"Today the concept of truth is viewed with suspicion, because truth is identified with violence. Over history there have, unfortunately, been episodes when people sought to defend the truth with violence. But they are two contrasting realities. Truth cannot be imposed with means other than itself! Truth can only come with its own light. Yet, we need truth. ... Without truth we are blind in the world, we have no path to follow. The great gift of Christ was that He enabled us to see the face of God".Pope Benedict xvi, February 24th, 2012

The Church is ecumenical, catholic, God-human, ageless, and it is therefore a blasphemy—an unpardonable blasphemy against Christ and against the Holy Ghost—to turn the Church into a national institution, to narrow her down to petty, transient, time-bound aspirations and ways of doing things. Her purpose is beyond nationality, ecumenical, all-embracing: to unite all men in Christ, all without exception to nation or race or social strata. - St Justin Popovitch


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Friday, 29 May 2015


After the Easter Season which culminated in the Feast of Pentecost, the liturgy provides for these three Solemnities of the Lord: today, Trinity Sunday; next Thursday, Corpus Christi which in many countries, including Italy, will be celebrated next Sunday; and finally, on the following Friday, the Feast of the Sacred Heart of Jesus. Each one of these liturgical events highlights a perspective by which the whole mystery of the Christian faith is embraced: and that is, respectively the reality of the Triune God, the Sacrament of the Eucharist and the divine and human centre of the Person of Christ. These are truly aspects of the one mystery of salvation which, in a certain sense, sum up the whole itinerary of the revelation of Jesus, from his Incarnation to his death and Resurrection and, finally, to his Ascension and the gift of the Holy Spirit.

Today we contemplate the Most Holy Trinity as Jesus introduced us to it. He revealed to us that God is love "not in the oneness of a single Person, but in the Trinity of one substance" (Preface). He is the Creator and merciful Father; he is the Only-Begotten Son, eternal Wisdom incarnate, who died and rose for us; he is the Holy Spirit who moves all things, cosmos and history, toward their final, full recapitulation. Three Persons who are one God because the Father is love, the Son is love, the Spirit is love. God is wholly and only love, the purest, infinite and eternal love. He does not live in splendid solitude but rather is an inexhaustible source of life that is ceaselessly given and communicated. To a certain extent we can perceive this by observing both the macro-universe: our earth, the planets, the stars, the galaxies; and the micro-universe: cells, atoms, elementary particles. The "name" of the Blessed Trinity is, in a certain sense, imprinted upon all things because all that exists, down to the last particle, is in relation; in this way we catch a glimpse of God as relationship and ultimately, Creator Love. All things derive from love, aspire to love and move impelled by love, though naturally with varying degrees of awareness and freedom. "O Lord, our Lord, how majestic is your name in all the earth!" (Ps 8: 1) the Psalmist exclaims. In speaking of the "name", the Bible refers to God himself, his truest identity. It is an identity that shines upon the whole of Creation, in which all beings for the very fact that they exist and because of the "fabric" of which they are made point to a transcendent Principle, to eternal and infinite Life which is given, in a word, to Love. "In him we live and move and have our being", St Paul said at the Areopagus of Athens (Acts 17: 28). The strongest proof that we are made in the image of the Trinity is this: love alone makes us happy because we live in a relationship, and we live to love and to be loved. Borrowing an analogy from biology, we could say that imprinted upon his "genome", the human being bears a profound mark of the Trinity, of God as Love.

The Virgin Mary, in her docile humility, became the handmaid of divine Love: she accepted the Father's will and conceived the Son by the power of the Holy Spirit. In her the Almighty built a temple worthy of him and made her the model and image of the Church, mystery and house of communion for all human beings. May Mary, mirror of the Blessed Trinity, help us to grow in faith in the Trinitarian mystery.

This article is an excerpt from The Wellspring of Worship by Jean Corbon O.P.
(Ignatius Press, 2005). 

If we consent in prayer to be flooded by the river of life, our entire being will be transformed; we will become trees of life and be increasingly able to produce the fruit of the Spirit: we will love with the very Love that is our God. It is necessary at every moment to insist on this radical consent, this decision of the heart by which our will submits unconditionally to the energy of the Holy Spirit; otherwise we shall remain subject to the illusion created by mere knowledge of God and talk about him and shall in fact remain apart from him in brokenness and death. On the other hand, if we do constantly renew this offering of our sinful hearts, let us not imagine that our New Covenant with Jesus will be a personal encounter pure and simple. The communion into which the Spirit leads us is not limited to a face-to-face encounter between the person of Christ and our own person or to an external conformity of our wills with his. The lived liturgy does indeed begin with this "moral" union, but it goes much further. The Holy Spirit is an anointing, and he seeks to transform all that we are into Christ: body, soul, spirit, heart, flesh, relations with others and the world. If love is to become our life, it is not enough for it to touch the core of our person; it must also impregnate our entire nature.

To this transformative power of the river of life that permeates the entire being (person and nature), the undivided tradition of the Churches gives an astonishing name that sums up the mystery of the lived liturgy: theosis or divinization. Through baptism and the seal of the gift of the Holy Spirit we have become "sharers of the divine nature" (2 Pet 1:4). In the liturgy of the heart, the wellspring of this divinization streams out as the Holy Spirit, and our individual persons converge in a single origin. But how is this mysterious synergy to infuse our entire nature from its smallest recesses to its most obvious behaviors? This process is the drama of divinization in which the mystery of the lived liturgy is brought to completion in each Christian.

The Mystery of Jesus

To enter into the name of the holy Lord Jesus does not mean simply contemplating it from time to time or occasionally identifying with his passionate love for the Father and his compassion for men. It also means sharing faithfully and increasingly in his humanity, in assuming which he assumed ours as well. In our baptism we "put on Christ" in order that this putting on might become the very substance of our life. The beloved Son has united us to himself in his body, and the more he makes our humanity like his own, the more he causes us to share in his divinity. The humanity of Jesus is new because it is holy. Even in its mortal state it shared in the divine energies of the Word, without confusion and in an unfathomable synergy in which his will and human behavior played their part. Jesus is not a divinized man; he is the truly incarnated Word of God.

