Tag Archives: revelation

Pre-Existent Soul?

After studying a glimpse of Theology, I’ve come to realise that the most important prerequisite which one needs to seriously study the Faith is Christian Philosophy.

Why? Because Philosophy is the LANGUAGE in which God uses to communicate Revelation to us. One cannot do Bible Exegesis without at least a basic understanding of Aristotelian Metaphysics.

Just this afternoon, a friend in one of my group chats made a ‘theologically’ incorrect statement which was innocent by nature, but actually disastrous to the Christian Faith. He said, “Oh, back in 1980 I wasn’t on earth yet. My soul was still floating around in heaven.”

This is why Metaphysics is crucial. Such statements reflect the lack of understanding in even the most fundamental ideas of our Faith. I immediately corrected him and said that we do NOT have pre-existing souls. It is in fact, a heresy from the early 4th Century!

The notion of us having pre-existent souls would imply Reincarnation, or that God sent us to earth as if it were some sort of test. It is completely incompatible with Christianity.

“If anyone asserts the fabulous pre-existence of souls, and shall assert the monstrous restoration which follows from it: let him be anathema.” (Second Council of Constantinople)

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Originally posted on Instagram.
Image: PD-US

Solemnity of the Most Sacred Heart of Jesus

By guest writer Catherine Sheehan.

The image of the Sacred Heart of Jesus is one of the most common images associated with Catholicism. Numerous Catholic churches and schools are named after the Sacred Heart and many churches contain an image or statue of the Sacred Heart.

But how often do we stop to think what the devotion to the Sacred Heart is actually all about? What was Christ communicating to us when He revealed His Sacred Heart to St. Margaret Mary Alacoque in the 17th century? Why did the Church establish a feast day devoted to the Sacred Heart and does this devotion still have relevance for us today?

For human beings, the heart symbolizes the very center of our being since it is the organ that keeps us alive by pumping blood around the whole body. It also symbolizes the depths of our feelings and therefore our capacity for love. We speak of being ‘heart-broken’ when something tragic happens to us, when someone we love dies, a friend betrays us or our love is rejected. When we desire to be close to others we refer to ‘speaking from the heart’ or having a ‘heart to heart’ conversation.

All of this tells us much about why Jesus desired a devotion to His Sacred Heart. He wanted to be close to us, to reveal to us the depths of His love for us, and to call us to respond to this love by loving Him in return and extending that love to others. Indeed He gave the commandment to His followers to ‘Love one another as I have loved you’ (John 15: 12).

Since St. John told us that ‘God is love’ (1 John 4:8), devotion to the Sacred Heart is nothing other than acknowledging and reinforcing this revelation of who God is, and asking us to enter more deeply into his love.

From 1673 to 1675, Our Lord appeared several times to St. Margaret Mary Alacoque, a Visitation nun, in the French town of Paray-le-Monial. The first apparition took place on 27 December 1673, the feast of St. John the Evangelist. Interestingly, it was St. John who was called the disciple ‘whom Jesus loved’, and who rested his head near Christ’s heart at the Last Supper (John 13: 23).

Christ showed St. Margaret Mary His Sacred Heart which was crowned with flames and a cross, and encircled by a crown of thorns. She also saw that His heart was pierced. This corresponds with the fact that Christ’s side was pierced with a lance when He hung on the cross (John 19:20).

Jesus expressed to St. Margaret Mary His desire that a devotion to His Sacred Heart be established and a feast day on the Friday after the octave of Corpus Christi.

As part of this devotion, Jesus asked that people receive the Holy Eucharist on the first Friday of each month for nine consecutive months, in honor of His Sacred Heart. This is known as the First Friday devotion.

The feast day of the Most Sacred Heart of Jesus was officially established in 1765 and in 1899 Pope Leo XIII consecrated the entire world to the Sacred Heart.

In his encyclical on devotion to the Sacred Heart, Haurietis Aquas, Pope Pius XII wrote:

… Christ Our Lord, exposing His Sacred Heart, wished in a quite extraordinary way to invite the minds of men to a contemplation of, and a devotion to, the mystery of God’s merciful love for the human race … Christ pointed to His Heart, with definite and repeated words, as the symbol by which men should be attracted to a knowledge and recognition of His love; and at the same time He established it as a sign or pledge of mercy and grace for the needs of the Church of our times.

