UNBORN WORD of the day


Late Medieval Art focus on Unborn Jesus and Unborn John
July 30, 2008, 10:37 pm
Filed under: Unborn Jesus

“Soon after the Virgin Mary learned of her miraculous conception of Jesus, she visited her kinswoman Elizabeth, who was also expecting a child, John the Baptist. This representation of their joyous meeting comes from the Dominican convent of Katharinenthal, in the Lake Constance region of present-day Switzerland. Carved of walnut, with the original paint and gilding almost completely preserved, the figures of Mary and Elizabeth are each inset with crystal-covered cavities through which images of their infants may originally have been seen. The representation of the Visitation incorporating images of the unborn Christ and John the Baptist is found with some frequency in late medieval works from German-speaking lands.”

From the Metropolitan Museum of Art, NYC



INDEFATIGABLE FAITH
July 29, 2008, 10:21 pm
Filed under: Thriving Not Just Surviving!

THRIVING NOT JUST SURVIVING!

A series of reflections on living the Christian Life in a Time of Cultural Upheaval (a Culture of Life under attack by a culture of death which erodes traditional beliefs and values).

8

St. Paul escaping from the city of Damascus

One morning 10 or 15 years ago, I woke up with a word in my mind and upon my lips; “INDEFATIGABLE”. Besides still being drowsy, I wasn’t exactly sure what the word meant – I had a rough concept of it but not an understanding of it. So I went to the dictionary: “Incapable of being wearied; that cannot be tired out; unremitting in labor or effort”. True story. (Which reminds me of the time my smiling high school football coach said to me: “You’re expendable” and I wasn’t sure if it was a compliment or something sinister.)

The Christian is called to an ‘untiring’ faith, a ‘tireless’ faith. A faith for good times and bad, a faith commitment in season and out of season. It is also a faith which requires effort – constant effort, continuing effort, unrelenting effort. Does this sound negative? Does this scare us?

“Take up (your) cross and follow me” says the Lord (Mt 16:24, Mt 10:38). Should we edit this from Christianity? (Push the delete button?) ‘Shouldn’t our faith just be one continuous “high”?’ some might conjecture. Let’s take a look at a famous passage written by Saint Paul to the Church of Corinth (II Cor 11:24-12:10). It is too long to quote here, but let’s paraphrase parts of it. It starts with Paul boasting (in a self-conscious manner, “I am talking like a madman”) about his numerous problems, sufferings, setbacks and weaknesses as compared to other apostles:

I have endured far greater labors, more imprisonments,
countless beatings, often near death…
Five different times I received 39 lashes,
Three times I was beaten with rods,
I was stoned once.
Shipwrecked three times,
Adrift at sea for a night and a day.
I experienced frequent dangers from rivers,
from robbers, Jews, Gentiles, false brethren
dangers in the city, in the wilderness, at sea…
toil, hardship, hunger and thirst,
often without food, subject to cold and exposure.
I escaped from the city of Damascus
by being lowered in a basket over the city wall.

Paul is the model par excellence of heroic indefatigable faith. This wonderful excerpt from Paul also acknowledges the extreme weakness which is inherent in our lives (not paraphrased above). Paul concludes this powerful passage with his famous statement: “for when I am weak, then I am strong” (by the Grace and power of Christ within him). We must all hold on with Paul and all the great Saints who have gone before us. To live virtuous lives amidst cultural upheaval is heroic. We are called to develop virtues in our lives and live by them tirelessly, heroically. Saint Paul pray for us.

George A. Peate, July 30, 2008



THE CHRISTIAN LIFE – NOT SMOOTH SAILING EVERY DAY!
July 26, 2008, 4:06 pm
Filed under: Thriving Not Just Surviving!

THRIVING NOT JUST SURVIVING!

A series of reflections on living the Christian Life in a Time of Cultural Upheaval (a Culture of Life under attack by a culture of death which erodes traditional beliefs and values).

