Father Robert Barcelos, OCD: Easter – third mansion: too human prudence

Rubens, Feast at the House of Simon the Pharisee (wiki commons)

The soul in the Third Mansion has not yet experienced the supernatural force of love; this is still a natural spirituality – it’s growing, its mature, it has foundations, but a person hasn’t entered yet into the more the supernatural, infused gifts of God’s grace.

As a result, because the supernatural force of love has not yet been experienced, as a Christian, the person’s love and response to God’s spirit is governed by an often too human prudence; this too human prudence limits the soul’s growth to what can be understood or measured by natural reason or common sense alone. This fault is a huge one for everybody, and priests are definitely no exception.

In the Third Mansion, especially, the biggest struggle is Pharisaism, becoming very Pharisaical, doing all the right things for the wrong reasons. It becomes more about you than it becomes about God. And when the ego gets involved in selfish ambition and jealousy, the drama in prayer groups, conflicts in parishes, all the chaos that happens in the parish staff, and all the difficulties like a soap opera can erupt.

Christians are human beings just like nonbelievers and anybody else. A big part of the Pharisaism in the Third Mansion can be one’s tendency to be attached to one’s own agenda, and not even know it. The person carries an ambition and an agenda that comes from one’s own will, but is done in the name of God.

As a result of this stronghold of egoism – the personal agenda, my will, and my way of seeing things, and my way of understanding the Doctrine of the Faith, and the tradition of the Faith – a person can become very legalistic. A person can become very legalistic and ultraconservative in a way that can limit growth, just like the Pharisees.

Prudence is one of the cardinal virtues; after humility, it is the most important virtue that bridges Humility and Love; Humility and Love are the most important virtues. Humility is the root, Love is the fruit, and the stem is Prudence – a proper understanding of how to apply the truth of God to respond to the will of God; a proper understanding of how to respond to God’s grace. That’s Prudence and it’s very, very important.

When Prudence becomes too earthbound, too human, too much natural reason left to itself, and not enlightened by supernatural faith and what God reveals about Himself and the radical, paradoxical nature of the Gospel, there begins to be a confusion of the Gospel.

SOURCE: Teresa 5, Copyright 2018, Father Robert Barcelos, OCD

 

Father Robert Barcelos, OCD: Easter – third mansion: mature friendship/hidden faults

The Third Mansion, the third stage, is what’s called mature friendship. Now our spiritual life is well-regulated. It’s well-ordered; we’ve been around the block spiritually a bit, we know where the pitfalls are and understand what it means to stay on track. We’ve picked up and we’ve learned a lot along the way.

Spiritual foundations have been laid. There is the practice of discipline, what the classical tradition calls mortification and penance, the desire to learn and grow in the things of God, especially prayer and meditation, and we also have an active life of charity. One is involved in some kind of service, some kind and giving of ourselves. It doesn’t necessarily have to be formally at the parish as a Catechist, Lector, or Eucharistic Minister. There’s some kind of gift of giving of myself on a regular basis.

The person acknowledges prayer now not simply as one of petition when in need, or for one’s own consolation, but prayer becomes a daily necessity for the battle of life. There is a renewed vigor, initiative, and longing of the soul. In other words, by this time, attendance at Sunday Mass is no longer enough. Daily mass becomes almost a necessity. We desire to attend prayer groups, retreats, days of recollection, and we consecrate our lives to God in a renewed way.

All of this becomes very important, and we not only want to turn to the heart of God in a renewed way, but to belong, be united and bound to the heart of God. For this reason, in this stage of the Third Mansion, people start to seek to belong to groups like the (Secular) Order of Discalced Carmelites, the Third Order, confraternities, and that kind of thing; religious vocations and holy marriages come from this third stage.

Some of these thoughts are collected, not verbatim, but collected from Father William Wagner, as part of the website, Opus Angelerum. Part of this mature friendship is a well-regulated spiritual life, which means a good moral life. One is consciously, carefully avoiding the sin, not only mortal sin of course, but including venial sin. One is actively, conscientiously putting one’s best foot forward. We become very aware of venial sin, and it becomes very important for us to it.

