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Saturday, 24 November 2012

Caritas and recommended books

Rubens The Triumph of Divine Love
Christ did say ask and you shall receive. We are to approach Divine Providence with our needs. Sometimes, we just get into the slot-machine mentality of prayer where we ask, ask, ask for things and events, rather than merely enjoying the Presence of God. However, I want to mention today that real prayer is simply loving God. Mother Teresa was asked one time what happens to her and what does she pray when she goes to Adoration. I have written this before. She answered that she looks at God and He looks at her. This indicates a love relationship.

Now, I would never marry for money or status. I am an idealist. When one is in love, one does not mind just sitting in the same room as the beloved. Just to be near the loved one is enough. To communicate in silence is the mark of real love.

We meet God in silence in Adoration. We meet God in silence when we receive Him in the Eucharist. But, He is not a God of silence. He is The Word. He Himself longs to communicate with each one of us, personally. This practice of the presence of God, and I highly recommend Jean Pierre de Caussade's book on this topic, Abandonment to Divine Providence or The Sacrament of the Present Moment, a book I read over thirty years ago but have just appropriated in my life as a total reality. This is a grace, but one must know what graces are possible and ask for those graces.

I you can find this book, get it. It is applicable to our lives as laity. Again, this is not Quietism, which I have explained on this blog earlier. You can use the search button for those posts.

Father de Caussade wrote that every moment is like a sacrament if we realize that we are in the Presence of God. The only way to accomplish this is through grace, and the complete abandonment to the Divine Will. This is possible for us lay persons as well as religious. All are called to be in the Presence of God, all.

I cannot guarantee this translation, as I have the book, but the entire work in on-line. I suggest reading this slowly over the next few months. The real meat of the book is towards the end.

There are two other books I do not have, the first which I have read entirely and the second which I have read in part, which I can recommend now. The Perfection of Man by Charity by Father Reginald Buckler. I cannot stress how important this book is enough. I wish I had it. Father Buckler explains the entire path of perfection through Caritas, in a scholarly and pastor manner. If you find it, read it and cherish it.

The second one is longer and in two or three volumes depending on the publisher. I have not finished this book, nor do I have it. That is The Practice of Christian and Religious Perfection by Father Alphonsus Rodriguez. This book and the one by Buckler were, in the good, old days, standard reading for religious formation. Sadly, this is no longer true. The same ignorance of the laity which has been caused by dumbing down in schools and parishes has effected some of the orders. The young coming in need basic catechesis.

However, treat yourself to these books, but here is a warning. We should never read and assume what we read is our experience. Only read these with a competent spiritual director. I was introduced to de Caussade by a spiritual director I had in the early 1980s. I am eternally grateful to this priest. But, do not suppose you can read without really allowing God to change you from a slot-machine pray-er to a lover of God.

That movement is in the will and the heart, as well as the intellect. By the way, the Jesuits used Rodriquez in formation in the old days. I wonder if they do now.

The other books I have recommended recently are Lord of the World and None Other Gods, by Robert Hugh Benson. I have read the first three times in one year. The other is excellent. I do not have copies of these, either, yet.

God bless you all. And, here is Robert Anderson's explanation of the famous painting by Rubens on Caritas.

This picture is allegorical in that it contains a grandiose procession which celebrates a victory - the defeat of evil in the world by religious or divine love. This divine love is personified by Charity, who is the foremost of the three 'theological virtues' and who in this painting resembles the Virgin Mary. Charity is linked to the classical Mother of the Gods, Cybele, by the two lions who pull her chariot. In this implied reference Charity, as Mother of the Gods is seen as Mary, the Mother of God. A reference is made to Christ's sacrifice for the world by depicting the pelican piercing her breast in order to feed her young. Snakes represent evil and are overcome by the religious ardor of the flaming heart and the arrows of sacred love.

Caritas or Charity stands on a small chariot drawn by two lions. She holds one of her children in a tender embrace while two others stand by her side. In front of her stands a pelican, piercing her breast to feed its young. In the air around her fly twelve (12) putti, one of whom holds a flaming torch. On the ground are three more putti. One rides a lion with an arrow in his hand; one stoops to burn two intertwined snakes; the third raises a flaming heart in one hand and a bow in the other. These motifs of love ( sacred and profane) are repeated in various decorative elements. In the center of the chariot's wheel is a carved seraph from which radiate alternating arrows and shafts of flame as spokes.
A garland of fruit and flowers is strung above the tapestry which is hung between two doric columns. In the center between two crossed torches hangs a cartouche inscribed "Amor Divinus" . Below the bottom ledge, in the center, is placed a flaming heart pierced by two crossed arrows encased in an ornamental shell adorned with flowers. On each side is a cornucopia from which emerge flames and smoke and on which sits a dove, another emblem of love.
While members of Ruben's workshop painted much of the final cartoon we can discern Ruben's own hand in the painting of the face of the putto riding the lion.

The cycle of eleven paintings of The Triumph of the Eucharist was commissioned by the Archduchess Isabella who was the daughter of Philip II of Spain and the Governor of the Spanish Netherlands. It was planned as a gift for the convent of the Descalzas Reales in Madrid in 1625 where it still hangs today. This Franciscan Order of Poor Clares was one with which Isabella was closely associated.
The series is a mixture of allegory and religious propaganda intended to promote the worship of the Eucharist (ie the bread and wine consecrated as the body and blood of Christ and distributed at communion) which had been strengthened recently by the Council of Trent and which constituted an important element in Counter Reformation Catholicism.
This was a time of great concern on the part of the Catholic church as it attempted to correct not only the abuses of the clergy but also to reaffirm its tenets / dogma in the face of attacks by the Protestant Reformation.