He further wrote: “The Church gives the highest form of worship to the Heart of the divine Redeemer.”

Let us celebrate the great feast of the Most Sacred Heart of Jesus with particular fervor, since it announces to the world the unfathomable love and mercy of Jesus Christ. His Sacred Heart burns with love for us each and every day!

The 12 promises of Christ to those who have devotion to His Most Sacred Heart, as revealed to St Margaret Mary:

(1) I will give them all the graces necessary in their state of life.
(2) I will establish peace in their homes.
(3) I will comfort them in all their afflictions.
(4) I will be their secure refuge during life, and above all, in death.
(5) I will bestow abundant blessings upon all their undertakings.
(6) Sinners will find in My Heart the source and infinite ocean of mercy.
(7) Lukewarm souls shall become fervent.
(8) Fervent souls shall quickly mount to high perfection.
(9) I will bless every place in which an image of my Heart is exposed and honored.
10) I will give to priests the gift of touching the most hardened hearts.
(11) Those who shall promote this devotion shall have their names written in My Heart.
(12) I promise you in the excessive mercy of My Heart that My all-powerful love will grant to all those who receive Holy Communion on the First Fridays in nine consecutive months the grace of final perseverance; they shall not die in my disgrace, nor without receiving their sacraments. My divine Heart shall be their safe refuge in this last moment.

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Catherine Sheehan is an experienced writer and a journalist with The Catholic Weekly.

I am a Catechist. I am not God’s lawyer

Sophia Cavalletti (1999, p. 4), writes that “a plan has always existed in the mind of God, the aim of which is to bring humankind to the full enjoyment of God”. The Christian confesses that in the fullness of time, that plan has a human face; His name is Jesus Christ. Revelation, which Dei Verbum teaches that is God’s manifestation of Himself in time through words and deeds, finds its culmination in Him (DV no.2).Christ, King of Kings (Greece, c. 1600)

As a Christian, I certainly did not invent this story. Rather, I am inserted into this story which is necessarily open and meant for all humanity. As the first sentence of Redemptor Hominis makes clear, “Jesus Christ is center of the Universe and of history” (RH no. 1). It is only in Him that “the mystery of man take on light” as “He fully reveals man to himself and brings to light his most high calling” (RH no. 8). I am invited to make my personal pilgrimage, to approach Him, to understand myself thoroughly “not just in accordance with immediate, partial, often superficial, and even illusory standards.” Even in the midst of my “unrest, uncertainty weakness and sinfulness” I should approach and “appropriate and assimilate the whole of the reality of the Incarnation and Redemption in order to find myself” (RH no. 10). In other words, to taste and see and testify that the Lord is really good. (Ps 34:8)

This has implications for my catechetical craft, in the area of identity and mission, i.e who the catechist really is and flowing from that, what his mission is.

I tell my students that as a catechist, I do not see my as “God’s lawyer”, i.e making the case for God’s existence/God’s goodness against those who would accuse him (whoever they may be). Neither am I “God’s debator”, making the case for God to the cheers or jeers of a public audience. Rather, I understand my role, to borrow an image from Lumen Gentium, as simply a co-pilgrim, with my own restlessness and sinfulness. I am on the same boat as my students in the common journey of life.

Nevertheless, as a co-pilgrim, I have found the Catholic path to be a path of joy and hence, I want to share this with others: on why, at least as of today and with God’s help, until the day I die, I found this path, this Catholic vision of life credible and worth taking. Such an approach de-centers the catechist and centers the lesson on the Person of Christ. It is also less intimidating and “takes the pressure” off the catechist to answer every single question students might have on the spot. Not that the catechist should not try to find out and put his heart into bettering his craft. But he knows that faith is not solely dependent on being able to “answer questions satisfactorily” and he can share from his experience why a particular question does not shake his own faith even though he might have difficulties answering it at the moment.

The Catechist’s mission then is to testify to his students why he found God’s revelation credible, especially in the person of Jesus Christ. He clears the clutter so that his students may also personally encounter Christ. Personally, there are five anchors in my faith journey and whether I share them explicitly or not, they will necessarily color my presentation of the faith.

