There was much darkness over the earth, lightning, thunder and rain. The fading sun had covered its face with a dark veil of clouds and Mother Earth had just calmed down after a violent mourning dance.
My eyes were captivated by a little gathering of people on a hilltop. Many were coming down, with weeping, sadness, happiness, and even with cruel faces; they looked as if they had soaked themselves in blood.
Curiosity dragged my exhausted soul to the hilltop. With each step my faded vision became clearer, and I beheld a lifeless figure hanging on a tree between the heavens and the earth, arms stretched and nailed, and so were the feet. I drew closer to the tree with stumbling steps. His whole body was nothing but one wound with a face disfigured and fallen to the chest, with total poverty, total surrender and total giving.
Yet such majesty and splendor in that lifeless face made those who looked at it tremble! There was more longing than pain in that face; yes, it suffered and died of longing. His hair was wet and mixed with blood and mud, tangled on the long sharp thorns that adorned his head.
The descending sun decided to withdraw its dark veil, making me turn my face from its blinding light. My sight fell upon a woman, a woman of surpassing majesty, standing firm beneath the tree, strengthening a young man who seemed to strengthen her. Her face much brighter than the sun, and her eyes sparkled clearer than crystal.
Her gaze was firmly fixed upon the tree. Tears upon her cheeks glittered like diamonds struck by the bright rays of the sun. Suddenly something cold fell on my eyes, washing away the dust that faded my vision. Wiping it with my hand I saw blood mingled with water. I Looked up and saw a lance coming out of the heart of the lifeless One.
“My God, My Lord!” My whole being trembled, my legs lost their remaining strength, and for a moment my heart stopped. “My God, My Lord!” I had just looked at the One whom they had pierced!
I remained prostrated with my face buried in my hands when I felt strong hands lifting me up, but I had no courage to raise my eyes. The hands touched my face and turned it toward the young man at the side of the Woman beneath the Cross.
His beloved disciple, asked me, “Why did you take so long. Where were you all this time?” I remained speechless; my throat was blocked with sobs. He continued, “Do not worry child, everything will be alright. He was waiting for you, and knowing that you would be here, He left someone for you with me.” I looked at him perplexed. He grabbed my arm and led me to the Woman beneath the Cross.
She spoke to me saying, “Little one, look at Him; He is hanging there for you, look at Him.” I slowly raised my eyes to the Cross, resting my head upon her heart. She continued, “Look at that face, which Moses once longed to see but was refused. Now He longs to see yours.
Just before He offered His life, He asked for you; He thirsted for you. Look at those sacred feet, which walked miles and miles from one place to another hoping to meet you. See those hands that touched, healed and comforted countless souls. With each touch, His eyes were searching for you, my little one.”
I had nothing to say; not a word came from my mouth. With each word that came from the Mother, a deep sorrow penetrated my soul, yet I was comforted by the peace I gained from her heart.
She spoke again, breaking the minutes of silence. “At the garden of Gethsemane, when He was crushed in agony, He thought of you. At the pillar when He was scourged, at each blow on His cheek, He thought of you. When He fell under the weight of the Cross with no strength, He gained it back when He thought of you. Even when I met Him on the way of the Cross, when His eyes met mine, they searched for you. On the Cross, He waited for you for three hours. I saw and heard His cry of thirst for you. My little one, He knew that you would come, and that is why before commending His Spirit to His Father, He left me here for you.”
I no longer could hold my sorrow and I cried out, “Why, Oh why my Mother did He think of me? Why would He think of this poor wretch who was the cause of all His pain?” She spoke again, “O little one, the thought of you gave Him the strength all the way through, because His love for you surpassed all the horrors of His Passion.”
I cried out saying, “How could He love me Mother, for I caused Him unutterable pain! In all His wounds I see my sins. In every scratch and tear in His body I see my impurity. My pride has crowned Him with thorns, my lack of love for Him and my neighbor has pierced His adorable Heart. Mother, I gave Him those ugly wounds, I killed your Son; I killed Life Itself!
Oh Mother why, why do you still love me? I pierced your heart with a sword. Why do you still love me?” At this, she held me even closer and with an ever gentle voice I heard her say “In every wound that seems ugly to you, I see the jewels of love, the treasury of His love exposed. My little one, love makes everything easier.”
