Posts Tagged ‘Eternal Life’


The Transfiguration – Fr. Romano Guardini

April 1, 2013
The Transfiguration is the summer lightning of the coming Resurrection. Also of our own resurrection, for we too are to partake of that transfigured life. To be saved means to share in the life of Christ. We too shall rise again, and our bodies will be transformed by the spirit, which itself is transformed by God. In us mortals blissful immortality will once awaken; read the magnificent fifteenth chapter of the first Epistle to the Corinthians.

The Transfiguration is the summer lightning of the coming Resurrection. Also of our own resurrection, for we too are to partake of that transfigured life. To be saved means to share in the life of Christ. We too shall rise again, and our bodies will be transformed by the spirit, which itself is transformed by God. In us mortals blissful immortality will once awaken; read the magnificent fifteenth chapter of the first Epistle to the Corinthians.

The words with which Jesus informs his disciple more and more pressingly that he will have to suffer have something special about them. This is evident already earlier, when his enemies demand the great Messianic sign as proof of his identity. He retorts that he will give this unbelieving generation no sign other than that of the prophet Jonas. And there follows the mysterious hint: “For even as Jonas was in the belly of the fish three days and three nights, so will the Son of Man be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth” (Matthew 12:40). And in three of the formal proclamations of his passion made on the final journey to Jerusalem he says that he will suffer and die and rise again

When Luke says that the apostles did not understand, that his meaning was hidden from them, he means that for them the idea of a dying Messiah was simply inconceivable; yet even less conceivable must have been the idea of his Resurrection. Clarity came only with Easter:

“And it carne to pass, while they were wondering what to make of this, that, behold, two men stood by them in raiment. And when the women were struck with fear and bowed their faces to the ground, they said to them, `Why do you seek the living one among the dead? He is not here, but has risen. I remember how he spoke to you while he was yet in Galilee, saying Son of Man must be betrayed into the hands of sinful men crucified, and on the third day rise.”
(Luke 24:5-8).

From words, as from the whole life of our Lord, one thing is evident: for Jesus there was no such thing as death alone. He accepted his death, spoke of it with increasing incisiveness, but always inseparably bound to to resurrection.

Did Jesus live our human existence? Certainly. Did he die our death? Most assuredly; our very salvation depends upon his being like us in all things, sin excepted (Hebrews 4:15). Yet there is something behind his living and dying that is more than life and death in the nearest meaning of the words. Something for which we really should have another name, unless we limit the word “life” to the special sense it has in John, inventing a new word, a pale reflection of this, for all other purposes. An illimitable abundance and holy invulnerability in Jesus’ person made it possible for him to be entirely one of us yet different from us all; not only to live our existence, but to transmute it, plucking the “sting” from both life and death (1 Corinthians: 15:56).

What a strange phenomenon this thing called life! It is the a priori of everything, foundation of existence which, when threatened, responds with that unqualified reaction known as self-defense, which has its own laws. It is a miracle so precious that at times the bliss of it is overwhelming. Life enjoys, abstains from, suffers, struggles, creates. It enfolds and permeates things, joins with other life resulting not in a mere sum, but in new and manifold vitality.

Foremost and fundamental, it is and remains an inexplicable enigma. For is it not strange that in order to possess one thing we must relinquish another? That in order to do anything of genuine value, we focus our attention on it and away from all else? That when we wish to do justice to one person we do injustice to all others, if only by not  likewise accepting them into our range of heart, simply because there is not room enough for everyone? That when we experience any powerful sensation, then only in ignorance of what it is, the instant we try to understand it, the current is cut.

Wakefulness is wonderful but tiring, and we long to lose ourselves in sleep. Sleep is pleasant, but how terrible to sleep away half our lives! Life is unity. It demands containment of things; demands that we preserve our entity in the superabundance around us, and yet that we throw the fullness of that entity into our slightest act.

In all directions runs the cracks. Everywhere we look we are faced with an either-or, this-or-that. And woe to us if we do not choose, for from the clearcut choice of the one or the other, depends the decency of existence. The moment we attempt to grab everything, we have nothing properly. If we try to do justice to everyone, we are just to no one, only contemptible. As soon as we reach out to embrace the whole, our individuality dissolves into nothing.

Thus we are forced to make clear decisions, and by so doing — woe again! — to cut into our existence. Really, life has something impossible about it! It is forced to desire what it can never have. It is as though from the very start some fundamental mistake had been made, as evinced by everything we do. And then the dreadful transitoriness of it all. Is it possible things exist only through self-destruction? Doesn’t to live mean to pass over? The more intensively we live, the swifter the passing. Doesn’t death begin already in life?