These five pillars are, namely:
i) That it seems more historically credible to believe in the Resurrection of Jesus than alternative theories.
ii) That miracles continue to happen in recent times and even today, e.g. the incorrupt body of St Bernadette, Fatima, Lourdes etc.
iii) That the lives of the saints, e.g. Mother Teresa, Blessed Miguel Pro etc., show how a life totally devoted to Christ can be a beautiful and fulfilling one and that they too struggled with darkness and doubt.
iv) A deep personal awareness (not mystical!) which occurred to me one day in a particularly clear manner that God loves me as a Father because I am “his child” and not because of any achievement on my part and inspite of the wrong things I have done. I will always be his “son” if, in spite of the wrong things I do, I still call him Father.
v) That Colossians 1:15-20 is not mere poetry but literally true that Christ “is the firstborn of all creation… in Him all things were created… in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or principalities or authorities… all things were created through Him and for Him… and in Him all things hold together.”

The last pillar I am now finding particularly fruitful even in my own work as a school teacher. The whole of reality has a Christocentric stamp. I can show how secular subjects find their deepest meaning in Christ, thus bridging the “secular subjects” vs “religious subjects” divide which is often implicit in my students’ minds. In my catechetical class, I can do it explicitly. In a non-Catholic school, I can do it only implicitly but the insights into the human condition offered will (and has been!) “out of the box” and of interest to my students.

Ordinary things like going for a cruise, helping a poor person, having a family meal, my job as a teacher, and more dramatic things like religious fanaticism, the rise of Adolf Hitler, the Earth which is both beautiful and destructive, take on light. Their deepest meaning can surprisingly be discerned in the light of the Person of Christ. It seems to me a type of everyday mysticism.

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Image: Christ, King of Kings (Greece, c. 1600)/PD-US

What Happens When We Become Like Children?

Since becoming mobile, my one-year-old son has developed a rather terrifying habit of climbing up and diving off anything he can get a leg up on. Of course, I’m always right there to catch him before he face-plants in to the carpet, in which he repays me with heart melting laughter and a goofy smile.

My son is pure boy, so we’ve done this song and dance multiple times. Recently, however, as he and I were playing in the living room, I was stuck with a thought that had never occurred to me.

When he goes to dive head first off the couch, he doesn’t think, “What if Dad drops me?” When he makes a beeline for the stairs, he’s not considering whether or not I’ll be there to scoop him up. He trusts me, unconditionally, to catch him. Every single time.

As I marveled at the amount of trust one being can have for another, a piece of scripture came to mind to which, in all my years of being a Christian, I’d never paid any attention.

At that time the disciples* approached Jesus and said, “Who is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven?” He called a child over, placed it in their midst,and said, “Amen, I say to you, unless you turn and become like children,* you will not enter the kingdom of heaven. Mt 18:1-3

I had heard those verses a million times, and every time they went in one ear and out the other. However, in that little moment with my son, those words took on a whole new meaning for me.

And let me stress the words “new meaning.”

My son always trusts me to catch him, but when he’s afraid, when he thinks he’s in danger, or when he’s unhappy, the first thing he does is wrap himself around my leg, or stand pleading at my feet for me to pick him up, and if I’m not in the room, if he can’t sense me there, he cries until I return. When he’s anxious, he needs more than just trust. He needs to cling to me, to hold on tight to my shirt, and to feel me there, physically.

As Christians, we need to cling to Christ in the same way. We were created with mind, soul, and body.  While prayer and reflection satisfy the spiritual and mental parts of ourselves, we still need something for the body, something on Earth to which we can physically cling. That’s exactly what God gives us in the Catholic Church.

During mass I can physically receive Christ through the Eucharist. When sins weigh heavily on my heart, I can physically meet with Him in the confessional — but most importantly, when I am troubled or afraid, I can physically cling to Him through Adoration of the Blessed Sacrament.

Here are the words of Saint John Paul II as he contemplated the presence of Christ in the Blessed Sacrament:

It is pleasant to spend time with him, to lie close to his breast like the Beloved Disciple and to feel the infinite love present in his heart. If in our time Christians must be distinguished above all by the “art of prayer,” how can we not feel a renewed need to spend time in spiritual converse, in silent adoration, in heartfelt love before Christ present in the Most Holy Sacrament? How often, dear brother and sisters, have I experienced this, and drawn from it strength, consolation and support.

