Sunday, July 29, 2007

What can we perceive in the face of Jesus?

If the face is the most expressive manifestation of the person, and Christians are supposed "to become one with Christ", alter Christus, ipse Christus, another Christ, Christ himself, then what can we learn from Christ's face?

To tell the truth, my answer proceeds from a reading of one of those rare books of Cardinal Ratzinger on spirituality, The Pierced One. There he said that the core of Jesus' person, the very center of Jesus, is prayer. Jesus is communication with the Father. Jesus is prayer.

And that is what I now see in Jesus' face in the Shroud. It is face of a man at peace. Wounded yes, but clearly at rest. It is the typical face of someone whose eyes are closed, deeply in prayer.

You will ask, isn't he supposed to be dead? The Catholic faith teaches that God never left his body. He was there in person continually. And remember: the image was imprinted by some kind of radioactive force, supposedly the force of the resurrection. So, aren't we seeing the face of the Rising Christ? A Rising Christ whose face is consistent with the face he had before being baptized, before choosing his twelve apostles, while he was in the desert battling with the devil, before he broke the bread, while he was agonizing in the Garden right before undergoing the torturous trial, while he was dying on the Cross? A face of prayer. Jesus was --and is!-- indeed a person of prayer.

Thursday, July 26, 2007

The face of God

Christians would want to become friends with Jesus, to be acquainted with him, to get to know him as a person.

How do we best get to know a person? Usually talking to him face-to-face. The face is the single most powerful expression of a person. Somehow you get to know his personality through the nuances of his face. Is he cheerful? Is she serious? Is he attentive?

Thus, John Paul II, Benedict XVI and the great saints have always sought to see the face of God, the face of Jesus. Heaven the Catechism says is "being with Jesus." To see God's face is to find the path we have to take, and to gaze at his face is what life is about.

Isn't the shroud of Turin the greatest material representation of this face?

Secondo Pia's negative of the image on the Shroud of Turin has an appearance suggesting a positive image. Many Christians believe this image to be the face of Jesus

If we believe that it is a miraculous representation of the real face of Jesus, of God, then it is worthwhile doing what many pious people do: contemplate the Holy Face as shown to us in the Shroud of Turin. For me it has been a great source of peace, joy and consolation, to gaze at the face of my Creator, the person who died for me, my ultimate goal, Love incarnate. I'm sure he left this image for a sublime, sanctifying purpose.

Benedict XVI is a prophet for our times

In Jesus of Nazareth, Benedict XVI describes a prophet in this way:

His task is not to report the events of tomorrow or the next day in order to satisfy human curiosity or the human need for security. He shows us the face of God, and in so doing he shows us the path that we have to take. Among all the paths of history, the path to God is the true direction that we must seek and find.

The prophet shows us the face of God. And Jesus of Nazareth is Benedict's "personal search for the face of God" that he shares with us...Benedict is helping us as a prophet does, and with his help we can find the path that we have to take.

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

Spirituality of sanctity vs other-centered spirituality?

There seems to be a current of thinking which considers the search for sanctity as something selfish, something centered on self rather than on others.

I think that's a great misconception. When Benedict XVI talked about St. Josemaria and sanctity, he talked about speaking to God as a friend speaks to a friend, letting the Other work, the only one who can make the world both good and happy.

Sanctity is about The Other.

A person whose mind is centered on my things, my time, my pleasure, my.., my.., can't be really going towards the self-giving, the self-exodus that love and sanctity is about.

But doesn't too much praying to God takes our time away from serving others?

Here is what a great Doctor of the Church has to say, St. John of the Cross:

Let those who are most specially active, who think they can win the world with their preaching and exterior works, observe here that they would help the Church and please God much more were they to spend at least half of this time with God in prayer, even though they might not have reached a prayer as sublime as this. Aside from this, they would be giving good example!

They would certainly achieve more, and with less effort, by doing one work than they would by a thousand. For through their prayer, they would merit this result, and be spiritually strengthened.