With desperate truth a modern biologist has defined life as the movement towards death. Yet what a monstrosity to define life only as part of death! Is death then better ordered? Must we surrender our deepest instinct to Biology? Research has pointed out that early man experienced death differently from us. He by no means considered it something self-understood, as the necessary antipode of life. Instinctively he felt that death was not only unnecessary, but wrong. Where it occurred it came as the result of a particular cause, of a spiritual power of evil — even in cases of accident, old age, or death in battle. Let us wait a moment with our smile and with an open mind try to accept the possibility of the primitive’s being closer to the truth than the professor.

Is death self-understood? If it were, we should accept it with a sense, however heavy, of fulfillment. Where is there such a death? True, here or there we find someone who sacrifices his life for some great cause; or another who has grown weary of the burden of and accepts death with a sense of relief. But does the man exist who from the very essence of his vitality, consents to death? I have never ,met him, and what I have heard of him was poppycock. Man’s natural stand to death is one of defense and protest, both rooted deep in the core of his being. Death is not self-understood, and every attempt to make it so ends in immeasurable melancholy.

Nevertheless, this life and death of ours belong together. When the romanticists attempted to make them the opposite poles of existence, comparing them with light and dark, height and depth, ascent and decline, this was aesthetic thoughtlessness under which lay a demonic illusion. But on one point they were right: our present forms of living and dying do belong together. They are two sides of the same fact — a fact which did not exist in Jesus.

In him there was something that towered above our little life and death. He lived more deeply and purely than it is ever possible for us to live. It has been pointed out that Jesus’ life was poor and uneventful in comparison with that of Buddha through which streamed all the good things of earth, both material and spiritual: power, art, wisdom, family life, solitude, wealth and its renunciation, and above all, length of days, which enabled him to experience existence in all its breadth and depth. Strangely brief, almost fragmentary by contrast, Jesus’ life and work. Yet how could it have been otherwise in a life whose essence was not richness, but sacrifice?

Nevertheless, what Jesus did experience, every gesture, every act, every encounter, he experienced with an intensity that out-weighted mere number and multifariousness. There was more to his meeting a fisherman, a beggar, a captain than in Buddha’s acquaintance with all the strata of human existence. Jesus really lived our life and died our death, real death (its terrors were only the more terrible for the divine strength and sensitivity of his life) yet everything was different both in his living and in his dying.

What decides the essence of a human life? In St. Augustine we find a thought which at first strikes us as strange, but which, carefully weighed, leads deep into existence. Asked whether the souls of men and the spiritual beings of angels are immortal, he answers: No. Naturally, man’s soul, being spirit, and hence indestructible, cannot die as his body dies; it cannot disintegrate. Still this is not yet immortality as the Gospels know it, immortality that comes not from the soul, but directly from God. (Unlike that of ox or ass, man’s body receives its life from the soul; his essential vitality is carried over from his soul in an arc of flame.) The life of those souls who appear in Revelation, however, comes directly from God in the arc of flame known as grace. In that life, not only the soul, but also till body participates in grace, and the whole fervent being, body .and soul, draws its life from God. That final stage then is true, sacred immortality.

God has shaped human life mysteriously indeed. Man’s essence is meant to leap up to its God and return with the life it has taken from him. Man should live in a downward-sweeping movement that begins in heaven, not from earth upward, as animals do. His body should draw its sustenance from his spirit, his spirit from God; thus man’s whole being would be infused with ever-circulating vitality.

But sin has broken this entity; sin that was the will to autonomous existence, that desired “to be as Gods” (Genesis 3:5). And the arc of fire burned out; the ardent circle collapsed. True, man’s rational soul, being indestructible, remains, but its indestructibility has become a shadowy Ersatz. The body also remains, since it is the soul’s necessary covering, but it now covers a `dead’ soul, one no longer capable of transmitting to the body that life which God intended it to have. Thus life has become simultaneously real and unreal, ordered and chaotic, permanent and fleeting.

It is this that was different in Jesus. In him the flaming arc still burned divinely pure and strong, and not only as grace, but as Holy Spirit. His humanity lived from God in the fullness of the Holy Ghost, through whom he was made man, and in whom he lived to the end — and not only as a God-loving man lives, but as God and man.

There is still more to this: only he can possess humanity like Christ’s who not only clings to God, but who “is” God. Such humanity is alive in quite a different way from ours. The curve of fire ‘between’ the inseparable Son of God and Son of Man is that mystery behind Jesus’ life and death that enabled him to live our human life and die our human death more profoundly than we ourselves. With him life and death assume new dimensions.

Matthew reports on the wonderful incident which took place on the last trip to Jerusalem.

“Now after six days Jesus took Peter, James and his brother John, and led them up a high mountain by themselves, and was transfigured before them. And his face shone as the sun, and his garments became white as snow. And behold, there appeared to them Moses and Elias talking together with him. Then Peter addressed Jesus, saying, ‘Lord, it is good for us to be here. If thou wilt, let us set up three tents here, one for thee, one for Moses, and one for Elias.’ As he was still speaking, behold, a bright cloud overshadowed them, and behold, a voice out of the cloud said, `This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased; hear him.’ And on hearing it the disciples fell on their faces and were exceedingly afraid. And Jesus came near and touched them, and said to them, `Arise, and do not be Afraid.’ But lifting up their eyes, they saw no one but Jesus only.

