Sunday, November 11, 2018

Colossians 1:5 – Word of Truth


...because of the hope being stored for you in heaven which you heard before in the word of the truth of the Gospel...

In our last reflection on Colossians, we talked about hope being stored up for us in Heaven. But how do we know about that? How do we know that we can and must desire and expect the eternal life God holds out to us and the grace He gives us to attain it? How do we know that our hope, our eternal life, is waiting for us, that God is preparing marvelous things for us? Paul tells us: we have heard about it beforehand in the Gospel.

The verb for “heard before” is proēkousate. There is a delightful anticipation in this verb. We can know something about our hope, our eternal life, before we realize it in full. The more we hear about it, the more we desire it; the greater our expectation becomes. We can start living eternity now in a limited way because we understand (at least in part) what is in store for us in the future if only we hold firm to the grace of God. God doesn't keep secrets from us. He wants us to look forward to the fullness of life with Him. He wants us to have an idea of what's coming. He wants us to begin to grasp the greatness of His gift of salvation even now in this life.

Where, then, do we hear about our hope? In the word of truth of the Gospel. This is actually quite a complicated little prepositional phrase in the Greek. It begins with the preposition en, which identifies the sphere where the information is located. That sphere is the word, tō logō. Logos is a loaded word, for Jesus Himself is the Logos, the Word of God. And indeed, we do hear about our hope through Him. He is the One Who brings our hope to fruition by His life, death, and resurrection. He is the One Who opened the gates of Heaven that we may have eternal life with Him. He is the One Who speaks hope into our hearts.

God's word also comes to us through the channels of Divine Revelation: Sacred Scripture and Sacred Tradition, both of which are interpreted by the Church's Magisterium. The Bible and the Church's living Tradition (which includes the sacraments) are both filled with hope. They teach us that God is preparing a place for us; they show us how to get there; and they serve as pathways for the grace that God pours out upon us. Our job is to read and to listen and to open our hearts in humility to receive the message.

This message, this word, is truth. Paul makes this very clear in the construction he chooses: ō logō tēs alētheias, literally, the word of the truth. Paul might simply have used the adjective “true,” but he chose the abstract noun instead to give his phrase greater punch. This isn't just any true word; it is the word of truth, something unique, something special, something amazing. He might also be hinting at Jesus' assertion, “I am the Way and the Truth and the Life.” In that case, the word belongs to Truth Himself, and Truth Himself has shared it with us.

Where do we find this word of truth? In the Gospel, the euaggelion, the good news. Good news! Isn't that the understatement of the millennium? The Gospel is the best possible news ever, for it gives us the word of truth that our God loves us so much that He became one of us. He died on the cross for us. He rose again from the dead. He opened Heaven to us. He pours His divine life into our souls so we can live with Him and for Him and in Him right now. He gives us hope for eternal life that we may be with Him forever. It doesn't get any better than that.

(Greek definitions come from Biblehub.com, especially HELPS Word Studies.)

Monday, November 5, 2018

Lost Prayers #10


A Selection of Morning Prayers

Remember, O Christian soul, that you have this day, and every day of your life –
God to glorify,
Jesus to imitate,
The angels and saints to invoke,
A soul to save,
A body to mortify,
Sins to expiate,
Virtues to acquire,
Hell to avoid,
Heaven to gain,
Eternity to prepare for,
Time to profit of,
Your neighbor to edify,
Passions to subdue,
Devils to combat,
The world to despise,
Death, perhaps, to encounter,
And judgment to undergo.

Prayer of St. Mechtilde

When you awake in the morning,” said our Blessed Lord to St. Mechtilde, “let your first act be to salute My Heart, and to offer Me yours.”

