EXAMINATION OF CONSCIENCE
The examination of conscience is a Catholic dance move, it’s one that goes on secretly, it’s kind of like the pregame for mass, you go through these steps to make sure your groove is right and that you are bringing yourself to the floor with the right attitude of heart and mind. It’s about getting the right attitude mentally and emotionally and spiritually for what’s about to happen when you begin making all those signs of the cross and bows and kneels.
An examination of conscience is an essential part of Christian spirituality, whether you’re Catholic or catholic. (Because let’s be honest, no one wants to really be outside a church as awesome as the One, Holy, Catholic(meaning universal, but we can get into that later), and Apostolic Church.)
However, an examination of conscience is not an opportunity to get all caught up in all that “woe is me!” nonsense that can distract you from the real purpose of a good examination of conscience. The purpose of a good examination of conscience is not to behold your own sinfulness, but to behold where you’ve breached proper relationship with God and neighbor.
The difference between these two mindsets is incredibly important and not to be overlooked or taken lightly. What matters in the examination of conscience is not how closely i can nitpick and scrutinize myself, but how closely I can behold Christ in the midst of looking at myself both with and through Him. In 1 Corinthians 11 St. Paul talks about discerning the body so that we may eat worthily, and I suspect it is not only the mystery of the Lord’s body he is discussing, but also of each other, as the Body of the Lord. When we can come to the table having been restored by Christ, it is to celebrate His grace, and to remember His call to live in communion with God and neighbor.
So, in order to do a proper examination of conscience we start with the Ten Commandments, because those tend to cover most things. This will be slightly different from a general examination in that I wrote some of these questions myself and either added them to or substituted and combined other questions that fit together. I use this one, but have also added questions for those of you who might be married or have children.
1. I am the Lord your God. You shall not have strange gods before me.
-Do I seek God in prayer?
-Do I seek to love Him with my whole heart and through the actions of my life?
-Have I been involved with superstitious practices or have I been involved with the occult?
-Do I surrender myself to God´s word as taught by the Church?
-Have I ever received communion in the state of mortal sin?
-Have I ever deliberately told a lie in Confession or have I withheld a mortal sin from the priest in Confession?
-Are there other gods in my life? Money, Security, Power? In what ways can I bring Christ’s lordship to the forefront of my spiritual life and my earthly desires?
2. You shall not take the name of the Lord your God in vain.
-Have I used God´s name in vain: lightly or carelessly?
-Have I not taken the resurrection or Christian hope seriously?
-Have I been complacent towards the duty of charity, or neglected being a peacemaker?
-Have I insulted a sacred person or abused a sacred object?
3. Remember to keep holy the Lord´s Day.
-Have I deliberately missed Mass on Sundays or Holy Days of Obligation?
-Have I tried to observe Sunday as a family day and a day of rest?
-Do I take seriously my own need for rest and spiritual communion with God and others?
4. Honor your father and your mother.
-Do I honor and obey my parents and the Church?
-Have I neglected my duties to my spouse, children or neighbors?
-Have I given my family and friends a good religious example?
-Do I try to bring peace into the lives of those around me?
-Do I care for the aged, the infirm, and the unborn with corporal acts of mercy?
5. You shall not kill.
-Have I had an abortion or encouraged or helped anyone to have an abortion?
-Have I physically harmed anyone?
-Have I enjoyed or approved of violence thoughtlessly? Have I supported a war without cause or too passionately?
-Did I give scandal to anyone, thereby leading him or her into sin?
-Have I been angry or resentful?
-Have I harbored hatred in my heart?
-Have I mutilated myself through any form of sterilization or self-harm?
-Have I encouraged or condoned sterilization, artificial insemination or in vitro fertilization?
-Have I carelessly approved of war or armed conflict?
-Have I participated in or approved of euthanasia?
6. You shall not commit adultery.
-Have I been faithful to my marriage vows in thought and action?
-Have I engaged in any sexual activity outside of marriage?
-Have I used any method of contraception or artificial birth control in my marriage?
-Has each sexual act in my marriage been open to the transmission of new life as well as the communion essential to proper sexuality?
-Have I been guilty of masturbation or other sexual selfishness?
-Do I seek to control my thoughts and imaginations?
-Have I respected all members of the opposite sex as persons, or have I thought of other people as mere objects?
-Am I a seductive person, or do I live in such a way as to keep myself and others from temptation?
