I’ve always been interested in how the heart and mind come to an awareness/understanding of who God is in our growth of faith. I would deeply appreciate if any of you would be willing to share your understanding of this.
Hi, Perhaps these quotes from St Josemaria Escriva can shed some light -
Christ is passing by > Christ’s death is the christians’s life > Number 98http://www.escrivaworks.org/images/misc/pixtrans.gifhttp://www.escrivaworks.org/images/misc/pixtrans.gif98http://www.escrivaworks.org/images/misc/pixtrans.gifBeing a Christian is not simply a way to personal contentment; it implies a mission. We have already recalled that God invites all Christians to be the salt and light of the world. Echoing that commandment and using texts from the old testament, St Peter spells out its implications in forthright language: “You are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God’s own people, that you may declare the wonderful deeds of him who called you out of darkness into his marvellous light.”
Being a Christian is not something incidental; it is a divine reality that takes root deep in our life. It gives us a clear vision and strengthens our will to act as God wants. So we learn that the Christian’s pilgrimage in the world must express itself in a continuous service in all kinds of ways, varying with each person’s circumstances, but always motivated by love of God and of our neighbour. Being a Christian means forgetting petty objectives of personal prestige and ambition and even possibly nobler aims, like philanthropy and compassion for the misfortunes of others. It means setting our mind and heart on reaching the fullness of love which Jesus Christ showed by dying for us.
Let me give you an example of the kind of attitude which develops if one is unable to penetrate this mystery of Jesus. Some people tend to see Christianity as a collection of devout practices, failing to realize the relation between them and the circumstances of ordinary life, including the urgency to meet the needs of other people and remedy injustice. I would say that anyone who has that attitude has not yet understood the meaning of the incarnation. The Son of God has taken the body and soul and voice of a man; he has shared our fate, even to the extent of experiencing the excruciating anguish of death. Yet perhaps without wanting to, some people regard Christ as a stranger in the world of man.
Others tend to imagine that in order to remain human we need to play down some central aspects of christian dogma. They act as if the life of prayer, continual relationship with God, implied fleeing from responsibilities and forsaking the world. But they forget that it was none other than Jesus who showed us the extreme to which we should go in love and service. Only if we try to understand the mystery of God’s love — a love which went as far as death — will we be able to give ourselves totally to others and not let ourselves be overcome by difficulties or indifference.
Christ is passing by > Christ triumphs through humility > Number 13http://www.escrivaworks.org/images/misc/pixtrans.gifhttp://www.escrivaworks.org/images/misc/pixtrans.gif13http://www.escrivaworks.org/images/misc/pixtrans.gifThe Son of God became man, and he is perfectus Deus, perfectus homo: “perfect God and perfect man.” There is something in this mystery which should stir Christians. I was and am moved. I should like to go back to Loreto. I go there now in thought and desire, to relive those years of Jesus’ childhood and consider once more those words: “Here the Word was made flesh.”
Iesus Christus, Deus homo: Jesus Christ, God-man. This is one of “the mighty works of God,” which we should reflect upon and thank him for. He has come to bring “peace on earth to men of good Will,” to all men who want to unite their wills to the holy will of God — not just the rich, not just the poor, but everyone: all the brethren. We are all brothers in Jesus, children of God, brothers of Christ. His Mother is our mother.
There is only one race in the world: the race of the children of God. We should all speak the same language, taught us by our Father in heaven — the language Jesus spoke with his Father. It is the language of heart and mind, which you are using now, in your prayer — the language of contemplation, used by men who are spiritual, because they realize they are children of God. This language is expressed in a thousand motions of our will, in the clear insights of our minds, in the affections of our heart, in our commitment to lead a virtuous life, in goodness, happiness and peace.
You must look at the Child in the manger. He is our Love. Look at him, realizing that the whole thing is a mystery. We need to accept this mystery on faith and use our faith to explore it very deeply. To do this, we must have the humble attitude of a christian soul. Let us not try to reduce the greatness of God to our own poor ideas and human explanations. Let us try to understand that this mystery, for all its darkness, is a light to guide men’s lives.
As St John Chrysostom said: “We see that Jesus has come from us, from our human substance, and has been born of a virgin mother; but we don’t know how this wonder came about. Let us not waste our energies trying to understand it; rather, accept humbly what God has revealed to us. Don’t try to probe what God has kept hidden.” If we have this reverence, we will be able to understand and to love. The mystery will be a splendid lesson for us, much more convincing than any human reasoning.
Christ is passing by > Christ’s presence in christians > Number 107http://www.escrivaworks.org/images/misc/pixtrans.gifhttp://www.escrivaworks.org/images/misc/pixtrans.gif107http://www.escrivaworks.org/images/misc/pixtrans.gifThis is the love of Christ which each of us should try to practice in his own life. But to be Christ himself, we must see ourselves in him. It’s not enough to have a general idea of the spirit of Jesus’ life; we have to learn the details of his life and, through them, his attitudes. And, especially, we must contemplate his life, to derive from it strength, light, serenity, peace.