“And as they were coming down from the mountain, Jesus cautioned them, saying, `Tell the vision to no one, till the Son of Man has risen from the dead’ “
Matthew 17:1-9

By “vision” here is meant the particular kind of vision outside the realm of hitherto known experience, with all the mysterious and disquieting traits of an act of heaven: light which comes from no natural source but belongs to the spheres of inner reality; likewise the “cloud,” which has nothing to do with the meteorologic forms we know, but is something for which there is no satisfactory word — brightness that conceals rather than reveals, heavenliness unveiled yet unapproachable.

Further visionary characteristic is the suddenness with which the figures appear and disappear, leaving behind them the emptiness of an earth abandoned by heaven. This vision then is nothing subjective, no suddenly projected inner picture, but response to a spiritual reality, as the senses daily respond to physical realities. The event does not merely descend upon Jesus, or take place within him; it also breaks from him, revelation of inmost being, arc of the live flame within him become apparent.

In the gloom of fallen creation the Logos blazes celestial light but the dark asserts itself; “… grasped it not …” as John says in the opening of his Gospel. Thus Christ’s truth and love, which long for nothing but the freedom to spend themselves, are forced back into his heart — sorrow God alone can measure and comprehend. Here, on the mountain though, for one moment, they break through in all their radiant clarity. This was the Light which had come into the world and was powerful enough to illuminate it completely. On the way to death the glory of what may be revealed only after death breaks out like a jet of flame, burning illustration of Christ’s own words on death and resurrection.

What is revealed here is not only the glory of pure, angelic spirit, but of the spirit through the body, glory of the spiritualized body of man. Not the glory of God alone, not a piece of disclosed heaven, not only the sheen of the Lord as it hovered over the ark of the covenant, but the glory of the God-Logos in the Son of Man. Life above life and death; life of the body, but issue of the spirit the spirit, but issue of the Logos; life of the man Jesus, but issue of the Son of God.

The Transfiguration is the summer lightning of the coming Resurrection. Also of our own resurrection, for we too are to partake of that transfigured life. To be saved means to share in the life of Christ. We too shall rise again, and our bodies will be transformed by the spirit, which itself is transformed by God. In us mortals blissful immortality will once awaken; read the magnificent fifteenth chapter of the first Epistle to the Corinthians.

Such is the eternal life in which we believe. “Eternal” does mean merely endless; we are that as spiritual creatures of God anyway, “by nature.” But the general indestructibility of the soul is not yet the blissful, eternal life that Revelation describes. That comes to us from God. Actually, “eternal” life has nothing to do with the length that life; it is not the opposite of transitory life. Perhaps we come closest to the truth when we define it as life which participates in the life of God.

Such life has received from him its conclusiveness, its all-inclusivenes, its unity in diversity, its infiniteness and immanent oneness (things that our present life lacks, protest as we may and must for the sake of that dignity with which God himself endowed us).

In the new life such eternity exists for all, whether one is a great saint or the least “in the kingdom of heaven.” The differences exist within eternity itself, where, admittedly, they are as great as the differences in love. This eternal life does not wait till after death to begin. It already exists.

The essence of Christian consciousness is founded on its presence — through faith. The degrees of that consciousness are limitless and dependent on many factors: its clarity strength, and “tangibility” (the depth to which it is actually experienced and lived).

Whatever our measure, something of it is always behind our living and our dying, whether given by grace or seized by faith: something of that flaming arc which broke through for the first time on Tabor, to reveal itself victoriously in the Resurrection.


Finding Yourself 1– Anthony de Mello

March 11, 2013
Anytime you have a negative feeling toward anyone, you're living in an illusion. There's something seriously wrong with you. You're not seeing reality. Something inside of you has to change. But what do we generally do when we have a negative feeling? "He is to blame, she is to blame. She's got to change." No! The world's all right. The one who has to change is you.

Anytime you have a negative feeling toward anyone, you’re living in an illusion. There’s something seriously wrong with you. You’re not seeing reality. Something inside of you has to change. But what do we generally do when we have a negative feeling? “He is to blame, she is to blame. She’s got to change.” No! The world’s all right. The one who has to change is you.

Anthony de Mello was born on September 4, 1931, in Bombay, India, and though he thus shared the birthplace of the British author Rudyard Kipling, he did not share the latter’s sentiment that “East is East, and West is West, and never the twain shall meet.” In his life and education Anthony de Mello embodied that meeting. He was brought up a Roman Catholic and entered the Jesuit order at the young age of sixteen. After finishing his basic formation as a Jesuit in Bombay, he went abroad for a variety of studies: philosophy in Barcelona, psychology at Loyola University in Chicago, and spiritual theology at the Gregorian University in Rome.