Without prayer they would do a great deal of hammering but accomplish little, and sometimes nothing, and even at times cause harm. God forbid that the salt should begin to lose its savor [Mt. 5:13]. However much they may appear to achieve externally, they will in the end be accomplishing nothing.

There is no doubt that one can do good works only by the power of God. Oh, how much could be written here on this subject!

Monday, July 23, 2007

What is God about?

If God is what Jesus brought to this world, if God is the axis on which everything depends, then the common question of the common man living in the 21st century would be, so...what's the fuss? What is this God, what is he about? What is it to me?

When we hear the word "God", what comes to mind?

The traditional answer to the question "who is God?" is "he is the supreme being". Now that people do not seem to connect much with this, we will have to go further.

Some other answers come to mind:

  • God is all-beauty.
  • God is the only one who can satisfy all the longings of your heart.
  • God is your creator, the one who designed your brain, your bodily movements, your psychological make-up.
  • God is the fullness of life. When you are connected with him, you are connected with supreme happiness.
  • God is I am who am-- ultimate reality.
An answer which Benedict XVI gives, an answer that needs a lot of thinking through, is that at the core of God is "the act of relating."

Today, while reading Tuesday with Morrie, a popular bestseller, I was struck with one of those aphorisms of Morrie, the Harvard Professor who was teaching his former student the meaning of life: "Death ends life, but not relationships." While my body dies, my relationships will last forever. Could this be a path to further illuminate Benedict's words of wisdom?

What does relating mean? Why is it eternal?

A preliminary answer could be, that the basic relationship is love, and love is indestructible.

Why? I don't know the answer. But I could sense that we are touching here the very heart of everything...

God is Love, Benedict keeps on reminding us. Love is at the heart of ultimate reality. It is this love that sustains us, holds us up each minute, and caresses us. It is Love which makes things happen around us and inside us.

And this Love, this God, is our eternal destiny. We are called to eternal bliss with him. And he wants us to answer to this call, through the only path on which love can pass: freely, through the path of freedom.

I choose God, I choose Love, because I want to.

God is Someone. God is not something, a thing we can be indifferent to, a force of sorts, an abstract principle. He is someone, a person. Someone we can relate to. Yes, someone to whom we can say, "I firmly believe that you are here, that you see me that you hear me."

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Everything depends on this - Benedict XVI

"Everything depends on this". With these words Benedict XVI described the absolute importance of the central reason he wrote Jesus of Nazareth: to foster "intimate friendship with Jesus."

Saturday, July 14, 2007

Message of Fatima: faith, hope and love

Remember what I posted earlier, Benedict's main point in his book, Jesus of Nazareth?

What did Jesus actually bring, if not world peace, universal prosperity, and a better world? The answer is very simple: God. He has brought God. ....

He has brought God, and now we know his face, now we can call upon him. Now we know the path that we human beings have to take in this world. Jesus has brought God and with God the truth about our origin and destiny: faith, hope, and love.

The importance of "faith, hope and love" was already emphasized by then Cardinal Ratzinger in his book God and the World. There he quotes Sor Lucia on what is the real message of Fatima. Sor Lucia told him to tell the world this: Don't take notice of the other things related to the Fatima story. The only message that is important is "faith, hope and love."

Monday, July 9, 2007

The Economist praised Benedict XVI

The Economist praised Benedict XVI in its review of the Pope's book: "the pope's elegantly, almost tenderly written essay on the founder of his faith", "he finds himself going head to head --with perfect courtesy, it should be said-- with some Jewish critiques of the New Testament.

But the best part is how the Economist summarized the book:

Whatever Jesus was, the pope argues, he was not simply a free-thinking rabbi who told people to lighten up and ignore the finer points of the Mosaic law. On the contrary, he saw the law of Moses as God-given and supremely important—and it was only because of his own divinity that he had the right to reinterpret that law. In other words, the teachings of Jesus and his divinity are inseparable. That means there is no avoiding a hard argument with those who deny his divinity: either he was the Son of God, and entitled to remake God's law, or he was an impostor.