That was the positive. On the other side of the proverbial coin, now the other side, the predominant faults of people in the Third Mansion are hidden in the sight of others. People don’t see the faint faults of people in the Third Mansion.  People are not necessarily committing sin by deliberate actions or living a double life.

Edward Munch, Jealousy & Gossip (Wiki commons)

The predominant faults are mostly in the thought life of the person, in the thought life. What does that look like? – criticizing others, being very harsh in our judgment of other people, easily scandalized by other people’s thoughts when they’re not as holy as you would expect or want them to be, becoming easily scrupulous, often times of spiritual things, complaining.

One of many favorites from St. John of the Cross is spiritual gluttony. Spiritual gluttony can be understood in different ways. For instance, ‘I no longer have an addiction to shopping for fashion, but I have an addiction to shopping for rosaries and Catholic books and movies; it’s never enough. I always have to have the next best picture of our Blessed Mother and then my house is full of statues because I just can never have enough. Spiritual gluttony is about always wanting to collect and have these sense consolations.

Also in this stage could be gossip. Gossip is a tricky thing because it’s such a slippery slope. For example, I could start off saying something very pious like ‘Oh, let’s pray for this person and let me tell you why we need to pray for this person.’ And you go way more into detail than you need to, and without intending to, because of that going back and forth, you can easily spiral away into gossip more than it is concern for the soul.

One of the practical boundaries in checking ourselves and making sure we don’t slip into that, is the question ‘Would I say this in his presence? Would I say this if he were right behind me? Would I say this if this was being recorded and he or she would hear it?’ That is always a good test in regards to watching what we say.

Another fault in the Third Mansion is jealousy of other people’s spiritual gifts, subtly seeking’s ambition, wanting to be the Formation Director, wanting to be on the Council, wanting these positions of authority or prestige. It’ not that those positions are bad but as Saint John of the Cross would say, it’s the desire for them, when we want them – that’s not a good sign.

One of the remedies to get us out of these kinds of mental knots is to remember that it’s not all about you. We can easily get stuck in ourselves.

SOURCE: Teresa 5, Copyright 2018, Father Robert Barcelos, OCD

Father Robert Barcelos, OCD: Divine Mercy – God’s love loves us unto folly

Rembrandt, The Return of the Prodigal Son (wiki commons)

In the Third Mansion, one can become so accustomed to the things of God that one can lose one’s original fervor for things like sacrifice and penance and fervent prayer. As a result, we can have all the external trimmings but lack the fire, and just go through the motions; this is always a danger for anybody.

As a result, we can have positions of authority like priests and bishops and this too natural, too human prudence can get in the way of God’s will. It can get in the way of the Gospel because we can explain the Gospel away when it’s bound too much by a natural perspective of what is “prudent.”

What really brings about progress is the supernatural infusion of God’s love. Saint Therese often says, ‘God’s love, loves us to folly.’ In other words, God’s love can appear to be crazy; it’s so out-of-the-box, and it goes beyond human expectation, goes beyond the norm, goes beyond what’s conventional, neat and tidy; it goes way out to the periphery. God’s love, loves us unto to folly in ways that are startling, in ways that are shocking, and if you look at the cross – in ways that are scandalous.

God’s love knows no bounds. God’s is crazy about you. When Mother Angelica was going through the important transition and breakthrough, before EWTN came to birth, God told her in her heart of hearts, ‘Unless you’re willing to do the ridiculous, God will not do the miraculous.’ That nails it.

Most people are not willing to do or believe the ridiculous. ‘Thanks, but no thanks, pick somebody else, Lord. I’m going to stick to my novena and my normal routines. Pick somebody else for that one, sorry.’

Wisdom is to know when it is God asking us to do the ridiculous and not simply ourselves, or a temptation of the enemy disguised as something good. It takes wisdom to know when God is asking us to launch out into the deep, and we’re not being deceived. It takes wisdom and discernment.