With this rich and varied education in the West and his first-hand familiarity with the spiritualities of the East, around 1960 he set out upon what was to become his life-long career of conducting retreats, workshops, conferences, and seminars in spirituality both at home and quite literally around the globe: North America, Europe, Australia, Japan, the Philippines, and beyond. Twenty seven years later Fr. de Mello died at Fordham University of a massive heart attack at the incredibly early age of 56. The following is taken from a number of his Awareness Workshops:


Do you know what eternal life is? You think it’s everlasting life. But your own theologians will tell you that that is crazy, because everlasting is still within time. It is time perduring forever. Eternal means timeless — no time. The human mind cannot understand that. The human mind can understand time and can deny time. What is timeless is beyond our comprehension. Yet the mystics tell us that eternity is right now.

How’s that for good news? It is right now. People are so distressed when I tell them to forget their past. They are so proud of their past. Or they are so ashamed of their past. They’re crazy! Just drop it! When you hear “Repent for your past,” realize it’s a great religious distraction from waking up. Wake up! That’s what repent means. Not “weep for your sins.” Wake up! Understand, stop all the crying. Understand! Wake up!

The great masters tell us that the most important question in the world is: “Who am I?” Or rather: “What is ‘I’? What is this thing I call “I”? What is this thing I call self? You mean you understood everything else in the world and you didn’t understand this? You mean you understood astronomy and black holes and quasars and you picked up computer science, and you don’t know who you are? My, you are still asleep. You are a sleeping scientist. You mean you understood what Jesus Christ is and you don’t know who you are?

How do you know that you have understood Jesus Christ? Who is the person doing the understanding? Find that out first. That’s the foundation of everything, isn’t it?

But what I’d like to stress right now is self-observation. You are listening to me, but are you picking up any other sounds besides the sound of my voice as you listen to me? Are you aware of your reactions as you listen to me? If you aren’t, you’re going to be brainwashed. Or else you are going to be influenced by forces within you of which you have no awareness at all. And even if you’re aware of how you react to me, are you simultaneously aware of where your reaction is coming from? Maybe you are not listening to me at all; maybe your daddy is listening to me. Do you think that’s possible? Of course it is.

Again and again in my therapy groups I come across people who aren’t there at all. Their daddy is there, their mommy is there, but they’re not there. They never were there. “I live now, not I, but my daddy lives in me.” Well, that’s absolutely, literally true. I could take you apart piece by piece and ask, “Now, this sentence, does it come from Daddy, Mommy, Grandma, Grandpa, whom?”

Who’s living in you? It’s pretty horrifying when you come to know that. You think you are free, but there probably isn’t a gesture, a thought, an emotion, an attitude, a belief in you that isn’t coming from someone else. Isn’t that horrible? And you don’t know it. Talk about a mechanical life that was stamped into you. You feel pretty strongly about certain things, and you think it is you who are feeling strongly about them, but are you really? It’s going to take a lot of awareness for you to understand that perhaps this thing you call “I” is simply a conglomeration of your past experiences, of your conditioning and programming.

That’s painful. In fact, when you’re beginning to awaken, you experience a great deal of pain. It’s painful to see your illusions being shattered. Everything that you thought you had built up crumbles and, that’s painful. That’s what repentance is all about; that’s what waking up is all about. So how about taking a minute, right where you’re sitting now, to be aware, even as I talk, of what you’re feeling in your body, and what’s going on in your mind, and what your emotional state is like?

How about being aware of the blackboard, if your eyes are open, and the color of these walls and the material they’re made of? How about being aware of my face and the reaction you have to this face of mine? Because you have a reaction whether you’re aware of it or not. And it probably isn’t your reaction, but one you were conditioned to have. And how about being aware of some of the things I just said, although that wouldn’t be awareness, because that’s just memory now.

Be aware of your presence in this room. Say to yourself, “I’m in this room.” It’s as if you were outside yourself looking at yourself. Notice a slightly different feeling than if you were looking at things in the room. Later we’ll ask, “Who is this person who is doing the looking?” I am looking at me. What’s an “I”? What’s “me”? For the time being it’s enough that I watch me, but if you find yourself condemning yourself or approving yourself, don’t stop the condemnation and don’t stop the judgment or approval, just watch it. I’m condemning me; I’m disapproving of me; I’m approving of me. Just look at it, period. Don’t try to change it! Don’t say, “Oh, we were told not to do this.” Just observe what’s going on. As I said to you before, self-observation means watching — observing whatever is going on in you and around you as if it were happening to someone else.

Stripping Down To The “I”
I suggest another exercise now. Would you write down on a piece of paper any brief way you would describe yourself  — for example, businessman, priest, human being, Catholic, Jew, anything. Some write, I notice, things like, fruitful, searching pilgrim, competent, alive, impatient, centered, flexible, reconciler, lover, member of the human race, overly structured. This is the fruit, I trust, of observing yourself. As if you were watching another person.