7

This is one of the paintings on the walls of the Greek Orthodox Church in Capernaum. Note that Jesus is depicted twice in the painting: once asleep and once calming the storm.

When I was a teenager I had two friends whose families both owned sail boats. Since we lived very close to a lake I went sailing with them quite a bit. One sailboat was a beautiful, sleek “Flying Dutchman” that was responsive and supple and a joy to sail. This friend raced at the yacht club and had a pretty good record. The other boat was a pint-size bright red wood dinghy with a sail.

In my life I relate more to the humble dinghy than the more sophisticated “Flying Dutchman”. I remember many occasions when we were in the dinghy and large boats were all around us causing havoc as each wake-created wave would assail us and send us furiously bobbing up and down as sail and rudder both suffered temporary paralysis. And the zipping motorboats seemed to enjoy upsetting our modestly proposed course, waving to us with smiles of delight as we held on to our frowns of consternation.

So there you are, a little dinghy of a boat out on the waters of civilization and you are experiencing cultural upheaval to port and starboard, the winds of change are not cooperating either. You don’t really have too many choices. You can abandon your faith (and its cherished interwoven faith teachings and moral wisdom) – this little dinghy that keeps you afloat and more or less on course – or you can hold fast to your faith and weather the storm as best you can using sail and rudder and maturing insight to get you to your destination.

Your simple dinghy is part of a worldwide flotilla of dinghies that spans the centuries and encompasses the world. This Flotilla of Faith is impressive not for its vast numbers alone but more for its Divine Artisan and Commander. Each tiny dinghy flies a little flag with a cross on it which blows valiantly in the breezes of life. Each tiny dinghy has its mother ship in sight – the Great Barque of Peter – which toils onward amidst storms and human catastrophes, onward, propelled not by the motors of men but by the breath of the Spirit, exhaled eternally for all humanity to be freshened by and moved by. This is our confidence! This is our hope! And there is much joy besides!

We have a biblical precedent for comparing a little dinghy to our faith-life. Remember the evening when Jesus and His disciples set out to cross the lake and a raging storm came upon them suddenly? Where was the Lord? “But he was in the stern, asleep on the cushion” (Mk 4:38). ‘Where is God when we need Him?’ our fear and confusion demands. So they cried out: “Master, Master, we are perishing!” And His reply? “Where is your faith?” (Lk 8:24-25). He rebuked the wind and the waves, a calm ensued, and the rest is Mystery…

George A. Peate, July 26, 2008



THE SURGE IS WORKING – IN BATTLE AGAINST THE DEVIL
July 24, 2008, 10:38 pm
Filed under: Thriving Not Just Surviving!

THRIVING NOT JUST SURVIVING!

A series of reflections on living the Christian Life in a Time of Cultural Upheaval (a Culture of Life under attack by a culture of death which erodes traditional beliefs and values).

6

Intensifying one’s prayer life and commitment to prayer is always a good idea, but especially in times of extreme difficulty. So stepping up one’s prayer “routine” as the devil is stepping up his unholy guerrilla tactics makes good sense militaristically and mystically.

As Paul counsels us: “…the weapons of our warfare are not worldly but have divine power to destroy strongholds” (II Cor 10:4). Pray Onward Christian Soldiers! Pray On!

Every Christian will have his weapons of choice – spontaneous prayer, praise, thanksgiving, worship, the Mass, the rosary, morning devotions, quiet meditation, adoration, biblical reflection, novenas, litanies, group prayer, praying while out for a walk, and so on. However, one choice is not enough. God expects His troops to be multifaceted and flexible depending upon those situations that present themselves.

As Paul counsels us: “Train yourself in godliness; for while bodily training is of some value, godliness is of value in every way, as it holds promise for the present life and also for the life to come” (I Tim 4:7-8).

The times in which we live call for extreme responses on our part, that is, extreme holiness, extreme self-discipline, extreme thoughtfulness, extreme compassion, and any other extremely inspired virtue you might wish to practice. We are talking PEACE here not violence. All virtues support a Peace Process within our lives. Wage a bold spiritual battle of Peace.

