From Isaac of Stella

"So, brother, make for yourself a hidden place within yourself, in which you can flee away from yourself and pray in secret to the Father." Isaac of Stella

Passing From Self to God: A Cistercian Retreat, Robert Thomas, OCSO Cistercian Press, 2006, p. 4

Sunday, June 26, 2011

Corpus Christi

Today is a triumphant feast day in the Church, the feast of Corpus Christi.  Tracing back to the 1200's, we recognize and revere the presence of the Lord in the eucharistic elements.  We plan to have a procession through town today in celebration, a showing of the King to his subjects and letting the world see her King.  The new Adam, who leads us to the kingdom of eternity.

Oh mighty Logos, great Christ!
We follow you now in your body and your blood as you divinize nature itself
And bring all things into one in yourself.
We praise you, Oh mighty King!

Saturday, June 25, 2011

The Smell of Smoke

It is a little unsettling observing what a radicalizing effect the Fr. Corapi episode is having on me.  I already have been disappointed in the attitude of the Catholic Bishops towards the loss of the faith and liturgical and aesthetic wasteland that is Catholic worship and life over the last 50 years.  I never would have thought I would have sympathy for the SSPX, but I am beginning to understand their appeal.

I am not a fan of Fr. Corapi.  I have listened to a few of his short messages and didn't find them something I wanted to pursue.  The aspect of the current scandal that bothers me is that I share his impression that he has no real chance for justice under his bishop, or really any bishop.  He is being asked to just take one for the team, to suffer for Jesus.  This is a pernicious manipulation tool used by the unscrupulous to blackmail the righteous into not defending themselves.  Suffering for Jesus is something you choose for yourself, not something you callously demand someone else do.  Fr. Corapi has the right to defend himself from spurious accusations just as Paul had the right to appeal to Caesar.  To me this is just another of a long list of demands by those in leadership in the church to declare that "black is white and white is black".  No.  No more.

The leaders do not lead.  "The best lack all conviction, while the worst are full of passionate intensity."  The leadership in Rome writes documents they do not enforce.  The local leadership does not obey and argues that if they were supposed to obey, there would be consequences for not obeying.  As there are none, no obligation for obedience exist.  Liturgies are banal self worship sessions, the gospel is mistaken for the destruction of families and individuals by servitude under the nanny state.  Everywhere are victims and slaves.  Where is the heroism of the saints?

I am tempted to adopt a similar posture towards those in leadership over me in the church.  You want me to obey some questionable decree?  Put it in writing and with my name on it and I will obey.  Anything less will get the oblivion of apathy from me that your leadership deserves.  Act with heroism and I will respect you.  Live the Spiritual Acts of Mercy, and don't think you are obeying the Corporal Acts by voting to increase the welfare rolls.  How is it merciful to make men dependents of Leviathan?

Darkness and darkness.  Who is that knocking at my door?  Will I open of my free will and let Him in, or will I wait the demanding summons of the King at the end, when it is time to sift the wheat and the tares and it is far too late.  Schopenhauer knew that men were born to suffer, and must die to self in order to be free, and that the road to freedom/holiness was suffering and art.

Help me, Oh Lord, to be free of the darkness, that no man or bishop or heretic may trouble me even as they ask me to light the fires of my own pyre, as they asked of Fr. Corapi with his.  Those who live by the anger, die in their anger, and that worm will never rest once ensconced in the heart and the fires will burn without light within one for ever.  Let it not be so with me.

Help me, Oh Lord, to pray for those I see as enemies, to love them and show them the true fruits of love.  Let me show them the mercy they would deny to others.  For it is in giving that I will receive, in forgiving that I will be pardoned, and in dying to self that I will find everlasting life.

Friday, June 3, 2011

A Meditation on Fasting

Today I am fasting in support of my wife who is forgoing food as part of a time of self imposed penance.  I have had problems with fasting.  The exuberant demands of the flesh have always tended to have their way with me.  When I would think about it I can see that I would put it this way to myself, "life has enough troubles without my manufacturing discomforts for myself."  But there is a difference between discomfort from without oneself, from the vast realm of indifferents over which we have no control, and discomfort from refusing to answer a call of the passions from within.   The first comes as a gift of nature, from the beneficent hand of God, and is, it seems to me, to be an opportunity to lay down self will and accept gratefully the opportunity to practice the humble virtues of perseverance, patience, and self abnegation.  The second is an act of the personal will to refuse something.  It is not an acceptance, but an assertion.  It is a positive act against the default settings of your body.  It is an act of asceticism, of anti-nature.  Why would a man want to do an ascetic act?

Schopenhauer teaches that asceticism is actually like the first sort of discomfort discussed above in that it is a laying down of the incessant driving of the "will", the "thing in itself" which is the hidden reality of all existence.  Through music, art, beauty and asceticism we can escape the suffering that is existence and know peace, and perhaps even joy.  It is different from the first sort of discomfort in that the first does not see existence as suffering in itself, but as the gift of a beneficent God who give both suffering and pleasure as opportunities to chose virtue, and so these things are neither good or bad in themselves.  This passive acceptance requires active choosing, often against the loud internal arguments of passions, appetites and instincts.  The second sort of discomfort, the self imposed suffering of an ascetic practice, uses the same tools of acceptance, but in an artificial setting, a self imposed situation of discomfort.  The discomfort itself then becomes the object of active choice rather than the object of passive acceptance.  A subtle difference, but one which is important.

Schopenhauer gives us one reason why asceticism is important.  By refusing the rule the appetites and training them to submission by ascetic practice we are distancing ourselves from the roar of the demands of our individual presentation of the universal will to exist.  This removes us from the suffering which is the reality of that will in its individual presentations.  We will know peace.
There are other reasons.  Freedom from slavery to non rational passions, mastery of the various demands of the flesh and the world.  Freedom to really choose what we think is right and true and beautiful- every act of asceticism helps to strengthen the musculature that is needed to rise up and walk against the immense gravity of the massive temptations of the world, the flesh and the spiritual temptations (the devil, if you will).

Mary embodies the virtues inherent in the first sort of discomfort.  She gives her "fiat" to the angel, telling him, "let it be done to me according to your will."  She suffers the piercing of the seven swords in her acceptance of the Father's will for her only son, Jesus.  Her virtue is shown to be without comparison, but she takes not the Stoic's comfort of distancing herself emotionally from the consequences of her fiat.  She suffers truly, and mixes the virtues of her acceptance with those of her son for the benefit of us, her children.

Jesus choses the severity of the cross so that he might win for us the new life of self abnegation and union with the Father.  He is the Logos, the will behind all creation, its warp and woof, and he chooses to take death on the cross, not passively but actively, like an ascetic choosing a painful practice.  In the painful travail of this birth of the new race of men, with Christ as the new Adam and all of us one with him, the suffering that is life is consummated into joy and peace, and the tears are wiped away.  In the evening, we go weeping, weeping into the growing darkness.  But joy comes in the morning.

May the fast be good today.
The life of men is indeed a mystery