But notice, you’ve got “I” observing “me.” This is an interesting phenomenon that has never ceased to cause wonder to philosophers, mystics, scientists, psychologists, that the “I” can observe “me.” It would seem that animals are not able to do this at all. It would seem that one needs a certain amount of intelligence to be able to do this. What I’m going to give you now is not metaphysics; it is not philosophy. It is plain observation and common sense. The great mystics of the East are really referring to that “I,” not to the “me.”

As a matter of fact, some of these mystics tell us that we begin first with things, with an awareness of things; then we move on to an awareness of thoughts (that’s the “me”); and finally we get to awareness of the thinker. Things, thoughts, thinker. What we’re really searching for is the thinker. Can the thinker know himself? Can I know what “I” is?

Some of these mystics reply, “Can the knife cut itself? Can the tooth bite itself? Can the eye see itself? Can the `I’ know itself?” But I am concerned with something infinitely more practical right now, and that is with deciding what the “I” is not. I’ll go as slowly as possible because the consequences are devastating. Terrific or terrifying, depending on your point of view.

Listen to this: Am I my thoughts, the thoughts that I am thinking? No. Thoughts come and go; I am not my thoughts. Am I my body? They tell us that millions of cells in our body are changed or are renewed every minute, so that by the end of seven years we don’t have a single living cell in our body that was there seven years before. Cells come and go. Cells arise and die. But “I” seems to persist. So am I my body? Evidently not!

“I” is something other and more than the body. You might say the body is part of “I,” but it is a changing part. It keeps moving, it keeps changing. We have the same name for it but it constantly changes. Just as we have the same name for Niagara Falls, but Niagara Falls is constituted by water that is constantly changing. We use the same name for an ever-changing reality….

Say that you are afraid or desirous or anxious. When “I” does not identify with money, or name, or nationality, or persons, or friends, or any quality, the “I” is never threatened. It can be very active, but it isn’t threatened. Think of anything that caused or is causing you pain or worry or anxiety. First, can you pick up the desire under that suffering, that there’s something you desire very keenly or else you wouldn’t be suffering. What is that desire? Second, it isn’t simply a desire; there’s an identification there. You have somehow said to yourself, “The well-being of `I,’ almost the existence of `I,’ is tied up with this desire.” All suffering is caused by my identifying myself with something, whether that something is within me or outside of me.

Negative Feelings Toward Others
At one of my conferences, someone made the following observation:

“I want to share with you something wonderful that happened to me. I went to the movies and I was working shortly after that and I was really having trouble with three people in my life. So I said, `All right, just like I learned at the movies, I’m going to come outside myself.’ For a couple of hours, I got in touch with my feelings, with how badly I felt toward these three people. I said, `I really hate those people.’ Then I said, `Jesus, what can you do about all that?’ A little while later I began to cry, because I realized that Jesus died for those very people and they couldn’t help how they were, anyway. That afternoon I had to go to the office, where I spoke to those people. I told them what my problem was and they agreed with me. I wasn’t mad at them and I didn’t hate them anymore.”

Anytime you have a negative feeling toward anyone, you’re living in an illusion. There’s something seriously wrong with you. You’re not seeing reality. Something inside of you has to change. But what do we generally do when we have a negative feeling? “He is to blame, she is to blame. She’s got to change.” No! The world’s all right. The one who has to change is you.

One of you told of working in an institution. During a staff meeting someone would inevitably say, “The food stinks around here,” and the regular dietitian would go into orbit. She has identified with the food. She is saying, “Anyone who attacks the food attacks me; I feel threatened.” But the “I” is never threatened; it’s only the “me” that is threatened.

But suppose you witness some out-and-out injustice, something that is obviously and objectively wrong. Would it not be a proper reaction to say this should not be happening Should you somehow want to involve yourself in correcting a situation that’s wrong? Someone’s injuring a child and you see abuse going on. How about that kind of thing? I hope you did not assume that I was saying you shouldn’t do anything. I said that if you didn’t have negative feelings you’d be much more effective, much more effective.

Because when negative feelings come in, you go blind. “Me” steps into the picture, and everything gets fouled up. Where we had one problem on our hands before, now we have two problems. Many wrongly assume that not having negative feelings like anger and resentment and hate means that you do nothing about a situation. Oh no, oh no! You are not affected emotionally but you spring into action. You become very sensitive to things and people around you.

What kills the sensitivity is what many people would call the conditioned self: when you so identify with “me” that there’s too much of “me” in it for you to see things objectively, with detachment. It’s very important that when you swing into action, you be able to see things with detachment. But negative emotions prevent that.

What, then, would we call the kind of passion that motivates or activates energy into doing something about objective evils? Whatever it is, it is not a reaction; it is action.

Some of you wonder if there is a gray area before something becomes an attachment, before identification sets in. Say a friend dies. It seems right and very human to feel some sadness about that. But what reaction? Self-pity? What would you be grieving about? Think about that. What I’m saying is going to sound terrible to you, but I told you, I’m coming from another world. Your reaction is personal loss, right? Feeling sorry for “me” or for other people your friend might have brought joy to.

