A Season of Rebirth

Helebores - Lenten rose

Lenten Rose in a winter garden (photo source unknown)

First Sunday of Lent,
Cycle A: Genesis 2:7-9, 3:1-7

As we hear the story of the Fall in Genesis, the same question that God asked Adam confronts us: ‘Where are you?”

In a Hasidic story, an atheist persistently tried to catch the village rabbi in theological snares but always failed. One day the atheist asked, “Rabbi, is it true that God knows everything?” “Yes, my son,” said the rabbi, “God knows everything.” “Rabbi,” the atheist continued,” is it also true that after The Fall, God asked Adam, ‘Adam where are you?’ “Yes, my son, that is also true,” the rabbi replied. The atheist smiled, thinking that he had finally caught the rabbi in a contradiction. “But rabbi,” said the atheist, “If God knows everything, then why did God have to ask Adam where he was?” “My son,” said the rabbi,” ‘Adam, where are you?’ is not a question for information but for reflection.”

“Where am I?”, a perennial question of life, encompasses many other questions. What am I doing with my life? Does it have any purpose or lasting significance? What does it all mean? These questions and those like them distill into one haunting question: When I come to die will it make any difference that I have ever lived? This question takes on a more somber hue the older we become. And if we ask ourselves what we must do for our life to have permanent significance, the answer is so simple that it evades us. We must live the one, unique life that God has entrusted to us.

There is another Hasidic story about rabbi Zossimus, who tried all of his life to be like Moses, David or one of the prophets. His inability to achieve his goal frustrated and depressed him. One night in a dream, an angel appeared to him and said, “At the last judgement, God will not ask you why you were not Moses or David but rather, why you were not Zossimus.” God wanted Zossimus to do one thing—the same thing that he had asked Adam or Eve to do—tend the garden that was given to them and not to be deceived by unreality.
“And you shall be like gods!” Tending the garden that God has entrusted to us, no matter how humble, is no mean and insignificant enterprise, for it affords numerous opportunities to love.

Each of us finds ourselves situated at a juncture of time, space, and circumstance unique to us alone; we are entrusted with opportunities to love to which no one else has been assigned. An old saying notes that there are many occupations in the Body of Christ but only one vocation—the vocation to love. Love is our true work no matter what our task; it is the only thing that gives our life ultimate and lasting significance. Regarding love, “Where are you?”

~ A Meditation by Marc Foley, O.C.D.

Wishing you all a very reflective and blessed season of Lent! 

Carmel…Garden Of The Soul

 

Woman and the Scent of a Rose art by Sheri Dinardi

Scent of a Rose, art by Sheri Dinardi

Carmel has been likened to a garden, a sanctuary of peace, hidden in the depths of an individual. No matter where a person is in time or in place, he or she may take refuge in the garden, to dwell in its serenity and embrace the world with prayer.
Prayer is so very good for the growth of one’s soul and for all the souls in the world. In the tranquil garden of Carmel, wisdom is cultivated into the land of the soul. Through wisdom, a thriving soul keeps body and mind together. Gifts from the soul keep elements in a person’s values, goals and activities neither excessive nor ungrounded, but sustained within a spiritual symmetry.
No one will ever completely understand or appreciate his or her Carmelite garden until eternity. At times it may be frightening inasmuch as it is a place of singular, ever-unfolding, terrible beauty. Yes, even in the summer tranquility, thunderstorms can cause unexpected delight and horror. What will be revealed when spiritual lightning strikes one’s soul? The inner landscapes change with the seasons of a person’s days and years.
The terrain is a ground of mystery, ever in transition. A pilgrim never knows what he or she will find. Beauteous foliage springs from seeds of self-sacrifice. Self-sacrifice originates from God’s love within the heart and finds expression in love for others. As the sun rises and sets in the passing of time, so do the mysterious beauties in one’s Carmelite garden.
To know the rose is to know a glimpse of the beauty of God. To know that the faded rose will bloom again is to have a glimpse of eternity. A pilgrim gazes long at cactus deserts, urban parks, pine forests, country meadows, fruited plains, rolling hills or rocky mountains. Each has a place in the garden of the soul. No matter where a person is on the road of life, he or she can wander in a garden. It is a place of retreat and repose.
A Carmelite rests in the quiet and experiences prayer as ultimate mystery. In the peace of one’s soul a pilgrim remembers people with restless, shallow or empty souls and nourishes them with silent prayer. Soul care is the most profound and essential concern for humanity. Carmelites vest themselves and their efforts into this phenomenon which will extend into eternity. It may rain or shine fiercely in one’s Carmelite garden, but both are needed for it to survive and thrive.  

