The Inner Struggle

What is Truth? Persona Christi …

“Crux Fidelis”, Benedictines of Mary, Queen of Apostles, from the album “Lent at Ephesus”, (2014)

Thinking a lot about Jesus Christ these days.  Not so much upset about the politics and the economy as I once was.

All these happenings … they all seem so unimportant these days … a distraction … do they spark Joy? Does this (whatever I am doing, or saying, or reading) bring me closer to God?

“No one at Calvary was consulting a book.”

(And no one at Bethlehem, either. There were no missals yet.)

And Jesus ordained His apostles Priests, and charged them with passing on the truth and teaching the whole world … Any belief outside of what Christ taught is little more than human pride … pride healing the wounds of our self love, our self worship.

Sincerely believing our delusion d0esn’t make it any less delusional. We think we know but we actually don’t even know what we don’t know. Our sincerity may render us less culpable but sincerity confers no veracity on error. When discovering a different collection of “truth” than that with which we are familiar we must choose whether to reject it arbitrarily because it is unfamiliar, or we can choose to investigate the truth with “good will”.

The angels brought to the shepherds near Bethlehem a message of “peace to men of good will“.  Our will is “good” when it is upright, docile, and resolute. Our will is upright when it is sincerely and entirely oriented toward good; our will is docile when it is always ready to follow every indication of God’s will; our will is resolute when it is prompt to adhere to the will of God, even though difficulties and obstacles arise, and sacrifices are required.

The Lord is continually urging us to generosity and abnegation in all the circumstances of our daily life, even in the smallest events. Only rarely in history is God’s will announced with great fanfare by heavenly hosts. Most often it comes to us quietly, in the silence, from unexpected sources and new discoveries, perhaps even new discoveries about things we feel we are very familiar with. And sometimes it is difficult because habit and the world resist change of any sort but especially change of cherished thoughts and certain beliefs.

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6“If anyone causes one of these little ones—those who believe in me—to stumble, it would be better for them to have a large millstone hung around their neck and to be drowned in the depths of the sea. 7Woe to the world because of the things that cause people to stumble! Such things must come, but woe to the person through whom they come! (Mathew 18 – 6-7).

Christ either rose from the dead and everything He taught is the absolute unchangeable truth, or He did not and we are the biggest fools in history, we Christians. So what will it be? True believers of Truth, or the biggest fools in history? Christ gave us the first priests and the sacraments of his church. After the resurrection Jesus appeared to His disciples:

19On the evening of that first day of the week, when the disciples were together, with the doors locked for fear of the Jewish leaders, Jesus came and stood among them and said, “Peace be with you!” 20After he said this, he showed them his hands and side. The disciples were overjoyed when they saw the Lord.

21Again Jesus said, “Peace be with you! As the Father has sent me, I am sending you.” 22And with that he breathed on them and said, “Receive the Holy Spirit. 23If you forgive anyone’s sins, their sins are forgiven; if you do not forgive them, they are not forgiven.” (John 19 – 23).

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What Christ is talking about in this passage is the Sacrament of Reconciliation, also known as Confession. And, in another passage we find according to the Gospel of John, the Pharisees, in an attempt to discredit Jesus, brought a woman charged with adultery before him. Then they reminded Jesus that adultery was punishable by stoning under Mosaic law and challenged him to judge the woman so that they might then accuse him of disobeying the law.

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Jesus thought for a moment and then replied, “He that is without sin among you, let him cast the first stone at her.” The people crowded around him were so touched by their own consciences that they departed. When Jesus found himself alone with the woman, he asked her who were her accusers. She replied, “No man, lord.” Jesus then said, “Neither do I condemn thee: go and sin no more.” Forgiven … by Christ …

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23If you forgive anyone’s sins, their sins are forgiven; if you do not forgive them, they are not forgiven.”  Priests of Christ … in persona Christi… Forgiven … by Christ …

Forgiveness from a priest of Jesus Christ is necessary … In Persona Christi … if you (the priest “in persona Christi”) do not forgive them, they are not forgiven. We cannot “bestow grace on ourselves; it must be given and offered” and we cannot forgive our own sins, they must be forgiven by Christ … In Persona Christi …

it is uncomfortable to consider the Truth of this statement … to have to choose Christ’s instructions, Christ’s teachings, OR to choose our own pride, that is healing the wounds of our own self love.

To choose, as my mother did, to die “unshriven” … to refuse the last rites and the visit of the priest, because in her pride she refused to “confess her sins to some man” and God knew she was sorry for them, seems a little like treating sin and heaven like a lottery ticket – maybe she was right, but we are talking eternity here … we simply can’t know. Do we pass through the gates of death while spinning the lottery wheel of eternity?