-Do I seek to be chaste in my thoughts, words,actions?
-Am I careful to dress modestly and carry myself with dignity?
7. You shall not steal.
-Have I stolen what is not mine? Have I returned or made restitution for what I have stolen?
-Have I been guilty of excesses in either socialist/communist or capitalist practices?
-Do I waste time at work, school, and home?
-Do I gamble excessively, carry on too strong a social life, or work too much thereby denying my family of their need for me?
-Do I pay my debts promptly?
-Do I seek to share what I have with the poor? Do I give to the Church?
-Have I cheated anyone out of what is justly theirs, for example creditors, insurance companies, big corporations?
8. You shall not bear false witness against your neighbor.
-Have I lied? Have I gossiped?Have I ruined the reputation of another person with slander?
-Do I speak badly of others behind their back?
-Am I sincere in my dealings with others?
-Am I critical, negative or uncharitable in my thoughts of others?
-Do I keep secret what should be kept confidential?
-Have I injured the reputation of the faith by living it insincerely?
9. You shall not desire your neighbor´s wife.
-Have I consented to impure thoughts and desires?
-Have I caused them by impure reading, movies, television, conversation or curiosity?
-Do I pray at once to banish impure thoughts and temptations?
-Have I taken my own relationships and friendships seriously as my opportunity for service and love?
10. You shall not desire your neighbor´s goods.
-Am I jealous of what other people have?
-Do I envy the families or possessions of others?
-Am I greedy or selfish?
-Are material possessions the purpose of my life?
That’s about it. After this, which you can do at home on the way to mass, in the Church while you wait your turn, or any time during the week, you might want to say a prayer. For some, the act of contrition prayer will do. For others, the liturgical prayer before confession will suffice. I personally enjoy St. Symeon the New Theologian’s prayer before confession:
O God and Lord of all! Who has the power over every breath and soul, the only One able to heal me, hearken unto the prayer of me, the wretched one! And, having put him to death, destroy the serpent nestling within me by the descent of the All-Holy and Life-Creating Spirit. And vouchsafe me, poor and naked of all virtue, to fall with tears at the feet of my spiritual father, and call his holy soul to mercy, to have mercy on me.
And grant, O Lord, unto my heart humility and good thoughts, becoming a sinner, who hath consented to repent unto Thee, and do not abandon unto the end a single soul, which has united itself unto Thee and has confessed Thee, and instead of all the world has chosen Thee and has preferred Thee. For Thou knowest, O Lord, that I want to save myself, and that my evil habit is an obstacle. But all things are possible unto Thee, O Master, which are impossible for man. Amen.
O Jesus…, strengthen our souls, open out the way for us, and, above all, intoxicate us with your Love! Make us into blazing fires to kindle the earth with the heavenly fire you brought us.
Taken from: the Forge, Chapter 1 #31
In these times of violence and brutal, savage sexuality, we have to be rebels: we refuse point blank to go with the tide, and become beasts
We want to behave like children of God, like men and women who are on intimate terms with their Father, who is in Heaven and who wants to be very close to — inside! — each one of us
Lord, you alone dwell in unapproachable light, and to thee we ascribe Glory.
In the Name of the Father, Who created me, with the Son who liberated me, in the Holy Spirit who renews life over the face of Creation. Amen.
Lord, hear our prayer:
That we might find courage on the pilgrim path, we pray. For those who find their decisions clouded, grant your guiding light.
Lord, for those Who face life and death, we pray You show your mercy. For the weak and theweary, hear our prayer.
For the clergy and religious, that you may draw them deeper into your infinite love, and that we too like them may forsake all that comes before You.
For you are the life which is the Light of men, and we rejoice in having found you. For while we were without you we had darkness, but you O Lord, have made our eye good, and filled our body full of Light.
Give us thy holy light, that we too might be in and through thine all good and Penetecostal Spirit the life of men insofar as we embody you and forsake all else that has come before. We humbly pray.
In the Name of the Father, the source and wellspring of Love. The Son, the eternal Beloved, and the Holy Spirit, the bond of love stronger than Death, we pray. Amen.
Lord, we are glad to find ourselves in your wounded palm. Grasp us tight, squeeze us hard make us lose all our earthly wretchedness, purify us, set us on fire, make us feel drenched in your Blood
—And then, cast us far, far away, hungry for the harvest, to sow the seed more fruitfully each day for Love of you
This is truly the prayer of a lover. Hans Urs Von Balthsar said “lovers know the most about God,” and he was right. Notice the absence of selfishness and the purity of intent that emanate from these words.
