Holy Saturday: “We need the silence of God to experience again the abyss of his greatness…”

Holy Saturday: “We need the silence of God to experience again the abyss of his greatness…”

The death of God in Jesus Christ is at the same time the expression of his radical solidarity with us. The most obscure mystery of the faith is at the same time the clearest sign of a hope without end. And what is more: only through the failure of Holy Friday, only through the silence of death of Holy Saturday, were the disciples able to be led to an understanding of all that Jesus truly was and all that his message truly meant. God had to die for them so that he could truly live in them. The image they had formed of God, within which they had tried to hold him down, had to be destroyed so that through the rubble of the ruined house they might see the sky, him himself who remains, always, the infinitely greater. We need the silence of God to experience again the abyss of his greatness and the chasm of our nothingness which would grow wider and wider without him.

There is a Gospel scene which in an extraordinary way anticipates the silence of Holy Saturday and which again, therefore, seems to be a profile of the moment in history we are living now. Christ is asleep on a boat which, buffeted by a storm, is about to sink. The prophet Elijah had once made fun of the priests of Baal who were futilely invoking their god to send down fire on their sacrifice. He urged them to cry out louder in case their god was asleep. But is it true that God does not sleep? Does not the prophet’s scorn also fall upon the heads of the faithful of the God of Israel who are sailing with him in a boat about to sink? God sleeps while his very own are about to drown – is not this the experience of our lives? Don’t the Church, the faith, resemble a small boat about to sink, struggling futilely against the waves and the wind, and all the time God is absent? The disciples cry out in dire desperation and they shake the Lord to wake him but he is surprised at this and rebukes them for their small faith. But are things any different for us?

When the storm passes we will realize just how much this small faith of ours was charged with stupidity. And yet, O Lord, we cannot help shaking you, God, you who persist in keeping your silence, in sleeping, and we cannot help crying to you: Wake up, can’t you see we are sinking? Stir yourself, don’t let the darkness of Holy Saturday last for ever, let a ray of Easter fall, even on these times of ours, accompany us when we set out in our desperation towards Emmaus so that our hearts may be enflamed by the warmth of your nearness. You who, hidden, charted the paths of Israel only to become a man in the end with men – don’t leave us in the dark, don’t let your word be lost in these days of great squandering of words.

Lord, grant us your help, because without you we will sink. Amen .

“The Anguish of an Absence (Three Meditations on Holy Saturday)”
by Joseph Ratzinger
(later Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI)

 

Prayer

Lord Jesus Christ, in the darkness of death You made a light shine; in the abyss of the deepest solitude the powerful protection of Your love now lives for ever; in the throes of Your concealment we now can sing the hallelujah of the saved. Grant us the humble simplicity of faith, which does not let us stray when You call us in the hours of darkness, of abandonment, when all seems difficult; grant us, at this time when a mortal struggle is being waged around You, light enough that we will not lose You; light enough for us to give to all those who still have need of it. Make the mystery of Your Easter joy shine, like the aurora of the dawn, on these days of ours; grant that we may truly be men of Easter in the midst of history’s Holy Saturday. Grant that in the course of the days of light and dark of this age we may always with happy hearts find ourselves on the pathway to Your future glory. Amen.

Joseph Ratzinger

Meditationen zur Karwoche,
Kyrios-Verlag, Freising 1969

 

This makes me think… about the particular love God has for each us…

Da Vinci painted one Mona Lisa.
Beethoven composed one Fifth Symphony.
And God made one version of you…

We exist to exhibit God, to display His glory.

We serve as canvases for His brushstroke, papers for His pen, soil for His seeds, glimpses of His image.

–Max Lucado, Cure for the Common Life

I write about the enormous blessing of being made in the image of God in my book, Blessed, Beautiful, and Bodacious. You can read an excerpt on Amazon.

 

This makes me think… about all the little ways God is calling us…

This Beloved of ours is merciful and good. Besides, he so deeply longs for our love that he keeps calling us to come closer. This voice of his is so sweet that the poor soul falls apart in the face of her own inability to instantly do whatever he asks of her. And so you can see, hearing him hurts much more than not being able to hear him… For now, his voice reaches us through words spoken by good people, through listening to spiritual talks, and reading sacred literature. God calls to us in countless little ways all the time. Through illnesses and suffering and through sorrow he calls to us. Through a truth glimpsed fleetingly in a state of prayer he calls to us. No matter how halfhearted such insights may be, God rejoices whenever we learn what he is trying to teach us.