Likewise, only God knows where we are at this moment of death; no human creature knows. Who but God knows whether we reach perfect contrition at the moment of death or even when the moment of death is. Is a decision of such moment a reasonable opportunity for gambling?

We don’t know and certainly there is no man alive or dead who could say with ANY degree of reliability what is or is not required for forgiveness and even more importantly whether we will be forgiven or if those who have gone before are forgiven. Is this something we want to just leave up to chance?

Can we be perfectly sorry for our sins many, many times before our death? Who knows but that one might be conscious enough of our dying and asked God’s forgiveness with perfect contrition and sorrow? What are the odds that WE are that fortunate perfect soul who expresses and realizes perfect contrition for our sins and hence receives God’s own absolution and forgiveness without the intervention of a priest?

I don’t know. No one knows. This is why we continue to pray for the souls of the deceased since they are our friends and loved ones? Go to Mass often and offer the Sacrament of the Mass for those souls. Commit the souls of our loved ones to the Virgin Mother Mary and ask for her deliverance.

Take advantage of all possibilities (sacramental and otherwise) to gain a Plenary Indulgence for the departed souls. And with all this, trust those souls to the merciful arms of the Sacred Heart.

We simply don’t know how God blesses us and the departed souls. So, to me, it would appear that it is a better bet to trust Christ’s own instructions and seek out a priest in the confessional when one is confessing one’s sins and seeking absolution and forgiveness.

In Roman Catholicism, the priest acts in the person of Christ in pronouncing the words that comprise part of a sacramental rite, in the Eucharist, Reconciliation, Marriage, Baptism, Last Rites, and so on.

For example, in the Mass, the Words of Institution, by which the bread becomes the Body of Christ and the wine becomes the Precious Blood. The priest and bishop act in the person of Christ the head in their leadership of the Church.

Pope Pius XII (1947)

Pope Pius XII (1947)

Pope Pius XII (1947)1:

40. Only to the apostles, and thenceforth to those on whom their successors have imposed hands, is granted the power of the priesthood, in virtue of which they represent the person of Jesus Christ before their people, acting at the same time as representatives of their people before God….(the unbroken lineage from Peter over 2000 years down to us today)

68. The august sacrifice of the altar, then, is no mere empty commemoration of the passion and death of Jesus Christ, but a true and proper act of sacrifice, whereby the High Priest by an unbloody immolation offers Himself a most acceptable victim to the Eternal Father, as He did upon the cross.

“It is one and the same victim; the same person now offers it by the ministry of His priests, who then offered Himself on the cross, the manner of offering alone being different.”

Ecumenical Council Vatican II 1965

Ecumenical Council Vatican II 1965

69. The priest is the same, Jesus Christ, whose sacred Person His minister represents. Now the minister, by reason of the sacerdotal consecration which he has received, is made like to the High Priest and possesses the power of performing actions in virtue of Christ’s very person.

Bishops of Vatican Council II (1964)2:

28. … Priests, although they do not possess the highest degree of the priesthood, and although they are dependent on the bishops in the exercise of their power, nevertheless they are united with the bishops in sacerdotal dignity.

By the power of the sacrament of Orders, in the image of Christ the eternal high Priest, they are consecrated to preach the Gospel and shepherd the faithful and to celebrate divine worship, so that they are true priests of the New Testament.

Pope Paul VI (1967)

Pope Paul VI (1967)

Partakers of the function of Christ the sole Mediator, on their level of ministry, they announce the divine word to all. They exercise their sacred function especially in the Eucharistic worship or the celebration of the Mass by which acting in the person of Christ…

29. At a lower level of the hierarchy are deacons, upon whom hands are imposed “not unto the priesthood, but unto a ministry of service”.

Pope Paul VI (1967)3:

29. … acting in the person of Christ, the priest unites himself most intimately with the offering, and places on the altar his entire life, which bears the marks of the holocaust.

Pope John Paul II (1980)

Pope John Paul II (1980)

Pope John Paul II (1980)4:

8. The priest offers the holy Sacrifice in persona Christi… Awareness of this reality throws a certain light on the character and significance of the priest celebrant who, by confecting the holy Sacrifice and acting “in persona Christi,” is sacramentally (and ineffably) brought into that most profound sacredness, and made part of it, spiritually linking with it in turn all those participating in the eucharistic assembly.

