Tag Archives: gift

15 June. What do the Saints know? VI: Gifts of the Holy Spirit

HARVESTCHAPEL

Harvest

We have been pondering some wonderful things about the theological virtue of faith and using St. Thomas Aquinas as a guide. Consider this: in St. Thomas’ system, each theological virtue is attended by corresponding gifts of the Holy Spirit, which enable the virtue to exist more profoundly within our mind and heart. The idea is that no virtue is static. So faith does not just ‘sit there’ accumulating dust in our mind. It grows, deepens, flowers, bears fruit. We can count on this.

Thomas says that the gifts of Knowledge and Understanding attend the virtue of faith. In the gift of Understanding, he explains, we are supernaturally enlightened in order to penetrate further into the very essence of faith, and gain a sound grasp of the things to be believed (II.II. 8:1, and 9:1). And, the gift of Knowledge is a spiritual enlightenment by which we acquire a “sure and right judgment” about matters of faith. This knowledge, he says, is a ‘participated likeness’ to God’s own knowledge, and to God’s way of knowing. And God’s way of knowing? It is “not discursive, not argumentative, but absolute and simple” (II.II. 9:1).

So, in the gift of faith we are not given something that will ‘wear out’, that can be ‘used up’, go out of style, grow stale. We are given something that participates in God’s very life, in his way of knowing, and is sustained by further gifts of the Holy Spirit: Knowledge and Understanding. And these gifts continue to work within us, leading us to a participated likeness to God.

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12 June: What do the Saints know? III, Faith

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The Theological virtue of faith

What is the act of faith for St. Thomas? What is the nature of this kind of ‘knowing’? What does faith have to do with connaturality?

St. Thomas insists on the divine initiative here, as he does with all the theological virtues. Theological virtues are gifts of God. He says, “Faith is from God moving man inwardly by grace” (II.II.6.1). So faith is established in the soul by a divine infusion of grace. I love this teaching on the “infused” aspect of faith, because, that is how faith has come to me.. Faith is not something that I just decided to have one day. Nor is faith something that I have because some told me I ‘ought to’ have it because it is ‘good for me’ – like eating your vegetables. In my experience, I began to have real faith (as opposed to just going through the motions of faith) because of something that happened to me – a conversion experience, if you will. For me, faith was a gift that was a response to that other, more fundamental gift of God. Faith was a way of saying thank you to God and of acknowledging that he was now so real for me that everything else was real only in a secondary sense: because it was sustained by the Real reality, who was God. And this experience held a divine imperative – inwardly compelling and joyful – that summoned me to, you might say, ‘cultivate’ my faith and make faith a habit of existence. Cultivate is a weak word, though. My experience was more like being picked in one place and put down in another – in a whole new country! It was a change in the nature of existence; it was existence in a new ‘place’ on a new level. ‘Cultivating’ my faith means coming to know and understand this place, this level. As St. Thomas says, it has all been the gift of God, moving me inwardly by grace.

The idea of faith being a ‘place’ a ‘new country’ is expressive of the way God infused the gift of faith into my soul. For others, another image might be better. Perhaps it was slower for you, a bit by bit experience. Gentler, perhaps. Maybe it was through suffering that Faith was given and deepened. Maybe you have always had faith. Maybe you lost it – or thought you did – and then re-discovered it somehow. It might be helpful to meditate on the way you have found faith in your life – or it has found you – before we go on to explore the subject further.

A whole new country …

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June 3: Corpus Christi – what a waste!

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Janet had been watching a documentary about life in the Himalayas. Amid the fierce natural beauties the programme visited a Buddhist monastery, where the monks ground rock crystals into powder which they dyed into bright colours. They used the sand to create religious symbols which would be displayed for a while, then swept away. Life is passing was the truth they held before themselves in this exercise.

Sic Transit Gloria Mundi, I might have said, but didn’t. Instead my mind went back to school days, when preparations for Corpus Christi included the enjoyable task of dying sawdust to make pictures to decorate the route of the Blessed Sacrament procession. The top picture from 1956 shows students at Saint Augustine’s College in Blacklion, Ireland, decorating the drive. The other shows the culmination of the Corpus Christi procession at the Priory, my school in Hampshire, but before my time, in 1948. The first is by Anthony Whelan, the second by Robert Clyde, both come from the website of the friends of the Missionaries of Africa: the pelicans.

Anthony’s photograph shows how these designs will be trampled underfoot. Sic transit – so many labours of love, think of wedding cakes or fireworks, are made to serve for a moment in time. Think, too, of the woman anointing the Lord’s feet with precious oil (Luke7:36-50). Or the oil the other women took to the tomb: an extravagant waste of effort/time/money, says the utilitarian.

But isn’t all we have, see, touch, taste an extravagant gift? Let’s be grateful on this day of the Eucharist, of thanksgiving. If we no longer have processions, we can celebrate with a shared meal, or even eating alone, thank God for the food and raise a glass to absent friends.

And Laudato Si!