I adore, praise, and salute Thee, O most sweet Heart of my Jesus, fresh and gladdening as the breath of spring, from which, as from a fountain of graces, far sweeter than the honeycomb, floweth for ever all good and all delight. I give Thee thanks with all the powers of my heart for having preserved me through this night, and for having rendered to God the Father praises and thanksgivings on my behalf. And now, O my sweet Love, I offer Thee my miserable and worthless heart as a morning sacrifice; I place it in Thy most tender Heart, and commit it to Thy holy keeping; entreating Thee to deign to pour into it Thy divine inspirations, and to enkindle it with Thy holy love. Amen.

Devotions for the Morning

O my God, I adore Thee, and give Thee thanks for all Thy benefits, and especially for having preserved me during the past night. I love Thee with my whole heart, and I offer to Thee whatever I shall do or suffer in the course of this day, in union with the sufferings of Jesus Christ and of Mary, and with an intention of gaining all the indulgences I am able.

I will endeavor, by the assistance of Thy holy grace, to avoid all sin; and I beseech Thee, for the love of Jesus, to pardon me my past sins, and to grant me perseverance in virtue. I will endeavor, particularly in such things as shall be contrary to my inclinations, to unite myself to Thy blessed will, saying: “Lord, Thy will be done.” O Jesus, extend Thy hands over me this day. Most holy Mary, protect me. Faithful guardian, my good angel, and you, my holy advocates, saints in heaven, assist me. Amen.

From The Treasury of the Sacred Heart, 1877

Sunday, October 28, 2018

A Book Log #2


Just a few recommendations from bookworm to bookworm...

The Beggar's Banquet
By Regis Martin

As always, Dr. Regis Martin is a delight to read. The Beggar's Banquet, a collection of reflections original given to a community of monks, combines deep theological reflection; poetry from the likes of Dante, T.S. Eliot, and Gerard Manley Hopkins; and delightful spots of humor. While we are all beggars before God, we can be certain that when we open our hearts and minds to Him, He provides a banquet beyond our wildest imaginings. Dr. Martin helps his readers grasp the wonder and the delight of God's great gifts.

The House on the Strand
By Daphne du Maurier

I didn't expect to like this book. It was an assignment for a class, but it turned out to be an interesting read. While the psychological time travel motif only partly worked for me, I enjoyed the author's portrayal of medieval life and the connections between the modern and medieval characters. Most successful, perhaps, was the book's exploration of addiction and the effects of immoderate attachments on individuals and families. Overall, I would recommend The House on the Strand to readers who don't mind feeling a bit uncomfortable at times as they explore difficult issues and all the foibles of humanity past and present.

Tolkien: Man and Myth
By Joseph Pearce

J.R.R. Tolkien's Catholicism stands at the heart of his sub-created world. In Tolkien: Man and Myth, Joseph Pearce explores the subtle yet beautiful ways in which Tolkien's faith shines through his fantasy. Pearce also delves into the fruitful literary friendship between Tolkien and C.S. Lewis; Tolkien's love of family and rural life; and the delightful and illuminating concepts of true myth and sub-creation. If you love Tolkien, read this...seriously.

Jesus Appeals to the World: From the Writings of Sr. Consolata Betrone
By Lorenzo Sales, IMC

An unceasing act of perfect love... This is what Jesus asked of Sister Consolata, and this is what stands at the heart of Jesus Appeals to the World. Jesus appeared to Sister Consolata, a Capuchin nun, over a period of several years, instructing her on how to make the unceasing act of love using the formula “Jesus, Mary, I love You! Save souls!” Jesus also taught her to give a smiling “Yes!” to everyone; to thank God for everything; and to purify her mind of useless thoughts and her speech of useless words in order to focus entirely on loving Him. While not everyone is called to the intensity of Sister Consolata's mission, we are all called to love God and our neighbor, and through this book, Jesus speaks to our hearts about the form this love is to take in our own lives.

