Father Robert Barcelos, OCD: St. John of the Cross & Advent 3

Fatima, Portugal. Photo Credit: thespeakroom.org
Fatima, Portugal. Photo Credit: thespeakroom.org

The Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception

From the editor: Today, let us unite in prayer for peace in Israel and the Middle East. There have been momentous changes in the last few days. It  has become apparent that the Syrian War will eventually come to an end, and that Assad will be the ruler. In Israel, the governing body moved toward approving the legality of Israeli settlements in the West Bank, making the two-state solution less feasible. As Our Lady asked the children of Fatima to consecrate Russia to her Immaculate Heart (and thus, the Sacred Hearts), let us do the same for Israel & Palestine and the Middle East in our private prayers.- TL

Our penances and mortification have to have a Marian character. The touch of Mary in the mortification is the safeguard, for it keeps us healthy and gives us a proper understanding of the purpose of asceticism. I recently discovered something that probably many of you are familiar with, a book titled Mary as Seen by the Mystics written by Raphael Brown. He takes four or five different mystics, and gathers what they all wrote about Our Lady in different parts of her life.

My favorite part of Our Lady’s life is when she was a little girl. I love that! It’s so precious to see and contemplate Mary as a little girl. Brown looks at different segments of what was revealed to these mystics about Mary’s hidden life, and he consolidates them into different chapters. For instance, you read about Mary’s Presentation in the Temple as a three-year-old. At first, I thought, the stories were just pious hyperbole.   The hagiography seemed so romantic that the narratives didn’t seem like they could be real. But that only lasted a second.

I quickly thought afterwards, ‘Why not? She was truly immaculate, she didn’t have any of the defects of intellect and will that comes from fallen nature; she was operating on her faculties from the beginning of her existence and anointed with the fullness of grace on top of that innocent, pure nature. If all that is true, then nothing is impossible. Why couldn’t that happen? Why doubt it? What would anyone get out of doubting the Immaculata?

Her hidden life, as she lived it with her parents, sounds like the life of a saint in a contemplative convent or other saints in the history of the Church. She had a voluntary love for mortification and practiced them in order to give God glory and to offer Him reparation. When you read and contemplate this, it’s so magnificent and inspiring! We need to understand that Marian character. Our Carmelite constitutions say that even our mortification should have a Marian character to them.

The more we abide in communion with the spirit of Christ crucified, the more we are transformed, to become pneumatic, pneumatized, and transfigured in the Spirit. You’re so spirit-filled, the Spirit of God is so palpably living in you that He possesses you. The spirit of the Risen Savior begins to take possession of the soul. One becomes transfigured in the blazing light of the Risen Christ.

Saint Seraphim of Sarov, a great Russian mystic of the 19th century, a contemporary of Saint Therese, is considered the Saint Francis of the East. In the contemporary world, he lived the authentic spirituality of the desert fathers. Following the pattern of conversation of the desert fathers, Saint Seraphim was asked by one of his spiritual children, ‘What is the goal of the spiritual life?’ His answer was ‘The acquisition of the Holy Spirit.’ In my understanding, the response means, to become pneumatic, to become transformed in the Holy Spirit.

Isn’t that what Saint John of the Cross expresses in the Living Flame of LoveTo enter into the love relationship between the Father and the Son is to be transformed in the Holy Spirit. Saint John expresses it so deeply and explains that the Spirit in the soul begins to love the Father through the Son. You’re taken right into the heart of that dynamic synergy, that interplay and communion. Some mystics refer to it as the dance of divine love between the Father, the Son, and the Spirit. You are taken into the way that the three persons of the Trinity love one another.

…that’s just way beyond my ability to express any further… about such things we just must be silent… (to be continued).

May the Lord bless us, protect us from all evil, and bring us to everlasting life. Saint John of the Cross, pray for us.

(SOURCE: Carmelite Nuns Retreat, 12/2013)  Transforming Union: The Wisdom of Saint John of the Cross- transcribed by TL

Copyright 2016, Fr. Robert Barcelos. All Rights Reserved

Novena Prayer to St. John of the Cross

Lord, you endowed our Father, St. John of the Cross with a spirit of self-denial and a love of the cross. By following his example may we come to the eternal vision of your glory. Through his intercession, may we obtain the favor we ask for (pause for intention) if it be for our good and the greater glory of God. We ask this through Christ our Lord.  Amen.

Click here for a different daily Novena Prayer.

‘Arm yourselves with the armor of faith and the sword of truth.  Pray for the grace to forgive and to ask for forgiveness – and for the healing of wounded bodies and souls.’

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