Thursday, January 19, 2012

St. John of Avila: Second Sermon

First let us share excerpts from a letter by Fulgentius of Ruspe, bishop.  His words augment what is good to grasp regarding the progression of Jesus Christ in His love for us, leading us to the Father and the Holy Spirit.  Perhaps mainly lessons for my soul, the insights I am understanding may be meaningful to others.  Also, continuing from the previous post, I want to underline the reality that in not fragmenting Jesus by diminishing His Oneness with the Father and the Holy Spirit, Jesus Christ as distinct Second Person of the Trinity lived with us in this world.  He is the way, the truth, and the life.  It is just that His way, truth and life do not relegate us to the temporal alone.

In this letter by Bishop Fulgentius of Ruspe, his points supports the insights.  "Notice at the conclusion of our prayer we never say, 'through the Holy Spirit,' but rather, 'through Jesus Christ, your Son, our Lord.'  Through the mystery of the Incarnation, Jesus Christ became man, the mediator of God and man.  He is a priest for ever according to the order of Melchizedek.  By shedding his own blood he entered once and for all into the Holy Places.  He did not enter a place made by human hands, a mere type of the true one; but, he entered heaven itself, where he is at God's right hand interceding for us.  Quite correctly, the Church continues to reflect this mystery in her prayer."

St. John of Avila, in his Second Sermon on the Holy Ghost, also comments: "Jesus Christ entered into heaven itself, says St. Paul, that he might appear in the presence of God to offer His passion and obtain the Holy Ghost for us.  We will be helped through the intercession of Jesus Christ because we will receive the Holy Ghost."

Fulgentius, on the topic that Christ lives forever to make intercession for us, ends his letter:  "We do not, however, only say 'your Son' when we conclude our prayer.  We also say, 'who lives and reigns with you in the unity of the Holy Spirit.'  In this way we commemorate the natural unity of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit.  It is clear, then, that the Christ who exercises a priestly role on our behalf is the same Christ who enjoys a natural unity and equality with the Father and the Holy Spirit."

We now pick up again with St. John of Avila's Second Sermon, in which he explains again to the apostles (and us) that it is to our advantage for Jesus to leave.  "'It is expedient to you that I go.  For if I go not, the Paraclete will not come to you; but if I go, I will send him to you....I shall send you one whose name is Paraclete, one who will teach you not only about the things of today, but even about the things of the future; who will tell you who I am, for you do not yet know Me well; one who is the Spirit, who will make you understand in your inmost soul that it is not necessary to have ears to hear Him, or eyes to see Him; one who will never leave you but who will be with you when you eat, when you sleep, when you are in the church, and when you are at home; one who indeed will be your companion, for He will never be separated from you.  Be glad that I am going, because this Teacher is coming to you.  All that I have told you, He will expound.  He will be your Master, your Tutor, your Comforter.  He will console you.  Be glad that I am going."

This is an interesting next point.  St. John of Avila perhaps challenges the thoughts of many, but if we ponder his words, we realize perhaps that we have fragmented Jesus from the fullness of His Person in the Trinity, as God.  Perhaps we have held ourselves back from what Jesus wants to teach us and where He desires to lead us, just as the apostles were clinging to his humanity.  Indeed, what do we image when we think of Jesus?  What do we consider to be His Real Presence?  Is it the Trinity?

St. John of Avila: "The humanity of Jesus Christ, the Man, was not perfect as the Holy Ghost is perfect.  For the humanity of Christ was created and the Holy Ghost was God.  The divinity of Christ did not go away, because His divinity had not come down from heaven; neither did His divinity rise to heaven; only His body and soul left the world, and as Man, He was less than the Holy Ghost.  You are wrong then to ask Him not to go.  The Holy Ghost must come.  'When the Paraclete cometh, he shall give testimony of me.'  And when you know who I am, then you will understand that it is right that I should leave."  Next, St. John of Avila reminds us that if we do not fully participate or accept this fact and feast of Pentecost, we have no share in anything Christ has done or ever will do--His birth, fasts prayers, scourging, death, resurrection, nor ascension.

