The present life is a comedy, which passes away.

From SERMON XII. SEPTUAGESIMA SUNDAY – ON THE IMPORTANCE OF SALVATION – ” He sent them into his vineyard.” MATTHEW xx. 2 by St. Alphonsus Liguori

“How,” says Salvian, ”does it happen that a Christian believes, and still does not fear the future?” Christians believe death, judgment, hell, and Paradise: but they live as if they believed them not as if these truths of faith were tables or the inventions of human genius. Many live as it they were never to die, or as if they had not to give God an account of their life as if there were neither hell nor a heaven. Perhaps they do not believe in them? They believe, but do not reflect on them; and thus they are lost.

If the soul is lost, all is lost.

“What exchange can a man give for his soul:” (Matt. xvi. 26.)  (…) If, from being created by God to his own image, you do not comprehend the value of your soul, learn it from Jesus Christ, who has redeemed you with his own blood.

God, then, sets so high a value on your soul; such is its value in the estimation of Satan, that, to become master of it, he does not sleep night or day, but is continually going about to make it his own. Hence St. Augustine exclaims: “The enemy sleeps not, and you are asleep.” The enemy is always awake to injure you, and you slumber. Pope Benedict the Twelfth, being asked by a prince for a favour which he could not conscientiously grant, said to the ambassador: Tell the prince, that, if I had two souls, I might be able to lose one of them in order to please him; but, since I have but one, I cannot consent to lose it. Thus he refused the favour which the prince sought from him.

“What doth it profit a man, if he gain the whole world, and suffer the loss of his own soul ?”“But one thing is necessary ?” (Luke x. 42.) It is not necessary to become rich on this earth to acquire honours and dignities; but it is necessary to save our souls; because, unless we gain heaven we shall be condemned to hell: there is no middle place: we must be either saved or damned. God has not created us for this earth; neither does he preserve our lives that we may become rich and enjoy amusements. “And the end life everlasting.” (Hom, vi. 22.) He has created us, and preserved us, that we may acquire eternal glory.

St. Philip Neri, conversing one day with Francis Zazzera, a young man of talent who expected to make a fortune in the world, said to him: “You shall realize a great fortune; you shall be a prelate, afterwards a cardinal, and in the end, perhaps, pope. But what must follow? what must follow? Go, my son, think on these words.” The young man departed, and after meditating on the words, what must follow? what must follow? he renounced his worldly prospects, and gave himself entirely to God;

“The fashion of this world passeth away.” (i Cor. vii. 31.) On this passage, Cornelius à Lapide , says, that “the world is as it were a stage.” The present life is a comedy, which passes away. Happy the man who acts his part well in this comedy by saving his soul.

David said: “One thing I have asked of the Lord; this I will seek after that I may dwell in the house of the Lord.” (Ps. xxvi. 4.) One thing only have I sought, and will for ever seek, from God that he may grant me the grace to save my soul; for, if I save my soul, all is safe; if I lose it, all is lost.

”The summer is ended, and we are not saved.” (Jer. viii. 20.)

“With fear and trembling work out your salvation. ” (Phil. ii. 12.) Hence, if we wish to save our souls, we must labour strenuously to avoid dangerous occasions, to resist temptations, and to frequent the sacraments. Without labour we cannot obtain heaven. “The violent bear it away.” The saints tremble at the thought of eternity.

Αγνή Παρθένε (Agni Parthene)

I can’t get enough of this lately. St. Nektarios of Aegina wrote this wonderful hymn and it is sung during Orthodox Vespers. I listen to it in Greek – by Divna Ljubojevic (angelic), another version (don’t know who is singing this one) and in Arabic.

But my favorite is sung by the Valaam monks:

You can sing with them, here is the Old Slavonic version transliterated in Russian and English

You can listen to it in English: part 1 & part 2

Nuns instead of Lady Gaga

Couple of years ago the Cistercian Monks of Stift Heiligenkreuz made an album “Chant: Music For Paradise” which sold more than one million copies, after climbing to the top of European charts with their Gragorian chants.

