Life in a small town

Incarnation and Resurrection … reality and fantasy and Happy New Year?

This post was supposed to come out the day after New Years Day but took much longer to write than I anticipated. Sometimes one spends more time thinking about how to say what one is thinking about than in the actual writing of it. Can’t be helped.

The gateway to Belief is flanked and supported by the two pillars of reality, the Incarnation and the Resurrection supporting the lintel of Faith … how can one express such a reality to any person confined to, imprisoned in, secular material reality? “There are more things in heaven and earth, Horatio, Than are dreamt of in your philosophy”. ( Hamlet (1.5.167-8), Hamlet to Horatio). But how are we to describe color to the blind or music to the deaf?

Much of what we learn in life, what makes up our daily lives and the manner in which we conduct ourselves, at home, at work and in public and private is learned by following the examples and instructions of others. Parents, friends, teachers, people in positions of authority, people we respect as worthy authorities, and even, without much thought, we believe and trust relatively unknown people, characters on social media, and the news are all sources and examples, because “all right minded people know this” but have these sources of our learning acceptable behavior and thinking brought us to joy and happiness or led us into ever deepening wells of despair and distress? Do these examples spark joy?

So what about those “examples” and joy? Or is it more about “examples” and envy? Most of our society, at least here in the West, what was once known as “Christendom”, is deep in the throes of an era of self worship and infatuation with self. Our lives, and the lives of our “examples” are certainly not the lives of saints nor anything remotely resembling saints. And daily our society tells us and reinforces the mantra that man is the measure of all things, and this is OK. Joy is found in a new trip, a new car, a new girlfriend or boyfriend, a faster computer, a new dress or suit, a new house or a new husband … a nice coffee and a couple of donuts? Really? Joy?

It’s OK to be “bad”, even fun to be “bad”, to “reward” ourselves with bouts and binges of “bad” behavior for sticking to some middling good behavior for some arbitrarily short period of time, some New Year’s resolution which lasted for a week, maybe, if we really, really, tried hard. “Bad” in this context refers to behavior lacking in “virtue” and in a cultural twist, the 7 deadly sins have been “rehabilitated” into acceptable and perhaps in some cases even desirable behaviors in a self gratification centered life style. Most lately we see Narcissism being raised to the exalted state of a “secular virtue”. And where did Love, as in self sacrificing Love go in this blizzard of self worship?

We were created and called to strive to be good, “as our heavenly Father is good”.  We do know what is good and what is not in the same way we know what is quality and what is not. It is written in our DNA, some call it “Natural Law”. Yes, the God deniers are legion and yet none would exist absent God the Creator calling them into existence with love and keeping them in existence with an even greater love, imprinting us with the Natural Law at conception and calling us endlessly home to Him.

Examples …

These days we are all like riders on a train thinking that reality is contained in the vista dome car of our little lives, looking out through the windows of our screens at whatever Potemkin Village our “Examples” care to show us, with no awareness of the rest of the train, nor where it came from nor where it is headed and how it all ends. And who are our “examples”? Justin? Donald? The beautiful people of “The 5”, of the Golden Globe awards? Whichever celeb has risen to the top of the Social Media pond this week?

At the very pinnacle of the man-centered universe are our real examples, right? The intellectual giants of modern academia, the self declared “Brights”, whose wisdom we are expected to accept and implement in our daily lives. We are talking about the academics, authors, journalists, and media stars who are arguably the shapers of what matters to modern enlightened society, our attempt at “culture”.

We have been obediently marching down this road at least since the French Revolution, a watershed event in modern European history that began in 1789 and ended in the late 1790’s with the ascent of Napoleon Bonaparte. And that road, that “road to perdition” has led us inexorably to what we have today. Looking around you, can anyone believe that this is the best of all worlds, the realized daily experience of our society following the wisdom of the “Brights” for the last 200 or so years?