- Teresa of Avila, Interior Castle -

Advent Journal Entry: Advent Advice from Romans 15:7: “Welcome one another…”

Advent Journal Entry: Advent Advice from Romans 15:7: “Welcome one another…”

Welcome one another, then, as Christ welcomed you,
for the glory of God. (Romans 15:7)

I’m having a different kind of Advent where I’m trying to walk, not run… think, not speak… fast, not feast…(yet)… be mindful, not forget… Love, not withhold.

So I’m asking Jesus to help me to not only see the whole big picture — the way my theological-analytical-critical-creative skills might drive me — but to see the smaller, particular, personal things he needs me to know, see, and be.

This lone verse comes to us from the longer epistle for the Second Sunday of Advent. My love of St Paul’s good counsel always makes my heart desire to lean in to what he is saying.

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Welcome one another…

Oh, to be welcomed!

…Momma and Daddy welcoming a newborn…

…Kids coming home after school and there’s hot cocoa and cookies and snow day tomorrow!

…A beloved son or daughter returning home from a semester away!

…A husband waiting to meet you for a special date he’s planned!

…A long-distance friend arriving at the airport!

…Your most fun guests arriving at your front door!

…Or like the one you’ve longed for, prayed for, to come back to your family, or to their family, or to the church!

It warms the heart to offer such welcome… to lavish one’s love on the one being welcomed. Or to be the recipient of such a welcome.

What a watchword for me. How’s my welcome? Of Christ? Of others? How can it improve? What does this call me to in terms of hospitality, and generosity?

O Mary, help me with this… help me welcome Jesus and others into my heart, my life, my home, like you.

…as Christ welcomed you…

Yes, this is the Little Child of Bethlehem welcoming his Momma and Poppa into His Sacred Heart… who smiles at angels and the warmth of their song… feels the breath of animals nearby and nods at the shepherds with their sheep in tow… and goos at the holy magi who came a distance. This, too, is Jesus who see us kneel tenderly before the creche in our homes and churches.

Yes, this welcoming Christ really is the One all our hearts long for — that took on flesh… so we would know his face, his touch, and the Father’s heart through His. The same Christ in whose name we merit Baptism — a true welcome into union with God and with the Church.

Yes, this is the same Christ who takes on a living Presence in the Eucharist and welcomes us to an intimacy with God that is beyond our wildest imagining, and our deepest hopes.

…for the glory of God.

It’s true. Jesus has already come. He is already Present. And He will come again. This thrice-Advent welcomes us in!IMG_0308

It’s true, the glory of God lives in us by baptism: “Christ in you, the hope of glory!” (Col. 1:27)

It’s true, the glory of God is the end of our story.

The welcome we give to others must imitate the welcome Christ bids to us…. and Lord-willing, to foreshadow the welcome we’ll receive in our heavenly home, as we all sit together with Christ at the head of the heavenly banquet.

“I Jesus have sent my angel to you with this testimony for the churches. I am the root and the offspring of David, the bright morning star.”

The Spirit and the Bride say, “Come.” Let the hearer say, “Come.” Let the one who is thirsts come forward, and the one who wants it receive the give of life-giving water.  (Rev 22:16-17)

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Bonus Chorus from “The Messiah” (G. F. Handel):

“And the Glory of the Lord will be revealed… and all flesh will shall see it together… for the mouth of the Lord hath spoken it.”

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You can read the first journal entry for the first week of Advent here.

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My column at Patheos: Lumen Fidei’s last chapter = Faith as light in family, cities, culture

My column at Patheos: Lumen Fidei’s last chapter = Faith as light in family, cities, culture

As we conclude the Year of Faith this month, I’m completing my 5-part series at Patheos summarizing Francis’ first encyclical on faith, Lumen Fidei, looking at chapter four. (Check out the new study guide on the document at the bottom of this post.)

Here’s the opening of my latest column at Patheos…

God has our best in mind — always! God sees the eternal city he longs to bring us to one day. Yet at the same time God provides faith for the life we are called to build in our homes, cities, and societies. In this final chapter of Lumen Fidei (LF), Francis explores how faith builds a better world for the sake of all.

Screen Shot 2012-09-26 at 11.39.54 AMFaith is not only a journey, but also “a process of building, the preparing of a place in which human beings can dwell together with one another (LF, 50).” God first built the Creation where humanity could live and flourish. Then he took it a step farther and engaged humanity, calling us into a relationship with himself.

We’ve seen from history that God always builds with the good of his people in mind. God calls us to build with him, and we must do so with faith in God in mind.

The faith of Abraham and the Old Testament peoples was built upon the promises of God and a yearning for their fulfillment: a holy land, a chosen nation, a blessing for the world. The Letter to the Hebrews recalls how their faith was built on God.

