Monday, March 24, 2008

Dazzled by the Light of the Resurrection.... or Bored?

The Office of Readings for Monday after Easter [554-555]:

“The Lord, though he was God, became man. HE suffered for the sake of those who suffer, he was bound for those in bonds, condemned for the guilty, buried for those who lie in the grave; but he rose from the dead, and cried aloud: Who will content with me? Let him confront me. I have freed the condemned, brought the dead back to life, raised men from their braves. Who has anything to say against me? I, he said, am the Christ; I have destroyed death, triumphed over the enemy, trampled hell underfoot, bound the strong one, and taken men up to the heights of heaven: I am the Christ.

“Come, then, all you nations of men, receive forgiveness for the sins that defile you. I am your forgiveness. I am the Passover that brings salvation. I am the lamb who was immolated for you; I am your ransom, your life, your resurrection, your light, I am your salvation and your king. I will bring you to the heights of heaven. With my own right hand I will raise you up, and I wil show you the eternal Father”
(From an Easter Homily by Melito of Sardis, bishop)

1) Is there any real interior life out there? This was a question asked by a priest who heard many off-the-street confessions in the middle of New York City. Another priest responded that probably the two main areas of sin that erupts on the surface are impurity and anger, but quickly argued “How could it be otherwise?” being that the great bulk of the Catholic population, both lay and clerical, have not been evangelized concerning heroic sanctity as the reason for living.

2) Concomitant with this silence is an aggressive disease that Archbishop Chaput, speaking recently in Australia, called “vampiric” in its aggrandizing the human ego and withering the capacity for heroic greatness in self-giving: consumerism. He said:

“The fifth sign of our times is that the society we live in breeds a practical, workaday atheism... There's a hole now in the modern heart. It's a void left by the absence of God. People fill that hole with all the sights and sounds and trinkets of our consumer culture. James' character calls these things "my consolations." But there's something vampiric about the way consumerism works to "console" us for the loss of God. It keeps us absorbed in the unimportant while it drains out the life of the soul.

“The rise of consumerist culture was one of the great worries of John Paul II in the later years of his pontificate. In his 1999 World Day of Peace message. John Paul writes: "The history of our time has shown in a tragic way the danger which results from forgetting the truth about the human person. Before our eyes, we have seen the results of ideologies such as Marxism, Nazism, and Fascism. . . . No less pernicious, though not always obvious, are the effects of materialistic consumerism . . ." Those are strong words. John Paul argued that the habit of consumerist greed is "no less pernicious" in its effects than Nazism, Marxism, and Fascism. The effects are as deadly and as destructive as the murderous systems of the 20th century-ideologies that gave us the Holocaust, the gulag and the killing fields of Cambodia. John Paul finishes this quotation with a comment on what materialist greed entails. With this ideology, he says, there is an "exaltation of the individual and the selfish satisfaction of personal aspirations become the ultimate goal of life." This habit of consumerism forms the mind of the people we [priests] are called to serve. It's so damaging because it makes people prisoners of their selfishness. It invites them to create their own chains, to be willing addicts to their appetites and passions. It keeps them away from the only questions that matter: why we're here, and where we're heading.”

3) Concomitant with that is the reduction of evangelical Jesus, the Christ, the Son of the living God, to the mere Jesus of Nazareth as “bland philanthropist.”[1] Cardinal Ratzinger notes: “Today in broad circles, even among believers, an image has prevailed of a Jesus who demands nothing, never scolds, who accepts everyone and everything, who no longer does anything but affirm us… The presence of the figure of Jesus itself is becoming diminished – also with regard to the on-Christian contemporaries who surround us; the figure is transformed from the ‘Lord’ (a word that is avoided) into a man who is nothing more than the advocate of all men. The Jesus of the Gospels is quite different, demanding, bold. The Jesus who makes everything okay for everyone is a phantom, a dream, not a real figure.”[2]

Boredom: This state of affairs that permits the ascendancy of “acedia” that is at the core of all sin, since at its root it is the failure of self-mastery of the self over self. It is sadness. “According to the classical theology of the Church, acedia is a kind of sadness… - more specifically, a sadness in view of the divine good in man. This sadness because of the God-given ennobling of human nature causes inactivity, depression, discouragement (thus the element of actual ‘sloth’ is secondary).
The opposite of acedia is not industry and diligence, but magnanimity and that joy which is a fruit of the supernatural love of God.”[3]

Walker Percy: “The Bored Self: Why the Self is the only Object in the Cosmos which Gets Bored:” “The word boredom did not enter the language until the eighteenth century. No one knows it etymology. One guess is that bore may derive from the French verb bourrer, to stuff…. Boredom is the self being stuffed with itself.”[4]


Bernanos: “Well, as I was saying, the world is eaten up by boredoms. To perceive this needs a little preliminary thought: you can’t see it all at once. It is like dust. You go about and never notice, you breathe it in, you eat and drink it. It is sifted so fine, it doesn’t even grit on your teeth. But stand still for an instant and there it is, coating your face and hands. To shake off this drizzle of ashes you must be for ever on the go. And so people are always ‘on the go.’ Perhaps the answer would be that the world has long been familiar with boredom, that such is the true condition of man. No doubt the seed was scattered all over life, and here and there found fertile soil to take root; but I wonder if man has ever before experienced this contagion, this leprosy of boredom: an aborted despair, a shameful form of despair in some way like the fermentation of a Christianity in decay.