This road, this man centered “road to perdition” has lead us into 200 years of more savage death than all of previous human history combined. In a mere 2 centuries we have flipped over our whole system of beliefs, from a culture of life, focused on the seasons, on growing, on harvest, on children as necessary and even desirable, on large nuclear families and religions folks believed in, had true faith in, faith in the divine, in God, now flipped over to a culture of death and destruction ever more deeply buried in euphemism and baffle-gab but clearly death focused in a most horrifying way and we have much more faith in government and our alleged leaders and their civil servants than medieval man ever had in the church. And we think the Medievals were gullible superstitious peasants … what does that make us?

Our New Society, our “Enlightened” modern culture, with man at the center, at the pinnacle, finds itself enslaved to our self gratifying passions. Are we not enslaved by anxiety, sadness and obsessions, by hatred, fornication, and envy, enslaved by thoughts of jealousy, rage, and death? We have gotten so desperate that we turn to thoughts of suicide and abortion, for distraction we turn to many forms of sinful sexuality, we are oppressed and enslaved by divisions in our families, and by harmful friendships, and in our despair we turn to every sort of emotional fantasy, and spells, and rituals, and strange beliefs in primitive pre-Christian paganism and even to witchcraft, and the occult masquerading as New Age Gnosticism, and pride ourselves in being “spiritual”.

I recently read a list of the 50 top atheists at the “Best Schools” web site. The BS site is all about the best of the best in academia and one gets the impression that the writers consider “atheism” to be one of the hallmarks of an intelligent human being, in fact it seems at first blush that philosophical academia and journalism is peopled exclusively with atheists and anyone who is not an atheist is somewhat primitive and “unsophisticated”. And yet, we see in these “Elysian Fields” nothing but the promotion of death.

Now, Elysium, also called Elysian Fields or Elysian Plain, in Greek mythology, was originally the paradise to which heroes on whom the gods conferred immortality were sent. It has come to refer to any promised desirable future to which we are being steered by our “betters”. But all we have seen in reality is death and death and more death, death industrialized and raised to a higher order of efficiency with “modern tools and technologies. And while there has been a soundly demonstrated efficiency at killing and destruction in our secular humanist culture, not one of these elite thinkers have ever created life, except by the usual human procreative way of the last hundred millennia or so … 1 man and 1 woman intimately exchanging fluid. None can claim any positive knowledge or origins and virtually everything they claim is as unprovable as the claims of any of the billions of believers.

The “no god” theory is simply another hypothesis upon which many academics, authors and journalists have built prestigious and lucrative careers, another sterling example of BS baffles. No ordinary person can hope to have even a minor meaningful conversation with these “Brights”, we are “not in their league”. And in human terms they are certainly charter members of the cultural elite, and it is interesting to note that “in human terms” it is certainly difficult, perhaps even impossible, to fruitfully imagine how “a god” might work.

And certainly none of these opinion leaders can even begin to offer any reasonable certainty beyond the very same certainty that is on offer throughout the Social Media universe. “All right thinking persons know this to be true”, right? The difference between them and us is the difference between a Tweet and real blog post … anyone can Tweet but it takes sheer genius to write thousands of words on subjects and in ways of writing that only another genius can understand. And they all seem to inhabit a “swamp of sorrows” with no joy and no future after a brief flickering life. What’s the point?

So then, what example are we to take to heart, what example are we to follow to gain peace and happiness, surely one of the primary desires of all human beings, even atheists. Well, let’s look at some people first who even the “no god” crowd would certainly agree led good lives. Let’s look at some saints. Are their lives a good example to take to heart when deciding how to live our own lives.

I believe that the study of inspired writings, that is in Scripture, and the accounts of the lives of blessed men and women, that we find a living breathing example of how to live godly lives. If we devote ourselves to trying to imitate the lives of these saintly people then no matter which virtue we seem to be lacking we can find it in Scripture and the lives of the saints, like finding the particular medicine in God’s own clinic for the particular ailment that is troubling us at that moment.

St. Joseph, my name saint, teaches chastity and firm self discipline, Job teaches endurance, so absolutely necessary to persevere on the godly path in this world of distraction and diversion, St. Augustine teaches repentance and humility, and insight into the perennial human condition, even of the highly intelligent. I have found over the last 25 years or so that St. Augustine’s “Confessions” continues to speak to me like a personal letter from a much respected older brother … someone whose example is truly worthy of following and emulating. What did Saint Augustine have to say about GOD?