This is the classic dilemma --forwarded by the Economist for everyone to see -- which Christian apologists use to point out that choosing belief in Christ is the reasonable option. It is more irrational to think that Christ --a person who died for his beliefs, for the truth -- was a living lie.

See Economist:

St. Josemaria, the Tridentine Mass and the Mass of Paul VI

See my post at Wikipedia:

Monsignor Escrivá saying Mass Cover image from the book Homelias eucaristicas de San Josemaría Escrivá de Balaguer, commented by Msgr. Javier Echevarría, 2003.
Monsignor Escrivá saying Mass

Escriva considered the Mass as the "center and root of the Christian's interior life," a terminology which was later used by the Second Vatican Council.

According to Giovanni Battista Cardinal Re, Prefect of the Congregation for Bishops, "St. Josemaría strove with all his strength to make the Eucharist the center of his life...For him, Jesus was not an example to imitate from afar, an abstract moral ideal, but his Jesus, a person we should live alongside continuously."

According to the memoirs of the present prelate Bishop Javier Echevarria Rodriguez, Escriva strove to follow whatever was indicated by the competent authority regarding the celebration of Mass. When the new rites were adapted by the Catholic Church after Vatican II, Echevarria said that Escriva "accepted the reform with serenity and obedience." Since his prayer was much integrated with the liturgy for the past 40 years, Escriva found the shift difficult and asked Alvaro del Portillo, one of his assistants, to coach him in celebrating the new rites. He even prohibited del Portillo to ask for any dispensation for him "out of a spirit of obedience to ecclesiastical norms." However, when Msgr. Bugnini of the Vatican found out about Escriva's difficulties, he granted Escriva the possibility of celebrating the Mass using the old rite. Escriva celebrated this rite only in private.


Sunday, July 8, 2007

Tridentine Rite as extraordinary form: was never juridically abrogated

I posted this at Wikipedia:

Through his motu proprio Summorum Pontificum of 7 July 2007, Benedict XVI has enabled the use of the Tridentine Rite as extraordinary form of the liturgical celebration, as "a matter of a twofold use of one and the same [Roman] rite." He stressed that this Mass "was never juridically abrogated and, consequently, in principle, was always permitted."

Thursday, July 5, 2007

Relativism will end up collapsing like a house of cards

The letter of Fr. Javier Echevarria, the Prelate of Opus Dei is posted in the web.

And he does a marvelous job of using texts taken from the Benedict XVI to point out that relativism, a sort of dogma which asserts that there is no such thing as truth and therefore I can do whatever I fancy, "will end up collapsing like a house of cards, since it is not anchored in the truth of God the Creator":

In explaining the teachings of the Holy Fathers of the Church, the Pope stresses another point of great importance for today’s world.

He states that the great error of the ancient pagan religions consisted in not adhering to the paths traced out by divine wisdom in the depths of man’s soul.

Therefore, the decline of the pagan religion was inevitable: it was a logical consequence of the detachment of religion-reduced to an artificial collection of ceremonies, conventions and customs-from the truth of being

The early Fathers and Christian writers, in contrast, made the choice of the truth of being against the myth of custom. Tertullian, the Pope recalls for us, wrote: Dominus noster Christum veritatem se, non consuetudinem, cognominavit. Christ our Lord affirmed that he was the Truth, not custom.

And Benedict XVI remarked: it should be noted in this regard that the term consuetudo, used here by Tertullian in reference to the pagan religion, can be translated into modern languages with the expressions "cultural fashion," "current fads."

Today as well, the shipwreck of those who try to do without God is certain. Despite the apparent victory of relativism in some places, this way of thinking and of living will end up collapsing like a house of cards, since it is not anchored in the truth of God the Creator and in his divine Providence, which directs the paths of history.

We Christians know that we are freer than anyone, because we do not allow ourselves to be dragged about by momentary fads.