He asks to be brought close, to be drenched in the most precious blood, but only then to be cast out into the harvest as a worker. May we all be so bold and so daring as to join these prayers both in word and deed. Then we shall be practical, Catholic.
We are children of God. —Bearers of the only flame that can light up the paths of the earth for souls, of the only brightness which can never be darkened, dimmed or overshadowed
—The Lord uses us as torches, to make that light shine out… It depends on us that many should not remain in darkness, but walk instead along paths that lead to eternal life
The quote speaks for itself.
In the East, Easter is about the victory of God, and does not show Jesus having burst from the grave surrounded in light, but rather shows His descent into hell. The following is from a homily Pope Benedict gave called Christ the Liberator. It can be found in the book The Essential Pope Benedict XVI. He is discussing the icon of the Resurrection in the East, and its differences.
In the perspective of the icon, this is an affirmation concerning Jesus’ victory. The icon shows Him having shattered the bolt of this world., Having torn its gates from their hinges. It depicts him as the “stronger man” who has opened and penetrated into the domain of the “strong man.” It portrays Him as the Victor, having burst through the supposedly impregnablefortress of death, such that death is not now longer a place of no return; its doors lie open. Christ in the aura of His wounded love, stands in this doorway, addresses the still somnolent Adam, and takes him by the hand to lead him forth…The Adam addressed by the victorious Christ is we ourselves- “I am in you and you are in me.” Having taken human nature he is now present in human flesh and we are present in him, the Son.
I’ve been doing a lot of thinking, and I would ask you to consider how Lent and all of Christianity has either invited you into or repulsed you from the “aura of wounded love” and leave a comment.
Share your experiences in sacrificial, wounded love. I’d love to hear from you, and maybe start a discussion. Most especially since my soteriology has taken a new twist in the past few months: “To suffer with gracious acceptance is to have found what it means to be saved” is the soteriological formula that I’ve been working with.
To end with a quote by Irenaeus: “I have learned to love suffering, but I do not know that I deserve the honor.”
What are your thoughts?
Brought to you by St. Benedict of Nursia.
St. Benedict of Nursia more often simply called St. Benedict, founder of the Benedictine Order of monks offers to his brothers a 12 step program I think all Christians can learn from. Lent is often a time for lone reflection, like Jesus in the wilderness. However, as Christians, we’re never really alone, since we’re all One in Christ. Taking a cue from MONKROCK, I think it’s important we remember that you don’t have to be a monk to live like one. So I have enlisted the help of a monk and saint for this week’s Lenten Reflection. For more information on Benedictines search around, but there’s plenty to see.
We could all use a little recovery from time to time, most especially from the damage we do to ourselves. Most churches I was in as a protestant either had or directed people to a celebrate recovery group or another 12-step sort of program.
I think we could all use some guiding light for the dangerous and ardent or dry times in our lives. I also think that since pride is the root of the Seven Deadly Sins, overcoming pride is easily the most foundational way to live the life we’re called to in Christ. Lent can be a very dry and painful season, if we neglect to sacrifice rightly. To paraphrase my girlfriend, ‘fasting is only good if we’re not already starving’. Not only that, I think in the world of today we’re haunted by culture’s constant need to redirect us towards ourselves in negative and unhealthy ways. So I think this reflection is all about community together. Keep that in mind as you read this and ponder on humility.
The Saints are our Recovery Partners
I believe the best way to find that light, is to have a guide, that guide in my life is a collection of saints whom I turn to for guidance, because they’re my Christian role models. Often, they’re monks or other persons of great holiness who draw us away from the baseness of everyday life, and call us into the future that God desires for all of us.
We know they have heard the call of God and responded in a way we can model ourselves after.
I think Catholics should read monastic texts, but not because we should follow the rules to a T. I think we should read these texts for their value in spiritual formation. The way of perfection is a universal call, we must respond accordingly, and sometimes that may mean being inspired by the saints. Looking to our brothers and sisters in the religious life can be a well-spring of inspiration and hope in troubled times. And in any case, it can help us see new ways to fulfill our original callings.
Remember, you don’t have to be a monk to live like one.
