Saturday, January 28, 2012

Aquinas–The Cross: Remedy and Example

From a conference by Saint Thomas Aquinas, priest 
(Collatio 6 super Credo in Deum)

The cross exemplifies every virtue

Why did the Son of God have to suffer for us? There was a great need, and it can be considered in a twofold way: in the first place, as a remedy for sin, and secondly, as an example of how to act.

It is a remedy, for, in the face of all the evils which we incur on account of our sins, we have found relief through the passion of Christ. Yet, it is no less an example, for the passion of Christ completely suffices to fashion our lives. Whoever wishes to live perfectly should do nothing but disdain what Christ disdained on the cross and desire what he desired, for the cross exemplifies every virtue.

If you seek the example of love: Greater love than this no man has, than to lay down his life for his friends. Such a man was Christ on the cross. And if he gave his life for us, then it should not be difficult to bear whatever hardships arise for his sake.

If you seek patience, you will find no better example than the cross. Great patience occurs in two ways: either when one patiently suffers much, or when one suffers things which one is able to avoid and yet does not avoid. Christ endured much on the cross, and did so patiently, because when he suffered he did not threaten; he was led like a sheep to the slaughter and he did not open his mouth. Therefore Christ’s patience on the cross was great. In patience let us run for the prize set before us, looking upon Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith who, for the joy set before him, bore his cross and despised the shame.

If you seek an example of humility, look upon the crucified one, for God wished to be judged by Pontius Pilate and to die.

If you seek an example of obedience, follow him who became obedient to the Father even unto death. For just as by the disobedience of one man, namely, Adam, many were made sinners, so by the obedience of one man, many were made righteous.

If you seek an example of despising earthly things, follow him who is the King of kings and the Lord of lords, in whom are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge. Upon the cross he was stripped, mocked, spat upon, struck, crowned with thorns, and given only vinegar and gall to drink.

Do not be attached, therefore, to clothing and riches, because they divided my garments among themselves. Nor to honors, for he experienced harsh words and scourgings. Nor to greatness of rank, for weaving a crown of thorns they placed it on my head. Nor to anything delightful, for in my thirst they gave me vinegar to drink.

Sunday, January 22, 2012


Good reminder from the Liturgy this morning....

Christ prays for us: he is our priest;
he prays in us: he is our head;
we pray to him: he is our God. 

Let us be ever aware, then, of our prayer in him, and his prayer in us.

Friday, January 20, 2012

All our love must be for God...

The following is from today's Office of Readings:

Anyone who loves God in the depths of his heart has already been loved by God. In fact, the measure of a man’s love for God depends upon how deeply aware he is of God’s love for him.

No one who is in love with himself is capable of loving God. The man who loves God is the one who mortifies his self-love for the sake of the immeasurable blessings of divine love. Such a man never seeks his own glory but only the glory of God. If a person loves himself he seeks his own glory, but the man who loves God loves the glory of his Creator. Anyone alive to the love of God can be recognized from the way he constantly strives to glorify him by fulfilling all his commandments and by delighting in his own abasement. Because of his great majesty it is fitting that God should receive glory, but if he hopes to win God’s favor it becomes man to be humble. If we possess this love for God, we too will rejoice in his glory as Saint John the Baptist did, and we shall never stop repeating: His fame must increase, but mine must diminish.

As the Apostle says: If we are taken out of ourselves it is for the love of God; if we are brought back to our senses it is for your sake. (From the treatise On Spiritual Perfection by Diadochus of Photice, bishop, Cap. 12. 13. 14: PG 65, 1171-1172)

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

The Ability to Love

From the Detailed Rules for Monks by Saint Basil the Great, bishop 
(Resp. 2, 1: PG 31, 908-910) 

The ability to love is within each of us

Love of God is not something that can be taught. We did not learn from someone else how to rejoice in light or want to live, or to love our parents or guardians. It is the same-perhaps even more so—with our love for God: it does not come by another’s teaching. As soon as the living creature (that is, man) comes to be, a power of reason is implanted in us like a seed, containing within it the ability and the need to love. When the school of God’s law admits this power of reason, it cultivates it diligently, skillfully nurtures it, and with God’s help brings it to perfection.

For this reason, as by God’s gift, I find you with the zeal necessary to attain this end, and you on your part help me with your prayers. I will try to fan into flame the spark of divine love that is hidden within you, as far as I am able through the power of the Holy Spirit.

First, let me say that we have already received from God the ability to fulfill all his commands. We have then no reason to resent them, as if something beyond our capacity were being asked of us. We have no reason either to be angry, as if we had to pay back more than we had received. When we use this ability in a right and fitting way, we lead a life of virtue and holiness. But if we misuse it, we fall into sin.

