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January 22, 2021

With Our Chins Up! (Part 3)

Should we need further convincing of the trust we must place in God, the Gospel provides us with a real case study in St. Mary Magdalene, a saint the Church honors as “penitent.”

Magdalene is almost always depicted between our Lady and St. John at the foot of Calvary, and if there was ever someone that should not have been there according to human calculation, it would have been her. If there was ever someone who was a likely candidate to fall victim to discouragement and despair, it was her.

But she didn’t.

We know her young life was filled with raucous living and she had earned for herself quite the infamous reputation. By the time our Lord emerges onto the scene, it seems she was getting tired of it all; she had a heart capable of great love but was looking for it in all the wrong places. But how to make things right?

Her position at Calvary is significant, as each person stands as one of three ways to gain access to the Cross and to Christ, who is our salvation.

Our Lady is humility, St. John is purity, St. Mary Magdalene is penitence; all are tied together by divine charity, which is Christ.

But penitence in the middle shows that we can actually regain both the humility and purity that had been lost by sin, and that is the secret the devil never wants us to know and believe. True humility enables us to realize how much we have been and are loved by God, and so elicits hope, especially when the chips are down, which is the strongest defense against the discouragement he attempts to sow.

Magdalene obtained a full pardon from Christ because she loved much (cf. Lk. 7:47); her hope in Him would come to outweigh the discouraging lies the devil had bound her up with for years that left her desolate and lost.

If then we find ourselves plagued by discouragement, it is time to stir up within what it is we profess and pray for the grace to reconnect with Christ as our Savior and our hope.

We are born for eternal life; we are given a heart capable of loving God and being loved by Him. True penitence admits where we have loved wrongly and yields hope, which is like a kite up in the clouds; although it cannot be seen, we can still feel the tug on the string.

Like Magdalene, like the publican, once our hope is rooted firmly in God, the discouragement we encounter in our pursuit can never take root and we avoid its disastrous effects, remaining conscious always of God’s pull and tug, and that we never stand alone unless we do not want to look. May all our prayers imitate in spirit the prayer of this blessed publican, and we will be assured the eternal glory God promises to those who persevere.

And we will not be fooled into saving up to purchase tools sold in hell’s garage sale.

The Sacred Drama of the Traditional Liturgical Rites

Shawn Tribe of Liturgical Arts Journal has written an excellent article on the sense of sacred drama in the traditional liturgy. Some excerpts below:

This notion of “sacred drama” may well cause some to pause; the liturgy is not theatre they might proclaim. They are right in one sense; the liturgy is not “theatre” in the sense of play acting, this is entirely true. However, the sacred liturgy does indeed traditionally employ theatricality to powerful and moving effect such that it stirs the soul and moves the heart and mind.

By contrast, let’s compare this same liturgical moment as it is expressed in the traditional liturgical form. In this form we see the interaction and overlap of these various ceremonial and liturgical parts (the incensation of the altar, the sacred ministers prayers and ceremonial gestures, the singing of the Kyrie, etc.) which fosters this sense of sacred drama:

The net result of this intersection is a sacred drama that sees each actor playing his own part. Secondarily, it also lends a sense of objectivity and importance to the priestly activity of the sacred liturgy as it emphasizes that what the priest does at the altar is independently and objectively important, regardless of whether anyone else is there, or whether the liturgy is sung or not. It emphasizes, in other words, the aspect of divine worship.

Read the whole article here:

https://www.liturgicalartsjournal.com/2021/01/the-sacred-drama-of-traditional.html

January 20, 2021

With Our Chins Up (Part 2)

We can see why discouragement is a prelude to despair; when left unchecked, discouragement casts a heaviness upon our occupations, turns us in upon ourselves, closes us off to the charity of others, heightens suspicion, and is ultimately played out by a systematic “giving up” on what was once held as important.

This is why it is so useful to the devil, as described in the story in Part 1 on Monday, especially when one is actually making advances that God keeps us from seeing.