Typical Version of the Catechism of the Catholic Church (1997)5:

875: … No one can bestow grace on himself; it must be given and offered. This fact presupposes ministers of grace, authorized and empowered by Christ.

From him, bishops and priests receive the mission and faculty (“the sacred power”) to act in persona Christi Capitis; deacons receive the strength to serve the people of God in the diaconia of liturgy, word, and charity, in communion with the bishop and his presbyterate.

The ministry in which Christ’s emissaries do and give by God’s grace what they cannot do and give by their own powers, is called a “sacrament” by the Church’s tradition. Indeed, the ministry of the Church is conferred by a special sacrament.”

Pope Benedict XVI

Pope Benedict XVI

Pope Benedict XVI (2007)

6: Celebrating the Chrism Mass on Holy Thursday with the priests of Rome, Pope Benedict XVI said that priests should prepare themselves thoroughly to celebrate Mass and administer the sacraments, remembering that they act in the person of Christ.

7 as modified by Benedict XVI (2009)8: Can. 1008 By divine institution, some of the Christian faithful are marked with an indelible character and constituted as sacred ministers by the sacrament of holy orders. They are thus consecrated and deputed so that, each according to his own grade, they may serve the People of God by a new and specific title. Can. 1009 §1. The orders are the episcopate, the presbyterate, and the diaconate.

§2. They are conferred by the imposition of hands and the consecratory prayer which the liturgical books prescribe for the individual grades. §3. Those who are constituted in the order of the episcopate or the presbyterate receive the mission and capacity to act in the person of Christ the Head, whereas deacons are empowered to serve the People of God in the ministries of the liturgy, the word and charity.

The change in Canon Law introduced by Ominum in Mentum resolved a discrepancy between the applicability of in persona Christi Capitis (“in the person of Christ the Head”) to deacons as well as priests and bishops. With the new Motu Proprio, in persona Christi Capitis applies only to priests and bishops, and thenceforth to those on whom their successors have imposed hands, is granted the power of the priesthood.

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So, any questions? Anyone? Anyone? Are we living in the best possible world, are all out humanist dreams realized and have we indeed reached the heights of virtual godhood as the secular humanist progressives would have us believe. Can we really learn everything we need to know about Jesus Christ from an article in National Geographic entitled “The Real Historical Christ”?

Is this world, this society, this culture of death actually the world of our fondest dreams or is missing out on the holy sacrament of Reconciliation and the sacrament of the Eucharist as taught by the scriptural Jesus Christ just possibly the greatest tragedy of the last 500 years? Christ gathers together and builds up … everything. Satan scatters apart and diminishes … everything.

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42Jesus said to them, “If God were your Father, you would love me, for I have come here from God. I have not come on my own; God sent me. 43Why is my language not clear to you? Because you are unable to hear what I say. 44You belong to your father, the devil, and you want to carry out your father’s desires. He was a murderer from the beginning, not holding to the truth, for there is no truth in him. When he lies, he speaks his native language, for he is a liar and the father of lies. 45Yet because I tell the truth, you do not believe me! 46Can any of you prove me guilty of sin? If I am telling the truth, why don’t you believe me? 47Whoever belongs to God hears what God says. The reason you do not hear is that you do not belong to God.” (John 8 – 42-47).

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Your call I guess … would you be the one to throw the first stone? I sure wouldn’t.

Cheers

Joe

Christ didn’t say “Go and try to be good.” He said “Go and sin no more.”

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The Inner Struggle

From the Point Of View Of Spirit …

“Crux Fidelis”, Benedictines of Mary, Queen of Apostles, from the album “Lent at Ephesus”, (2014)

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The Isenheim Altarpiece is an altarpiece sculpted and painted by, respectively, the Germans Niclaus of Haguenau and Matthias Grünewald in 1512–1516

Today I have used images taken from Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia, The Isenheim Altarpiece is an altarpiece sculpted and painted by, respectively, the Germans Niclaus of Haguenau and Matthias Grünewald in 1512–1516.

I will not just copy everything they have to say about it but suffice to say go on over and visit it and read the article, it is worth one’s time to understand better the past history which contributed to Western European Civilization’s rise, especially since we are in such a hurry to blow it all away in our modern progressive wasteland.

So after the last blogpost it might appear we have swerved off the road, but in fact all of the items, objections, observations, and situations complained about, and judged, and questioned in that post are firmly rooted in my own biases, attractions, beliefs, and narratives in and about this material world.

In short, my ego, my “self” is intimately enmeshed in all my observations and conclusions, MY plans, MY dreams, MY opinions, MY understanding. I don’t believe that I am uniquely blessed. I believe that we all share these attachments to the material, especially if we strongly believe that this time based material reality is all there is.