This last statement means that we need not imitate, from afar and in an external way, the behavior of Jesus as recorded in the Gospel, in order thereby to effect our own divinization and become "like God"; self-divinization is the primal temptation ever lurking in wait. On the contrary, it is the Word who divinizes this human nature, which he has united to himself once and for all. Since his Resurrection his divinehuman energies are those of his Holy Spirit, who elicits and calls for our response; in the measure of this synergy of the Spirit and our heart our humanity shares in the life of the holy humanity of Christ. To enter into the name of Jesus, Son of God and Lord, means therefore to be drawn into him in the very depths of our being, by the same drawing movement in which he assumed our humanity by taking flesh and living out our human condition even to the point of dying. There is no "panchristic" pseudo-mysticism here, because the human person remains itself, a creature who is free over against its Lord and God. Neither, however, is there any moralism (a further error that waits to ensnare us), because our human nature really shares in the divinity of its Savior.

"Man becomes God as much as God becomes a man", says Saint Maximus the Confessor. [1] Christian holiness is divinization because in our concrete humanity we share in the divinity of the Word who married our flesh. The "divine nature" of which Saint Peter speaks (2 Pet 1:4) is not an, abstraction or a model, but the very life of the Father, which he eternally communicates to his Son and his Holy Spirit. The Father is its source, and the Son extends it to us by becoming a man. We become God by being more and more united to the humanity of Jesus. The only question left, then since this humanity is the way by which our humanity will put on his divinity–is this: How did the Son of God live as a man in our mortal condition? The Gospel has been written precisely in order to show us "the mind of Christ Jesus" (Phil 2:5); [2] it is this mind with which the Holy Spirit seeks to fill our hearts.

According to the spirituality of the Church and according to the gifts of the Spirit given to every one, each of the baptized lives out more intensely one or other aspect of the mind of Christ; at the same time, however, the mystery of divinization is fundamentally the same in all Christians. Their humanity no longer belongs to them, in the possessive and deadly sense of "belong", but to him who died and rose for them. In an utterly true sense, all that makes up my nature–its powers of life and death, its gifts and experiences, its limits and sins–is no longer "mine" but belongs to "him who loved me and gave himself up for me". This transfer of ownership is not idealistic or moral but realistic and mystical. As we shall see, the identification of Jesus with the humanity of every human person plays a very large part in the new relationship that persons establish with other men; but when the identification is willingly accepted and when our rebellious wills submit to his Spirit, divinization is at work. I was wounded by sin and radically incapable of loving; now Love has become part of my nature again: "I am alive; yet it is no longer 1, but Christ living in me" (Gal 2:20).

The Realism of the Liturgy of the Heart

The mystical realism of our divinization is the fruit of the sacramental realism of the liturgy. Conversely, evangelical moralism, with which we so often confuse life according to the Spirit, is the inevitable result of a deterioration of the liturgy into sacred routines. But when the fontal liturgy, which is the realism of the mystery of Christ, gives life to our sacramental celebrations, in the same measure the Spirit transfigures us in Christ.

The Fathers of the early centuries tell us that "the Son of God became a man, in order that men might become sons of God". The stages by which the beloved Son came among us and united himself to us to the point of dying our death are the same stages by which he unites us to him and leads us to the Father, to the point of making us live his life. These stages of the one Way that is Christ are shown to us in figures in the Old Testament; Jesus fulfilled the prefigurations. The stages are creation and promise, Passover and exodus, Covenant and kingdom, exile and return, restoration and expectation of the consummation. The two Testaments inscribed this great Passover of the divinizing Incarnation in the book of history. But in the last times the Bible becomes life; it exists in a liturgical condition, and the action of God is inscribed in our hearts. Knowledge of the mystery is no longer a mental process but an event that the Holy Spirit accomplishes in the celebrated liturgy and then brings to fulfillment by divinizing us.

But it is not enough simply to understand the ways in which Christ divinizes us; the primary thing is to be able to live them. At certain "moments" the celebrated liturgy gives us an intense experience of the economy of salvation, which is divinization, in order that we may live it at all "times", these new times into which it has brought us. According to the Fathers of the desert, either we pray always or we never pray. But in order to pray always we must pray often and sometimes at length. In like manner (for we are dealing with the same mystery), in order to divinize us the Spirit must divinize us often and sometimes very intensely. The economy of salvation that emerges from the Father through his Christ in the Holy Spirit expands to become the divinized life that Christians live in the Holy Spirit, through the name of Jesus, the Christ and Lord, in movement toward the Father. But the celebration of the liturgy is the place and moment in which the river of life, hidden in the economy, penetrates the life of the baptized in order to divinize it. It is there that everything that the Word experiences for the sake of man becomes Spirit and life.

The Holy Spirit, Iconographer of Divinization

In the economy of salvation everything reaches completion in Jesus through the outpouring of the Holy Spirit; in the liturgy as celebrated and as lived everything begins through the Holy Spirit. That is why at the existential origin of our divinization is the liturgy of the heart, the synergy in which the Holy Spirit unites himself to our spirit (Rom 8:16) in order to make us be, and show that we are, sons of God. The same Spirit who "anointed" the Word with our humanity and imprinted our nature upon him is written in our hearts as the living seal of the promise, in order that he may "anoint" us with the divine nature: he makes us christs in Christ. Our divinization is not passively imposed on us, but is our own vital activity, proceeding inseparably from him and from ourselves.

When the Spirit begins his work in us and with us, he is not faced with the raw, passive earth out of that he fashioned the first Adam or, much less, the virginal earth, permeated by faith, that he used in effecting the conception of the second Adam. What the Spirit finds is a remnant of glory, an icon of the Son: ceaselessly loved, but broken and disfigured. Each of us can whisper to him what the funeral liturgy cries out in the name of the dead person: I remain the image of your inexpressible glory, even though I am wounded by sin!" [3] This trust that cannot be confounded and this Covenant that cannot be broken form the space wherein the patient mystery of our divinization is worked out.

