My Eyes are Filled
May 30, 2023
Saint Gregory of Nazianzus (+390) was born in 329 to Greek parents in southwest Cappadocia, a province of the Roman Empire (now modern central-eastern Turkey). He was eventually ordained a priest and a bishop. He was a man of prayer and an assiduous theologian. He is one of the great Fathers and Doctors of the Church. He died a hermit in 390. Paul Tillich (1886—1965) the German-American Lutheran theologian, says that Gregory “created the definitive formulae for the doctrine of the trinity”.
As we approach the Feast of the Holy Trinity (this Sunday, June 4), let us hear Saint Gregory, as he tell us of his eyes being filled (with tears, with light or with wonder—or all of the above):
No sooner do I conceive of the One than I am illumined by the splendour of the Three; no sooner do I distinguish Three than I am carried back into the One. When I think of any of the Three, I think of Him as the Whole, and my eyes are filled, and the greater part of what I am thinking escapes me. I cannot grasp the greatness of that One so as to attribute a greater greatness to the rest. When I contemplate the Three together, I see but one torch, and cannot divide or measure out the undivided light.
Yours in the Trinity,
The Secret of Happiness
May 23, 2023
Allow me to appeal to my Belgian heritage…. Joseph Mercier was a professor of philosophy at the University of Louvain and Archbishop of Brussels from 1906 to 1926, the year of his death. Noted for his staunch resistance to the German occupation of Belgium from 1914–1918, during the Great War, he that he was invited to visit the United States by President Woodrow Wilson in 1919. He is also noted for his deep spirituality, which radiated in his interaction with people. On the upcoming feast of Pentecost (Sunday!), when we celebrate the Holy Spirit, the Promise of the Father, the Consuming Fire, the Comforter, allow me to share with you a secret from Fr. Mercier (he won’t mind!) :
I am going to reveal to you the secret of sanctity and happiness. Every day for five minutes control your imagination and close your eyes to the things of sense and your ears to all the noises of the world in order to enter into yourself. Then, in the sanctity of your baptized soul (which is the Temple of the Holy Spirit), speak to that Divine Spirit, saying to Him:
Oh, Holy Spirit, beloved of my soul, I adore you. Enlighten me, guide me, strengthen me, console me. Tell me what I should do; give me your orders. I promise to surrender to all that you desire of me and to accept all that you permit to happen to me. Let me only know your will.
If you do this, your life will flow along happily, serenely, and full of consolation, even in the midst of trials. Grace will be proportioned to the trial, giving you the strength to carry it, and you will arrive at the gate of Paradise, laden with merit. This submission to the Holy Spirit is the secret of sanctity and happiness.
Yours in the Holy Spirit,
“We Too Are Already in Heaven with Him”
May 16, 2023
This coming Sunday, we celebrate the Ascension (traditionally celebrated on the
sixth Thursday after Easter, moved to Sunday for the sake of our communal
celebration). We dare to trust and anticipate blessing, as our parish is named
after this mystery of Christ.
In preparation, let us be enriched by the insights of Saint Augustine (d. 430):
Listen to the words of the Apostle: If you have risen with Christ, set
your hearts on the things that are above where Christ is, seated at the right
hand of God; seek the things that are above, not the things that are on
earth. For just as he remained with us even after his ascension, so we too
are already in heaven with him, even though what is promised us has not
yet been fulfilled in our bodies.
Christ is now exalted above the heavens, but he still suffers on earth
all the pain that we, the members of his body, have to bear. He showed this
when he cried out from above: Saul, Saul, why do you persecute me? and
when he said: I was hungry and you gave me food. Why do we on earth not
strive to find rest with him in heaven even now, through the faith, hope and
love that unites us to him?
While in heaven he is also with us; and we while on earth are with
him. He is here with us by his divinity, his power and his love. We cannot
be in heaven, as he is on earth, by divinity, but in him, we can be there by
He did not leave heaven when he came down to us; nor did he
withdraw from us when he went up again into heaven. The fact that he was
in heaven even while he was on earth is borne out by his own statement:
No one has ever ascended into heaven except the one who descended
from heaven, the Son of Man, who is in heaven. These words are explained
by our oneness with Christ, for he is our head and we are his body. No one
ascended into heaven except Christ because we also are Christ: he is the
Son of Man by his union with us, and we, by our union with him, are
children of God.
So the Apostle says: Just as the human body, which has many
members, is a unity, because all the different members make one body, so
is it also with Christ. He too has many members, but one body. Out of
compassion for us he descended from heaven, and although he ascended
alone, we also ascend, because we are in him by grace. Thus, no one but
Christ descended and no one but Christ ascended; not because there is no
distinction between the head and the body, but because the body as a unity
cannot be separated from the head.
(Sermo de Ascensione Domini, Mai 98, 1-7: PLS 2, 429-495)
Yours in our Ascended Lord,
Yearning for Oneness
May 9, 2023
As Christians, we believe the Church to be, first and foremost, a mysterious spiritual ever-lasting reality of which we become a part, into which are swept up by grace. We are members of the Mystical Body of Christ. And so, we are bound to one another wherever we may be, whatever we may feel. This is Christ’s own doing! As says Professor Scott Hahn (from my alma mater, the University of Steubenville), The Church is the Body of Christ, and as such it is both heavenly and earthly. The Church is the communion of saints, and it includes as members both angels and shepherds—cherubim and seraphim, and you, and me. And, as Dietrich Bonhoeffer, the German Lutheran pastor who died in Auschwitz in 1945, reminds us, “The temple of God is the holy people in Jesus Christ. The Body of Christ is the living temple of God and of the new humanity.” (The Cost of Discipleship, published in 1937).
Because we are bound to one another, we inevitably yearn for oneness. Awareness of the yearning can come and go—but that is another question! This yearning surely comes from the Holy Spirit, Who “intercedes with sighs too deep for words” (Romans 8:26). Let us yearn for oneness. Let us labor to welcome the oneness, tearing down whatever walls we, at times, allow to divide us. And, in this labor, let us be encouraged by the words of Charles Haddon Spurgeon (d. 1892), English Baptist preacher: God loves the Church with a love too deep for human imagination: He loves her with all His infinite heart. Therefore, let her sons and daughters be of good courage; she cannot be far from prosperity (from “Morning and Evening”, published in 1865).
Yours in Christ, “Head of the Church” (BCP, page 369, Eucharistic Prayer B),
You Are a Royal Priesthood
May 2, 2023
You are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God’s own people…now you have received mercy. (this Sunday’s second reading, 1 Peter 2:2-10)
You may have heard it said that, by grace—in particular, the grace given through Baptism—we share in the priestly (as well as prophetic and royal) mission of Christ. We are a “royal priesthood”. What does this mean, however? Although, strictly speaking, not necessary, we are mediators of grace for one another. What a privilege! God wants to make use of little old (or young) me to touch others, to love and bless others. How creative and merciful and magnanimous of God.
There is, of course, as second, distinct participation in the one Priesthood of Christ, given through the sacrament of the “apostolic ministry”, “Holy Orders”. It has three degrees: episcopate, presbyterate, and diaconate. This priesthood, centered on the sacraments and the life that flows therefrom, and only for this earthly pilgrimage, is entirely at the service of the royal priesthood, which lasts forever. In other words, the ordained ministers of the Church are but (hopefully, grateful!) “unworthy servants” (Luke 17:10) for a time. Together, we are all turned towards the great High Priest, Jesus, the “author of our salvation” (Eucharistic Prayer B, BCP, p. 369), Who lavishly showers us with blessing and with Whom we shall live for all eternity.
THE REV. DOMINIQUE PERIDANS