~ A Meditation by Carolyn Humphreys, O.C.D.S.

      

Your Heart…The Mirror of God

Heart by Janice VanCronkhite

Heart, art by Janice Van Cronkhite

Seeing God does not necessarily have to do with visions or extravagant gifts of grace. It can be a simple and quiet consciousness of God’s presence and reality. It can be an unshakable confidence in him who gives you a solid grounding.
To see God can also be an insight and conviction that your whole life rests in the hands of God, and everything that happens is a message from him. Or it can be a deep insight into the human longing for an infinite love which only God can fill.
The pure heart can see God already in this life, since he reigns in our midst. God wants to be mirrored in your heart. But if the mirror is stained and soiled, it can’t reflect God’s image. And so it is not God’s fault if you don’t see him.
If you want to see and experience God, you must let your heart become what it was meant to be from the beginning: a clear and pure mirror for the one who is love and who loves all that is.
To let your heart recover its originality, you must first discover and admit that you are an abyss crying out for God’s infinity, and then you must empty your heart of all the surrogates with which you have tried to fill it.

~ A Meditation by Wilfrid Stinissen, O.C.D.

 

A Dark Night In My Garden

The night garden by Emily Winfield Martin

The Night Garden, art by Emily Winfield Martin

My Beloved is night time in my garden.
I feel so weary. I come here to be with You. To be in your presence.
I need to rest in your precious heart, a place where I find all consolation and peace.
I need to be wrapped around your arms and feel whole once again. Oh Blessed Jesus,
thank You for coming to be with me in my garden at night.

Beloved, at times the path gets so foggy and it seems uncertain where I’m stepping.
It is so dark sometimes, that I can hardly see. I guess the way towards light and truth is filled with some dark spots, and that is why I need to be close to You in those moments.
Oh my Beloved friend and teacher, at times I feel tired and hopeless in this narrow path towards holiness. It is an arduous road till I caught a glimpse of You along the way and everything transforms and becomes new and alive in me. Your peace fills me and brings me trust and consolation.

Lord, why do I feel so discourage if I know that You are my faithful companion along the way? Why is so difficult Blessed Lord? This path is difficult but knowing that I’m walking by your side, all fog and confusion is dispelled.
Oh my Blessed Jesus, giver of life and love, allow me to be as close as I can to You.
When darkness sets in, your light is a refreshing balm of peace and assurance that all is well and will be well. Lord, I know this is part of growing into You. All those growing pains are making me whole. I can go on in this journey only if You meet me here and instruct me and encourage me on the way. Sweet Jesus, strengthen my mind, body and soul to continue in my journey towards wholeness and inner freedom, a journey that You invited me to trod next to You long time ago.

My Beloved, you transform my night into day. My inner noise into quiet calm. You bring hope and light into any difficult moment. Your presence is all healing. Your gentleness is all I need. Divine friend and lover of my soul, stay with me, I pray. 

May your light and inspiration be always within me. May your love and peace filled me
day by day, night by night.

My Rabonni, my God and my all. Thank You for coming to our meeting place,
is night but soon will be day.  

~ My Personal Reflection 

 

 

The Epiphany Of Our Lord

The Magi, art by Bradi Barth

The Magi, art by Bradi Barth

“He whom the Virgin bore is acknowledged today by the whole world…Today is the glorious Feast of His Manifestation” (RB).
Today Jesus shows Himself to the world as God.

Epiphany, or Theophany, means the Manifestation of God; today it is realized in Jesus who manifests Himself as God and Lord of the world. Already a prodigy has revealed His divinity…the extraordinary star which appeared in the East. 

The Magi saw the star and immediately set out. They had no doubts: their unbounded faith was strong and sure. They did not hesitate at the prospect of the trials of a long journey: they had generous hearts. They did not postpone the journey: their souls were ready.