But that means you’re feeling sorry for other people who are feeling sorry for themselves. If they’re not feeling sorry for themselves, what would they be feeling sorry for? We never feel grief when we lose something that we have allowed to be free, that we have never attempted to possess. Grief is a sign that I made my happiness depend on this thing or person, at least to some extent. We’re so accustomed to hear the opposite of this that what I say sounds inhuman, doesn’t it?


Book Recommendation: “What Catholics Believe” by Josef Pieper and Heinz Raskop

December 11, 2009

One of the earlier books I read after I had made up my mind to go through RCIA and join a parish was this wonderful little book by Josef Pieper. He has been one of my favorite Catholic authors. He lived to the ripe old age of 93 and passed away in 1997. A tribute published by First Things said:

“Pieper emphasizes the close connection between moral and intellectual virtue. Our minds do not — contrary to many views currently popular — create truth. Rather, they must be conformed to the truth of things given in creation. And such conformity is possible only as the moral virtues become deeply embedded in our character, a slow and halting process.

We have, he writes on one occasion, “lost the awareness of the close bond that links the knowing of truth to the condition of purity.” That is, in order to know the truth we must become persons of a certain sort. The full transformation of character that we need will, in fact, finally require the virtues of faith, hope, and love. And this transformation will not necessarily — perhaps not often — be experienced by us as easy or painless. Hence the transformation of self that we must — by God’s grace — undergo ‘perhaps resembles passing through something akin to dying.’”

I remember turning pages in this little book thinking “Oh my God, I’ve signed on for THIS?!! Angels!!!” And then being reassured by Pieper’s marvelous intellect and wonderful interpretations. I felt so much smarter and reassured after I had finished. As is my custom, some memorable selections here:

Christian Life and Belief
Just as knowledge and competent action go hand in hand, so do faith and life. Christian life requires Christian faith as its foundation; and Christian faith bears its full fruit in Christian life. Christian life without Christian belief is impossible; Christian belief without Christina life is unfruitful.

Christian Faith
Christian faith is no mere matter of inner thoughts and feelings. It is an encounter with the reality of the Blessed Trinity…faith is supernatural because it exceeds our natural powers. Faith exceeds the nature of man, exceeding even the natural powers of his spirit. Luke 11:13 tells us that God our father is “ready to give from heaven his Holy Spirit to those who ask him.”…Faith necessarily includes the assent of the intellect to truths that are not clear, and so an assent that has its basis in the free will. Supernatural gift that it is , it becomes our personal possession only when we accept it voluntarily. We are free. The way lies open for us to say, “My natural eyes and ears and my natural reason are quite enough for me ; any reality I cannot perceive with them is of little consequence as far as I am concerned.”

Novarian, 3rd Century AD
Human understanding can form no worthy concept of God’s essence nor of His magnitude nor of His attributes. The might of the human language cannot bring forth a single word to express His majesty. All ingenuity of speech and all intellectual acumen are helpless before His greatness. Even sheer thought alone does not suffice to grasp Him; if it did He would be smaller and the mind of man, whereas in reality He is more sublime that any word, beyond any expression of ours. Everything which he Himself has thought , is less than Him. The totality of human speech, compared to Him is puny in the extreme. Turning to Him in silence we can, it is true, have some inkling of Him; but as to how He is in Himself, that is beyond our utterance.

Call him light and you give a name rather to His creature than to Him. Call him power and you name not Him but that which his His . Call Him majesty, and you describe His glory rather than Him. He is more sublime that any sublimity, brighter that any light, stronger than any power, fairer than any beauty, truer than any truth, greater than all majesty. He is wiser than all wisdom, kinder than all loving kindness, more just than all of justice! Name whatever force you choose, it will be less than Him who is the God and father of all forces. Truly one can say: God is incomparable, God is beyond all that can be said.

Gregory Thaumaturgus (Bishop of the Third Century): The Trinity
There is one God, father of the Living Word, Father of Him who is wisdom, power and eternal prototype. He is the perfect begetter of the perfect offspring, Father of the only begotten son.. There is one Lord, only begotten of the only God, as much God as His Begetter is, perfect reflection and identical image of the Godhead. He is the wholly effective creative word, wisdom comprehending all things, Power putting all creation into existence. He is true son of the true father; as the Father is invisible so He is invisible; as everlasting, so everlasting; as immortal, so immortal; as eternal, so eternal.

And there is one Holy Spirit, a Person in the Divine Nature, and He appeared to men through the son. He is a perfect replica of the full being of the Son; He is the living Giver of life, holy Source and Dispenser of holiness. In Him is God the Father revealed, who is above all things and in all things; and in Him is God the Son revealed, who is an exemplar for all things. These three constitute a perfect Trinity in glory, eternity and royal dominion, without division and without separate being. There is nothing created or subordinate in the Trinity, nor is there anything that might have been added later. There never was the Father without the Son, or the Son without the spirit. Unchangeable and unalterable the same Trinity is forever.

