Monthly Archives: January 2016

The 3:00 Hour, The Hour of Divine Mercy – January 27, 2016

From noon on, darkness came over the whole land until three in the afternoon. And about three o’clock Jesus cried with a loud voice, “Eli, Eli, lema sabachthani?” that is, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” (Mt. 27:45-46)

Now Peter and John went up together into the temple at the hour of prayer, being the ninth hour.” (Acts, 3:1)

“O Blood and Water, which gushed forth from the Heart of Jesus, as a fountain of mercy for us, I trust in You.” (Diary of St.Faustina, 187)

Jesus died at the three o’clock hour. This is known in the bible as “the ninth hour.” It was for this hour that Jesus had come into the world. In the beginning of His Passion, in the garden of Gethsemane, Jesus prayed to the Father, in agony and sweating blood, with foreknowledge of His coming torture and death, saying “Now My soul is troubled. And what should I say—‘Father, save Me from this hour’? No, it is for this reason that I have come to this hour.” (Jn. 12:27) As the Catechism states “..for His redemptive passion was the very reason for His Incarnation.” (CCC 607) The Word of God became flesh and suffered and died as an expiation for our sins, in order to reconcile humanity with God. (CCC 457) St.John reinforces this point by declaring that the Father “sent His Son to be the atoning sacrifice for our sins.” (1 Jn.4:10) This atoning sacrifice, the Passion and death of the Son of God, was accomplished at the ninth hour, or at three o’clock, on a Friday afternoon. As the Scripture tells us, “And Jesus cried again with a loud voice and yielded up His spirit.” (Mt. 27:50) Jesus’ willing sacrificial death freed us from our sins and gave the possibility of conquering death and resurrecting us to eternal life.

The three o’clock hour inaugurates the new covenant, the New Testament between God and man, through the person of Jesus Christ. As the next line indicates, “And behold, the curtain of the Temple was torn in two, from top to bottom;” (Mt. 27:51) The curtain, or the veil, was the massive cloth that hung between the two holiest chambers in the Temple, hiding the inner most holiest of holies, or the presence of God. No man was allowed to approach the holy presence of God there, except only the High Priest himself, on one day of the year, the Day of Atonement. The fact that God rent the veil in half, down the middle, thus exposing the inner holy of holies, or God Himself, shows that the sacrificial death of Jesus now allows man again to approach God directly. God is no longer partitioned, or hidden from humanity, but rather, He is available now for all, intimately for each of us. As the letter to the Hebrews describes this radical change in the God-to-man dynamic, saying “..since we have confidence to enter the sanctuary by the blood of Jesus, by the new and living way which He opened for us through the curtain, that is, through his flesh..” (Heb. 9:19-20)

At the three o’clock hour, Creation itself is in distress over the dying and death of its Creator. From noon until three o’clock, as Jesus hung on the Cross, the sun withheld its light and darkness came over the land. We do not know exactly whether this was an eclipse or something supernatural. This hearkens back to the prophet Amos, who prophesied, “On that day, says the Lord God, I will make the sun go down at noon, and darken the earth in broad daylight.” (Amos, 8:9) With the earth too, at the three o’clock hour, when Jesus expires, there is a great earthquake. St.Matthew describes the scene saying, “and the earth shook, and the rocks were split” (Mt. 27:51), again echoing the prophet Amos, “Shall not the land tremble on this account, and everyone mourn who lives in it…. I will make it like the mourning for an only son, and the end of it like a bitter day.” (Amos, 8:8,10)  

At the three o’clock hour, in the midst of His Passion, Jesus, the only Son of the Father, took on the sins of the whole world, in order to free us from our sins. As St.Paul tells the Corinthians, “For our sake He made Him to be sin Who knew no sin, so that in Him we might become the righteousness of God.” (2 Cor. 5:21) During the original Passover of the Israelites in Egypt, they offered the sacrifice of a one year old lamb “without blemish” (Ex.12:5), putting its blood on their house doorpost, so that the angel of death would “pass over” them, and keep them from dying. Later, in the Temple period, under the Mosaic law, the Temple priests sacrificed two lambs a day in expiation for the sins of the people. (Ex.29:38-39) So, now too, Jesus, as He went into His Passion and Crucifixion, was “like a lamb led to the slaughter or a sheep before the shearers, He was silent and opened not His mouth.” (Is. 53:7) The Old Mosaic lamb sacrifices were merely symbolic representations, typologies, to prepare the Jews for the one true sacrifice of the Son of God. Jesus is the true lamb of God. This is why, upon first seeing Jesus, John the Baptist declares, “Behold, the Lamb of God, Who takes away the sin of the world!” (Jn. 1:29) Jesus took on our sins and became sin on the Cross, for the sake of our eternal well-being.