“Naturally I keep these thoughts to myself….”

Bernanos Again: Examining to the CORE: “Used as I am to the confessions of simple seminary students, I still cannot manage to understand what horrible metamorphosis has enabled so many people to show me their inner life as a mere convention, a formal scheme without one clue to its reality. I should imagine that once they have ceased to be adolescents, few Catholics go in mortal sin to communion. It’s so easy not to go to confession at all. But there are worse things. Petty lies can slowly form a crust around the consciousness of evasion and subterfuge. The outer shell retains the vague shape of what it covers, but that is all. In time by sheer force of habit, the least ‘gifted’ end by evolving their own particular idiom, which still remains incredibly abstract. They don’t hide much, but their sly candour reminds one of a dirty window-pane, so blurred that light has to struggle through it, and nothing can be clearly seen.
What then remains of confession? It barely skims the surface of conscience. I don’t say dry rot has set in underneath; it seems more like petrification…

“And of course people always refuse to see beyond the individual fault. But after all the transgression itself is only the eruption. And the symptoms which most impress outsiders aren’t always the gravest and most disquieting.

I believe, in fact I am certain, that many men never give out the whole of themselves, their deepest truth. They live on the surface, and yet, so rich is the soil of humanity that even this thin outer layer is able to yield a kind of meager harvest which gives the illusion of real living. I’ve heard that during the last war timid little clerks would turn out to be real leaders; without knowing it, they had in them the passion to command. There is, to be sure, no resemblance there with what we mean when we use the beautiful work ‘conversion’- convertere – but still it had sufficed that these poor creatures should experience the most primitive sort of heroism, heroism devoid of all purity. How many men will never have the least idea of what is meant by supernatural heroism, without which there is no inner life! Yet by that very same inner life shall they be judged: after a little thought the thing becomes certain, quite obvious. Therefore? …Therefore when death has bereft them of all the artificial props with which society provides such people, they will find themselves as they really are, as they were without even knowing it – horrible undeveloped monsters, the stumps of men.

"Fashioned thus, what can they say of sin? What do they know about it? The cancer that is eating into them is painless – like so many tumours. Probably at some period in their lives most of them felt only a vague discomfort, and it soon passed off. It is rare for a child not to have known an inner life, as Christianity understands it, however, embryonic the form. One day or another all young lives are stirred by an urge which seems to compel; every pure young breast has depths which are raised to heroism. Not very urgent perhaps, but just strongly enough to show the little creature a glimpse, which sometimes half-consciously he accepts, of the huge risk that salvation entails, and gives to human life all its divinity. He has sensed something of good and evil, has seen them both in their pristine essence unalloyed by notions of social discipline and habit. But of course his reactions are those of a child, and of such a decisive solemn moment the grown-up man will keep no more than the memory of something rather childishly dramatic something mischievously quaint, whose true meaning he never will realize, yet of which he may talk to the end of his days with a soft, rather too soft a smile, the almost lewd smile of old men …."

Jesus of Nazareth is Jesus the Christ, Son of the Living God: The meaning of “parousia” is “presence.” It has normally been taken to mean the “presence” of Christ at the end of the world. Therefore, it is a presence that is not yet present but still to come. Joseph Ratzinger clarifies – and it seems to be the large motif of his life – that the word “Advent” is the translation of the Greek “parousia.” He says: “In antiquity the word was a technical term for the presence of a king or ruler and also of the god being worshipped, who bestows his parousia on his devotees for a time.”[6] He emphasizes the point: “Advent tells us that the presence of the Lord has already begun but also that it has only begun….” But it has begun. That means that the divine Person, the Son of the living God is present in His creation, i.e. within it. He stands before me and calls me to leave my boat and walk on water.

The audible founding of Opus Dei was the locution Escriva heard within him on August 7, 1931: “I say it to you in the sense that you put me at the summit of all human activities, so that in all the places of the world, there may be Christians with a personal and most free dedication, that they be other Christs.” And two months - October 16, 1931: “You are my son, you are Christ.” And I only knew how to repeat: Abba, Pater!, Abba, Pater! Abba!, Abba!, Abba!

The call that went out from Jesus Christ 2,000 years ago is the identically same call as now. It is the same living Christ, the divine Person Who is the Son of the living God, calling us to be Him, not just toward the future, for a future encounter, but for a present identity

Late have I loved you, O Beauty ever ancient, ever new, late have I loved you? You were within me, but I was outside, and its there that I searched for you. In my unloveliness I plunged into the lovely things which you created. You were with me, but I was not with you. Create d things kept me from you; yet if they had not been in you they would not have been at all. You called, you shouted, and you broke through my deafness. You flashed, you shone, and you dispelled my blindness. You breathed your fragrance on me; I drew in breath and now I pant for you. I have tasted you, now I hunger and thirst for more. You touched me, and I burned for your peace” (Augustine).

[1] J. Ratzinger, “On the Way to Jesus Christ,” Ignatius (2005) “Foreword” 7.
[2] Ibid 8.
[3] J. Pieper, “On Hope” Ignatius (1986) 54.
[4] Walker Percy, “Lost in the Cosmos” Noonday Press (1983) 70-71.
[5] Georges Bernanos “The Diary of A Country Priest,” Image (1954) 2.
[6] J. Ratzinger, “Dogma and Preaching,” Franciscan Herald Press (1985) 71-72.

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