I sobbed and said to her, “Mother I have failed, I have failed to love Him. I ran away from him, I refused to help Him carry the cross; I pushed Him away when He wanted to embrace me, in fear of His crown of thorns. Oh Mother forgive me and beg Him pardon for me, for to you He refuses nothing.”
At this she said, “My little one, He already has forgiven you. Look, He left His Heart open for you. Enter in at any moment you desire.”
I looked up, and the sun’s fading brightness still lit everything around. I looked upon the face of my Mother on whose heart I was resting. I said, “Mother I beg you, do not forget this ungrateful child, though I had forgotten Him.”
She looked into my eyes with a gaze that penetrated into my soul, and smiled, giving me an assurance of her prayers. Oh, such beauty, such love, such hope and joy in those tearful eyes! Would I not die a thousand deaths to gaze upon such splendor?
I heard the beloved disciple say, “Child, the sun has gone down, but it will rise again.” With those words, I rested my head again upon her Immaculate Heart. We, the disciple and I, remained there under the mantel of Our Mother, with our eyes fixed upon the One Whom they have pierced.
In The Impact of God, Iain Matthew explains that the proper understanding of emptiness requires a fundamental revision of how we perceive our own roles and our relationship to God. He writes, “our main job is not to construct but to receive; the key word will be not be so much ‘achievement’ as ‘space.’” We must make space for God in order to receive.
Iain Matthews points out that Christian progress means searching for the one who is giving joy to my life, who seems to believe in me, who makes me alive. In using the different images in his poetry, Saint John of the Cross emphasizes that our spiritual lives is not about forging a way, but about our getting out of the way. Iain Matthews writes, “Progress will be measured less by ground covered and more by the amount of room God is given to maneuver.” Therefore, space and emptiness are key words which are synonymous with what Saint John of the Cross means for nada, nada, nada.
We must rid ourselves of expectations that are not in alignment with how God is being present, is being active, is connecting and communicating, and which prevents us from even noticing His activity. He is always there constantly, in one way or another, and sometimes, He is more intensely felt than at other times. Even when He is present and manifesting Himself, but not according to our expectations, or even when we don’t recognize Him in our conscious awareness, we have the choice of celebrating the gift and the grace of that manifestation, rather than allowing ourselves to be taken under the rip roaring rapids of other fixations.
Attachment is primarily about attitude. Where is my heart? What is my heart clinging to? Therefore, it’s not about created things, as much as the desire to hold on to certain things. Those attachments don’t necessarily have to be about material things; it could be about interior attachments.
No thing. God cannot be tied down by created order. He’s not a creature and is not part of his creation but rather, He transcends time, space and even human concepts. Human concepts can point us in the direction of what God has revealed about Himself. Right reason enlightened by faith can point us to a relationship with the true reality of God. But ultimately, that reality of love transcends anything that can be tied down. That reality of love is Somebody who is infinite.
Copyright 2017, Father Robert Barcelos, OCD. All Rights Reserved
On a moonlit night, October 2017, Father Robert Barcelos, OCD consecrated Mount St. Josephs Monastery (San Jose, CA) and the families of those attending a special 100th Fatima Anniversary event, to the Sacred Heart of Jesus and the Immaculate Heart of Mary. Father Robert reiterated that no matter how difficult or impossible our situations can seem, in the Immaculate Heart of Mary, the victory has already been won. We need to claim that truth for our lives.
This is the prayer that the congregation prayed. Feel free to print out the prayer and the image, and sign as your covenant with God. May it bring blessings to your own families.
O’ Sacred Heart of Jesus, source of all consolations. Redeemer of the human race! Look mercifully upon us, kneeling before you, with the desire of entrusting ourselves to Your Most Sacred Heart and to the Immaculate Heart of Your mother. We wish to be entirely Yours, and therefore, we humbly ask You to accept this offering as a token of our gratitude and love. On this day, we solemnly consecrate our family and home to Your Most Sacred Heart! You, the Creator of heaven and earth, desired to become the Son of Mary, Mother of the entire human race. On this day, we thank You in a special way for this precious gift of Your Mother, and following Your example, we too wish to offer ourselves entirely to her as her true children. May this consecration to the Heart of Your Immaculate Mother, strongly unite and bind us to Your Most Sacred Heart.
O Immaculate Virgin Mary, living tabernacle of the Most Holy Trinity! Once as the son of Elizabeth leaped with joy at the sound of your voice, we too leap with joy in your presence, because you brought Christ to us! As you filled the home of Elizabeth with the Divine grace of your Son, we beg you to fill our hearts and home with the Spirit of God’s love and grace!
