Christianity

‘Who are you then, O Immaculate Conception’ by St. Maximilian Kolbe

IMMACULATE CONCEPTION. These words fell from the lips of the Immaculata herself. Hence, they must tell us in the most precise and essential manner who she really is.

Since human words are incapable of expressing divine realities, it follows that these words: “Immaculate,” and “Conception” must be understood in a much more profound, much more beautiful and sublime meaning than usual: a meaning beyond that which human reason at its most penetrating, commonly gives to them.

St. Paul wrote, quoting the Prophet Isaiah: “Things that the eye has not seen, that the ear has not heard, that the heart of man has not imagined” (Is. 64,4), such are the good things that God has prepared for those who love him (I Cor. 2,9). Here, these words apply fully.

However, we can and should reverently inquire into the mystery of the Immaculata and try to express it with words provided by our intelligence using its own proper powers.

Who then are you, O Immaculate conception?

Not God, of course, because he has no beginning. Not an angel, created directly out of nothing. Not Adam, formed out of the dust of the earth (Gen. 2,7). Not Eve, molded from Adam’s rib (Gen. 2,21). Not the Incarnate Word, who exists before all ages, and of whom we should use the word “conceived” rather than “conception”. Humans do not exist before their conception, so we might call them created “conceptions.” But you, O Mary, are different from all other children of Eve. They are conceptions stained by original sin; whereas you are the unique, Immaculate Conception.

Everything which exists, outside of God himself, since it is from God and depends on him in every way, bears within itself some semblance to its Creator; there is nothing in any creature which does not betray this resemblance, because every created thing is an effect of the Primal cause.

It is true that the words we use to speak of created realities express the divine perfections only in a halting, limited and analogical manner. They are only a more or less distant echo- as are the created realities that they signify- of the properties of God himself.

Would not “conception” be an exception to this rule? No; there is never any such exception.

The Father begets the Son; the Spirit proceeds from Father and Son. These few words sum up the mystery of life of the Most Blessed Trinity and of all the perfections in creatures which are nothing else but echoes, a hymn of praise, a many-hued tableau, of this primary and most wondrous of all mysteries.

We must perforce use our customary vocabulary, since it is all we have; but we must never forget that our vocabulary is very inadequate.

Who is the Father? What is his personal life like? It consists in begetting, eternally; because he begets his Son from the beginning, and forever.

Who is the son? He is the Begotten-One because from the beginning and for all eternity he is begotten by the Father.

And who is the Holy Spirit? The flowering of the love of the Father and the Son. If the fruit of created love is a created conception, then the fruit of divine Love, that prototype of all created love, is necessarily a divine “conception.” The Holy Spirit is, therefore, the “uncreated, eternal conception,” the prototype of all the conceptions that multiply life throughout the whole universe.

The Father begets; the Son is begotten; the Spirit is the “conception” that springs from their love; there we have the intimate life of the three Persons by which they can be distinguished one from another. But they are united in the oneness of their Nature, of their divine existence.

The spirit is, then this thrice holy “conception,” this infinitely holy, Immaculate Conception.

Everywhere in this world we notice action, and the reaction which is equal but contrary to it; departure and return; going away and coming back; separation and reunion. The separation always looks foreword to union, which is creative. All this is simply an image of the Blessed Trinity in the activity of creatures. Union means love, creative love. Divine activity, outside the Trinity itself, follows the same pattern. First, God creates the universe; that is something like a separation. Creatures, by following the natural law implanted in them by God, reach their perfection, become like him, and go back to him. Intelligent creatures love him in the conscious manner; through this love they unite themselves more and more closely with him, and so find their way back to him. The creature most completely filled with this love, filled with God himself, was the Immaculata, who never contracted the slightest stain of sin, who never departed in the least from God’s will. United to the Holy Spirit as his spouse, she is one with God in an incomparably more perfect way than can be predicated of any other creature.

What sort of union is this? It is above all an interior union, a union of her essence with the “essence” of the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit dwells in her, lives in her. This was true from the first instant of her existence. It was always true; it will always be true.

