Wednesday, 29 February 2012

Loving until it hurts

Gratefully downloaded from Fr Ray Blake's blog
Yesterday was One Of Those Days... and so I am very thankful that God allowed it to be preceded by an experience that was One Of Those Evenings in quite a different sense.  On Monday night four of us (that I know of) from Horsham went down to St Mary Magdalene's RC Church in Brighton, whose 150th anniversary celebrations were started in heavenly style by a celebration of Solemn High Mass of the Holy Ghost (Extraordinary Form).  Our own Fr Richard and Fr Aaron were amongst the priests present.

The Mass was sublime, a genuine foretaste of Heaven, or perhaps rather a kairos moment in which the veils between Heaven and earth dissolve and one is vividly aware of being part of the universal and eternal communion of the Church. It was revelatory for me to hear Schubert's Mass No 2 in G major performed in its intended setting rather than in the context of a concert or CD recording.  There was also a new and spine-tingling composition by composer Tom Bennett having its world premier, Tu es Petrus, and I am inclined to agree with Mulier Fortis who says it made her think of the "terrifying and awe-ful responsibility" that accompanies the office of Pope, echoing down the centuries from Jesus' instigation of the role until the end of our world.

Congratulations to St Mary Magdalene's both on the Mass and on their anniversary!

This was an experience which re-grounded my faith and reminded me of the raison d'etre of everything I do (indeed, of everything I am).  Sometimes the practical challenges and battles of daily life distract and discourage us and we need reminding of the ground of our hope. Another such moment came last week when, in my prayer time, I was reading the Meditation of the Day in Magnificat.  The Gospel (Saturday after Ash Wednesday) was Luke 5:27-32, the calling of Levi, and the meditation was a passage by St Catherine of Siena which had been entitled "What Drew Matthew to Jesus".  St Catherine's answer was, quite simply, love.  As pro-lifers, we can never remind ourselves enough that love should be the "source and the summit" (to re-apply the words from Sacrosanctum Concilium!) of all that we do and say.  Love for the precious, sacred dignity of all human life from conception until natural death.

An excerpt:

Because of its rebellion against God, here are the devils, holding this sheep as their own possession.  Then along comes God's infinite goodness and sees the sheep's sorry state, its ruin and damnation.  He knows he cannot use wrath or war to entice it away from them.  Supreme, eternal Wisdom doesn't want to do it that way, even though the sheep has wronged him... No, he finds a delightful way - the most sweet and loving way possible; for he sees that the human heart is drawn by love as by nothing else, since it is made of love.  This seems to be why human beings love so much, because they are made of nothing but love, body and soul.  In love God created them in his own image and likeness, and in love father and mother conceive and bring forth their children, giving them a share in their own substance.  So God, seeing that humankind is so quick to love, throws out to us right away the hook of love, giving us the Word, his only-begotten Son...

This Word played life against death and death against life in tournament on the wood of the most holy cross, so that by his death he destroyed our death, and to give us life he spent his own bodily life.  With love, then, he has so drawn us and with his kindness so conquered our malice that every heart should be won over... Oh gentle loving Word, with love you recovered your little sheep, and with love gave them life.  You brought them back to the fold by restoring to them the grace they had lost. (St Catherine of Siena)

Humbling words, and a reminder of our own vocation to love until it hurts.

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