When you love someone, you want to know all about his life and character, so as to become like him. That is why we have to meditate on the life of Jesus, from his birth in a stable right up to his death and resurrection. In the early years of my life as a priest, I used to give people presents of copies of the Gospel and books about the life of Jesus. For we do need to know it well, to have it in our heart and mind, so that at any time, without any book, we can close our eyes and contemplate his life, watching it like a movie. In this way the words and actions of our Lord will come to mind in all the different circumstances of our life.
In this way we become involved in his life. It is not a matter of just thinking about Jesus, of recalling some scenes of his life. We must be completely involved and play a part in his life. We should follow him as closely as Mary his Mother did, as closely as the first twelve, the holy women, the crowds that pressed about him. If we do this without holding back, Christ’s words will enter deep into our soul and will really change us. For “the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of the soul and spirit, of joints and marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart.”
If we want to bring other men and women to our Lord, we must first go to the Gospel and contemplate Christ’s love. We could take the central events of his passion, for, as he himself said: “Greater love has no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends.” But we can also look at the rest of his life, his everyday dealings with the people he met.
In order to bring men his message of salvation and show them God’s love, Christ, who was perfect God and perfect man, acted in a human and a divine way. God comes down to man’s level. He takes on our nature completely, except for sin.
Friends of God > In the Footsteps of Christ > Number 128http://www.escrivaworks.org/images/misc/pixtrans.gifhttp://www.escrivaworks.org/images/misc/pixtrans.gif128http://www.escrivaworks.org/images/misc/pixtrans.gifHow crystal clear Christ’s teaching is. As usual, let us turn to the New Testament, this time to St Matthew, chapter eleven: ‘Learn from me, for I am meek and humble of heart.’ Don’t you see? We have to learn from him, from Jesus who is our only model. If you want to go forward without stumbling or wandering off the path, then all you have to do is walk the road he walked, placing your feet in his footprints and entering into his humble and patient Heart, there to drink from the wellsprings of his commandments and of his love. In a word, you must identify yourself with Jesus Christ and try to become really and truly another Christ among your fellow men.
To make sure there is no mistake here, let us read another quotation from St Matthew. In chapter sixteen, Our Lord makes his doctrine even clearer: ‘If anyone wishes to come my way, let him deny himself, take up his cross and follow me.’ God’s way is one of renunciation, of mortification and of self-surrender, but it is not one of sadness or faint-heartedness.
Reflect on the example that Christ gave us, from the crib in Bethlehem to his throne on Calvary. Think of his self-denial and of all he went through: hunger, thirst, weariness, heat, tiredness, ill-treatment, misunderstandings, tears… But at the same time think of his joy in being able to save the whole of mankind. And now I would like you to engrave deeply in your mind and upon your heart — so that you can meditate on it often and draw your own practical conclusions — the summary St Paul made to the Ephesians when he invited them to follow resolutely in Our Lord’s footsteps: ‘Be imitators of God, as very dear children, and walk in love, as Christ has loved us and delivered himself up for us, a sacrifice breathing out fragrance as he offered it to God.’
Hi John Russell Jnr, (fellow Aussie!)
Thanks for your reference, it was indeed enlightening. I wish I knew how to take excerpts from people’s writing and paste them in those yellow boxes, but I have done the best I know how to for now!
So following is some excerpts from your reference:
“Being a Christian means forgetting petty objectives of personal prestige and ambition and even possibly nobler aims, like philanthropy and compassion for the misfortunes of others. It means setting our mind and heart on reaching the fullness of love which Jesus Christ showed by dying for us.”
“Let me give you an example of the kind of attitude which develops if one is unable to penetrate this mystery of Jesus. Some people tend to see Christianity as a collection of devout practices, failing to realize the relation between them and the circumstances of ordinary life, including the urgency to meet the needs of other people and remedy injustice. I would say that anyone who has that attitude has not yet understood the meaning of the incarnation. The Son of God has taken the body and soul and voice of a man; he has shared our fate, even to the extent of experiencing the excruciating anguish of death. Yet perhaps without wanting to, some people regard Christ as a stranger in the world of man”.
“Let us try to understand that this mystery, for all its darkness, is a light to guide men’s lives.”
. “Don’t try to probe what God has kept hidden.” If we have this reverence, we will be able to understand and to love. The mystery will be a splendid lesson for us, much more convincing than any human reasoning."
So my question is, what is the difference between what some Christians perceive to be living a ‘christian life’ as described in the first quote and what seems to be the real call for all believers to lead a contemplative life. It would seem that way to me, but the only pathway that supports this is if I got me to a nunnery! Mind you, that easily could have been the case when I was younger - I really did want to. I am married now and wondered how one integrates ‘contemplative life’ in this sacrament. Hope this is all clearer than mud!