Thursday, March 27, 2008

Dying And Rising With Christ - St Leo the Great's Sermon (AD 400-461)

Christ came to bring us the help which only he could give. In his divinity he was immune to suffering; consequently, once he had assumed our fragile humanity, death could have no permanent hold on him. His immortal nature possessed the power to raise his dead body to life again.

We must cleave to this mystery always, striving with supreme effort of mind and body to be conformed to it. Although failure to observe the pascal solemnity would be very grave offense, it would be still more dangerous to take part in the liturgy without sharing in our Lord's passion. The Apostle's saying is true: If we suffer with him, we shall also reign with him.

We can give authentic worship to the suffering, dead, and risen Christ only if we ourselves suffer, die, and rise again with him. This sharing in Christ's Death and Resurrection begins for all the children of the Church at Baptism, in which sin is destroyed and thy are born to new life, the triple immersion in the water representing the Lord's three days sojourn in the grave. Their funeral pile, so to speak, is brought tumbling down, they enter the font in their old, sin-stained condition, to be brought forth new by the baptismal waters.

What has been effected sacramentally, however, must still be carried out in their daily lives. As long as thy are in this mortal body, those who are born of the Spirit must take up their cross.

So then, if anyone feels himself overstepping the bounds of Christian discipline and his desires drawing him away from the straight path, let him take refuge in the Lord's cross and nail his sinful passions to the tree of life. Let him cry to the Lord in the prophet's words: Pierce my flesh with the nails of your fear, I tremble at your judgements.

To pierce one's flesh with the nail of God's fear is to let the dread of divine judgment curb one's senses from unlawful desires. The person who thus resists temptation and mortifies his concupiscence to prevent it leading him into deadly sin will then be free to say with the Apostle: Far be it from me to boast of anything except the cross of Jesus Christ, through whom the world is crucified to me, and I the world.

Christ has lifted us up with himself on the cross; there let Christians take their stand. They know it is the place where their human nature was redeemed, and all their steps should be directed toward it. For the Lord's passion is prolonged until the end of the world. Just as it is he whom we honour and love in the saints, he whom we feed and clothe in the poor, so too is is he who suffers in all who endure adversity for the sake of what is right; unless, indeed, we are to imagine that, now that the faith has spread thorough out the world and the number of unbelievers has decreased, all persecution has come to an end together with every conflict which ever raged against the blessed martyrs- as if the bearing of the cross were reserved only for those who had to suffer atrocious torments for the love of Christ.

And so those wise souls who have learned to fear and love the one and only Lord and to hope in him alone mortify their passions and crucify their bodily senses, refusing either to fear their foes or to serve them. They prefer the will of God to their own lives, and insofar as they renounce love of self for love of God they love themselves all the more truly.

By such members of Christ's body as these the holy feast of Easter is authentically celebrated, and they will lack none of those victories which our Saviour's passion has won.

-- St Leo the Great (circa 400-461) was elected pope in 440. One hundred and forty-three of his letters and 96 sermons have survived.

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

My Battle Between Love and Fear

What an upheaval it has been for me, within me! For since by birthday, the highpoint and beginnings of my signs of change so far, my body and soul has been thirsty for the living water that never leaves us thirsty again. The tumulus battle between Love and Fear wages within me causing an instability of the equilibrium of peace within me. The inner man bears his cross; my mind weighted by thoughts of my human capacities and ideals, because my body and soul craves for a new experience of god. The realm of Christian mysticism experienced by so many Saints (Theresa of Avila, Faustina, Padre Pio) but till now, unknown to me.

The three spheres of conflict stemming from this battle between Love and Fear are in essence- Faith Hope and Love; Wisdom Knowledge and Understanding (of god and self); and living the Way, the Truth, and the Life of Christ. They are all interconnected. If I say I LOVE god, then I should trust him? If my faith is living, then I should have no fear of living the gospel to the letter? Right? This challenge of faith initiated out of love for god caused all of this.

For Lent, I have decided to undertake the difficult task of disciplining and conquering myself for 40 days, in preparation for a future career, and also to know the will of god and understand myself. Alas for me, that I should be a burden unto myself! To deny the flesh, and honour my simple lenten commitments made out of my free will to imitate Christ and his virtues is a very difficult and challenging! I think also that at the age of 21, people want to start building on the foundation blocks laid over the years, so this is the time of "shaping up" for me!

The person who truly knows himself would recognize how frail human nature is. God I know, trusting in the experience of other saints, is using this confusion of mine to merit a humble heart, yet, it seems contrary to me and is very painful to bear. Knowing your weaknesses, poverty, and limitations causes in me an anxiety and fear, yet it is pruning my faith in the hidden and unseen god to trust in divine providence for even greater things. I share this perspective with all so they they too who are in a similar situation as myself, may know two things. That you're not the only one out there who questions faith, love, and life, and two, that all things god uses for the good of those who love him.