Today’s story is similar, but about the Benedictine nuns of the Abbaye de Notre-Dame de l’Annonciation, from France ear Avignon. They have signed a deal with Decca Records, part of Universal Music, which counts Lady Gaga and U2 among its acts.

Their album “Voice: Chant from Avignon”, is scheduled for release in November 2010

How to die to see God

Mystical Prayer in the Holy Spirit

St. Bonaventure – Doctor of the Church

This reading on mystical (contemplative) prayer, taken from St. Bonaventure’s Journey of the Mind to God (Cap. 7,1 2.4.6: Opera Omnia, 5, 312-313), is used in the Roman Office of Readings for the Feast (liturgical memorial) of St. Bonaventure on July 15.

Christ is both the way and the door. Christ is the staircase and the vehicle, like the throne of mercy over the Ark of the Covenant, and the mystery hidden from the ages. A man should turn his full attention to this throne of mercy, and should gaze at him hanging on the cross, full of faith, hope and charity, devoted, full of wonder and joy, marked by gratitude, and open to praise and jubilation. Then such a man will make with Christ a pasch, that is, a passing-over. Through the branches of the cross he will pass over the Red Sea, leaving Egypt and entering the desert. There he will taste the hidden manna, and rest with Christ in the sepulchre, as if he were dead to things outside. He will experience, as much as is possible for one who is still living, what was promised to the thief who hung beside Christ: Today you will be with me in paradise.

For this passover to be perfect, we must suspend all the operations of the mind and we must transform the peak of our affections, directing them to God alone. This is a sacred mystical experience. It cannot be comprehended by anyone unless he surrenders himself to it; nor can he surrender himself to it unless he longs for it; nor can he long for it unless the Holy Spirit, whom Christ sent into the world, should come and inflame his innermost soul. Hence the Apostle says that this mystical wisdom is revealed by the Holy Spirit.

If you ask how such things can occur, seek the answer in God’s grace, not in doctrine; in the longing of the will, not in the understanding; in the sighs of prayer, not in research; seek the bridegroom not the teacher; God and not man; darkness not daylight; and look not to the light but rather to the raging fire that carries the soul to God with intense fervour and glowing love. The fir is God, and the furnace is in Jerusalem, fired by Christ in the ardour of his loving passion. Only he understood this who said: My soul chose hanging and my bones death. Anyone who cherishes this kind of death can see God, for it is certainly true that: No man can look upon me and live.

Let us die, then, and enter into the darkness, silencing our anxieties, our passions and all the fantasies of our imagination. Let us pass over with the crucified Christ from this world to the Father, so that, when the Father has shown himself to us, we can say with Philip: It is enough. We may hear with Paul: My grace is sufficient for you; and we can rejoice with David, saying: My flesh and my heart fail me, but God is the strength of my heart and my heritage for ever. Blessed be the Lord for ever, and let all the people say: Amen. Amen!

This is an interesting read, because in our times everything points to the opposite way of believers reaching to God’s presence. Christians are trying to find God mostly by experiencing Him, and the cavalcades of worldly distractions might suggest that the same intensity of emotional engagement with “spiritual” things (think: cool, relevant Christian church) will overpower the former and bring the soothing presence of God (with His blessings = answers to my prayers). Not so, says St. Bonaventure, and many mystics. Cherishing death is the way.

You give and take away

This morning we have learned that our friend Derek Loux has passed from this life to a better one. His life has not ended, it is lived now in the presence of God who is Eternal Love.  Death has carried him to the One he longed for. He sees reality as it is. He dwells in the presence of our life giving  Creator, The Greatest Intercessor – Incarnate Word, and in the shadow of the Comforter. He was ready, we must wait.

About two years ago, during one of the worship briefings Derek was sharing with us that he really does not want to be remembered as a “worship leader”, but as a father to the orphans. During these last two years especially he put all of his love, time, energy and care to fulfill this primary calling in his life.