The sciences provide grills for interpreting the human riddle, but when these have been applied three great questions still remain in all that we seek and in all that we do: the search for our origin, the quest for dialogue, the aspiration for communion. On the one hand, why is it that I am what I am, in obedience to a law that is stronger than I am (see Rom 7)? On the other, in the smallest of my actions I await a word, a counterpart who will dialogue with me. Finally, it is clear that our mysterious selves cannot achieve fulfillment on any level, from the most organic to the most aesthetic, except in communion. These three pathways in my being are, as it were, the primary imprints in me of the image of glory, of the call of my very being to the divine likeness in which my divinization will be completed. The Holy Spirit uses arrows of fire in restoring our disfigured image. The fire of love consumes its opposite (sin) and transforms us into itself, which is Light.

We wander astray like orphans as long as we have not accepted him, the Spirit of sonship, as our virginal source. All burdens are laid upon us, and we are slaves as long as we are not surrendered to him who is freedom and grace. And because he is the Breath of Life, it is he who will teach us to listen (we are dumb only because we are deaf); then, the more we learn to hear the Word, the better we shall be able to speak. Our consciences will no longer be closed or asleep, but will be transformed into creative silence. Finally, Utopian love and the communion that cannot be found because it is "not of this world" are present in him, the "treasure of every blessing", not as acquired and possessed but as pure gift; our relationship with others becomes transparent once again. This communion of the Holy Spirit is the master stroke in the work of divinization, because in this communion we are in communion also with the Father and his Son, Jesus (2 Cor 13:13; Jn 1:3), and with all our brothers.

Following these three pathways of the transfigured icon, we are divinized to the extent that the least impulses of our nature find fulfillment in the communion of the Blessed Trinity We then "live" by the Spirit, in oneness with Christ, for the Father. The only obstacle is possessiveness, the focusing of our persons on the demands of our nature, and this is sin for the quest of self breaks the relation with God. The asceticism that is essential to our divinization and that represents once again a synergy of grace consists in simply but resolutely turning every movement toward possessiveness into an offering. The epiclesis on the altar of the heart must be intense at these moments, so that the Holy Spirit may touch and consume our death and the sin that is death's sting. Entering into the name of Jesus, the Son of God and the Lord who shows mercy to us sinners, means handing over to him our wounded nature, which he does not change by assuming but which he divinizes by putting on. From offertory to epiclesis and from epiclesis to communion the Spirit can then ceaselessly divinize us; our life becomes a eucharist until the icon is completely transformed into him who is the splendor of the Father.

please click on:
by Metropolitan Kallistos Ware (Orth.)

the thought of Fr Danielou

by Henri de Lubac

by Fr R. Cantalamessa (OFM Cap)

Monday, 25 May 2015


Insides that didn't decompose – and other stunning facts about Oscar Romero

By David Ramos and Elise Harris
my source: Catholic News Agency

San Salvador, El Salvador, May 23, 2015 / 02:56 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- In his role as Vicar General, Monsignor Ricardo Urioste was one of the closest collaborators of Oscar Romero, the archbishop of San Salvador who was martyred for the faith in 1980 and beatified just this weekend.

And this monsignor has some stories to tell.

Among the most fascinating involve details surrounding the day Romero was killed, what the late archbishop really thought about the controversial and problematic Liberation Theology, and the fact that the martyr’s insides hadn’t decomposed when they were exhumed three years after his death.

Archbishop Romero was brutally killed while celebrating Mass on March 24, 1980 – a time when El Salvador was on the brink of civil war. In February Pope Francis officially recognized his death as having been for hatred of the faith and gave the green light for his beatification.

Msgr. Urioste, who currently heads up the Archbishop Romero Foundation, said that during the time the martyr lived, whenever “he preached, spoke, was a pastor, they accused him of being communist, Marxist, a politician, and a thousand things."

However, he noted how after 12 years of extensive study on the life and writings of the archbishop, the Vatican never found anything that supported these claims.

In an interview with CNA, Msgr. revealed some the of the lesser known facts surrounding the new blessed, as well as his continuing legacy on the Church and the world at large.

What happened on the day Archbishop Romero died?

Msgr. Urioste can easily recall the day that Archbishop Romero was killed, saying that it was “an ordinary day of work” for him.

In the morning the archbishop had a meeting with a group of priests, and then they ate lunch together. After the meeting he went to confession with his usual confessor, which was a priest named Fr. Segundo Ascue.

Once he confessed, Archbishop Romero went to celebrate a 6 p.m. Mass in San Salvador’s hospital of Divine Providence, which was staffed by nuns. The Mass, Mons. Urioste recalled, had been widely publicized throughout the diocese.

While he was celebrating Mass in the hospital’s chapel, the archbishop was shot in the chest from outside.

Msgr. Urioste said that after getting a phone call informing him of what happened, “I immediately went to the hospital, and he was already taken to the polyclinic. A television set arrived, they interviewed me, and after I went to the hospital where he was."

He recalled how as the sisters were going to embalm Archbishop Romero’s body, he told them “please be careful not to drop his insides anywhere, but that they pick them up and bury them, and they did, burying them in front of the little apartment he had in the hospital where he lived."

Three years later, on the occasion St. John Paul II’s visit to the country, the nuns of the hospital “made a monument to the Virgin in the same place where we had buried (Romero’s) insides.”

“When they were digging they ran into the box and the plastic bag where they had placed the insides, and the blood was still liquid and the insides didn't have any bad smell,” he revealed.

“I don't want to say that it was a miracle, it's possible that it's a natural phenomenon, but the truth is that this happened, and we told the archbishop at the time (Arturo Rivera y Damas), look monsignor, this has happened and he said 'be quiet, don't tell anyone because they are going to say that they are our inventions,'” he said.

However, “Pope John Paul II was given a small canister with Archbishop Romero’s blood,” he noted.

Msgr. Urioste recalled that when John Paul II arrived to San Salvador, the first thing he did “was go to the cathedral without telling anyone. The cathedral was closed, they had to go and look for someone to open it so that the Pope could enter and kneel before the tomb of Archbishop Romero.”

John Paul II asked during his visit that no one manipulate the memory of Archbishop Romero, Msgr. Urioste recalled, and lamented how “they politicized him.”