A star often appears in the heaven of our souls; it is an inspiration from God, clear and intimate, urging us to greater generosity and calling us to a life of closer union with Him. Like the Magi, we too must always follow our star with faith, promptness, and selfless generosity. If we allow it to guide us, it will certainly lead us to God; it will bring us to the One whom we are seeking.

The Magi did not give up their quest, although the star—at one point—disappeared from their sight. We should follow their example and their perseverance, even when we are in interior darkness. This is a trial of faith which is overcome only by the exercise of pure, naked faith. I know that He wills it, I know that God is calling, and this suffices for me: Scio cui credidi et certus sum (2 Tm 1,12); I know whom I believed. No matter what happens, I shall trust him. 

In this spirit let us accompany the Magi to adore the new-born-King. “And as they brought forth from among their treasures mystical gifts, let us from our hearts bring forth something fit to offer Him.” (RB). 

~ A Meditation by Father Gabriel of St Mary Magdalen, O.C.D.

Potential of the New

 

Misty Path, Art by Michael Whelan

Misty Path, Art by Michael Whelan

It is an art to be able to start over, to be able to let go completely of what has been. Perhaps something decisive happens in our lives, and we are forced to leave the old and habitual. This can be an occasion for us to deepen our relationship with God.

Joy and sorrow, grace and sin, have entered our lives. We must be thankful for God’s grace; for our sins we must repent. Everything that God has bestowed on us is a grace, and has an everlasting value. We are God’s beloved children, and God is faithful to us without fail. This we must keep as a precious treasure.

We cannot carry our sins into the new. They must be placed at the mercy of God, and he erases our sins so they are no more. When God forgives, he does it thoroughly. We will have no burden of sin when we enter the new; the Lamb of God carries that burden to the Father, who receives it with joy. It is a joy for the Father to be able to show us his mercy.

~ A meditation by Wilfrid Stinissen, O.C.D.

 

Wishing you all a very blessed New Year 2018!

  

Miracle in Our Midst

 

Angel to shepherds in the field ~ Art by Carl Bloch

Angel to shepherds in the field ~ Art by Carl Bloch

The oxen and the mules who silently witness the birth of the child in Bethlehem may be wiser than we, who like to talk the divine to pieces. Before the miracle of Christmas, only silence is appropriate. Even if some words are said, they do explain that which cannot be explained; they can only attempt to convey that the mystery of Christmas is totally unfathomable.

The shepherds in the fields surrounding Bethlehem experience something wonderful when the angels appear in shining glory, proclaiming what has happened. For a moment, all of heaven comes near to earth. But angels soon leave, and the night becomes cold and dark once again.

Yet something definitive has changed in the hearts of the shepherds. They leave heaven behind them in order to seek out the sign promised by the angels. There is nothing exceptional about the child they find, and the glory of the Lord which they saw in the field is hidden here in the shoddy stable and manger in which the child lies.  It is all so ordinary.

There have been many wonders and miracles in the history of Christianity. But when the incredible happens—when God becomes human—it takes place in the utmost simplicity, without a stir. No special wonders are needed. The incarnation of God is itself the great wonder. A miracle so great and astounding that not even eternity is enough to understand it. But to God it is so self-evident and natural that he has no need to make anything of it.

~ A Christmas meditation by Wilfrid Stinissen, O.C.D.

Eternity Born in Time

 

The Nativity ~ Art by Bradi Barth

The Nativity ~ Art by Bradi Barth

Christ—the Word—is eternally begotten of the Father. “The Lord said to my Lord: You are my Son; this day I have begotten you.” (Entrance antiphon for Christmas, Mass at Midnight).
It happens outside of time, in the mystery of eternity. In this birth, God reveals his own blessedness. Continuously, he goes outside of himself, and he does this so completely that, in and through this, he gives birth to a Son who is just like him, just as great, just as divine as he is.
The Son is like the Father in everything, except in that he is the one who receives  everything and the Father the one who gives everything.  He is God in the manner of the Son, and the Father is God in the manner of the Father. God is not a monologue; God is dialogue. And the harmony between Father and the Son is so complete, so full of life, that it forms a Third in the communion. The Spirit is the spark of love that always jumps from the Father to the Son and from the Son to the Father.
That God has revealed himself to you, this is the great Christmas gift to you. This gift also contains an order of trust. You must bear witness to the true love that has become visible on earth, when the Son who is eternally begotten of the Father is born in time as well.