Most people stay in the Third Mansion and part of the reason is because of this too human prudence.

SOURCE: Teresa 5, Copyright 2018, Father Robert Barcelos, OCD

Father Robert Barcelos, OCD: Jesus, our Divine Mercy

Photo credit: Lorelei Low, ocds

Let us Pray. In the of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit. Oh God in whom mercy is endless and the treasury of compassion and exhaustible, look kindly upon us and increase your mercy in us, so that in difficult moments we might not despair nor become despondent, but with great confidence, submit ourselves to your holy will, which is love and mercy itself.

My God, I believe, I adore, I hope and I love you. I ask pardon for those who do not believe, do not adore and do not hope, and do not love you. My God I believe, I adore, I hope, and I love you. I ask pardon for those who do not believe, do not adore, do not hope, and do not love you. My God I believe, I adore, I hope, and I love you. I ask pardon for those who do not believe, do not adore, do not hope and do not love you.

Jesus I love you, Jesus I love you, Jesus I love you. May the Lord bless us and draw us to everlasting life. Amen.

 

The Savior of the whole world. You hear that expression everywhere, on billboards, and sometimes, communicating it could seem like an advertisement, as if you’re trying to sell Christianity.

Sometimes these terms can cheapen the meaning of faith. Most of our postmodern secular culture, which has adopted a mentality of secular humanism, doesn’t buy Christianity. They’re very dissatisfied by organized religion. And that’s how I was. I was so dissatisfied by Christianity, and by what I saw at church on Sundays, which didn’t inspire me, and I wasn’t edified by what I saw the of televangelists on television.

For that reason, I was thirsty for spirituality. So I looked to other places, and I studied Far Eastern mysticism, and New Age spiritualities and philosophies. But after this experience, Jesus’ love gradually drew me back to Himself. On Divine Mercy Sunday, I had this wonderful gift of experiencing God’s mercy in a powerful way that had a great impact on me.

The result of it was, I found myself before the Blessed Sacrament. And I knew, that I knew, that I knew – without a shadow of a doubt, in the depth of my being – that Jesus is Lord, and the one Savior of the world.

There was no “if’s, and’s, or but’s” about it. It was crystal clear. Jesus is the Savior of the world. That basic truth that we often see cheapened on bill-boards, became so alive and so real, that it was utterly undeniable.  When I had surrounded myself with all these other options and different religious figures, my mind unconsciously watered that truth down.

But the truth that Jesus is the Savior of the world, was an unction of a conviction that was just grafted in me, branded in me on that one Divine Mercy Sunday.

Father Sophrony says, “Grace enlarges man to an unforeseen degree, to the dimensions of Divine boundlessness.” That’s Spirit-laced language.  To the degree of divine boundlessness. My Goodness!

Saint John Climacus is a desert father of the Greek Orthodox tradition, who lived around the sixth century. He was the abbot at St. Catherine’s monastery in Sinai and in the 500s, and he wrote the classic work, The Ladder of Divine Ascent.  He synthesized desert spirituality, gathered all the wisdom and tradition of the Desert Fathers together, and put it all into one source, one classic work.

Saint John Climacus says: “Who then, is that faithful and wise Christian, who has kept his fervor unquenched, and up to his Exodus, has not ceased adding fire to fire, fervor to fervor, longing to longing, zeal to zeal?”

We are never finished. As long as there will be more of God to give, there will always be more to receive. Jesus said, “It is finished,” but it’s never going to be finished in us. In other words, yes we only have one life to live— ‘you only live once,’ as many young people say— we only have one life to live, in terms of growing in grace, but we have all eternity, to grow in glory.

Saint Gregory of Nyssa expresses the truth of the beauty of God in his book Glory to Glory. The beauty of God, is incomparable; human language cannot fully express, cannot fully capture, nor can the human mind fully grasp it. Therefore St. Paul says, “Eye has not seen, ear has not heard.” And what the mind can’t even conceive, God has prepared for those who love Him. St. Paul also says in Ephesians 3:20, “God who is in us can do immeasurably more than we could possibly hope or imagine.”