“The left had politicized him, putting him as their banner. And the right politicized him, saying things that are untrue about the bishop, that are purely false, they denigrated him.”

One of the things that the Church in El Salvador wants, Msgr. Urioste said, is that “the figure of the archbishop, known now a little more than he was before, is a cause for reflection, a motive for peace, a motive for forgiveness, a motive for reconciliation with one another, and that we all have more patience to renew ourselves and follow the paths that Archbishop Romero proposed to us.”

“I think that (Romero’s) figure is going to contribute a lot to a better meeting and reconciliation in El Salvador,” he said.

What Archbishop Romero really thought about Liberation Theology

Despite the many accusations leveled against the archbishop of San Salvador, his Vicar General said that Romero “never had a Marxist thought or Marxist ideology in his mind.”

“If there had been, the Vatican, which has studied so much, would not have beatified him, if they had found that he had Marxist interests.”

The real backbone of his closeness to the poor, he said, was the Gospel and the teaching of the Church.

“He was a servant of the Gospel, he never read anything from Liberation Theology, but he read the Bible.”

Msgr. Urioste noted that the archbishop's library, “had all these books from the early Fathers of the Church, from the current Magisterium of the Church, but (he) never even opened any of the books from Liberation Theology, or Gustavo Gutiérrez, or of anyone else.”

“He read the Bible and there he encountered a Jesus in love with the poor and in this way started walking toward him,” he said.

What set Archbishop Romero apart 

One of the most distinguishing characteristics of Archbishop Romero was “his great sense of work. He was an extremely hardworking man and devoted to his work day and night – until midnight and until dawn,” Msgr. Urioste said.

He recalled how the archbishop would begin to prepare his Sunday homilies the day before, and would always include three reflections on the Eucharist. When Romero preached, he made frequent reference to the Fathers of the Church, based his comments on Church teaching and related his thoughts to the country's current reality.

“A homily that doesn't have this relation with what is happening sounds the same here as in Ireland, in Paris, as anywhere,” the priest said.

He recalled how in Romero's time the government was “a ferocious military dictatorship, which had 'national security' as it's theme.”

Everyone who either sided with the poor or expressed concern for them “was accused of being communist, they were sent to be killed without thinking more. There were 70 thousand deaths like this in the country at that time,” Msgr. Urioste noted.

“The social economic reality was of a lot of poverty, of a great lack of unemployment, of low wages.”

Ultimately, Archbishop Romero’s beatification, the monsignor said, is “a triumph of the truth.”

It is a triumph, he said, of the truth of “who Archbishop Romero really was, what he did, how he did it, from the Word of God, from the Magisterium of the Church, in defense of the poor, who were the favored ones of Jesus Christ and who were were also the favored ones of Archbishop Romero./

SAN SALVADOR — María de los Angeles Mena Alvarado knelt at the tomb of the slain archbishop and wept.

She had come to the crypt of the city’s cathedral to pray for a cure for the diabetes that was threatening her eyesight and weakening her kidneys. “I feel that, yes, he can perform a miracle,” said Ms. Mena, 62.

Thirty-five years after Óscar Romero, the Roman Catholic archbishop of San Salvador, was assassinated with a single bullet as he said Mass in a modest chapel here, this small country is celebrating his beatification on Saturday, the final step before sainthood.

For many here and in the rest of Latin America, though, Archbishop Romero is already a saint.

His tireless advocacy for the poor resonates deeply in a region where the gulf between those with riches and those without remains vast. He was the champion of impoverished Salvadorans, his homilies and radio broadcasts giving voice to their struggles. And as political violence battered the country and death squads killed any activist who challenged the existing order, the archbishop was defiant.

“I have frequently been threatened with death,” he said two weeks before he was killed. “If they kill me, I shall rise again in the Salvadoran people.”

The decision by Pope Francis to declare Archbishop Romero a martyr to the faith and speed up the long-stalled process toward his sanctification is widely seen as a recognition of the deep pastoral commitment the archbishop demonstrated, at the cost of his life.

“He spoke the truth; he spoke through facts,” said Eva Menjívar, a former Carmelite nun who knew him in the 1970s and continues as a religious worker in poor communities. “We have never stopped teaching the spirit and values of Monsignor Romero.”

For decades, the conservative Vatican hierarchy was suspicious of Archbishop Romero, as it was of many Latin American priests who were influenced by liberation theology, which challenges the social and economic structures that perpetuate poverty. Even today he remains a divisive figure in El Salvador, where some on the right believe he was a communist in clerical garb.

Archbishop Romero never identified himself with liberation theology. But as an advocate for the poor, “he took sides; he was not a neutral bystander,” said Robert Ellsberg, a scholar and publisher of Orbis Books, a Catholic publishing house. “He spoke out clearly without compromise against the violence and injustice of the elite.”

In that sense, he had much in common with Pope Francis, who has said he wants “a poor church for the poor.”

The Rev. Gustavo Gutiérrez, the Peruvian priest whose 1971 book first outlined liberation theology, said Archbishop Romero was motivated by the poverty and suffering he saw in El Salvador rather than by any ideology. “Monsignor Romero now appears to be understood, as he was also very misunderstood,” he said.

Before Archbishop Romero was appointed in 1977, he had not confronted the growing military repression directly. But a few weeks later, a Jesuit priest and friend, the Rev. Rutilio Grande, was assassinated. The archbishop celebrated Mass several weeks afterward and then organized a procession through the rural town where Father Grande had been organizing farmworkers, recalled the Rev. Jon Sobrino, a liberation theologian who became an adviser.

The group suddenly encountered soldiers with their rifles drawn and stopped short. But from the back of the file the archbishop’s voice rang out, urging people, “Forward!” The soldiers lowered their rifles.

In the context of the Cold War, Archbishop Romero’s stance marked him as subversive in the eyes of the United States-backed Salvadoran military, even though he also criticized violence by the guerrillas.

The month before he was killed, Archbishop Romero wrote to President Jimmy Carter to ask him to end United States support for the military. Then, on March 23, 1980, he called on soldiers to disobey illegal orders. “The peasants you kill are your own brothers and sisters,” he said.