The Catholic 12 Step Program
Brothers, divine Scripture calls to us saying:Whoever exalts himself shall be humbled, and whoever humbles himself shall be exalted(Luke 14:11; 18:14). In saying this, therefore, it shows us that every exaltation is a kind of pride, which the Prophet indicates he has shunned, saying, Lord, my heart is not exalted; my eyes are not lifted up and I have not walked in the ways of the great nor gone after marvels beyond me (Ps 130 :1). And why? If I had not a humble spirit, but were exalted instead, then you would treat me like a weaned child on it’s mothers lap (Ps 130 :2).
Accordingly, brothers, if we want to reach the highest summit of humility, if we desire to attain speedily that exaltation in heaven to which we climb by the humility of this present life, then by our ascending actions we must set up that ladder on which Jacob in a dream saw angels descending and ascending (Gen 28:12). Without doubt, this descent and ascent can signify only that we descend by exaltation and ascend by humility. Now the ladder erected is our life on earth, and if we humble our hearts the Lord will raise it to heaven. We may call our body and soul the sides of this ladder, into which our divine vocation has fitted the various steps of humility and discipline as we ascend.
- The first step of humility, then, is that a man keeps the fear of God always before his eyes (Ps 35 :2) and never forgets it. He must constantly remember everything God has commanded, keeping in mind that all who despise God will burn in hell for their sins, and all who fear God have everlasting life awaiting them. While he guards himself at every moment from sins and vices of thought or tongue, of hand or foot, of self-will or bodily desire, let him recall that he is always seen by God in heaven, that his actions everywhere are in God’s sight and are reported by angels at every hour. The Prophet indicates this to us when he shows that our thoughts are always present to God, saying: God searches hearts and minds (Ps 7:10); again he says:The Lord knows the thoughts of men (Ps 93 :11); likewise, From afar you know my thoughts (Ps 138 :3); and The thought of man shall give you praise (Ps 75 :11). That he may take care to avoid sinful thoughts, the virtuous brother must always say to himself: I shall be blameless in his sight if I guard myself from my own wickedness (Ps 17 :24).Truly, we are forbidden to do our own will, for Scripture tells us: Turn away from your desires (Sir 18:30). And in the Prayer too we ask God that his will be done in us (Matt 6:10). We are rightly taught not to do our own will, since we dread what Scripture says: There are ways which men call right that in the end plunge into the depths of hell (Prov 16:25). Moreover, we fear what is said of those who ignore this:They are corrupt and have become depraved in their desires (Ps 13 :1).As for the desires of the body, we must believe that God is always with us, for All my desires are known to you (Ps 37 :10), as the Prophet tells the Lord. We must ten be on guard against any base desire, because death is stationed near the gateway of pleasure. For this reason Scripture warns us, Pursue not your lust (Sir 18:30).Accordingly, if the eyes of the Lord are watching the good and the wicked (Prov 15:3), if at all times the Lord looks down from heaven on the sons of men to see whether any understand and seek God (Ps 13 :2); and if every day angels assigned to us report our deeds to the Lord day and night, then, brothers, we must be vigilant every hour or, as the Prophet says in the psalm, God may observe us falling at some time into evil and so made worthless (Ps 13 :2). After sparing us for a while because he is a loving father who waits for us to improve, he may tell us later, This you did, and I said nothing (Ps 49 :21).
- The second step of humility is that a man loves not his own will nor takes pleasure in the satisfaction of his desires; rather he shall imitate by his actions that saying of the Lord: I have come not to do my own will, but the will of him who sent me(John 6:38). Similarly we read, “Consent merits punishment; constraint wins a crown.”
- The third step of humility is that a man submits to his superior in all obedience for the love of God, imitating the Lord of whom the Apostle says: He become obedient even to death (Phil 2:8).
- The fourth step of humility is that in this obedience under difficult, unfavorable, or even unjust conditions, his heart quietly embraces suffering and endures it without weakening or seeking escape. For Scripture has it: Anyone who perseveres to the end will be saved (Matt 10:22), and again, Be brave of heart and rely on the Lord (Ps 26 :14). Another passage shows how the faithful must endure everything, even contradiction, for the Lord’s sake, saying in the person of those who suffer, For your sake we are put to death continually; we are regarded as sheep marked for slaughter (Rom 8:36; Ps 43 :22). They are so confident in their expectation of reward from God that they continue joyfully and say, But in all this we overcome because of him who so greatly loved us (Rom 8:37). Elsewhere Scripture says: O God, you have tested us, you have led us into a snare, you have placed afflictions on our backs (Ps 65 :10-11). Then, to show that we ought to be under a superior, it adds: You have placed men over our heads (Ps 65 :12).