To Christ Jesus, be glory in the Church, forever and ever, Amen.

SOURCE: New Mexico Retreat, 2017, “First Love Exodus”

Father Robert Barcelos, OCD: Easter – the second mansion: mortification & piety

Mortification is to die to this false self by deliberate actions and choices that kills the false self, and subjects the body to the spirit, but that can be misinterpreted; mortification subjects the ego to the Gospel and so there are certain voluntary choices and mortifications that a person adopts in order to cling to a definitive decision, and say to all those temptations and spiritual enemies, ‘No, no, no. I am not going backwards. You will not have me back. It’s over. The divorce has been signed, sealed, and delivered!’

Part of this asceticism is disciplining, laboring, ordering, and cultivating virtues in our lower faculties. When the scholastic writers of the Classic tradition talk about lower faculties, it seems that they are talking about the psyche – the immediate inclinations of the emotions and the immediate surface reactions of the will and the desires – the soul as distinct from the spirit, as Saint Paul refers to.

In this process, we need to accept the growing pains of what it means to die to our false selves. If we don’t accept the growing pains, we’ll never experience the new creation. We’ll never experience a new birth on a deeper level. The growing pains are inevitable in what it means to be in Christ. Jesus says, ‘If you want to be my disciple, pick up your cross and follow me.’ That means that there are going to be growing pains; it’s unavoidable.

The action of God here are sensible consolations, which are based on what can be perceived by the senses and what comes to the soul through the senses On the surface level of the soul, a person experiences for the first time, this real sense of God’s presence. The person experiences God’s presence in what seems to be a palpable way.

On the other side is a new type of trial that one goes through. This vigorous and at times painful effort is to be sustained by spiritual reading, which is really important in the Second Mansion. As the Rule of St. Albert of the Carmelite family says, ‘Holy meditation will save you.’

You’ve all probably had that experience where you are going through to this valley of obscurity, not knowing exactly whether you are up or down, or what was going on, or you weren’t able to pray. Then all a sudden, almost as if it fell into your lap, but somehow you opened up to some particular passage and it just totally encouraged you. It was just what the doctor ordered; it spoke straight to your heart and only God knew how perfect of a match and a fit this was.

‘These were just the words that I needed to hear and it was a proof that when I thought that I was walking by myself, it was all in vain, and God did not know my name, He forgot all about me – now this is showing very clearly God knows me thoroughly and He’s right here beside me because these words speak so strongly to exactly what I needed to hear. There’s no way that person knew or there’s no way that I just stumbled across this; it’s perfectly prescribed by the Divine Physician to bring courage to my soul.’

Spiritual reading, holy meditation will save you.

In the Second Mansion it is also important to get some spiritual direction, by someone – he doesn’t necessarily have to be a priest – just somebody that you trust who you know has been on the road longer than you, and has a some decent sense of discernment, someone who doesn’t think in worldly terms to make sense of your experience, but in Godly terms based on what they themselves have experienced and have been through.

He doesn’t have to be a priest – just someone who has been walking with the Lord. Spiritual friendships are important to keep us on track, and to keep us going.

In the First Mansion, the Gift of the Spirit was the Fear of the Lord. In the Second Mansion the primary Gift of the Spirit that’s growing in us is Piety – reverence, a personal love for the things of God.

We’ve gone from the first stage, the state of basic friendship, just trying to avoid hell, we have a fear of the Lord, and we do good so that we can get a reward. The second stage is an active life of friendship, and a personal relationship with God is developed. We have reverence and love for the things of God. Easter will bring about our discussion of the Third Mansion.

