But when God came, who recognized Him? He was recognized by the people who, in the face of what is arduous... who were living with feelings of humility, of trust in God, of abandon to God, of continuing certainty even with their trials; those who lived thus, recognized Him. So much so that some who lived thus even went so far at a certain point -- to wait for him -- as to live in the temple, like old Simeon, Anna the prophetess ... or the Christmas shepherds; or think about the spirit of Saint Joseph, but even before that, about the spirit with which Mary lived.
Those who had those sentiments recognized Him; those who didn't have them, did not even recognize Him when he raised Lazarus...
Therefore, the big question is to return to being little children -- "If you will not be like little children..." -- the big question is to return to the origin, the big question is to return to how God made us. Really, what is morality? Morality is to live with the attitude in which God made us. Only he who has this attitude recognizes His Presence... (Is It Possible to Live This Way? Volume 2 Hope, 46-47)
Wednesday, December 31, 2008
Tuesday, December 30, 2008
Monday, December 29, 2008
Thursday, December 25, 2008
Letter to the editor of the Italian Daily La Repubblica,
published December 23, 2008
I was struck by the readings that the Ambrosian Liturgy proposes for Monday if the third week of Advent. How must the members of the ancient people of Israel been disconcerted at the words of the prophet Jeremiah: “It will devour your harvests and your bread; it will devour your sons and daughters; it will devour your flocks and herds; it will devour the fortified cities in which you placed your trust” (Jer 5:17). He was telling them that another nation was going to conquer the kingdom in which they had put their trust. “Then, if they say: ‘Why has the Lord our God done these things?’, you will answer: ‘Just as you have abandoned the Lord and served foreign gods in your country, so will you serve foreigners in a country that is not yours’” (Jer 5:19).
It is as if this were said for us; today we see signs that make everyone afraid, it seems that what has supported our history is unable to withstand the test of our times: one day the economy, finance and work, the next day politics and the judiciary, then the family, the beginning of life and its natural end. So, like ancient Israel before a frightening situation, we, too, ask ourselves: “Why is all this happening?” It is because we, too, have been so presumptuous as to think that we can still get along after cutting the roots that supported the foundations of our civilization. In recent centuries, our culture has believed it could build a future for itself while abandoning God. Now we see where this presumption is leading us.
Now, what does the Lord do in the face of all we have brought upon ourselves? The prophet Zechariah tells us, speaking to his people Israel: “Look, I am going to send you my servant Branch” (Zc 3:8.). Notice the name. It is as if before the crisis of a world, our world – the prophets would describe it with an image dear to them, that of a dried-up trunk – a sign of hope were springing up. The enormity of a dried up trunk cannot prevent the sprouting of a humble, fragile branch in which lies the hope for the future.
But there is one drawback: we, too, when we see this branch appearing –like those before that child in Nazareth—can be scandalized and say: “How can something so ephemeral be the answer to our need for liberation?” Can salvation come from something so small as faith in Jesus? It seems impossible that all our hope can rest on belonging to this frail sign. The promise that only from this can everything be rebuilt seems scandalous. Yet men like St. Benedict and St. Francis started from that. They began to live while belonging to that branch that had grown through time and space—the Church, and in this way became protagonists of a people and of history.
Benedict did not face the end of the Roman Empire with anger, pointing the finger at the immorality of his contemporaries, but rather witnessed to the people of his time a fullness of life, a satisfaction and a fullness that became an attraction for many. This became the dawn of a new world, small as it was (almost a nonentity compared with the whole, a whole that was in total collapse), but a real world. That new beginning was so concrete that the work of Benedict and Francis has lasted through the centuries, has transformed Europe, and humanized it.
“He has revealed himself. He personally,” said Benedict XVI, speaking of the God-with-us. Fr. Giussani told us, “That man of two thousand years ago is hidden under the tent, under the appearance of a new humanity,” in a real sign that arouses the inkling of that life that we are all waiting for so as not to succumb to the evil in us and to the signs of the nothingness which is advancing. This is the hope that Christmas announces to us, and that makes us cry out: “Come, Lord Jesus!”