Discouragement that takes root (and that can happen subtly) wreaks havoc upon a well-fortified house, inviting the thief to rob it brick by brick until no house remains: driving a wedge into the soul, prayer slowly becomes mechanical and the temptation sets in to abandon it for more “useful things”. The gifts of God, once recognized as such, become intolerable burdens. A heightened fear of failure causes good works undertaken to go undone. Generosity withers, cynicism increases, penance is considered repression, escapes replace good recreation, and, in later stages, what had been a well-formed conscience is now considered a fit of misplaced piety or even scrupulosity.

God is, at best, distant, and His apparent “failures” leave the soul in an awkward state of uncertainty about what it believes, perhaps even angry, sort of like St. Peter hiding himself in a far-off corner of the courtyard while Christ was undergoing trial.

Interestingly enough, Our Lord’s parable on the Pharisee and the publican can provide a game plan on how to deal with discouragement (cf. Lk. 18:10-14).

Wounded pride is often at the basis of any discouragement that is able to take root and sap our soul with its parasitic qualities. By the time the publican begins his prayer in a far-off corner of the Temple, he was already labeled as below the rest of men and was called an extortioner, unjust, adulterer by the Pharisee, who really is just a model for a worldly spirit that utilizes religion for selfish motives.

But are we not all really in some way extortioners, unjust, or adulterers?

Extortioners in that we claim for ourselves what rightly belongs to God, unjust by using God’s gifts for selfish purposes, adulterers by loving created things more than God, whom we should love above all things?

This is how we stack up against the greatness of God, and what grounds for discouragement we have if it was not for His boundless mercy and love!  How does the publican get it? Why does he walk away with the favor of God?

Ven. Fulton Sheen writes: “Many in heaven were once alcoholics, adulterers, thieves, racketeers, but there is no one in heaven who did not become humble.”

Observe the stance the publican takes and why it serves as a most effective remedy against the discouragement the devil just loves. While the Pharisee, by his attitude and words, insults his neighbors and offends God, the publican, by hiding himself from the sight of men and casting down his eyes, acknowledges his condition before God, and regards the gift it is to simply be in God’s presence, that it is from the goodness of God that we exist to begin with, and from that we owe Him all we have.

By taking a low place in the temple, the publican shows that he is completely dependent on God for everything, that he considers nothing as an entitlement, and that his sole hope and strength must always be placed in God, trusting in His ways, which will utilize various circumstances for the greatest accomplishment of good.

And in his plea for mercy, the publican brings before God what needs to be talked about, where he senses his greatest debt, where his limitations bear their greatest weight. Also, by striking his breast, he indicates the courage and willingness to do what it takes to make things right, to trust in the plan God has. All the things then that discouragement carries with it, this publican counteracts by his action: the prayer is heartfelt and repeated; the work ahead, though difficult perhaps, becomes an act of love and service; failure is of little concern because he trusts in God’s ways and not the judgment of men; this inspires generosity, and by returning home, he sought no escape.

Finally, God is not blamed when things go wrong. Rather, a modest and confident trust is placed in God’s promise to never despise the contrite and humble of heart.

With Our Chins Up! (Part 1)

We are told of a story that it had been decided that hell was going out of business, and, on account of this, all the devil’s tools were being put up for sale.

All his favorite instruments of evil were laid out in a most attractive display – malice, hatred, pride, envy, jealousy, lust, anger, deceit, and dishonesty, along with many others, and each had quite the high price tag.

But in a special display case lay a harmless-looking wedge-shaped tool that had clearly been used more than the others and carried the highest price of them all.

When asked what it was, the evil one proudly replied that the wedge was discouragement, and then went on to say why it was priced so high: “It is more useful to me than any other,” said the devil. “With it, I can pry open and get inside a man’s soul when everything else fails. But once inside, I can use him in whatever way I wish, and the tools I could not get to work on the outside suddenly begin to work, and work quite well. The thing is so worn because I use it on nearly everybody, since very few people realize that it belongs to me.”

Obviously, this is a fictional story, but the point is well made, as discouragement is one of those things we all must deal with to some degree or another throughout our lives.

