Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Personal Apocalypses

I write today a bit timid and also a bit unsure of how to classify my temperament right now. So much seems to be in flux right now it's almost scary. The scariness is not in knowing my acquaintances personalities, but how God is unveiling things before me in ways I didn't think possible.

That is what struck me at Daily Mass yesterday. We're getting to the end of the liturgical year, so the readings are dealing with the "last things" and therefore the study of the last things (the Greek for this is eschatology), especially regarding the last things before the Word was made flesh.

But this also includes the apocalypse, which was brought up in Mass yesterday as a tie into the first reading from Second Maccabees. I've always thought of the term apocalypse to mean the end of this world, but this is only what it has now been degraded to. It is Greek for "the lifting of the veil." Which to me is a curious phrase, but it does make sense, especially for the Nativity. Namely because of the allusion of the Virgin Mary as the New Testament allusion to the Jewish Ark of the Covenant, holding the Holiest of Holies—the Ten Commandment tablets, the Law of God—the Word of God. Compare this to the New Testament comparison of the undefiled Virgin Mary, pure in every sense, holding the Living Word of God, God made flesh. With the Ark of the Covenant one must lift the veils to be in the innermost part of the Temple of Solomon to be in the presence of the Ark. So likewise, the Nativity was indeed the first actual Apocalypse—that being the "unveiling" or "revelation" of Jesus Christ as Messiah.

But this connection does not stop there, as we saw in yesterday's reading from Second Maccabees of Elezar being "an unforgettable example of virtue not only for the young but for the whole nation," 2 Maccabees 6:31:
Eleazar, one of the foremost scribes,
a man of advanced age and noble appearance,
was being forced to open his mouth to eat pork.
But preferring a glorious death to a life of defilement,
he spat out the meat,
and went forward of his own accord to the instrument of torture,
as people ought to do who have the courage to reject the food
which it is unlawful to taste even for love of life.
Those in charge of that unlawful ritual meal took the man aside privately,
because of their long acquaintance with him,
and urged him to bring meat of his own providing,
such as he could legitimately eat,
and to pretend to be eating some of the meat of the sacrifice
prescribed by the king;
in this way he would escape the death penalty,
and be treated kindly because of their old friendship with him.
But Eleazar made up his mind in a noble manner,
worthy of his years, the dignity of his advanced age,
the merited distinction of his gray hair,
and of the admirable life he had lived from childhood;
and so he declared that above all
he would be loyal to the holy laws given by God.

He told them to send him at once
to the abode of the dead, explaining:
“At our age it would be unbecoming to make such a pretense;
many young people would think the ninety-year-old Eleazar
had gone over to an alien religion.
Should I thus pretend for the sake of a brief moment of life,
they would be led astray by me,
while I would bring shame and dishonor on my old age.
Even if, for the time being, I avoid the punishment of men,
I shall never, whether alive or dead,
escape the hands of the Almighty.
Therefore, by manfully giving up my life now,
I will prove myself worthy of my old age,
and I will leave to the young a noble example
of how to die willingly and generously
for the revered and holy laws."

Eleazar spoke thus,
and went immediately to the instrument of torture.
Those who shortly before had been kindly disposed,
now became hostile toward him because what he had said
seemed to them utter madness.
When he was about to die under the blows,

he groaned and said:
"The Lord in his holy knowledge knows full well that,
although I could have escaped death,
I am not only enduring terrible pain in my body from this scourging,
but also suffering it with joy in my soul
because of my devotion to him."
This is how he died,
leaving in his death a model of courage
and an unforgettable example of virtue
not only for the young but for the whole nation.
2 Maccabees 6:18-31

This beautifully courageous story speaks volumes in a very christological way. It radiates the story of Christ himself in his ultimate model of courage and unforgettable example of virtue.

Father Brian spoke of using the example of Christ in our lives everyday and of having especially relating that example of Christ on the Cross for those going into marriage. Which reminds me of the Christopher West quote:
"Love, and the demands of love, hurt. If we don't think love involves suffering, we have not spent much time looking at a crucifix."

We are to love like He had loved and still loves us. The Sacrifice is an active participation in His One Eternal Sacrifice through the sharing of His Blessed Body and Blood through the Holy Eucharist, which aptly means Thanksgiving—what a nice tie-in for TOMORROW! What joy! What better day to go to Mass than tomorrow! So we are called to share in His Sacrifice.

