The union of divinity and humanity

Christmas Season Meditations

The infinite distance between God and man, the impassable abyss, the breaking of every bond of friendship—all this was the tremendous consequence of sin. Then between God and man appeared the sweet Babe of Bethlehem; suddenly and completely the whole situation changes: distance is overcome and across the abyss a wonderful bridge erected which unites earth with heaven and reestablishes relations of intimacy between God and men.
— Divine Intimacy, Father Gabriel of St Mary Magdalene

21
I told you that I have made a bridge of the Word, my only-begotten Son, and such is the truth. I want you to realize, my children, that by Adam’s sinful disobedience the road was so broken up that no one could reach everlasting life. Since they had no share in the good for which I created them, they did not give me the return of glory they owed me, and so my truth was not fulfilled. What is this truth: that I had created them in my image and likeness so that they might have eternal life, sharing in my being and enjoying my supreme eternal tenderness and goodness. But because of their sin they never reached this goal and never fulfilled my truth, for sin closed heaven and the door of my mercy.

22
… But first I want you to look at the bridge of my only begotten Son, and notice its greatness. Look! It stretches from heaven to earth, joining the earth of your humanity with the greatness of the Godhead. This is what I mean when I say it stretches from heaven to earth—through my union with humanity.

This was necessary if I wanted to remake the road that had been broken up, so that you might pass over the bitterness of the world and reach life.

…But my Son’s having made of himself a bridge for you could not bring you to life unless you make your way along that bridge.

— Dialogue, St Catherine of Siena

If we wish to be united to God, we have no other means than to attach ourselves to Jesus, to pass through Him, our Mediator, our Bridge, our Way.

— Divine Intimacy, Father Gabriel of St Mary Magdalene

Whatever way I turn, I meet nothing but ineffable love. I cannot excuse myself for not loving You, because it is You alone, God and man, who loved me without any return of love on my part, because when I did not exist, You created me. In You I find all that I want to love. … If I want to love God, I have Your ineffable Deity, if I want to love man, You are man. … If I want to love the Lord, You paid my ransom with your blood, and lifted me up from the slavery of sin. You are our Lord, Father, and Brother by Your benignity and Your incommensurable charity. …

You are God, supreme Wisdom, I am only a poor ignorant creature.
You are sovereign, eternal goodness.
I am death, You are life;
I am darkness, You are light;
I am stupidity, You are Wisdom;
You are infinite, I am finite.
I am sick, You are the physician;
I am a weak sinner that  has never loved You;
You are purest beauty, and I am most vile creature.

In Your ineffable love, You have drawn me to You; You draw us all to You, that is, if our will does not rebel against Yours.

— St Catherine of Siena

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A light that will never go out

Advent Meditation of the Day
In Conversation With God, Vol. 1, by Frances Fernandez

16.1 The purity of heart that Christmas calls us to. The fruits of this virtue. Internal acts.

Shower, O heavens, from above, and let the skies rain down righteousness: let the earth open, that salvation may spring up. (Isaiah  45:8)

Christmas is a light in the darkness, a light that will never go out. Everyone who looks toward Bethlehem can contemplate the baby Jesus, with Mary and Joseph, that is to say, everyone who looks with a pure heart, because God shows himself only to the pure in heart (Matthew 5:8).

Christmas is a summons to purity of heart. Perhaps many men see nothing wonderful when this feast comes around because they are blind to what is truly important, their hearts are full of material things, or of filth and misery. Uncleanness of heart produces insensitivity to the things of God, and to much that is humanly good as well, including compassion for the unhappiness of other people.

16.2 Guarding one’s heart.

Keep custody of your heart with all vigilance: for from it flows the springs of life, says the book of Proverbs (4:23). And from it too flow joy and peace, the ability to love and do apostolate. … How carefully we must guard our hearts! Because otherwise they always tend to attach themselves in the wrong way to people and to things.