In truth, those who are patient amid hardships and unjust treatment are fulfilling the Lord’s command: When struck on one cheek, they turn the other; when deprived of their coat, they off their cloak also; when pressed into service for one mile, they go two (Matt 5:39-41). With the Apostle Paul, they bear with false brothers, endure persecution and bless those who curse them (2 Cor 11:26; 1 Cor 4:12).
- The fifth step of humility is that a man does not conceal from his abbot any sinful thoughts entering his heart, or any wrongs committed in secret, but confesses them humbly. Concerning this, Scripture exhorts us: Make known your way to the Lord and hope in him (Ps 36 :5). And again, Confess to the Lord, for he is good; his mercy is forever (Ps 105 :1; Ps 117 :1). So too the Prophet: To you I have acknowledge my offense; my faults I have not concealed. I have said: Against myself I will report my faults to the Lord, and you have forgiven the wickedness of my heart (Ps 31 :5).
- The sixth step of humility is that a monk is content with the lowest and most menial treatment, and regards himself as a poor and worthless workman in whatever task he is given, saying to himself with the Prophet: I am insignificant and ignorant, no better than a beast before you, yet I am with you always (Ps 72 :22-23).
- The seventh step of humility is that a man not only admits with his tongue but is also convinced in his heart that he is inferior to all and of less value, humbling himself and saying with the Prophet: I am truly a worm, not a man, scorned by men and despised by the people (Ps 21 :7). I was exalted, then I was humbled and overcome with confusion (Ps 87 :16). And again, It is a blessing that you have humbled me so that I can learn your commandments (Ps 118 :71, 73).
- The eighth step of humility is that a monk does only what is endorsed by the common rule of the monastery and the example set by his superiors.
- The ninth step of humility is that a monk controls his tongue and remains silent, not speaking unless asked a question, for Scripture warns, In a flood of words, you will not avoid sinning (Prov 10:19), and, A talkative man goes about aimlessly on earth (Ps 139 :12).
- The tenth step of humility is that he is not given to ready laughter, for it is written:Only a fool raises his voice in laughter (Sir 21:23).
- The eleventh step of humility is that a monk speaks gently and without laughter, seriously and with becoming modesty, briefly and reasonably, but without raising his voice, as it is written: “A wise man is known by his few words.”
- The twelfth step of humility is that a monk always manifests humility in his bearing no less than in his heart, so that it is evident at the Work of God, in the oratory, the monastery or the garden, on a journey or in the field, or anywhere else. Whether he sits, walks or stands, his head must be bowed and his eyes cast down. Judging himself always guilty on account of his sins, he should consider that he is already at the fearful judgment, and constantly say in his heart what the publican in the Gospel said with downcast eyes: Lord, I am a sinner, not worthy to look up to heaven (Luke 18:13). And with the Prophet: I am bowed down and humbled in every way (Ps 37 :7-9; Ps 118 :107).
The Final Word
Now, therefore, after ascending all these steps of humility, the monk will quickly arrive at that perfect love of God which casts out fear (1 John 4:18). Through this love, all that he once performed with dread, he will now begin to observe without effort, as though naturally, from habit, no longer out of fear of hell, but out of love for Christ, good habit and delight in virtue. All this the Lord will by the Holy Spirit graciously manifest in his workman now cleansed of vices and sins.
–St. Benedict of Nursia, RB 1980: The Rule of St. Benedict in English and Latin, Chapter 7
Welcome back to The Practical Catholic. It’s time for a Lenten reflection blog post.
After his Baptism Jesus was driven out into the wilderness, to be tempted. He was there for 40 days.
As I near the end of my journey from Evangelical to Catholic, and near my dawn as a fully fledged Jesus-eating, bible-reading, spirituall mature, confession-saying Roman Catholic, I wanted to celebrate Lent properly. In talking with Kassie, the Secret Vatican Spy, I was inspired to take a rounded approach that focused on the pursuit of virtue.
I want to spend the 40 days of Lent focusing on the way of Jesus, the one anointed to deliver us from Sin.