Viewed through my human nature, all these things are ultimately important, but viewed through my soul nature they are really seen to be unimportant and irrelevant, mere distractions on the path. And yet … and yet … we insist on refusing to see what is right before us. We dive into the unreal and forsake the real for the sake of our passions, our tastes, our desires, our egos.

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Grunewald – Isenheim Altarpiece – First View

Barabbas is in each one of us. We are scoundrels, experts in selfishness, boasting, lust, violence and greed. We are bandits, taking God’s many gifts and ungratefully neglecting them and squandering them.

We take for granted the most precious realities of life: family, life, nature, health, faith, and the sacraments.  We squander our talents, our money, our time, and the love others offer us.

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Grunewald Isenheim Second View

We are quick to criticize and judge, to steal others’ honor and sully it with our moral and intellectual myopia. What do we, who are so flawed, so weak, so slow to repent, and so reluctant to serve — what do we deserve?

Certainly not God’s love, certainly not his continued forgiveness, certainly not redemption, hope, peace, and heaven. Strictly speaking, we deserve to be cut off from the kingdom against which we have so often rebelled — just like the murderous insurgent Barabbas.

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Grunewald Isenheim Third View

And yet, Jesus overlooks what we deserve. It is Passover, and the angel of justice passes over the sinner to wreak his punishments on the Lamb of God instead. Look at the Lord with the eyes of Barabbas. Is there any heart that loves you more than His Sacred Heart? Is there any heart more trustworthy than the heart that died so that you might have abundant life? John Bartunek, LC, ThD.The Better Part”, pp321

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Grunewald’s Risen Christ

We insist on refusing to see what is right before us — we refuse to see reality through the eyes of our spirit/soul — we clutch at our “self” and our passions, appetites, vices, and sins, because, as Screwtape says (about half way down one of my posts): “you must remember that he (us) takes Time for an ultimate reality”.

As we walk through this “valley of death”, this mortal world full of evil both without and within, we find that the closer we cling to the visible, material, temporal vision, the more we fear.  Because when you really look at everything around us, the happenings, and events, and personal relations, and national relations, the EVERYTHING in TIME, the more we fear.

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Mathis Gothart Grunewald’s “St. John The Baptist” illum oportet crescere me autem minui (Vulgate, John 3:30 ), “He must increase, but I must decrease.

Because, if we actually pull our collective heads out of the “sand” (or wherever) the more we have to acknowledge that there is not one damned thing we can do about any of it and if this is all there is then we may just as well end it all. If this is all there is then what is really the point? 

This morning I visited another WordPress blog which I follow at “Finding Hope”  Often I am encouraged and given hope reading what this person writes. This time I found there a story specifically about this struggle with “What’s The Point”. It brought me to tears and to prayer:

A Prayer of Sorrow

” I have fallen, Lord, once more. I can’t go on. I’ll never succeed. I am ashamed.  I don’t dare look at you. And yet I struggled, Lord, for I knew you were right near me, bending over me, watching.

But temptation blew like a hurricane, and instead of you I turned my head away. I stepped aside, while you stood silent and sorrowful. Lord, don’t look at me like that.

For I am ashamed and sorrowful. I am down, shattered, with no strength left. I dare make no more promises. I can only stand bowed before you.

 Come, Child, look up. Isn’t it mainly your vanity that is wounded? If you loved me you would grieve but you would trust. Do you think that there is a limit to God’s love? Do you think that for a moment I stopped loving you? But you still rely on yourself.

 You must rely on me. Ask my pardon and get up quickly. You see, it’s not falling that is worse, but staying on the ground.”

Wow …

If we are not careful we find ourselves angry with God because “He is doing this to me!” and we can’t bring ourselves to recognize our own failings and faults, and that God is not really “doing this to us” but just watching us sorrowfully from His eternal NOW as we do these spiteful things to “punish” Him.

And then consider how much of what we do daily is out of spite and passive aggression.  Spite at family members, spite at neighbours, spite at friends, spite at groups of people we “have a bone to pick” with, spite at other drivers, spite at other folks in public places or in the news, spite at professional groups, anyway, you get my drift.