*****

For who is Lord but the Lord? Or who is God save our God? Most high, most excellent, most mighty, most omnipotent; most merciful, and most just; most hidden, and most near; most beautiful, and most strong, constant, yet incomprehensible; unchangeable, yet changing all things; never new, never old; renewing all things, yet bringing old age upon the proud, without their realizing it; ever working, yet ever at rest; gathering, yet needing nothing; supporting, filling, and protecting; creating, nourishing, and perfecting; still seeking, though you lack nothing.

Thou lovest, but without agitation; art jealous, yet free from anxiety; repentest, yet grievest not; art angry, yet serene; changest Thy works, but not Thy purpose; embrace what Thou findest, yet didst never truly lose; never in need, yet rejoicing in gains; never covetous, yet demanding a profit. (Men give to you more than required and) Thou receivest over and above, that Thou mayest owe (hoping to put you in their debt) ; and who hath aught that is not Thine? (all is your gift)

Thou payest (those) debts, yet owest us nothing; remittest (forgive) debts, losing nothing. And what had I now said, my God, my life, my holy joy? Or what saith any man when he speaks of Thee? (Is all this that I have said enough? Can anyone who speaks of you ever say enough?)

Saint Augustine. “The Confessions of St. Augustine” ( 1 pp. 2-3 ).

*****

And where did Love, as in self sacrificing Love, go in this blizzard of self worship? I have been reading St. Augustine off and on for 25 years, he has much to say about Love. And again, I have been reading meditations daily from a very special book for three years now.  Fr. Gabriel of St. Mary Magdalen, O.C.Dwrote a book Divine Intimacy,  Meditations on the interior life for every day of the liturgical year”.  Where is Love? This is what Fr. Gabriel has to say about the reality of the Incarnation:

*****

God is Love; everything He does, both in Himself and outside of Himself, is a work of love. Being the infinite good, He cannot love anything outside of Himself from the desire of increasing His happiness, as is the case with us; in Himself He possesses all. Therefore, in God, to love, and hence to will creatures, is simply to extend, outside of Himself, His infinite good, His perfections, and to communicate to others His own Being and felicity.

Bonum diffusivum sui, St. Thomas says. Thus God loved man with an eternal love and, loving him, called him into existence, giving him both natural and supernatural life. through love, God not only brought man out of nothing, but chose him and elevated him to the state of divine sonship, destining him to participate in His own intimate life, in His eternal beatitude. This was the first plan of the immense charity of God with regard to man.

But when man fell into sin, God, who had created him by an act of love, willed to redeem him by an even greater act of love.  See then how the mystery of the Incarnation presents itself to us as the supreme manifestation of God’s exceeding charity towards man. “By this hath the charity of God appeared toward us, because God hath sent His only-begotten Son into the world, that we may live by Him. In this charity … He hath first loved us, and sent His Son to be a propitiation for our sins” (1 Jn 4-9.10).

After having given man natural life, after having destined him for the supernatural life, what more could He give him than to give Himself, His Word made flesh, for his salvation.

God is Love. It is not surprising, therefore, that the story of His benevolent action on behalf of man is all a poem of love, and of merciful love. The first stanza of this poem was our eternal predestination to the vision and to the fruition of the intimate life of God. The second stanza relates, in an even more touching way, the sublimity of His mercy: the mystery of the Incarnation.

The sin of our first parents had destroyed God’s original plan for our elevation to a supernatural state; we had forfeited our claim, and could never atone for the sin. God could have pardoned all, but it was becoming to His holiness and infinite justice to exact an adequate satisfaction; man was absolutely incapable  of providing this. Then the most sublime work of God’s mercy was accomplished: one Person of the Blessed Trinity, the second, came to do for us what we could not do for ourselves. Behold the Word, God’s only-begotten Son, “who for us men and for our salvation, descended from heaven and became incarnate” (Credo).