Father Robert Barcelos, OCD: Lent – the second mansion: spiritual battle

 

Giacinto_Gimignani_, An Angel and Devil Fighting for the Soul (wiki commons)

St. Teresa’s only chapter on the Second Mansion, according to the translation of Allison Peers, is titled by one word – WAR. This a reason why you can see so many people who are “born again” go backwards. After their high or honeymoon or their jailhouse conversion, they return to the spirit of the world and to their old ways, their old lifestyles

This is not necessarily because of insincerity; it’s because the battle is strong at this stage. A lot comes against people, and the longer we’re away from the Lord, the fiercer the battle when we try to come back and stay with the Lord. Get ready for the battle. Get ready to throw down.

The longer we’re away, the bigger the battles. Part of this is simply battling against old weeds in our lives. We have to destroy the weed while it’s still a seed. The first moment a weed comes up in your thoughts, eradicate it, renounce it in Jesus’ name. Do not entertain it. Because the more that weed grows, the more it takes root in the soul and the harder it is to get rid of.

Destroy the weed while it is still a seed. We battle old weeds and thorns that will try to return to the surface. We battle to overcome badly acquired inclinations and habits of disorder, or negative forms of reacting to stress and crisis, or when things don’t go our way, or when we’re not acknowledged. We feel abandoned.

The lower faculties of the soul, which is called the psyche – the emotions, thoughts, the imagination – start to be attracted again to the things left behind for God. Now that I’m going through this battle, and I’m not feeling closeness to God, and the comfort of what it means to be faithful, and to belong to God, I start to get weak and my flesh starts to dominate; I have these inclinations to take refuge in the things of the world.

When experiencing spiritual consolation, the soul doesn’t have any attraction to the things of the world. It’s rubbish, easy to give up, no problem – as long as God is offering something better.

St. John of the Cross speaks of the metaphor of God putting spice on the mother’s breast of a breast-feeding child, in order to wean the child off of the nursing mother. God puts a spice, as it were, on the breast to make the child detach itself from these immediate sense consolations that keep us in an infant stage, and to prepare us to be able to eat the meat, and not rely on baby food. He hides His face

At this time, the old self tries to regain lost ground. The battle can be fierce, very fierce. The ascetical challenge here, in terms of how we respond, is mortification, self-denial of the appetites.

SOURCE: Teresa 5, Copyright 2018, Father Robert Barcelos, OCD

Father Robert Barcelos, OCD: Lent – the second mansion: aridity & false humility

Photo credit: Lorelei Low, ocds

In the Second Mansion, after the high honeymoon, perhaps similar to that of the three apostles of the Transfiguration, the soul is now confronted with aridity, which means dryness and trials. The soul can easily become discouraged. For example, now, one can become far more aware of oneself and one’s own issues than ever before because Jesus says to the soul, ‘Now that we have a personal relationship and I have proven to you how good my love is, how good I am, how worthy of trust I am, now that you’re following me let’s take some time to clean things up.’

We go through this desert of aridity and all that we can seem to be aware of is that we’re no longer receiving lights about coming to know God and His greatness in different ways. We are no longer relishing the different ways in which we learn about the things of God and the new experience of joy that brings into our life.

Now that it’s dry, I’m starting to see myself in a new light, and I recognize the areas for improvement and need for growth and healing that I wasn’t aware of before. I didn’t even know I had these issues. I didn’t even know I had these needs that needed to be attended to.

Our Holy Father, Saint John of the Cross, provides the classic example of this experience as the light shining through the window. If the light isn’t shining through the window, the spots are hardly visible. But once the light shines through, you can see all the scratches, the spots, the smudges, and the nose marks from kids putting their face to it. All of that is visible now.

When a person experiences these things and has become far more aware of these issues in his life, he wonders ‘What’s happening to me? Is this normal? Where do I go from here?

Discouragement can easily settle in and part of this is spiritual pride. Because the soul has experienced consolations, new pastures and prosperity in the Holy Spirit, the soul can become pompous. And when the soul sees its faults and defect in a clearer light than before, that same pride becomes scandalized at itself and very discouraged. Often times, more often than not, discouragement comes from spiritual pride – because we relied on ourselves and now we’re surprised that we couldn’t do it on our own.