The next day, a red Volkswagen pulled up outside the chapel at the cancer hospice where he lived, and a shot was fired from the car’s back window through the chapel doorway to the altar, and the archbishop fell bleeding.

A United Nations truth commission found that his murder was planned by a group of officers led by Roberto d’Aubuisson, a former army major who led the death squads. Nobody was ever prosecuted for the assassination, and Mr. d’Aubuisson died of cancer in 1992. Left open is whether he was acting for someone in the oligarchy.

At the archbishop’s funeral, snipers fired on mourners, killing as many as 40 people amid scenes of panic.

In the months after Archbishop Romero’s death, the violence escalated into a brutal civil war in which at least 75,000 people were killed before peace accords were signed in 1992. Under President Ronald Reagan, Washington sent as much as $1.5 million a day to support the Salvadoran military.

The long-awaited recognition for Archbishop Romero comes to a country and a region that is very different in some ways. But the daily reality of the poor has changed little.

Right-wing military dictatorships have been swept away in Latin America. Outright political violence is rare, and in all but a few countries there is a vibrant civil society that is free to criticize governments without fear.

In El Salvador, the warring sides of the civil war now compete in elections, and President Salvador Sánchez Cerén is a former guerrilla commander.

Democracy has proved a profound disappointment, though. Inequality is as entrenched as it was in Archbishop Romero’s time, and the poor of El Salvador — along with those in many other countries in Latin America — now live in the grip of criminal, not political, violence.

“The violence now is of the poor against the poor,” said Roberto Cuéllar, a lawyer who worked with Archbishop Romero to offer legal services to the poor and document human rights abuses. “He would be bitter to see that after reaching the peace accords that we are still in the same place.”

Msgr. Ricardo Urioste, who was the vicar general to Archbishop Romero, said the Salvadoran church had failed to take a role in addressing the gang violence that rages through the poor neighborhoods.

“I think the church should take a more active part,” said Monsignor Urioste, taking a sharply critical view of a hierarchy that has long resisted honoring the archbishop. “I think if Monsignor Romero were here he would talk to the gangs, something no bishop is doing here. And he would be talking about injustice.”

The question now is whether Archbishop Romero’s beatification will prove to be merely a symbol or a watershed for Latin America.

Many Central Americans — almost 50 percent of Salvadorans are younger than 25 — have no direct memory of the wars that racked the region and the role that socially committed priests played.

And a generation of young people who were inspired by liberation theology in the 1970s have moved on, preferring to work in human rights, labor organizing, legal aid or economic development. They have helped to enrich civil society, where the church now plays a much smaller role.

Those who revere Archbishop Romero worry that the long-awaited official recognition may simply be an effort to soften his legacy. “It is an attempt to claim his message,” Lissette Hernández, 42, who works on rural development projects, said after a concert in the archbishop’s memory. “He was correct in the way he lived the Gospel.”

“I have mixed feelings” about the beatification, she said. “Nobody has asked for forgiveness or solved the crime.”

Gene Palumbo contributed reporting

The person who sent me one of the above articles is called Jim Forest.   As a young man, he worked with Dorothy Day in New York, and he received spiritual direction from Thomas Merton (Fr Luis).  He is Orthodox and a writer.  As disciple of Dorothy Day and Thomas Merton, he has written their biographies.   Not only that, he is a founder of the Orthodox Peace Fellowship with its blog InCommunion.
This podcast is the story for children of "St Nicholas and the Nine Coins".(please click on the title)   This tells us very simply of another bishop who was a saint and was brother to his fellow bishop Mgr Romero.  They both preached with their lives across the centuries the same Gospel; and they both show us that the path to sharing in Christ's divine life, the life of the Holy Trinity, (theosis) is through humble self-giving, self-emptying obedience (kenosis) which is love.   St Nicholas is known in the West as Santa Claus, or Fr Christmas; but his life was one of self-giving charity, just like Archbishop Romero.  The Christian life throughout the world and throughout the centuries is the work of the same Holy Spirit and is characterised by kenosis and theosis which are dimensions of the same reality of Grace.

Saturday, 23 May 2015

PENTECOST 2015 FROM CATHOLIC AND ORTHODOX SOURCES (more will be added during the day)


The Father is the Source of both the Son and the Spirit and, hence, the Source of unity in the Godhead.      The Holy Spirit is the unity of the Father and the Son, because, while his Source is the Father, he is also in the Son as the Son's love for the Father.

As the Father's Power is,in fact, his self-giving Love, the Holy Spirit is the Agent of the Incarnation.  The Father is reconciling the world to himself through the Son who is united to the Father and the world by the Holy Spirit.   In the Annunciation, the order is FATHER, HOLY SPIRIT, INCARNATE SON, HOLY SPIRIT united to all creation. 

   However, as it was the function of the Son to be incarnate in a particular time and place; and it was the function of the Holy Spirit to bring Jesus and his historical life and death into contact with all times and places, what he did had a universal salvific effect and the Church's memory was brought in direct contact with what it remembers.  All this was brought about by the power of the Holy Spirit who acts as a bridge across time and space, filling the Church's liturgical "now" with Christ's life, death and resurrection, even though they are events of the past: "Hodie, Christus natus". 

After his death and resurrection, there passed a time when the apostles and women saw Christ; but the old intimacy was no longer appropriate because he had not yet ascended to his Father, and the new kind of intimacy had not yet come about because the Holy Spirit had not yet fallen on the apostles.   With his ascension into the Presence of the Father, the final link was forged between the Father and us.  In Christ, his self-offering unto death had become a permanent dimension of his resurrected life that we  share. With his ascension, human nature came to share in the internal life of the Blessed Trinity. All that was needed was Pentecost by which Christ's Mystery would become our Mystery: by the pouring of the Holy Spirit onto the disciples, we are transformed  into his body, the Church, to the extent that we share both his self-offering unto death on the Cross, and his resurrected life.