The merciful love of God thus attains its highest manifestation: if there is no ingratitude and misery greater than sin, there can be no love greater than that of Him who inclines over so much ingratitude and abjection to restore it to its primal splendor. God did this, not by the intervention of a prophet or the most sublime of the angels; He did it personally: all three Persons of THE Blessed Trinity acted in the Incarnation, the end of which was to unite a human nature with the Person of Word. In this mystery, the immensity of the love and mercy of God for man appears and shines forth.

*****

So we find in Scripture, specifically in Malachi 3, The Coming Day of Judgment:

1 Behold I send my angel, and he shall prepare the way before my face. And presently the Lord, whom you seek, and the angel of the testament, whom you desire, shall come to his temple. Behold, he cometh, saith the Lord of hosts. 2 And who shall be able to think of the day of his coming? and who shall stand to see him? for he is like a refining fire, and like the fuller’s herb: 3 And he shall sit refining and cleansing the silver, and he shall purify the sons of Levi, and shall refine them as gold, and as silver, and they shall offer sacrifices to the Lord in justice. 4 And the sacrifice of Juda and of Jerusalem shall please the Lord, as in the days of old, and in the ancient years. 5 And I will come to you in judgment, and will be a speedy witness against sorcerers, and adulterers, and false swearers, and them that oppress the hireling in his wages, the widows, and the fatherless: and oppress the stranger, and have not feared me, saith the Lord of hosts.

And the thought, the belief that we can deny God … that if we say so then it must be so … is just insane … as C.S. Lewis said: ““A man can no more diminish God’s glory by refusing to worship Him than a lunatic can put out the sun by scribbling the word ‘darkness’ on the walls of his cell.” ― C.S. Lewis, “The Problem of Pain”.  Our culture, our enlightened society has bought into the lie that by denying God we can get away with robbing Him.

6 For I am the Lord, and I change not: and you the sons of Jacob are not consumed. 7 For from the days of your fathers you have departed from my ordinances, and have not kept them: Return to me, and I will return to you, saith the Lord of hosts. And you have said: Wherein shall we return? 8 Shall a man afflict God, for you afflict me. And you have said: Wherein do we afflict thee? in tithes and in first fruits. 9 And you are cursed with want, and you afflict me, even the whole nation of you. 10 Bring all the tithes into the storehouse, that there may be meat in my house, and try me in this, saith the Lord: if I open not unto you the flood-gates of heaven, and pour you out a blessing even to abundance. 11 And I will rebuke for your sakes the devourer, and he shall not spoil the fruit of your land: neither shall the vine in the field be barren, saith the Lord of hosts. 12 And all nations shall call you blessed: for you shall be a delightful land, saith the Lord of hosts.

13 Your words have been unsufferable to me, saith the Lord. 14 And you have said: What have we spoken against thee? You have said: He laboureth in vain that serveth God, and what profit is it that we have kept his ordinances, and that we have walked sorrowful before the Lord of hosts? 15 Wherefore now we call the proud people happy, for they that work wickedness are built up, and they have tempted God and are preserved. 

But all will be remembered, nothing is forgotten, not one little jot … all is inscribed in The Book of Remembrance:

16 Then they that feared the Lord, spoke every one with his neighbour: and the Lord gave ear, and heard it: and a book of remembrance was written before him for them that fear the Lord, and think on his name. 17 And they shall be my special possession, saith the Lord of hosts, in the day that I do judgment: and I will spare them, as a man spareth his son that serveth him. 18 And you shall return, and shall see the difference between the just and the wicked: and between him that serveth God, and him that serveth him not.

So we come to the end of part 1 … next post maybe I will touch on the Resurrection, or maybe not until Easter … if the Resurrection is not all true then Christianity is an evil lie, the Cross without redemption, and the god deniers are right about everything and this really is the best of all worlds possible under the rule of man as the measure of all things.

Enough for now.

Cheers

Joe

The Angelus, JEAN FRANÇOIS MILLET (Museo_de_Orsay, 1857-1859)

 

Peasants …

 

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Life in a small town

Patience … All Is Gratuitous Gift …

This has been a summer full of frustration, fear, uncertainty and doubt, a summer of discontent. Future prospects are obscured in a cloudy haze of local and international political and economic issues. Locally, business has been terrible because of local construction which has severely restricted access to my business premises. This summer we are down 50% in sales. Contrary to the phone company advertising, the future is decidedly not friendly.

