Wednesday, February 3, 2010

What is the object of human life?

What is the object of human life? The enlightened conservative does not believe that the end or aim of life is competition; or success; or enjoyment; or longevity; or power; or possessions. He believes instead, that the object of life is Love. He knows that the just and ordered society is that in which Love governs us, so far as Love ever can reign in this world of sorrows; and he knows that the anarchical or the tyrannical society is that in which Love lies corrupt. He has learnt that Love is the source of all being, and that Hell itself is ordained by Love. He understands that Death, when we have finished the part that was assigned to us, is the reward of Love. And he apprehends the truth that the greatest happiness ever granted to a man is the privilege of being happy in the hour of his death.

He has no intention of converting this human society of ours into an efficient machine for efficient machine-operators, dominated by master mechanics. Men are put into this world, he realizes, to struggle, to suffer, to contend against the evil that is in their neighbors and in themselves, and to aspire toward the triumph of Love. They are put into this world to live like men, and to die like men. He seeks to preserve a society which allows men to attain manhood, rather than keeping them within bonds of perpetual childhood. With Dante, he looks upward from this place of slime, this world of gorgons and chimeras, toward the light which gives Love to this poor earth and all the stars. And, with Burke, he knows that "they will never love where they ought to love, who do not hate where they ought to hate."--Russell Kirk

In the paragraphs above, from A Program for Conservatives, Dr. Kirk addresses conservatives. However, I believe he also describes the calling of the Christocentric Life. His words remind us of our pilgrim status in this world of tears. We are not called to material success. We are called to obedience. We are called to love. We are called to love He who is Love Himself. A society where a large number of Christians know and live this calling will be transformed. The True, the Good, and the Beautiful will find their true place in our culture only when many more of us are obedient to Love.

O my God, I love Thee above all things, with my whole heart and soul, because Thou art infinitely worthy of love; I love also my neighbor as myself for the love of Thee. Amen

(cross posted to The Christocentric Life)

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Monday, January 4, 2010

The Christocentric Life--Let this be the year

"...whoever desires greater action needs better contemplation; whoever wants to play a more formative role must pray and obey more profoundly; whoever wants to achieve additional goals must grasp the uselessness and futility, the uncalculating and incalculable (hence "unprofitable") nature of the eternal love in Christ, as well as of every love along the path of Christian discipleship. --Hans urs von Balthasar

It is the start of a new year, a new decade. Many of us have set goals, made resolutions and prepared action plans. We may want to write a book, read more, earn more, be on time.
Perhaps with all of our self improvements and increased efficiency we can be more productive at work and at home.

Do we also have the desire to be disciples of Jesus? Von Balthasar urges us to live lives of greater contemplation so that our actions may further the Kingdom of God. As intentional disciples we know that living the life of eternal love may appear as foolishness to the world. However, our love is not calculated to please the world but is offered in gratitude to our Lord and for all of his children.
Whoever wants to command must have learned to follow in a Christ-like manner; whoever wants to administer the goods of the world must first have freed himself from all desire for possession; whoever wants to show the world Christian love must have practiced the love of Christ (even in marriage) to the point of pure selflessness.--von Balthasar
Here von Balthasar offers us a great challenge for to follow in a Christ-like (love immersed) manner may be to follow on to death. Do we trust the Lord (or anyone) enough to obey when everything we have may be demanded? Are we capable of freeing ourselves of all desire for possession? Only with the grace of God can we even conceive of why this may be desirable. Many of us may ask ourselves if we have ever felt a love so great that we would even consider this level of selflessness.

One might think that what our Lord asks is too much. Maybe to live the beatitudes is beyond human capability. Let's not be radical. After all, moderation in pursuit of supernatural virtue is no vice, is it?

Or perhaps for you this is not just the start of a new year or decade. Maybe now is the beginning of a new life in Christ. A life of radical love and radical commitment. Maybe this is the year when I love more than I have ever loved before. This could be the year when I live a life of gratitude and gift. Gratitude for the love of the Father and the sacrifice of his Son. Gratitude for the Holy Spirit who opens my eyes to the mystery of the Holy Trinity.

