While visiting a friend in Sacramento this past weekend, I had the distinct pleasure of being able to attend Sunday Mass at St. Stephen the First Martyr, a parish served by the Priestly Fraternity of St. Peter. The FSSP, for those of you who are unaware, is an order of priests who celebrate Mass according to the 1962 missal; it was founded in 1988 by several priests and seminarians who had left the Society of St. Pius X after its founder, Archbp. Marcel Lefebvre, illicitly ordained four bishops and was excommunicated. Thus, the Fraternity is in good standing with Rome, unlike the SSPX (though the latter’s schismatic status may be resolved in the near future; but that’s another story). In any event, I managed to make the 10:30 AM High Mass, and was I ever impressed.
Archive for January, 2008
From Theology and Sanity, first published in 1946 and revised in 1978:
[The Apostles] knew Christ before they knew He was God. Had they known from the beginning, they might simply have feared Him, and fear would have made a bar to any progress in intimacy. But by the time they knew beyond the possibility of uncertainty that He was God, they had come to know that He was love. If they had known that Christ was God first, then they would have applied their idea of God to Christ; as it was, they were able to apply their knowledge of Christ to God. The principal fruit for them and for us of their three years of companionship with him was the unshakable certainty of His love for mankind; and it was St. John, the Apostle He loved best, who crystallized the whole experience for us in the phrase of his first Epistle, “God is Love” (4:8).
We may ask why the Jews did not know that already, for God had shown them His love often enough; and in the Old Testament His love is wonderfully stated. “The Lord is compassionate and merciful, long-suffering and plenteous in mercy” (Ps 102:8); that is strong enough, yet it is not the strongest thing of its sort. In Isaiah (49:15) there is a phrase which would seem to reac the very limit of divine tenderness: “Can a woman forget her infant, so as not to have pity on the son of her womb? And if she should forget, yet will I not forget thee.” The truth is that love arises and abides most easily and naturally where there is community of nature; and until God took our nature and became man, that way did not exist. God-made-man could love us with human love—and this, though a lesser thing than divine love, can be very comforting to our weakness. Nowhere in the Old Testament did it occur to anyone to God God what they were to call God-made-man, “the friend of sinners.” The Jews knew that God had spoken to and done great things for mankind, but He had not been man.
The moral for us is simple: in our approach to God we are helped enormously by seeing Him in our nature; and for the mind, this means a continual study of Him whereby the Apostles’ experience of Christ becomes our own personal experience, their intimacy becomes our intimacy. We cannot always analyze intimacy; but there is no mistaking it: we know the person quite differently. You do not learn intimacy, or reap the fruit of someone else’s. You grow into it. In the Gospels, one really can grow into this intimacy with Our Lord, precisely because the evangelists do not obtrude their own personalities. Anyhow, know Him we must. There is no other way to full knowledge of God; Christ has said so. In other words, we have to vivify all that hard thinking about the Infinite by the closest companionship with our Lord Jesus Christ. By both, the mind grows toward the knowledge of God which is its health (Sheed 82-83).
God is Love. Deo gratias.
Mary the Dawn, Christ the Perfect Day;
Mary the Gate, Christ the Heav’nly Way!
Mary the Root, Christ the Mystic Vine;
Mary the Grape, Christ the Sacred Wine!
Mary the Wheat-sheaf, Christ the Living Bread;
Mary the Rose-tree, Christ the Rose blood-red!
Mary the Font, Christ the Cleansing Flood;
Mary the Chalice, Christ the Saving Blood!
Mary the Temple, Christ the Temple’s Lord;
Mary the Shrine, Christ the God adored!
Mary the Beacon, Christ the Haven’s Rest;
Mary the Mirror, Christ the Vision Blest!
Mary the Mother, Christ the Mother’s Son;
Both ever blest while endless ages run!