We are left with a huge gap, unanswered questions, shattered expectations. His passion and love speeded up the fulfillment of his destiny. The Almighty has decided, it is time. From a human perspective, it looks like he has just started…and he has not finished….and we want to scream out loud: What was the point?

From the heavenly perspective, he was done here. Trusting this is hard.  And there are no words to express the anguish. This is earth, not heaven. We will suffer, we will die, we will live again.

For the next decades we will remember him. His awesome wife Renee and their ten kids (eight of them adopted) will have many Christmases and Easters without their daddy. And as he talked about widows and orphans, he changed his life so many times in order to help them…now we have  a chance to practice how we listened to him reading and singing and crying over Isaiah 58.

Father, You give and You take away, blessed be Your name.

He has the best worship team now and the greatest multitudes of those who loved to the end. What do you see, Derek?

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A Surprising Clue

But reunion without compromise between Catholics and Protestants still seems impossible.  Yet, here’s a surprising clue that it may be possible after all: the main point of what I said in the last few minutes “Jesus only,” “the all sufficiency of Christ,” that’s the essential Protestant point and it was just made by me, a Catholic.

That point seems to be an essential dividing point for Catholicism seems to Protestants to violate that point.  Catholicism seems to Protestants to be “Christ plus paganism,” “the Ark plus the barnacles,” or “Christ plus many human traditions and historical accretions,” “Christ plus the pope,” “Christ plus Mary,” whatever.  The most serious Protestant objection to Catholicism as a religion, not just as a theology, is that it violates the scriptural teaching of the all sufficiency of Christ, the teaching that there is one mediator between God and man, the man Christ Jesus.

To Protestants, Catholicism seems to add other mediaries, other intermediaries between man and Christ: Mary, the saints, the Church, Sacraments, priests, human traditions.

But I suggest that if Protestants make just one single adjustment in their vision, they will see the possibility of reunion.  Not just theologically, but more deeply religiously and spiritually, without any compromise at all.  And that one adjustment is not to see Christ in any different way at all, but to see the Church in a different way.  Not as an obstacle between us and Christ, not even as an intermediary between us and Christ, but as the very body of Christ Himself.

And why would they make that adjustment?  Well, which of these two concepts of the Church is the scriptural way of seeing it?  Come on, answer honestly.  You read the Bible and isn’t the Bible the supreme authority for any Protestant?  Once Protestants see the Church’s identity, they can love her instead of fearing her because the body of Christ is Christ as your body is you.  It’s not an alien, it’s not an obstacle.  How can your own body be an obstacle?  How Gnostic!  The body is not your prison house, or your coffin, or your punishment.  It’s not even your tool, or your clothing, or your house.  It’s not This Old House.  It’s you.  Although it’s not the whole you.  It’s not your head, or your soul.  The same is true of Christ’s body which is what the New Testament calls the Church.  It is Christ.  Though it’s not the whole Christ.  He is her head.  And the Holy Spirit is her soul.

Protestants will not and should not stop protesting against the Catholic Church until they see the totally Christocentric character of her and all her teachings.  Sometimes, the understanding of the Church’s Christocentrism can be the key to understanding the Christocentric nature of each of the Church’s teachings.  And sometimes, it works the other way around.  Doctrine by doctrine, yielding its Christocentric treasure at the heart as it is more deeply explored and understood.  As Christ the teacher appears at the heart of each of the Church’s teachings.  I know a number of Protestants who have read the Church’s new Catechism and had been amazed at how consistently Christocentric everything in it is.  And unless Protestants see this, how could they think of reunion with Catholics?  And how can they see this, unless Catholics show it to them?  And how can Catholics show it to them, unless they see it themselves?  And how can they see it, unless they have a teacher, a preacher?  As it is written, “How beautiful upon the mountains are the feet of them that preach the good news.”