Wednesday, December 17, 2008
From La Chiesa:
Advent in Music. Seven Antiphons, All Worth Discovering AgainThey're sung one per day, at the Magnificat during vespers. They are very ancient, and extraordinarily rich in references to the prophecies of the Messiah. Their initials form an acrostic. Here they are in transcription, with a guide to interpretation
by Sandro Magister
Here, then, are the complete texts of the seven antiphons, in Latin and in translation, with highlighting of the initials that form the acrostic "Ero cras," and in parentheses the main references to the Old and New Testament:
I – December 17
O SAPIENTIA, quae ex ore Altissimi prodiisti,
attingens a fine usque ad finem fortiter suaviterque disponens omnia:
veni ad docendum nos viam prudentiae.
O Wisdom, who come from the mouth of the Most High (Sirach 24:5),
you extend to the ends of the earth, and order all things with power and sweetness (Wisdom 8:1):
come and teach us the way of wisdom (Proverbs 9:6).
II – December 18
O ADONAI, dux domus Israel,
qui Moysi in igne flammae rubi apparuisti, et in Sina legem dedisti:
veni ad redimendum nos in brachio extenso.
O Lord (Exodus 6:2, Vulgate), leader of the house of Israel,
who appeared to Moses in the fire of the burning bush (Exodus 3:2) and on Mount Sinai gave him the law (Exodus 20):
come and free us with your powerful arm (Exodus 15:12-13).
III – December 19
O RADIX Iesse, qui stas in signum populorum,
super quem continebunt reges os suum, quem gentes deprecabuntur:
veni ad liberandum nos, iam noli tardare.
O Root of Jesse, who stand as a sign for the peoples (Isaiah 11:10),
the kings of the earth are silent before you (Isaiah 52:15) and the nations invoke you:
come to free us, do not delay (Habakkuk 2:3).
IV – December 20
O CLAVIS David et sceptrum domus Israel,
qui aperis, et nemo claudit; claudis, et nemo aperit:
veni et educ vinctum de domo carceris, sedentem in tenebris et umbra mortis.
O Key of David (Isaiah 22:23), scepter of the house of Israel (Genesis 49:10),
who open and no one may shut; who shut and no one may open:
come, free from prison captive man, who lies in darkness and the shadow of death (Psalm 107: 10, 14).
V – December 21
O ORIENS, splendor lucis aeternae et sol iustitiae:
veni et illumina sedentem in tenebris et umbra mortis.
O Star who rises (Zechariah 3:8; Jeremiah 23:5), splendor of the eternal light (Wisdom 7:26) and sun of justice (Malachi 3:20):
come and enlighten those who lie in darkness and the shadow of death (Isaiah 9:1; Luke 1:79).
VI – December 22
O REX gentium et desideratus earum,
lapis angularis qui facis utraque unum:
veni et salva hominem quel de limo formasti.
O King of the nations (Jeremiah 10:7) and their desire (Haggai 2:7),
cornerstone (Isaiah 28:16), who reunite Jews and pagans into one (Ephesians 2:14):
come and save the man whom you formed from the earth (Genesis 2:7).
VII – December 23
O EMMANUEL, rex et legifer noster,
expectatio gentium et salvator earum:
veni ad salvandum nos, Dominus Deus noster.
O Emmanuel (Isaiah 7:14), our king and lawgiver (Isaiah 33:22),
hope and salvation of the peoples (Genesis 49:10; John 4:42):
come to save us, O Lord our God (Isaiah 37:20).
Monday, December 15, 2008
Sharon wrote about something ("A Long Trek") on her blog yesterday that helps me to take a step. I am going to quote the entire thing (because it's short), but follow the link anyway, so that you can see the great photo she posted with the text:
I keep thinking of what Kay said at the Advent Retreat last weekend. After a year of trials, she could perceive a greater awareness of herself as a complete person. Whereas at one time she would have said all this happened so that she could learn patience, she instead saw a deeper relation with God through these difficult events.This same movement has happened in my life, as well. It was such a habit of thought to come up with explanations and reasons for why God was making this or that happen in my life. I hadn't noticed that I had not been playing this interpretive game quite so consistently or completely, until I read the above paragraphs this morning. Now that I can see the two ways of understanding the meaning of my life, I really wonder...