Also, at this time, the devil tempts the soul to return to his former ways – go backwards. The evil one says, ‘You don’t have to be this. You don’t have to be a fanatic after all. Just be a decent Christian like everybody else. Live a normal life. Just go to church on Sunday. You don’t have to be going everyday, you don’t have to be going to adoration. Just be a normal Catholic.’

The devil tempts the soul to go backwards, to give up, and it uses thoughts of false humility to do so. False humility is prevalent in the Second Mansion, and it works against. Saint Teresa talks a lot about false humility.

The enemy can even be as audacious and cruel as to say as the Accuser, ‘You can’t do it! You’ll never make it! You’ll never be free! You really belong to me! This whole religious thing is just a phase! Give it up.’ That’s very real.

SOURCE: Teresa 5, Copyright 2018, Father Robert Barcelos, OCD

Father Robert Barcelos, OCD: Lent – the second mansion: spiritual pride

In the Second Mansion, a peace of soul, the correction of our faults on a more refined level, is sought after. We become more aware of our faults on a different level. We become more conscientious about the need to detach ourselves from things that are holding us back from growing spiritually. We begin to really consider organizing a certain kind of plan, if you will, for our spiritual life, wanting to put our spiritual life in order and really examining our conscience.

Before, we were just going through the motions and not really being aware even, or taking time to examine our conscience. Now, these actions are starting to be kicked into gear.

On the other side of the proverbial coin, in the second stage of this active life of friendship, when the spiritual life and a personal relationship with Jesus is developing, the soul in its prosperity, can tend to easily become pompous, spiritually pompous.

Spiritual pride is dominant here, as our Holy Father Saint John of the Cross talks about in The Ascent of Mount Carmel. As result of the new lush experience of the spiritual life, we can easily look down on others who don’t know what we’ve come to know. The soul tends to attribute a great deal to itself and it presumes that it’s we ourselves who have gained this victory, as if we’ve earned it, deserved it, or as if we’re more special than others.

In this second stage, the soul believes it is very far advanced and it desires to make converts of everybody, so that everyone can be where the soul believes it’s at. This is a normal thing. Whenever we experience something wonderful, we want others to share it.

Plato’s Allegory of the Cave (Wiki Commons)

Whenever we, as Plato said in that beautiful analogy of the cave, have come out of the darkness of the cave that we thought was the whole reality, once we’ve come to see the lights outside of the cave- or in postmodern terms, once we come out of the matrix – we want to show other people. We want to lead other people, we want to share it, and a person can tend to become almost pushy in wanting to share our faith and wanting to make converts of everybody.

The classic example of this is for Christmas or Easter, we give people their ‘salvation kit,’ putting in a scapular, a rosary, and a prayer book; all these things are good and it’s typical of a new convert. This is a normal stage of transition and growth.

SOURCE: Teresa 5, Copyright 2018, Father Robert Barcelos, OCD

Father Robert, OCD: Lent – first and second mansions

Photo Credit: Lorelei Low, ocds

There are some basic steppingstones for each of the three stages of the prayer life and I will relate just some of the basic points. It’s not an exhaustive representation of the first three Mansions by any means, but it’s a start.

The first stage, or the First Mansion is a state of friendship with God – being in “good terms” with God, but not on the level of deep intimacy. A person in this stage does not yet have a personal relationship with Jesus, but is just living a godly life as best as possible.

That’s a big difference. One is trying to be as observant of one’s religion and faith as possible, live a good godly decent life, but doesn’t have a deep, personal relationship with God yet in the first stage. A person in the first stage usually makes a conscientious effort to avoid mortal sin, and is no longer captive to the world of the flesh and the devil, to the same extent as those outside the castle.

At least now, some kind of prayer life is in place. The common form of prayer in the first stages is vocal prayer: recited prayers, communal prayer, the rosary. For example, praying before meals and after meals, the rosary on occasions, going to Mass on Sunday, the Guardian Angel prayer before going to bed. Just simple things like this – the first stage.

