True Freedom

Two intriguing quotations pointing to true freedom:

 

“In essentials, unity;

in nonessentials, liberty;

in all things, charity.”  (St. Augustine)

 

“The laws of the Church preserve the freedom of the Holy Spirit.”  (I read this on http://www.canonlaw.info: “Leges Ecclesiae conservant libertatem Spiritus Sancti.“)

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Handmaid of Your Handmaid

Luke 1:38 from the Vulgate:

“dixit autem Maria

ecce ancilla Domini fiat mihi secundum verbum tuum”

Vanessa, consecrated to Jesus through Mary:  “Ecce ancilla ancillae tuae (Behold, I am the handmaid of Your Handmaid).”

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Full of Signs: A New Way of Seeing the World

I will never forget a moment during my sophomore year at Stanford when I first realized a new way of looking at the world.  That year was one of great spiritual growth for me thanks to my involvement with Campus Crusade for Christ.  I was standing near the Tressider bollards thinking about how we can learn about God because of our parents.  He is like our parents (at least the good ones), so we can know something about Him.  Then I realized that perhaps it was the other way around:  perhaps God made families the way they are in the first place so that we would be able to learn about Him.  Perhaps other things in our world are signs meant to point us to Him.

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Excerpt from “Why Practice Penance?”

As Catholics, we believe that God forgives us the guilt of sin because of Christ’s sacrifice on the cross, but we still need to deal with sin’s “temporal consequences” one way or the other (i.e., in this life through practicing penance, in the next life through purification in Purgatory, or through some combination of the two).  I first learned about this concept at Fuller Theological Seminary in Early Church History with Dr. Nathan Feldmeth (fall 2003).  I have found the distinction between guilt and temporal consequences hard to understand, so I was glad to read a helpful explanation of the distinction in Dr. Paul Thigpen’s Lenten article entitled “Why Practice Penance?”  (March 2011 Newsletter of the Coming Home Network International.  Pages 10-11..)  Here is an excerpt with a helpful analogy:

Suppose you tell your five-year-old that he can’t jump off a tall fence because he will hurt himself.  But he does it anyway and breaks his arm.  When he calls out to you crying in pain, he’s quite remorseful for his misbehavior and afraid that your anger will alienate you from him.

At this point, you forgive him for disobeying you–that is, you lay aside your anger at his wrongdoing so that it doesn’t stand between the two of you.  But other consequences of his sin must still be dealt with.  You must take him to the hospital to have his broken arm set, and that will be a painful process.

The truth is that we’ve all disobeyed God and broken some of our spiritual “bones.”  God forgives us of the guilt resulting from our sin, the break in our relationship with Him.  He restores the friendship.  But He doesn’t wave a magic wand, bypassing our free will, to fix those “bones.”

Instead, we must undergo a process that undoes what we have done, and it requires our cooperation.  We must work, with the assistance of divine grace, to let go of whatever binds us, straighten out whatever is crooked within us, repair what is broken, restore what we have unlawfully taken, embrace whatever truths we have denied, and learn to love God above all things.  That process is what we call penance.

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Spirit-Breath-Wind

I came across this passage in The Inklings by Humphrey Carpenter (London:  Harper Collins Publishers, 1997)  that reminded me of a theological train of thought of mine:

Barfield examined the history of words, and came to the conclusion that mythology…is closely associated with the very origin of all speech and literature.  In the dawn of language, said Barfield, speakers did not make a distinction between the ‘literal’ and the ‘metaphorical’, but used words in what might be called a ‘mythological’ manner.  For example, nowadays when we translate Latin spiritus we have to render it either as ‘spirit’ or as ‘breath’ or as ‘wind’ depending on the context.  But early users of language would not have made any such distinction between these meanings.  To them a word like spiritus meant something like ‘spirit-breath-wind’.  When the wind blew, it was not merely ‘like’ someone breathing:  it was the breath of a god.  And when an early speaker talked about his soul as spiritus he did not merely mean that it was ‘like’ breath:  it was to him just that, the breath of life.   (Carpenter, The Inklings, 41)

“Spirit,” “breath,” and “wind” are the translations given to the Hebrew word ruach, as in “the Spirit [ruach] of God was moving over the face of the waters” (Genesis 1:2).  It is also translated as the “breath of life” in Genesis 6:17 and 7:15, though a different word is used for the “breath of life” breathed into man by the LORD God in Genesis 2:7.

Death came to Adam and Eve, both physically and spiritually, when they disobeyed God and ate of the fruit of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil.  But a new “spirit-breath-life” is given thanks to Jesus:  the Holy Spirit.  Jesus breathes on the disciples after His resurrection and tells them, “‘Receive the Holy Spirit.  If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven; if you retain the sins of any, they are retained'” (John 20:22-23).  And, of course, the Holy Spirit rushes on the disciples and Mary at Pentecost:

When the day of Pentecost had come, they were all together in one place.  And suddenly a sound came from heaven like the rush of a mighty wind, and it filled all the house where they were sitting.  And there appeared to them tongues as of fire, distributed and resting on each one of them.  And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other tongues, as the Spirit gave them utterance.  (Acts 2:1-4)

The Holy Spirit is the soul of the Body of Christ.  He is the “breath of life” of the Church.