I understand her. In my case, my life can seem like a repeat of fifteen years ago. My grandkids take up most of my time lately, and I can barely get three pages read all day. Is it because I didn't learn what I needed to last round? I don't see it that way Instead, it must be that now I can really enjoy this extravagant effort of caring for kids as I couldn't so easily before. It's a different vision that others point to: "a gaze on life that restores your breath, with a way of entering into relationship with everything so that nothing's banal, everything has the weight of the eternal" (Julian Carron).
- First of all: what chutzpuh to imagine that I know the particular purpose of God's actions in my life! As if God's work is devoted to giving me what I think I need? As if the sight of his eternal face could render me a service, one that I approve... [this rhetoric is not in any way directed at Kay, whom I've never met, nor at Sharon -- I'm certain that both of them have far more humility than I -- which is why they are able to point this out in their lives while I needed their witness in order to see it]
- How much more God has in mind for me than I could ever hope for or imagine!
- That having a defined explanation for God's presence in my life means that I am the ultimate generator of meaning in my life. It is the kingdom of Suzanne all over again.
- That there is nothing greater in all the world than allowing oneself to be surprised by love, by infinite tenderness, by beauty.
Take last week: Serena plays the trumpet in the sixth grade band at her school. The other kids in her class have been playing for two years, but she just picked up the trumpet this year, so she has had to work very hard to keep up. The band was practicing for a concert that was to take place last Thursday evening. All that week, their director threatened that if the kids didn't practice, they would have to play "Jingle Bells" with the fifth graders, instead of the more difficult jazzy arrangements they'd been practicing for months. Serena practiced so hard and had perfected the trumpet parts for the difficult pieces, but a couple of the kids in the band defiantly refused to practice -- and they even had solos, so that their inability to play the pieces was obvious. When Wednesday arrived and the music still wasn't working, the director announced that the whole sixth grade would indeed need to play "Jingle Bells" with the fifth grade. Serena was bitterly disappointed. And this experience showed me something new about Christ's presence in our unity -- if one member of the band doesn't play, doesn't follow his or her music, then the whole suffers. My daughter's disappointment revealed something of the pain that we often cover over or ignore. We just play "Jingle Bells" and pretend to be satisfied with it -- or blame our dissatisfaction on the conductor or the music or even on the people who wouldn't do their work. Pointing fingers, trying to locate the source of guilt is a way of avoiding the truly painful truth: that we need one another, that we can't play our part without the others.
Since our Advent retreat, I have been trying very hard to live the three rules that Fr. Roberto gave to the group of junior high kids, the Knights, with whom he meets:
- God is proposing something great to me right now
- If I see it, I will tell the others about it
- If I don't see it, I will pray the Memorare to be able to see it.
I sat down at a table covered in wrapping paper, scissors, and tape. Only one other volunteer was sitting there, and we introduced ourselves. After a few moments, another woman joined us. I introduced myself to her, too, but oncewe had exchanged names, it became clear that the two others were great friends and didn't want to speak with me. After trying (and failing) to jump into the conversation a couple of times, I thought: I know that you are proposing something great to me right now. Please help me to see it. Then I prayed a silent Memorare. My next thought was that when the first kids brought us their gifts to wrap, the three of us would work together, and a sense of unity would begin to blossom through sharing a common work. Imagine my surprise when a bunch of kids showed up, with multiple presents, and as I began to wrap one of them, the woman beside me took it from my hands and said, "We can take care of that." They didn't even want me to work with them!