The first and most important expression of the Church as it was formed at Pentecost is the liturgy which is the product of the synergy (harmony of activity) between the Holy Spirit and the Church.   The most important expression of the Christian life as given at Pentecost is ecclesial love which is the product of the synergy between the Holy Spirit and the human will.   This is made possible through living one's baptism, confirmation and communion.   
Ecclesial love is the effect of the Presence of the Holy Spirit and is what binds the Church together as one organism both at a local level and on a universal level, and it unites us to Christ as he is as dead, resurrected and ascended into heaven; and it unites us to him as he was in his life and crucifixion.  As ecclesial love is a product of the synergy between the Holy Spirit and the human will, it is loving as Christ loved us.   Hence, not content with uniting the Church in one body, it pours itself out on all humanity, and even on all creation which is destined to be renewed through the death, resurrection and ascension of Christ.   From our perspective, the order is FATHER, SON and HOLY SPIRIT, and then back with those who are being saved to the FATHER.   The Spirit lifts us up, through the Son, into intimate union with the Father.

The icon of Pentecost in the Orthodox and Greek Catholic churches is that of the Blessed Trinity because the effect of the outpouring of the Holy Spirit from Pentecost to the present day is to raise the Church and all who live its life into sharng in the life of the Trinity with Christ in heaven: to share in Pentecost is to share in the Ascension; and to share in the Ascension is to share in the divine Life,or Theosis.   

In the icon by Rublev which introduces this paragraph, there is an empty place at the table in front of the three angels who represent the Trinity.  That place is for you, and for me.  

In the West, however, the icon is of the Pentecost event itself, and the Feast of the Blessed Trinity, the theme so bound up with Pentecost, is on the following Sunday - which means it was highly inappropriate to abolish the Pentecost octave.  By separating the feast of the Holy Trinity from its liturgical place, we run the risk of separating this Mystery from the Mystery of Christ.   It is Pentecost that makes the truth of the Holy Trinity relevant to us and to all Creation.   Without Pentecost, the Blessed Trinity becomes just one more isolated truth in a series of truths which have lost their inherent unity.  I have the same complaint against the abolition of "time after the Epiphany" which gave coherence at a profound level to the weeks that followed; just as, after Pentecost, the Coming of the Holy Spirit gives coherence to the feasts and Sundays that follow: Pentecost brought about the "time of the Church" which is the time in which we live.

The Holy Spirit and the Liturgy

Just before the Second Vatican Council was opened, Pope John XXIII said a prayer on Vatican Radio asking God to send his Spirit on the Church, bringing about a new Pentecost. With this in mind, one of the most significant moves in the liturgical renewal of the Church after Vatican II was the composition of new Eucharistic prayers with their double epiclesis. 

In reality, the liturgy exists at three levels: there is the Liturgy of Heaven, the Liturgy of the Church and the Liturgy of the Heart; and it is the Holy Spirit who is the unifying factor within each as well as the Person who unites all three in Christ as a single reality which is the Church. In heaven, the Father gives himself completely to the Son, and the Son gives himself totally to the Father; and this mutual Love of the Father for the Son and Son for the Father is the Holy Spirit, the hypostasis of Love. By his Incarnation, the Son is united to creation; and the Holy Spirit unites the angels and saints to him as one single self-offering of praise and thanksgiving to the Father. They are so united to Christ that they continually receive the gift of divine life which the Son receives from the Father so that they too are sons and daughters of the Father This eternal activity is the eternal Liturgy of heaven.

The same Holy Spirit is sent down on the Christian community, making it Christ’s body, turning its sacred texts into Christ’s word, its offerings into Christ’s body and blood, its sacraments into actions of Christ, it members – as far as they allow him – into saints. Christ is present in the Church through the power of the Holy Spirit; and this synergy between the Holy Spirit and the Church is what gives the liturgy its special character and authority. We are placed in the context in which the Spirit so unites us to Christ that his self-offering becomes ours, and we receive in Christ the divine life from the Father. Hence, we are brought together so that from the rising of the sun to its setting a perfect offering may be made to the glory of the Father’s name. This activity together with the other sacraments and with the divine office which sanctifies the Christian’s day is called the Liturgy of the Church.

The Holy Spirit does not just sanctify our external actions and social relationships: the love of God is poured into our hearts by the power of the Holy Spirit (Rm 5, 5). St Paul does not live, but Christ lives in him (Gal. 2, 20) He prays, “May the God of hope fill you with joy and peace in believing, so that you may abound in hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.” (Rm 15, 13). With Christ whom we receive in communion living in us by the power of the Spirit, “when we cry, “Abba, Father”, it is the very Spirit bearing witness with our spirit that we are children of God, and if children, then heirs of God and joint heirs with Christ – if in fact we suffer with him so that we may be glorified with him” (Rm 8, 15-17; Gal. 4,6) This activity of the Holy Spirit within us, making us one with Christ at the very centre of our being can be called liturgy of the heart. To the extent that our lives are in synergy with the Holy Spirit, our whole life becomes a prayer of repentance, intercession, praise and thanksgiving. To the same extent, we participate authentically in the liturgy of the Church which is both a reflection of, and a participation in the liturgy of heaven. We are fully participating in the Mass because we are living it, not only externally by joining in the responses and actions of the liturgy, but in the depths of our heart. Therefore we do not oppose individualistic prayer with communal prayer: one cannot do without the other, and it is the Holy Spirit who unites them by making both the prayer of Christ...

The Eucharistic prayers show us two movements of the Spirit: the movement downwards, in which the Father sends the Holy Spirit to transform the bread and wine into the body and blood of Christ and us into his body, and the upward movement of us, united to Christ, offering all honour and glory to the Father within the inner sanctuary of heaven. In the first, Christ is revealed to us as the human face of God; and, in the second, he is shown to be the acceptable face of all humanity at the very heart of the Blessed Trinity.
We shall now look at the downward movement (epiclesis) in the Mass. In the next article we shall look at the upward movement (doxology) and how the activity of the Holy Spirit in the Mass affects the Church and the world.

