In the EF, February 11th is the Feast of The Apparition of the Immaculate Virgin Mary, or Our Lady of Lourdes. The Introit of this feast refers to the “holy city, the new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned or her husband” a quotation from the book of Revelation.
Our Protestant brethren, when they came to America, confused the Kingdom of God, this bride of Christ, with a worldly kingdom, because they had thrown out the Kingdom of God on earth as manifested in the one, holy, Catholic and apostolic Church.
Over the centuries, the working for the Kingdom of God or the City of God became confused even more with the political structures of American government and the political system. Monarchies were seen as totally evil and democracies as God-given. We can argue about this at another time, on another post but the main emphasis here is that there was a purposeful confusion, replacing a spiritual city with an earthly one.
Communism and socialism do the same thing-create so-called communities on earth but not based on God.
Today, in the Monastic Diunal at Lauds, one prayed Psalm 89 which includes a haunting verse on remembering suffering after one lives in prosperity.
“Then shall we be glad for the days of our humiliation for the years when we saw misfortune.”
Why? Why be glad of hardships which lead to humiliation, the humbling of the spirit?
Without suffering, one thinks that the things one has are one's own. Own has a skewed idea of material goods as belonging to one's self instead of God. As I noted in the perfection series so long ago, detachment or objectivity marks the saint. When one is no longer attached to things or even persons, one is ready for the Illuminative and Unitive States.
That the psalmist rightly encourages remembering past suffering indicates that he had found detachment, knowing fully who actually gives prosperity as a gift. Both riches and poverty are gifts from God to be used according to His Plan.
The years of misfortune create a humble heart, a receptive mind, and an open, loving soul.
The bride in the Song of Songs leaves all to follow the Bridegroom into the desert, seeking him, leaving all to find Him among the rock and sand. She seeks Him until she finds Him.
Remembering her days of loneliness and the pangs of unfulfilled love, the bride rejoices even more in the discovery of her Beloved. In yesterday's Gradual, this book is quoted: “Show me thy face, let they voice sound in mine ears, for thy voice is sweet and they face comely.”
The Song of Songs is also part of Vespers for the day, revisiting the theme of the dove, and combining the bridal imagery with those passages in the New Testament which include brides and virgins at the wedding feast, ready with their lamps lit.
Those who have grateful hearts and have sensed the call of the Bridegroom never look back, but continue to seek Him even in the dry places.
This year, the Church is celebrating the 500th anniversary of the birth of St. Teresa of Avila. Teresa was aware that the Kingdom of God on earth had been neglected, even by the Carmelites, who needed renewal. She understood that the City of God had to be built through sacrifice and suffering, so that when prosperity, in the form of vocations, renewed the order, all could rejoice at the time of hardships, her time, which built up the order.
Americans have forgotten to thank God for the hard times of their immigrant pasts. One old couple told me recently that America was a better place when all the people were poorer, were working hard together and looking out for each other. Those days are long gone.
To desire to build the Kingdom of God, the City on the Hill means focusing on God and His ways, not the way of men. To desire to see the City of God means that one thinks like a Catholic, like Teresa of Avila, knowing that a life of prayer is essential and not an option.
I heard a terrible sermon on the East Coast, in the Northeast Corridor, wherein the deacon concentrated on the worldly life and mentioned that people needed to pray at least a half hour a day. The deacon did admit that he went days without prayer. And this, an ordained minister of the Church! Mediocrity in spiritual matters can never build the Kingdom of God, the City of God. Mediocrity kills zeal and fervor for the Lord and His People.
Gratitude, prayer, meditation....building communities are the block of the buildings in the City of God.
We ignore these at our own peril.