As the author of Hebrews counsels us: “Let us therefore come boldly unto the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy, and find grace to help in time of need” (Heb 4:16, KJV).

When we wake up in the morning we should dress ourselves in God’s armor. That is, prepare ourselves as if civilization depends upon us, because it does. We are fighting for a healthy Culture of Life, for a country that values virtue, moral law, order and truth.

As Paul counsels us: “Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil…Stand therefore, having girded your loins with truth, and having put on the breastplate of righteousness, and having shod your feet with the equipment of the gospel of peace; above all taking the shield of faith, with which you can quench all the flaming darts of the evil one. And take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God. Pray at all times in the Spirit, with all prayer and supplication”(Eph 6:11, 14-18)

George A. Peate, July 25, 2008



CHRISTIAN REMEMBER THIS
July 19, 2008, 10:34 pm
Filed under: Thriving Not Just Surviving!

THRIVING NOT JUST SURVIVING!

A series of reflections on living the Christian Life in a Time of Cultural Upheaval (a Culture of Life under attack by a culture of death which erodes traditional beliefs and values).

5

“…for love is strong as death…” (Song of Solomon 8:6) Yes, “love is strong as death”, in fact stronger as has been demonstrated definitively.

For on one occasion Love was betrayed with a kiss, accused falsely, scourged and mocked, led by a tether like an animal, but Love endured and remained strong.

On that day, Love was beaten and knocked down, spit upon, stripped and humiliated, but Love endured and remained strong.

Love fell under a burdensome weight, more than once, Love even trembled as its trial drew more severe, but Love endured and remained strong.

Nails were driven through Love’s limbs and blood drained from Love’s numerous wounds. Then death set upon Love a kiss complete and final, Love succumbed for a time.

A spear was thrust in Love’s unfathomable Heart, to empty it further, of all Hope. Then Love’s shame was hidden within Life’s tomb of rock.

But Love endured, revived, and proved for all time, that Love is strong as death and stronger yet unto Life eternal.

One of Love’s greatest admirers cried it out for all ages to hear: “I decided to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ and him crucified” (I Cor 2:2).

George A. Peate, July 19, 2008



“BEHOLD, I MAKE ALL THINGS NEW.”
July 17, 2008, 10:02 pm
Filed under: Thriving Not Just Surviving!

THRIVING NOT JUST SURVIVING!

A series of reflections on living the Christian Life in a Time of Cultural Upheaval (a Culture of Life under attack by a culture of death which erodes traditional beliefs and values).

4

In a time of trial by fire, there is need for hope. Some might say “We know the power of Love and we know that Faith leads to God and Heaven and Truth, but how does hope help us?” Hope is the forgotten theological virtue, the least glamorous of the three. Hope is the country cousin of the well known and much discussed other two; Faith and Love.

When the heart is heavy, the mind troubled, the will is wavering and even the senses are numbed, there is no reservoir from which to draw spiritual and moral sustenance for such a struggle except from Hope. There is natural hope residing within every human heart of course. But the theological virtue of Hope is supernatural – a gift of the Holy Spirit – for times of difficulty and challenge, whether routine or extraordinary.

“And he who sat upon the throne said, ‘Behold, I make all things new” (Rev 21:5).

Prior to this verse in Chapter 21 we are told about “a new heaven and a new earth; for the first heaven and the first earth have passed away”. And that “the dwelling of God is with men…he will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more…for the former things have passed away.” Here is described the reason for hope; eternal life with God.

But the one “who sat upon the throne” in Heaven, hung upon the cross on earth, and before that lay in a manger. He began making “all things new” from the moment of His conception. The Incarnation began this universal ‘construction project’ of making “all things new”. The Crucifixion and the Resurrection opened the gates to new life for humanity.