“They desired a better country, that is, a heavenly one. Therefore God is not ashamed to be called their God, for he has prepared for them a city (Heb 11:16).”

Faith builds reliably on the firmness and fidelity of God himself. Faith illuminates all we do, not just for ourselves but for the good of all.

We are designed to think and act like God — for the common good — building families and societies with faith.

Faith makes us appreciate the architecture of human relationships because it grasps their ultimate foundation and definitive destiny in God, in his love, and thus sheds light on the art of building; as such it becomes a service to the common good. Faith is truly a good for everyone; it is a common good. Its light does not simply brighten the interior of the Church, nor does it serve solely to build an eternal city in the hereafter; it helps us build our societies in such a way that they can journey towards a future of hope. (LF, 51)

Families are the building blocks of society that best serve the common good. God’s master plan uses families to bring love to the world.

The first setting in which faith enlightens the human city is the family. I think first and foremost of the stable union of man and woman in marriage. This union is born of their love, as a sign and presence of God’s own love, and of the acknowledgment and acceptance of the goodness of sexual differentiation, whereby spouses can become one flesh (cf. Gen 2:24) and are enabled to give birth to a new life, a manifestation of the Creator’s goodness, wisdom and loving plan. Grounded in this love, a man and a woman can promise each other mutual love in a gesture which engages their entire lives and mirrors many features of faith. Promising love for ever is possible when we perceive a plan bigger than our own ideas and undertakings, a plan which sustains us and enables us to surrender our future entirely to the one we love. Faith also helps us to grasp in all its depth and richness the begetting of children, as a sign of the love of the Creator who entrusts us with the mystery of a new person. (LF, 52)

Truly the vocation of marriage and family life is bigger than what a husband and wife might plan for themselves. Their home is the field where the seeds of God’s plan are sown; it is the where faith is passed on and where children learn to trust in the love of parents, and ultimately trust God too.

This is why it is so important that within their families parents encourage shared expressions of faith which can help children gradually to mature in their own faith (LF, 53).

The encounter with Christ is an indispensible necessity to fruitful family life. Strong Christian marriages give birth and build strong Christians. Homes built on the foundation of Christ provide a secure and firm environment for the conversion of children and their spiritual maturing.

Encountering Christ, letting themselves be caught up in and guided by his love, enlarges the horizons of existence, gives [life] a firm hope which will not disappoint. Faith is no refuge for the fainthearted, but something which enhances our lives. It makes us aware of a magnificent calling, the vocation of love. It assures us that this love is trustworthy and worth embracing, for it is based on God’s faithfulness which is stronger than our every weakness (LF, 53).

Read the rest at my column on Patheos.

To catch up with the series I wrote on Lumen Fidei, you can find the introduction here, and my earlier articles on Chapter 1, Chapter 2, and Chapter 3.

Go here to subscribe to my column by email or RSS.

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EXCELLENT RESOURCE!! Master Catechist and Ave Maria Press author, Jared Dees, has a great study guide on Lumen Fidei. Now you can do a personal study on this encyclical, or do a group study in your home or church! Don’t miss this study guide!

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On midlife courage, surprises, and Providence

On midlife courage, surprises, and Providence

Jesus and Mary, thank you for the godly women that you send into my life.

Today I had breakfast with one of my good friends. The kind of friend that you lament that circumstances prevent you both from getting together more often, but you are so glad that you did.

We talked about the transitions we are in over eggs and toast, oatmeal and coffee. The mothering journey is different when you have adult children. The marriage journey is different than it was decades ago. The work we do now is ever changing from what we did long ago, too.

Yet the prayer life is deeper, more Eucharistic, steady. It is what always makes sense. And what makes sense of us.

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A few observances…

Midlife is one of those times when you really need courage…

-to make transitions,
-to try new things as we keep up with the old things,
-to be open to a season where both younger and older generations needs you…
-to finally be comfy enough in your own skin to accept whatever comes, with love and with more love…

God still has few surprises in store for us in midlife… so better get ready…

-you will shake your head and laugh at what God has planned for you… and those you love…
-because it is so good, or better, or crazier, and riskier than what you would imagine for yourself…

God knows you are much better at trusting His Plan for your life these days than you used to be.

-So you keeping showing up.
-Day by day
-Because He does.

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I am finding more and more comfort in the bedrock of Providence…

All I know about tomorrow is that God’s Providence will rise before the sun.