Doors in the Walls of the World
By Peter Kreeft

We human beings are not alone, and the material world that we live in is not all there is. What we don't see is far more real and far more wonderful than what is visible to our physical eyes. In Doors in the Walls of the World, Dr. Peter Kreeft shows us how we can catch marvelous glimpses of the “moreness” within and beyond our human story. As always, Dr. Kreeft packs his writing with material for deep reflection, including the subtleties of natural and supernatural and the effects that our smallest prayers, words, and actions can have on the whole world. Prayerfully reading this book is an excellent way to recover some of the wonder and joy we all tend to lose as we try to navigate the craziness of our world.

Happy reading!

Sunday, October 21, 2018

Hannah's Prayer: A Prophecy


The end of Hannah's song of exaltation flows into prophecy. “The Lord will judge the ends of the earth,” Hannah announces, “He will give strength to His king, and exalt the power of His anointed.”

She probably didn't even understand completely what she was saying, for the Holy Spirit was using her as His instrument, speaking through her to send a message to people of all times and places.

Indeed, the Lord has judged, is judging, and will judge the ends of the earth. All things lie in His hands. He sees and knows and understands all and can therefore judge perfectly. He will do so ultimately at the end of time when all things will be made manifest and we shall understand His judgments fully.

When Hannah lifted up her prayer, Israel as yet had no king. The one who would someday appoint that king was her own son who was still a small child. Nonetheless, Hannah speaks confidently that Israel would have a king, and when it did, he would draw his strength from God Himself. Hannah's words would be fulfilled first in David and later, perfectly, in Jesus.

The final phrase of Hannah's prophecy would also find fulfillment in David and especially Jesus. God would raise up the power of His anointed. David was anointed as king by Samuel and given power to reign as king over Israel. Jesus, too, was anointed, only by the Holy Spirit directly at His Baptism, and of course, He was and is the most powerful of kings, for He is God incarnate.

Hannah could not have known any of this, yet she spoke with confidence. God would do exactly as He promised; Hannah was certain of that, and she would always praise Him for it.

(1 Samuel 2:10 – NSRV-CE)

Saturday, October 13, 2018

Hannah's Prayer: God's Control


Hannah's experiences have taught her something important about who is really in control of the world and of individual lives: God.

God knows all, Hannah proclaims. He weighs the actions of every person; nothing is hidden from Him. And because of Him, because of the knowledge He has and the decisions He makes, individual lives can change in the blink of an eye.

Mighty and arrogant ones fall. Weak ones become strong. Those who had plenty suddenly have nothing. Those who had nothing suddenly have much. The barren woman becomes the mother of many children. The mother of many children languishes as her children are taken from her.

And this is all God's doing. He knows exactly what to do and when to do it that each person may have exactly what he or she needs when he or she needs it. Sometimes God's actions may not feel good. They may hurt. They may seem evil and horrible to the person affected, but they never are. God always does what is best for His people even when He must discipline and correct them, even when they must suffer in order to learn and grow.

Indeed, as Hannah says, the Lord takes life and gives it, brings low and raises up, and He knows what He's doing every single time. He is in control; He is our Rock; and we must trust Him completely.

(1 Samuel 2:1-8 – NRSV-CE)

Thursday, October 4, 2018

Lost Prayers #9


To the Risen Saviour in the Blessed Sacrament

O Lord Jesus Christ! The magnificence of Thy works shines so brightly, that we are compelled to give glory to Thy name everywhere and at all times.

We believed in Thee, when Thou didst show Thyself a weak babe in the crib of Bethlehem; there was a mysterious power that attracted us, and with the Angels we adored Thee, wrapt in Thy humble swathing bands.

When we saw Thee hanging on the cross, outraged and blasphemed by a whole people, we still acknowledged Thee to be our king, and said to Thee with the good thief: Remember us, O Lord! when Thou shalt come into Thy kingdom.

But now that Thou hast triumphed over death and art risen gloriously from the tomb; now that the whole earth resounds with Thy praise, and the tidings of Thy resurrection fill all nations with gladness, as fresh as though Thy triumph were but of yesterday; who should refuse to confess Thy divinity, adore Thy mysteries, and cry out with Thy disciple: my Lord and my God!