And this may be the beginning of my new life of sharing the love of the Lord with everyone I touch. Loving in a new way, with boldness and beauty. Maybe this is the beginning of loving without fear of rejection. Fear rejected and love embraced so that I am in communion with God and all his creation.

Yes Lord, please immerse me in your grace. Thank you Lord for your love. Thank you for your peace. Please Jesus help me to be more like you so that your light shines through me. I love You. Help me to love You more. Amen.

cross posted at The Christocentric Life

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Monday, December 28, 2009

The Christocentric Life--Inconvenient Truth and Loss

"The Jesus who makes everything OK for everyone is a phantom, a dream, not a real figure. The Jesus of the Gospels is certainly not convenient for us. But it is precisely in this way that he answers the deepest question of our existence, which--whether we want to or not--keeps us on the lookout for God, for a gratification that is limitless, for the infinite. We must again set out on the way to this real Jesus."--Benedict XVI
The twelve days of Christmas from December 25th through Epiphany on January 6th are a time of year when many of us are celebrating the birth of Jesus with great joy. A time of families reunited, gift and gratitude.

For others of us this is a time of heightened pain and struggle. We may be among the lost, the lonely and the broken. Praying for the love of God to fill our hearts for they are dark and empty. Come Lord Jesus, warm my heart with your love.

We may be mourning the loss of loved ones. Their absence is more sharply felt in a time when we most desire to heal our souls with the comfort of their loving embrace. A gentle touch, a kiss, a kind word which cannot be shared cuts like a knife into our wounded hearts. Come Lord Jesus, heal my heart with your love.

Perhaps we are struggling with financial hardship and despair over what the new year will bring. We have responsibilities to provide for our families and to meet our obligations but we lack control over our situation. Come Lord Jesus, take away my fear.

Our Father in heaven sent his only Son to us so that we may be healed by his love. He should have been welcomed with a warm embrace, instead he was spat upon. Jesus should have been protected by those he loved, but he was betrayed and abandoned by those closest to him. He was neither wealthy or powerful in the worldly sense. The Father knew this was how his beloved Son would be treated and still he sent Him to us. Why did the Son open himself up to this much pain? Could there be a bigger burden than to take on all of the sin of world?

"For God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten Son that whoever believes in Him shall not perish but have eternal life." Our Lord loves us so completely that he allowed his Son to suffer and die for us. This is an inconvenient truth. It is heart warming to think of the divine infant lying in a manger. But, we must be ever mindful that his purpose was to reconcile us with the Father. He chose to suffer for us so that we may find love eternal.

Lord Jesus, in our suffering, in our pain, in our fear give us the grace to open our hearts to you. For if we join our hearts with yours we may suffer but never will we be alone. We will be comforted and we will find hope. Father in heaven thank you for the gift of your Son. Mother Mary, help us to walk the path to the real Jesus. Amen.

cross posted at The Christocentric Life

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Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Beauty for Truth's Sake--Queen of the Sciences

Below is a post by Stratford Caldecott on Beauty for Truth's Sake. I highly recommend this site and his recent book by the same title. My comments are appended at the end.

Queen of the Sciences

Here is a passage from Fr Robert Barron's wonderful book
The Priority of Christ (pp. 155-6):

In the thirteenth century, Bonaventure maintained that all of the non-theological arts and sciences taught in the university find their proper center in theology, that science which speaks directly of Christ the Logos. As the rationality of God the creator, Christ is the physical, mathematical, and metaphysical center of the universe and hence the point of orientation for all of the sciences dealing with those dimensions.

In the nineteenth-century, at the high-water mark of modern foundationalism, John Henry Newman felt compelled to call for the re-insertion of theology within the circle of university disciplines. Following the inner logic of Christian revelation, Newman, like Bonaventure, saw that theology not only should be around the table, but must be the centering element in the conversation, precisely because it alone speaks of the creator God who is metaphysically implicit in all finite existence.
A few lines later he adds: "Newman saw that once theology is displaced, some other discipline necessarily takes its position at the center and thereby disturbs the proper harmony among the sciences, for no other discipline has the range or inclusiveness properly to hold the center."