And so I am trying hard to work on exercising patience, every day, with all the little trials, annoyances, inconveniences and disappointments which we all experience every day, and in keeping in mind that “All Is Gratuitous Gift” … I am just going to quote from Venerable Mary of Agreda’s “The Mystical City of Godfor the rest of this post.  Written by Venerable María de Jesus de Agreda, a 17th century Spanish nun, after years of private revelations from God the Father and Most Holy Mary, Mística Ciudad de Dios (The Mystical City of God) is a marvelous and life-changing narrative of most wonderful and hidden mysteries about the life of Most Holy Mary and her Son Jesus Our Lord that has been enthralling readers for centuries.

Composed of the Conception, Incarnation, Transfixion and Coronation, this magnificent narrative takes the reader through the various stages of the life of the Blessed Virgin Mary, plus it reveals all sorts of facts about our entire salvation history. Pope Innocent XI and Pope Alexander VIII in 1690 expressly declared that the City of God may be read by all the faithful. Pope Clement XI and Benedict XIV gave like decisions. Here then is the quote for my trials this summer and beyond:

*****

Mystical City Of God,

“In all the difficulties, … I never lost sight of one consideration, which I desire thee always to keep in mind. It is this: that thou ponder in thy heart and in thy soul the truths, which I saw, so that thou mayest form a correct judgment of all things, giving to each that esteem and value which is its due. In regard to this the children of Adam are ordinarily full of error and blindness, but I desire that thou, my daughter, share it not with them.

357. As soon as I was born into the world and made aware of the light, which shone upon me, I felt the effects of the elements, the influence of the planets and of the stars, of the earth which sustained me, of the nourishments which preserved me, and of all the other things of this life.

I gave thanks to the Author of all things, acknowledging his works as benefits freely bestowed upon me, and not as dues, which He owed to me. Therefore, when anything was wanting of the necessaries of life I remained in peace and contentedness and deemed it all perfectly reasonable and proper in my regard, since I had merited none of the gifts and could justly be deprived of all of them.

Hence, if I acknowledged this, thereby merely asserting a truth which the human reason cannot ignore nor deny, where have mortals their intellect, or what use do they make of their understanding when, at the refusal of things which they desire and of which perhaps they do not even profit, they begin to get sad and lash themselves into fury one against the other, and even against their God, as if they were suffering some injury at his hands?

Let them inquire what treasures and riches they did possess before they came into life? What services had they rendered unto God in order to merit them? And if out of nothing there cannot arise anything, and if they could not merit the being which they have received, what obligation is there on the part of God to preserve out of justice, what was given to them entirely gratuitously?

That God created man was of no benefit to Himself; but to man it was a benefit, and one as great as the being given to him, and as high as the object for which it was given. And if in his creation man becomes indebted so much that he never can pay his debt, tell me what right can he invoke at present for his preservation? Has he not received his being without merit and many times forfeited it? How can he claim the guarantee and pledge of unfailing plenty?

358. If the first transaction and operation was a mortgage and a debt by which man binds himself, how can he with such impatience demand favors? And if in spite of all this, the supreme goodness of the Creator furnishes him graciously with what is necessary, why should he be agitated by the want of superfluities. O my daughter, what an execrable disorder and what a despicable blindness of mortals is this?

For that, which the Lord gives them gratuitously, they do not thank Him, or even give Him acknowledgment, and for that which He denies them justly and sometimes most mercifully, they are restless and proudly desirous, and they try to procure it by unjust and forbidden means, throwing themselves into the very destruction which flies from them.

The first sin alone, committed by man, was sufficient to cancel man’s right to the friendly service of all the other creatures; and if the Lord himself would not restrain them, they would turn in vengeance upon man and refuse to render any service or help for sustaining his life. The heavens would deny them their light and benign influences, the fire would refuse its heat, the air would cease to serve for respiration, and all the other things would in their particular way refuse their services, since they would in justice be bound to refuse them.