This is why at the three o’clock hour He cries out just before His death, quoting the Psalmist, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” (Ps.22:1) Jesus quotes Psalm 22, which prophesied His suffering and death. All the Jews who were present would have known exactly what He was referencing. Psalm 22 speaks of an ignominious death of a righteous man, but who does not lose faith, and is ultimately justified before God. The parallels are amazing, and not because they are amazing coincidences, but because they fulfill the word of God exactly. The Psalmist prophesies, “All who see me mock at me; they make mouths at me, they shake their heads; commit your cause to the Lord; let him deliver; let him rescue the one in whom he delights!” (Ps. 22:7-8) As St.Matthew describes this fulfillment:

“And those who passed by derided Him, wagging their heads and saying, “You who would destroy the temple and build it in three days, save yourself! If you are the Son of God, come down from the cross.” So also the chief priests, with the scribes and elders, mocked Him, saying, “He saved others; He cannot save himself. He is the King of Israel; let Him come down now from the cross, and we will believe in Him. He trusts in God; let God deliver Him now, if He desires Him; for he said, ‘I am the Son of God.’” (Mt.27:39-43)

Psalm 22 continues foretelling the events that would unfold: “Yea, dogs are round about me; a company of evildoers encircle me; they have pierced my hands and feet; I can count all my bones; they stare and gloat over me; they divide my garments among them, and for my raiment they cast lots.” (Ps.22:16-18) This parallels the account in the Gospels, “And when they had crucified Him, they divided His garments among them by casting lots; then they sat down and kept watch over Him there.” (Mt.27:35-36) Ultimately, the righteous man of Psalm 22 does not lose hope, but is justified. The Psalmist says, “The afflicted shall eat and be satisfied; those who seek him shall praise the Lord! May your hearts live for ever!” (Ps. 22:36) This is similar to the end of the Crucifixion account, which ends with the righteous praising God and saints rising from the dead. As St.Matthew described it:

“..the tombs also were opened, and many bodies of the saints who had fallen asleep were raised, and coming out of the tombs after His resurrection they went into the holy city and appeared to many. When the centurion and those who were with him, keeping watch over Jesus, saw the earthquake and what took place, they were filled with awe, and said, “Truly this was the Son of God!” (Mt. 27:52-54)

The three o’clock hour is hour of great mercy for the whole world. It is the hour of divine mercy, when humanity was restored to fullness in its relation to God through the sacrificial death of Jesus Christ. Beginning in the 1930’s, Sister Faustina Kowalska of the Sisters of Our Lady of Mercy in Krakow, Poland began to have divine revelations from our Lord Jesus Christ. Sister Faustina, now Saint Faustina, recorded all of these revelations in her private diary, “Divine Mercy In My Soul.” Among the many revelations imparted by Jesus to St.Faustina in her diary is the great importance of the moment of the three o’clock hour. The moment of three o’clock, the moment of Jesus’ agony and death, is the great moment of God’s divine mercy for the whole world. Jesus told St.Faustina of the tremendous importance we should attach to this moment each day. As per Jesus’ words from her revelation:  

“At three o’clock, implore My mercy, especially for sinners; and, if only for a brief moment, immerse yourself in My Passion, particularly in My abandonment at the moment of agony. This is the hour of great mercy for the whole world. I will allow you to enter into My mortal sorrow. In this hour, I will refuse nothing to the soul that makes a request of Me in virtue of My Passion.” (Diary, 1320)

And again, Jesus reminded St.Faustina:

“As often as you hear the clock strike the third hour, immerse yourself completely in My mercy, adoring and glorifying it; invoke its omnipotence for the whole world, and particularly for poor sinners; for at that moment mercy was opened wide for every soul.  In this hour you can obtain everything for yourself and for others for the asking; it was the hour of grace for the whole world — mercy triumphed over justice.” (Diary, 1572)

“My daughter, try your best to make the Stations of the Cross in this hour, provided that your duties permit it; and if you are not able to make the Stations of the Cross, then at least step into the chapel for a moment and adore, in the Most Blessed Sacrament, My Heart, which is full of mercy; and should you be unable to step into the chapel, immerse yourself in prayer there where you happen to be, if only for a very brief instant.” (Diary, 1572)

The three o’clock hour is a privileged moment in the day for us, to claim mercy for the salvation of sinners, and the whole world, by virtue of Jesus’ passion, suffering and death. We can be there with Mary and St.John at the foot of the Cross. As Jesus implores us, we can, even “for a very brief instant,” at the three o’clock hour, immerse ourselves in prayer to Jesus, calling upon His divine mercy, in intercession for others. We can make a short prayer each and every day at 3:00, despite our busy days and schedules, whether at work, or at home, or in the car, or whatever we might happen to be doing at that moment. It is very easy to make this a part of our daily schedule. After a while, it will become second nature to us, pausing for a moment in our daily routines, to worship the divine mercy of Jesus and ask for intercession of behalf of the salvation of sinners. A brief prayer at the three o’clock hour should be a part of our prayer life, each and every day. In this way, we can trust in Jesus’ divine mercy for the salvation of our souls.