So, I looked around the room until I spotted another table with just one woman sitting at it. I approached her and asked whether I could help her, and she graciously accepted. Many children had just arrived, and we worked beside one another, and it was indeed clear that sharing a common work is a sign of unity; however, something even greater became apparent to me. The children who brought us the gifts which they had chosen in love for the people whom they loved best, came to us with their hearts open. Just one friendly question or observation about a gift, or the way they addressed a parent or grandparent (Pappy? Poppop? Grammy? Nona?) brought out a flood of affection from them. There is something so disarmed about children. They will give their whole heart in exchange for a kind smile. I could discern, from listening to the conversations at the other end of the table, that my fellow volunteer was having the same experience. I was reminded that (Duh!) my vocation has always been toward children -- even before I was married, this was evident to me. If I had gone on with my own plan, that my reason for being there was to make new adult friends, I would have missed the best thing.
What most moves me now is a profound affection for Fr. Roberto, who first told us about the three rules. By following his authority, I was able to verify that life is indeed richer, fuller, more life, by following his indications.
I was able to attend five out of six of the Nutcracker performances this year. Also, many more of our neighbors came to see the girls dance this time. It is really amazing that anyone comes, because the school and the theater where they perform is almost an hour away, and the weather is always a little dicey. Their presence with us is a clear sign of our belonging. Two great things that God proposed to me during these performances (aside from presence of my neighbors, which was truly great):
- Serena turned in flawless performances as the ballerina doll during all six shows. She hates to be noticed; she hates to be the center of attention. She has never wanted a lead role in a ballet, and when she heard she'd be the ballerina doll, she was terrified! It was hard for her to receive her First Communion, because she worried that people would be looking at her. The same worries surfaced during Confirmation. On both of those occasions, I really doubted that she would be able to go through with the sacrament. One of the promises that I had made to her, as she was preparing for Confirmation, was that if she could bear to step forward so that the bishop could anoint her and lay hands on her, she would receive great power, which would help her in the future.
- Sophie fell twice and lost her Arabian wig once during these performances. Why was this so great? It was great because these flaws did not define her as a person or as a dancer. What was most impressive was the way that she got up immediately and continued the dance, with the same smile and the same superior technique. And when her wig fell off, there were no titters to indicate that anyone in the audience had even noticed.
There is more, but I have already gone on for too long. Ciao!
Wednesday, December 10, 2008
The Pope's conclusion at the general audience (December 10, 2008) in Paul VI Hall, during which he left aside his prepared speech and gave the intervention extemporaneously (reported by Zenit):
"Christ unites himself personally to each one of us, but at the same time he unites himself to the man and woman who are next to me," explained the Pontiff, according to L'Osservatore Romano's commentary. "And the Bread is for me and for the others. Thus, he unites all of us with himself and all of us mutually. In communion we receive Christ, but Christ unites himself in the same way with my neighbor.
"Christ and neighbor are inseparable in the Eucharist. All of us are one bread, one body. Eucharist without solidarity with the rest is an abuse of the Eucharist."
Benedict XVI said that this understanding is the root and the center of the doctrine of the Church as the body of Christ.
"Christ gives us his body in the Eucharist, he gives himself in his body and in this way makes us his body, he unites us to his risen body," he explained. "If man eats normal bread, this bread becomes part of his body, transformed into substance of human life. But in Communion, an inverse process takes place. Christ, the Lord, assimilates us, introduces us into his glorious body and in this way, all together, we become his body."
The Holy Father noted: "In Roman political science, this parable of the body with different members that form part of a unity was used by the state itself, to show how the state was an organism in which each one had his function: The multiplicity and diversity of functions form one body and each one has his place."
However, in St. Paul's letters, one can see that the Church is something very different from the "state-organism," he contended. "Because Christ really gives his body and makes us his body. We are really united with the risen body of Christ and in this way remain united with one another."
Because of this, he concluded, "the Church is not only a corporation as the state is; it is a body. It is not an organization, but an organism."
Tuesday, December 9, 2008
Monday, December 8, 2008
Sunday, December 7, 2008
The first weekend of Nutcracker performances has just ended, and we're all a bit frayed at the edges around here. But today something beautiful happened (many beautiful things, but this is one I don't want to pass without comment). When I and my two ballerinas arrived home this evening, there were two young women sitting at my dining room table. They are students from the university, both in CLU. They had come over earlier in the day for a brunch that my husband organized, and they were still there, studying and hanging out at 5pm. Stephen was in his office working, and they were simply there, right at home in my house.