It pertains to our spiritual pursuits as well as material; sometimes discouragement can serve as wake-up call to re-organize our priorities, especially in the case of those who are too worldly and have little place for God in their lives, so what we get discouraged about can be useful in revealing what we hold important. Nonetheless, we can meet with discouragement also through no fault of our own; sometimes it comes as a consequence of our personal limitations or the limitations of circumstance, or a combination of the two.

True, the more important the undertaking, the greater the discouragement we risk meeting with, because failure seems to cost us more, as we are more personally invested in it. And since we know that the most important undertaking is the salvation of our souls, the discouragement that comes with this pursuit can hit fairly hard.

The devil is well aware of that and so he will do anything that will get us to abandon the cause.  Accurate portrayals of the lives of the saints often show that, as they acquired virtue in other regards, discouragement continued to be a frequent temptation; they had to wrestle against the thought that their labors were worthless, that God had abandoned them, or that they made a mistake and must drastically change their course and pursue something else, especially when the harvest seemed so meager when compared to the effort expended.

Nonetheless, discouragement is a real point of contention throughout our lives when it comes to doing God’s work, in whatever capacity God may call us to. This is why it is noteworthy that the Church prays at the foot of the altar: Quare tristis es, anima mea, et quare conturbas me.

So although we may have diverse work to do for the kingdom of God, we also share common responsibilities as members of the Church through Baptism and citizens already of heaven: we all must maintain a state of grace, but not only that, to increase it in our souls, by God’s help, through prayer and the Sacraments, and also through the circumstances He disposes for us to patiently endure.

Sometimes just doing that poses its own challenges, but God’s best gifts always go beyond our natural abilities to manage (ask anyone raising a family how true that is), and that is to remind us that it is His work, not ours, and He is well within His right to craft His work in whatever way He sees fit for our benefit.

So there are plenty of opportunities for discouragement through life if we lose (or never gain) a proper perspective.

When push comes to shove then, discouragement really involves how we handle failure, either real or perceived, both personally, like in trying to overcome the sin we never seem to be able to overcome, and also amongst those we may have care over, like when spouses have to come to terms with each other’s limitations and love each other anyway.

After that, effectively battling discouragement entails understanding how God tends to encrust success in failures, by which we gain a realistic perspective on His expectations, while always leaving room for growth.

January 18, 2021

Demographics of the Extraordinary Form (an Una Voce Int’l report)

We are pleased to pass along Dr. Joseph Shaw’s article in Homiletic and Pastoral Review on the Demographics of the Extraordinary Form, summarizing Una Voce International’s 2020 report on Latin Mass communities in 362 dioceses and 52 countries around the world.

The Foederatio Internationalis Una Voce (FIUV, or Una Voce International) recently submitted to the Holy See a report on the availability of the Extraordinary Form of the Roman Rite around the world (hereafter, “the FIUV Report”), in the preparation of which I, as Secretary of the FIUV, was closely involved. This included data from 362 dioceses and 52 countries, and gives a rare overview of the situation, not just in Europe and America, but across the world. Much of the information was of a qualitative rather than quantitative nature (for example, detailing the policies of dioceses towards the EF), aspects of it are amenable to statistical summary and presentation. The full report is not public, but in this paper I wish to set out some data drawn from it to help illuminate the question of the demographics of those who attend the EF.

These data support the often-heard characterization of the EF as having a particular attraction for young people and families. I shall further draw on the Report and other sources to show that EF congregations generally have a more balanced sex ratio than those of the Ordinary Form, and to reveal the capacity of the EF to engage diverse ethnic and linguistic groups.

A great deal more information from the report can be found on Una Voce’s website and in its Winter newsletter.

January 15, 2021

Unnecessary Contributions

There is a lot of hype going around these days that claim we are quite proximate to the end of the world.

While we all know that this will be a reality someday, and our Lord certainly has provided us with some information on what we should be watching for, this issue has plagued Catholics of good will for centuries. It has been the basis of much speculative literature and poor attempts at connecting dots.

We tend to forget that, over and above what has been revealed by God, all the prophecies about the end times must be considered against the backdrop of Christ’s words: You know not the day nor the hour (Mt. 25:13), or in another place where our Lord’s coming is described like a thief in the night (1 Thess. 5:2).