 

The Didache, The Teaching of the Twelve Apostles – 25 January 2016

Wouldn’t it be great to have a snapshot into the life of the early Church to see what they believed and taught and practiced on a day-to-day basis? Of course, we have the New Testament, which is divinely-inspired, and tells us about the life of Jesus Christ and the faith of the first Christian communities. Its 27 books, and eight (possibly nine, depending on if you think St.Paul, or a disciple of St.Paul, wrote the letter to the Hebrews.) authors – including the Apostles St.Matthew, St.John, St.James, St.Peter, St.Jude, and disciples St.Mark, St.Luke, and St.Paul – is the scriptural foundation of all Christian canonical beliefs. All of the books were written in the first century by eye-witnesses to Jesus, or by the first disciples of the Apostles. Aside from being the Word of God, these are incredibly reliable historical documents, reflecting direct contact with the person of Jesus and written relatively soon after. Yet, there are also many extra-biblical sources and letters, from the first century and early second century, that describe the life, belief and practices of the early Church. These are the writings of the early Church Fathers, in particular, the Apostolic Church Fathers, such as Clement of Rome, Ignatius of Antioch, and Polycarp of Smyrna. They are considered “Apostolic” because they had direct contact with the Apostles themselves, thus making their work fascinating and of utmost importance (even though they were not ultimately included within the canon of Church Scripture).

One such document is called “The Teaching of the Twelve Apostles,” or known simply as “The Didache.” It is one of the earliest known Christian writings, even possibly predating some of the New Testament books. It is generally agreed to have been written between 50-120 AD, well within the lifetime of some of the Apostles and first disciples. Some of the early Christians even considered it an inspired book, although again it was ultimately not included in the canon. The Didache is generally divided into four different sections concerning: (1) a moral catechesis (ie, “The Way of Life” vs. “The Way of Death”), (2) liturgical instruction, (3) a Church manual for various ecclesiastical and community norms, (4) and a brief eschatology of the parousia (ie, the second coming of Christ). One of the most profound aspects of the early Church Fathers’ writings is that they are thoroughly sacramental in nature, that is, they speak explicitly of the sacraments of the Church. Simply, from an apologetics point of view, they demonstrate that the sacraments and doctrines of the Catholic Church are not something contrived or incrementally slipped into Christianity over the centuries. They are not paganism, or a so-called Roman mystery religion. Christianity holds all of that in contempt as idolatry and blasphemy. Rather, the sacraments, the prayers, the Church, they were all there from the beginning. This is also true in The Didache. The tracts of the Didache, as are all the early Church Fathers’ writings, are decisively Catholic. [of note: The Way of Life specifically mentions not to commit “abortion, or infanticide,” which is probably the earliest known Christian writing explicitly condemning abortion and infanticide. Later, it references The Way of Death, in which they “murder their infants, and deface the image of God.”]

The Didache speaks matter-of-factly about Baptism, going to Church on Sundays, receiving the Eucharist, and making a general confession of sins. For example, as part of “The Way of Life,” the author says “In church, make confession of your faults, and do not come to your prayers with a bad conscience.” Later, he instructs:

“Assemble on the Lord’s Day, and break bread and offer the Eucharist; but first make confession of your faults, so that your sacrifice may be a pure one. Anyone who has a difference with his fellow is not to take part with you until they have been reconciled, so as to avoid any profanation of your sacrifice. For this is the offering of which the Lord has said, Everywhere and always bring me a sacrifice that is undefiled, for I am a great king, says the Lord, and my name is the wonder of nations.”

In the Church manual section, he similarly states, “No one is to eat or drink of your Eucharist but those who have been baptized in the Name of the Lord; for the Lord’s own saying applies here, ‘Give not that which is holy unto dogs.’” The manual gives in-depth instruction of the eucharistic prayers to say over the chalice and over the broken bread, offering us a glimpse into the first century Mass. They are to pray, “Thou, O Almighty Lord, hast created all things for thine own Name’s sake; to all men thou hast given meat and drink to enjoy, that they may give thanks to thee, but to us thou hast graciously given spiritual meat and drink, together with life eternal, through thy Servant. Especially, and above all, do we give thanks to thee for the mightiness of thy power.” The manual similarly gives precise details about how to go about baptizing people saying, “..immerse in running water ‘In the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.’” It offers a similar prescription for standing water, or simply pouring water over the person’s head. The manual delves also into fasting, instructing people to fast on Wednesdays and Fridays, much like the modern tradition, and to pray the Our Father three times every day.

And, how should this affect us? These brief snippets offer us glimpses, from outside the New Testament (i.e., accepted Scripture), into the hearts and minds of the first Christians. They lived a sacramental life in toto. Their daily lives were rooted in Baptism, Confession, the Eucharist, Sunday worship, fasting, and prayer. This is what they called The Way of Life. The Way of Life involves modeling our lives after Christ, that is, among many other things, loving our enemies, living a moral life, being meek and compassionate. Moreover, it instructs us, “Accept as good whatever experience comes your way, in the knowledge that nothing can happen without God.” We are to live out our Christian vocations within our ordinary circumstances and trials of each day, with Christ as our “spiritual meat and drink, together with life eternal.” As some have argued, The Didache could be a form of vade mecum, a small handbook that Christians would have carried about with themselves. It spoke to them of how they should live their lives, conduct themselves and embrace the sacramental life. And so it remains with us!

