HOMILY: Opening the Door of the Year of Faith. Knock and the Door Shall Be Opened
relationship with God was broken, separated and wounded through the first sin, the sin of origins or "original sin". That sin, like all sin since, is at its root a misuse of freedom infected by pride and self sufficiency. Our ability to exercise our freedom rightly, to live His Image by directing our capacity for free choice always toward the good, was impeded through the fall. Freedom was fractured.
The "Good News" (which is what the word "gospel" means) is that through Jesus Christ, the way has been opened for an even fuller communion with God. In Him we are being re-created, re-fashioned and redeemed. He comes to live in all who make a place for Him within the center of their lives. he stands at the door of our hearts and knocks. "Behold, I stand at the door and knock; if any one hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and eat with him, and he with me." (Revelations 3:20) This "making a place" is the essence of Christian prayer. It is not about doing, but about being.
Isaac of Ninevah, an early eighth century monk, Bishop and theologian, wrote:"When the Spirit dwells in a person, from the moment in which that person has become prayer, he never leaves him. For the Spirit himself never ceases to pray in him. Whether the person is asleep or awake, prayer never from then on departs from his soul. Whether he is eating or drinking or sleeping or whatever else he is doing, even in deepest sleep, the fragrance of prayer rises without effort in his heart."
"Prayer never again deserts him. At every moment of his life, even when it appears to stop, it is secretly at work in him continuously, one of the Fathers, the bearers of Christ, says that prayer is the silence of the pure. For their thoughts are divine motions. The movements of the heart and the intellect that have been purified are the voices full of sweetness with which such people never cease to sing in secret to the hidden God."
Through prayer daily life becomes a classroom of communion. In that classroom we learn the truth about who we are - and who we are becoming - in Jesus. Through prayer we receive new glasses through which we see the true landscape of life. Through prayer darkness is dispelled and the path of progress is illuminated.
Through prayer we begin to understand why this communion seems so elusive at times; as we struggle with our own disordered appetites, and live in a manner at odds with the beauty and order of the creation within which we dwell only to find a new beginning whenever we confess our sin and return to our first love. Prayer opens us up to Revelation, expands our capacity to comprehend truth and equips us to change.
Through prayer we are drawn by Love into a deepening relationship with Jesus whose loving embrace on the hill of Golgotha bridged heaven with earth; His relationship with His Father is opened now to us; the same Spirit that raised Him from the dead begins to give us new life as we are converted, transfigured and made new.
Through prayer heavenly wisdom is planted in the field of our hearts and we experience a deepening communion with the Trinitarian God. We become "partakers of the divine nature." (2 Peter 1:4) Though that participation will only be fully complete when we are with Him in the fullness of His embrace, in Resurrected Bodies in a New Heaven and a New Earth, but it begins now, in the grace of this present moment.
God holds nothing back from those whom He loves. He gives us the Holy Spirit, His life and energy. The Year of faith invites us to find living faith by encountering Jesus Christ in a new and powerful way through that very Holy Spirit. Living faith mediates the mystery of God's loving plan and opens our spiritual eyes to behold the Divine Design in our own lives. We see that we walk with Him and He guides our path along a Divine design, a plan, a pattern.
For the Christian, the center from which the Divine design proceeds- and through which we discern the beauty of God's perfect plan - is the Cross of Jesus Christ. It is the central patch of cloth from which the pattern proceeds. It is also where the pattern returns. However, seeing this pattern requires ongoing conversion.
We need the renewed vision that comes through such living faith to stay on the path. We find the strength to pull ourselves up, after the inevitable falls which accompany daily life, by grasping the wood of the Cross, the door to the new world to come. The Early Christians of the First Millennium reflected upon the Cross as a "second tree" at which the new creation began again in Jesus Christ.
On that Cross, the Living Word, through whom the Universe was created, re-created it all anew. Theodore the Studite, an eighth century Abbot of the undivided Church of the First Christian Millennium, once proclaimed: "How precious the gift of the cross, how splendid to contemplate! In the cross there is no mingling of good and evil, as in the tree of paradise: it is wholly beautiful to behold and good to taste. The fruit of this tree is not death but life, not darkness but light. This tree does not cast us out of paradise, but opens the way for our return."
"This was the tree on which Christ, like a King on a chariot, destroyed the devil, the Lord of death, and freed the human race from his tyranny. This was the tree upon which the Lord, like a brave warrior wounded in hands, feet and side, healed the wounds of sin that the evil serpent had inflicted on our nature. A tree once caused our death but now a tree brings life. Once deceived by a tree, we have now repelled the cunning serpent by a tree. What an astonishing transformation! That death should become life, that decay should become immortality- that shame should become glory!"
A fourth century Deacon named Ephrem was in love this wounded warrior of Love, Jesus Christ. He wrote extraordinary hymns which gained him a title, still mentioned in the Syriac Liturgy to this day -- "the Harp of the Holy Spirit". In a sermon he proclaimed: "He who was also the carpenters glorious son set up his cross above deaths' all consuming jaws, and led the human race into the dwelling place of life. Since a tree had brought about the downfall of mankind, it was upon a tree that mankind crossed over to the realm of life."
"Bitter was the branch that had once been grafted upon that ancient tree, but sweet the young shoot that has now been grafted in, the shoot in which we are meant to recognize the Lord whom no creature can resist. We give glory to you, Lord, who raised up your cross to span the jaws of death, like a bridge by which souls might pass from the region of the dead to the land of the living."
"We give glory to you who put on the body of a single mortal man and made it the source of life for every other mortal man. You are incontestably alive. Your murderers sowed your living body in the earth as farmers sow grain, but it sprang up and yielded an abundant harvest of men raised from the dead. Come then, my brothers and sisters, let us offer our Lord the great and all embracing sacrifice of our love and our lives"
On this first day of the Year of Faith, let us open the door through Prayer and learn to live in the Heart of the Church for the sake of the world.
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Pope Benedict XVI's Prayer Intentions for January 2013
General Intention: The Faith of Christians. That in this Year of Faith Christians may deepen their knowledge of the mystery of Christ and witness joyfully to the gift of faith in him.
Missionary Intention: Middle Eastern Christians. That the Christian communities of the Middle East, often discriminated against, may receive from the Holy Spirit the strength of fidelity and perseverance.
Keywords: Year of Faith, Door of Faith, Pope benedict XVI, Living Faith, Porta Fidei, spirituality, contemplation, meditation, missionary, new Evangelization, pope benedict XVI, Deacon Keith Fournier
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