Among all the aims of our lives, there is only one which is truly necessary: it is to reach the goal which God has set for us, to attain to heaven, by living our own individual vocation to the full. In order to achieve this, we have to be ready to lose everything else, to clear away anything which would obstruct our way. Everything must be a means for reaching God, and if anything whatever proves to be an obstacle, then we must put it right or give it up in sacrifice.

16.3 The pure of heart will see God even in this life and fully in the life to come.

‘The pure in heart shall see God.’ It is with good reason that the beatitude of seeing God is promised to the pure in heart. A life that is defiled can never contemplate the splendor of the true Light, because the very same thing which is the joy of pure souls will be the punishment of those that are defiled. (St Leo the Great, Sermon 95 On the Beatitudes)

If our hearts are pure they will know how to recognize Christ in the intimacy of silent prayer, in the busy middle of our work, in the everyday events of ordinary life. He lives and goes on acting within us. A Christian who sincerely searches for Our Lord will find him, because it is this same Lord who is looking for us.

If we lack inner purity the clearest signals will mean nothing to us, and we shall interpret them all wrong, as the Pharisees did, even to the point of being scandalized by them. God himself and his works in the world can only be seen by those whose dispositions are good.

The contemplative life is within the reach of every Christian. But there has to be a firm, serious decision to look for God in every circumstance, to purify oneself, and to make reparation for one’s sins and errors. It is always a grace from God, and he does not deny it to anyone who humbly asks for it. Advent is an especially propitious time to ask for this gift.

Behold, our God will come and save us

Third Sunday of Advent: Gaudete Sunday

Rejoice!

Scriptures of the Day

Old Testament Prophecy: Isaiah 61:1–2a, 10–11

The spirit of the Lord GOD is upon me,
because the LORD has anointed me;
he has sent me to bring glad tidings to the poor,
to heal the brokenhearted,
to proclaim liberty to the captives
and release to the prisoners,
to announce a year of favor from the LORD
and a day of vindication by our God.

I rejoice heartily in the LORD,
in my God is the joy of my soul;
for he has clothed me with a robe of salvation
and wrapped me in a mantle of justice,
like a bridegroom adorned with a diadem,
like a bride bedecked with her jewels.
As the earth brings forth its plants,
and a garden makes its growth spring up,
so will the Lord GOD make justice and praise
spring up before all the nations.

Responsorial Psalm: Luke 1:46–50, 53–54

My soul proclaims the greatness of the Lord;
my spirit rejoices in God my Savior,
for he has looked upon his lowly servant.
From this day all generations will call me blessed:
R. My soul rejoices in my God.

the Almighty has done great things for me,
and holy is his Name.
He has mercy on those who fear him
in every generation.
R. My soul rejoices in my God.

He has filled the hungry with good things,
and the rich he has sent away empty.
He has come to the help of his servant Israel
for he has remembered his promise of mercy.
R. My soul rejoices in my God.

New Testament: Thessalonians 5:16–24

Brothers and sisters:
Rejoice always. Pray without ceasing.
In all circumstances give thanks,
for this is the will of God for you in Christ Jesus.
Do not quench the Spirit.
Do not despise prophetic utterances.
Test everything; retain what is good.
Refrain from every kind of evil.

May the God of peace make you perfectly holy
and may you entirely, spirit, soul, and body,
be preserved blameless for the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ.
The one who calls you is faithful,
and he will also accomplish it.

Gospel: John 1:6–8, 19–28

A man named John was sent from God.
He came for testimony, to testify to the light,
so that all might believe through him.
He was not the light,
but came to testify to the light.