Nightly Examination of Conscience – January 22, 2016

Each day is a microcosm of our entire life. In the morning we are “born” into our day, and at night we go to sleep into our “death.” Each day is analogous to one’s life, and each night is analogous to one’s death. If we consecrate each morning and day to God, should we not also consecrate each night and sleep to God? In that way, our whole day, whether awake or asleep, is consecrated to God. Our sleep anticipates our death, and our waking in the morning anticipates our resurrection. What is more important at the end of one’s life, at the doorstep of death, than to review one’s life, and to ask forgiveness for all one has done or failed to do? If we seek pardon and forgiveness at the end of life, in anticipation of the final judgment, should we not seek to examine our lives and ask for forgiveness each and every day? After all, we do not know when our end will come, it may be fifty years from now, or fifty minutes from now. As Jesus cautions us, the end may come for us at an hour we do not expect, and so, we must be like the faithful servant, and always vigilant and ready. As Jesus warns in the Gospel of Matthew in the parable of the ten bridesmaids: “..the Bridegroom came, and those who were ready went in with Him to the marriage feast; and the door was shut. Afterward the other maidens came also, saying, ‘Lord, lord, open to us.’ But He replied, ‘Truly, I say to you, I do not know you.’ Watch therefore, for you know neither the day nor the hour.” (Mt. 25:10-12)

Even though this is a horrible judgment, Jesus gives us reason to hope. He tells us that we can be ready for the end and welcomed into the “marriage feast” of the Lord. But, how? We must remain vigilant and prepared for the return of the Master, either at the end of the world, or at the end of our lives. And, how do we remain vigilant and ready? We must remain faithful servants, obedient to the Church, living closely to the sacraments, especially the Eucharist and Confession, have an active prayer life, read the word of God, and live a life filled with good and merciful deeds, in short, we must love God and our neighbor. All of these activities contribute to us having a well-formed moral conscience. Once we have a well-formed moral conscience we will better understand that we regularly fall short of the commandments of God, and are in constant need of His forgiveness. Moreover, the more we examine our lives and seek forgiveness, the more clearly we will know right from wrong, that is, have a “correct conscience,” and seek to perfect our lives. This is the idea of the nightly examination of conscience. As the Catechism quotes Gaudium et Spes, “ For man has in his heart a law inscribed by God. . . . His conscience is man’s most secret core and his sanctuary. There he is alone with God whose voice echoes in his depths.” (CCC 1776) In the traditional canonical hours of the Church the nightly examination of conscience would be “Compline,” or night prayers for the last hour of the day. Before we go to sleep each night, we should examine in our minds, at least briefly, the events of the day, and everything that we did or said, or failed to do, good or bad.

So, how should we proceed? First, we should ask for the Holy Spirit to come upon us and enlighten our consciences, to give us discernment about the events of the day. Then, we should offer thanksgiving, by thanking God for all the good gifts and blessings that day. Where did we receive His grace and encounter Christ throughout the day? Where did we pray, sacrifice, be merciful or love throughout the day? Where did we fail to do so? Then, we should also confess directly to God, in the silence of our heart, all our sins and failures for that day, and ask forgiveness.(**see below) We can ask God to forgive us and to help us, through the power of the Holy Spirit, to do better tomorrow, in renewal of our commitment to Christ. We can consecrate ourselves to God in our sleep, that even our rest may glorify God. After having examined our whole day, from beginning to end, and asked forgiveness for our sins, we should pray an act of contrition. This is a typical version of the Act of Contrition:

“O my God, I am heartily sorry for having offended You, and I detest all my sins because of Your just punishments, but most of all because they offend You, my God, Who is all-good and deserving of all my love. I firmly resolve, with the help of Your grace, to sin no more and to avoid the near occasions of sin. Amen.”

It is also traditional to end your nightly prayer by saying the Our Father. We can also offer our breath and our heartbeats, in union with the breath and heartbeats of Christ, for the sanctification of the world. The examination of conscience and Compline prayers at night are the final seal of prayer and consecration of the day, finishing what we began in the morning, with our Morning Offering prayer, in that way the whole day is consecrated to God, where Christ is the Alpha and the Omega, the beginning and the end of our life (for that day), sealed in God as one. In this way, we can go to rest in the peace of the Holy Spirit, at peace with our day and with our God, in hope of the resurrection to a new and eternal life.

**There are a number of standards by which we should judge our selves and our actions for the day. These are the same questions we should measure ourselves, in the examination of our consciences, when approaching the sacrament of Confession. They are all rooted in following the Ten Commandments and the Beatitudes. The questions include (but, obviously not an exhaustive list): Have I humbled myself before God today and prayed? Did I fail to make acts of faith or charity today? Have I made an idol out of anything in my life? Have I taken the name of God in vain? Have I missed going to Church? Have I stolen anything? Have I lied? Have I hurt someone? Have I bore false witness against someone, or gossiped about someone? Have I cursed today? Have I committed sins of the flesh and lust? Have I been envious of others’ property? Have I lashed out in anger? Have I been lazy and wasted time? Have I engaged in gluttony? Have I been greedy? Have I harbored jealous or evil thoughts? Have I been stubborn or unforgiving today? Did I give into temptation today? Have I seen, said or watched anything sinful, or blasphemous? Did I respect and honor my family and my parents today? Did I fail to be merciful to someone? Was I joyful and nice to other people today? Was I arrogant and proud? Have I willingly not followed Jesus in any aspect today?