Like always with this matter, all the hype merely serves to upset peace of soul.

Still, our Lord saw it beneficial and useful that we are not kept in the dark completely about such matters. He wants us to watch and be vigilant (cf. Mt. 24:42).

But while those last days will be full of trepidation for many, and certainly will be quite the event to experience, those with strong and correct faith are expected to observe some amount of peace about it all. If we have gone about our lives seeking first the kingdom of God and His justice; that is, doing what we are supposed to in light of our respective states in life, it means we have maintained ourselves daily in a state of grace and stand ready (or ready enough) for our judgment.

Peace is the tranquility of order, even amidst surrounding chaos.

Further keep in mind that embracing the death God has in mind for us is a perfect act of charity and will actually atone for any temporal punishment we may owe. No stopover in purgatory needed.

Such would be as the wise virgins who rose at the sound of the bridegroom’s coming and trimmed their lamps full of oil, the lamps representing faith, and the oil as the charity which enables the flame to burn.

The foolish virgins were the ones caught by surprise, which threw them into a fearful panic over the untimely arrival of the bridegroom. They had grown worldly and neglected their responsibilities so that, while having at least some faith, lost charity and now had no time to regain it (cf. Mt. 25:1-13).

The fearful panic of the foolish virgins seems to be a good description of the state of the world right now.

Fear is at an all-time high, and it serves to place everyone in quite the compromised position. True, some anxiety and reasonable fear can be justified given the reset attempt we are dealing with. But our Lord was clear about the state of things as the world got older: And because iniquity has abounded, the charity of many will grow cold  (Mt. 24:12).

Fear is always in direct proportion to the lack of charity; that is, sanctifying grace in the soul. Lack of grace ties us down to the world, and the underworld as well. Confronted with our own mortality, are we making unnecessary contributions to the level of fear on account of this?

Many do not know where to find a lamp, let alone buy oil, and now the million distractions that have bombarded us are losing their lulling power.

That is a good thing, because at some point there has to be a day of reckoning. Christ was not playing for peanuts.

Indeed, humanity at large has been given a merciful wake-up call to get our souls in order while there is time remaining to buy more oil and trim the lamps, effectively being a beacon for others, and perhaps to discover the only effective weapon there is against the threats that loom. Fear is not in charity, but perfect charity casts out fear (1 Jn 4:18).

It is not the end of the world, yet. Thanks be to God.

Because God is never going to be welcome in the world He created and redeemed. But when the world has finally grown too old to support itself, our Lord will come again to claim what is rightfully His amidst the fear and screaming consequent of such a majestic entry.

In fact on that last day, the world, so old and tired from sin, will stand in stark contrast to the God who, for those with charity, will be recognized to really be the joy of their youth.

Only One Baptism: Catholic

One complaint that is often waged against our Lord is that He often said definitive things, and this is not confined to morality. Those who wish to make Christ in their own image really need to come to terms with this. Many things our Lord says have to do with His own identity and mission. A key reason for this is because He was trying to establish correct faith and belief in Him as the eternal Son of God, and to let us know that God is hardly made in our image.

These realities certainly may make many uncomfortable nowadays because many are not living as they should. We are made by God and that God came to redeem us from sin in a very specific way, and we are to conform ourselves to Him. Learn from Me, for I am meek and humble of heart (Mt. 11:29).

When God is perceived in the wrong way, it becomes very easy to act wrongly and then to justify ourselves in things that are actually offensive to Him.

Pope Benedict XVI spoke of the dictatorship of relativism afflicting the Western world, a dictatorship because it makes truth arbitrary and holy religion a matter of opinion. Fallen human nature, when left to its own devices, will always tend in this direction, and so we see why Christ in coming to set the record straight then establishes a Church with clear marks of identification and divine origin – unity, holiness, universality, and apostolicity – that will constantly keep setting the record straight until the end of time.