When I am in His Church, whether alone or with others, I can sit before the tabernacle and pray, meditate, reflect or simply let my mind go blank.  With the faith of a child, I know Christ is present, spiritually and physically, and He is inviting me to cling to him.

Getting the Eucharist

Roughly six months after my conversion, I had what I like to think of as my first real “revelation” surrounding Church teaching—specifically the Eucharist.

I was sitting in Mass with my wife, trying to pay attention while simultaneously attempting to contain my fidgety baby boy.  At that point in my Catholic life, I had long since accepted Church teaching on the Eucharist. I had read the scripture, the books, the essays, I’d attended Mass, discussed it in RCIA, and I fully believed that it was the literal body and blood of Jesus Christ. Every Sunday since I was confirmed, I knew that when I stepped up to the front of the communion line, I was receiving Christ.

But here’s the thing, I spent years as a Southern Baptist drinking grape juice and eating tiny crackers made of sawdust believing that the whole “This is my Body” ordeal was a just a big ‘ol symbol for…something. Despite the fact that I really and truly did believe that the Eucharist was the body and blood of Christ, I still felt like there was a mental block somewhere. It was like I understood it, but I didn’t fully get it. Get it?

So, I prayed. I prayed at every Mass for Christ to reveal himself to me through the Eucharist. I wanted him to break me, punch me in the gut, and make me see this sacrifice for what it really is.

That particular Sunday was no different. I said a little prayer from my kneeler, and when it was time to get up, I made my way to the Communion line.

I can’t remember the hymn, but I do remember it being really beautiful and touching. As I slowly walked behind my wife to the front of the Church, I felt compelled to look upwards at the enormous, incredibly detailed crucifix hanging above. (Seriously, this thing is a piece of work)

It wasn’t the first time I’d ever looked upon our crucifix, and it certainly wasn’t my first time seeing a depiction of Christ on the cross. But for whatever reason, I started meditating on the passion and focusing on whom that really was hanging there, nailed to two pieces of wood, broken, bloodied, and humiliated.

It wasn’t just some guy named Jesus. It wasn’t some troublemaker, or revolutionary, or some pest to Rome. It wasn’t just a teacher, or a prophet, or a “really good dude”. That was God, my God, the creator of the universe, who is love, who is truth, who spoke our world into existence. He made himself flesh, and let his very own creation strip him, beat him, and kill him. And for what?

Us. Me. You. The entire human race: an undeserving group of sinful, selfish, ignorant, stupid people who are entirely deserving of Hell and eternal separation from God. But lucky for us, our Lord loves us so much that He, an all knowing, all powerful, omniscient, eternal being that exists outside of time itself, became man through Christ and died for us.

It’s like when a parent takes responsibility for something really stupid that their child did, except multiplied by infinity.

I was gazing up at the crucifix with those vivid thoughts burning in my head, and I realized that it was my turn to receive. I stepped up, bowed, and Father presented the Body to me.

“The Body of Christ.”

It wasn’t the first time those words had been spoken to me, but it was the first time I think I’d ever heard them, and I mean really heard them.

The. Body. Of. Christ.

In my imperfect, undeserving hands, I held the Body of Christ.

Our God didn’t just sacrifice himself for us; He took it a step further. He gave us his body to take and eat. EAT! To ingest, chew, swallow, and put in our imperfect, human bodies. He offered himself to us—totally, fully, unconditionally—so that we could feed our spiritual hunger, so that we could have salvation. That’s how much He loves us.

How could we possibly comprehend that?

I took the body. I ate it. I went back to my seat, and I prayed. Hard. I was broken. You get what you ask for, I guess.

As someone who’s been at least somewhat of a Christian his entire life, I’d spoken about the love of God before. I’d written about it. I’d shared it. But this was the first time I’d ever really felt it. It was the first time I looked that realization in the face, and saw the infinite, unfathomable love that God has for me—for all of us.

There’s that gut punch.