The birth of Jesus in Bethlehem is the birth given most attention at Christmas. But if you don’t see this birth in connection with the eternal birth of the Word from the Father, then you miss what is essential. Then all that is left is a little romantic mood-making: a sweet child who for a few moments may touch your heart, but who is really not allowed to seize your heart.
God’s Incarnation is the greatest mystery in Christianity, the most incomprehensible and unfathomable. How can the great God make himself so little? How can this vulnerable, crying baby be “my Lord and my God”?
It is precisely  this mystery that is the great stumbling block for non-Christians. But if you believe this, you have the solution to all the riddles and difficulties in the world.
Then you can no longer doubt that God loves his creation. That the Almighty God has become a little child, for our sake, is a definitive proof of the definitive victory of his love. To doubt that you are loved by God is only possible if you forget the manger.

~ A Christmas medidation by Wilfrid Stinissen, O.C.D.   

 Wishing you All a Merry and Blessed Christmas!

The Lord is Coming!…

'Waiting' by Unknown Artist

‘Waiting’ by Unknown Artist

First Sunday of Advent

The Lord is coming; I place myself in His presence and go to meet Him with all the energy of my will…

“The Name of the Lord cometh from afar…I look from afar, and behold I see the power of God coming…Go out to meet Him, and say, ‘Tell us if You are He who shall rule…'” These words are taken from today’s liturgy, and in reply, it invites us, “Come, let us adore the King, the Lord who is coming!…” 

This coming was expected for long ages; it was foretold by the prophets, and desired by all the just who were not granted to see its dawn. The Church commemorates and renews this expectation with each recurring Advent, expressing this longing to the Savior who is to come. The desire of old was sustained solely by hope, but it is now a confident desire,  founded on the consoling reality, renewed in ever deeper and fuller reality in every Christian soul. The spirit of the Advent liturgy, commemorating the age-long expectation of the Redeemer, will prepare us to celebrate the mystery of the Word made Flesh by arousing in each one of us and intimate, personal expectation of the renewed coming of Christ to our soul.  This coming is accomplished by grace; to the degree in which grace develops and matures in us, it becomes more copious, more penetrating, until it transforms the soul into an alter Christus. Advent is a season of waiting and of fervent longing for the Redeemer: “Drop down dew, ye heavens, and let the clouds rain the Just One!”    

O sweetest Jesus, You come to me with Your infinite love and the abundance of Your grace; You desire to engulf my soul in torrents of mercy and charity in order to draw it to You. Come, O Lord, come! I, too, wish to run to You with love, but alas! my love is so limited, weak, and imperfect! Make it strong and generous; enable me to overcome myself, so that I can give myself entirely to You, Yes, my love can become strong because “its foundation is the intimate certainty that it will be repaid by the love of God. O Lord, I cannot doubt Your tenderness, because You have given me proofs of it in so many ways, with the sole purpose of convincing me of it. Therefore, trusting in Your love, my weak love will become strong with Your strength. What a consolation it will be, O Lord, at the moment of death to think that we shall be judged by Him whom we have loved above all things! Then we can enter Your presence with confidence, despite the weight of our offenses!”
O Lord, give me love like this! I desire it ardently… My poor soul needs You so much! It sighs for You as for a compassionate physician, who alone can heal its wounds, draw it out of its languor and tepidity, and infuse into it new vigor, new enthusiasm, new life. Come Lord, come! I am ready to welcome Your work with a docile, humble heart, ready to let myself be healed, purified, and strengthened by You. Yes, with Your help, I will make any sacrifice, renounce everything that might hinder Your redeeming work in me. Show Your power, O Lord, and come!
Come, delay no longer!

~ An Advent Meditation by Father Gabriel of St Mary Magdalen, O.C.D. 

Heaven

Art by Vladimir Kush

Art by Vladimir Kush

The gates of heaven are an allegory and only symbol shapes its guarded door,
nor does the soul plunge headlong into glory without a rumor of a light before.
Though God, indeed, has reservoirs of morning whose unguessed joy we distantly extol,
yet word and choice are altering and adorning:
heaven is something happening in the soul.  

~ By Jessica Powers, O.C.D. ~ Selected Poetry