Spiritual Life: August 2010 Archives

The reading at Lauds this morning was from Sirach 8. You'll recall that the Book of Sirach is also called the Liber Ecclesiasticus (that is, the "church book") because of its wide use in catechetics and in the sacred Liturgy. There is nothing in Sirach that is not applicable to us today! Monks, nuns, priests and laity who do the Office of Readings will read the entire book in the course of 2-3 weeks. As a point of comparison, Sirach is one of those books that Protestants do not include in their version of the Bible; Catholics consider Sirach to be both inspired and canonical and worthy of prayer and meditation.

In general one may say that the author Sirach is concerned with interfacing of all parts of our lives: family, friendship, economy, politics, worship, good public order, etc. The Catholic term here would be communio, while the Protestants are inclined to use the concept of fellowship, but to be fair at today's writing, Catholics use the word "fellowship" in the Liturgy and that is mistaken. For the Catholic, communio is not merely the horizontal relationship with sisters and brothers --mere humanitarianism-- but first communion (relationship) with the Blessed Trinity and then communion with sister and brother. Communion with the Trinity and with neighbor leads to one's greater freedom (think of Msgr Giussani's work in Communion & Liberation movement). To take this idea one step further, there is no hard separation between communion with the Trinity and neighbor. Catholics hold fast to the both/and of reality: we are to live in communion with the Trinity, basing our life analogously on the inner life of the Trinity and serving our sister and brother. Saint Benedict in his Rule shows us this is the way to God. What struck me today was the question: To whom do we go for counsel? How do I live in a more perfect freedom with the Trinity and my neighbor? In what ways do I serve the Lord well? How have I looked with tenderness on my humanity, and that of others?

Certainly, I have not always been served well by the advice offered by those placed over me. Superiors, whether secular or religious, have not always been too attuned to the Divine Will through prayer, fasting and lectio that their own issues have been the source of counsel rather than the Will of God; I am amazed that I've survived as well as I have. In profound ways, I have to say, the people I was told to have confidence in turned out be frauds when it came to working with one's humanity, discernment of Spirits, the spiritual life, interpersonal relationships, ecclesial politics, etc. After praying on what Sirach has to say today, I wonder if we as members of the Body of Christ have paid too little attention to the Wisdom literature of the Bible.

Jesus, son of Eleazar, son of Sirach writes:

Contend not with an influential man, lest you fall into his power. Quarrel not with a rich man, lest he pay out the price of your downfall; For gold has dazzled many, and perverts the character of princes. Dispute not with a man of railing speech, heap no wood upon his fire. Be not too familiar with an unruly man, lest he speak ill of your forebears. Shame not a repentant sinner; remember, we all are guilty. Insult no man when he is old, for some of us, too, will grow old. Rejoice not when a man dies; remember, we are all to die. Spurn not the discourse of the wise, but acquaint yourself with their proverbs; From them you will acquire the training to serve in the presence of princes. Reject not the tradition of old men which they have learned from their fathers; From it you will obtain the knowledge how to answer in time of need. Kindle not the coals of a sinner, lest you be consumed in his flaming fire. Let not the impious man intimidate you; it will set him in ambush against you. Lend not to one more powerful than yourself; and whatever you lend, count it as lost. Go not surety beyond your means; think any pledge a debt you must pay. Contend not at law with a judge, for he will settle it according to his whim. Travel not with a ruthless man, lest he weigh you down with calamity; For he will go his own way straight, and through his folly you will perish with him. Provoke no quarrel with a quick-tempered man, nor ride with him through the desert, For bloodshed is nothing to him; when there is no one to help you, he will destroy you. Take no counsel with a fool, for he can keep nothing to himself. Before a stranger do nothing that should be kept secret, for you know not what it will engender. Open your heart to no man, and banish not your happiness (Sirach 8).

Christian hope is not based on personal merit, nor upon good works, nor good intentions, for all these are too transitory, and too utterly disproportionate to the attainment of God; rather, our hope is based upon God himself, upon Christ the one Mediator and Savior.

For hope not to become rashness, it must obviously be accompanied by personal effort and diligence; still we must be convinced that all our good will and good works are always insufficient; only God can sanctify us, only God can raise us up to himself and give us himself as our possession. Only God, the object of our hope, is also the support of hope, its buttress, its fulcrum.

With this in mind St. Therese of the Child Jesus wrote: Sanctity does not consist in this or that practice; it consists in a disposition of the heart which make us humble and little in the arms of God, conscious of our weakness, and confident to the point of audacity in the goodness of our Father (Novissima Verba, pg. 29).

Father Gabriel of St. Mary Magdalen, OCD
Divine Intimacy
Christ2.jpgLord, meditating on our way of proceeding, I have discovered that the ideal of our way of acting is your way of acting.