The God that Jesus hearkened us to hear is a loving God, but His love desires that we should be everything He intends for Creation. Namely, God desires that we would become Christ.
Jesus is what God’s picture of our redemption looks like. From the dawn of time until now, we have seen a fallen world, a world in bondage. However, the Christ, given to us, is how God calls us to live.
That we as a culture take on the task of “giving up” sometimes tangential things, or do not use Lent as a time of offering ourselves in pursuit of virtue is sad. We have so much more to offer God, and in turn-ourselves, when we make Lent about seeking righteousness.
Lent is not a time for navel-gazing self-hatred. It’s not a time to give up things just for the fun of it. It is a time to call to mind our sins. But it is also a time to call to mind our ability to enjoin ourselves to Christ. This season, make it about Jesus, and following in the master’s footsteps.
I’d encourage all of you as I am encouraging myself, to take up the task of looking at the temptation narrative and asking the question: Where am I tempted? In what ways can I help myself avoid temptation and be delivered from evil?
That’s what’s at the heart of Lent, not just a shallow repentance that places some odds and ends along with a prison shank at the altar. Lent is about walking with Jesus, and that makes all the difference. Whether I do decide to give up brussels sprouts or not, what matters is walking with Jesus on the road less traveled.
For those of you who have patiently waited for a post, thanks for your patience. Life has certainly been busy. I think the prayer I am about to share is a very important one. We often seek more knowledge or other things in the Western Tradition. I think we would all do well to continue to pray for light.
I feel that we often find ourselves jaded. Wait, let me rephrase that. I often find myself jaded, and dismal, and lacking hope. I find myself forgetting to live in the power of the resurrection. I find myself lacking the imagination to live in the light. What I mean is, we forget that we can and should live in the power of the resurrection now. I forget that Christ is risen. I forget that Christ has conquered and now we live in victory.
I recently had a debate with some friends most convert to Catholicism, and I found myself depressed at the way it was handled at various moments. I watched these friends of mine, whom I love dearly defend beliefs and ideals to high heaven, but I saw very little charity. I decided to make a choice, and that choice was to be different.
The Rule I discovered as a principle to put into the conversion survival guide is this:
It’s easy to lose sight of your conversion’s reasons when you get mired down in theological and liturgical debates. But it’s best to stay focused on Christ, on the power of the resurrection and why you are in process of conversion. It’s imperative that in moments of trial we ask for God to help us find the light again.
I think that’s the most important thing about all this. Remembering to depend on God for His light in the midst of darkness.
Let’s not Get Lost:
I learned today that it’s extremely easy to get lost in minutiae of any sort on any side of the liturgical aisle, obsessions over liturgy, over theological Thomisms that few will understand, or over who has or what the best interpretation of the Second Vatican Council is. Arguing over the legitimacy or illegitimacy of the Novus Ordo, or the use of English in the rites of the Roman Catholic liturgy is going to accomplish little to build the kingdom, in my opinion.
I might be wrong, but I think that I’m rather well thought out. I know that we need to advance the Church, in all areas. We need to work hard to retain what Pope Benedict XVI calls the Hermeneutic of continuity. I think we need to discuss these things, but at the same time, we need not get lost in them. We need to work from within the life of the Church towards her future.
But even with all this focus, I did learn something else, about the power of hope…
Even when there’s no charity among Christians and we’re nearly at each others throats in arrogance, there’s still a light that emanates from a weeping man who dies outside the walls of Jerusalem. There’s still beauty in the midst of all the ugly, and that beauty is the Christ who suffers to bring us Himself.
God comes to the Godforsaken, and this proves one more thing:
The world is always ready for more of the Kingdom, always.
In a world full of darkness, this might be one of our best and most hope filled prayers.
The Prayer of Illumination:
I want to share with you, a prayer from my daily meditations, one that my Orthodox friends would know well, and one that my friends in the Western Tradition have heard me pray at one point or another. I have recently seen some very dark days not just with friends but with society. From uncharitable actions, to illness, poverty, callousness and people lacking hope, I have seen dark days recently. And so, I’d like to offer a prayer with intentions for those who are searching for light.