In what does this life of the Sprit in Mary consist? He himself is uncreated Love in her; the Love of the Father and of the Son, the Love by which God loves himself, the very love of the Most Holy Trinity. He is a fruitful Love, a “Conception.” Among creatures made in God’s image the union brought about by married love is the most intimate of all (cf. Mt. 19,6). In a much more precise, more interior, more essential manner, the Holy Spirit lives in the soul of the Immaculata, in the depths of her very bring. He makes her fruitful, from the very first instant of her existence, all during her life, and for all eternity.

This eternal “Immaculate Conception” (which is the Holy Spirit) produces in an immaculate manner divine life itself in the womb (or depths) of Mary’s soul, making her the Immaculate Conception, the human Immaculate Conception. And the virginal womb of Mary’s body is kept sacred for him; there he conceives in time- because everything that is material occurs in time- the human life of the man-God.

And so the return to God (which is love), that is to say the equal and contrary reaction, follows a different path from that found in creation. The path of creation goes from the Father through the Son by the Holy Spirit; this return trail goes from the Spirit through the Son back to the Father; in other words, by the Spirit the Son becomes incarnate in the Womb of the Immaculata; and through this Son love returns to the Father.

And she (the Immaculata), grafted into the Love of the Blessed Trinity, becomes from the first moment of her existence and forever thereafter the “complement of the Blessed Trinity”.

In the Holy Spirit’s union with Mary we observe more than the love of two beings; in one there is all the love of the Blessed Trinity; in the other, all of creation’s love. So it is that in this union heaven and earth are joined; all of heaven with all the earth, the totality of eternal love with the totality of created love. It is truly the summit of love.

At Lourdes, the Immaculata did not say of herself that she had been conceived immaculately, but, as St. Bernadette repeated, “Que soy era immaculada councepciou”: “I am the Immaculate Conception.”

If among human beings the wife takes the name of her husband because she belongs to him, is one with him, becomes equal to him and is, with him, the source of new life, with how much greater reason should the name of the Holy Spirit, who is the divine Immaculate Conception, be used as the name of her in whom he lives as uncreated Love, the principle of life in the whole supernatural order of grace?

by St. Maximilian Kolbe

Yesterday/today (14th August) was the feast day of St. Maximilian Kolbe, a great saint, and martyr of charity. He wrote the above (which I found here) just a few hours before his second and final arrest by the Nazis. Also brilliant is his, ‘Why Mary Is Our Mediatrix‘.

St. Maximilian Kolbe, pray for us

God bless you

Can God create a stone…

Can God create a stone so heavy that He cannot lift it? If yes, how is He all-powerful? If no, how is He all-powerful?

I love this question. Initially, it seems like a perfect proof that an all-powerful being is impossible, which is troubling (to say the least) from the standpoint of religion. It is the kind of question that probes into the fabric of reality. It seems like the perfect trap. But I don’t believe it is inescapable. In fact, I would say that such questions force us to look into the depths of reality, and the fundamental facts of God Himself.

It seems that to answer yes, is to admit defeat, and to answer no, is also admitting defeat. Apparently we can do neither.

The first key to the question is the difference between what God could do theoretically (i.e. what’s in His power to do), and what God would do (i.e. what’s in His nature to do), and the second is the power of the question itself. Yes, God could (theoretically) create a stone so heavy that He could not lift it, and what’s more, He could then lift it. Yes, this is the contradiction the question was after. But what question is so powerful as to bind God? God is not subordinate to logic (or He is not God), nor did He create logic (or He Himself would be inconceivable), but God is (in a sense) logic (look up the theology of Jesus as the divine Logos and the divine Wisdom).

So, if God is logic, can God do something illogical? Theoretically, He could if He changed Himself. Can the unchanging God change Himself? Again, theoretically, yes. Nothing constrains God but God.

But then again, God won’t ever create such a stone, do something illogical, or change Himself, because of who He is. God will never change; He will never lie; He will never be unfaithful. And God will never change, because there is nothing that can affect God but Himself; and He will never choose to change because He is not even subject to time, and to change your mind requires time’s work. He already knows all things perfectly, and will not discover anything to change His mind.

So if we consider that God is, in a certain sense, unable to create and lift such a stone, it is only because He Himself, by His very being, makes it that way, by His free and continued choice.