But how do we share in it? It cannot simply be going to Mass passively. We Cradle Catholics are certainly taught that since the earliest of catechists. No, we are called to be active in our faith, too. We are called to bring Christ to others, especially that in the form of His love, the Selfless Love, our true human nature, not the one that the Devil spreads upon this earth of Selfish Love. Too often it is easier to take than to receive. And when we do take we even forget to give thanks. That is what makes this time of year so important and why it should be important to us all. We are called to give thanks not only for our own personal gifts but for the Ultimate Gift given to us: Christ's love outpoured for the World.

So also did Father Brian in yesterday's homily include a couple of quotes from the truly splendid (all puns intended) encyclical from Pope John Paul II's The Splendor of Truth (Veritatis Splendor):
By their eloquent and attractive example of a life completely transfigured by the splendour of moral truth, the martyrs and, in general, all the Church's Saints, light up every period of history by reawakening its moral sense. By witnessing fully to the good, they are a living reproof to those who transgress the law (cf. Wis 2:12), and they make the words of the Prophet echo ever afresh: "Woe to those who call evil good and good evil, who put darkness for light and light for darkness, who put bitter for sweet and sweet for bitter!" (Is 5:20).Veritatis Splendor 93
And again from The Splendor of Truth:
The lives of the saints, as a reflection of the goodness of God — the One who "alone is good" — constitute not only a genuine profession of faith and an incentive for sharing it with others, but also a glorification of God and his infinite holiness. The life of holiness thus brings to full expression and effectiveness the threefold and unitary munus propheticum, sacerdotale et regale which every Christian receives as a gift by being born again "of water and the Spirit" (Jn 3:5) in Baptism. His moral life has the value of a "spiritual worship" (Rom 12:1; cf. Phil 3:3), flowing from and nourished by that inexhaustible source of holiness and glorification of God which is found in the Sacraments, especially in the Eucharist: by sharing in the sacrifice of the Cross, the Christian partakes of Christ's self-giving love and is equipped and committed to live this same charity in all his thoughts and deeds. In the moral life the Christian's royal service is also made evident and effective: with the help of grace, the more one obeys the new law of the Holy Spirit, the more one grows in the freedom to which he or she is called by the service of truth, charity and justice.Veritatis Splendor 107
We, as Christians, must be ready to be those idealized evangelists that is described in the second passage from The Splendor of Truth. Just as Abraham's readiness to follow God's will to sacrifice Isaac (Genesis 22), we are called to rid ourselves of our selfish ways...and not only become good people but saintly—holy—people, people set apart.

We must do this every part of our lives. Just as dead branches of a vine must be pruned so must we prune our lives of the sin, we must look introspectively at ourselves to change what isn't of God. And so that is the hardest part of it. We must love the Beloved without request, we must do for the Beloved what is pleasing to the Beloved out of a selfless love.

Every day is an apocalypse. We are called to have our own unveilings of Christ in our lives as our Savior and love Him even greater—but not only Him but Him in the stranger, in the enemy, in the most undesirables of undesirables. We are to love Him in the Other we see each day, in each of our own personal beloved.

This is where I am troubled. I am two persons right now, a person beside himself, and I am a great deal unsure of the course of action I am to take. I've heard news that I probably should not be privy to, but it has been made known for a reason I yet not fully realize or comprehend. I heard it last night, and it was not a surprise—far from a surprise, indeed. I was shaken though because it awoke me from a numbness I felt these past few weeks over her. It was something to be taken care of later, so as to not agitate my aching heart.

I have felt numb, not to life but to love. I am trying to offer up what is in my heart. And it becomes even tougher as the days pass. The more it resides there, the more it turns and twists. The words I heard last night twisted my heart in newer ways, in nerve-racking ways. It was the third conversation this week to push me to the subject of addressing the past year and the feelings dwelling within me.

I could not concentrate last night, but I know that I must prune my heart of the many dead branches it has. I am not lost on the Path, for I feel God's presence working through this all. No, I haven't felt God more than I feel Him now.

As I heard recently from a priest, unfortunately I've forgotten which now, faith in God and a turning over to His Will doesn't provide an answer book, but it does provide a guiding light to the Truth in our lives. I only need allow the Light to illumine my steps even more.

These things revealed are what I am most thankful for these days. Praise be to God and may His Word ever dwell in this World and the Next.

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