23 July 2009

Heart of Jesus, think of me.




Heart of Jesus, think of me.
Eyes of Jesus, look on me.
Face of Jesus, comfort me.
Hands of Jesus, bless me.
Feet of Jesus, guide me.
Arms of Jesus, hold me.
Body of Jesus, feed me.
Blood of Jesus, wash me.
Jesus, make me thus thine own,
Here and in the world to come. Amen.

from St. Augustine's Prayer Book (Episcopalian)

22 July 2009

Anglicans in Mexico: The Liturgy of Holy Communion


The Conclusion of an Early Mexican Anglican Communion Office

I include this extract with the intention of pointing to one of many liturgical treasures in the Anglican Patrimony which we have barely begun to contemplate in the Anglican Usage of the Roman Rite. My hope is that someone will make use of my expertise in this area before my body is no longer able to communicate. There is a tremendous error in looking at the Anglican Patrimony and thinking it is all some scaled-back version of the Sarum Use. Quite to the contrary the Patrimony includes Mozarabic material prayed by Anglicans, prayers from the ancient Divine Liturgies prayed by Anglicans, and so much more just waiting to see the light of day again and be used to praise the Blessed Trinity in the blessed company of all faithful people.
+ + +

Then shall the People, devoutly kneeling, say, with the Presbyter, the Lord's Prayer:

OUR Father, Who art in Heaven, Hallowed be thy Name. Thy kingdom come. Thy will be done on earth, As it is in Heaven. Give us this day our daily bread. And forgive us our trespasses, As we forgive those who trespass against us. And lead us not into temptation; but deliver us from evil. Amen.
For thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory, for ever and ever. Amen.


Then shall the Presbyter say:

DELIVERED from evil, and ever established in what is good, may we have grace to serve Thee acceptably, O Lord, our God. Put an end, O Lord, to our sins. Give joy to the troubled, and health to the sick. Give peace and quietness in our time. Restrain those who would do us harm, and turn them to a better mind. And hear, O Lord, the supplications of us Thy servants, and of all faithful' Christians, both now and ever; through Jesus Christ, Thy Son, our Lord, Who liveth and reigneth with Thee, in the unity of the Holy Ghost, one God, world without end. Amen.


Then shall the Presbyter say:

Holy things for holy persons.

And the People shall answer:

One only is holy, the Lord Jesus Christ, Who is, with the Holy Ghost, Most High in the glory of God the Father. Amen.


Then shall the Presbyter, kneeling down at the Lord's Table, say, in the name of all those who shall receive the Holy Communion, this Prayer following :

O HOLY Lord, our God, Who hast said, Be ye holy for I am Holy; We come to this, Thy Table, in humbleness of spirit, trembling because of our sinfulness, but trusting in Thy manifold and great mercies. We hide not our sins from Thee; Heal us through the merits of the one sacrifice. Grant us, O Gracious Lord, our God, so to receive this holy Sacrament that, eating the Flesh of Thy dear Son, Jesus Christ, and drinking His Blood, we may receive remission of all our sins, be tilled with Thy Holy Spirit, and, in the world to come, attain the crown or everlasting life. Amen.


Then shall be sung or said the following, taken from Psalm xxxiv.:

O TASTE AND SEE.

O TASTE and see how gracious the Lord is: blessed is the man that trusteth in Him. I will alway give thanks unto the Lord: His praise shall ever be in my mouth.
The Lord delivereth the souls of His servants: and all they that put their trust in Him shall not be desolate.
Alleluia, Alleluia, Alleluia.
Glory and honor be to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Ghost, world without end. Amen.


Then shall the Presbyter first receive the Holy Communion in both kinds himself, and proceed to deliver the same to the Bishops, Priests, and Deacons (if any be present) in like manner, and after that to the People also, in order, all devoutly kneeling.

And when he delivereth the Host. he shall say:

THE Body of our Lord Jesus Christ, which was given for thee, preserve thy body and soul unto everlasting life. Take and eat this in remembrance that Christ died for thee, and feed on Him in thy heart by faith, with thanksgiving.