Then when the earth would deny its fruits, and the elements their moderation and their assistance, and all the other creatures would arm themselves to avenge the wrongs of their Creator (Sap. S, 18), perhaps disgraced man would humiliate himself in his vileness and would not heap up the wrath of the Lord for the unerring day of accountance, when all his dreadful guilt will be exposed.

Recent picture of Venerable Mary of Agreda, (1602-1665) Incorruptible

359. But thou, my dear friend, fly from such base ingratitude, and humbly acknowledge that thou hast received thy being and life gratuitously, and that, gratuitously, its Author preserves it for thee. Freely dost thou receive all the other benefits, without any merit of thine; and thus, receiving much and repaying little, thou makest thyself daily less worthy of favors, while the liberality of the Most High grows continually with thy indebtedness.

Let this thought be uppermost in thee always, in order that it awaken and move thee to many acts of virtue. If any of the irrational creatures fail thee, I desire thee to rejoice in the Lord and give thanks to his Majesty, and bless them for their obedience to the Creator. If the rational creatures persecute thee, love them with all thy heart and regard them as the instruments of divine justice, which afford thee some opportunity of rendering satisfaction for thy deficiency.

Rather strengthen and console thyself in labors, adversities and tribulations, not only considering them as fully deserved by the faults committed, but deeming them ornaments of the soul and most rich jewels given thee by thy Spouse.”  (Venerable Mary of Agreda. The Mystical City of God: Complete Edition Containing all Four Volumes with Illustrations . Veritatis Splendor Publications. [pp 356-359])

Cheers

Joe

Naked came I into the world and naked will I leave it. Thy Will be done, O Lord, Thy Will be done.

 

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Pen as Sword - Social Commentary, The Inner Struggle

Common Sense & Love …

Inner Thoughts”  Rodrigo Rodriguez, from the album “Inner Thoughts” (2006)

John Martin, Sodom and Gomorrah, 1852

John Martin, Sodom and Gomorrah, 1852

Good Sunday morning, Gentle Readers … thinking about “Common Sense” these warm summer days …

“Common Sense” is the foundational apologetic for our modern polite society, the cornerstone upon which rests all manner of vacuous, unfounded, Potemkin Villages of unproven assumptions regarding whatever we are needing to justify according to the appetites of the moment and our animal desires at any particular time.

As I have been told at times, in no uncertain terms, “we don’t care about your facts Joe, we just want to have a pleasant conversation with our friends”, which logic justifies everything from pushing into the lineup at Starbucks to cutting across five lanes of traffic to make our exit, to murdering any inconvenient creature which might interfere with our “practically perfect in every way” lives.

WHOA! Tsunami of cynicism … who pissed in your coffee this morning Joe?  Yeah … whatever …

John Martin, painted “Sodom and Gomorrah“, oil on canvas, in 1852, 100 years before the birth of Joe. Many regarded Martin, while he lived, as a great British artist, perhaps one of the great British painters of the nineteenth century, he was a contemporary of  and surpassed only by his older contemporary colleague J. M. W. Turner, who he had a competition with for recognition.

John Martin, Le Pandemonium, 1841, in the Louvre.

John Martin, Le Pandemonium, 1841, in the Louvre.

But John Martin’s reputation declined after his death. His vision of reality and eternity seemed at odds with the tenor of the times, the acceleration of the precipitous slide into degenerate ruin touched off by the disaster of the French Revolution and culminating in the anti-christian progressive Charnel House we see all around us today.

We find ourselves comfortable ensconced in the visitors gallery at “Pandæmonium” watching the debate among the “Stygian Council” in the council-chamber of Pandæmonium.

John Martin, Satan Presiding at the Infernal Council, 1824

John Martin, Satan Presiding at the Infernal Council, 1824

Of course we need not travel to the capital to view the proceedings, they are available for all the public on any “parliamentary” channel on virtually every Main Stream media channel selection on every network.

What passes every day for the “wisdom of our times”, “what all right thinking people know is true”, is accepted more readily than our own mother’s milk as the truth and reality to which we should strive … “its only common sense” to … “fill in the blank with whatever you feel like doing or saying” at this moment.