Pentecost sealed this ‘new arrangement’, this new spiritual configuration which we call the New Covenant. But now each one must “fight the good fight” (I Tim 6:12. II Tim 4:7-8) himself or herself, to claim the prize. As St. Paul once said: “I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus” (Phil 3:14). Accepting the promises of Christ is activity not passivity, struggle rather than complacency.

St. Paul is a great model for us: “I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. Henceforth there is laid up for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous judge, will award to me on that Day, and not only to me but also to all who have loved his appearing” (II Tim 4:7-8).

We are talking about hope, “new” hope in the Presence of the Spirit, in the glory of the Resurrection. He makes “all things new” – even Hope! Hope is no longer a sentimental desiring, no longer wishful thinking, wistful glances… New Hope is associated with tongues of fire, running a spiritual race (alone), fighting a spiritual battle(side by side with one’s fellow Christians against the evil one), reaching out for a crown…

George A. Peate, July 18, 2008



“NOW IS THE ACCEPTABLE TIME”
July 16, 2008, 10:39 pm
Filed under: Thriving Not Just Surviving!

THRIVING NOT JUST SURVIVING!

A series of reflections on living the Christian Life in a Time of Cultural Upheaval (a Culture of Life under attack by a culture of death which erodes traditional beliefs and values).

3

Saint Paul speaks of “working with” Christ, then:

“…we entreat you not to accept the grace of God in vain. For he says,
‘At the acceptable time I have listened to you,
and helped you on the day of salvation.
‘Behold, now is the acceptable time;
behold, now is the day of salvation.” (2 Cor 6:1-2)

And so is today the acceptable time, even when humanity’s moral compass is spinning wildly out of control – especially when it is spinning thus – this is the appropriate time to trust in God and seek His will with all our hearts. Paul is telling us that “the acceptable time” is the same time as “the day of salvation”. In other words, it is a time to act, to live by faith.

The day of salvation, if anything, is a day of spiritual opportunities, that is, it is a day full of promise.

But the world around us is shifting like the sand, blowing hither and thither, aimlessly destroying the moral order that had been constructed over the centuries according to the Judaeo-Christian heritage we perhaps took for granted for too long. Now it is disappearing. To be replaced by a false morality with new false gods and creeds of false tolerance which erode the true tolerance born of mercy which God taught us through the millennia.

But now, the Church is to be purified – is now being purified – has been undergoing purification for some time now, but did we notice? Did we understand?

The Christian must turn to God in union with the body of the Church and “accept the (purifying) grace of God”, not “in vain”, but with docility, in order to move the Church forward and his/her own relationship with God forward. Within this present cultural upheaval, one discovery the Church must make and the Christian must accept, is that God desires to purify His people.

So it was with the martyrs in prior turbulent times, so it is now in our own privileged time. The logic of Christian daily living is shifting a little bit now. Acts we once took for granted, must now be seen for what they are. To kneel and worship God, for example, is a privilege. Take advantage of it! And know that it is pleasing to God.

To offer thanks to God before a meal is a privilege. To sit in a chapel and pray quietly is a privilege. To take an evening walk and speak softly to God in Heaven is a privilege. Even to be purified – as hard as it might be – is a privilege.

The privileges multiply as grace abounds all the more, all around. But “the acceptable time” is also a time of responsibility. Listen to the question Jesus posed after one of His parables:

“…when the Son of man comes, will he find faith on earth?” (Lk 18:8)

Let him who has ears hear this question. Let each Christian reply as one New Testament parent did: “I believe; help my unbelief!” The Son of man wants to find faith on earth when He returns! Will He have to hunt forever to uncover our faith or will He immediately see it, perhaps flickering like a candle ‘midst breezes, but lit nonetheless?

Now let’s go back to the parable which preceded the foregoing question from Jesus. It was a parable about persistence in prayer (about the widow and the “judge who neither feared God nor regarded man” Lk 18:1-8). Perseverance in prayer provides stability in times of upheaval and faithlessness.

George A. Peate, July 17, 2008