 

MMB

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12 May: What is theology saying? VII: Scripture speaks of God’s self-revealing

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There are three important aspects to the biblical understanding of Revelation. A progressive understanding of what Revelation is about – God is becoming more and more personal in the demands he makes. These demands find their concrete definition in Jesus, who speaks clear words in a human language with ordinary signs of love and trust. It is the nature of Revelation to be progressive – with signs that become clearer and demands become more specific for us individually and all of us together.

Scripture speaks mainly of God’s self-revealing – but keeps referring back to the Word already spoken in creation – and not just Genesis, but Psalms and the Wisdom literature – Proverbs, Job, Ecclesiastes, Ecclesiasticus [Ben Sira], Wisdom of Solomon – all make references to God self-revealed in Creation. The New Testament writers frequently echo this.

Prophetic interpretation – the events of history by themselves do not constitute revelation, nor does the simple narration of them – it is only by prophetic interpretation they become revealing. The prophet speaks for God, telling the meaning of events that are happening. This is why Roman or Syrian records of the Maccabean wars would not be testimony of God’s revelation to us, while the Jewish accounts do give such testimony.

This raises the question as to how people come to speak of God, how they know what to say, and how specific words and expressions become canonical – binding for the whole tradition. Revelation is a constant dialogue/conversation between God and us, and the focus is Jesus Christ. Jesus is in the world not simply to bring revelation, like a message from above. He is in the world to be Revelation. He is a happening and gives his own prophetic interpretation of himself. As a happening he is a human being totally open to all possibilities of being and love offered by God. As a prophetic interpretation he explains the nature of God as a huge welcome to all existence and becoming.

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As a happening he is fully alive among us – which makes him the first recipient of God’s self-revealing. The Gospels show him constant in prayer with the Father, growing in wisdom, admitting there were things he did not know, gradually becoming more aware of his own mission and destiny. The New Testament shows him living his life in such a way as to become more constantly aware of what being human really means, and sharing this with his followers.

Our faith confesses Jesus as Lord, uniquely Son of God, and therefore the definitive Word of God spoken in history.

AMcC

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28 April: Little Flowers of Saint Francis XIX: The Riches of Poverty 2.

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(Continued from Yesterday) After begging through the town, Saint Francis and Brother Masseo met together to eat in a place without the city, where was a fair fountain and, hard by, a fine, broad stone ; upon the which each set the alms that he had begged.

And Saint Francis, seeing that Brother Masseo’s pieces of bread were more and finer and larger than his own, rejoiced with great joy, and said: “ O Brother Masseo, we are not worthy of such vast treasure ”: and when he repeated many times these self-same words, Brother Masseo made answer:
« Father, how can one speak of treasure where is such poverty and lack of all things whereof there is need ? Here is nor cloth, nor knife, nor plate, nor porringer, nor house, nor table, nor man-servant, nor maid-servant.”

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Quoth Saint Francis: “And this it is that I acount vast treasure, wherein is no thing at
all prepared by human hands, but whatsoe’er we have is given by God’s own providence, as
manifestly doth appear in the bread that we have begged, in the table of stone so fine, and in the fount so clear; wherefore I will that we pray unto God that He make us to love with all our
heart the treasure of holy poverty which is so noble, that thereunto did God Himself become your servitor.”

And when he had said these words, and they had done their prayer, and for refreshment of the body had taken of those pieces and drunk of that water, they rose up to journey into France.

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27 April: Little Flowers of Saint Francis XVIII: the Riches of Poverty 1.

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THE wonderful servant and follower of Christ, to wit Saint Francis, to the end that he might in all things conform himself perfectly unto Christ, who, as the Gospel saith, sent his disciples forth by two and two unto all the cities and places where He was himself purposing to go; seeing that after the pattern of Christ he had gathered together twelve companions, sent them forth by two and two to preach throughout the world.

And to give them an ensample of true obedience, he was himself the first to go, after the pattern of Christ who began to do before he taught. Wherefore having allotted to his companions the other parts of the world, he with Brother Masseo as his companion took the road that led to the land of France.

And coming one day to a town sore hungered, they went, according to the rule, begging their bread for the love of God; and Saint F rancis went by one street, and Brother Masseo by another. But because Saint Francis was mean to look upon and small of stature, and was deemed thereby a vile beggar by whoso knew him not, he got by his begging naught save a few mouthfuls and scraps of dry bread: but to Brother Masseo, in that he was tall and fair of form, were given good pieces, large and in plenty, and of fresh bread. When that they had done their begging, they met together to eat in a place without the city, where was a fair fountain and, hard by, a fine, broad stone ; upon the which each set the alms that he had begged.

And Saint Francis, seeing that Brother Masseo’s pieces of bread were more and finer and larger than his own, rejoiced with great joy, and said: “ O Brother Masseo, we are not worthy of such vast treasure ”: and when he repeated many times these self-same words, Brother Masseo made answer:
« Father, how can one speak of treasure where is such poverty and lack of all things whereof there is need ? Here is nor cloth, nor knife, nor plate, nor porringer, nor house, nor table, nor man-servant, nor maid-servant.”