 

God bless you

[P.S. I’d love to keep the discussion going, so if you have any further points, either agreeing or disagreeing or neither, I’d love to see them. Thanks]

I am the lost sock

So I found a sock just now (a really cool Spiderman sock), and putting it in my drawer, I saw it’s partner. I don’t think I need to tell you how happy this made me. My sock was lost, and now is found!

This reminded me of the three parables of Luke 15: the lost sheep; the lost drachma (coin); and the prodigal son. I’ll tell you the truth: I’m happier about finding my lost sock than about all the socks I didn’t lose. Like how the shepherd put the lost sheep on his shoulder and carried it home, I picked my sock off the floor, and did that folding thing to pair the pair, and put them in my drawer. Like how the woman who lost her coin phoned or texted (I assume) her friends to celebrate with her, I’m writing this to you. Rejoice with me!

Image

I am my lost sock! I was lost, and now am found. I lay useless on the bedroom floor, until I was returned to the drawer, and reunited with my partner, and so brought home and made whole. And I tell you the truth again: One day not so far away, I will wear this sock upon my foot (and I believe God will act likewise to me).

All this because, as the Pharisees and the scribes said so well, “Jesus welcomes sinners and eats with them.”

God bless you.

The Gospel of Repentance

From that time Jesus began to preach, and to say, Repent: for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.
[Matthew 4:17]

I think when we first hear this, it doesn’t sound very nice. At least, I have a vague memory of thinking this was one of the scary verses. When I used to hear, “kingdom of heaven”, I would think of the end: God burning the world, while the righteous watched on, and heard the cries of the damned for help. And so with this in mind, I thought Jesus was trying to scare people straight, ready for a judgment that wouldn’t come for millennia. I don’t know who’s to blame (apart from myself) for this awful misunderstanding.

I could hardly have been more wrong. This verse is full of hope. This is good news.

The kingdom of heaven is not judgment, and it is not wrath. Where God truly rules, there is no sin, and therefore no judgment, and no wrath. The kingdom of heaven is the rule of love, because God is love. The kingdom of heaven was well and truly at hand, because Jesus Christ, the Word became flesh, was at hand. Heaven and earth came to union, in that flesh where God became man. And he was offering us to have a part in that kingdom. To be truly free: ruled by love, and united with God Himself.

And what was the condition he attached to us joining this Kingdom above all kingdoms? “Repent”. I believe he means by this, that we turn away from the lives that are death, and accept and live by God’s rule of love, with sorrow for ever living by anything else. In this we have our salvation, our life, and our freedom. The kingdom of God is within you (Lk 17:21), and we cannot have it while we reject it, either by our words, deeds, or beliefs. Nor could the rule of God’s love be imposed on anyone who rejects it, because love doesn’t work that way. But if we turn from our deeds of death with sorrow, and live by the one who is life, who gave his life that we might share in it in every way, then we are alive in the kingdom of heaven.

It is true that repentance includes sorrow. To repent, we must have sorrow for our past ways, and therefore be turning from them. But it also includes the far greater hope for the life we turn to. We do not turn out of fear, but its opposite, which is hope. So, in repentance, we have sorrow, and hope for life beyond this sorrow.

Upon the cross, we find our hope, which was won for us through sorrow. Christ shared in our sorrows to the end, and used them to give us hope. All the sorrows we have created by our disobedience, Christ suffered, and, by his obedience, used for our salvation. By suffering the sorrows we made, he shared in our life, but in purity without sin, that we may share in his life, and be pure also. He died our death, that we may live his life.

So, when we repent, we look to the cross. And seeing the holiest deed in all history, we are not condemned, but are loved, because that is what holiness is. There we find life being given to us, and there we find the life we must imitate. There we see Jesus Christ, we see the kingdom of heaven, and we see life itself.

God bless you, thoroughly and completely and absolutely.

Becoming Catholic

I have decided, after a long time of searching and studying, to join the Roman Catholic Church.

Why?
Because after studying its teachings, I found I believe them, basically.
However, it’s not simply an intellectual decision, as that’s not enough for life. We must be right mind, heart, soul and strength. Therefore I checked out Catholic life myself by attending a mass, which is the centre of the Church’s life, and found it felt remarkably honest and sacred.
I’ve found almost all other Churches I’ve visited either quite lifeless or shallow, but the Catholic Church had humble and profound life to it. I always found Church wasn’t satisfying enough, but I assumed that was because it was too centralised around the minister/reverend/pastor/priest. But then I found that those more group based were perhaps more shallow in their teaching. But the Catholic mass is satisfying.
I was aware that they believed we were in the presence of God, even though I wasn’t yet sure (of the real presence in the Eucharist).
The complete story of this decision is long, and the arguments and thoughts leading to the decision are many. I can’t share them now.

