Salvation

The conquest of death

On Easter Sunday, Jesus conquered death. We dare to taunt death, ‘O death, where is thy victory? O death, where is thy sting?’ [1 Cor 15:55]

Jesus didn’t just defeat death in His own case only, making Himself a special exception to the laws of life and death. He crushed death itself, abolishing its reign and dominion. He annihilated death at a metaphysical level.

The whole world was held in death’s grip, and no one could hope to escape it. It was known that eventually, each and every man, woman and child would come to be cut off from the land of the living and go down to join the dead. Everyone knew that this is simply our fate.

Everyone would eventually be cut off from the land of the living because we were all cut off already from God, the author of life. The body was subjected to corruption and death because the soul was subjected to sin. The death of the body was just a delayed reaction to the death of the soul.

But Jesus overcame both death and sin by uniting Himself to them. By becoming sin, identifying Himself perfectly with sinful humanity, and suffering death, He brought the fullness of love, and life, and righteousness down into the heart of sin and of death itself. He descended to the deepest existential depths of human misery and hopelessness, the darkness from which no one returns, and there He brought life to death and redemption to sin, utterly overcoming them from the inside.

As Christians we have already been baptised into Jesus’s death and resurrection. We have passed over from death to life already, and the grave will never hold us captive. Even after our bodily death, when we still await the resurrection of the body at the end of time, we will not be trapped in the grave, but alive in the spirit in Heaven.

‘O death, where is thy victory? O death, where is thy sting?’

Alleluia! God bless you!

What is Advent?

I watched a great video from Ascension Presents today (link below) and just wanted to share my basic realisation from it.

In lent, we enter into Jesus’s poverty and join ourselves to Him on the cross; in advent, we enter into our own poverty, and pray for Jesus to come into our poverty. In lent, we die to ourselves in order to live truly in Christ; in advent, we experience the darkness of where Christ is not present, and we wait and beg Him to come. Our lenten penance is the expression of our Christian life, and sanctifies and perfects us; our advent practices are the best efforts of sinners, attempting to make space, to prepare a way, for the desperately needed saviour.

This may be why Christmas and its build up have retained their hold on a secular world far more than lent and Easter: advent and the hope of Christmas belongs to those who are still waiting for a saviour. And maybe we shouldn’t be concerned by the Christmas songs on the radio earlier every year, maybe that is a sign that our society is longing more deeply for Christmas with all its joys, with Jesus at the very centre of them all.

God bless you.

Marian Consecration

Today I began 33 days of preparation to consecrate myself to Mary, following St Louis de Montfort’s instructions, and ending with consecration on the feast of the Presentation of Mary. I’ve done the consecration before on the same feast, and am renewing the consecration this time. Please pray for me, that I will give myself fully and hold nothing back.

Marian consecration is one of the most beautiful of all the devotions in the Church. It is perhaps the summit of all true spirituality.

We consecrate ourselves to Mary, because she is perfectly consecrated to God, and we wish to be united to Mary in her consecration. I once wrote the following:

‘God gave Himself to us by giving Himself to Mary. We are saved through God giving Himself to Mary in Jesus Christ, and through Mary’s “yes”, her giving herself up to God in Jesus Christ. God gave Himself through Mary, and we must receive God, be given up to God, through Mary’s “yes”.’ (https://asalittlechild.wordpress.com/2018/11/12/marys-teaching/)

I really want to double down on this point. We are saved through Mary’s fiat to God. When she said yes at the annunciation, she said yes on behalf of the whole universe, welcoming Jesus into creation. To be saved is to be united to Mary in saying yes, in surrendering and consecrating ourselves to God and welcoming Jesus to be conceived in us.

And this yes, this surrender and consecration and welcome, are simply who Mary is, through and through. From the first moment of her existence, her Immaculate Conception, she was claimed wholly for God. And at every moment following she gave herself wholly to God. We can see this in the annunciation, but also in every single Marian feast: God has claimed her entirely for His own, and she gives herself entirely to Him. The entirety of her being is caught up in loving God back. She is love returning love. To be saved is to be united to Mary.

Please pray for me to make this consecration well.

God bless you

Set your mind on the things that are above, not on the things that are upon the earth

Is prayer a form of escape from the world? Is that the ultimate aim of Christian life – to leave this world behind and instead to dwell with God in heaven? Are we to live for the next life, and not for the present life?

Well, yes and no.

Yes, because we are made for God and for eternal life, and we must renounce all finite distractions that would keep us from Him. Our destiny is the fullness of life in God Himself and nothing less. We are told again and again to deny ourselves, to renounce the world, and to live for God alone. We must not fall into thinking that prayer or spirituality or the Christian faith are concerned primarily with improving this world and this life. The Christian faith has a far larger vision.

‘If then ye were raised together with Christ, seek the things that are above, where Christ is, seated on the right hand of God. Set your mind on the things that are above, not on the things that are upon the earth. For ye died, and your life is hid with Christ in God.’ [Colossians 3:1-3]

But no, because Jesus came to save the world. He didn’t come to save us out of the world, He came to redeem the entirety of creation with us in it.