We Your children, kneeling at your feet, solemnly consecrate to your Most Immaculate Heart our beloved family and home. To you we give our past, present, and future; to your care we entrust all that we are and all that we have. You know all our sufferingws and hopes; in your Motherly Heart you feel all the struggles and challenges we face between good and evil; between light and darkness. Accept the plea which we make directly to your heart, and with your maternal love embrace this family, which we entrust to you with affectionate love. Be our teacher and our guide in following the path of your Divine Son. May your presence refresh and nourish our faith and open the gates of grace to produce fruits of the Holy Spirit in us.
O’ Compassionate Mother, wash us with the blood of your Son; for the sake of His Sorrowful Passion, save us from evil inclinations, clothe us with His Glory, and adorn us with your virtues. Offer us to the Most Sacred Heart as a living and loving sacrifice, that we may live only for the Glory of God. May your smile dispel the darkness from our midst; may your touch bring healing to our souls and bodies, and may your love enkindle in our hearts the fire of Divine Love, that we may spread this flame wherever we go.
In confidence we gaze upon your face, O’ Amiable Mother, because you are the smile of God, the reflection of the light of Christ, the dwelling place of the Holy Spirit, and the Mother of the afflicted. Our life! Our sweetness! and our hope! Pray unceasingly for us your children, that one day, uniting our voices to yours, with angels and saints, we too may sing an eternal hymn of praise to the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, Amen!
On this ______ day of _______ in the Year of Our Lord _______
Reminder: Light your candle for All Souls Day
Until this day, the effect of the alteration strange and beautiful comes to all of those upon whom the grace of God has blown. That means, dearest ones, that we now live inside the three Persons, though it takes a great act of faith it takes to confess that.
In our existence, and in a world which seems increasingly closed in upon itself, where we witness in our time the implosion of individuality, it takes a great act of faith to confess that. Nevertheless, the mystery of Pentecost proclaims to us that we live inside God, and not in a way that we cease to be the human creatures that we are; not in a way in which our personhood is in any way diminished, but instead, it is enlarged.
How is it enlarged? Well, we shall know that in the age to come, in the regeneration, when we shall partake of those things that the Church’s prayer of thanksgiving says are still are unknown to us: “We give thanks to the things that are known and unknown.”
What is unknown to us? What is unknown to us, yet already has been given to us, is that when we shall fully live inside the one God in three persons, in the three divine persons, we shall also–all of us—live within each other. Ponder that for a moment.
Each of us, all–and I don’t mean the few of us here. But all of those persons created in the image and likeness of God from Adam until the end. Each of those, who reach their destiny, upon whom the grace of God has blown and have become transformed with the alteration strange and beautiful, shall live inside each other with a capacity that is limitless.
Our minds collapse when we try to imagine eternity because we are confined in time and find it difficult to get past the notion of time that goes on and on. Yet that will be no more, but instead, there will be the eternity of God. God will be all in all, says St. Paul. And in that God being all in all, all who are in God will be “all” in each other.
Can you imagine just for a moment: each one of us, every angelic and human person that has been created by the one God in three persons, having a limitless capacity for the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit? Can you imagine the immensity of that?
People who experience human love in this world – in marriage, in true friendship–have a small reflection of that “insidedness.” Often, spouses and friends who love each other suffer from love. Love makes them suffer. With the taste of the love that they have, comes the experience of its limitations; there is still an “outsidedness” that prevents the within-ness from being complete.
What about when that outsidedness is removed and doesn’t exist anymore? All outsidedness with God removed! All outsidedness with each other removed!
And everything that is experienced of the divine Persons and of the human persons and of the angelic persons is a limitless banquet of delight and beauty and perfection!
What about that? There will be no end! ‘
‘Then shall I know, even as I am known,’ says St. Paul when he speaks of faith, hope and love abiding and the greatest of these is love. Then shall I know even as I am known!
So, dearest ones, on the day of Pentecost, let us exult in this mystery of insidedness, withinness, and magnify the one God in three persons, as persons created by Him, who by His unimaginable love, have become transformed with the alteration strange and beautiful that He has breathed upon us.
Then neither life nor death nor things present nor things to come nor any other thing can separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord. Come, Holy Spirit, fill the hearts of us, Your faithful, and enkindle in us the fire of Your love, now and unto the endless ages. Amen.