God And Creation
The process of creation of man and things never reaches a stage where man and things can exist solely of themselves and act solely of themselves. Rather God is constantly creating the world anew by conserving and sustaining all things in existence. But in no sense is the world God, neither as a whole nor in any of its parts. Nor is God in any way included in His creation. God’s creative process in the world and in all beings stems from His complete sovereignty over the world.

It is from God, utterly and completely above and outside the world that all created beings and things derive their origin and their continued existence. By the creative power of God, creation lives. All created things are infinitely distinct from the eternal and limitless God, their Creator. But God the Creator permeates everything with his divine essence and the all powerfulness of his love.

The Sensual-Intellectual Human Nature
Penetration to the deeper essence of things, not perceptible to the senses is possible only to the reasoning mind. The reasoning mind alone can relate itself to the whole of reality. To be able to establish an inner link with all creation is precisely what distinguishes the higher level on which man moves from the essentially lower level of the animal. Furthermore, only the reasoning mind is capable of an act of free will; and free will also distinguishes man essentially from all creatures lower than himself. Without freedom of choice and decision man could neither sin nor be converted nor be sanctified. However, the use of our mind requires the use of the senses to start with. Purely intellectual knowledge is not possible for man. Yet God so created our sensual-intellectual human nature as to make us able to see Him in the Beatific Vision in eternal life. The ultimate reason for man’s distinctive difference is the spiritual character of his soul.

Angels are bodiless spiritual beings completely independent of sense perceptions who perceive and grasp the whole of creation much more directly and much more thoroughly than it is possible to the human mind.

The Nature of the World and Of Man Is Good
The divinely created nature of the world is good in itself, the divinely created nature of man is good in itself. It needs neither justification nor apology. It is an act of injustice and contradiction against the Creator to disagree with Him and not find His creation good.

The Dignity of Human Nature Wondrously Restored
The first man pleased God in an infinitely higher way than did all the other created beings on earth. Adam was more than good, he was holy. That is to say he was filled with the Holy Spirit, he lived in supernatural community with God. The first man’s community of life with God was a gift from God, a gift infinitely exceeding man’s natural powers and anything due to man. What Adam’s arrogant and ungodly choice primarily and especially destroyed was this very thing, his holiness, his supernatural life shared with God, in a word his “grace.” …

Our Lord’s act of redemption, restoring human nature from original sin and winning back for us what we had lost, has bought us something much greater than we could ever have lost. “And where sins abounded, grace did more abound” (Romans5:20). Through Jesus Christ, who is the way to eternal life, anew creation was called into being. Man redeemed has become the brother and co-heir of the Son of God. This is why the Church begins one of her prayers in the Mass with the words, “O God, by whom the dignity of human nature was wondrously established and yet more wondrously restored.”… Original sin had destroyed man’s bridge of access to God, and only from God’s side could that bridge be rebuilt. Jesus /Christ rebuild it.

Mary is the only human being free from original sin and its consequences. …Mary from the first moment of her existence was in the state of grace united to God in supernatural community of life. The dogma of Mary’s bodily assumption into heaven is a further development and unfolding of this truth.

Other Consequence of Original Sin
The other consequence of original sin remain with us after the Redemption, –especially our internal conflict, our suffering, our physical death. But these things have now become transformed into healing remedies conducive to eternal life. In his own suffering, man is able to take part in the redeeming suffering of Christ  — a suffering which the Church calls blessed.  St Paul says: “Even as I write, I am glad of my suffering on your behalf, as in this mortal frame of mine, I help to pay off the debt which the afflictions of Christ have still to be paid, for the sake of his body, the Church.”

St. Hillary of Poitiers On the Eternal Word And Its Incarnation
I do not know nor do I enquire, but yet I find consolation. The archangels do not know it, the angels do not learn it, the millennia do not contain it, the prophetic spirit did not proclaim it, the Apostle did not ask it, the Son Himself has not relinquished it. Will you then, who do not know the origin of creation, not endure in quiet humility your ignorance about the birth of the Creator?

Jesus Christ, Priest And Lord
Christ is not only Priest , He is also Head and Lord of the whole human race. God “has put everything under his dominion, and made him the head to which the whole Church is joined, so that he Church is his body, the completion of him who everywhere and in all things is complete” (Ephesians 1:22)

Jesus’ Living Reality As Shown In The Apostles Creed
The creed’s way of calling attention to Christ’s transcendence of history is by changing the tense. Up to and including the Ascension the tenses are in the past – historical. But He “sitteth at the right hand of God the Father almighty” is present –eternal.