‘For the creation was subjected to vanity, not of its own will, but by reason of him who subjected it, in hope that the creation itself also shall be delivered from the bondage of corruption into the liberty of the glory of the children of God.’ [Romans 8:20-21]

So then, how can we have both yes and no? We save the world with Jesus, but only in renouncing it with Him. ‘Whosoever shall seek to save his life shall lose it: and whosoever shall lose it shall preserve it.’ [Lk 17:33] In the same way, whoever seeks to save the world will lose the world, but whoever shall renounce the world will save it.

Jesus saves us and saves the world by the sacrifice He made upon the cross, present at every mass. In this sacrifice, He renounces absolutely everything, His life, His body, His soul, everything He loves and cares for (including you and me), offering it all to the Father. It is in this offering that we are saved. We are sinners, and do not have the purity of heart to truly offer ourselves to God, except by being united to Jesus’s own self offering.

This is the goal of Christian life and the heart of Christian prayer and spirituality. We renounce ourselves and the whole world, and offer it all up to God, united to Jesus’s offering upon the cross. Or to express it differently, we let go of our selves, of every finite thing, of every desire to control and possess and consume, and we entrust it all to God, to Him who is eternal love, uniting ourselves and all the cosmos to the holy sacrifice of the mass.

So then, what does this renunciation and salvation look like? For now, it looks like loving the world, but refusing to grasp at it, even in thought. It looks like placing ourselves and everything in our lives into Love’s everlasting hands. And in the end, it looks like the resurrection of the entire universe.

God bless you.

To love Mary is to love Jesus; to love Jesus is to love Mary

I previously wrote,

‘God gave Himself to us by giving Himself to Mary. We are saved through God giving Himself to Mary in Jesus Christ, and through Mary’s “yes”, her giving herself up to God in Jesus Christ. God gave Himself through Mary, and we must receive God, be given up to God, through Mary’s “yes”.’

(https://asalittlechild.wordpress.com/2018/11/12/marys-teaching/)

Mary is the one who accepts Jesus, into her soul, into her womb, and into the universe itself, and it is through her accepting Jesus that we accept Him. She is the one who surrenders her entire life and soul to Jesus, and it is by her surrender that He has taken possession of the world. She is the one who loves Jesus perfectly, giving Him everything and withholding nothing, and it is by her gift that we have been given to Him. She is truly Janua Coeli, the gate of heaven. The salvation of the world was achieved on the cross, but it was received, in all its fulness, in the heart and in the womb of the Blessed Virgin Mary.

Why do we love Mary? Because she is the one who loves Jesus Christ our Lord like no other. She is the mother of God. Her love for Him contains within itself all of the love, in all of creation, for all of time. It is all summed up and perfected in her humble fiat, “let it be done unto me according to your word”, the words that express her entire life. She is the one who gives Him everything.

So when we love Mary, we are loving the one who loves God. And in loving her, we become one with her, and are joined to her, so that she loves God in us, and we love God in her.

And when we love Jesus, we wish to be one with Him, we wish to welcome Him completely into our lives and our hearts, we wish to surrender ourselves perfectly to Him. That is, we wish to be one with the Blessed Virgin Mary.

In short: to love Mary is to love Jesus, and to love Jesus is to love Mary.

God bless you :)

P.S. I was inspired to write this after reading a chapter of ‘Let Yourself Be Led By The Immaculate’ by St Maximilian Kolbe. This is one of the very best books I’ve ever read, and I strongly recommend it, even if you didn’t like what I’ve written here. You can find it on Amazon kindle here

Jesus is the answer.

The difficulty of being a Christian is learning to really believe the above sentence. Jesus is the answer. It is not morality and it is not clever words and it is not any programme of action. It is not hidden from the masses and it is not available for a price. It is not something we earn or accomplish or even discover. It is not hard work and it is not natural gift and it is not good luck.

Jesus is the answer.

How am I meant to live? How can I make any sense of the chaos of my life? How am I to face my problems? Jesus.

By Jesus’s life, death, and resurrection, I am to live in this world. Accepting Him as my life, and following Him as best I can, and above all else, trusting Him, I am to face the world, with all of its confusion, indifference, and death.

And what’s more, we must reject every other attempt at an answer. No “Jesus + X”, whether it be a politics or a theology or a good work or anything else. Nothing else will do. Nothing else will ever save you.

As insane as this may sound, this, and nothing else, is Christianity. Hold on to this one truth no matter what.

Jesus is the answer.

What is happiness?

I had the shocking realisation a while back, that I didn’t know how to define happiness in a satisfactory way. I know that I have been happy, but what does that mean?

Is it having my desires fulfilled? Yes, but no… It has to be about more than my own will, or it is arbitrary, and I cannot be truly satisfied by something arbitrary. Is it feeling like smiling? Yes, but no… Happiness must be something more than its outward expression.

I looked it up in the dictionary, but was sorely disappointed. Finally, I have concluded that happiness is the (subjective) experience of (objective) goodness. I feel silly it took me days to work out.

This raises the question, what is goodness? I think the only decent answer to this is, that all things that are, are good, and “goodness and being are really the same, and differ only in idea” [Summa Theologica I, Q5, Art1]. (Goodness is being considered under the aspect of desire, and resides in things in so far as they are perfect, since we desire things as far as they are perfect.)