Matushka Juliana Schmemann, Fr. Alexander Schmemann, and Alexander Solzhenitsyn

Matushka Juliana Schmemann, Fr. Alexander Schmemann, and Alexander Solzhenitsyn

Our spiritual point of view completely obscured by passion , resentment and pride, so we do and say things we later regret or find are mistaken in their target and intent. “Every evil screams out only one message: “I am good”! And not only does it scream, but it also demands that the people cry out tirelessly in response: ‘You  are good, you are freedom, you are happiness’ “(Father Alexander Schmemann)

All of these passions painting layer upon layer of darkness on the vision of our soul/spirit, completely obscuring reality. These “little sins” of spite, of holding grudges and passive aggression until vengeance be meted out are really great big sins of pride, of our ego, of needing to be seen and heard and esteemed, even by God, if we still remember Him.

My mother (God rest her soul) went to her grave, “died unshriven”  as they say, or bás a fháil gan sagart” as our Irish ancestors would say, that is “not having confessed sins to a priest and been given absolution”  after 32 years of rejecting God and the church and the sacraments. Because she just couldn’t accept that God’s plan for her life did not align with her plan for her life. After my father died, at 57,  my mother (always a very stubborn woman) rejected the church, priests, God, religion, holding out for her plan, until vengeance be meted out.

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Fyodor Dostoyevsky

In her early life, although we were poor, she did her best to raise us children so that we never wanted for anything essential, even including making our clothes.  She looked out for us with devotion and worshiped my father as her eternal love.  She died a unhappy woman at 92 still holding out for the material reality of her plan and rejecting the soul/spirit view of eternity.

God gave her 32 more years after he took Dad, to come to an understanding of reality and we discussed it and argued about it countless times for 32 years. I must have been a real pain in the ass when all she really wanted was to be left alone in her bitterness.

In some ways she reminded me, in the last 30 years of her life, of “The Old Woman and The Onion” fable which appears in Fyodor Dostoyevsky’s novel “The Brothers Karamazov“.  My mother refused to give up her narrative and her plan regardless of the cost.

And all that misery and bitterness because she took TIME for reality and could never bring herself to accept that this world didn’t matter, that she had to give up HER plan for life and accept God’s plan:

15Love not the world, nor the things which are in the world. If any man love the world, the charity of the Father is not in him. 16For all that is in the world, is the concupiscence of the flesh, and the concupiscence of the eyes, and the pride of life, which is not of the Father, but is of the world. 17And the world passeth away, and the concupiscence thereof: but he that doth the will of God, abideth for ever. (1 John 2, Douay-Rheims Bible)

We would be better to write poems of Love to God:

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Ah, Love, let us be true to one another!
For the world, which seems
To lie before us like a land of dreams,
So various, so beautiful, so new,
Hath really neither joy, nor love, nor light,
Nor certitude, nor peace, nor help for pain;
And we are here as on a darkling plain
Swept with confused alarms of struggle and flight,
Where ignorant armies clash by night.”

(Mathew Arnold, English Poet, 1822 — 1888)

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“An Taiseirl (The Resurection)”, Noirin Ni Riain and The Monks Of Glenstal Abbey, from the album “Vox de Nube”, (1996)

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Inuit Snow Goggles

It seems obvious at this point what reality is and what the choice is that must be made, between a short syllable of time or all eternity, to devote our short lives to chasing happiness and success in this world or take off our goggles and pursue eternity.

But in order to detach from the important material things which fill up our lives and leave us bitter and afraid we have to abandon our “self”–ishness and trust God. Selfishness is rooted in “FEAR” of loosing something good for ourselves or missing out on something which might make us happy, or whatever … we often do not even know what it is we are afraid of loosing or missing out on, but we are sure someone else is getting it and we are not.

The main obstacle or hurdle to overcome when approaching the spirit/soul point of view is self love. It is immensely difficult to develop detachment from this world while fully immersed in the pool of self love where this time based world is everything.

By immersing oneself in the world of spirit, outside time and space, where everything material is unimportant we are able to appreciate and understand just what an infinitesimal part of reality is the part with time, which we choose to believe constitutes all of reality.

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Air Force One

So we have to give up our self and trust God, a difficult target when we have so much trouble trusting our family or our friends, or the folks at work or at the corner store.

Trust; trust God, who knows us so much better than we even know ourselves since he conceived us and created us and he loves us more than we love ourselves and he wants nothing more than our absolute happiness and well being. He knows what we need.

So in conclusion (for now)  “LET IT GO!” We have to move from “My will be done” to “Thy will be done”. Our future depends on it. Salvation does not arrive on Air Force One. Or any other means of conveyance.

Cheers

Joe

 

100-canadian-landscapeWe fight the long defeat because results are not as important as our Father’s delight. We fight the long defeat because we are not the authorities over “success.” We fight the long defeat because the final victory is coming.

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