Oh Lord, purify me, make me a chalice in which you dwell, offer your sacrifice in me and spread your love through me. Let me shine like gold, adorn me with the jewels of virtue that I may always be open to you. Fill me. Overflow me. Let me be like that most perfect vessel, the Singular Vessel of Devotion, She to whom I cry for protection against the Evil One. I ask this for your glory, for the vessel is nothing without the sustenance inside, the cup nothing unless it is filled. Oh Lord, purify me.

Give me a word, Abba

Saturday, October 2, 2010

Observance and obsession

Look at it from the perspective of the generic "facebook stalker". Not really much harm in finding out more about this extremely interesting person. Oh look, she's part of the Chess Club!, She likes REM! Her birthday is in two days! She looks like she read a lot. She likes a lot of the same movies I do. Wow, I can find so much about her....I feel like I almost know her, but I can't let on I found this all out...

Ok, so maybe this isn't the best approach to a relationship. Wouldn't it be better just to meet this girl in real life, get to know her and through your interactions with her find out more about her? Of course, one of the main benefits to this is that on facebook, the discovery is made by yourself. The "joy" at finding out this information is for your personal enjoyment and pleasure. What if you found the same things out in conversation with her? You would SHARE the experience and your friendship would be solidified.

I would term the first situation as an "obsession" and the second one as "observance". The same can be applied to our life as Christians. There are so many rich elements in the Christian life: Beautiful architecture, beautiful prayers, beautiful religious art, beautiful symbolisms, beautiful devotions, not to mention the Eucharist and all THAT means.

Look at it from the perspective of the pious person. Not really any harm in finding out more about God, right? Oh, look, the Church sets up beautiful liturgies to honour this God. What a beautiful liturgy, what a beautiful prayer, what a beautiful painting, what a beautiful Church. God has the same taste that I do. Look at what a relationship with God allows me to participate in.

Ah, but there's the danger. God HAS given us these things to bring us closer to him. He does wish us to honour him with beauty which is his own gift to us. He does want us to be amazed by the world and his creation. But the focus shouldn't on the beautiful things, it should be on God. Our response should be "look at what I participate in allows me to do, come closer to a God that transcends even any of these things.

Now, far be it from me to suggest that we abandon the beauties and practices that have been established to give glory to God. Rather, we should be careful that the path to God does not become our God. We should not reject outward expressions for an interior personal relationship with God that had no visibility. As the pope has been making clear in his recent talks and homilies in Britain, We have a role in the Public Square, but this doesn't only mean getting involved in politics. Since Benedict XVI has a strong liturgical sense, I would say he's referring to liturgy as well. Liturgy means "public work" and if it is the public work of the church, it ought to be done well, as any work out to be done.

Our work is never done. I mean, it's all right to "Rejoice always, pray constantly", but of course that takes many forms. As the laity, we are called to apostolate, and that means getting our hands dirty sometimes. You can't work with clay and not get some on your hands. In this case, we're working with clay infused with the Holy Spirit, and we'd better be careful. If we say that God is the most important part of life and then our actions say that our relationship with God gives us all these beautiful things, thats putting the beautiful things on a plane higher and more important than God.

One of the main ways of apostolate is through friendship. The true friendship is one that is based on a common regard for the other's good. The good of every person is unification with God. Therefore every action in a friendship should not only not bring the friend away from God, but bring the friend closer. One of the most important ways of doing this is through beauty. To rejoice over beauty, to get excited about the good things in life. to, in fact, love life. The thing about a Christian is that he has a reason for loving life besides that he just has it.

One of the most beautiful things in the world is the Tradition of the Church. Imagine God's glorious goodness that allows us to receive his word through Scripture and through the Magisterium. Imagine the munificence of a God who remains with us always and guides us on the path to him. As a community. As a family. As a Church. It is beautiful. But we must remember that the point of this beauty is God. He is the end. He is the Telos. He is the ultimate beauty that all created beauty is a reflection of. Don't get caught up in the beauty of this world. It is the most deceiving of all false gods. Bring people to God through beauty, but the way people experience this beauty is different for different people. To enforce your experience of beauty on someone is emphasizing the means at the expense of the end. Help them discover their own experience of the Beauty of God. Then you will be a true friend, not a "recruiter". Teach them to observe the beauties of the Church in order to find out more about God rather than obsess over the specific beauties that have become ends in themselves.

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