And the Minister who delivereth the cup shall say:

THE Blood of our Lord Jesus Christ, which was shed for thee, preserve thy body and soul unto everlasting life. Drink this in remembrance that Christ's blood was shed for thee, and be thankful.


Then shall the Presbyter say, the People all kneeling:

WE thank Thee, O God, the Father Almighty, that Thou hast deigned to feed us, who have duly received these Holy Mysteries, with the spiritual food of the Body and Blood of Thy Son, our Saviour, Jesus Christ; Grant that this may be to the healing of our souls unto life eternal; through the same, Thy Son, Jesus Christ, our Lord. Amen.

And this:

O LORD our God, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, make us ever to seek and to love Thee, and may we have grace, through this Holy Sacrament which we have received, never more to draw back from Thee, but ever to do those things that are pleasing in Thy sight; for Thou art God, and beside Thee there is none else, world without end. Amen.


Then may be sung Nunc Dimittis, or other suitable Hymn.


Then shall the Presbyter (The Bishop if he be present) let them depart with this Blessing:

THAT peace which our Lord Jesus Christ, when He ascended up on high, left to His disciples, be ever with you in all its fullness;
And the blessing of God Almighty, + the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost, descend upon you, and remain with you, always. Amen.

Laus Deo. +

The Holy Face



“It is first of all necessary to let the Blessed Virgin
take one by the hand to contemplate the Face of Christ:
a joyful, luminous, sorrowful and glorious Face.”

Pope Benedict XVI

Many years ago when I was a child --a cradle Anglican child -- my devotion to the Holy Face of Our Lord Jesus Christ began. During Morning Prayer at the school I attended, I would often hear sentences of Sacred Scripture that stayed with me long after the service had ended. "The Lord is in His holy Temple," the rector would declaim, "Let all the earth keep silence before Him." Many Anglicans and Episcopalians will remember that Scripture from Morning Prayer in the 1928 Book of Common Prayer.

Various verses seemed to stand out in bold relief as they occurred in the recitation of the Psalms and would stay with me throughout the day. But one theme repeated in various verses always brought about a physical reaction in me, a feeling my face getting flushed and my eyes filling with tears. Why this was so? I can only attribute it to being touched by the Holy Spirit through the hearing of the words: "Thy face, O Lord, I shall seek."

I recall feeling compelled, even called by those words to seek God's face. I wondered how one could do that. I knew we were not able to behold God the Father's face except through the Holy Face of His Son. (I had been blest with three Sunday School teachers who were gifted catechists.) But what did it truly mean to seek that wondrous Face of Christ?

From these beginnings my quest to see the Face of Christ led me to St. Therese, the Little Flower. (I was always amazed at how many Anglicans and Episcopalians followed the Little Way or had a personal devotion to her. Unrelated, but equally as interesting, were all of the Scottish Episcopalians I knew who would go on pilgrimage to Knock.) And over the years I continued to be drawn by the Holy Ghost to seek the Holy Face and to plumb the depths of what that meant.

The quotation from the Holy Father above is profoundly moving to me as it brings Our Blessed Mother into this quest to behold the glorious face of her Son. Her maternal hand drawing us to her Son is precisely the way Our Lady is ... always directing attention away from herself and towards her Son who is also her Lord and God.

Like His Mother, Christ Himself, in the greatest humility, directs us to His Father. This reminds me of a little word at the beginning of St. John's Gospel usually translated as "with" as in 'The Word was with God.' The word in question "pros" in the Greek doesn't simply mean "with" but carries with it the idea of being completely turned toward something as in 'And the Word faced God' -- the Word completely directed Himself towards His Father. (I believe it was Origen who said that when we look into the pierced side of Christ we behold the broken heart of the Father.)

There is so much I would like to write but my fingers will not let me keep typing. Perhaps I will write more another day and share how the seeking of the Holy Face of Christ shaped my priesthood as an Anglican, directed my path into the Catholic Church, and now forms a central part of my devotion in my life as a de facto hermit and intentional anchorite.