We either define goodness in terms of happiness, in which case both will be empty, and we will be miserable, or define happiness in terms of goodness, and find true happiness beyond ourselves.

So happiness is the experience of goodness, or even, the experience of being itself. Put this way, it seems absurd to ever not be happy. Why are we unhappy sometimes? Firstly, because we fail to experience. We hollow out reality, objectifying it, seeing everyone and everything only in terms of our own fears and desires, rather than loving each person/thing in themselves. We live in an illusion, and separate ourselves from reality. This is sin.

Secondly, we experience imperfection, the absence of goodness, and the brokenness of creation. Things are not as they were meant to be; we are not as we are meant to be. All things are good, but all are broken goods.

But by His life and death and resurrection Jesus Christ has overcome all unhappiness. He united Himself to us and to all in perfect love, giving Himself to us upon the Cross, suffering all of our sins, and offering us in His love to the Father. Then by that same love, that same offering, He defeated death, and rose from the grave, resurrecting all creation with Him. He has given us the absolute fulness of life. If we allow Him to love us, to unite Himself to us, we are set free from sin, and suffering itself becomes a way to unite ourselves with Jesus, uniting Himself to all and offering all to God. Evil itself has been turned to good. Jesus has won us perfect happiness.

We have access to true, divine happiness even now through Jesus, and will one day enjoy God’s own absolute, perfect happiness. By His cross and resurrection, He has set us free!

God bless you, and (sorry it’s late) happy Easter!

P.S. This wasn’t intended to be a Christian/Easter post, but it seems I can’t help myself

P.P.S. I find it strange it took me so long to find what happiness is, and wonder if it reflects how much I’ve absorbed a culture of meaninglessness…

How do we cooperate with grace?

I’ve been rereading Pope Francis’s Gaudete et Exsultate recently, and it’s got me thinking about grace (mainly the section about the modern day pelagianism secretly undermining the gospel).

The gospel opposes the basic assumptions of the world: we’re not saved by our special knowledge (gnosticism) or by our own efforts (pelagianism); not by what we possess nor by what we do. We are saved by Jesus, and by Jesus alone.

True, we have to cooperate with grace, but this too is only possible because of God’s grace. Our part in our salvation is still more truly His part. It’s all His gift.

I’m not sure what this means practically for us still trying to work out our salvation with fear and trembling… If we aren’t saved by self-improvement, what are we meant to do? And yet, “faith without works is dead”.

What is grace even? In my imagination, it’s always a sort of bright, glowing, golden liquid, flowing in people’s bodies. But I’m thinking now that this quasi-magical thinking is off. I think it’s God’s giving of Himself. It’s God moving, I think. God’s conversing with the world and in the world and through the world, maybe.

We have absolutely no power in/of ourselves to cooperate with grace. But there is grace already in us. God is already living and moving within us. He is giving us life and He will give us life.

Still, “what must I do to be saved?” Can the answer be nothing? What is first, grace or my openness to grace?

Is grace separate from me? No, not really. God is not really separate from us. He is the non-other because He is the completely other, and He is the completely other because He is the completely non-other. In Him we live and move and have our being. We exist only by participation in Him.

Still, salvation is by grace, and not by me. God is moving through me for my salvation, not like a liquid, but like a dance moving through my body. It is not me, but it is not separate from me – not while it’s in me.

Our cooperation with grace is not the cooperation of business partners. It’s perhaps closer to that of dance partners, except the one leading is the dance itself.

I think I’ve found it: the way to cooperate with grace and be saved is to stop worrying about it, and just enjoy God’s grace! Dwell with Him, converse with Him, dance with Him!

God is in love with each of us, and yet we forget to enjoy His company (and so to really be in His company), because we’re focused on earning our place with Him. We’re so focused on being perfect that we forget to be real.

(I know this is for some TV thing, but what a great image for salvation falling out of the Heavens with power and might!)

As so often happens, I have spent ages working out what I’m trying to say on this, only to discover that St Paul has handed me the answer right there in the scriptures:

Therefore, my beloved, just as you have always obeyed me, not only in my presence, but much more now in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling; for it is God who is at work in you, enabling you both to will and to work for his good pleasure.’ (Philippians 2:12-13)

(NB: This is immediately after Paul’s fantastic canticle about Christ’s self-emptying and glorification)

What is there to fear or tremble at then? I believe we must fear and tremble before Christ’s grace to us – before His humility and His glory. The light of Christ is brighter than a billion suns. The one we have received is the King of the Universe.

We ought to tremble at how close He draws to us. The babe in the manger, the body hanging from the Cross, the bread and wine upon the altar, these are more than the entire universe.

And He will judge us according to our deeds. He will tear this universe apart like paper, and reveal everything in the incredible and unbearable light of His grace.

His closeness should terrify us, because we are absolutely unworthy. All we have and all we are is from Him and owed to Him, and so we can make no just reparations for our crimes; we have less than nothing before God. In this terror, this experience of our nakedness before God, we can submit to His perfectly free grace, and be set free. Gaudete!

God bless you!