December 10, 2016

Dec. 10

December 10, 2016:  Saturday, 2nd week, Advent

  • 'Fire' pin:  Elijah appeared like a fire, brought down fire (1st reading)

  • 'Alps' tie pin:  The disciples were coming down from the mountain (gospel)
  • 'Wheat' pin:  Elijah shattered their staff of bread... (1st reading)
  • 'Chariot' and 'horse' tie pins:  ...and was taken up in a chariot with fiery horses. (1st reading)
  • 'Hearts' suspenders:  He'll turn fathers' hearts to their sons (1st reading)
  • Tie with 'grapes':  Take care of this vine (psalm)
  • 'Phone' tie bar:  Give us new life, and we'll 'call' on you (psalm)
  • 'Hands' pin:  Protect what your right hand has planted; may your help be with the man of your right hand (psalm); The Son will suffer at the scribes' hands (gospel)
  • Rose-colored shirt, anticipating Gaudete Sunday (a 5:30 vigil Mass for which I played)

"I believe in the Holy Spirit":  Papal preacher Fr. Cantalamessa's 1st Advent sermon

The Innovation after the Council:  The major innovation in theology and Church life after Vatican II is the Holy Spirit.  The Charismatic Renewal in the Catholic Church is a sign of an awakening to the Spirit and charisms in the Church.  "It's easy to recognize post-conciliar renewal, which often took unexpected forms in living movements and made tangible the vitality of holy Church, the Holy Spirit's presence and effectiveness" (Benedict XVI).  Karl Barth said a new “theology of the third article” (the article in the creed about the Spirit) would be developed.  The current “Theology of the Third Article” doesn't substitute itself for traditional theology but comes alongside of it, reinvigorates it, proposes to make the Spirit not only the object of pneumatology but also the atmosphere in which Church life and theological research unfolds.
The Creed Read from Below:  We can understand this "new theology" if we remember how the Nicene-Constantinopolitan symbol [creed] came about.  History points to the usefulness of examining it “in reverse,” starting from the end.  The creed reflects the Christian faith in the 5th century; it reflects the order at the end but not the faith in the making.  It doesn't correspond to how our faith was formed or how someone comes to live the faith.  The creed begins with God the Father and moves to the Son and his redemptive work, then to the Spirit in the Church, but the faith followed a reverse path:  the Pentecostal experience of the Spirit brought the Church to discover Jesus and his teaching.  With Paul and John we ascend from Jesus to the Father.  The Paraclete leads the disciples to all truth about himself and the Father.
"The way of knowledge of God lies from One Spirit through the One Son to the One Father, and the Goodness and Holiness and Dignity extend from Father through the Only-begotten to the Spirit" (Basil).  On the level of creation and being, everything comes from the Father, goes through the Son, and reaches us through the Spirit; but in the order of redemption and our awareness, everything begins with the Spirit, goes through the Son, and returns to the Father.  In the Western tradition this is expressed in the last stanza of Veni creator.  The Church prays to the Spirit:  "Oh, may Thy grace on us bestow the Father and the Son to know; and Thee, through endless times confessed, of both the eternal Spirit blest."  It can be useful to change our approach to reading the creed to retrace how it was formulated.
A Commentary on the “Third Article”:  The third article of the creed, about the Spirit, includes three affirmations:
“I believe in the Holy Spirit, the Lord, the giver of life...”  The creed doesn't say the Spirit is the Lord.  Here 'Lord'  indicates the nature, not the person; it says what the Spirit is but not who. 'Lord' means the Spirit shares in the lordship of God, that he's Creator, not creature.  In other words, he has a divine nature.  The Church reached this certainty based both on Scripture and her experience of salvation.  The Spirit can't be a creature because when he touches us (in sacrament, word, prayer), we experience entering into contact with God, not his intermediary.  If the Spirit divinizes us, it means that he is God himself.
Can't  we define the Spirit as “God and consubstantial with the Father” as the Son?  Some bishops leveled this criticism, but for reasons of expediency and peace, an equivalent expressions was preferred:  "Lord and giver of life," drawn from New Testament passages:  “the Spirit gives life”; “the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus”; “the last Adam became a life-giving spirit”; “the written code kills, but the Spirit gives life.”  The Spirit gives divine life, the life of Christ, supernatural life, not natural superlife.  He creates the new man, not Nietzsche’s superman.  He give us this life in baptism, “rebirth in the Spirit,” in the sacraments, God's word, prayer, faith, and suffering accepted in union with Christ.  The Spirit gives us life by making works of the flesh die!  “If by the Spirit you put to death the deeds of the body you will live.”
"...Who proceeds from the Father (and the Son), who with the Father and the Son is adored and glorified...”:  Up to this point the creed has told us about the Spirit's nature but not yet about the person, about what but not who he is.  It's spoken about what the Spirit, Father, and Son have in common:  being God and giving life.  Now we move to what distinguishes the Spirit from the Father and Son:  what distinguishes him from the Father is that he proceeds from him; what distinguishes him from the Son is that he proceeds from the Father by breathing forth, not generation; he's not like a concept proceeding from the mind but a breath proceeding from the mouth.  This defines the Paraclete's position in the Trinity; it's known primarily for the Filioque problem that was the main point of disagreement between the East and the West.  It tells us the Spirit is not simply a poor relative in the Trinity, a way God acts, an energy that permeates the universe.  He is a “subsistent relation,” therefore a person.  He's a "first person plural," not "third person singular," the “We” of Father and Son.  When the Father and the Son speak of the Spirit they say 'we,' not 'he'; he's the unity between Father and Son.  Augustine says the Father is the one who loves, the Son is the one loved, and the Spirit is the love that unites them, the reciprocal gift.  The Western Church belief that the Spirit proceeds “from the Father and the Son” is based on this.  The Spirit is the hidden God, even if we can know him by his effects.  He's like the wind: no one knows where it comes from and where it will blow, but we see its effects.  He's like the light that illuminates but remains invisible.  This is why the Spirit is the least known and least beloved of the three Persons, though he's Love in person.  It's easier to think of Father and Son as “persons” than the Spirit.  To speak of the Father, we have philosophy that deals with the First Cause; to speak about the Son, we have the analogy of a father-son relationship, and the history of the Word becoming flesh.  But to speak of the Spirit we only have revelation and experience.  Scripture speaks of him with symbols from nature: light, fire, wind, water, perfume, the dove.  We'll understand the Spirit only in Paradise, where we'll live forever in joy.  He'll be like a gentle fire that will inundate us and fill us with bliss, like when love fills a person’s heart.
“...Who has spoken through the prophets”:  After we've professed our faith in the Spirit's life-giving and sanctifying action, now his charismatic action is mentioned.  One charism is mentioned:  prophecy.  It mentions one manifestation:  he “has spoken through the prophets.”  “No prophecy ever came by human impulse, but men moved by the Spirit spoke from God.”
An Article to Complete:  “God spoke of old to our fathers by the prophets, but in these last days he has spoken to us by a Son.”  The Spirit hasn't ceased speaking through the prophets; he did through Jesus and still does in the Church.  The Church fills the gaps in the creed without changing the creed's text. 
Anyone who tries to find everything in the article about the Spirit is going to be disappointed.  A dogmatic definition draws a perimeter for affirmations.  This article was formulated when the reflection on the Paraclete was just beginning and historical circumstances led to a compromise.  But theology, liturgy, and Christian piety have clothed the creed's affirmations.  In the Pentecost sequence, the personal relationship of the Spirit with every soul is expressed by titles like “father of the poor,” “light of the heart,” “soul's sweet guest,” and “greatest comforter”; it addresses beautiful prayers to the Spirit that are responsive to our needs.  We proclaim:  "Wash that which is sordid water that which is dry, heal that which is wounded.  Make flexible that which is rigid, warm that which is cold, rule that which is deviant."
If you can't wait for his 2nd Advent homily, here it is.

