially, because it is the place where the Church gathers for the Eucharist. By using it we participate in the mystery it represents.   However, this dignity does not belong to the building permanently until it is consecrated by the bishop who blesses it with water and anoints it with oil, an analogy with baptism and confirmation. When something is blessed with holy water, it is the Church and Christ through the Church laying claim to whatever is blessed, without necessarily determining its use. The blessing with water is an invitation to those taking part to renew their baptism and is used to purify the building from any contamination by sin. This blessing is also used when the church is merely blest. It is the anointing that gives the church its permanent function. Consecration of a church is not a sacrament because it is of ecclesiastical origin, but it is sacramental, in that the gesture of anointing expresses both the Church’s petition and God’s response. The bishop consecrates, but it is the Holy Spirit who makes the church holy, claiming it on behalf of the risen Jesus who is Lord of heaven and earth. Anyone who enters it with the right dispositions shares in the mystery of the Church. Moreover, the building speaks to the world of God by its very presence in the world. Of course, if it looks like a factory or a space ship, it probably won’t be able to fulfil that function, but that is its function.

Within the church, the altar is the only piece of furniture blessed with water and anointed with oil. It should be fixed and in a prominent place, so that all eyes are drawn to it. In a church of the Latin Rite, it is the only object that is so blessed and anointed. On its surface, the Holy Trinity is manifested in the consecration of the bread and wine, the Church is identified with Christ in his sacrifice to the Father, and is taken up through Christ’s death, resurrection and ascension into the presence of the Father, passing through the veil of the Holy of Holies by communion in Christ’s body. It is from the altar that the people are sent forth to be witnesses to “what we have heard, what we have seen with our eyes, what we have looked at and touched with our hands." 

Tuesday 19 June 2018


INTRODUCTION by  G.K. Chesterton, C.S. Lewis & Fr Roger Peck

"This elementary wonder, however, is not a mere fancy derived from the fairy tales; on the contrary, all the fire of the fairy tales is derived from this. Just as we all like love tales because there is an instinct of sex, we all like astonishing tales because they touch the nerve of the ancient instinct of astonishment. This is proved by the fact that when we are very young children we do not need fairy tales: we only need tales. Mere life is interesting enough. A child of seven is excited by being told that Tommy opened a door and saw a dragon. But a child of three is excited by being told that Tommy opened a door. Boys like romantic tales; but babies like realistic tales--because they find them romantic. In fact, a baby is about the only person, I should think, to whom a modern realistic novel could be read without boring him. 
This proves that even nursery tales only echo an almost pre-natal leap of interest and amazement. These tales say that apples were golden only to refresh the forgotten moment when we found that they were green. They make rivers run with wine only to make us remember, for one wild moment, that they run with water.''

― G.K. Chesterton, Orthodoxy

"The value of the myth is that it takes all the things we know and restores to them the rich significance which has been hidden by ‘the veil of familiarity.’ The child enjoys his cold meat, otherwise dull to him, by pretending it is buffalo, just killed with his own bow and arrow. And the child is wise. The real meat comes back to him more savory for having been dipped in a story…by putting bread, gold, horse, apple, or the very roads into a myth, we do not retreat from reality : we rediscover it.”
― C.S. Lewis, On Stories: And Other Essays on Literature

"Now the story of Christ is simply a true myth: a myth working on us the same way as the others, but with this tremendous difference that it really happened: and one must be content to accept it in the same way, remembering that it is God’s myth where the others are men’s myths: i.e., the Pagan stories are God expressing Himself through the minds of poets, using such images as He found there, while Christianity is God expressing Himself through what we call 'real things'.”   

“Myth in general is not merely misunderstood history… nor diabolical illusion… not priestly lying… but at its best, a real unfocused gleam of divine truth on human imagination” (Miracles, 138).

"Christianity is a myth which is also a fact. The old myth of the Dying God, without ceasing to be myth, comes down from the heaven of legend and imagination to the earth of history. It happens - at a particular date, in a particular place, followed by definable historical consequences. We pass from a Balder or an Orsis, dying nobody knows when or where, to a historical Person crucified (it is all in order) under Pontius Pilate. By becoming fact it does not cease to be myth: that is the miracle."  

"To be truly Christian we must both assent to the historical fact and also receive the myth (fact though it has become) with the same imaginative embrace which we accord to all myths. The one is hardly more necessary than the other."