Why was this so beautiful and moving for me? It is a sign of belonging. They belong in my home, and so I can belong to them. A true convivenza.
It is a great thing when life, in all its confusion and muddle, offers something that exactly describes what I'm experiencing. Today, while reading Is It Possible to Live This Way? Volume 2 Hope, by Father Giussani, I came across the following passage:
...certainty of faith generates certainty of hope, but the manner in which this certainty of hope is drawn out in us leaves a kind of disorientation, leaves a kind of tribulation, a kind of doubt that isn't doubt, that is uncertainty, because you aren't able to imagine, to delinate in any way what this future will be like (page 28).A dear friend posted about a recent period of "silence" (I feel I must use these quotation marks, given all the words that have been generated in her during this period!). She describes: "this time has been one of silence and deep satisfaction. I can date it precisely from the week that I spent in Rimini last summer. It's the reason I stay in the movement, because I can correlate the happiness in my life to events, like the Advent Retreat I will attend today. Fortunately, I have a camera, so I can still express what I often can't say." [She takes amazing photographs, by the way!]
My own silence has been of a different order -- more restless and perhaps related to what she calls "agitation." Perhaps the words that best sum up my last several months are: How long, Lord?
To know that this restlessness is not a sign of a lack of faith or hope is a great relief -- discovering the sentence in Hope was a sign of great mercy and tenderness toward me.
Monday, December 1, 2008
My notes from the retreat given by Fr. Roberto (first part):
- Faith: To believe is to believe but faith is something different, a way of knowing things. To believe is something we do with our minds. Christ wanted something else for us.
- We can do all kinds of things, celebrate all the sacraments, go to Mass, pray, but still there is never a unity between what I do and Him.
- Babies understand a link, a belonging. All of birth and the early stage of childhood is a belonging. If the mother leaves the room, after a while, what does the baby do? He cries.
- Then we start to grow up and separate. At first I feel I cannot live without you. This happens when we fall in love. Any separation hurts. But at a certain point, a distance appears.
- The Liturgy is a help, the greatest help, but at a certain point, something else is needed.
- [All through history, people sensed that] reality was speaking of Something, but they couldn't grasp it. There is something we cannot see but that goes beyond what we see.
- We try to unify everything, with all means, to be one. We desire unity -- a unity as deep as love is, an infinite unity. Man tries to make this unity -- this is the story of the covenant in the Old Testament, of the Tower of Babel. But man can't sustain this unity he tries to build.
- The prophets message is that unity will come, we are made for it, so it will come.
- Adam and Eve tried to achieve this unity with a fruit. They wanted to be one with God, the same. But it's not in our hands, in our power. It's the same with marriage. Eventually we are sent out of that garden.
- Then God said, "Now it's time to intervene." God gives an answer, gave an answer 2000 years ago -- Incarnation -- the word means "flesh."
- The Gospel didn't tell us God would be an idea in everyone's head.
- A beginning -- Incarnation -- not a grasping but an embrace.
- God's method is to present a man in front of me.
- Man is freedom, but he is also reason and affection.
- Incarnation is the beginning of God's answer to our question, Why are we here?
- Christ was always referring to the Father, not to himself. This is the meaning of the "secret" from the Gospel of Mark -- not that Christ didn't want anyone to know about his miracles, but he didn't want others to say that he had done these things -- it was the Father, always the Father.
- Incarnation is what happened to Mary and Joseph when they found their son in the temple -- Didn't you know I would be in my Father's house? Then for Andrew and John: "What do you want?" "Where do you live?" God became flesh for those two men in that moment.
- God's law is no longer a set of rules, but this man, and when they met him, they found something that had been forgotten or lost -- something that became revived. Life. It's like I'm alive maybe more than before.
- How do I know that this man is more than what I see?
- This is what faith does -- it makes us see. In order for the ten lepers to be cleansed, they had to obey (not ask, why don't you just cure us now? Why send us somewhere else?)