Give me that sensus Christi that I may feel with your feelings, with the sentiments of your heart, which basically are love for your Father and love love for all men and women.

Teach me how to be compassionate to the suffering, to the poor, the blind, the lame, and the lepers.

Teach us your way so that it becomes our way today, so that we may come closer to the great ideal of Saint Ignatius [of Loyola]: to be companions of Jesus, collaborators in the work of redemption.

(A prayer written by the Servant of God Father Pedro Arrupe, SJ, 28th superior General of the Society of Jesus. Father Arrupe was Basque, lived in Japan at the time of the atomic bomb and died in Rome in 1991 after suffering the effects of a stroke (in 1981) at 84 years old. He is buried in the Church of the Gesu, Rome.)

Assumption/Dormition fast

| | Comments (0)
Death of the Virgin Caravaggio.jpgThose Christians who are not Orthodox --as in, Orthodox Christians or Eastern Orthodox or some version of this-- are likely not to be aware that today begins the traditional time of fasting in preparation for the great feast of the of the Assumption (if you are Catholic) or Dormition (if you are Orthodox) of the Blessed Virgin Mary (Theotokos), the all-holy Mother of God. In fact, the Churches of East and West are called upon to prepare for the yearly festival of our Lady by prayer, fasting and almsgiving. Sound familiar? Indeed, the 3-point spiritual discipline is identical with Lent and Advent.

The period of fast I am speaking of today is a period of time that ought to be understood as training ourselves to be spiritually vigilant. That all of us, no matter of Church membership, should be attentive to and practice fasting so that our hearts and mind and bodies are opened up to the workings of the Holy Spirit. Put another way, by fasting what could the Lord be offering us to know and love and live? Our prayerful vigilance for the feast of the Assumption/Dormition ought to be rekindled by Catholics because the practice opens us up to God's grace. Whether a Catholic takes on 14 days of fasting or something more modest it is a personal choice. But do something! And while I can't guarantee much, I can say that if we are faithful to the spiritual practices of the Church they will give us new eyes of faith, the eyes of the beatitudes, a new mentality with which to assess the world in which we live today. That is, to look with the same mercy and openness that God has for us due to the Incarnation.

The Catholic and Orthodox Churches celebrate the same event, Mary's departure from earth, but each call the event by a different name. The Orthodox say that Mary died a natural death as any human being would, that her soul was received by her Son, Jesus, and on the third day her body was resurrected but didn't suffer bodily corruption. Catholicism says Mary was assumed by God's own power like that of Elias, into heaven body and soul at the moment of death. Catholic dogma defined by the Church leaves it an open question as to whether Mary died (see Pope Pius XII, Munificentissimus Deus, 1950).

At any rate the Christian Churches of East and West up until today celebrates this significant feast of the Mother of God liturgically and has done so since the early years following the Council of Ephesus (431). Some point to the Jerusalem liturgical practices of the burial services of the Virgin as imitating those done on Good Friday for Jesus. The point is that the Assumption/Dormition feast is prepared for by a period of fasting, preparing the whole person to receive anew the Paschal Mystery wrought by Mary.

The period of fast lasts until August 14th. Remember, the Assumption/Dormition feast is the same solemn feast observed by both the Eastern and Western Churches but with different emphases depending on the Church that you belong to. But one should note that this fast has a stricter sense than even that of the Nativity and Apostles' fasts.

The Orthodox Church's rules for fasting can be found here and if you are Catholic it might be a good idea to consider some time in prayer and fasting as a path to celebrate the Marian feast of the Assumption or Dormition on August 15th.

PS: The Assumption is my most favorite of Marian feasts!
vanitas.jpgVanity of vanities! All things are vanity!
All our striving and our toil are things we leave behind!
Each day and night we strive, we work
And still at the end will die:
If today you shall hear the voice of the Lord,
Then attend God's gracious word!

Greed in all its forms brings death, and things cannot give life.
Fools are we to grow rich for self and not grow rich with God!
"Eat, drink, be merry," calls the world,
And still at the end we die:
If today you shall hear the voice of the Lord,
Then attend God's gracious word!

Raised up now with Christ from death, we set our hearts on high;
Hidden now with Christ is our life, to glory we shall rise!
Fix now our hearts on things above,
Yes, even though we die:
If today you shall hear the voice of the Lord,
Then attend God's gracious word!

About the author

Paul A. Zalonski is from New Haven, CT. He is a member of the Fraternity of Communion and Liberation, a Catholic ecclesial movement and an Oblate of Saint Benedict. Contact Paul at paulzalonski[at]yahoo.com.



Humanities Blog Directory

About this Archive

This page is a archive of entries in the Spiritual Life category from August 2010.

Spiritual Life: July 2010 is the previous archive.

Spiritual Life: October 2010 is the next archive.

Find recent content on the main index or look in the archives to find all content.