Divine Filiation and Ordinary Life, St.Josemaria Escriva – January 20, 2016

“The street does not get in the way of our contemplative dialogue; the hubbub of the world is, for us, a place of prayer.” St.Josemaria Escriva (letter 9, Jan.1959, No.60)

St.Josemaria Escriva de Balaguer was a Catholic priest from Spain in the 20th century who founded the Catholic organization, Opus Dei, “The Work of God,” a personal prelature comprised of lay people and clergy. The mission of Opus Dei is to evangelize Christians everywhere to live out their faith in their ordinary lives, to sanctify their daily work, and offer it all up to God. As St.Josemaria Escriva said, We have come to point to the example of Jesus, who spent thirty years in Nazareth, working at His job. In Jesus’ hands, work, an ordinary job like that done by millions of people throughout the world, becomes a divine task, a redeeming job, a path of salvation.” Josemaria was the “saint of ordinary life.” On October 2, 1928, God gave him an overwhelming vision. It was of ordinary Christians, who direct all their activity towards God, as a sanctifying sacrifice in participation with their baptismal vocation in the priesthood of Christ. He saw ordinary Christians sanctifying their daily work and activities by uniting them with the life of Christ. He saw the laity, of every background and race and profession and social status, all becoming apostles, saints in the world. Factory worker saints, farmer saints, carpenter saints, teacher saints, regardless of their profession or work, no matter how small, average or ordinary, they could all be saints. This is echoed in Lumen Gentium from Vatican II with the “universal call to holiness.” (LG, 5) All people, not just the clerical and religious class, but all people are called to holiness, even the lowliest of the laity are called to “be holy, for I am holy.” (1 Pet. 1:16) Josemaria called this “The Way,” or more precisely, the way of sanctification. By this, he meant that we should unite our daily duties, whatever they may be, with God, through Christ; that is, to live out our Christian vocation within our daily secular vocation. Then, our daily secular work will become divine work that transforms us into holy apostles of Christ.

But, how is any of this possible? The key to St.Josemaria is “divine filiation,” the idea that, through Baptism, we have become God’s children. In Baptism, we are born by grace into the death and life of Christ, and become by grace what Jesus is by nature, namely, a son of God. St.John says See what kind of love the Father has given to us, that we should be called children of God; and so we are.” (1 Jn. 3:1) This idea is scattered throughout the New Testament. St.Paul says to the Romans, “For all who are led by the Spirit of God are children of God… but you received a spirit of adoption. When we cry, ‘Abba! Father!’ It is that very Spirit bearing witness with our spirit that we are children of God..” (Rom. 8:14-16) In the second letter of Peter, he says God has let us “become partakers of the divine nature.” (2 Pet. 1:4) Even Jesus Himself quotes Psalms 82:6 saying, “Is it not written in your law, ‘I said, you are gods’?” (Jn.10:34) Of course, He also teaches us at the Sermon on the Mount to pray to God by radically calling Him “Our Father.” (Mt.6:9) As part of our redemption and sanctification in Christ, St.Josemaria points out, it also involves our deification and divinization. We are no longer just servants created by God, but rather, we have been grafted through Jesus into the divine family. We have become adopted sons and daughters of the Father, and brothers and sisters to Jesus Christ, the Son of God. Jesus, as the second person of the Trinity, by incarnating into the world, humanized His divinity, and divinized His humanity. God reached down to humanity, so humanity could reach up to God. By giving us His Spirit, the Holy Spirit and grace, we can become one with Jesus in our life, just as the Persons of the Trinity, in their inner relationship, are one. Through Baptism and faith, we are brought into oneness with Jesus, and then, necessarily into the life of the Holy Trinity. Jesus prayed this in the Garden of Gethsemane saying “As you, Father, are in Me and I am in You, may they also be in Us..” (Jn 17:21) This is the scandal of Christianity. Not only do we believe in a singular divine, omnipotent Being, but we also believe that He came into the world to personally save us, and by grace, adopt us into His divine family of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit. By nothing of ourselves, but only by the free gift of faith and grace, God makes us part of His family.