- But the one who came back used his reason. He didn't just obey Christ, he also thought, There is a connection between what I am experiencing and this man. He uses his reason -- now that I am well, cleansed, that man becomes important -- extremely important. Because what do I do with a healthy body and no happiness.
- I ask my students, if you had to choose between having love and happiness but being very poor or having everything you want but without happiness or love, which would you choose? What will I do with a day that I will never remember? It's a useless day.
- You need to find the link between this day and your destiny, between the person in front of you and your destiny. Otherwise, you can only say, I was healed... and that's it. But you desire more.
- Not just life but a blessed life, not just this life, but a blessed life. Something more, the truth of this life -- not just that person. No one other person can be my happiness. Happiness comes through another person but it's not from that person.
- The Samaritan (the leper who came back) said, This man makes me (not: made me).
- Do I understand what/who is here?
Where is Christ? (Advent Retreat notes, continued)
* So, I ask them, if you were married, would you like it if your wife were "everywhere"? Would that make you happy? Uh, no.
* 2000 years ago he was that baby, that young man. Now he is risen, what does that mean? He has a body. Why does he want his body back? Why does he want a body that has the signs of his Passion?
* He passes through other persons, persons with bodies.
* Imagine if a man were married and he only thought about his wife? What if he only read books about her? What if she were sitting across the table from him, and he closed his eyes to talk to her in his heart? That's how we are: we think of Christ, we talk to Christ, but we don't see him. We don't recognize that he is present.
* So, I tell the kids that a mother always proposes something great to her kids, yes or no? They say yes. So, is God proposing something great to us?
* Then I explain that we only have three rules in the Knights:
1. God is proposing something great to you right now.
2. If you see it, tell us. Share it with us.
3. If you don't see it, say the Memorare so you can see it.
* Then afterwards, the classroom became a kind of question.
* Faith is: "I want to see." I want to be myself. I know you are here and I want to see it.
* God's method is Incarnation -- we see him through someone or something. What is Christ teaching? We start to see Christ through what he does.
* Without recognizing somebody we become slaves. Slaves of pleasure, of comfort.
* We learn to recognize through a community, through belonging, we learn to use our reason and affection properly. The Lord is proposing something.
* I don't have faith because I don't see him. There is a separation between reason and life, anad this is ideology. Christ becomes an ideology.
* Christ said, "Blessed are the pure of heart for they shall see God." Someone who is pure of heart is a lover who wants to see what the beloved does. Either I recognize what Christ is doing through you or the sacraments don't have meaning.
* We need to be completely human. We have needs and desires.
* What do you call the beginning of God's answer to us? Baptism? No. It's called "desire." You think desire is yours -- it's not -- it was given to me. Be faithful to desire. Desire is one of the most powerful means to get to God.
* In the Screwtape Letters, the demons say that they are not able to create even the smallest desire. Every desire comes from God. If we are faithful to our humanity, we get to Christ.
* To be thirsty and to have no water is called hell. To be thirsty and to drink is called heaven. When thirst ends, that's called death.
* Either I see him through everything, or I become a slave.
* Complaining -- Am I happy in this classroom, or with you? Because if I'm not happy, I have no faith. 99.9% of complaining come from not recognizing that he is here. Mary and Martha -- was not about Contemplation versus action -- it was because Martha complained. Mary saw Christ, but she saw the Father through him. Martha didn't see. Christ said, "Don't go around saying it was me -- it's the Father. I came so they will fall in love with the Father." What's the purpose of everything? The Father. If we don't recognize the Father, we have no faith. Otherwise we are always restless. No peace.
* Father Massimo told me, when I entered the seminary, "Be yourself. If I see you are happy, I'll say yes."
* You might be killing me. You might be my cross, but it is through you that I will see him.
* Do you see me or do you only love your thoughts or books about me?
* With faith we know the person in front of us, our job, everything 100 times more.
* Boredom is a problem of faith because you don't recognize Christ -- you can't be bored if you recognize him.
* To build a tower without God, without relationship, without belonging -- it's Adam and Eve all over again. The Church asks constantly, "Is it enough?"
Dumbstruck by the Mystery
-- Julian Carron in "Friends, that is, Witnesses."