C.S. Lewis's essay Myth Became Fact concludes:
"This is the marriage of heaven and earth: Perfect Myth and Perfect Fact: claiming not only our love and our obedience, but also our wonder and delight, addressed to the savage, the child, and the poet in each one of us no less than to the moralist, the scholar, and the philosopher."

Recognising the Creator

A universe that is the result of random forces of nature is not purposed; and meaning requires a mind in which to inhere. When God called Abraham, a people were given a future; and somewhere along the way those people would inevitably look back to discover that they also had a past. Looking back they could see God's hand at work in the events of history. God places us in the cleft of the rock and covers us with his hand until his glory has passed by. Only then can we see Him (cf. Ex 33:22). The mythological character of this passage is clear. We live life forwards but understand life backwards. Day unto day takes up the story but night unto night makes known the message, (cf. Ps 19:2-3) We cannot see God face to face but we can see His back (cf. Ex 33:23). The wheel of life has beenstraightened out and become a story. Choices matter, things serve a purpose and life has meaning; and it is the logos, the mind of God, the creator of all that is and the author of history, who provides the necessary context.

But to understand (to stand under) the logos requires imagination. Instead of feeling things psychically or observing them scientifically we need to appreciate them poetically.
"CS Lewis and Tolkien on Myth and Knowledge" by Fr Roger Peck in Faith Magazine 2011

What can G.K. Chesterton and C.S. Lewis teach us on the New Evangelisation?   What do we have to do and what do monks and monasteries have to do with it?

For C.S. Lewis and, perhaps for the Inklings in general, there is concrete experience and abstract thought with imagination that connects the two.  Both concrete experience and abstract thought must be analysed by reason in order to discover truth, but this cannot be done until they are made meaningful by being expressed in a coherent story.  Nonsense is neither true nor false and it is imagination that makes sense of things. 

Our imagination allows us to have many ways of reacting to the world around us, and with our imagination we can go beyond the commonplace into other dimensions.   Darwin went beyond the strange animals he could see and came up with his theory of evolution to account for them though, at the time, he did not know whether it was fact or fiction.

But imagination does much more than spur us on to scientific discovery.  It moves  us to surprise, fear, loneliness, excitement, suspense, wonder, admiration and the sense of the holy.  Sometimes, the reactions are suggested by the place or situation, while others are the product of our own minds or fabrication of our own designs.

As Christians, we believe that everything, everybody and every situation, the whole of created reality has a relationship to the Holy Spirit as a story is related to its author. Tolkien tells us that the "Secret Fire", otherwise known as the "Flame Imperishable", is present in all existing things:

"Therefore Ilúvatar gave to their vision Being, and set it amid the Void, and the Secret Fire was sent to burn at the heart of the World; and it was called Eä."― Valaquenta

In The Lord of the Rings, Gandalf the Grey referred to both the Secret Fire and the Flame of Anor at the Bridge of Khazad-dûm:

"You cannot pass, I am a servant of the Secret Fire, wielder of the flame of Anor. You cannot pass."

C.S. Lewis argued that our natural desires are evidence for the actual existence of what we naturally desire, and he points out that the desire for something beyond matter is as ancient as humankind itself.   He writes:
If I find in myself a desire which no experience in this world can satisfy, the most probable explanation is that I was made for another world. (Mere Christianity, 120).
  As very small children, we look upon the world with wonder; but, as time goes on and all around us becomes ordinary and humdrum, so we seek wonder in stories of magic and great deeds.  Actually, it is the beginning of our road to God. 

As all human knowledge arises from the use of the senses, knowledge of what is beyond the senses must be inferred in some way from our seeing, touching, tasting, hearing or smelling.  This means that the world around us must point beyond itself; but this can only happen if our response to it is fully human and that we can fully see what is truly there.  We must develop what has been called the "third eye", learning to see, not only sensible things (first eye), not just what the mind understands by what we see (second eye), but the wonder of it all, a wonder that leads to gratitude and even adoration (third eye of the heart).

If we are of a contemplative disposition, we may recognise that there are "thin places"  - to use a traditional Irish phrase - where it is relatively easy to pierce that veil because of its atmosphere, or a place (like a church, for instance)may be made "thin" by design, by icons, music or ritual performance); while another traditional means to help us see beyond is "myth".

It is the conviction of Chesterton, Lewis and Tolkien that creative fantasy, by placing the over-familiar in an unfamiliar setting, in an alternative world of magic, of elves and fairies, can allow us to see the true wonder of the world around us.  It helps us by presenting us with an invented world to appreciate that there is no logical reason why the world we live in should exist as it is, or even exist at all.  It is only one further step to see the world around us with wonder and gratitude: then we are only one step away from the numinous.