May the light of His Face cast away every darkness so that we may keep our faces entirely directed to the fulfilling of God's will. Amen.
Laus Deo. +

11 July 2009

St. Benedict & St. Oliver Plunkett


Today is the Feast of St. Benedict, and it is also the anniversary of the Martyrdom of the Irish Saint Oliver Plunkett. He was the last of the great Catholic martyrs to be killed by the Protestants at Tyburn where so many Catholics died for the Holy Faith, dying upon the terrible Tyburn Tree, as it was called.

So many horrors happened upon the Triple Gallows at this site ... one cannot help but wonder if one could be so brave and die such a heroic albeit savage martyrdom.

Be sure to visit the Tyburn Convent website for more information on the Catholic Martyrs in England.

Thinking of St. Oliver Plunkett puts me in mind of the Preamble to the Irish Constitution:

In the Name of the Most Holy Trinity, from Whom is all authority and to Whom, as our final end, all actions both of men and States must be referred,

We, the people of Éire,

Humbly acknowledging all our obligations to our Divine Lord, Jesus Christ, Who sustained our fathers through centuries of trial, Gratefully remembering their heroic and unremitting struggle to regain the rightful independence of our Nation, and seeking to promote the common good, with due observance of Prudence, Justice and Charity, so that the dignity and freedom of the individual may be assured, true social order attained, the unity of our country restored, and concord established with other nations,Do hereby adopt, enact, and give to ourselves this Constitution.


Laus Deo.+

Former Anglicans in the Orthodox Church


Anyone who checks in to this blog will notice a flurry of posts this week. I can't explain the why of it, but in the past when these moments arrive with reprieve from the atrophying of my brain and other neurological problems it has been a time of special graces from God to accomplish something He wants me to do. Sometimes I know what it is I need to do for Him, and other times I am clueless but nonetheless grateful. At this moment I can only pray to be of good use to God and ask of Him that this time of grace be fruitful for Him and His Church. I hope in these items I am posting that there may be something that blesses those who read and that all in all the Blessed Trinity is glorified, and Our Lady is honoured.

As a Roman Catholic of Anglican Heritage, I have had a keen interest in the Anglican diaspora, and in particular I have been very interested in what my "former Anglican" friends in the Orthodox Church are doing. Some are a part of the Antiochene Orthodox Christian Archdiocese under Metropolitan PHILIP, and others are in various dioceses of the Russian Orthodox Church Outside of Russia. They have approached the question of a Western Rite in Orthodoxy from different but complimentary points of view. Of the two groups, the Western Rite Orthodox Vicariate of the Antiochians has produced a number of publications that are useful inside their community and some that are useful for everyone who loves the Anglican Heritage.

The Lancelot Andrewes Press in Colorado serves the Western Rite Vicariate (Antioch) with beautiful books: The St. Dunstan's Psalter, The Saint Ambrose Prayer Book (akin to The Saint Augustine's Prayer Book), reprints of Canon Douglas' great works The Monastic Diurnal, The Monastic Diurnal Noted. They also publish the Monastic Breviary Matins edition that corresponds in part to the Office of Readings in the current Roman Rite Liturgy of the hours.

But most impressive to me is their printing of The English Orthodox Communication's revision of The Book of Common Prayer for Orthodox Christians. It includes the Liturgy of St. Tikhon (the Anglican Liturgy corrected by St. Tikhon, approved by the Holy Synod of Moscow, and augmented and approved by the Antiochene Orthodox Patriarch). The cover is made of Vivella which is very durable. Also, the cover design is one of the most beautiful that I have seen.

There are also other books on offer such as John Mason Neale's Commentary on the Psalms and Lancelot Andrewes Preces Privatae in English translation by Neale and Cardinal Newman. Individually and collectively, these publications are impressive and a great enrichment for Western Rite Orthodoxy as well as the rest of us in the Anglican diaspora who have found safe haven elsewhere.