The Holy Spirit
The Church says that the Holy Spirit is the bond of love which embraces the Father and the Son and proceeds form them both. St. Augustine says that “as the Word of God is the Son of God, so the love of God is the Holy Spirit”. St Paul says that “the love of has been poured out in our hearts by the Holy Spirit, whom we have received.”…

He is what binds the soul of man supernaturally to God the absolute First Cause of Life. Throughout this supernatural love man is made a Saint and a Son of God. Thus as the Father creates man and the Son redeems him, so the Holy Spirit sanctifies him, makes him holy. Through  the work of the Holy Spirit, who is the focus of all supernatural life, creation and redemption are brought to their completion…It is the presence of he Holy Spirit that allows us to call God “Father.” …

On the first Pentecost (or Whitsunday) the Holy Spirit was sent to the young Church, as he Lord had promised. At that moment the Church entered definitely upon her full life. St Thomas Aquinas says that the Holy Ghost is the soul of the Church, and just as a man’s body is animated by his soul, so the Church lives by the virtue of he Holy Spirit whom Christ sent to her in the power of the Father.

Resurrection Of The Body
How our resurrection will happen or what the resurrected body will be like – this no man can know or say. The Apostle Paul gave his answer to questions of this kind in the first Epistle of the Corinthians (1 Corinthians 15:35-38) “But perhaps someone will ask, How can the dead rise up? What kind of body will they be wearing when they appear? Poor fool, when thou sowest seed in the ground, it must die before it can be brought to life; and what thou sowest is not the full body that is one day to be; it is only bare grain, of wheat, it may be, or some other crop; it is for God to embody it according to his will, each grain in the body that belongs to it.”

Eternal Life
In the creed “I believe in life everlasting.” expresses a mystery which no man will ever fully grasp as long as he lives on this earth. (1 John 3:2) “We are sons of God even now and what we shall be hereafter has not been made known as yet. But we know that when he comes we shall be like him; we shall see him, then, as he is.” And St Paul (1Corinthians 2:9) tells us that “no eye has seen, no ear has heard, no human heart conceived, the welcome God has prepared for those who love him.”

Sanctifying Grace
Life activated by Christian faith consists in the Christian’s cooperation in the works of he Blessed Trinity. The central purpose of this life is that, sanctified by the Holy Spirit, we allow the creative work of the Father and the redemptive work of the Son to become fruitful and complete in us. …This share in the life of the Trinity is what we call sanctifying grace… It is utterly and completely a free gift of God. But at the same time it is truly an elevation, which man merits by reason of the suffering and death of Jesus Christ, who is both God and Man; it lifts human nature into the Divine Nature, in order to live a life proceeding from the Holy Spirit, the threefold life of God Himself — (1John 3:1) we are called “children of God; and such we are.”

The Eucharist
The Eucharist is indeed the very mass itself. In the Mass Jesus Christ becomes really present, in order that His Sacrifice on the Cross by which he earned new life for man, may be offered again and again in the midst of His Church. The Mass is not just a commemorative celebration; nor is it merely a communal preparation for Holy Communion. The Mass is essentially a public sacrifice; and the reception of the Body of our Lord is essentially a sacrificial act, a sacrificial meal. Christ himself offers Himself to His Father as sacrifice for sinful mankind; and the Christian community likewise offers itself together with Christ in the same sacrifice to the Father. The priest is the instrument of he self-offering Christ , and at the same time he is the representative of the co-offering community, or congregation. By this continuing renewal of the Sacrifice of he Cross, its fruits are given to all who assist in offering the Mass….

In order to effect our eternal salvation, Christ willed to sacrifice Himself once to the Father upon the altar of he Cross. But his priesthood was not to cease at His death. Therefore at the Last Supper He offered His Body and Blood to the Father in the form of bread and wine, thus bequeathing to His Church a Sacrifice through which the Sacrifice of the Cross, once offered, is made present, its memory preserved until the end of he world, and His healing power applied to us for remission of the sins which we daily commit.” Every Christian should bear the meaning of the Mass in mind…The Mass is the public and common Sacrifice offered by the People of God.

The Properly Ordered Life
Man’s life is properly ordered when it is directed toward man’s true end – God as revealed to us in Christ. In order to live a life directed toward this end, we must know how to evaluate all other human aims and good and their true worth. Whoever does not know the final reason for man’s existence cannot know the true value of created things for man. Man’s proper relation to God, to the world, and to his fellowman is confused and destroyed by sin. Sin is a man’s willful straying from his true end. It is through this deeply mysterious and incomprehensible willful straying from God that all other relationships between man and the world and man and his fellow man fall into disorder. Crippled by sin, man does not live to his full capacity. He loses the fullness of his destined life – his life in God, his life of divine sonship.

The Latin word virtus means manliness. The German word for virtue, Tugend, comes from taugen, to be fit and related to this is the English word doughty, now obsolete except in humor, but originally meaning able. Virtue makes a man fit and able to be what his Creator intends and to do what his Creator wills…A good man is more fit…He wants to do good and he can … he wills it. …Sin makes man unfit to do what he is intended to be and do….


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