    'Fire' (Animate)
  • Sir 48:1-4, 9-11  Elijah appeared, shattered their staff, brought down fire, will end wrath, turn fathers' hearts, was taken up.
  • Ps 80:2ac, 3b, 15-16, 18-19  "Lord, make us turn to you; let us see your face and we shall be saved."  O shepherd, shine forth, rouse your power, care for this vine, help the man of your right hand.  Give us life, and we'll call on you.
  • Mt 17:9a, 10-13  “Elijah will indeed come restore all things; he's already come, but they didn't recognize him or act accordingly.  The Son will suffer at their hands.”  They understood he was speaking about  John the Baptist.
    • Creighton:  Advent is an exciting journey of repentance and expectation.  This week God reminds us of the hopefulness critical to the season. The Elijah image illustrates God's power and glory, reminding us of what's at stake and telling us we'll be blessed.  We need a deep, rich, strong relationship with God.  This requires work; we must get to know God.  We prepare through working on knowing and loving God.  Our faith journey requires attentiveness.  If we do the work, the great destination is ours....
    • One Bread, One Body:  "Prelude to glory":  Elijah's ministry preceded Jesus' coming at the Incarnation, this Christmas, and at the end of the world.  Elijah is to reestablish God's people and restore all things.  These three prophecies are being fulfilled by new Elijahs:  "Build up, prepare the way, remove the stumbling blocks."  "The ruins shall be rebuilt, and the foundations you shall raise up; 'Repairer of the breach,' they'll call you, 'Restorer of homesteads.'"  "They shall rebuild the ruins; the wastes they shall raise up and restore the cities."  New Elijahs are coming to do the miraculous; then Jesus will come to do the divine. God's blessings are overwhelming us.  The Lord is doing more than we can ask for or imagine....
    • Passionist:  Elijah, John the Baptist, and Jesus called us to repent and turn to God.  God is a mystery, but not because we can’t understand.  We're constantly understanding God better, even though we'll never really understand in this life.  Of course our understanding includes the Incarnation of the God of love, inclusion, compassion, creativity, forgiveness, and faithfulness. But many in his day didn’t, refusing to let their laws and images of God die.  Even the disciples interpreted Jesus in light of what they knew, what they could see, and what they already believed.  Jesus was correcting them up to his last breath.  If Jesus were walking among us now, I bet he'd still be correcting us, teaching us to put to death all views of a judgmental, exclusive, narrow-minded God whose love we have to earn and who's waiting to condemn us.  He'd tell us to work for a better world.  He'd point out that God created, formed, knows, and loves each person and longs to draw us all into the divine embrace.  He'd remind us that we are God's face, hands, eyes, and hearts so all may see and better understand.  May I not block others looking for God.  What do my words, eyes, expressions, attitudes, beliefs, and actions tell people about God?  Do they see acceptance, unconditional love, forgiveness?  What do I need to let die in myself to give birth to Christ?  Lord, help me make the world better and more just.  Help me to be a window allowing others to know more of You.
    •  "Elijah must first come":  God gives signs to show what he'll do.  John the Baptist is one, pointing to and Jesus and preparing the way.  John is the last and greatest prophet of the old kingdom.  The Jews expected that when the Messiah would come, Elijah would appear.  John fills Elijah's role and prepares the way for the coming of Christ by preaching a baptism of repentance.  As servants, we too must prepare by turning from sin and whatever would keep us from pursuing his will....

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