Of course, this barely scratches the surface of the truth and theology behind the Sacrament of the Eucharist. This is just how Christ revealed it to me. This is how he answered my prayers. I think what I find so special about this revelation is that there was no bright light, no vision, no voice. It was quiet, gentle, yet humbly overwhelming.

After the fire there was a tiny whispering sound.

When you open yourself to the Lord, he will deliver. Right on the heels of this revelation came another, which was: It’s okay if you don’t fully get it, more of which I will talk about next time.

Simon Says & Christ’s Supper

“Eh, Bart, I’m glad you had fun, but I wouldn’t get too into that Catholic Church. With all the sitting and standing and kneeling, it’s like Simon Says without a winner.” – Marge
“Mom, that’s blasphemy! I’ll say a rosary for you.” – Bart

– The Simpsons, Season 16 Episode 21 (“The Father, the Son, and the Holy Guest Star”)

Liturgy is central to the Christian life. In Roman times, “liturgy” (Greek: leitourgia) meant “a tax or financial obligation paid by one for the benefit of many”. Think about the Crucifixion and the Mass, which joins in on that perpetual single Sacrifice (Hebrews 10:11-14), and realize the meaning of the word itself.

“[I]n the beauty of the liturgy…wherever we join in singing, praising, exalting and worshiping God, a little bit of heaven will become present on earth. Truly it would not be presumptuous to say that, in a liturgy completely centered on God, we can see, in its rituals and chant, an image of eternity.” – Pope Benedict XVI [link]

The Mass is, of course, totally in line with both Scripture and Tradition. It has been integral to Christianity since the Last Supper. St. Peter Julian Eymard said, “The Mass is the most holy act of religion; you can do nothing that can give greater glory to God or be more profitable for your soul than to hear Mass both frequently and devoutly. It is the favorite devotion of the saints.”

The Mass also has a very rich history. Some forms of it, like the Ambrosian – which is still in use today – have older origins than even the Tridentine form. At great personal risk, Catholics preserved early liturgical documents. Thanks to their efforts, teachings have survived wars, famines, persecution, and the elements.

In addition, the Mass is another sign of the Christian fulfillment of the Law (Matthew 5:17-18), because it is in harmony with ancient Jewish traditions. We use stone altars, as the Jews did. Priests also ritually wash their hands before celebrating the Sacrifice, in accordance with commands from the Old Testament (Exodus 30:17-21, Psalm 26:6). Even the use of holy water at parish entrances has its roots in Judaism. Before entering the Temple, Jews were required to undergo immersion in a mikveh (ritual bath).

Unfortunately, within this liturgical framework, there is a minority that puts its personal preferences above the judgment of the Church. There are some that insist on identifying only with the Tridentine form (which, by the way, was not even promulgated until 1570, despite its proponents’ focus on antiquity) and push willful neglect of the perfectly-valid Novus Ordo, and there are some that advocate the reverse. Both sides are wrong – both forms are right. These factions do nothing but needlessly scare off potential converts that seek a unified message.

All approved forms of the Mass are equally valid, but sometimes differently demonstrated. In keeping with the centrality of sacrifices in Judeo-Christian history, the Eucharist is essential – that, not our preferences, is what matters. For example, I may not be thrilled that the Ambrosian rite has the Epiklesis after the Words of Institution (rather than before), but I defer to the wisdom of the Church and recognize that its Eucharist is valid.

On the Sunday before Christmas, I attended an Orthodox (OCA) liturgy. It was mesmerizing and markedly devout. The “smells and bells,” the obvious reverence, and the different prayers kept me piqued. One part of the Communion prayers struck me especially: “Receive me today, Son of God, as a partaker of Your mystical Supper. I will not reveal Your mystery to Your adversaries, nor will I give You a kiss as did Judas. But as the thief I confess to You: Lord, remember me in Your kingdom.”

This is how a proper liturgy should be. A liturgy is supposed to be transcendent, to connect us to God. The Church tirelessly works to ensure that this is the reality, but we need knowledge to appreciate this. Let us all learn more about our liturgical heritage and continuously fall in love with the Church over and over again.

Sts. George and Alexandra Orthodox Church -- Fort Smith, AR
Sts. George and Alexandra Orthodox Church —
Fort Smith, AR

 

(All verses are from the NASB translation.)

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(This was originally shared here on YOUCATholic.com.)