This is the definition of sin: the misuse of powers given us by God for doing good, a use contrary to God’s commands. On the other hand, the virtue that God asks of us is the use of the same powers based on a good conscience in accordance with God’s command.

Since this is so, we can say the same about love. Since we received a command to love God, we possess from the first moment of our existence an innate power and ability to love. The proof of this is not to be sought outside ourselves, but each one can learn this from himself and in himself. It is natural for us to want things that are good and pleasing to the eye, even though at first different things seem beautiful and good to different people. In the same way, we love what is related to us or near to us, though we have not been taught to do so, and we spontaneously feel well disposed to our benefactors.

What, I ask, is more wonderful than the beauty of God? What thought is more pleasing and wonderful than God’s majesty? What desire is as urgent and overpowering as the desire implanted by God in a soul that is completely purified of sin and cries out in its love: I am wounded by love? The radiance of divine beauty is altogether beyond the power of words to describe.

Saturday, January 7, 2012

(Un)popular Christianity

"Popular" Christianity – if any at all – is the approach today.  One pop TV preacher offers "your best life now."  Jesus is presented as the icing on the cake of the good life.   On this day when the Church remembers Raymond of Penyafort we would do well to ponder his words: 

The preacher of God’s truth has told us that all who want to live righteously in Christ will suffer persecution. If he spoke the truth and did not lie, the only exception to this general statement, I think, the person who either neglects, or does not know how, to live temperately, justly and righteously in this world..... May you never be numbered among those whose house is peaceful, quiet and free from care; those on whom the Lord’s chastisement does not descend; those who live out their days in prosperity, and in the twinkling of any eye will go down to hell.....If from time to time you feel the sword falling on you with double or treble force, this also should be seen as sheer joy and the mark of love..... As you drink the cup of the Lord Jesus (how glorious it is!) give thanks to the Lord, the giver of all blessings. 

Lord have mercy.

Thursday, January 5, 2012

A Great Reason for Christmas

Why is a truly Christian celebration of Christmas so important?  Note these ancient words from St Augustine:

For we are the sons of God, and although what we shall be has not yet been revealed, we know that when he appears we shall be like him for we shall see him as he is. For what are those treasures of wisdom and knowledge, what those divine riches, if not the one thing that can fulfill our longing? What are the great blessings of his goodness, if not the one thing that will content us? Therefore: Show us the Father, and all our desires will be satisfied.
Christ speaks both in us and for us when, in one of the psalms, he says to the Father: I shall be satisfied when your glory is revealed. For he and the Father are one, and whoever sees him sees the Father also. The Lord of hosts is himself the king of glory. He will transform us and show us his face, and we shall be saved; all our longing will be fulfilled, all our desires will be satisfied.
But this has not yet been accomplished; he has not yet given us the vision that will satisfy every desire; we have not yet drunk our fill of the fountain of life. So while all this remains in the future and we still walk by faith, absent from the Lord, while we still hunger and thirst for justice and with inexpressible longing yearn for God’s beauty, let us reverently celebrate the day he was born into our own servile condition.
Since we can as yet form no conception of his generation by the Father before the daystar, let us keep the festival of his birth of a virgin in the hours of the night. Since it is still beyond our understanding that his name endures for ever and existed before the sun, let us at least recognize his dwelling that he has placed beneath the sun. We cannot yet behold him as the only Son, abiding for ever in his Father, so let us recall his coming forth like a bridegroom from his chamber. We are not yet ready for the banquet of our Father, so let us contemplate the manger of Jesus Christ our Lord. (From a sermon by Saint Augustine, bishop, Sermon 194, 3-4: PL 38, 1016-1017)

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Spiritual Inequities

It should be apparent to the most casual thinker that not all Christians have the same level of commitment and understanding.  Of course, there is an issue of personal responsibility:  am I giving myself as fully as possible to my Lord?  What does it mean to seek God above all else?  Where should one draw the line with attention to this-world?

One thing to remember is this word of wisdom from long ago by Saint Maximus the Confessor:

The Word of God, born once in the flesh (such is his kindness and his goodness), is always willing to be born spiritually in those who desire him. In them he is born as an infant as he fashions himself in them by means of their virtues. He reveals himself to the extent that he knows someone is capable of receiving him. He diminishes the revelation of his glory not out of selfishness but because he recognizes the capacity and resources of those who desire to see him. (From the Five Hundred Chapters by Saint Maximus the Confessor, abbot,  Centuria 1, 8-13: PG 90, 1182-1186)

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