There are no manifestations of the actions of God in this soul, nothing extraordinary or supernatural happening. The primary gift of the Spirit in this stage, in terms of what the Scholastics called the gifts of moral perfection, is Fear of the Lord, which is a good thing because this is the first stage of wisdom.

You don’t want to offend God. As we say in the Act of Contrition ‘My God I’m sorry for my sins in choosing to sin, and failing to do good.’ Fear of the Lord is a good start.

The second stage or Second Mansion is a deeper, more active life of friendship with God. A spiritual life now is starting to begin, and a personal relationship with Jesus is becoming more meaningful and important to me, personally in a deeper level.

At this stage, people say things like, ‘I was Catholic all my life, but I didn’t know it could be this good. I didn’t know adoration. I didn’t know about all these great treasures of the Church. I didn’t know any of that. I have been a Catholic going to church all my life and for the first time, I am discovering Catholicism, I am discovering Jesus.

This is the second stage. Searching for a deeper meaning in life, and all the strength of heart and will is now directed to growing spiritually. Whereas before, I was just into shopping, fashion, sports, television, entertainment and vacations. I was trying to be as good as possible, but ultimately, my passions were about those things.

But now, for the first time, I am serious about wanting to grow spiritually, and it’s actually important to me. I’m making it a priority. In this new birth in grace, one begins to become a new creation. A new self begins to emerge, the true self. The soul applies itself to a deeper prayer than before. Now, one has become exposed, interested, and begun to practice meditation, what Saint Teresa refers to us Mental Prayer or Recollection.

SOURCE: Teresa 5, Copyright 2018, Father Robert Barcelos, OCD

 

Father Robert Barcelos, OCD: Jesus, savior of the world

God’s Love is stronger than any evil in the world, once and for all. That doesn’t mean free will cannot be taken. That doesn’t mean bad things are not going to still happen to good people. That doesn’t mean that the laws of life are not going to run their natural course. That doesn’t mean that there will be no natural disasters, accidents, failures, pain, or suffering. It doesn’t mean that. But it does mean that the door, which gives us access to victory amidst every crisis, has been opened. It means that God’s Love entered into the world to provide the remedy to heal every heart.

Father Sophrony explains the Cross, the Resurrection, and the Ascension, and then proceeds to the mission of the Spirit. He writes, “The Comforter, the Holy Spirit, came down to earth to glorify this Love.” What Love? Jesus who came, who was crucified, and who conquered. Jesus Incarnate is our incarnation. In the cross and resurrection, Jesus came, was crucified, and yet He conquered. As Fulton Sheen said, “He was born to die”  – to give His life for us on the Cross.

No other religion speaks like this. A lot of religions have things in common, like values and virtues on a natural level like be charitable and loving. Christianity has a lot in common with world religions in the human level.

But when it comes to the vertical, supernatural level, Christianity is unprecedented. And utterly unique.

Father Sophrony explains, ‘The Holy Spirit came down upon earth to glorify this Love of Christ and to guide the faithful into all truth,’ as Jesus says in John 16. The Holy Spirit came to bear eternal witness — He came to bear eternal witness to the endless enlargement brought about by this Love.  Finally, Father Sophrony says, “The Holy Spirit came to bear witness to Christ as the Savior of the whole world.”

Father Sophrony quotes from Corinthians II 6:13 and Chapter 3 when he speaks about Christ’s endless enlargement, this “unlimited horizon.” Saint Paul says, “The Lord is Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom.” And then Paul continues, “We behold Jesus’s face unveiled, unlike Moses in the temple.”

In the New Covenant, we have full access, so we unveil our faces to behold His Face, and in doing so, we are transfigured, transformed, and metamorphosed, from one degree of glory to another – through the Spirit who is living within us. That’s the endless enlargement brought about by this Love.

SOURCE: New Mexico Retreat, 2017, “First Love Exodus”