Matt from the blog Absolutely No Spin, with reference to the Monastic Matins of Lancelot Andrewes Press, summarises very well the ecumenical value of such editions:

Just to make the point clear, consider the publication of the Matins book:
  1. From a Catholic Breviary.
  2. Translated for use by Anglicans.
  3. Published by a Western Rite Orthodox publisher.
  4. Used lovingly by people of all three groups.
Laus Deo.+

A Coptic Orthodox Prayer of Thanksgiving


The prayers of the Coptic Orthodox Church are many and beautiful. The Breviary of the Coptic Christians is called The Agpeya coming from ti agp meaning 'the hour.' The following comes from the online edition of The Agpeya:

THE PRAYER OF THANKSGIVING

Let us give thanks to the beneficent and merciful God, the Father of our Lord, God and Saviour, Jesus Christ, for He has covered us, helped us, guarded us, accepted us unto Him, spared us, supported us, and brought us to this hour. Let us also ask Him, the Lord our God, the Almighty, to guard us in all peace this holy day and all the days of our life.

O Master, Lord, God the Almighty, the Father of our Lord, God and Saviour, Jesus Christ, we thank You for every condition, concerning every condition, and in every condition, for You have covered us, helped us, guarded us, accepted us unto You, spared us, supported us, and brought us to this hour.

Therefore, we ask and entreat Your goodness, O Lover of mankind, to grant us to complete this holy day, and all the days of our life, in all peace with Your fear. All envy, all temptation, all the work of Satan, the counsel of wicked men, and the rising up of enemies, hidden and manifest, take them away from us, and from all Your people, and from this holy place that is Yours.

But those things which are good and profitable do provide for us; for it is You Who have given us the authority to tread on serpents and scorpions, and upon all the power of the enemy.

And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil, by the grace, compassion and love of mankind, of Your Only-Begotten Son, our Lord, God and Saviour, Jesus Christ, through Whom the glory, the honour, the dominion, and the adoration are due unto You, with Him, and the Holy Spirit, the Life-Giver, Who is of one essence with You, now and at all times, and unto the ages of all ages. Amen.


10 July 2009

Adrienne von Speyr


Yesterday was a very special day for me. Irma More' the foundress of Our Lady of Walsingham Institutes of Catholic Church in Houston, Texas came to visit. She is one of the most inspiring people I know in the Catholic Church in the USA. What a great kindness to come and see me when I cannot travel very well.

In the Archdiocese of Galveston-Houston it is likely that very few people are familiar with Adrienne von Speyr, but Mrs. More' and I have a great love for her writing and insights. There is one book of hers that I have never read Kreuzeswort und Sacrament that is The Cross: Word and Sacrament available from Ignatius Press, and it is a favourite of my friend Mrs. More'. She gave me the gift of a copy that I shall treasure.

It is not very long but it is very profound, and as it is with von Speyr's other books (as indeed with her spiritual father Hans U. von Balthasar) it bears reading several times over or perhaps the same portion read several times to let it fully grace one's contemplation of the various subjects as it
relates the Seven Last Words of Our Lord Jesus Christ upon the Cross to the Seven Sacraments of the Church.

When someone looks at the Cross in a contrite spirit before making his confession -- in spite of the loathing which afflicts him on account of his sins, in spite of the anxiety about not being able to recognise and recall everything -- he knows that he can be sure of the Lord's help, he knows that the Son immediately makes this help available in the presence of his Father by interposing himself, his sufferings, for the sake of the penitent. He steps in with the whole weight of his Passion so that the penitent can be encouraged to tread the path of the sacrament full of confidence, and can also dare to look up to the Cross, which has for him absolute value. But in this word there is even more: an invitation from the Son to all sinners to participate in his Cross. He opens up this way to them by commending them to the Father. Full knowledge now resides in the Cross; not that sinners ever "forfeited" this knowledge they never had it. And the Father will forgive because he fulfills the Son's requests, because his greatest concern is the perfect fulfillment of the Son's mission.

-- Adrienne von Speyr
"Penance", pp. 19-20
The Cross: Word and Sacrament

So I should like to commend this little book to everyone, a short but profound book relating the Seven Last Words of Our Lord Jesus Christ to the Seven Sacraments of the Church. I can think of none better in so few words.

Laus Deo.+

09 July 2009

Three Prayers


ARMENIAN LITURGY
Thou who didst spread thy creating arms to the stars, strengthen our arms with power to intercede when we lift up our hands unto thee.