Let us remember one important point before we proceed. We know that the apostles and disciples became the Church at Pentecost, and we know from St Paul that, “We who are many are one body, for we all partake of the one bread.” (I Cor. 10, 16-17). As the Church is essentially the body of Christ, if there is a sense in which the Eucharist makes the Church, then the Mass is our Pentecost, and the Holy Spirit is extremely active throughout, and not just at the epiclesis. The problem for us, then, is how to celebrate in such a way as to help those taking part be on the same wave-length as the Holy Spirit. 

The Third Eucharistic Prayer opens with the statement that all life and holiness comes from the Father, through Jesus Christ, by the working of the Holy Spirit. This is the context in which the priest asks the Father to make the bread and wine holy by the power of the Spirit, so that they may become Christ’s body and blood. Later, after the words of institution, which in the Latin Rite are the moment of consecration, the priest asks that those who are nourished by Christ’s body and blood may also be filled with his Holy Spirit so that we become one body, one spirit with him.

In the early Church, receiving the Holy Spirit was especially associated with the blood of Christ. According to Leviticus, “The life of the flesh is in the blood,” (Lev.17,11), so that people did believe that, as Christ’s human life was contained in his blood, at least symbolically-, so his divine Spirit would also be in the blood. When St Paul says that we all drink of the same Spirit, I have a strong suspicion that he is talking about the chalice. Here is a passage from a very early homily inspired by Hippolytus:

We are fed with the bread from heaven, our thirst is quenched with the cup of joy, the chalice afire with the Spirit, the blood wholly warmed from on high by the Spirit.

St Ephraem also associates receiving the Holy Spirit with communion:

Fire and the Spirit are in our baptism. In the bread and the cup also are fire and the Spirit.

If the Word was made flesh and lived, died and rose again in Palestine, the Holy Spirit gave his human, naturally restricted life a direct relationship with people of all times and places. Thus Christ could bear our sufferings and sins, and those of the whole race. The Holy Spirit bridges time and place, and unites heaven and earth, without destroying the distinctions and differences. Thus, when the Church remembers the Last Supper, it is as though we were there, and Christ’s words, “This is my body … this is my blood” consecrate our own bread and wine. When the Church remembers his death, our sacrifice becomes identical with his. When the Church remembers his resurrection, we are united to Christ in heaven, share in his new life, and are brought through the veil, which is Christ’s body, into the presence of his Father as his sons and daughters (Hb 10, 19-20). The Holy Spirit also bridges the gap between us as a Eucharistic assembly and all other Christians, so that we are united to the whole Church of every place and every generation, and each Mass is an act of the whole Church in heaven and on earth. Finally, the Holy Spirit gives to each of us our role in the Church (charisma) and inwardly transforms us, little by little, into the image of the Son (sanctity). All this happens because of the Holy Spirit who comes down on the Church in the Eucharist. Moreover, without the Catholic Mass, no charismatic prayer group would be able to function, and no Protestant one either. 

The Mass is the source of all the Church’s activity and the goal to which everything tends: all because of the Holy Spirit. Because of the Holy Spirit, the liturgy transcends the difference between heaven and earth, public ceremony and private prayer in the intimacy of the heart, because he is present and active at all these levels, bringing them together and uniting them in a single reality which is Christ. Because Christ identifies his prayer with ours, and we identify our prayer with his, we participate by prayer in the life of the Blessed Trinity, and our lives have a divine as well as a human dimension: we are truly sons and daughters of God.

Pentecost and Creation
Fr. Stephen Freeman

Earth is a wondrous place – no matter where we go – how deep, how far, how high, how hot, how inhospitable – in this place we find life. Everywhere we look on our nearest neighbour – Mars – we find – no life. We want to find life. We hope to find life. We theorize life. But we have yet to find it.

There is something about life, at least in our earthly experience, that is inexorable. Any individual case of life may be fragile, but life itself endures. In the Genesis account we are told that God blessed this planet and said:

Let the earth bring forth grass, the herb that yields seed, and the fruit tree that yields fruit according to its kind, whose seed is in itself, on the earth”; and it was so. And the earth brought forth grass, the herb that yields seed according to its kind, and the tree that yields fruit, whose seed is in itself according to its kind. And God saw that it was good. (Gen 1:11-12 NKJ)

Note that the account does not say that God said “Let there be life!” and life just appeared…(Boom! Trees!) But that He blessed this place and commanded that it bring forth grass… herbs… trees… according to their kind… and it was so!

The feast of Pentecost in Eastern tradition, celebrates the Descent of the Holy Spirit on the Church as Christians do across the world. However, there is a strange aspect to the Eastern version of the feast (or so it might seem). The Feast focuses as much on the Holy Spirit’s work in Creation as it does on the Spirit’s work in the Church. The Church is decorated in green. In Russian tradition, branches of birch are brought into the Church; fresh green grass is placed on the floor; flowers are everywhere. In Soviet times a secular version of the festival remained, called the Day of Trees.

The outpouring of the Holy Spirit on the Church is not something separate from Creation – nor are the trees a distraction from the Church. They are, together, a proper reminder of the role God’s Spirit plays always, everywhere. He is the “Lord and Giver of Life.”

Just as the Spirit moved over the face of the waters in the beginning of creation, so He moves over the face of all things at all times, bringing forth life and all good things. Though I am frequently assaulted with bouts of pessimism, despairing over various aspects of our distorted civilization, the truth is that like the planet itself, civilization with its drive for beauty and order seem inexorable. The history of humanity is not the story of a fall from a great civilization with increasing instances of barbarism and cave dwelling. Great civilizations have risen and fallen, but civilizations continue to occur. Some may already have begun in the ruins that surround us now.

The story told in Scripture is not the story of collapse and decay. There are certainly dire warnings of terrible trials and great catastrophes. But these things do not reveal the mystery of God’s will. These things are cracks in the pavement while life continues to burst forth:

God has made known to us the mystery of His will, according to His good pleasure which He purposed in Himself, that in the dispensation of the fullness of the times He might gather together in one all things in Christ, both which are in heaven and which are on earth– in Him (Eph. 1:9-10).