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The Bible’s Best-Kept Secret?

I am starting to wonder if Mary may be the Bible’s best-kept secret.  St. Louis de Montfort sure thought so:

Even though Mary was his faithful spouse, God the Holy Spirit willed that his apostles and evangelists should say very little about her and then only as much as was necessary to make Jesus known.  (True Devotion, page 1; Bay Shore, NY:  Montfort Publications, 2006)

Yet Mary is the beautiful answer to so many questions.  If Jesus is the New Adam, who is the New Eve?  If Eve is the mother of all the living in our natural life, who is our mother in our new supernatural life in Christ?  If God is our Father, who is our Mother?  If Jesus is our Lord, who is our Lady?  If Jesus is our King, who is our Queen?  Is Jesus is our brother, who is our sister?

The little that is said about Mary, or that Mary says, in the Bible speaks volumes.  As the Holy Spirit has led the Catholic Church through the centuries, Mary’s particular role in salvation history has become better understood.  Nothing ever taught about her by the Magisterium has ever contradicted Scripture, nor can it, for the Word of God will never contradict Itself.

One of the most wonderful things about being Catholic is that we do not only have the Bible; we also have Tradition.  These are the two streams of the one Living Word of God.  We can thus declare much more with confidence than can our brothers and sisters in Christ who are cut off from the Magisterium of the Catholic Church through their forebears’ revolt (the Protestant Reformation).

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Take and Eat

In the Garden of Eden, we were commanded not to eat of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil.  After we disobeyed, we were cut off from the tree of life.

Now we are invited in the Eucharist to take and eat the Body of Jesus and take and drink His Blood of the New Covenant and thereby have anew the life that Adam and Eve lost through disobedience–the very life of the Holy Trinity.

The first Adam shrank back from offering his life to save his wife and guard the garden from harm.  The second Adam, Jesus, stepped forth in faith and courage and laid down His life for us, His sheep, so that we might have life and have it abundantly.  He became our Passover lamb; we take and eat Him in Eucharist.

I have thought about the initial sense of revulsion we may have to eating the flesh and drinking the blood of our Lord.  I think that Eucharist may be an example of the Lord’s “condescension” to our level, of Him gladly stooping down to meet us where we are.

When we were first created, we were given plants for food, but after our disobedience and exile, the Lord gave us skins for clothes and presumably the flesh of animals for food.  We lost the life of the Trinity and were in a sense reduced to the life of the beasts (“you are dust and to dust you shall return”), so we ate their flesh.  In the covenant with Noah, however, we were prohibited from drinking their blood.  Why?

I learned somewhere along the way the the blood of a creature is symbolic of its life.  So even early on and after we fell, the Lord was teaching us that we are not destined for the life of animals.  In Jesus, we learn what sort of life we are still destined for:  the supernatural life of the Most Holy Trinity.  And how do we obtain this life?  By eating the flesh of the Son of Man and drinking His Blood.  The Lord meets us where we are, as creatures that must eat fellow creatures to live, and uses this most basic of our needs to raise us up in dignity to the His Life.  Thank You, Jesus, Bread of Life!

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The Lamb of God

Jesus our Good Shepherd became a sheep like one of us except perfectly sinless, so that we could cry out to Him:

Lamb of God, you take away the sins of the world:  have mercy on us.

Lamb of God, you take away the sins of the world:  have mercy on us.

Lamb of God, you take away the sins of the world:  grant us peace.

He is the Passover lamb sacrificed to the Father for our sin.

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Our Common Lineage

Here is what Aslan says to King Caspian when the latter wishes that he “‘came of a more honorable lineage'”:

“You come of the Lord Adam and the Lady Eve,” said Aslan.  “And that is both honor enough to erect the head of the poorest beggar, and shame enough to bow the shoulders of the greatest emperor in earth.  Be content.”  (C.S. Lewis, Prince Caspian, page 180; New York:  Collier Books, 1986)

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The Vicar of the Good Shepherd

Jesus is the Good Shepherd, God Himself come to shepherd His people as prophesied in Ezekiel 34–both the lost sheep of Israel and the Gentile sheep brought into His one sheepfold (John 10), the Church.  Before His Ascension, He commissioned His Vicar on earth to continue in His stead as the Good Shepherd:

When they had finished breakfast, Jesus said to Simon Peter, “Simon, son of John, do you love me more than these?”  He said to him, “Yes, Lord; you know that I love you.”  He said to him, “Feed my lambs. … Tend my sheep. … Feed my sheep.”  (John 21:15-1, excerpted)

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