LITURGY OF MALABAR
With expectation have I awaited the Body and Blood of Christ the Lord upon his holy altar. Let us all offer it with fear and praise, crying with the angels "Holy, Holy, Holy is the Lord Our God."

The poor shall eat, and be satisfied with the Body and Blood of Christ set forth upon this holy altar. Let us all offer it with fear and praise, crying with the angels "Holy, Holy, Holy is the Lord Our God."

May all glory be given to the ever-glorious Trinity, world without end; and may Christ who was sacrificed as an oblation for our salvation and has commanded that we should offer sacrifice in memory of his Passion, Death and Resurrection, receive this sacrifice from our hands through his grace and love.

ROMAN CATHOLIC ANGLICAN USE
O HOLY Ghost the Lord, who on Pentecost gavest the Church the gift of tongues that Christ might be known, loved and served by peoples of divers nations and customs: watch over the Anglican heritage within thy Church, we pray thee, that, led by thy guidance and strengthened by thy grace, that Use may find such favour in thy sight that its people may increase both in holiness and number, and so show forth thy glory; who livest and reignest with the Father and the Son, one God, world without end. Amen.

07 July 2009

Of favourite authors (and my lovely niece)

Margaret Barker on Laurence Paul Hemming's
Worship as a Revelation: The Past, Present, and Future of Catholic Liturgy


My young niece asks of me, "I understand that you are a hermit, Uncle Vincent, but what do you do all day when you aren't able to get out of the house or even out of bed?"

Yes, it is one thing to be a hermit by vocation and quite another when one is simply housebound, so finding my best uncle-ish voice, I reply, "I read, my dear."

Thinking about it for a minute she says in a very serious tone, "I suppose you must since you haven't got a television ... Do you enjoy what you are reading?"

"If it is something by one of my favourite authors, then I do enjoy it very much."

My niece picks up a book off of my bed and asks, "Should I read this, Uncle?"

I strain to see what she has in hand, and it is Laurence Hemming's Worship as a Revelation.

"Some day, my dear, I hope you shall have read it and countless others, but for now," I say whilst rummaging under a pillow, "I think it best if you read this."

Her eyes light up, "Oh, this is a book by one of your favourite authors!"

Before I could say anything else, she's out the door ready to read a well-worn book of stories by Caryl Houselander. Then I set myself to read what Dr. Margaret Barker had to say as a response to Laurence Paul Hemming's Worship as a Revelation. And I am not disappointed. So now I quote at length from her response & expecting many of my friends to agree with her as I do:

Laurence raises important questions about the relationship between Scripture and liturgy, and the relative ‘weight’ of each in the development and expression of the Faith. The disastrous ‘secularisation’ of biblical studies in the last century or so, springing from German literary criticism and so-called scientific method, has been allowed to drive revision of the liturgy in way that, on reflection, seems unbelievable.

I had no idea, until I read this book, that even Rome had adopted the family meal approach to the Eucharist, with everyone gathered round a table. Losing, or even reducing, the covenant and atonement that is at the very heart of the Eucharist must surely lead us to ask: ‘What, then, is left?’


I realised too, as I read several times the philosophy sections of the book [‘several readings’ was not because they were unclear, but because their implications were dawning on me] just how much the original Christian tradition has been infused with - and dare I say confused with - the ways of Greek philosophy. The God of Abraham, is not the God of the philosophers, although, as I tried to work out in my book The Great High Priest, a great deal of Plato, via Pythagoras, does seem to have come from the temple.

Given my pro-temple stance and my love of gardening, I regard these philosophical accretions as a form of intellectual bindweed, with very deep roots and very difficult to eradicate. Left unchecked, it strangles and kills the other plants. It has to be removed. A similar culling may be necessary if we are ever to recover the original glory and meaning of Christian worship, to see again the original vision. Everything else will become Church history or history of scholarship.

Christian history cannot be undone or rewritten, but there is the possibility of - dare I say it?- another reformation, when we free ourselves from the accumulated clutter of academe, be this Greek philosophy or German literary criticism, and begin to see again what has been with us all the time in our ancient patterns of worship.

