The Lord, He is God

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How I love this painting by Botticelli (1445–1510)! Saint Jerome is kneeling in his nightshirt in front of his bed. His cardinalatial red hat hangs on the wall behind him. Over his bed is a crucifix with three palms. Saint Jerome receives the Sacred Host from the hands of the priest, Saint Eusebius. Note the beautiful chasuble that Saint Eusebius is wearing, and the apparels on his alb. The most beautiful elements are the painting are the six human faces, all focused on the Body of Christ that a kneeling Saint Jerome is about to receive on his tongue.

January 9

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Wednesday After the Epiphany

1 John 4:11-18
Psalm 71: 1-2, 10, 12-13
Mark 6:45-52

Adoration

How does one discern an authentic spiritual epiphany from something cooked up by our own imagination or desires? First, every authentic epiphany compels one to adore. One cannot experience the Thrice-Holy God without falling to one’s knees (at least inwardly), without humbling oneself, without confessing the sovereign majesty of God. Do you remember what the people did on Mount Carmel, after Elijah prayed and fire descended from heaven to consume the holocaust? “When all the people saw this, they fell on their faces, and they said: The Lord, He is God, the Lord, He is God” (3 K 18:19).

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Yesterday, L’Osservatore Romano contained an article by Auxiliary Bishop Athanasius Schneider of Karaganda, Kazakhstan. It was an invitation to reconsider the traditional practice of receiving Holy Communion kneeling and on the tongue. L’Osservatore Romano does not publish mere opinions; one of its functions is to educate Catholics. The kernel of Bishop Schneider’s argument is this: “If some nonbeliever arrived [at Mass at the moment of Holy Communion] and observed such an act of adoration, perhaps he, too, would fall down and worship God, declaring, ‘God is really in your midst.’” Adoration — an adoration that is expressed bodily, that is enfleshed — is the human response to every epiphany of the Divine.

Obedience

Second, every authentic spiritual epiphany calls one to obedience, that is, to conversion of life, to change. After the experience of God, one cannot return to “business as usual.” The Christian life is dynamic. It is movement and it is change, or it is nothing at all. The soul that is not going forward is regressing. This is what Saint Paul means when he says in Second Corinthians that, “we all beholding the glory of the Lord with open face, are transformed into the same image from glory to glory, as by the Spirit of the Lord” (2 Cor 3:18).

Peace

Third, every authentic spiritual epiphany produces peace in the soul. When Our Lord visits a soul by His grace, He leaves behind the impression of a parting kiss, a kiss of ineffable peace. So-called spiritual experiences that leave one in a feverish state of confusion and unrest are not of God. The devil can counterfeit any number of spiritual experiences and charisms, but he cannot counterfeit what Saint Paul calls, “the peace of God, which surpasseth all understanding” (Phil 4:7).

Contemplating the Son

In today’s Gospel, we see an epiphany of the Son in conversation with the Eternal Father; then, we see an epiphany of His power over the forces of nature. Both manifestations of the mystery of the Son will produce in us, — if we receive them humbly — adoration, conversion, and peace.

The Prayer of Christ

Our Lord withdraws to the mountain to pray. Jesus seeks the company and the conversation of His Father. The Only-Begotten Son turns His Face and lifts His Heart to the Father. The Word speaks to the Father in human words, and He listens to the Father in a communion of divine silence. This is the prayer of Jesus, Eternal Son and Eternal Priest! The prayer of Jesus that the Gospel describes as an event in space and time is eternally present in the sacred liturgy. The sacred liturgy is the ongoing epiphany, in the Church, of the prayer of Christ. This means that one who enters wholeheartedly and humbly into the sacred liturgy will be moved to adoration, will be compelled to change, and will know the peace of God.

A School of Silence

The complicated chatter of our prayers can, at times, impede the prayer of Christ in us. The prayer of Christ abides in a heart that is silent. Our Holy Father, Pope Benedict XVI, has written eloquently of the need for silence, even within the Mass itself. He has proposed a rediscovery of silence within the Canon of the Mass. If the Mass is our primary school of prayer, it must be a school of silence.

Be Still

Words and thoughts about God are not communion with God. The compulsive need to “say everything, hear everything, understand everything, and see everything” can mask a resistance to the more demanding and utterly simple prayer of Christ in us. Paradoxically, it may be necessary at some level to stop praying — to be still — in order for Christ to pray in us. Saint Paul was clear on this: “We know not what we should pray for as we ought; but the Spirit Himself asketh for us with unspeakable groanings” (Rom 8:26). Death to our own prayer must precede resurrection to the prayer of Christ, Beloved Son and Eternal High Priest, in the presence of the Father.

The Sacred Liturgy

The sacred liturgy, be it the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass, the rites of the Sacraments and sacramentals, or the Divine Office, is the grand epiphany of the ceaseless prayer of Christ who, in the sanctuary of heaven and in the midst of His Church, stands before the Father as Son, as Priest, and as Perpetual Victim. If you would address the Father in the words of Christ, if you would go to the Father with the Heart of Christ, if you would listen to the voice of the Father with the ears of Christ, give yourself faithfully to the prayer of the Church.

The liturgy is an austere school of prayer. The asceticism it proposes involves painful detachments from the things we mistake for prayer, a simplification of all that is complicated. More than anything else it demands silence. Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the prayer of Christ!

The Prayer of Christ in the Church

The substance of the prayer of Christ to the Father is given us in the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass, but only the silent and the poor can receive it. When, from the altar, the great cry goes up — “Hearts on high!” — the Church, by the power of the Holy Spirit, is assumed into Christ’s heavenly prayer to the Father. The prayer of Christ indwells the Church through the Eucharist, and is prolonged in the hours of the Divine Office. Nothing is lost by total surrender to the liturgy. What is gained is the prayer of Christ. No longer do we pray then, but Christ prays in us, gracing us with a real participation in His Sonship, in His Priesthood, and in His Victimhood.

Fear Ye Not

And there is another epiphany in today’s Gospel: that of Our Lord walking on the waters of the troubled sea. Jesus manifests Himself as God. He speaks, saying, “Have a good heart” — and then, “It is I,” or “I AM.” This “I AM” manifests the Divinity of Jesus in the midst of turbulence and unrest. He continues to reveal Himself to us in the storms of life. He comes in every Mass, revealing Himself as God, and saying, “Have a good heart, it is I, fear ye not” (Mk 6:50).

The Eucharistic Epiphany of God

The Most Holy Eucharist is the epiphany of God beneath the signs of bread and wine. Our Lord Jesus Christ comes today for us; walking over troubled and storm-tossed waters, He comes to us. Receive Him, and adore. Receive Him, and consent to change. Receive Him, and know His peace.

1 Comments

padre mark:

de verdad que la bondad de dios no tiene limite..
no se imagina usted la gran bendicion que mi alma recibe con esta ensenanza de hoy.. al igual que el testimonio de maria sieler.
si usted me permitiera compartirlo con usted yo lo aria con gran alegria..
gracias por alimentar mi alma..
que dios lo bendiga eternamente...
mary

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About Dom Mark

Dom Mark Daniel Kirby is Conventual Prior of Silverstream Priory in Stamullen, County Meath, Ireland. The ecclesial mandate of his Benedictine community is the adoration of the Most Holy Sacrament of the Altar in a spirit of reparation, and in intercession for the sanctification of priests.

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