Though my eyes see Thee not; though my hands cannot touch Thy sacred wounds, yet do I most firmly believe Thee to be my Lord and my God.

Thou has said: Happy they that have not seen and have believed: of these happy believers I would be one, O Jesus!

I confess that Thou hast verily risen, the Son of God, and the Son of man.

I believe also that Thou art the living bread come down from heaven to give life to the world, and that I am really kneeling in Thy holy presence.

When Thou didst visit Thy Apostles on the day of Thy resurrection, Thou saidst to them: It is I; fear not!

The same words, Thou speakest to my soul at this moment; Thou biddest me fear not at the sight of Thy majesty in the tabernacle, and mine own misery and unworthiness.

The soul of Magdalen was melting within her, when she was at Thy tomb and heard the sound of Thy voice; and throwing herself at Thy feet she could say nothing, but call Thee Master.

And I, dear Jesus! My Master! I who not only hear Thy voice for a moment, but kneel in Thy very presence for hours, nay, receive Thee into my heart in holy communion, what do I say to Thee?

The disciples of Emmaus had but a short conversation with Thee, and they said to each other: Was not our heart burning within us, whilst He spoke in that way?

And thou, my heart, why art thou not consumed with love for thy risen Saviour, Who is so near to thee?

O risen Jesus! Thou didst take Magdalen's love; Thou didst encourage that of Thy disciples; deign to inspire me with the same love.

I belonged to Thee, O Jesus, because I was redeemed by Thee: I am Thine now because Thou hast restored life to me by Thy resurrection, and because of Thy sacramental presence amongst us, and by Thy coming to me in holy communion, Thou hast made me a partaker in all the glory of Thy victory over death.

O Jesus! Let this most holy Sacrament be to me a pledge of my own future resurrection, and of my eternal and perfect union with Thee in heaven.

(From Manual of Adoration of the Most Blessed Sacrament, 1897)

Wednesday, September 26, 2018

Hannah's Prayer: Exultation


Hannah is on top of the world. She has just brought her dear little son, the child for whom she had prayed so long, to Shiloh to Eli the priest. Little Samuel would now serve the Lord, fulfilling the promise she had made before he was conceived. Hannah's prayers have been answered, and now she would uphold her end of the bargain.

We might think that a mother would be upset to leave her son behind, sorrowful to be far away from him much of the year, but Hannah realizes that she is giving Samuel the best possible gift. He will now belong to God, and God will care for him perfectly.

So Hannah cries out in joy: “My heart exults in the Lord; my strength is exalted in my God. My mouth derides my enemies, because I rejoice in my victory.”

The Hebrew in this verse offers some important clues to the deep meaning of Hannah's prayer. The first verb, translated here as “exults,” is alats, and it does mean “to exult” but also “to rejoice” or even “to triumph.” Hannah's joy knows no bounds because it is a response to God and His work in her life. Her whole being, all the strength she has, rises up to God. The verb here is rum, and while “is exalted” serves nicely as a translation, the word also includes shades of offering and triumph. Hannah presents herself to God yet again, completely, joyfully, triumphantly.

What's more, Hannah's enemies no longer have power over her. God has answered her prayers; He is in control. She merely has to look down and smile upon those who once opposed her. In fact, the verb translated here as “derides” is rachab, and it means simply “to enlarge.” Hannah opens her mouth, perhaps to deride those who tormented her or perhaps simply to show them her great satisfaction.

She can do this because she rejoices in her victory. The verb for “rejoice” here is samach, and it emphasizes the sheer gladness and pleasure that Hannah is experiencing because God has answered her prayers.

Indeed, Hannah's heart overflows with exultation, and her prayer expresses her joy in the God Who has so graciously heard her and given her her heart's desire.

(1 Samuel 2:1 – NRSV-CE; Hebrew words from Biblehub.com)