What appeared as tongues of flame upon the heads of the disciples at Pentecost was a manifestation of this Divine Purpose at work. With the sound of a mighty rushing wind, the Holy Spirit filled the room. The fullness of the Church burst into the streets proclaiming the Gospel in a multitude of languages. Being birthed in Jerusalem was the New Jerusalem, where there is neither slave nor free, Jew nor Greek, male nor female. Instead there is the fullness that fills all things bringing forth all things in one – in the One Christ Himself.

The voice of Pentecost is the voice of creation’s groans being transformed into the glorious liberty of the children of God. Stones cry out, trees clap their hands and the song of creation rejoices in the One Christ.

The Fire of Pentecost in Orthodoxy
Fr. Stephen Freeman

No one, of course, can describe the fire that fell on the Apostles at Holy Pentecost. At most we are told that the Spirit appeared “like tongues of flame lighting upon the heads of the Apostles.” Not much a description. Other times in Scripture we are told of a Pillar of Fire and of the bush that burned but was not consumed. Again, this is very little information.

To this day, there occurs a miracle of fire at the Church of the Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem. The Orthodox Patriarch, having been searched by the authorities, enters the Tomb of Christ with an unlit torch of candles. He prays. Year after year he has dones so, and year after year emerges with what in Orthodoxy is known as “The Holy Fire.” It seems to have the odd property of not burning people (at least at first). Video’s (I’ve included one here) show the enthusiasm of the crowd (it seems to have a distinct Middle Eastern flavor – imagine that). This one includes some shots of people virtually “bathing” in the flame.

Of course this has gone on for centuries with little fanfare, at least in comparison to the fanfare most Christians are used to in our modern world. But the fire continues. For those interested here is a youtube of the event from last Pascha:

Of greater interest to me (my faith in Christ’s resurrection from the dead has nothing to do with the nature of the phenomenon of the Holy Fire), is the fire spoken of by the Desert Fathers, when we are urged to become flame.

Abba Lot went to see Abba Joseph and said to him, ‘Abba as far as I can I say my little office, I fast a little, I pray and meditate, I live in peace and as far as I can, I purify my thoughts. What else can I do?’ then the old man stood up and stretched his hands towards heaven. His fingers became like ten lamps of fire and he said to him, ‘If you will, you can become all flame.’

 This fire can consume our passions, consume our hearts with the love of God. It can consume our desire for worldly things and set us on the path of salvation. There is a fire that can be ours – and burn endlessly without consuming. But there will be no advertisements or movements which shout to us, “Come to this city or that city and experience the Holy Fire.” Indeed bathing in the Holy Fire in Jerusalmen will not change your life. Like all fire that changes us, only the fire of ascetism and true yearning for God will change us. And then we will shine like the sun. 

For God, who commanded the light to shine out of darkness, hath shined in our hearts, to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ. (2 Cor. 4:6)

This is the great miracle for which our heart yearns – to know in our inmost self that God has become man, and in turn has called us to union with Himself. Anything less would be nothingness.


Pentecost 2015

We have just heard two accounts of the coming of the Holy Spirit. According to John, it was Jesus himself, the risen Christ, who on the evening of Easter appeared in the room, where ten of the Twelve were gathered, and breathed on them saying, “Receive the Holy Spirit.” Through the Spirit’s presence in their lives they will share in Christ’s passion and death, bring his peace to the world and have power over sin. Just as God’s creative breath gave life at the beginning of creation, so now, in the fullness of time, the Word made flesh gives new life to those who are born of water and the Spirit. “Of his fullness we have all received, grace in return for grace.”

            According to Acts, the Spirit was given at Pentecost, seven weeks after Passover and Easter. The feast of Weeks was a pilgrimage feast when pious Jews would come to Jerusalem. While the disciples were there, they received the Spirit, manifested in the speaking of tongues. While John links the coming of the Spirit to the Paschal mystery, Luke, the author of Acts, links the outpouring of the Holy Spirit to the feast of Pentecost, highlighting the central place of that outpouring in the history of salvation.

Originally an agricultural festival of thanksgiving, Pentecost came to symbolise and celebrate the great things God had done for his people throughout history. Whereas the Exodus was commemorated at Passover, Pentecost came to recall God’s giving the covenant to Israel at Sinai, that key moment when Israel was called to be God’s own people. In Christ, a new Israel, a new people of God, the Church, comes into being through faith and baptism in the Holy Spirit. For Christians, Pentecost is a new creation.

In depicting the theophany on Sinai, the book of Exodus includes thunder and smoke. Philo, the first century Jewish writer, describes angels taking what God said to Moses on the mountaintop and carrying it out on tongues to the people below in the plain. Acts, with its description of the sound of a mighty wind and tongues of fire, echoes that imagery and so presents the new Pentecost in Jerusalem as the renewal of God’s covenant, once more calling a people, this time all peoples, to be his own. On Sinai God made his covenant with the people of Israel, whereas in Jerusalem many nations were present. Acts gives a long list of them, thus anticipating the evangelising work of the early Church. “All flesh will see the glory of God.”

So when did the Holy Spirit come, at Easter or at Pentecost? The truth is that, like the waves of the sea, the Spirit is always coming. According to John, the Spirit had not been given as Christ had not yet been glorified. The coming of the Spirit is linked to the glorification of Jesus. And yet, from the very beginning of creation, the Spirit was there just as the Word was there. “All things were made through him and without him was not anything made that was made.” 

Christ’s work was to recapitulate all things in himself and reconcile all men with God. He did this through the power of the Spirit, the same Spirit he gave to his disciples when he breathed on them saying, “Receive the Holy Spirit.” And it was the same Spirit the first Christian community received at Pentecost, with the mission to preach the Gospel throughout the world, bringing everyone to salvation through faith in Jesus Christ. Since then, the constant prayer of the Church has been “Veni, Sancte Spiritus” – Come, Holy Spirit. We should use that prayer always. When we pray for mercy and grace, it is the Spirit we are asking for. In every sacrament, it is the Spirit at work and the Spirit we receive. God created us to be filled with his Spirit and so become one with him.  Today we thank God for his love and open our hearts to receive once more his greatest gift. Come, Lord Jesus. O Holy Spirit, come. Amen.

Three new oblate novices received at Pentecost,
bringing the number of oblates to five in
Pachacamac Monastery

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