Monday, October 25, 2004

As you may notice...

I've tweaked the "look and feel" of FCA. Have a look at my patrons and heroes and tell me what you think.

I have many thoughts, but most of them are deep within. Slapping them onto my blog, how ever cathartic, would cheapen them. The Internet is an orgy of holding forth, so I'm sure you'll survive my abstension from my usual prolixity.

A quick (as opposed to long?) news flash: the Catholic Church will be releasing a new catechism of social teaching tomorrow (October 25)!

[T]he "Compendium of the Social Doctrine of the Church" is divided into three parts that present the foundations, contents and pastoral applications of Catholic social teachings. ...

Part of the catechism is expected to deal with the theological and anthropological underpinnings of the church's social teaching, as well as a wide range of classical social doctrine themes....


At the Shelter tonight the speaker, a fulltime missionary man with family, preparing for longterm service in China, spoke about Jesus as Lord, and not merely as Friend or Savior. It was whizzbang! Straight out of the Council of Trent at times! I'm sure he ruffled a few feathers with his statement that our assurance of salvation is assured only as long as we are *following* Jesus, but this is a perfectly sensible, and biblical, take on things. Of course, I know how feeble such assurance sounds to many ears. He emphasized salvation as a process and spoke, albeit implicitly, of the biblical distinction between forensic justification as an act of monergistic grace and salvation (qua obedient holiness qua deification qua theosis) as an act of synergistic grace.

Back with Fr. Ramon again tomorrow. I'm excited about it, but also none too little apprehensive. My homework, as you may recall, was to encounter God's love like a two-day old baby encounters his mother's. I did that for a couple days, but then pretty quickly "moved on." It's amazing how boring I can find God sometimes. That's a scandalous admission, I know, but being a redeemed sinner is a scandalous thing. I love God very very much -- but as we all know, familiarity breeds contempt, and we hurt most the ones we love most.

I sense I am in my teenage years with God. The old tricks are just that, old tricks. It is now up to me, *by the grace of God* always calling, stirring, illuminating and ennobling me, to step up into a more disciplined, mature life with God. The past couple months, I realized yesterday, have involved me gaining endurance -- like a massive engine warming up, or a giant stirring from an ancient slumber -- for each day and week of teaching. Teaching middle schoolers ESL requires a slow-twitch, marathon kind of energy that, more than anything else, needs time to develop. I lost a lot of my ESL steam over the relaxing summer, and have since taken a lot of exhausting hits getting back on the horse of daily teaching.

That kind of marathon endurance is what I lack thus far in my walk with Christ. Obviously, he's brought me this far (despite my best efforts to the contrary). Basically, I think I've hit a wall and it's time for God to work on me deeply, rather than me continuing to flit broadly on the surface of devotion. I can't stay a baby forever, but I can certainly starve myself. If I may be so vivid, I feel like a spiritual bulemic these days: I have intense periods of divine fellowship followed by intense bouts of willful disobedience and concupiscent weakness. Faith is a vital part of life, which means it can be grow and change as well as stagnate and die. Mine of late has been doing a lot of both.

I have hope in his grace abounding much more than my sin, but I also dread what taking up His Cross will mean for my present and future. I realized a few nights ago I am in a washing machine of God's loving will: I am tumbling around the same issues but not yet sure where I'll settle. He's pounding the dirt and stiffness out of me; and it's terrifying at times. I thought of the Stations of the Cross and asked myself if many people and events in my life so far have been mere landmarks, or weigh stations, along the road to the Cross. For, make no mistake: that is the final destination of every Christian this side of the beatific vision of God in heaven. On my way to the cross, who shall walk with me? Whom have I left behind? Whom shall I leave behind? Whom or what shall I find on the road ahead?

I want to leave you with a great quote I came across on the Pontificator's blog. I ask you to read it and meditate on it for a deeper understanding of the Eucharist. As I've said before, one of the strongest draws for me into the Catholic and Orthodox faith is the majesty and intimacy of Chrsit in the Holy Gifts. Rather than resting on my ingrained Protestant minimalism, asking why I *must* believe such "carnal" things about the Eucharist, I have walked, and then run, into the more ancient maximalism that shouts, "Why *don't* I believe this! Thank God I *can* believe all this!"

When the wild olive has been grafted on to it, the good olive entirely assimilates it so that its fruit is no longer proper to the wild olive tree. In the same way men’s righteousness by itself avails nothing. But once men are united to Christ’s Flesh and Blood by partaking of them, straightway the greatest benefits result, the remission of sin and the inheriting of the kingdom, which are the fruits of Christ’s righteousness. Just as we receive from the holy table a Body far superior to our own, the Body of Christ, so in consequence our righteousness becomes a Christlike righteousness. The saying, “we are the Body of Christ and individually members of it” should not be regarded as referring merely to our body. Far more justly we should ascribe this participation to the soul and its activity, since “he who is united to the Lord becomes one spirit with him.” These words show that this participation and growing together apply particularly to mind and soul.

For this cause He did not merely clothe Himself in a body, but He also assumed a soul, mind, and will and everything else that is human, in order to be united to the whole of our nature and completely penetrate us and resolve us into Himself by totally joining what is His to that which is ours.

Since in respect to sin alone He can have nothing in common with us, He can have no concord with those who sin nor be united with them. Out of love for man He received all other things from us, and out of even greater love He joins what is His to us. The first means that God has come down to earth, the second that He has taken us from earth to heaven. So, on the one hand God became incarnate, on the other man has been deified. In the former case mankind as a whole is freed from reproach in that Christ has overcome sin in one body and one soul; in the latter each man individually is released from sin and made acceptable to God, which is an even greater act of love for man. Since it was not possible for us to ascend to Him and participate in that which is His, He came down to us and partook of that which is ours. So perfectly has He coalesced with that which He has taken that He imparts Himself to us by giving us what He has assumed from us. As we partake of His human Body and Blood we receive God Himself into our souls. It is thus God’s Body and Blood which we receive, His soul, mind, and will, no less than those of His humanity.

It was necessary that the remedy for my weakness be God and become man, for were He God only He would not be united to us, for how could He become our feast? On the other hand, if Christ were no more than what we are, his feast would have been ineffectual. Now, however, since He is both at once, He is united to those who have the same nature as Himself and coalesces with us men. By his divinity He is able to exalt and transcend our human nature and to transform it into Himself.

It is clear, then, that Christ infuses Himself into us and mingles Himself with us. He changes and transforms us into Himself, as a small drop of water is changed by being poured into an immense sea of ointment. This ointment can do such great things to those who fall into it, that it not only makes us to be sweet-smelling and redolent thereof, but our whole state becomes the sweet-smelling savour of the perfume which was poured out for us as it says, “for we are the sweet savour of Christ.”

St Nicholas Cabasilas

Please pray for me, God's most beloved sinner, God's prodigal son without the guts to run away.

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