The Prayer goes like this:
Illumine our hearts, O Master Who loves mankind, with the pure light of Your divine knowledge. Open the eyes of our mind to the understanding of Your gospel teachings. Implant also in us the fear of Your blessed commandments, that trampling down all carnal desires, we may enter upon a spiritual manner of living, both thinking and doing such things as are well-pleasing unto You. For You are the illumination of our souls and bodies, O Christ our God, and unto You we ascribe glory, together with Your Father, Who is from everlasting, and Your all-holy, good, and life-creating Spirit, now and ever and unto the ages of ages. Amen.
We must thoroughly quench the darts of the devil and beat them off by continual reading of the divine Scriptures. For it is not possible, not possible for anyone, to be saved without continually taking advantage of spiritual reading. Actually, we must be content, if even with continual use of this therapy, we are barely able to be saved. But when we are struck every day, if we do not use any medical care, what hope do we have of salvation?
In the matter of piety, poverty serves us better than wealth, and work better than idleness, especially since wealth becomes an obstacle even for those who do no devote themselves to it.
Yet when we must put aside our wrath, quench our envy soften our anger, offer our prayers, and show a disposition that is reasonable, mild kindly, and loving, how could poverty stand in our way? For we accomplish these things not by spending money but by making the correct choice.
Almsgiving above all else requires money, but even this shines with a brighter luster when the alms are given from our poverty. The widow who paid in the two mites was poorer than any human, but she outdid them all.
– St. John Chrysostom
Lord, make me an instrument of Your peace: Where there is hatred, let me sow ove; Where there is discord, harmony; Where there is injury, pardon; Where the error, truth; Where there is doubt, faith; Where there is despair, hope; Where th is darkness, light; Where there is sadness, joy;
O Divine Master, Grant that I may so much seek: To be consoled as to console; to be loved, as to love. For, it is in giving, that we receive; It is in forgetting self, that we find ourselves; It is in giving, that we receive; It is in forgetting self, that we find ourselves; It is in pardoning, that we are pardoned; And it is in dying, that we are born into eternal life.
– St. Francis of Assisi
In the beginning, God says, “Let there be light!” -Genesis 1:3
Advent this year has been a time of awaiting the final redemption. Hope has been the central core of my reflections, and I have been looking both at the present and to the future for inspiration.
Christ is with us, every one of us, by the power of the Spirit that hovered over the waters. Advent is a time to prepafe for our memorial of the Lord’s birth, but also a time to Rejoice. This coming Sunday is Gaudete Sunday, or Rejoice Sunday. Taken from Phillipians 4:4-5 We remember that “The Lord is at hand.”
The prospect of God-with-us seems so close at hand, we’re in December, Christmas is nearly upon us, and so with the rest of the waiting world we must use this time to shake the dust. Advent is a time of preparation, but it is also a time of awakening. There is good out there, waiting, coming to us and through us.
“Salvation is nearer now than when we first believed” -Romans 13:11 and with St. Paul we must all wake up, and welcome the light that God has ordained for us. The light of His Son that eternally is begotten by the Father and comes to us in the power of the Holy Spirit.
The Lord is at hand. This little babe, wrapped in cloth and cooing in his mothers arms, this little one, it is He who shall judge the nations with an iron rod. It is He who shall put away darkness, it is He who bears us up into the very life of God through our theosis. It is He who sends forth the Spirit to renew the face of the earth.
“Behold, I am making all things new.” -Revelation 21:5
In the beginning, there was darkness, in the end, the is the Son who is our light and our temple. It is He who shall be for us the Throne of God, His flesh shall be our salvation. His wounds shall save us from our sins. This little king which comes, it is He who is God’s answer to the cry of the poor and the oppressed.
Those who think they must teach justice, and do so apart from Christ forsake the very answer. God has heard the cry of the lowly and brought down kings and magistrates from their thrones through this child, this king, this rejected one. It is well with us, God is coming to us, He brings peace and salvation.
The child in the cow trough “meek and lowly of heart” overthrows the brute force of Caesar through enthroning Himself in our suffering. It is our glory to behold the child, who by nature of His very existence, breathing and curled against His mother’s breast spells the end of empires.
It is this little child who “has filled the hungry with good things.” -Luke Ch. 1 Magnificat. He has helped His servant Israel, and has scattered the proud. His mercy is for those who fear Him, for those who welcome His coming. The dawn from on high has broken, it is our job in this season to welcome such a coming. As the day breaks we must take care to perceive whether we lie shrouded in shadows or are opening our eyes.