Becoming a Catholic is frightening to me, because it means change, and because it means having an authority over me (and on many matters an infallible one). Change is always scary, but that’s ok. Authority scares me, because I fear either I’ll disagree on something, and have to submit my intellectual independence, or worse, that I’ll disagree on something and be a heretic, either privately or publicly, and so be separated from the Church. Having so many definitive answers is a great attraction because I love to learn, but also a drawback for my love of intellectual independence (and perhaps pride). On the other hand, having the responsibility to build my own religion was terrifying, because I don’t want to ever be wrong, or be led to start my own Church.
But I believe I will be able to accept the Church’s teaching if a conflict ever arises, because I trust it will be right, and will wait to find a correction for whatever convincing theory I may have found. It is not intellectually dishonest to not accept certain findings if they contradict others, and seeking corrections is good method.

Speaking of authority, I’m not entirely sure how this will influence my beliefs regarding anarchism, however, I expect any development to be positive, and the Catholic anarchists Peter Maurin and Dorothy Day (and the Catholic Worker movement they began) were a major inspiration for me to look into Catholicism.

It is very strange to no longer be the head of my own religion, believing I’m right everywhere I’ve made up my mind. And it’s very odd to me, to no longer be an expert on such things, but just another person believing a long explained truth. I have so much more to learn, and so much less to figure out on my own. I now have nearly two thousand years of thought to look to.

I really look forward to being baptised and entering the Catholic Church, and with the Church increasing to Christ in all things.

Thank you for reading and may God bless you thoroughly.

The Holiness of God

Speakpeacealways (a great blog, check it out) asked “Weelll… there are sooooo many questions one could ponder on, but the one that has been occupying my mind has been how to define/explain the holiness of God to someone who’s wondering if God exists and if He does, what kind of a person He is… hope that’s an interesting enough question.”

I believe holy basically means set apart (with strong religious connotations). It also has strong connotations of purity. So, I don’t think holiness is one aspect of God’s nature, but a way of describing His whole nature as different. Therefore, I think I would best reply by showing what sets God fundamentally apart from all else.

Truth is set apart from all lies. Likewise God is set apart from all false gods. All people belong to the truth, and the truth belongs to all people; likewise God is necessary for and works upon all people: God is universal, where lies and false gods are relevant only in the minds they live in.
God is perfect, and therefore set apart from all that is imperfect. By what standard is God perfect? By His own, which may be cheating, but since He created everything, only His standard will ever work for us, or anything else.
God is absolute. By this I mean that all He does, He does without half measures. He is not reserved, and does not have finite desires being subdued within Himself at any time. In this sense, He is pure, and apart from all things of half-measures.
God is set apart from us because He cannot be grasped. I mean this in two senses. Firstly, like truth, we cannot control God to our own ends. Secondly, He is beyond our knowledge.

that ye may be in strength to comprehend, with all the saints, what is the breadth, and length, and depth, and height, to know also the love of the Christ that is exceeding the knowledge, that ye may be filled—to all the fulness of God
Ephesians 3:18-19

God is infinite, and God is mysterious, and is beyond our knowledge. Yet, we may know Him, and even ‘be filled–to all the fulness of God’. This brings us back round to God’s universal nature, accessible to all. He is both ungraspable and universal.

He is also set apart by His actions, particularly His work in Jesus, God the Son.