So, what is the significance of all of this? Firstly, we should recognize our special dignity as Christians, and our unique status conferred upon us in Baptism. The gift of faith, the Church, the sacraments should not be taken lightly. We should live our lives uprightly as fitting as children of God. As St.Peter states, “you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation.” (1 Pet. 2:9) We have been baptized into the royal priesthood of Jesus Christ, the one true mediator between God and man. So, we are anointed as a priest of Christ, as part of the common priesthood of the faithful. (CCC 1547) St.Josemaria urged us that we should have a “lay mentality” with a “priestly soul.” Yet, unlike an ordained ministerial priest who offers the sacrifice of the Mass, what are we, as ordinary lay people, to offer and sacrifice? To answer that, we should understand that Jesus’ whole life was a mystery of redemption. (CCC 517) Even before Jesus’ passion and death, He was performing redemptive acts in His daily private life, which He lived for thirty years. Jesus lived the ordinary life of each one of us, a private life of work and daily routine, and as part of a family. During Jesus’ “hidden life,” He sanctified our everyday existence. Since Jesus, as God, became man, all of His life and actions were that of a divine Being. Jesus divinized humanity, and made holy everything in His ordinary life, from work, to leisure, to eating and meals, to family and friendship. Jesus sanctified everyday life. The people of Jesus’ day who saw Him declared, “He has done everything well.” (Mk. 7:37) Jesus lived out perfectly the common priesthood of the faithful that God had intended for Adam and Eve. He is our perfect model. (CCC 520) Jesus offered His priestly action and sacrifice throughout His whole life, including the thirty years of His private life, so that while He worked in Joseph’s carpenter shop, He offered work as a redemptive spiritual sacrifice. Jesus made possible the elevation and transformation of all of our mundane, ordinary actions into acts of divine worship. Because God performed these actions and lived this life, He has made them holy. So now, too, we as His divinely adopted children, can in conjunction with Him and His life, offer to God, all of our everyday routines and works as spiritual sacrifice, prayer, worship and praise. We can now fulfill our role as children of God, imitators of Christ, striving to become holy and sanctified, interceding on behalf of the souls of others, exercising our common priesthood of the faithful in the midst of the streets and homes and workplaces of the world.     

Jesus said “and I, when I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all men to Myself” (Jn. 12:32), and so, St.Josemaria had another vision of God drawing all men and women to Himself through their ordinary lives and occupations and vocations throughout the world, becoming “another Christ,” or Christs, within the world. Jesus endowed our work and our actions and our sufferings with divine efficaciousness. St.Paul mentions this idea saying, “Now I rejoice in my sufferings for your sake, and in my flesh I complete what is lacking in Christ’s afflictions for the sake of His body, that is, the Church..” (Col. 1:24) Because of the mystery of the Incarnation, we are connected in some way with the life of Christ and His redemptive actions. We can offer all of our works, prayers, and sacrifices in conjunction with His. God has willed that we can, in effect, be co-redeemers and co-workers of Christ in the mystery of sanctification and redemption, both of ourselves and of others. For through our Baptism and in the Eucharist, we are connected to Jesus and in a real way with each other. We form, as it were, a communion of saints. Our work then is the sanctification of ourselves and of each other, in unity with the grace of Christ. As St.Paul says, “For this is the will of God, your sanctification.” (1 Thess. 4:3) Now, through Christ, we can “work out your own salvation with fear and trembling” (Phil. 2:12) by offering worship to God through our everyday activities. All things sacred need not be relegated just to Church on Sundays while the rest of the week is occupied by the secular, devoid of holiness. God wills that all of our lives, each and every day, be holy and sanctified, worshipping God ceaselessly. (1 Thess. 5:17) We can do that by offering sacred worship to God through our secular ordinary activities. St.Josemaria cautioned against living a “double-life,” but rather instead, we should live an “integrated life,” single-minded in the pursuit of holiness. The key is bringing the presence of God into our lives, in whatever it is we are doing, making the secular holy.

And how can we bring the presence of God into our lives in whatever we are doing? Well, first off, this is not necessarily a loud, visible obvious presence. On the contrary, this is an invisible, interior apostolate. This is us, interiorly asking for the presence of God in our lives each day, consecrating all of our actions, submitting even our “small” actions, to God, in order to please Him. This involves our invisible, interior relationship with Him directly. We can join all of our work to the saving work of Jesus, again via the mystery of the Incarnation. Now, St.Josemaria asks, in effect, should we leave our jobs or families, and run off to do great, heroic deeds, or join a contemplative, monastic order in order to please God? No, not necessarily. Although some most certainly are called to religious life, most are not. As St.Paul again instructs us, “Every one should remain in the state in which he was called.” (1 Cor. 7:20) We can be at peace with where we are, and work out our sanctification amidst the circumstances we find ourselves.

