Saturday, January 4, 2014

Circumcision of the Lord and Our Interior Lives

Father Beach gave an excellent homily at the Missa Cantata for the Octave Day of Christmas (the Circumcision of the Lord or Mary, Mother of God. Really, they can't figure out what they want it to be...the collects in the Vetus Ordo are decisively focused on the Theotokos.) at St. Martin's this past Wednesday.

He explained that the circumcision marked Christ's fully taking of human flesh and as a Jew, a member of the Chosen People. Circumcision is the ritual that sets aside all male Jews, and Christ was no exception. Joseph led Jesus in the religious rituals, and many scenes in the Gospel occur just before or after a visit to the local synagogue or in/around Jerusalem at the time of a major festival.

But we cannot set ourselves aside and mark ourselves as publicly participating in the rites of the Church if we do not move towards a change in our interior life.

Going to Mass is not enough. As Father said, we're decidedly not OK if we go to Mass, yet lie, steal, and cheat on one's spouse, or really, continue to commit sin without a desire to repent and believe in the Gospel.

More commonly than Father's example of a highly conscious grave sinner, I think, is a lack of understanding and desire for God. Sure, our own choice of sin is there, but our catechesis might have been poor or stuff might have happened in our lives that, well, seems to get in the way of God. I forget that not everyone goes or went to a school like Franciscan that is spiritually alive and that a college student's problems often aren't the ones everyone else faces. But God is always there, and He reconciled the world to Himself, not the other way around, calling each and everyone of us to eternal communion with the Most Blessed Trinity.

Saying our daily prayers can sometimes be a challenge. It's too hard, or we don't have enough time. Trust me, one has plenty of time in the day, and it's not too hard. Our Lord died on the Cross in the supreme act of charity, so I think we can manage a few minutes in prayer. I realize that many people don't even know the Our Father, Hail Mary, and the Glory be to the Father anymore, not that it's a new problem: the Wars of Religion in France kept priests away from villages for over three decades. If that's the case, then we need to reach out and help them. Ss. Vincent de Paul, Louis de Montfort, and John Eudes among others catechized and spread fervent devotion throughout France and the French peasantry became thoroughly Catholic. If they can do it, then surely by God's grace we can achieve it in our own homes. We must start with baby steps and build ourselves up as we grow in faith, hope, and charity.

For what it's worth, spending time in prayer was challenging for the Apostles, who couldn't manage to stay awake for an hour with Our Lord in the Garden during His Agony.

Once one discovers that it is all about Love, everything changes. Pope Benedict wished to restore the primacy of Truth through its identification with Love in the person of Jesus Christ, the Incarnate Word, the Only-Begotten Son of God. Our Lord declared Himself to be "the Way, the Truth, and the Life" in the Gospel of John, and this way is Love, for "greater no love man hath than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends." It's not about the supremacy of an intellectual ideal over post-Enlightenment freedom of thought, contrary to the thought prevailing among the Church's detractors. It's not about the hanging-on to the medieval world. Ha. Sometimes I wish we recovered the best of the medieval sensibility, but we cannot recreate a period or fully re-impose its ideology or world view. That's impossible and just causes more trouble, and not only is it good philosophy to avoid this archaeologism and obsession with the narrow context of the past but it's magisterial teaching. See Mediator Dei.

We must aim to eliminate our habitual sins, especially those that are of grave matter, as much as possible, and as a friend pointed out to me, avoid picking up new ones in their place. We do this out of Love, for God is perfect and we should aim to be like Him. God became man so men could become gods.

Love is patient. We must be patient with God as we move towards Him, we must be patient with ourselves as we work with God, and patient with others who are in different places on the road to perfection. Always strive to say "Yes" to God! And remember that perfection is a process, not an event.

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