Laurence uses some powerful words when expounding Ascensiontide: ‘…when we have been made ready by the grace given in the liturgical signs to understand the full meaning of what we have… already been given’ (p.107). This applies, I suspect, to our whole liturgical heritage.

Eight minutes, I was told, so I can say no more. Except, perhaps, one of my favourite quotations from Bulgakov*, originally written of the Holy Wisdom, but applicable, I think to a good deal more:

"All this wealth of symbolism has been preserved in the archives of ecclesiastical antiquities, but, covered by the dust of ages, it has been no use to anyone. The time has come, however, for us to sweep away the dust of ages and to decipher the sacred script, to reinstate the tradition of the Church, in this case all but broken, as a living tradition."
_________________
* ‘The Wisdom of God’ (1937) reprinted in A Bulgakov Anthology, edd. J Pain and N Zernov, London: SPCK, 1976, pp. 144-56, p. 146.


Brava, Dr. Barker, Brava!

05 July 2009

A Bit of Heaven to Begin the Week


Arlene Oost-Zinner directs the Intemediate Women's Schola during the final Mass of the Church Music Association of America's Sacred Music Colloquium XIX. The Schola sings the Alleluia verse for the Thirteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year B. Mary Ann Carr Wilson sings the verse.





03 July 2009

End of the Pauline Year Homily by Pope Benedict

This magnificent address by the Holy Father deserves greater attention from all of us who love Jesus Christ. I have highlighted words and passages of the address that I found especially invigorating and instructive.


Your Eminences,
Venerable Brothers in the Episcopate and in the Priesthood,
Distinguished Members of the Delegation of the Ecumenical Patriarchate,
Dear Brothers and Sisters,

I address my cordial greeting to each one of you. In particular, I greet the Cardinal Archpriest of this Basilica and his collaborators, I greet the Abbot and the Benedictine monastic community; I also greet the Delegation of the Ecumenical Patriarchate of Constantinople.

The commemorative year for the birth of St Paul ends this evening. We have gathered at the tomb of the Apostle whose sarcophagus, preserved beneath the papal altar, was recently the object of a careful scientific analysis. A tiny hole was drilled in the sarcophagus, which in so many centuries had never been opened, in order to insert a special probe which revealed traces of a precious purple-coloured linen fabric, with a design in gold leaf, and a blue fabric with linen threads. Grains of red incense and protein and chalk substances were also found. In addition, minute fragments of bone were sent for carbon-14 testing by experts unaware of their provenance. The fragments proved to belong to someone who had lived between the first and second centuries. This would seem to confirm the unanimous and undisputed tradition which claims that these are the mortal remains of the Apostle Paul. All this fills our hearts with profound emotion.

In recent months, many people have followed the paths of the Apostle the exterior and especially the interior paths on which he travelled in his lifetime: the road to Damascus towards his encounter with the Risen One; the routes of the Mediterranean world which he crossed with the torch of the Gospel, encountering contradiction and adherence until his martyrdom, through which he belongs for ever to the Church of Rome. It was to her that he also addressed his most important Letter. The Pauline Year is drawing to a close but what will remain a part of Christian existence is the journey with Paul with him and thanks to him getting to know Jesus, and, like the Apostle, being enlightened and transformed by the Gospel. And always, going beyond the circle of believers, he remains the "teacher of the Gentiles", who seeks to bring the message of the Risen One to them all, because Christ has known and loved each one; he has died and risen for them all. Therefore let us too listen to him at this time when we are solemnly beginning the Feast of the two Apostles who were bound to one another by a close bond.


It is part of the structure of Paul's Letters always in reference to the particular place and situation that they first of all explain the mystery of Christ, they teach faith. The second part treats their application to our lives: what ensues from this faith? How does it shape our existence, day by day? In the Letter to the Romans, this second part begins in chapter 12, in which the Apostle briefly sums up the essential nucleus of Christian existence in the first two verses. What does St Paul say to us in that passage? First of all he affirms, as a fundamental thing, that a new way of venerating God began with Christ a new form of worship. It consists in the fact that the living person himself becomes adoration, "sacrifice", even in his own body. It is no longer things that are offered to God. It is our very existence that must become praise of God.