Yet, to answer the original question, St.Josemaria recommended a number of daily markers and spiritual milestones to follow each day. These spiritual practices, a daily “plan of life,” followed by Opus Dei begin with offering a Morning Offering, or prayer immediately once we wake up in the morning; attending Mass each day if possible; prayer, such as saying the Rosary and the Angelus; reading the Gospels or scriptures, or a spiritual book; offering small acts of penance and mortifications; adoration before the tabernacle; three hail Marys at bedtime, examination of your conscience and asking forgiveness at night before going to bed. He also recommended regular sacramental confession and yearly spiritual retreats. By sticking to these simple milestones throughout the day, the person spiritually orders his or her workday to worship. Thus, our most common actions become spiritual sacrifices, offered in our temples (of our lives), which can be anywhere and everywhere of everyday life. St.Paul exhorts us directly to do this, “I appeal to you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship.” (Rom. 12:1) Vatican II’s Gaudium et Spes also highlights that this glorification of God in our lives “concerns the whole of everyday activity.” (GS, 34) Our most basic tasks can be transformed into supernatural activities, ie, folding laundry, cooking dinner, serving customers at work can become holy acts of worship. So, we should strive, as Jesus did, to “do all things well,” and offer everything we do for the glorification of God and the sanctification of ourselves and for each other. Our secular day should be wrapped in spiritual prayer and sacrifice. This is part of the “pure offering” mentioned by the prophet Malachi (Mal.1:11) St.Josemaria spoke of how we should live: “Live as the others around you live with naturalness, but ‘supernaturalizing’ every moment of your day.” This is how we should approach each day, with a “holy ambition,” to ambitiously pursue holiness in the ordinary things of life. We are not called out of the world, but to sanctify the world from within, as leaven within the dough, to raise up Christ in ourselves and in our actions and in our place in life, as St.Josemaria espoused, to be “contemplatives in the midst of the world.” Then, we will truly be children of God.

Rahner and the Mysticism of Everyday Life – January 8, 2016

In the mid-20th century a movement arose among certain German and French Catholic theologians to reform the Neo-Scholasticism in Catholic thought and teaching. (that is, the 19th century, modern-era revival of the original medieval Scholasticism, ie, the influence of St.Thomas Aquinas’ writings in theology and philosophy.) This loosely based movement of Catholic theologians became known, and criticized, as the Nouvelle Theologie, or the “New Theology.” They themselves, however, generally preferred the term Ressourcement, or a “return to the sources.” The main thrust of the movement was to develop a theology by returning to the original sources of Scripture and the Church fathers, a positive theology, to not shun the modern world, to have a more critical attitude towards Neo-Scholasticism, and to anthropologize theology. Some of the theologians often associated with the movement included 20th century Catholic luminaries as Joseph Ratzinger, Henri de Lubac, Yves Congar, Jean Danielou, Hans Urs von Balthasar, Pierre Teilhard de Chardin, Hans Kung, Edward Schillebeeckx, and Karl Rahner. Their ideas became a strong counter-balance to the well-entrenched neo-Scholastic ideas of the 19th century Catholic thought. Moreover, their movement and their ideas carried a strong impact in the writings and reforms enacted in the Second Vatican Council. For that reason alone we should seek to understand their origins and impacts upon modern Catholicism in the post-conciliar world, a post-mortem analysis if you will. Yet, even though they had great influence in the Church Council and were among the preeminent Catholic theologians of the 20th century, they were not without criticism. Critics, such as French Dominican theologian Reginald Garrigou-Lagrange, accused them of not “returning to the sources” but of starting a “new theology” disguising within it the errors of Modernity, Relativism, and Positivism. This criticism is not without merit. Pope Pius XII even issued an encyclical in 1950, Humani Generis, “The Human Race,” primarily in response to and criticizing the Nouvelle Theologie and warning against the dangers of Modernism’s influence upon theology. Nevertheless, many of the reforms promulgated by Vatican II were influenced by their ideas, which liberalized and modernized many aspects of the Church and the liturgy; focused on Ecumenicalism and the call to holiness for the Laity. Following Vatican II, the Nouvelle Theologie movement basically broke into two camps of divergent ideas, one more progressive and one more traditional, the spirit of which are still at work.

Karl Rahner is typically bunched into the more progressive camp. His primary body of work is his vast 24 volumes of “Theological Investigations.” Yet, as great as a Catholic thinker that he was, not all of his ideas or theological writings are considered orthodox, in fact, just the opposite. Some of his theological notions have been spurned as a watering down and a trivializing of orthodoxy, and been outright rejected. He is often criticized for theories such as the Transcendental-Anthropological Method and Anonymous Christians, that some argue relativize the truths of Christianity. He also studied under the German philosopher Martin Heidegger and was influenced by his Existentialism. In his own defense, Rahner claimed to absolutely not contradict the Magisterium of the Church at all, but simply, he tried to view it in a new light. For better or for worse, he had a tremendous impact on the Council and the post-Conciliar world of Catholic thought. [As a note, this article is in no way an endorsement of all of his views and ideas.]

On the other hand, there are certain aspects of Rahner’s writings that are appealing, such as his emphasis, in line with Jesuit Ignatius spirituality, that God can be found everywhere in everyday life. As he wrote, God can “come to meet us in the streets of the world.” Harvey Egan referred to this as Rahner’s “mysticism of everyday life.” He referred to Jesus Christ as the primordial sacrament (“Ursakrament”), and the Church as the basic sacrament (“Grundsakrament”). Yet, according to Rahner, grace is everywhere. Again, this is an area that he has been criticized for by traditionalists. This “uncreated grace” manifests itself throughout history and is at work with mankind everywhere. He says, “The simple and honestly accepted everyday life contains in itself the eternal and the silent mystery, which we call God and his secret grace, especially when this life remains the everyday.” The sacraments themselves are the explicit, ecclesiastical and historical manifestations of this sanctifying grace through the person of Jesus Christ. They are still decisive, efficacious acts for the salvation of the individual. The Church sacraments are the “epiphanization” of the sacraments of everyday life. He views the sacraments and the liturgy as specific manifestations, of this grace found everywhere, as the climax of salvation history.