Our empire is not fashioned on the blood of victims and the oppression of the poor, no, our kingdom is not built with stone or flesh or gold, it is not ruthless nor cunning, no, this empire is built upon the hardened prudence of a people who reject the peace of Caesar. This empire is fashioned in the wild hope, tempered like steel, with souls of iron this hope endures. It is the hope of glory, that this little child, this tiny Jesus shall really and truly have been and continue to be God’s answer to the cry of the lowly. The government will be upon HIS shoulders, and His kingdom shall have no end.
We are two years past the world’s hope that Barack Obama should change the world. Things remain as they were, enduringly tedious, and the machinations of empires go out far and wide, maintaining the status quo. Yet this little child, offers us a challenge to all of that.
It is time for a different kind of world, a different kind of empire. This is not just a titillating fantasy to help us cope with the dark reality we find ourselves in. It is the only solution to that dark reality. In the beginning, God said “Let there be light,” and there was. So too Advent and Christmas offer us this light. The story that the gospels tell show us God putting into effect His justice, His Order, into the chaos we have made.
The government is not on our shoulders and that is part of the good news of the gospel. Good men, bad men, women and children cannot force the salvation of the world. This is good news. They can, try as they might, bring things before us, but they cannot change business as usual. Yet a baby hiding in a cow trough turned the world upside down and continues to do so.
We are the kingdom-bringers, we are the advent people, we are the people who are saved in hope. Our hope has tempered our souls and invites us to stop. It invites us, not to substitute Barack Obama with Jesus, but to change the dream altogether. Only through careful, deep and thoughtful devotion to the one who calls us to Love our God, and then our neighbors shall we learn the way of peace.
Fall silent, and contemplate that God has put Himself on our side forever through this little jewish boy. O come, that we may Go up to the House of the Lord, let us adore Him, so that when the world is moved by speeches of change and hope that turn out to be empty, we shall have a higher purpose in mind. So that when the world is imperiled with doubts and anxieties we shall rush once more into the breach, knowing that the Government rests upon His shoulder, and not ours.
Let us know that, despite the machinations of men, He shall rule the nations with an iron rod, and that the judgment He brings shall give us peace. In the power of His Spirit, we go forth into the world with a simple thought, “The baby in the cow trough is the hope, He is the Change.”
Nothing else will do, be it governments and empires or money or power, none shall bring real and lasting change. Let us face this dark chaos with a simple awareness that just as God once brought order to primordial chaos with light, so too He does with us, in each heart that confesses and each life that lives the statement “Jesus is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.”
Each of us is an advent of the Lord, it is through our lives that God continues to speak the first words ever uttered in the sacred scriptures, “Let there be Light.”
Everyone who does not apply himself to the spiritual contemplation of Holy Scripture has, Judaic-wise, also rejected law of grace which confers deification on those who are obedient to it.
He who understands the written law in a literal manner does not nourish his soul with the virtues. He who does not grasp the inner principles of created beings fails to feast his intellect on the manifold wisdom of God. And he who is ignorant of the great mystery of the new grace does not rejoice in deification.
Thus, the failure to contemplate the written law spiritually results in a dearth ( lack, an indequate supply) of the divine wisdom to be apprehended in the natural law; and this in its turn is followed by a complete ignorance of the deification given by grace according to the new mystery.
– The Philokalia as translated and edited by G.E.H. Palmer, Philip Sherrard, and Kallistos Ware and published by Faber and Faber (P. 267)
To be ignorant of scripture in terms of spiritual discipline is to be ignorant of the grace that brings deification. Spiritual discipline and awareness about the spiritual law conveys holiness which comes by meditation on the holy words.
The virtues come by understanding the spiritual discipline of the scriptures. The one who fails to know humanity fails to know God. The manifold wisdom of God is made known through created beings, namely the Church.
See Ephesians, specifically noting the 10th verse of the first second and third chapters. Also note the 15th verse of chapter 4, the 14th verse of chapter 5 and the 13th verse of chapter 6. Through these verses we can form a shape and understanding of the themes in Paul’s theology. I bring this up to highlight how the manifold wisdom of God is perceived in created beings as well as the Church as part of God’s redemptive project.
The intellect as well is drawn into the redemptive project by inviting our contemplation to make available to us the grace which bestows our deification. It is only in and through spiritual preparation, through illumination in the blessed scriptures that we can begin to be apprehended by the theosis which anticipates us.
Enjoy. I love St. Maximus. He is incredible.