Two seemingly contrasting thoughts that I would like to bring together.
…no one who was searching the same way for the same thing he was called to. And so he went about, an unloved stranger, and with great self-discipline he stayed away; but doing so caused him much joy later on. –Henry Suso
–Now Father Paul Bernier, Congregation of the Blessed Sacrament, from his book “Living the Eucharist: Celebrating Its Rhythms in Our Lives”.
…On Sundays, perhaps the most important event that takes place is the gathering of the community to share in Christ’s own sacrificial meal. It is easy to skip over this fact and concentrate on the liturgical action whereby we are fed at both the table of Christ’s word and of his flesh. Central to a proper understanding of the Eucharist, however is a proper appreciation for the significance of the community that gathers for the celebration….The early church focused instead on what happens to the people who share that bread and wine in memory of Christ.
….For the past few hundred years we have been influenced by a spiritual individualism that has had an insidious effect on our proper understanding of what the church is all about. It leads us to imagine God’s reign as an interior reality in the souls of individual believers scattered over the face of the earth. However, it is not as individuals but precisely as a people that the church can be a credible sign of salvation to the rest of the world.
I do not mean to dive in over my head, yet there is a point that seemed essential this afternoon, instructive in defining my path. A contemplative pursing a three step transformative process, one central to the ancient church, one furthered in the sixteenth century through St John of the Cross and St Teresa of Avila, many others picking up from there. The Spanish saints invented nothing. They revealed and expressed through written word a truth exercised within the ancient church. The transformative process is threefold in nature. The first being purgation, a cleansing beyond confessional absolution. Psychological damage incurred, self-afflicted and inflicted, is brought to the surface, allowing faith, hope, and charity to center within my heart. The vessel cleansed, never perfect, for within imperfection I will always be. However I am aware of who I am. I am aware of who I am not. I know myself. I am content with myself. I do not want to be someone else. Denials and delusions are defeated. I am not overly sensitive, nor reliant upon others in ways that diminish my centering upon the Trinity, Mary, and the saints. Within weakness, vulnerability, surrendering, a strong prayer life devoted to the Eucharist, I am self-dependent, able to always protect my enlightened self. Knowing who I am, nurturing my soul through prayer and the Eucharist, I come into the second process that being illumination, the gifts of the Holy Spirit graced into my life. My effort is rewarded. God, a loving God, bestows generously. Photosynthesis through the Eucharist experienced. Interiorly my work has been intense, austere as Henry Suso defines. Yet now the words of Father Paul Bernier become important. I remember telling Sister at Our Lady of the Pines that there are times my heart is so filled with love during mass, I am so inspired and lifted by the Poor Clares, that I just want to shower love upon others, yet I am not sure what to do. My heart overflows with an immense love. I plead with Mary to dispense properly, being the Throne of Wisdom, I bow before her majesty. Sister assured me it was a very good sign. She knew what I was talking about. She smiled deeply. Her eyes radiated. I knew when I pleased her, yet let me stress I was not focused upon pleasing her. I was brutally honest. I will say something else. She enforced a strict rule of no apologies, no should of, no maybes, no attempts at false humility, no constant confessing, or defacing myself. Matters were discussed straightforwardly. If she affirmed it was not pop psychology trying to make me feel ok. It was a pat on the back to encourage proper direction. She expanded, stressing the experienced overwhelming infused love during mass must develop into an awareness of those surrounding me, and also those not present: my family, coworkers, basketball friends, those in my life. Focusing upon the Eucharist allows me to love profoundly. This is what Father Paul writes about. That is what the ancient, as well as modern, church accomplishes. To be aware of the incredible fact that celebrating mass with me are creatures made in the image and likeness of God. Gathered together in the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass we are all equal, one body as St Paul declares. Others want to get to heaven. Others are smart, many smarter and more accomplished than myself. Some are holier and some are not so holy. I am not concerned with damaging nor complimentary details. Particulars, inevitable to a certain degree, deserve no serious attention for I am content in who I am. I am not trying to be anything more. I do not need to feel I am special in any regard, nor am I apologetic for striving upon the contemplative path. I am at peace. I am not isolated, closed as Pope Francis would say. Closed also in the sense that I am only open to those willing to nurture delusion. I do not manipulate. I am content to play the fool if need be. Above all of that thinking is nothing, an emptiness leaving acute awareness. A void created, a focus upon the Eucharist, passive, open, I am able to be filled, highly tuned to my brothers and sisters in Christ. Faith, hope, and charity blossoming into a divine expression. The joy of mass is elevated to the third step of the contemplative process as recognized by the ancient church that being unification, theosis, a transformation in which the will of God becomes an individual’s will. Reaching unification one sees himself and others, all things, as God does, and thus acts accordingly. That one I will leave alone, although I think in everything I have stated the opening to unification is evident. I recall the image of a fireplace poker being left in the burning fire. The poker unifying with the fire, taking on the properties of fire, attains the same luminosity and heat of the fire. It becomes one with the fire.