Then St. John of Avila asks, "Do you think this is to esteem this feast [Pentecost] too highly?  Jesus did all that He did in order that men might take part in this feast.  So sings the Church at this time--To participate in His divinity: what does that mean?  It means to celebrate this feast fittingly, to receive the Holy Ghost, who is God Himself....Cannot I get along well enough without the Holy Ghost?  No, in deed. Woe to Him who has not the Holy Ghost within him." 

Now he quotes St. Paul.  "Let none be dismayed--says St. Paul--do not live in the flesh; you do not live by your own wisdom; your conduct is not ruled by your will, your own desires.  He who was such a great preacher said to you in truth:  'But you are not in the flesh, but in the spirit'...because the Spirit of God abides within you.  And so that you may understand that your beatitude depends upon having the Holy Ghost as your guest know that if 'any man have not the Spirit of Christ, he is none of his.'  It is necessary to say this again and again....He who has not the spirit of God, is not of God.  He is not the child of God and he will not be saved."

And later in the sermon, again:  "'He who has not the Spirit of Christ is none of His.  Think over them, dwell on them.  How do you feel about them? He who lives by his own spirit, does not belong to Christ.  You are not to live according to your own intellect, your own will, or your own judgment; you are to live in the Spirit of Christ....Free yourselves from earthly cares so that you may receive in your hearts the Spirit of Christ.  I should say 'of Jesus Christ' because the Spirit of God proceeds from Him as God and dwells in Him as Man."

Perhaps these words do not make sense or seem hard to apply to our daily lives and time in which we live.  All I can share is that they make much sense to me and help me comprehend all the more why the troubles and conniptions of the temporal keep us ensnared even if they seem what others are doing--even, perhaps especially, in the temporal aspects of the Church--what St. Bernard terms "the visible Church."  First we need to be people of Christ's Heart and Spirit; the temporal can unfold as it will, after, in ways that would astound us.  Union with God means union with Jesus Christ and the Holy Spirit and the Father.  Our spirits (of which St. Teresa of Avila considers to be the deepest, richest, innermost part of us and encompasses our souls and all else within) must be open to and accepting of His Real Presence, the Trinity.  To live in the Spirit of Christ is to live in the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit, and They in us.

St. John of Avila, in the Third Sermon, asks us who it is that Jesus refers to when He says "We" will come and make our abode with you.  But beyond all these words, we must simply and fervently beg His Real Presence of which, yes, Jesus is One and All with the Father and the Holy Spirit, to become very real in our lives, in our bodies, minds, hearts, souls and spirits.  We must live beyond temporal--not excluding temporal, but beyond.  When we have passed through various grade levels in school, we do not ever dismiss or exclude these levels, but we move beyond in progression.  That is it.

This morning my little ministry continued of positively reinforcing Catholics who exemplify fine Christian behaviors and witness.  There were four or five contacts made, perhaps seven, including one heart-felt apology.  Yes, I apologize to any I have upset or been frustrated with, or unkind to.  This includes those I do not know personally who may read these posts.  With the ecstasies during Mass and reading more of St. Teresa and other mystics who explain such matters, I understand that these phenomenon can go on for years until the soul is more purified and acceptable to His Real Presence for spiritual matrimony.  Perhaps my soul will never be acceptable until long after death and the fires of purgatory.  However, I do know that I expected Catholics to be very advanced in virtues, not envious, not proud, not controlling or icy, but very charitable and kind.  We should not have expectations of others, but of ourselves; of this I'm sure now.  All the more, I know His Real Presence has taught me that it is easy to get distracted by the too temporal aspects--negative ones, perhaps especially in the Church.  It is best to seek balance within His Real Presence, and then we may find that there is not so much that needs to be accomplished otherwise, as faith, hope and love effectuate all.

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