In his epistle to the Ephesians, St. Paul, under the inspiration of the Holy Ghost, writes one faith, one Lord, one baptism. (Eph. 4:5)

This acknowledges that the unity God desires amongst men is something that goes beyond what this world can provide. It is of supernatural origin and is a unity that exists consequent of a unity of belief founded upon the willful submission to the same authority, which is then expressed through the unity of authorized worship.

In a nutshell, it is authority that inseparably links together correct faith and correct worship. When Christ commanded St. Peter and the rest of the Apostles to teach, govern, and sanctify all nations until the end of time, Christ bestowed upon them (and their successors) His own divine authority that guarantees that the unity of belief in the Church will be maintained, a unity that is positively willed by God and is most necessary for the salvation and sanctification of our souls. (cf. Mt. 28:19)

The Baptism of our Lord, which is the octave day of Epiphany, is very significant for the matter at hand because it amounts to the first of three validations by God the Father of all of Christ’s words and works (the Transfiguration and Resurrection are the other two). In the Gospel read for the Mass of the feast, we hear the testimony: He upon whom thou shall see the Spirit descending and remaining upon Him, He it is that baptizes with the Holy Ghost. (Jn. 1:33) In the Gospel according to St. Luke accounting the same event, this is exactly what happens: the Holy Ghost descends upon Christ in the form of a dove and the Father’s words are heard: Thou art My beloved Son in whom I am well pleased. (Lk. 3:22)

The divine power and authority Christ possesses is clear and so Baptism – and all the other Sacraments which form the Church’s worship – have their spiritual power and efficacy on Christ’s account. Moreover, in virtue of their origin from Christ, these same Sacraments belong solely to His Church and only the Church has the authority and right to regulate the administration of the Sacraments.

So when the Holy Ghost, speaking through St. Paul, says that there is only one baptism, it indicates the baptism Christ instituted that belongs to His visible Church on earth, having its power and efficacy from the Cross, and placed under the authority of the Apostles and their successors. Recall that when a person is baptized, the question is asked of what he wants from the Church of God, and the reply is “Faith,” that is, belief in all that God has revealed through Christ and entrusted unchanging to His Church which possesses His authority.

In consequence, since there is only one Baptism, there can only be one true Faith. By getting baptized, a person’s soul, in being cleansed of original (and any actual) sin, is then marked and configured to the special work of the Holy Ghost for the maturing of that one true Faith, which has as its end the vision of God and eternal life.

In essence, and in virtue of Christ’s command to the Apostles to baptize all nations, the person who is baptized acquires the right to correct instruction in the one Faith because the soul is now configured and disposed to receive it; along with this comes the right to be admitted to the other Sacraments for the purpose of perfecting that Faith.

This is why Baptism is called the seed of eternal life and is the most necessary of all the Sacraments. However, sanctity is gained through the perfection of charity by way of correct Faith, so our heavenly happiness actually begins at Baptism, and is matured through the fulfillment of that Great Commandment to love God with our whole mind, soul, and strength, and our neighbors as ourselves.

This totality God commands is only possible if there is only one true Faith to guide us. Any religion outside the Catholic Church, though perhaps possessing some elements of the true Faith, deviates from the entirety and fullness which God wills for us to possess and enjoy, either by way of deviation from the Church’s teaching, a loss of the Sacraments, or a rejection of the Church’s authority.

Therefore, if there can only be one Baptism, then this Sacrament admits entry into the one and only Faith which Christ bestowed upon His Church and was entrusted to His Apostles until the end of time. Baptism comes from Christ and is ordered towards the Faith He established – the effects must always be the same when and where it is validly performed. So when a phrase like “non-Catholic” or “Protestant baptism” is used, it denotes a baptism performed outside of the Church’s authority, but all the while having the same effect with the same rights for further instruction.

True, God does take ignorance into consideration but, objectively, the thought of any Baptism that admits for and validates any other faith runs contrary to Sacred Scripture.

Nonetheless, Baptism, since it has its origin in Christ, always will carry with it a dispositive quality towards the reception of the entirety of divine truth. For those baptized outside the Catholic Church, this requires humility to accept; for those baptized within the one true Church, this requires charity and good example in enlightening those who share the same one and only Baptism, but not the same profession of the Faith it infuses. Both situations, however, require patience and courage because, when dealing with our eternal salvation, we must stand ready to be excluded by the world in making decisions to firmly walk the path Christ commands.