And this is the testimony of John.
When the Jews from Jerusalem sent priests
and Levites to him
to ask him, “Who are you?”
He admitted and did not deny it,
but admitted, “I am not the Christ.”
So they asked him,
“What are you then? Are you Elijah?”
And he said, “I am not.”
“Are you the Prophet?”
He answered, “No.”
So they said to him,
“Who are you, so we can give an answer to those who sent us?
What do you have to say for yourself?”
He said:
“I am the voice of one crying out in the desert,
‘make straight the way of the Lord,'”

as Isaiah the prophet said.”
Some Pharisees were also sent.
They asked him,
“Why then do you baptize
if you are not the Christ or Elijah or the Prophet?”
John answered them,
“I baptize with water;
but there is one among you whom you do not recognize,
the one who is coming after me,
whose sandal strap I am not worthy to untie.”
This happened in Bethany across the Jordan,
where John was baptizing.

Meditation: Profound Joy
In Conversation With God, Volume 1, by Frances Fernandez

15.1 Advent: a time of happiness and hope. What happiness is — being near Jesus; unhappiness — losing him.

The liturgy of today’s Mass repeats the words of St Paul in which he urges the first Christians of Philippi: Rejoice in the Lord always; again I say, rejoice. And the Apostle goes on to give the basic reason for this profound happiness: the Lord is at hand.

This is also the joy of Advent, and that of every day: Jesus is very near us. He is nearer every day. And St Paul gives us the key to understanding the origin of any unhappiness we may feel: it comes from our putting a distance between ourselves and God, through our sins, through tepidity.

Our Lord always brings us joy and not affliction. His mysteries are all joyful mysteries, the sorrowful mysteries we bring on ourselves. (PA Reggio, Supernatural Spirit and Good Humor)

Hail, full of grace, the Lord is with you, said the Angel to Mary. It is the nearness of God which makes the Virgin rejoice. And the nearness of the Messiah will make the unborn Baptist show forth his joy in the womb of Elizabeth. And the Angel will say to the shepherds: Be not afraid; for behold, I bring you good news of great joy which will come to all the people; for to you is born this day a Savior … Joy is to possess Jesus, unhappiness is to lose him.

We shall be full of joy if Our Lord is really present in our life, if we have not lost him, if we have not allowed our sight to be clouded by tepidity or lack of generosity. When one attempts to discover happiness along other paths which lead away from God, all one finds in fact is sorrow and misery. All those who, in one way or another, ever turned their backs on God have had the same experience: they have proved that apart from God there is no true happiness. There can be none.

To find Christ, and to remain in his company, is to possess a deep happiness which is new every day.

Prayer (from Roman Breviary)

Come, Lord, and tarry not; reveal Thy power and come to save us. Come and be our salvation, according to Thy promise! Thou art our Savior; Thou wilt free us from all our iniquities and cast our sins into the depths of the sea. Thou wilt descend like rain upon the fleece and wilt bring us justice and peace. … Thou wilt be my guide and my shepherd; Thou wilt teach me Thy ways and I shall walk in Thy paths. Thy coming fills me with joy and my soul rejoices in Thee, my God and my Savior. O Lord, I rejoice in all Thy deeds and I exult in Thy works. How admirable are Thy works and how great is Thy mercy!

See Also

Waiting for someone who has already come

Saturday of the Second Week of Advent

Jesus tells us in today’s Gospel reading that Elijah came but was not recognized. Jesus,  too, has come, Son of God, and many have not recognized Him.

Scriptures of the Day

Old Testament: Sirach 48:1–4, 9–11

In those days, like a fire there appeared the prophet Elijah whose words were as a flaming furnace. Their staff of bread he shattered, in his zeal he reduced them to straits;
By the Lord’s word he shut up the heavens and three times brought down fire. How awesome are you, Elijah, in your wondrous deeds! Whose glory is equal to yours? You were taken aloft in a whirlwind of fire, in a chariot with fiery horses. You were destined, it is written, in time to come to put an end to wrath before the day of the LORD, To turn back the hearts of fathers toward their sons, and to re-establish the tribes of Jacob. Blessed is he who shall have seen you and who falls asleep in your friendship.

Responsorial Psalm: 80

O shepherd of Israel, hearken,
From your throne upon the cherubim, shine forth.
Rouse your power.
R. Lord, make us turn to you; let us see your face and we shall be saved.