For example, something “common” … these days it seems that it is only “common sense” to abandon one’s partner of the moment at the drop of a hat, if they fail to amuse and edify, if they fail to build up our “self”. The trophy wife and the accessory husband or child, our latest hook-up, like a coordinated purse or a good suit, part of the desired image, of keeping up. As soon as they might become a liability, or even just “boring” it is only “common sense” to “move on”.

And those of us , the remnant, rejected and repudiated, for our antiquated views, mores and beliefs, are chastised to “get with the times” … “Oh please, why don’t you grow up?” …  or cries of “Treason! Kill the traitor!

For “traitors” indeed are we, those who once emphatically embraced our modern way and now have turned their coats and found another path, now questioning the current meme which informs all our lives, no longer running with the herd but questioning the current direction of polite society. We knuckle dragging neanderthals, questioning what everyone knows is true.

We are the fifth column of the past, the “resistance” left behind, the “Pathfinders” lighting beacons for the coming invasion of Truth, the Centurions who left their shields in the heather and took barbarian brides because Rome was no longer that shining city on the hill and Jerusalem was laid waste, plowed up and sown with salt.

There is another way to look at this and no better explanation than that given by Venerable Fulton J. Sheen, in his great little book.  “Go to Heaven: A Spiritual Road Map to Eternity” (pp. 164-167), from Ignatius Press.

So I am going to quote about 4 pages on Christian Marriage and Love, because there is no way I could write better and because the sentiments and ideas expressed here go straight to one of the largest problems with modern culture and our polite society:

“Ladies in Lavender”, Joshua Bell, from the album “the Essential Joshua Bell”, (2005)

*****

In the days of romance, the eternal emphasis was on the ego’s durability in love; (but the days of romance wear off, don’t they? ed) and … in the crisis of nothingness, the eternal element is God, not the ego.

Love now says, “I will love you always, for you are lovable through eternity for God’s sake.” He who courts and promises eternal love is actually appropriating to himself an attribute of God. During the dark night of the body, he puts eternity where it rightly belongs, namely, in God.

Once purified (by the nothingness, by mortality. ed), love returns. The partner is loved beyond all sensation, all desire, all concupiscence.

The husband who began by loving the other for his own sake, and then for her sake, now begins to love for God’s sake. He has touched the depths of a body, but now he discovers the soul of the other person.

This is the new infinite taking the place of the body; this is the new “always”, and it is closer to the true infinite because the soul is infinite and spiritual, whereas the body is not.

The other partner ceases to be opaque and begins to be transparent, the glass through which God and His purposes are revealed. Less conscious of his own power to beget love in others, he sees his poverty and begins to depend on God to complement that poverty. Good Friday now passes into Easter Sunday with the Resurrection of love.

Love, which once meant pleasure and self-satisfaction, changes into love for God’s sake. The other person becomes less the necessary condition of passion and more the partner of the soul. Our Blessed Lord said that unless the seed fall to the ground and die, it will not spring forth into life. Nothing is reborn to a higher life without a death in the lower.

The heart has its cycles as do the planets, but the movement of the heart is an upward spiral, and not a circle which turns upon itself. The planetary circles are repetitious; the eternal return to a beginning.

What if the husband becomes an alcoholic or unfaithful or beats his wife and children? What if the wife becomes nagging or unfaithful or neglects her children? Suppose the promise of marriage “for better or for worse” turns out for the worse; suppose either husband or wife becomes a chronic invalid, or develops antisocial characteristics. In such cases, no carnal love can save it. It is even difficult for a personal love to save it, particularly if the other party becomes undeserving.

But when these lower loves break down, Christian love steps in to suggest that the other person is to be regarded as a gift of God. Most of God’s gifts are sweet; a few of them, however, are bitter. But whether that other person be bitter or sweet, sick or well, young or old, he or she is still a gift of God, for whom the other partner must sacrifice himself or herself.

Selfish love would seek to get rid of the other person because he is a burden. Christian love takes on the burden, in obedience to the divine command: “Bear the burden of one another’s failings; then you will be fulfilling the law of Christ” (Gal 6:2).