But in the end, it is not so much Catholics being excluded by the world (are we not feeling the pressure?), but Catholics having the conviction to exclude its errors from our lives – to be in the world but not of it – and that only happens if we firmly believe, live, and evangelize the reality of only one Faith which comes from one Lord and one Baptism.

January 13, 2021

Daily Epiphanies

There had been some inquiry as to the “mystery spiritual writer” quoted in our two previous posts. His name was intentionally absented as a teaser of sorts for the purpose of providing a longer quote today that should serve well to complete the trilogy for this Epiphany season. The following is from the third chapter of the book In the Likeness of Christ by Fr. Edward Leen (1885-1944).

 

There are daily Epiphanies in our lives. The grace of God is ever pointing out where the Child is.  And we look at the outward circumstances, the mean disguises, the, to us, unworthy surroundings; we decide that God cannot be there where the star stands, and so we pass on and miss the Manifestation.

God is always wrapped in the same garments in which He was enveloped at His coming into the world and in His passage through it. To us He always presents Himself in what thwarts the concupiscences of the flesh, in what contradicts our self-will, in what wounds our self-love, in a word, in pains, and trials, and disappointments, in sorrow, in opposition, and in failure.

He expects us, as He expected the kings, to recognize Him under these habiliments.

Every cross in our life is, as it were, a reliquary containing God. If we embrace it with faith it will open and reveal His Presence to us. When too much influenced, too much governed, too much determined by human external appearances, we decide that surely God could not and would not take such a form for His Manifestation, we fail in faith, we have not the docility and the simplicity of the Magi. It is for God, not for us, to determine the mode in which He offers Himself to each human soul for worship and for fealty – worship as to its God, fealty as to its King.

Jesus comes to us in everything that tends to mortify our self-love and our pride, in everything that tends to break down the obstacles that prevent the development of the interior life, our growth in the vision and love of God. He manifests Himself to the religious-minded in the uncongenial task, the irritating opposition, and in the uncouth companion – in all the multiple disabilities, annoyances, and inconveniences arising for us from the failure or the imperfection of creatures.

But at every conjuncture God wishes us to discover Himself, however disconcerting be the guise in which He comes.

It is not easy – it requires strong faith in the long, dull sequence of squalid, obscure, and pointless miseries that condition our daily lot. In the dullness and weakness of our faith, we pause disconcerted before the humble appearance; we decide that God is not there and pass on our way.

We are always looking for Him elsewhere, in different circumstances, in other surroundings, and in more gracious conditions.

When men, moved by grace, turn from the ordinary routine life and resolve to give themselves wholly to God, they are prone to judge that all difficulties are overcome after the initial act of surrender to the will of God and renouncement of creatures has been made. They think that henceforth life will be a smooth, tranquil development of the life of grace in their souls. And they expect God so to arrange life that no harsh and distracting conditions will intervene to complicate and disturb the soul’s quiet converse with Himself.

The incident of the Magi teaches that hardship, anxiety, pain and harsh circumstances must always prepare the way for the discovery of the Child in its Mother’s arms.

We do not find the herald of God or God Himself in easy circumstances. The Child of Mary, many years later, warned His hearers of this, saying: But what went you out to see? A man in soft garments? Behold they that are clothed in soft garments are in the houses of kings (Mt. 11:8).

January 11, 2021

The Next New Normal

It evidently can be difficult to write a worthwhile reflection at the moment, given the events that have transpired in our country, especially over the last couple of days.

The Capitol at Dusk, from  https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Capitol_at_Dusk_2.jpg

Hearts weigh heavy, casualties of deeply shaken trust, or remnants of trust, in the institutions, structures, and procedures within our government, things relied upon for stability and order. We know things stood on quite shaky ground to begin with, as the edifice has been under coordinated assault for decades. Freedoms have been slowly surrendered over the years in efforts to adjust to the changing normal, trying to maintain the feel of normals past.