Once again, O LORD of hosts,
look down from heaven, and see;
Take care of this vine,
and protect what your right hand has planted
the son of man whom you yourself made strong.
R. Lord, make us turn to you; let us see your face and we shall be saved.

May your help be with the man of your right hand,
with the son of man whom you yourself made strong.
Then we will no more withdraw from you;
give us new life, and we will call upon your name.
R. Lord, make us turn to you; let us see your face and we shall be saved.

Gospel: Matthew 17:9–13

As they were coming down from the mountain, the disciples asked Jesus, “Why do the scribes say that Elijah must come first?” He said in reply, “Elijah will indeed come and restore all things; but I tell you that Elijah has already come, and they did not recognize him but did to him whatever they pleased. So also will the Son of Man suffer at their hands.” Then the disciples understood that he was speaking to them of John the Baptist.

Prayer of the Day
Divine Intimacy, Colloquy for Saturday of the Second week of Advent

O Mary, I love to contemplate you as you adore in profound recollection the great mystery which is taking place within you. You are the first temple of the Blessed Trinity, the first adorer of the Incarnate Word, the first tabernacle of His sacred humanity.

“O Mary, temple of the Trinity! Mary you bore the divine fire; Mother of Mercy, from you has blossomed forth the fruit of life, Jesus! O Mother, you are that new plant from which we have the fragrant flower, the Word, the only-begotten Son of God, because in you, fertile land, was sown this Word. O Mary, fiery chariot, you bore a hidden fire which was concealed beneath the ashes of your humanity. If I look at you, O Mary, I see that the hand of the Holy Spirit has inscribed the Trinity in you, by forming within you the Incarnate Word, the only Son of God. O Mary, I see this Word given to you, within you. (Saint Catherine of Siena)

O my Mother, teach me the secret of your interior life; teach me to live recollected with God present in my soul. Teach me your silence, communicate to me your spirit of adoration; close to you, in your school, I too wish to be the little temple of the Trinity. Help me to detach myself from creatures and to live in silent, loving adoration of the Trinity in the innermost depths of my soul.

In a thousand ways I shunned your love

God’s constant activity is visible only to the eyes of faith

Quote of the Day

Now is the time to say to Jesus: “Lord, I have let myself be deceived; in a thousand ways I have shunned your love, yet here I am once more, to renew my covenant with you. I need you. Save me once again, Lord, take me once more into your redeeming embrace”. How good it feels to come back to him whenever we are lost! Let me say this once more: God never tires of forgiving us; we are the ones who tire of seeking his mercy. Christ, who told us to forgive one another “seventy times seven” (Mt 18:22) has given us his example: he has forgiven us seventy times seven. Time and time again he bears us on his shoulders. No one can strip us of the dignity bestowed upon us by this boundless and unfailing love. With a tenderness which never disappoints, but is always capable of restoring our joy, he makes it possible for us to lift up our heads and to start anew. Let us not flee from the resurrection of Jesus, let us never give up, come what will. May nothing inspire more than his life, which impels us onwards!

— Pope Francis, The Joy of the Gospel, 3

Prayer of the Day
Outline for Making an Evening Examen
The Examen Prayer: Ignatian Wisdom for Our Lives Today by Fr Timothy M. Gallagher

Transition

I become aware of the love with which God looks upon me as I begin this examen.

Step one: Gratitude

I note the gifts that God’s love has given me this day, and I give thanks to God for them.

Step two: Petition

I ask God for an insight and a strength that will make this examen a work of grace, fruitful beyond my human capacity alone.

Step three: Review

With my God, I review the day. I look for the stirrings in my heart and the thoughts that God has given me this day. I look also for those that have not been of God. I review my choices in response to both, and throughout the day in general.

  • Do I have expectations about the way God will act in my life?
  • Where was God in all of this today? Did I receive any spiritual consolations? Did I experience any spiritual desolation? If yes, did I allow it to change my spiritual proposals?
  • Toward what was God calling me in the day? How did I respond to this call?
  • Did I experience inclinations and thoughts that were not of God? If yes, was I able to resist them?
  • Was the use of my freedom in accord with God’s loving desire for me today?
  • What habits do I need to examine more closely and change?