The same argument is made powerfully in Alasdair MacIntyre's recent book,
God, Philosophy, Universities. But what is this "proper" harmony that Barron appeals to? Why is only theology capable of "holding the center"? The point is that, while theology cannot determine the methods or content of the individual sciences, it alone is concerned with that which transcends them all. It is a place-holder for that which connects everything - for what Barron terms "co-inherent relationality." Theology as a formal discipline is a quest for that relationality. Without it, rationality itself fragments and falls apart.

Icon by Solrunn Nes (www.icon-painting.com). "Just as the Virgin was called to offer herself entirely as human being and as woman that God's Word might take flesh and come among us, so too philosophy is called to offer its rational and critical resources that theology, as the understanding of faith, may be fruitful and creative. And just as in giving her assent to Gabriel's word, Mary lost nothing of her true humanity and freedom, so too when philosophy heeds the summons of the Gospel's truth its autonomy is in no way impaired. Indeed, it is then that philosophy sees all its enquiries rise to their highest expression" (John Paul II,Fides et Ratio, 108).

{End Caldecott post}
______________________

"Turning and turning in the widening gyre
The falcon cannot hear the falconer;
Things fall apart; the center cannot hold;
Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world"

These words of William Butler Yeats in The Second Coming may be used to describe a culture in which Christ is no longer at the center.

Thank you Mr. Caldecott for reminding us that when the study of theology loses its rightful position in higher education all learning and culture loses it unity. For without relationship with our Lord things fall apart and hope is lost.

cross posted at The Christocentric Life

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Monday, December 21, 2009

The Christocentric Life--Rendering God Credible

Above all, that of which we are in need at this moment in history are men who, through an enlightened and lived faith, render God credible in this world. The negative testimony of Christians who speak about God and live against him, has darkened God's image and opened the door to disbelief. We need men who have their gaze directed to God, to understand true humanity. We need men whose intellects are enlightened by the light of God, and whose hearts God opens, so that their intellects can speak to the intellects of others, and so that their hearts are able to open up to the hearts of others. Only through men who have been touched by God, can God come near to men.--Benedict XVI

What an amazing goal, to be a person "...who, through an enlightened and lived faith, render[s] God credible in this world." How close do we come to rendering God credible to this world? Is this even our desire? Do we believe it possible to become such a person? What is our picture of how such a person would live?

Where to begin? For many of us it may begin with a prayer: Lord immerse me in your grace so that I may joyfully accept your love. Help me, in loving gratitude, to make you the center of my life. Lord transform my faith so that I may render you credible to the world. Empower me to be your ambassador to my fellow men and strengthen me to serve you in humility. On my own I am weak, but with you Lord I believe all things are possible.

To put Christ at the center of our lives is the challenge of our age. To live our love of Christ with all our heart and all our mind and let His light shine through us for all to see. This is the call of the Christocentric life.

In his 2005 Subiaco address (quoted above) then Cardinal Ratzinger addressed the crisis of a European culture "...that, in a manner unknown before now to humanity, excludes God from the public conscience, either by denying him altogether, or by judging that his existence is not demonstrable, uncertain and, therefore, belonging to the realm of subjective choices, something, in any case, irrelevant to public life."

To heal such a diseased culture is possible. With the extraordinary love of a Father to show the true way, his children may render Him credible to the world. In the process we may bring many to know the joy of love everlasting. Please Lord, let it be so.