And if it be objected that God never intended that anyone should live under such difficulties, the answer very flatly is that He does: “If any man has a mind to come my way, let him renounce self, and take up his cross, and follow me. The man who tries to save his life shall lose it; it is the man who loses his life for my sake that will secure it” (Mt 16:24, 25). What sickness is to an individual, an unhappy marriage may be to a couple: a trial sent by God in order to perfect them spiritually.

The Apostle Paul, Peter Paul Rubens, ca 1612

The Apostle Paul, Peter Paul Rubens, ca 1612.

Without some of the bitter gifts of God, many of our spiritual capacities would be undeveloped. As the Holy Word of God tells us: “We are confident even over our afflictions, knowing well that affliction gives rise to endurance, and endurance gives proof of our faith, and a proved faith gives ground for hope. Nor does this hope delude us; the love of God has been poured out in our hearts by the Holy Spirit, whom we have received” (Rom 5:3-5).

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The Beatitudes”, from the album “Biscantorat – The Sound Of The Spirit From Glenstal Abbey” – The Monks of Glenstal Abbey – (2009)

(St. Paul, pictured on the above right, is all about sacrifice of self, self denial, dieing to self and suffering like Christ as atonement and reparation. Around 1612 Peter Paul Rubens made a series of portraits of the apostles, in commission of the Duke of Lerma.

All were shown with an attribute, a personal symbol. Rubens shows Paul with a sword and a book. The book refers to the teachings of Jesus which he helped spreading. The sword can have multiple meanings.

In his letter to the Christians of Ephesus Paul speaks of “the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God” (Eph. 6:17). The sword may also refer to his early life as a persecutor of Christians. Or it may refer to his alleged beheading: as a Roman citizen he had the right to be decapitated instead of being tortured to death.) But enough of St. Paul’s letters, back to Christian Love and Marriage …

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Christian love, on the part of one spouse, will help redeem the other partner. If a father will pay his son’s debts to keep him out of prison, if a man will give a blood transfusion to save his friend’s life, then it is possible in a spouse. As the Scriptures tell us: “The unbelieving husband is sanctified by the believing wife; and the unbelieving wife is sanctified by the believing husband” (1 Cor 7:14).

This is one of the most forgotten texts on the subject of marriage. It applies to the spiritual order the common experiences of the physical. If a husband is ill, the wife will nurse him back to health. In the spiritual order, the one who has faith and love of God will take on the burdens of the unbeliever, such as drunkenness, infidelity, and mental cruelty, for the sake of his soul.

What a blood transfusion is to the body, reparation for the sins of another is to the spirit. Instead of separating when there are difficulties and trials, the Christian solution is to bear the other as a cross for the sake of his sanctification. The wife can redeem the husband, and the husband the wife. This transferability of sanctification from a good wife to a bad husband, or from a good husband to a bad wife, follows from the fact that they are two in one flesh.

As skin can be grafted from the back to the face, so merit can be applied from spouse to spouse. This spiritual communication may not have the romantic satisfaction in it that carnal communication has, but its returns are eternal. Many a husband and wife after infidelities and excesses will find themselves saved on Judgment Day, as the faithful partner never ceased to pour out prayers for his or her salvation.”

Fulton J. Sheen,  “Go to Heaven: A Spiritual Road Map to Eternity” (pp. 164-167). Ignatius Press.

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Real food for deep thought here.

As between two people in a marriage, between spouses, so also between siblings, and between children and parents, and even between friends and acquaintances, after infidelities and excesses, after strife and turmoil and betrayal, and oceans of pain, the sinners will find themselves saved on Judgment Day, as the faithful  never ceased to pour out prayers for their salvation.

Even the prodigal son upon his return can storm heaven’s gates on behalf of the lost sheep of his or her family and friends, and in so doing perhaps atone and make reparation for the multitude of sins of his and their past.

Cheers

Joe

Naked Came I ... Job 1:21

Naked Came I … Job 1:21

Things look pretty grim towards the end of this life … no more distractions … Hmmm

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