Sunday, May 29, 2011

The Mother of Spirituality

Spirituality starts with our first answer to the Holy Spirit’s call.  The Holy Spirit will lead us on the most appropriate path toward fulfillment of God’s will in our lives. Mary, the Mother of God, was and is an easy path to understanding what spirituality is and how to seek the Lord continuously.

Before I knew Jesus Christ, I knew Mary the Mother of God.  My spirituality developed by her loving embrace always pointing toward the Savior.  It was easy then to trust her son because she had introduced him to me herself.

Our Lady is more than an example of physical proof that Christ was born. 

“Mary is the believing other whom God calls. As such, she represents the creation, which is called to respond to God, and the freedom of the creature, which does not lose its integrity in love but attains completion therein.” Pg 31 Mary: The Church at the Source

Some people think that spirituality is the action one takes to ‘show’ love of Christ.  Pope Benedict in his words from Mary: The Church at the Source, takes the complexity of the fiat and simplifies in words the fact that to gain spirituality is to lose self.  Our Lady did just this as she contemplated all things thrust upon her with Christ at the forefront of her mind.

Intimate relationship with Jesus

[Mary] To be soil for the Word means that the soil must allow itself to be absorbed by the seed, to be assimilated by the seed, to surrender itself for the sake of transforming the seed into life. Pg 15 Mary: The Church at the Source

I have met more than a few Christians who deny Mary as a way to knowing Christ.  They are very mistaken because her very nature was centered on Christ. The Catechism of the Catholic Church quotes in 2014: “Spiritual progress tends toward ever more intimate union with Christ.” and “God calls us all to this intimate union with him, even if the special graces or extraordinary signs of this mystical life are granted only to some for the sake of manifesting the gratuitous gift given to all.”

Mary is the first of us to truly know God in His Son.  Who better to spiritually guide us?  If spirituality is not many spoken and outward signs, while those are good and have their place, the internalization and contemplation of Christ is a true spiritual path.  Our Lady takes this path in a dedicated manner throughout the gospels.

A witness and participant to our Salvation

Mary, the Mother of God, knows Christ.  Our natural reason leads us to know a greater good and to seek the maker of our souls.  Mary, having been born Immaculate, had a greater supernatural revelation of Christ.  Her experience of His life makes her the bearer of His pain, having known Him.  “Marian piety is thus necessarily a Passion-centered piety.” Pg35  Mary: The Church at the Source

Our Lady, Queen of Angels and Queen of the Universe is the perfect example of an Earthly life lived for Christ.  Blessed Pope John Paul II states in Redemptoris Mater,  

“But she was in the Upper Room, where the Apostles were preparing to take up this mission with the coming of the Spirit of Truth; she was present with them. In their midst Mary was “devoted to prayer” as the “mother of Jesus”, of the Crucified and Risen Christ.  And that first group of those who in faith looked “upon Jesus as the author of salvation,” knew that Jesus was the Son of Mary, and that she was his Mother, and that as such she was from the moment of his conception and birth a unique witness to the mystery of Jesus.” Pg. 39

She remains the most important witness to Jesus Christ on Earth.  Her fiat along with the embodiment of the theotokos grants Mary the depth of spirituality that we can only one day hope to experience a small part of in Heaven.   She has had and does have the most intimate of relationships with Jesus Christ and therefore is the first witness that we should entrust with our petition for more knowledge of Him.  Her actions were never obnoxious, showy or over the top.  Her loving and contemplative way was the way of the Cross along side her Son. 

Our witness and cross

I was inspired to write this because I read a blog called Catholic American Eyes in Korea.  The Maryknoll fathers wrote recently about a lack of spirituality amidst the prevalent materialism in the Asian society in which they live.  It made me think about how I first sought Christ, and that was through Our Lady. 

I want to tell all those who think they cannot know Christ out of fear or ignorance, seek His mother.  She is our first witness to his life and passion.  She can lead you if you need a way to reach the full love and completion of knowing Jesus Christ.

Sunday, May 15, 2011

The Reality of Sheep

I heard a lady once say, " I always feel insulted when Jesus refers to us as sheep."  She had owned sheep at one time and adamantly admitted how stupid they were. 

It is good to know though, that Christ is so forgiving and loving that he watches closely over the most stupid creatures.  Sheep have it better though, they don't get angry and intentionally hurt others like people do.  So we all have a long way to go. 

Listen for the voice of Christ and seek the narrow gate.

Monday, May 2, 2011

The Jesus in Jazz

Sunday was a great opportunity to rejoice in the Divine Mercy and John Paul the Great's beatification.   My small celebration consisted of finding a coffee shop to crack open a book or two for enjoyment.  I brought with me Tanqueray's Spiritual Life and Who's Who in Jazz by Chilton.

I covered a little of both and the awesomeness of the musician always amazes me and shows me the glory of God.  Just like Tanqueray's Spiritual Life reads as a guide to follow the righteous path, the Who's Who reads like an encyclopedia of persons of Jazz desiring to attain in their lifetime a type of peace and righteousness with the desire to create beautiful jazz.  The musician is an isolated figure struggling to make his music, but always sees the fruition of playing with other musicians, each one adding in his own specialty for the glory of it all.

After studying the names and paths of individuals and understanding the importance of the band leader calling everyone together to New York or Chicago, I switched over to Tanqueray's opinion of it all.  Here is where my comparison lies in the path we take and the limitations that this human method has.
In the chapter on perfection in the Christian life, Tanqueray states "we cannot on Earth love God with a constant, nor yet habitual love which is at the same time perfectly pure and disinterested."348  This habitual love is also unperfect like the improvisation of the jazz musician's weaving across the country to play for food, work and soul. 

I like these type of random comparisons because I see God in the talents he has given these musicians that strove to survive in the early 1900s.  There is such a joy in music and the style of jazz is also a creation of God the Father.  The Creator weaved a world that we could find joy in.  The jazz musician developed as a response to a cry in the wind from the beats and rhythms of Africa, the Caribbean and the sounds of Europe.  The growth of the medium is still in development as the hearts of men still turn one by one and all in unison to the Great Band Leader of this universe.

It was all a matter of getting the music out there for these guys, and playing, playing, playing until it killed you.  Which is the case of many of the small autobiographical references in Chilton's encyclopedia.The Sugar Cane Orchestra and the Young Olympia Band developed in a time of hardship.  Experimentation of a different kind took place in the sound laboratory of Fred Van Epps. From the 1900s to the 1960s, these mostly self-taught artists played for the heart of it and left a legacy of beautiful music.

Can we say that we try to play the way God has intended for us?  Or are we creatures of poor habit that will never try to create music of the soul in striving for  good habits? 

I think we are only improvisors on this path that God leads us on and he is the great conductor that brings us all together from different places, calling out of the blue one summer to come and add your piece to the music of life.

The Unbitten Path

A long hike in the wilds of Florida has a wonderful affect on the conscience.  Spiritually, it makes one wonder about the habits that lead away from God's love.  Physically, you are molested by a plague of bugs that want to suck your blood to remind you that you are a sinner.

It was a beautiful walk though and I am the better for it.  The wooded trail with many palmettos and wildflowers reminded me of my childhood walks in the early morning in the swamp near my home.  I did not see the random wild spider lily, but the baby cotton mouth and shallow dark canals were similar to the weaving canals that criss-crossed my neighborhood growing up.

And because I have experienced my own personal plague of that one damn horsefly that wouldn't go away, it reminds me of a sin that I confess repeatedly just like the horsefly.  You think it goes away, but really, it lands smack on your forehead and bites the hell out of you.  Grace is kinda like bug spray, I gotta get some.