In this light, it seems to me, clearly Providential that God has raised up for our time, the time of the end of the second millennium, the millennium of Christian disunity, and the beginning of the third millennium, hopefully the millennium of Christian re-unity, has raised up John Paul the Great.  The most Christocentric pope of modern times, probably of all times.  The most ecumenical pope of all times, and yet one who is totally and traditionally and enthusiastically Catholic.  Is the pope Catholic?  There have been times in the Church’s dark history when that joke was not funny.  Today it’s funny.

Taken from Ecumenism without compromise by Peter Kreeft

Zaskakująca wskazówka

Bezkompromisowe zjednoczenie protestantów i katolików nadal wydaje się jednak niemożliwe. Lecz tutaj właśnie znajdujemy zaskakującą wskazówkę, która jest w stanie umożliwić ponowne połączenie: główny punkt, o którym mówiłem w ostatnich minutach, “tylko Jezus”,  “samowystarczalność Jezusa”, jako istotny punkt protestancki, a ja – katolik właśnie go poruszam.

Kwestia ta wydaje się być zasadniczym punktem dzielącym, gdyż katolicyzm wg protestantów zaburza ten stan. Katolicyzm wydaje się dla protestantów być “Chrystusem z dodatkiem pogaństwa”, “arką z dolepionymi skorupiakami”, czy “Chrystusem z ludzkimi tradycjami i historycznymi nawarstwieniami”, “Chrystusem z papieżem”, “Chrystusem z Maryją” itp. Głównym zarzutem protestanckim co do religii katolickiej, nie tylko jako teologii, jest naruszenie biblijnego nauczania na temat samowystarczalności Chrystusa i wyłączności pośrednictwa Jezusa Chrystusa pomiędzy Bogiem a czlowiekiem.

Dla protestantów katolicyzm wydaje się dorzucać innych pośredników pomiędzy czlowiekiem a Chrystusem: Maryję, świętych, kościół, sakramenty, księży, tradycje ludzkie.

Lecz pozwolę sobie zasugerować protestantom jedną korektę do ich sposobu postrzegania, dzięki której ujrzą możliwość zjednoczenia. Nie tylko w sensie teologicznym, lecz w głębszym religijnym i duchowym, bez wymaganych żadnych kompromisów. Zmiana ta nie dotyczy postrzegania Chrystusa w innym świetle, lecz postrzegania kościoła na nowy sposób. Mianowicie nie jako przeszkody stojącej pomiędzy nami a Chrystusem, nie jako pośrednika pomiędzy nami  a Chrystusem, lecz jako prawdziwego ciała samego Chrystusa.

Dlaczego mieliby oni przystać na taką zmianę? Zauważmy, która z tych dwóch koncepcji kościoła jest obrazem biblijnym? Bądźmy przy tym szczerzy. Czytasz Biblię i czyż nie jest ona najwyższym autorytetem dla każdego protestanta? Kiedy protestanci ujrzą charakter kościoła, zaczną go kochać zamiast się go bać, gdyż ciało Chrystusa jest Chrystusem, tak jak twoje ciało jest tobą. Nie jest kimś obcym, ani nie jest przeszkodą. Jak twoje własne ciało mogłoby być przeszkodą? Byłaby to gnoza! Twoje ciało nie jest więzieniem, trumną czy też karą. Nie jest nawet twoim narzędziem, odzieniem, czy mieszkaniem. Jest tobą. Jakkolwiek nie pełnią ciebie. Nie jest twoją głową lub duszą. Taka sama prawda może być powiedziana o ciele Chrystusa, które w Nowym Testamencie jest nazwane kościołem. Kościół to Chrystus. Jakkolwiek to nie pełnia Chrystusa. On jest jego głową, a Duch święty jest jego duszą.