Step four: Forgiveness

I ask for the healing touch of the forgiving God who, with love and respect for me, removes my heart’s burdens.

Step five: Renewal

I look to the following day and, with God, plan concretely how to live it in accord with God’s loving desire for my life.

Transition

Aware of God’s presence with me, I prayerfully conclude the examen.

Learn How to Respond More Fully to God

Questions of the Day
Living With Spiritual Eyes Open: from grace to grace

  • What gifts did God give me today? Am I thankful?
  • In what ways did the Holy Spirit inspire me or prompt me?
  • How was I faithful to God this day?
  • Where did I fail to be faithful to God’s leading and will this day?
  • When was I discouraged?
  • When did I have spiritual encouragement?
  • How can I be more sensitive to God’s grace tomorrow?

A free heart where God can dwell

Quote of the Day
excerpt from chapter 2 of The Gift of Faith by Tadeusz Dajczer

And you, in whom or in what do you place your hope? What do you count on? Who is your God? If you place your hope in a false god, then you will know bitterness and disappointment, because it is a matter that sooner or later will disappoint you. This will be a great grace for you because then your trust in mammon will begin to crumble.

What can this mammon that enslaves your heart be? It can be material as well as spiritual goods. For example, it can be attachment to money, to your children, to your work, or to something you are presently creating or working on. It may be attachment to peace or even to one’s own perfection. All these attachments cause your bondage and bring you slavery. As a human being you can choose to attach yourself to the one and only reality — the will of God. Everything that enslaves you closes you off from God and diminishes your faith.

How can you uncover your mammon? Are the tension, stress, restlessness, rushing, and sadness that accompany you through life signs that you serve some kind of mammon? There are people, for example, who live under constant stress. How great then must be their attachment to something opposed to God. People free from attachments are filled with the peace of God. The peace of God builds and strengthens mental health, which in turn reflects on physical health. In this way, the soul, the psyche, and the body participate in a person’s great freedom. A person free form attachments is also free from facial wrinkles, from stress, and from the diseases of civilization. Mammon systematically destroys a human person. It not only blocks your way to Christ and your adherence to Him, but it also destroys your health and your psyche.

An obvious sign of attachments is also your sadness in situations when God takes something away from you. He will, therefore, take that to which you are enslaved; hence, He will take everything that is your greatest enemy — whatever causes your heart not to be free for Him. It is only when you start to cheerfully accept these kinds of situations, and submit with serenity, that you will become more and more free.

While standing before the Lord during prayer, show Him not only your empty hands, but also your dirty hands defiled by your attachments to mammon, and pray that He will have mercy on you. Prayer can develop only in the atmosphere of freedom. As a disciple of Christ, you are especially called to contemplative prayer. For your prayer to become contemplation — a loving gaze on Jesus Christ, your beloved — it is essential to have a free heart. That is why Christ fights so much for your heart to be free. He fights through various events, difficulties, and storms, all the while giving you the chance to cooperate intensely with grace. In all these situations, Christ expects that you will try to cleanse your heart soiled by attachments and servitude to mammon. Hence, all these difficult moments and all the storms are graces for you. They are the passing by of the Merciful Lord who loves you so much that He wants to give you the magnificent gift — the gift of the total freedom of your heart. Your heart should not be divided; it should be a heart solely for Him.

To have faith means to see and understand the meaning of your life in accordance with the Gospel, and that God is most important. Your life is to be oriented toward Him — primarily to seek and to build His kingdom, with faith that everything else will be given to you (cf. Mat 6:33). God wants to bestow each person with all His love. However, He can bestow this on a person only to the extent of his openness and his readiness to be stripped of his attachments so that room may be made for Him. It is faith that creates the emptiness and vacuum in us where God can dwell.