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Interruption: Decay, Change and Time.

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Time? Would it exist if we did not mark or measure it? A gift, or a ‘given’, an axiom of existence? I recommend this posting from the Vatican Observatory website by Fr James Kurzynski to ponder on time and how we live and move and have our being in it.

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An ongoing Happy Easter to All! Will.

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7 March: Gardening, a gift economy; or the Little Flowers of Blessed Mabel.

 

periwinkleJust before it got dark I went out with the secateurs to take a few cuttings from our periwinkle. It is excellent ground cover, smothering weeds around the roses but allowing the daffodils to burst through. Even in winter there are a few flowers around (the picture was taken in spring though).

Down at the L’Arche Glebe garden there is a patch of shady ground under a hedge where these cuttings can find a home. While I was gathering them I remembered Mabel, who gave me some from her garden across town. I didn’t hear of her death till after the burial. Her vicar said someone described her as ‘the soul of goodness’. I totally agree. She was an inspiring person to be working for, and deserves recognition at Canterbury Christ Church University, for which she did so much in its earliest years.

Even though none of the present L’Arche Community knew her, she did know about the community in its earliest days and thoroughly approved. Even Mabel, however, could not stretch herself any further to play any part – except to pray. She prayed, she encouraged, she shared her knowledge and skills freely. The soul of goodness indeed.

We enjoy her periwinkles, and tradescantia, and various other perennials, and I treasure her memory.

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January 26: Reflections from the Little Flowers of Saint Francis. IV.

Francois.Anne. beaupre.1Apologies that we miscalculated where Church Unity Week clashed with The Little Flowers, so that this post got separated; but we conclude this chapter concerning Brother Bernard, Francis’s first follower. More flowers to follow next month.

Of Brother Bernard of Quintavalle, 4.

A certain man whose name was Silvester seeing that Saint Francis gave and let give so much money to the poor, being moved by greed, said to Saint Francis: “Thou hast not paid me in full for the stones thou didst buy of me for to rebuild the church; therefore pay me now that thou hast money.” Therewith Saint Francis, marvelling at his greed and willing not to stir up
strife with him, as a true follower of the holy Gospel, put his hands into the bosom of Bernard; and filled his hands with money, which he put into the bosom of Silvester, saying that if he wished for more, more would he give him.

Silvester being content with these, forthwith was away and gat him to his house: but in the evening bethinking him of what he had done throughout the day, and chiding himself for his
greed, pondering on the fervour of Bernard and the sanctity of Saint Francis, he had from God, on the night following and two other nights, a vision on this wise, that from the mouth of Saint Francis sprang a cross of gold, of which the top reached unto heaven, and the arms
stretched from the East even unto the West. By reason of this vision, he gave away all that he had for the love of God, and became a brother minor, and lived in the Order in such sanctity and grace that he spake with God, as doth one friend with another, whereof Saint Francis ofttimes was witness.

Bernard in like manner had such grace of God that oftentimes in contemplation was he caught up to God: and Saint Francis said of him, that he was worthy of all reverence, and that it was he that had founded this Order; inasmuch as he was the first to leave the world, keeping back naught for himself, but giving all unto the poor of Christ, and, when he took on him the Gospel poverty, offering himself naked in the arms of the Crucified;

Bless we His name,

world without end.

Amen.

Another picture from Christina Chase’s pilgrimage to Ste Anne de Beaupre.

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January 17: Reflections from the Little Flowers of Saint Francis. III.

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Of Brother Bernard of Quintavalle 3

So fared they forth and came to the bishop’s house: and after they had heard the Mass, and continued praying until Tierce, the priest at the bidding of Saint Francis took the missal, and making the sign of the most holy Cross, opened it thrice in the name of our Lord Jesu Christ: and at the first opening appeared the words that Christ spake in the Gospel to the young man that asked concerning the path of perfection: “If thou wilt be perfect, go and sell that thou hast, and give to the poor and follow me”; at the second opening appeared those words that Christ spake unto the Apostles when He sent them forth to preach: “Take nothing for your journey, neither staves, nor scrip, neither bread, neither money”; wishing thereby to teach them that for their daily bread they should set all their hopes on God and fix their mind wholly on the preaching of the holy Gospel; at the third opening of the missal appeared those words that Christ spake: “If any man will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow me.”

Then spake Saint Francis unto Bernard: “Behold the counsel that Christ giveth us: come then and fulfil that which thou hast heard: and blessed be our Lord Jesu Christ, who hath deigned to show forth His own life in the holy Gospel.”

This heard, Bernard went out and sold all that he had, and he was very rich; and with great joy he gave all his possessions to widows, to orphans, to prisoners, to monasteries and to hospices, and pilgrims; and in all things Saint Francis helped him faithfully and wisely.

Following Jesus can mean a few nettles and brambles en route! L’Arche Kent on pilgrimage.

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