-Fr Jean Baptiste Lacordaire, OP-

This makes me think… about the privilege of being a woman who has borne a child

The special role granted to women in procreation… is highlighted by the fact that as soon as she has conceived (and conception takes place hours after the marital embrace), God creates the soul of a new child in her body. This implies a “direct contact” between Him and the mother-to-be, a contact in which the father place no role whatever. This contact gives the female body a note of sacredness, for any closeness between God and one of His creatures is stamped by His Holy Seal. This divine “touch” is… a special privilege that every pregnant woman should gratefully acknowledge.

Alice von Hildebrand

The Privilege of Being a Woman

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I reflect on this in chapter 8 of Blessed, Beautiful, and Bodacious.

On writerlyness and fortune cookies… or the good fortune of writing.

On writerlyness and fortune cookies… or the good fortune of writing.

“…it’s not the published book that makes you a writer. You’re a writer because of the things you notice in the world, and the joy you feel stringing the right words together so they sound like music.”

- Susan Henderson-

About twenty years ago, when my children were small, I got a fortune cookie once with my take-out order with an interesting message. ”You are a lover of words. Someday you will write a book,” it said. It was a funny thing to ponder at the time. I never thought of really writing a book — but I was indeed a lover of words.

I knew what it was like to write for living. I was a women who gave up her radio and advertising work — where I wrote six days a week — to write a different story as a stay-at-home mother. I never regretted it.

Being a parent is one of the only jobs in the world where you have the privilege of writing something on another person’s heart. If you are fortunate, you live long enough to hear the melody you wrote sung back to you. There I was, back in the day, sharing that love of words, and love of The Word, by reading stories aloud to my children, and teaching them to read and write their own little compositions!

I don’t take much stock in fortune cookies, or any other way of discerning one’s future, outside of prayer and hard work. Looking back, it seems maybe the fortune cookie got it right. Some twenty-five years later, I am still a lover of words, and eventually, I did write a book!

More to the point, I have written the equivalent of many books if you add up all the songs, poetry, commercials, research papers, columns, articles, freelance projects, podcast scripts and blog posts I’ve written over time. Writing has been somewhat of a constant, despite interesting detours. Being new to book publishing does not mean that I’m new to the writing craft. It’s just that the word-stringing is more symphonic. There is a whole team that adds their notes to the page.

Over the last fifteen years, I have held other jobs that were less written-word-laden. Some of them were part-time pursuits that fit in well with my need to raise my family. Even though they were not writerly jobs, they allowed me to be creative in other ways, outside of the page. Some of those positions, in recent years, were with the church — and most of those people who have known me, those I have ministered to and with, had little idea about my love affair with words, other than my passion for Scrabble. Many are surprised when they hear I wrote a book. They did not know I was a writer, they say. As if the book makes the writer.

As grateful as I am for the book, this quasi-empty-nester has been embracing that shift from part-time to full time work, and much of that involves a pen or a keyboard. I’m figuring out that writing is still a constant, and still figuring into the midlife script that God seems to be writing.

I was just sharing with a friend that when I finished my Masters in theology I expected to teach, or do faith formation at a parish somewhere nearby, preferably with a short commute. But God had other plans. Now that “parish” looks a lot like the Catholic blogosphere and periodicals, and the opportunity to pray and speak and teach in parishes and dioceses well outside my comfort zone of the little country lane where I raised my kids.

Another friend, a writer with a gift I have long admired, shared that one of her early loves was music. And though her path deviated from pursuing music as a career, I told her I hear music whenever I read her best stuff. Her word-craft is a magnificent voice.

What I keep learning about the writing life, or whatever your field, is that it is important to pay attention to what makes your heart sing. Be it actual music to your ears, or a kind of music that comes silently from your heart when you are doing the thing that you love, the thing you are meant to do. It’s like you can hear God softly singing along.

I’m a writer today because of what Susan Henderson writes above. I notice things and I want to share them, usually by first writing things down. Making the words sing on the page, well, that’s just all part of the fun.

God, not the fortune cookie, got it right with me all along… from taking my love of words as a child, writing little plays for school, or performing in them… or penning song lyrics as a musician and sometimes singer… to my  radio work and copywriting in the commercial marketplace… to filling childhoods with bibles and books…to being the scribe behind church newsletters…  to my word-weavings in Catholic spheres that take me beyond my parish out to new places.

The good fortune of writing is not related to any material success, but to the music you hear in your work… especially if you hear God quietly harmonizing.

The LORD, your God, is in your midst, a mighty savior,

Who will rejoice over you with gladness, and renew you in his love,

Who will sing joyfully because of you…

- Zephaniah 3 :17

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