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Saturday 7 April 2012

Perfection Series for Holy Saturday--Faith, Hope and Reason

On this day of the waiting for God to emerge from the tomb, on this quiet day of contemplation and profound Hope, a post on Faith, Hope and Reason a la the great Doctor of the Church seems appropriate. St. John of the Cross tells us that we move beyond meditation, which is based on Scripture and the imagination, as well as dependent on grace, to contemplation. Contemplation is based on the three Cardinal Virtues, Faith, Hope and Charity, plus Reason, one of the pillars of Faith.

Father Gabriel in his book, which I have been following for the past week on this blog, points out how St. John examines contemplation as being outside of the active imagination and even makes mediation impossible. For those who pray and are used to a life, or period of time with meditation, this leaving of it for contemplation can be disturbing. One may think one is falling back away from gained graces when in reality, the real purification of the intellect and imagination have led one away from the self into a waiting of God, and a docility of spirit which totally trusts in the Trinity. St. John writes that "The Holy Ghost enlightens the recollected understanding (that is the soul's) in proportion to its recollection; and as there can be no greater recollection of the understanding than in faith, the Holy Ghost will not enlighten it in any other way more than in that of faith. The purer the soul is in the perfection of a living faith, the greater is the infusion of charity, and the more it is possessed by it and enrich it with His gifts, since charity is the cause and the means whereby He communicates these gifts." Here, in the Ascent, St. John warns of the over-attention given to spiritual comforts or phenomena. Too many people today, especially charismatics and so-called visionaries, have been led astray, I would state, by deception and therefore, by the evil one or by their own spirits, to a kind of fascination with spiritual candy instead of the NADA. The great beauty of the stage of pure contemplation is that one must rely totally on the nothing, on detachment and on God alone.

Passivity allows grace to flourish.

What I like about this section of the Ascent, is the emphasis on reason. Too many Catholics fall away from a real relationship with God at this stage by loosing a perspective of reasonable Faith, which pulls one back into humility with regard to a relationship with the Church. Herein lies the safety net of the spiritual life. Only in a close relationship with the Church can the imperfect soul gain contemplation. Father Gabriel comments, "As faith leads the intellect to God so hope prepares the memory for the divine transformation."

Here is a rub. We must allow God to empty even our memories. Relying on God alone, detaching ourselves from all senses, the memory of those senses, and even spiritual cookies, brings one to a real reliance in Hope. As in a love relationship with a human being, wherein one hopes for love but loves anyway without expectation, so the soul seeks God alone. All earthly things fall away and a quiet joy enters the heart, the heart of Hope. For those who experience this, this is a movement of real freedom. All longing is for God alone, and not for anything material or spiritual.

Sometimes, as St. John and St. Teresa note, the soul is so taken up with God, the person may forget to eat, study, drink, or talk. Those around this type of person must be aware of his or her complete reliance on God. Of course, this person is frequently completely hidden in God. Faith, Reason, Hope finally lead to the greatest of the virtues Love, which will be in the next posting on perfection.

I used to have a copy of a version of this icon of The Extreme Humility. Here we see Christ Himself, beyond Faith, Hope, Reason and only relying on Love. He allowed Himself to be stripped of all-NADA-for us.

So, we are invited to do the same and follow Him into the tomb of giving all for All.


Chag Pesach sameach! Am Yisroel chai!

Happy Passover to my Secular, my Jewish and my Christian friends throughout Britain. This is only the third year in over thirty-five years I have not prepared a Seder Meal. God bless you all. Be open to the Blood of the Lamb of God, Who takes away the sins of the World.

from Moses, the television movie 1995, which I recommend

The Harrowing of Hell--The Ignored Event in the Creed

One of my favorite meditations is the Harrowing of Hell. This is in the Creed, "and He descended into Hell" or in some translations, "He descended unto the Dead". The idea of Christ freeing all the just, who were waiting for Him for years makes for an exciting scenario. Can you imagine the joy of the just and the perplexing anguish of Satan?

Years ago, I heard a sermon by a Protestant minister on television, yes, I did. This man was describing the Harrowing of Hell and the power of Christ's Redemption. Since then, I have only heard one sermon in a Catholic Church on this Creedal belief. Why?

What a powerful belief, in which the Second Person of the Blessed Trinity Incarnated saves Adam, Eve, all the just of the Old Testament, John the Baptist, and even His Foster-Father, Joseph, because the Gates of Heaven were closed until the Redemptive Suffering and Death on the Cross, has been revealed to us.

The Byzantine Catholics and the Orthodox have a long history of icons of this great event. I suggest the Western Church concentrates more on this teaching.