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Thursday, December 17, 2009

The Christocentric Life--Beauty

Our situation today shows that beauty demands for itself at least as much courage and decision as do truth and goodness, and she will not allow herself to be separated and banned from her two sisters without taking them along with herself in an act of mysterious vengeance. We can be sure that whoever sneers at her name as if she were the ornament of a bourgeois past--whether he admits it or not--can no longer pray and soon will no longer be able to love. -Hans Urs von Balthasar

We who pray for the grace to grow closer to our Lord may find an expanded relationship to him through beauty. As Balthasar points out to deemphasize beauty in our pursuit of truth and goodness is to risk losing all three of the transcendentals. Let us pray to know our Lord in his Holy Scripture and in the teachings of the Church. And also in the beauty of the liturgy and our worship. Many wonderful works of art, literature and music have the power to draw us nearer to God if we would welcome them into our lives.

In this season when the commercial nature of the Christmas season often confronts us with schlock and parodies of real beauty we can focus on the love of Christ as it is expressed in true beauty. A few suggestions: spend some time looking into Image (www.imagejournal.org). This a very fine journal and website dedicated to faith and beauty found in literature, music, and art. The Beauty of Holiness and the Holiness of Beauty, by John Saward, is a fine book which explores beauty as found in the lives of the saints and in the works of Christian art.

Pope Benedict XVI reminds us that "like the rest of Christian Revelation, the liturgy is inherently linked to beauty; it is veritatis splendor (the splendor of the truth)." He goes on to say "in Jesus we contemplate beauty and splendor at their source...no mere aestheticism, but the concrete way in which the truth of God's love in Christ encounters us, attracts us and delights us, enabling us to emerge from ourselves and drawing us towards our true vocation, which is love." --Sacramentum caritatis

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Wednesday, December 16, 2009

The Christocentric life--The Holy Angels

My good friend Fr. Titus Kieninger of Opus Angelorum (www.opusangelorum.org) writes to remind me that the Holy Angels live the Christocentric life. As we see in the Catechism of the Catholic Church:
331 Christ is the center of the angelic world. They are his angels: "When the Son of man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him." They belong to him because they were created through and for him: "for in him all things were created in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or principalities or authorities - all things were created through him and for him." They belong to him still more because he has made them messengers of his saving plan: "Are they not all ministering spirits sent forth to serve, for the sake of those who are to obtain salvation?"
As we await the celebration of the coming of our Lord let us ask his Holy Angels to intercede for us that we may live our lives dedicated to Jesus Christ. That our thoughts, our words, and our actions may reflect fully His love for us. That we may see in the world the beauty of His creation.

Angelic messengers please carry our prayers to our Lord that He may hear our eternal gratitude for a love beyond compare.

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Monday, December 14, 2009

The Christocentric life--Love conquers all

"Man cannot live without love. He remains a being that is incomprehensible for himself, his life is senseless, if love is not revealed to him, if he does not encounter love, if he does not experience it and make it his own, if he does not participate intimately in it. This...is why Christ the Redeemer "fully reveals man to himself." --John Paul II

To put Christ at the center of my life is, I believe, the very heart of discipleship. Accepting the love of Christ and responding by loving him in return. Through Christ loving my neighbor, for he too is a beloved creation of my Lord. This is the very core of the Christocentric life.

As a new contributor to Intentional Disciples I look forward to participating in a transformational experience. For certainly to follow Christ is to be transformed and transforming. To see all that we do through the lens of Christ will, for many of us, turn upside down our view of politics, art, economics, charity and work. I pray that it may be so for the kingdom of God is among us, and I wish to see all things new in Him.

Mine has been an interesting journey from agnostic to atheist; from atheist to Christian; and eventually into the Catholic Church. I have spent most of my life seeking truth, only to find that there was a God-sized hole in the center of my being. This hole could only be filled by the love of Christ. He waited for me to say "yes." A loving embrace which is never taken away. This is my home. I pray that we may encourage one another in love so that we forever experience the beauty of his Truth.

"May the Holy Spirit make you creative in charity, persevering in your commitments, and brave in your initiatives, so that you will be able to offer your contribution to the building up of the “civilization of love”. The horizon of love is truly boundless: it is the whole world!"--Pope Benedict XVI

(Winston Elliott III is married to Barbara Elliott. They have been involved with the Catherine of Siena Institute as teachers and supporters since 2004. They reside in Houston, Texas and together have four adult children.)

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