Prostestanci nie przestaną i nie powinni protestować przeciwko kościołowi katolickiemu dopóki nie ujrzą całkowicie chrystocentrycznego charakteru i całego nauczania kościoła. Niekiedy zrozumienie chrystocentryzmu kościoła może być kluczem do zrozumienia chrystocentrycznej natury całego nauczania w kościele katolickim. Niekiedy również działa to w drugą stronę. Rozważając w sercu dogmat po dogmacie, poddając go chrystocentrycznej zasadzie, dochodzi się do głębszego zrozumienia. Chrystus nauczyciel staje się widoczny w sercu każdego nauczania kościoła. Znam wielu protestantów, którzy po przeczytaniu katechizmu kościoła katolickiego ze zdziwieniem ujrzeli chrystocentryczną konsekwencję wszystkiego, co tam zawarte.  A jakże protestanci mieliby myśleć o zjednoczeniu z katolikami, jeżeli tego nie ujrzą? A jakże katolicy mieliby na to wskazać, skoro sami tego nie widzą? A jakże mieliby to ujrzeć, skoro nie mają nauczyciela, kaznodzieji? Jak jest napisane: “Jak piękne stopy tych, którzy zwiastują dobrą nowinę!

Ujmując to zagadnienie w tym świetle, wydaje mi się, że w sposób opatrznościowy sam Bóg spowodował, że w naszych czasach końca drugiego milenium, które charakteryzowało się podziałem, i na początku trzeciego milenium, z nadzieją na milenium zjednoczenia chrześcijańskiego, Bóg powołał Jana Pawła Wielkiego. Najbardziej chrystocentrycznego papieża czasów współczesnych, a prawdopodobnie w całej historii. Najbardziej otwartego na ekumenię, a jednocześnie całkowicie tradycyjnego i entuzjastycznie katolickiego.  Czy papież jest katolikiem? W ciemnych fragmentach historii kościoła bywało, że taki żart nie był wcale śmieszny. Dzisiaj jest.

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664713_b5ea2419a6Common Ground

So the reunion must be on Catholic grounds.  That is, complete, universal grounds.  That is the essentially and distinctively Catholic point: essential Catholic point and it is non-negotiable for any faithful Catholic.

But at the same time, reunion must be on Protestant grounds.  And these are equally non-negotiable.  What I mean by that is the essentially and distinctively Protestant point: the central Protestant point seems to be the opposite of the Catholic one, namely the simple all sufficiency of Christ alone.  Jesus only.  Jesus plus nothing.  Jesus straight, not mixed drink.  If reunion is possible, that is its only foundation.  The Church’s one foundation is Jesus Christ her Lord.

Now of course that doesn’t have to mean, and it shouldn’t mean “no creed but Christ” or “Jesus only and therefore no Church” or “Jesus only therefore no Sacraments” for most Protestants do have a creed and a church and sacraments.

So perhaps those two central points already overlap a bit, or more than a bit.  In fact they overlap so much that we can say, without trickery, that the whole reason for being a Catholic is to be the best possible evangelical Protestant.

What I mean by that strange statement is that the essence of evangelical Protestantism is to be one with Christ, to meet Christ, and that’s the best reason to be a Catholic.  That’s the reason for the Mass, and the Eucharist, namely the Protestant thing of meeting Christ.  That’s the whole point of the Catholic thing of the Church, and of the Sacraments and of the Saints and all of the rest.  Take the Eucharist.  Christ is no great because of the Eucharist, the Eucharist is great because of Christ.  We Catholics don’t try to squeeze Christ out of the Church like orange juice out of an orange, Christ gave us the Church.  We got the Church from Christ first of all.  Only then do we get Christ from the Church because He put Himself into her.  The Church is the servant, the messenger.  The Church is Christ’s body, but the body is the head’s body.  We don’t idolize anything.  Protestants accuse Catholics of idolatry, ecclesiolatry, sacramentiology, Mariolatry, Christ is the only “idol.”  The total “idola” or “icon” or “image” of God.  We do not idolize, for instance, the doctrine of the Real Presence.  It’s only a doctrine, though it’s a true doctrine.  We worship Christ not doctrines about Christ.  The Real Presence is the real presence of Christ.  Christ alone is the absolute everywhere in Catholicism.  Mary for instance, is holy only because of her relationship to Christ.  She gave us Him by freely consenting to be His mother.  And He gave us her, from the Cross.  “Behold, your mother.”