The second cause is the Ascension of the Lord, when He is exalted over the earth and crosses the threshold back into eternity from where He came. But, you see, He did not come from eternity bearing humanity. He returned to it (eternity) bearing humanity, clothed in humanity, not in a garment that one takes off, but in that which has become part of Him.
With our humanity, the Son of God crosses the threshold of eternity, and this is also another cause that has an effect in the very heart of things. And that effect is that the life of God is poured out upon the world, as a result of the entry of a piece of that world into eternity in the ascended body of the Lord. So there is cause and effect, and action and reaction in the work of God, in the very heart of things.
That life-giving power, as wind and as fire–not wind and fire but as wind and as fire–came down during Pentecost and drove the apostles forth to breathe on the world, as God had breathed on them; and we, upon whom the grace of God has blown, have grown bright and radiant as lightning transformed with an alteration strange and beautiful. Well, that is an introduction to what the alteration is. Now we must speak of the alteration itself–its strangeness and its beauty.
The alteration that we have received, that has been breathed upon us, that has made us strange and beautiful, is that we have received what Jesus our Lord speaks of in the Gospel as the gift of God, the living water. In receiving it, we have become sources of it. The living water has come to us and now gushes up within us unto life everlasting.
What is life everlasting? It is the life of the one God in three Persons, and those three Persons live inside each other. They do not live external to each other, but within each other. Though they live within each other, their unique Personhood is in no way diminished but magnified.
The great iconographer Andrei Rublev has, as far as it is possible to do so with art, captured that in the icon of The Trinity. All of the three Persons are shown there as having eyes only for each other, the Son and Spirit having their source, their origin in the Father. Yet the Son and the Spirit do not have an origin and source in time but in the Father. So in that eternity, they live in each other!
How great a mystery that is for creatures like us who have endured the curse of the fall and death and live outside of each other–and outside the one God in three persons. God partially reveals Himself, but the reason why the revelation is partial in the Old Covenant is that you still can’t get in! “Moses, you have seen My back, but you cannot see my face” [God says].
Father David Anderson is pastor of Saint Peters Eastern Catholic Church in Ukiah, California. This homily was given May 2016.
“Magnify, O my soul, the one God in three Persons,” St. Gregory the Theologian said, while speaking on the day of Pentecost, words which have been set to song by the Church to the services of this day by the great hymnographers, especially St. John of Damascus: “We celebrate the day of Pentecost, the coming of the Holy Spirit, the appointed day for the promise, the fulfillment of our hope, a breathing which is the breath of God, a present share in the tongues of fire.”
A breathing, which is the breath of God, and a present share in the tongues of fire – that is the fulfillment of our hope, which has been given to us in the coming of the Holy Spirit on the day of Pentecost.
For 33 years now, as I have preached on Pentecost, at some point I say the last verse of the Matins canon: All of us, upon whom the grace of God has blown, have become radiant as lightning, transformed with an alteration strange and beautiful.
What is this alteration strange and beautiful, which is the fulfillment of our hope, and the present share in the inheritance God gives to his own? To know what it is, not only with the mind but with the entire being, we must begin from the world that we observe and the life that we live in it–and that is, everything happens as a result of causes and effects, actions and reactions.
We observe this constantly. We observe it so much that perhaps we don’t even think of it, even though it surrounds us constantly: causes and effects. The reason why the world operates and life seems to operate by causes and effects is that everything is a faint reflection of how God is, how God works.
In this Paschal time, we have celebrated and partaken of what could be called the two great causes and effects of our God. First, the cause of the voluntary death of the Son of God made flesh. He, who is utterly in His personhood outside creation, entered that creation and gave His life for that creation voluntarily, as an act of His will. This is a cause.
And it produces an effect, an effect in the very heart of things, so much beyond and so much deeper even than all the causes and effects that scientists can observe in the universe. The effect caused by the voluntary death of the Lord Jesus Christ is His Resurrection. His death causes it, because it is a singular death of a singular person, who uniquely and voluntarily enters into death with our humanity and thus unravels it.
We hear of that unraveling in the accounts of the Lord’s death in the Gospels; even the cosmos bears witness to it, and we could say, some of the dead prematurely come forth because at the very depths of existence, death is despoiled of its power. And so, we proclaim that not one dead remains in the tombs, because Christ is risen. His death causes His Resurrection. By His Cross, joy has come into the world. (to be continued)