Rahner believes these should not be seen as isolated interventions of grace into our lives but symbolic expressions of this “liturgy of the world,” that is, God’s continual self-communication everywhere and our free acceptance of it. According to Rahner, the liturgy of the Church is the real symbol of the liturgy of the world. In this sense, God can be encountered in the banality of life, in its repetitious cycles, and every day routines, or in his words, “is seen by man in his dreary existence only through a haze, obscured by the banal ordinariness of life.” In this, Rahner concludes, we Christians, must become “mystics” of ordinary life, partaking in the “experiential grace” of the absolute mystery of God. Even the “most common small things” has the “imprint of the eternal God.” He continues, “People who place their small time into the heart of eternity, which they already carry within, will suddenly realize that even small things have inexpressible depths, are messengers of eternity, are always more than they appear to be, are like drops of water in which is reflected the entire sky, like signs pointing beyond themselves, like messengers running ahead of the message they are carrying and announcing the coming of eternity..” The mysticism of everyday life encompasses even the most humble of actions, such as working, eating, sleeping, sitting, walking, laughing, etc. Every moment of every day has the potential to be an encounter with God. Rahner considers this the “more excellent way” of love that St.Paul describes in 1 Corinthians 13, where love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.” (1 Cor.13:7) To Rahner, there is nothing profane in the ordinary, but when we surrender in everything to the mystery of God, His Spirit will be with us in our everyday life. So, whether you appreciate his writings or think he borders on heretical, Rahner at least beautifully captures the idea of living with God and for God in our everyday existence.

What follows are excerpts from one of Rahner’s meditations called “God of My Daily Routine.”

“I should like to bring the routine of my daily life before You, O Lord, to discuss the long days and tedious hours that are filled with everything else but You.”

“Look upon us men, who are practically nothing else but routine.”

“What will become of me, dear God, if my life goes on like this? What will happen to me when all the crates are suddenly swept out of the warehouse? How will I feel at the hour of my death? Then there will be no more “daily routine”; then I shall suddenly be abandoned by all the things that now fill up my days here on earth. And what will I myself be at that hour, when I am only myself and nothing else?   My whole life long I have been nothing but the ordinary routine, all business and activity, a desert filled with empty sound and meaningless fury. But when the heavy weight of death one day presses down upon my life and squeezes the true and lasting content out of all those many days and long years, what will be the final yield?”

“..the genuine yield of my ungenuine life will be only a few blessed moments, made luminous and living by Your grace.”

“That’s why I now see clearly that, if there is any path at all on which I can approach You, it must lead through the very middle of my ordinary daily life. If I should try to flee to You by any other way, I’d actually be leaving myself behind, and that, aside from being quite impossible, would accomplish nothing at all. But is there a path through my daily life that leads to You? Doesn’t this road take me ever farther away from You? Doesn’t it immerse me all the more deeply in the empty noise of worldly activity, where You, God of Quiet, do not dwell?”

“Do I come into Your presence just because this life has revealed its true face to me, finally admitting that all is vanity, all is misery?”

“O God, it seems we can lose sight of You in anything we do. Not even prayer, or the Holy Sacrifice, or the quiet of the cloister, not even the great disillusion with life itself can fully safeguard us from this danger. And thus it’s clear that even these sacred, non-routine things belong ultimately to our routine. It’s evident that routine is not just a part of my life, not even just the greatest part, but the whole. Every day is “everyday.” Everything I do is routine, because everything can rob me of the one and only thing I really need, which is You, my God.”

“But on the other hand, if it’s true that I can lose You in everything, it must also be true that I can find You in everything. If You have given me no single place to which I can flee and be sure of finding You, if anything I do can mean the loss of You, then I must be able to find You in every place, in each and every thing I do.”

“Thus I must seek You in all things. If every day is “everyday,” then every day is Your day, and every hour is the hour of Your grace. Everything is “everyday” and Your day together.”

“Only through Your help can I be an “interior” man in the midst of my many and varied daily tasks. Only through You can I continue to be in myself with You, when I go out of myself to be with the things of the world.”

“It is only the love of You, my Infinite God, which pierces the very heart of all things, at the same time transcending them all and leaping upwards into the endless reaches of Your Being, catching up all the lost things of earth and transforming them into a hymn of praise to Your Infinity.”

“In Your love all the diffusion of the day’s chores comes home again to the evening of Your unity, which is eternal life. This love, which can allow my daily routine to remain routine and still transform it into a home-coming to You, this love only You can give. So what should I say to You now, as I come to lay my everyday routine before You? There is only one thing I can beg for, and that is Your most ordinary and most exalted gift, the grace of Your Love.”

“Touch my heart with this grace, O Lord. When I reach out in joy or in sorrow for the things of this world, grant that through them I may know and love You, their Maker and final home. You who are Love itself, give me the grace of love, give me Yourself, so that all my days may finally empty into the one day of Your eternal Life.”