Once able to respond to the world around us in a fully human way, not deadened by over-familiarity, we are ready to be encountered by what Rudolf Otto calls the numinous.  He says that this lies at the very heart of all religion.  [The central experience Otto refers to is the numinous (Latin numen, “spirit”) in which the Other (i.e., the transcendent) appears as a mysterium tremendum et fascinans—that is, a mystery before which man both trembles and is fascinated, is both repelled and attracted. Thus, God can appear both as wrathful or awe inspiring, on the one hand, and as gracious and lovable, on the other. The sense of the numinous, according to Otto, is sui generis, though it may have psychological analogies, and it gives an access to reality, which is categorized as holy. Britannica]

C.S. Lewis describes it thus:
Suppose you were told there was a tiger in the next room: you would know that you were in danger and would probably feel fear. But if you were told "There is a ghost in the next room," and believed it, you would feel, indeed, what is often called fear, but of a different kind. It would not be based on the knowledge of danger, for no one is primarily afraid of what a ghost may do to him, but of the mere fact that it is a ghost. It is "uncanny" rather than dangerous, and the special kind of fear it excites may be called Dread. With the Uncanny one has reached the fringes of the Numinous. Now suppose that you were told simply "There is a mighty spirit in the room," and believed it. Your feelings would then be even less like the mere fear of danger: but the disturbance would be profound. You would feel wonder and a certain shrinking—a sense of inadequacy to cope with such a visitant and of prostration before it—an emotion which might be expressed in Shakespeare's words "Under it my genius is rebuked." This feeling may be described as awe, and the object which excites it as the Numinous.[12]
Before his conversion, C.S.Lewis was an atheist, but also a great lover of mythology, especially that of Northern Europe.  As an atheist, he did not allow his imagination to have anything to do with questions of truth.  Truth is the product of the use of reason which can only be distracted by imagination. Myths were the product of the imagination and were, therefore, false, enjoyable but false.  It had been pointed out to him that the birth, death, and resurrection of Christ are examples of themes found in other religions and mythologies: they are myths and, therefore, are untrue.

It was Tolkien who convinced him that this was mistaken.  (In the first video above, there is a re-construction of that conversation.)   Anyway, for my purpose in writing this article, it is possible to see the pre-Christian C.S.Lewis as a personification of much that is wrong in secular society where a sharp distinction is made between public and private knowledge and where there are attempts to exclude from the public sphere any reminder of and all reference to Christian belief.  This leads to the impoverishment of both  imagination and reason. Chesterton, Tolkien and C.S. Lewis have set us the  task to re-unite the two dimensions of reason and imagination which too often have become divorced.  

Of course, all sides recognise the need for rational analysis to find out whether something is true or false, but the rationalists believe that all truth is literal truth, while Chesterton and company were convinced that truth can also be conveyed by symbol and by myth.  This is not simply fancy but is due to the very structure of our minds and by the relationship that created reality has with God. 

Reason, Imagination and Vatican II

The "progressive" party in Vatican II was made up of two groups who could not have been more different or more opposed.  Both wanted to modernise the Church, one by finding answers to new questions by looking into Tradition in a fresh way and using modern tools of enquiry while accepting the validity of all Catholic Tradition down the ages, the other by adapting the Church's teaching and practice to that of the modern secular world.

Nowhere was the difference so sharp than what to do with the numinous.  We have seen that, for Rudolf Otto and Chesterton and Company, the mysterium tremendum sed fascinans is at the very heart of religious experience.  The young Henri de Lubac, around the year 1941, wrote an article in which he noted that the working class in France's industrial cities had largely lost the faith, and he put this down to the absence of any opportunity to experience the numinous.  He called for their re-evangelisation and, at the very centre of the Church's requirement was, he said,  a reform of the liturgy so that ordinary people could encounter and experience the holy in their lives.  This would be absolutely essential is any evangelisation were to be successful, and it became one of the main motives of this group like Ratzinger and others in the Council for liturgical reform.  You can imagine their disappointment and horror when the other group rejected the numinous for horizontal human relationships!!