And the Word became flesh, and did tabernacle among us, and we beheld his glory, glory as of an only begotten of a father, full of grace and truth.
John 1:14

One thing that sets the Christian God apart from other gods is His willingness to be among us, despite being so far above us.

who, being in the form of God, thought it not robbery to be equal to God, but did empty himself, the form of a servant having taken, in the likeness of men having been made, and in fashion having been found as a man, he humbled himself, having become obedient unto death—death even of a cross
Philippians 2:6-8

Here is a God that is humble, setting Him apart from gods and men.
We have a God who chose to die, and death upon a cross. And this of all things was His means of salvation. A God who is without sin, yet descends to Earth and dies for sinners.
Why did Jesus die? Because ‘God is love’. God is apart from us because He is absolute love, and all things good and meaningful have their source in the absolute love that is God.

in this we have known the love, because he for us his life did lay down, and we ought for the brethren the lives to lay down
1John 3:16

The crucifixion was the perfect expression of God’s love. Love in comfort means far less than love in torture, and while God may have loved us from power,He decided to do so better from weakness.

God’s holiness is all His own, and yet we may share in it (His sharing also sets Him apart).

and we—we have known and believed the love, that God hath in us; God is love, and he who is remaining in the love, in God he doth remain, and God in him.
1John 4:16

God’s people are set apart by their conduct, their humility, their courage, their hope, their faith, and especially their love. As God is holy, so are they.
If you’re seeking to see God’s holiness in action, they are probably your fastest option.

God bless you.

Illusions run society

Society today, is all about illusions. Few people will use that word, but no one would deny it. “You have to act the part; dress the part; look the part”. Doing the part is easy, you just have to appear good enough for it.
Good businesses require those who see past the facade of others, yet put up a fine one of their own. A smart businessman will value the looks and style of employees little, while maintaining their own for those who judge more foolishly.
It is the same in many places; churches, schools, politics. At school, children’s attitudes are judged by uniform quality, although this is probably quite accurate, as obedience to uniform will usually equate to other obedience (not to attitude to learning, however). In politics, image is everything. It’s all about slogans, photos and empty promises, and never about actions until the election’s over and it’s too late.
I’ve not been to a Church where this is too prominent, though I’ve heard of a few incidents, and there does appear to be a dress-code for ministers. I strongly suspect it’s more prominent in churches where there’s an idea of some holiness hierarchy (like in 2Corinthians 10:12), whether official or not. My parents used to make me dress well for church things, which I hated. One time, I asked my mum if Jesus had always worn clean clothes, and wasn’t forced to change.
The Pharisees were all about the image of holiness. Jesus said to them,

‘Woe to you, Scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! because ye are like to whitewashed sepulchres, which outwardly indeed do appear beautiful, and within are full of bones of dead men, and of all uncleanness; so also ye outwardly indeed do appear to men righteous, and within ye are full of hypocrisy and lawlessness.’
Matthew 23:27-28

I would say it’s useful to abandon external righteousnesses, so that you never fool anyone (including yourself) into believing you’re one bit better than you truly are.
In other industries, it’s clearly not half as important. The illusions are inefficient, and perpetuate inequalities, but they are less dangerous and more necessary. Still, it would be good for the world to erode this illusion. I advise being slightly less formal when doing a great job, and more formal when (for whatever reason) you’re not doing so great. Also, be careful not to fall for the illusion yourself.
These illusions are born out of judgmental hierarchies, and help to sustain them.

God bless you.

A scripture on God’s grace (and anarcho-communism?)

Ho, every thirsty one, come ye to the waters, And he who hath no money, Come ye, buy and eat, yea, come, buy Without money and without price, wine and milk. Why do ye weigh money for that which is not bread? And your labour for that which is not for satiety? Hearken diligently unto me, and eat good, And your soul doth delight itself in fatness. Incline your ear, and come unto me, Hear, and your soul doth live, And I make for you a covenant age-during, The kind acts of David—that are stedfast. Lo, a witness to peoples I have given him, A leader and commander to peoples. Lo, a nation thou knowest not, thou callest, And a nation who know thee not unto thee do run, For the sake of Jehovah thy God, And for the Holy One of Israel, Because He hath beautified thee.
Isaiah 55:1-5

I’ve been enjoying this passage for the last couple of days now. I love it.
It’s very interesting that the imagery used to show God’s kindness here, is of buying without money and without price, not just necessities (water) but the good and fine things of life too (milk and wine), as Peter Kropotkin hoped for. Christians are told to be perfect, as our Father in heaven is perfect, so should it be our ideal to be rid of money?
God’s point here is how wonderful His grace is, especially when compared with the works of false religion. He also gives us a clear way to imitate His grace, that would result in something like anarchist-communism.

God bless you.