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

Monday, December 20, 2010

The Four Ways

"The man who wishes to understand himself thoroughly — and not just in accordance with immediate, partial, often superficial, and even illusory standards and measures of his being — must with his unrest, uncertainty and even his weakness and sinfulness, with his life and death, draw near to Christ. He must, so to speak, enter him with all his own self; he must 'appropriate' and assimilate the whole of the reality of the Incarnation and Redemption in order to find himself. If this profound process takes place within him, he then bears fruit not only of adoration of God but also of deeper wonder at himself" (Veritatis Splendor, 8)

In this quote, Pope John Paul speaks of the whole meaning of our lives, to be 'divinized" through the work of the Word Made Flesh. He came down to earth as a human, and he will bring us up with him to heaven to be like God. We are to be assimilated into the Person of Christ.

All very well and good, but as we see, there seems to be so many ways that people approach Christ in order to be united with him. Some are most closely drawn to our Saviour through the Liturgical practices of the Church, some through strong devotions such as the Miraculous Medal or pilgrimages. Some are able to come to Christ through intellectual work in Philosophy or the Sciences, some Sacred Doctrine or Theology proper. Now each of these ways have many subcategories of specific "religious experiences", but these four seem to be the broad categories into which they fall.

The problem is that we humans often think we have all the answers. So someone devoted to the Miraculous Medal could say to a Thomist "Come out of our dusty volumes and see the light." and the Thomist might answer "You are ignorant of so much of the theology, how can you say that you truly know Christ?"

And yet, they both know Christ in some way, as do those who find Christ most powerfully in the celebration of the Church's Liturgy and those who find Him in philosophical and scientific inquiry.

Because certain people see Christ more vividly in certain settings, they will do all in their power to see that those settings are not abused. The Thomist will try to quell all "pseudo-thomisms" which he feels are breaking from what Aquinas really meant. The liturgically-minded Catholic will flip out at the most minor of abuses because as we know, even a speck of dust can completely mess up an operation, and to them, the liturgical is the most important of all operations. To the pious practicer of devotions, any false devotions will be an abomination against the very person of Christ, for in true devotions is where he sees Christ most fully. To the scientist, who sees Christ in the workings of the world, false science and science that tries to obscure Christ will be shunned and hated. And yet, none understands the other. They are all doing the same thing, except in their own categories.

None of these categories is "correct", however, none should be done at the exclusion or rejection of the others. In other words, the pious Catholic should not say "enough of this intellectual work, just pray for the conversion of the world through these certain devotions which I know help." The Thomist should not say "He who prays without understanding is an idiot and not a true Catholic." If a Catholic's focus is not liturgy, should the liturgist say "He does not put his energy in the right place, what with this Rosary-praying or reading. He should be fighting for Good Liturgy"? What good does it do any of us to require the same focus from everyone? All of these areas must be sanctified and some are able to help in ways that others can not realize. With the rise in devotion to Our Lady comes a greater love of purity and thus the moral culture is transformed and with it an interior understanding of theology which Our Lady calls us to. With Her beckoning to Christ, we come to the Eucharist and understanding it better, we participate better. In the same way, when our liturgy approaches in its practice the most heavenly, we encounter Christ in new ways and are able to see him in the beauty of the world as the scientist does. This brings us into contact with the questions of the interaction between Creator and created which Aquinas discusses.

These are not opposing forces, they are unified in the person of Christ, and because of this, are one work.



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