But how does this happen? In the second verse we are given the answer: "Do not be conformed to this world but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that you may prove what is the will of God..." (12: 2). The two decisive words of this verse are "transformed" and "renewal". We must become new people, transformed into a new mode of existence. The world is always in search of novelty because, rightly, it is always dissatisfied with concrete reality. Paul tells us: the world cannot be renewed without new people. Only if there are new people will there also be a new world, a renewed and better world. In the beginning is the renewal of the human being. This subsequently applies to every individual. Only if we ourselves become new does the world become new. This also means that it is not enough to adapt to the current situation. The Apostle exhorts us to non-conformism. In our Letter he says: we should not submit to the logic of our time. We shall return to this point, reflecting on the second text on which I wish to meditate with you this evening.

The Apostle's "no" is clear and also convincing for anyone who observes the "logic" of our world. But to become new how can this be done? Are we really capable of it? With his words on becoming new, Paul alludes to his own conversion: to his encounter with the Risen Christ, an encounter of which, in the Second Letter to the Corinthians he says: "if anyone is in Christ, he is in a new creation; the old has passed away, behold, the new has come" (5: 17). This encounter with Christ was so overwhelming for him that he said of it: "I... died..." (Gal 2: 19; cf. Rm 6). He became new, another, because he no longer lived for himself and by virtue of himself, but for Christ and in him. In the course of the years, however, he also saw that this process of renewal and transformation continues throughout life. We become new if we let ourselves be grasped and shaped by the new Man, Jesus Christ. He is the new Man par excellence. In him the new human existence became reality and we can truly become new if we deliver ourselves into his hands and let ourselves be moulded by him.

Paul makes this process of "recasting" even clearer by saying that we become new if we transform our way of thinking. What has been introduced here with "way of thinking" is the Greek term "nous". It is a complex word. It may be translated as "spirit", "sentiments", "reason", and precisely, also by "way of thinking". Thus our reason must become new. This surprises us. We might have expected instead that this would have concerned some attitude: what we should change in our behaviour. But no: renewal must go to the very core. Our way of looking at the world, of understanding reality all our thought must change from its foundations. The reasoning of the former person, the common way of thinking is usually directed to possession, well-being, influence, success, fame and so forth. Yet in this way its scope is too limited. Thus, in the final analysis, one's "self" remains the centre of the world. We must learn to think more profoundly. St Paul tells us what this means in the second part of the sentence: it is necessary to learn to understand God's will, so that it may shape our own will. This is in order that we ourselves may desire what God desires, because we recognize that what God wants is the beautiful and the good. It is therefore a question of a turning point in our fundamental spiritual orientation. God must enter into the horizon of our thought: what he wants and the way in which he conceived of the world and of me. We must learn to share in the thinking and the will of Jesus Christ. It is then that we will be new people in whom a new world emerges.

Paul illustrates the same idea of a necessary renewal of our way of being human in two passages of his Letter to the Ephesians; let us therefore reflect on them briefly. In the Letter's fourth chapter, the Apostle tells us that with Christ we must attain adulthood, a mature faith. We can no longer be "children, tossed to and fro and carried about with every wind of doctrine..." (4: 14). Paul wants Christians to have a "responsible" and "adult faith". The words "adult faith" in recent decades have formed a widespread slogan. It is often meant in the sense of the attitude of those who no longer listen to the Church and her Pastors but autonomously choose what they want to believe and not to believe hence a do-it-yourself faith. And it is presented as a "courageous" form of self-expression against the Magisterium of the Church. In fact, however, no courage is needed for this because one may always be certain of public applause. Rather, courage is needed to adhere to the Church's faith, even if this contradicts the "logic" of the contemporary world. This is the non-conformism of faith which Paul calls an "adult faith". It is the faith that he desires. On the other hand, he describes chasing the winds and trends of the time as infantile. Thus, being committed to the inviolability of human life from its first instant, thereby radically opposing the principle of violence also precisely in the defence of the most defenceless human creatures is part of an adult faith. It is part of an adult faith to recognize marriage between a man and a woman for the whole of life as the Creator's ordering, newly re-established by Christ. Adult faith does not let itself be carried about here and there by any trend. It opposes the winds of fashion. It knows that these winds are not the breath of the Holy Spirit; it knows that the Spirit of God is expressed and manifested in communion with Jesus Christ.