In many ways, there’s nothing to blame in that, as we like continuity and stability in our lives, especially when there is a great deal of responsibility on our shoulders, like with raising a family.

But last year saw something different: an accelerated upset of the flow of life in just about every aspect.

Between a response to a virus that crippled the private sector in varying degrees, civil unrest, and a contested election, it began to set in that things were not returning to any previously known normal, no matter how much we may have wanted or hoped for. While remembering that we should not place our hope in princes and that nations will pass, that may have been an inconvenient truth.

And so this indeed may have shaken the faith in God for many; why did He not do something?

For those who are more steadfast, we ponder with some amount of apprehension as to what He may be asking.

Forces of evil are clearly at work, likely more emboldened now, and we search within as to how strong of a conviction we have for the truths of our Holy Faith against an increased external threat; what are we willing to lose or will these slowly fall victim to maintain a normal?

How will the institutional Church respond?

There are lots of questions as to what may be imposed on or expected of the citizens and non-citizens of State Almighty, and we know how likely such may be opposed to the expectations of God Almighty.

But we cannot carry tomorrow’s crosses with today’s graces, and inordinate speculation and conjecture just leads to anxiety that quickly gains a life of its own. So we have to find solace in the fact that God does not leave us orphans amidst changing normals. It is the one and only constant we have from which everything else we believe must flow.

Heaven and earth shall pass away, but My words shall not pass away (Mk. 15:31)

That is because God and normal tend not to be synonymous. That can seem strange to say because we equate normalcy with some semblance of happiness that seems to convey God’s blessing. Although God is always the first Promoter of order and stability, normalcy for Him is about whatever best orders us to life with Him.

That can be messy, if the Cross is any indication.

It is because things have never been “normal” after the Fall. Sin messed up God’s perfect economy of creation. While the Abrahamic Covenant and the Mosaic Law put humanity back on a trajectory to regain God’s normalcy, the Incarnation stood to be the most abnormal event in the history of the world in order to complete it.

It is providential that the events we are experiencing in our country this week have occurred during Epiphany.

The Magi are really the first to have their version of normal challenged, and it is a lesson for us all in these times. Strong faith unites us to God, gives sense to suffering, and meaning amidst confusion. The Magi had that. These foreign kings had to discern their King and Lord as a swaddled Infant in a stable.

Nothing about this is normal to our human sensibilities. Christ’s manifestation challenged everything that their previous life, tastes, and customs would have come to expect of such a royal Birth.

Looking for grandeur, they were met with poverty, yet they still recognized the true God He is.

As a spiritual writer puts it:

They were not baffled by the unexpected disguise, by His humility of circumstance, nor by the defiance of all earthly prejudices and standards of valuation. Their purity of heart, their sincerity of mind, their love of truth and reality (no matter how much truth might conflict with their own views and feelings) and finally their great humility were what made them receptive of the gift of the wonderful faith given them by God.

For those reasons, they bent their knees in devout adoration of the Christ Child, these three prototypes of Eucharistic adorers. And though a warning not to return to Herod prompted them to return to their homeland by another route, they could never have returned the same way in their hearts having encountered Christ as they did.

Behold a new normal for them that would govern how they approached all circumstances for the rest of their lives.

And so with us. Do we not encounter this same predicament every time we genuflect and kneel before the Blessed Sacrament? Is what we profess in our churches any different from the Magi?

Sanctuary Lamp in dark church

Our star just happens to be the sanctuary lamp. Behold I am with you all days, even unto the consummation of the world (Mt. 28:20).

Christ is our Savior.

No president is, but they each contribute to circumstances through which we must work out our salvation. Albeit quite challenging and alarming, we are being given another route to follow now by God that is designed to bring us closer to Him, with the same faith we have had, yet with the expectation that it is used to courageously sort through whatever may lay ahead. Sufficient for the day is the evil thereof, says our Lord (Mt. 6:34).

Normals in this life come and go it seems. No matter what happens, keep the eye and heart on the unending normal eternal life offers in reward for steadfast belief in the abnormal way God chose to save us, and govern life based on that.

It’s the stuff that saints are made of. Just like the Magi.

January 8, 2021