The other group that had major influence towards the end of the liturgical revision, wishing to adapt the Church to modern life and realising that openness to the numinous is not a major characteristic of modern man, attempted to replace it by human solidarity "in Christ". Modern humanity does not need a dependence on any numinous figure, they said, because it had "come of age" and has learnt to look after itself with its knowledge of the world that science has given.  Of course, the All Powerful God had enabled human beings to stand on their own feet as His images.   Hence, away with all this grovelling and, in its place, let us put where human strangth lies, the unity among humans for whom Christ died.    

The main texts of the "new Mass" were generally very good, and the new Eucharistic prayers were based on the sound Tradition which had been gleaned from  the worldwide Church.  However, the ceremony and the changes in the setting of the Mass "in the spirit of Vatican II" often favoured the second group.  Horizontal relationships received most of the emphasis.  The importance of the sacred was underplayed or even taken out of the ceremony all together. Ratzinger had to watch what he and most of his companions saw as  the inevitable result as people voted with their feet.  Churches emptied, vocations plummeted.   

The problem was not change in itself, nor even in the texts of the New Mass which had been largely written by  the first group.  Pope Benedict, whatever he said in his pain, kept the texts as the ones in principal use and he normally celebrated the New Mass himself both publicly and privately.  The problem was the way it was too often celebrated, and the way modern churches became purely functional, eliminating all depiction of the transcendental, all sense of the liturgy being where heaven and earth are united, where the people become one with the angels and the saints.   

An atheist's world is purely functional, and anything else is the product of the artist's own feelings and attitudes and tells us nothing about the world we live in. On the other hand, a believer's world symbolises, indicates and sometimes manifests the divine presence, and it is sacramental by its very essence as created being, and we celebrate the Mass in the company of the angels and saints.  

I do not know why so many post-Vatican II churches, as well as "modernised" interiors of old churches do the atheists' work for them by emphasising the functions of priest and people but failing to put adequate emphasis on the transcendent dimensions, those that cannot be seen but are present and active in the liturgy of priest and people and are the very reason for the celebration.

This was in no way  universal.   There are wonderful celebrations of the Missa Normativa  and they are becoming more and more common.   Moreover, churches are being renovated in ways that are in keeping with the Catholic view of the world, especially in America.

What can C.S. Lewis and company teach us about evangelisation?

I believe the first thing is that we must base everything on prayer because we cannot give what we haven't got.  Secondly, our campaign must embrace the whole person, his imaginative life as well as his intellectual life because they cannot be separated.  Our liturgy must address all the senses and we must be clear what we are telling people in the liturgy which will be so celebrated that we become aware that we are celebrating in the presence of God, that we are encountering Christ and that we find our unity in Christ.   Also we are only instruments of Christ, servants of "the Secret Fire", content to do as much or as little in this mission according to his will.  We are only successfully evangelising if we are concentrating on allowing him to evangelise  through us, in his way, not ours. The strongest actor in The Lord of the Rings is, without doubt, Divine Providence that chooses unlikely people to do improbable things.  We will only succeed if we permit this to happen and remain alert when it happens.  I am conscious that God chose an anti-Catholic, small town, Assembly of God preacher, David Wilkerson, to inspire the beginnings of the Catholic Charismatic Renewal which successive popes have recognised as a major work of the Holy Spirit.

The Origins of Monastic Life

It is clear from Scripture and Tradition that there is only one Christian life that makes absolute demands on all Christians.  We must meet Christ and find in him the means to love God with our whole being, with everything we've got and are, and we must love one another as Christ loves us.
Belmont Abbey

 We are all, without exception made in his image, and he is united to all human beings without exception by his Incarnation, so that he died for all and rose for all.  Moreover, whatever God's will is for each of us, we must do it from sacramental moment to sacramental moment as his Providence demands.  In this way we become more and more like him because we share in his love for the Father and the Father's love for him in the unity of the Holy Spirit.
Valaam (Orthodox)

In the early Church, in the time of persecution, all knew that they could be asked to give all and die for Christ.  They knew that, becoming one with him in the Eucharist, they could be called to be one host with him in martyrdom, to drink the same cup of martyrdom as he drank. Possible martyrdom was implied by the Eucharist.

Hence there was a crisis when Constantine was converted and martyrdom stopped.  Monasticism was adopted by some as a substitute for martyrdom and was adopted by others because they found it too difficult to live an authentic Christian life and a comfortable worldly life at the same time.  Nevertheless, Abbot Antony, after much suffering from the devil and years of solitary prayer, was told by God that a married man in Alexandria had reached a higher sanctity than Antony.   This married man's openness to God was greater than Antony's, and it is God who makes saints.

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