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Wspólna płaszczyzna

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Zjednoczenie więc musi nastąpić na podłożu katolickim. Czyli na powszechnym i pełnym. Jest to istotny i wyróżniający się katolicki punkt: nienegocjowlany dla żadnego wiernego katolika.

Jednocześnie jednak zjednoczenie musi nastąpić na płaszczyźnie protestanckiej. I ta jest również nienegocjowalna. Co rozumiem pod tym pojęciem jest istotą i charakterystycznym punktem protestanckim, który wydaje się stać w opozycji do katlickiego, głównie odnosząc się do samowystarczalności Chrystusa. Tylko Jezus. Jezus plus nic. Czysty Jezus, bez domieszek. Jeżeli zjednoczenie jest możliwe, to tylko to  może być fundamentem. Fundamentem kościoła jest Jezus Chrystus, jego Pan.

Oczywiście nie musi i nie powinno to oznaczać wyboru “Chrystusa, lecz bez credo (ustalonego wyznania wiary) lub “tylko Jezusa, bez kościoła” lub “tylko Jezusa bez sakramentów”, gdyż większość protestantów posiada credo, kościół i sakramenty.

Być może więc te dwa główne punkty nieco się zazębiają, a może są bliżej niż myślimy. Tak naprawdę to zazębiają się one tak bardzo, że możnaby użyć stwierdzenia, bez uciekania się do podstępu, że główną przyczyną bycia katolikiem jest bycie jak najlepszym ewangelikalnym protestantem.

Tym dziwnym stwierdzeniem chciałbym wyrazić, że istotą protestantyzmu ewangelikalnego jest zjednoczenie z Chrystusem, spotkanie z Chrystusem, a to jest przecież główną przyczyną bycia katolikiem. To jest powodem sprawowania Mszy św. i Eucharystii, a mianowicie protestancki sposób na spotkanie Chrystusa. Jest to główny powód katolickości kościoła, sakramentów, świętych i całej reszty. Weźmy Eucharystię. Chrystus nie jest wspaniały z powodu Eucharystii, lecz to Eucharystia jest wspaniała z powodu Chrystusa. My, katolicy nie próbujemy wycisnąć Chrystusa z kościoła jak soku z pomarańczy, gdyż Chrystus dał nam kościół. Najpierw otrzymaliśmy kościół od Chrystusa. Dopiero potem otrzymaliśmy Chrystusa przez kościół, gdyż On sam w nim się umieścił. Kościół jest sługą, posłańcem. Kościół jest ciałem Chrystusa, lecz ciało to jest ciałem głowy. Nie ubóstwiamy niczego. Protestanci zarzucają katolikom bałwochwalstwo, przebóstwienie kościoła, uwielbianie sakramentów i Maryji. Chrystus jest jedynymidolem“. Totalnymbóstwem“, “ikoną“, “obrazem” Boga. Nie czcimy na przykład dogmatu o prawdziwej (realnej) obecności Chrystusa w Eucharystii. Jest to tylko dogmat, choć jest prawdziwy. Czcimy Jezusa, a nie dogmaty o Nim. Prawdziwa obecność jest prawdziwą obecnością Chrystusa. Sam Chrystus i tylko On jest absolutnie wszystkim w katolicyźmie. Maryja na przykład  jest świętą tylko z powodu relacji jaką miała z Chrystusem. Dała nam Jego poprzez dobrowolne przyzwolenie na zostanie Jego matką. A On dał nam, wymawiając na krzyżuowa: “Oto matka twoja“.

This was the third part from article by Peter Kreeft titled “Ecumenism Without Compromise”

Jest to trzecia część artykułu Petera Kreefta zatytułowanego “Ekumenizm bez kompromisów”

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