However, here too Paul does not stop at saying "no", but rather leads us to the great "yes". He describes the mature, truly adult faith positively with the words: "speaking the truth in love" (cf. Eph 4: 15). The new way of thinking, given to us by faith, is first and foremost a turning towards the truth. The power of evil is falsehood. The power of faith, the power of God, is the truth. The truth about the world and about ourselves becomes visible when we look to God. And God makes himself visible to us in the Face of Jesus Christ. In looking at Christ, we recognize something else: truth and love are inseparable. In God both are inseparably one; it is precisely this that is the essence of God. For Christians, therefore, truth and love go together. Love is the test of truth. We should always measure ourselves anew against this criterion, so that truth may become love and love may make us truthful.

Another important thought appears in this verse of St Paul. The Apostle tells us that by acting in accordance with truth in love, we help to ensure that all things (ta pánta) the universe may grow, striving for Christ. On the basis of his faith, Paul is not only concerned in our personal rectitude nor with the growth of the Church alone. He is interested in the universe: ta pánta. The ultimate purpose of Christ's work is the universe the transformation of the universe, of the whole human world, of all creation. Those who serve the truth in love together with Christ contribute to the true progress of the world.

Yes, here it is quite clear that Paul is acquainted with the idea of progress. Christ his life, his suffering and his rising was the great leap ahead in the progress of humanity, of the world. Now, however, the universe must grow in accordance with him. Where the presence of Christ increases, therein lies the true progress of the world. There, mankind becomes new and thus the world is made new.

Paul makes the same thing clear from yet another different perspective. In chapter three of the Letter to the Ephesians he speaks to us of the need to be "strengthened... in the inner man" (3: 16). With this he takes up a subject that earlier, in a troubled situation, he had addressed in the Second Letter to the Corinthians. "Though our outer nature is wasting away, our inner nature is being renewed every day" (4: 16). The inner person must be strengthened this is a very appropriate imperative for our time, in which people all too often remain inwardly empty and must therefore cling to promises and drugs, which then result in a further growth of the sense of emptiness in their hearts. This interior void, the weakness of the inner person, is one of the great problems of our time. Interiority must be reinforced the perceptiveness of the heart; the capacity to see and to understand the world and the person from within, with one's heart. We are in need of reason illuminated by the heart in order to learn to act in accordance with truth in love. However, this is not realized without an intimate relationship with God, without the life of prayer. We need the encounter with God that is given to us in the sacraments. And we cannot speak to God in prayer unless we let him speak first, unless we listen to him in the words that he has given us. In this regard Paul says to us: "Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith; that you, being rooted and grounded in love, may have power to comprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth, and to know the love of Christ which surpasses knowledge" (Eph 3: 17ff.). With these words Paul tells us that love sees beyond simple reason. And he also tells us that only in communion with all the saints, that is, in the great community of all believers and not against or without it can we know the immensity of Christ's mystery. He circumscribes this immensity with words meant to express the dimensions of the cosmos: breadth, length and height and depth.

The mystery of Christ has a cosmic vastness; he did not belong only to a specific group. The Crucified Christ embraces the entire universe in all its dimensions. He takes the world in his hands and lifts it up towards God. Starting with St Irenaeus of Lyons thus from the second century the Fathers have seen in these words on the breadth, length and height and depth of Christ's love an allusion to the Cross. In the Cross, Christ's love embraced the lowest depths the night of death as well as the supreme heights, the loftiness of God himself. And he took into his arms the breadth and the vastness of humanity and of the world in all their distances. He always embraces the universe all of us.

Let us pray the Lord to help us to recognize something of the immensity of his love. Let us pray him that his love and his truth may touch our hearts. Let us ask that Christ dwell in our hearts and make us new men and women who act according to truth in love. Amen!

© Copyright 2009 - Libreria Editrice Vaticana