In winter and spring, 2018 - our focus is the Healing Silence which one can experience in the Eucharistic Adoration. We are offering this 'worship without words' for our neighbours and members of our congregation. Those who come, will be assisted with a brief guidance into this special form of prayer. Just explore the healing power of Jesus' Eucharistic Presence.
BIBLICAL MEDITATIONS WITH POPE FRANCIS - Thursday Evenings 7-8.00 pm. In the coming weeks, we listen carefully 'the chief bishop's' apostolic exhortation on love in the family. We apply them both to our personal lives and our life as God's praying family here at Grahame Park.
Biblical Meditation 30 June 2016. Download our JTS meditation which we used for our reflection.
EUCHARISTIC ADORATION AND BIBLICAL MEDITATION - on Thursdays 7-8 pm. In the Catholic Tradition, we believe that Christ is present through the Sacraments he founded. We preserve the Bread - Christ's body - from the Eucharistic meal. We believe that the Resurrected Lord is present in the sign of the bread. We worship him, we pray to his divine Person when we enter his Presence.
On Thursdays, we have a Holy Hour, in which we adore Him. We also put an emphasis on encountering Jesus as the Word of God. That is why the name of the service is Eucharistic Adoration and Biblical Meditation. Saint Augustine's cultivates the 'Catholic nature' of the church within the Church of England. That is why we use Cranmer's lectionary from the Book of Common Prayer for our meditations. We explore the spiritual richness of how he related the Old- and the New Testament readings to each other in the Morning Prayer and the Evensong. This spiritual composition is the ground for our Eucharistic lectio divina. As part of the 'Catholic' nature of our Adoration, we sing Taizé-songs to enhance our Biblical encounter with God.
This worship is the extension of the 'fractio panis', the breaking of the bread which takes place in our Sunday Communion. For an hour, spend time with Our Lord... This is a simple liturgy at St Augustine's. There are few words from the Scripture, short biblical meditations, a prayer of Devotion and Taizé songs. The rest is a quiet personal reflection when our soul is nourished in intimacy with the Lord.
Psychologists and counsellors say, as a commonplace, that in order to preserve a healthy psyche, we need to cultivate our 'interior space'. We need this inner space where we can reflect on the issues of life, where we can tell who we are - not only 'what we are'. Come and experience this healing presence of our Lord.
The Spirituality of Eucharistic Adoration 7: THE NATURE OF THE SPIRIT (1 Kings 19,1-18; 1 Corinthians 2) Thursday 19 May 2016
The Eucharistic presence is naturally associated with ‘silence’. This silence is profoundly Biblical. The consecrated host, as if a mirror, contains a double-portrait. We can contemplate in it, Elijah, the way he experienced God’s theophany. As the second part of the double-portrait, we can project and merge our own story. God’s Presence, the biblical scene, and our history can merge. This is the moment when the Bible, as God’s guiding presence, really comes alive.
Elijah is lost, has no energy. He is bitter, despondent and confused about his mission. First, he needs energy. ‘Arise and eat. And he looked, and, behold, there was a cake baken on the coals, and a cruse of water at his head.’ Before any further engagement, God shows how nourishing his Presence is. (This is also our initial encounter with the Eucharist. We instinctively feel its power, and the clarity it offers to the mind and heart. This regeneration, just as in the case of Elijah, is not yet a mission. It is only the healing of a weakened person.) That is why God says: ‘Arise and eat; because the journey is too great for thee. And he arose, and did eat and drink, and went in the strength of that meat forty days and forty nights unto Horeb the mount of God.’
The Eucharistic presence wants to escort us to the ‘Mount of Horeb’. This is the symbolic-biblical place where our mission is clarified. That is why, praying in the Eucharistic presence, is always a Biblical journey. It is about meeting the God of history who sends us to this history to bring about a transformation in it.
Elijah is depressed. He has lost a positive relationship to history. He sees everything in black concerning the situation of faith in his world. ‘I have been very jealous for the Lord of hosts: for the children of Israel have forsaken thy covenant.’ It is interesting to see that he puts the blame on God. When our world (internal, external) is in turmoil, we got angry with God. When our culture is upside down, directions and supports are lost, unconsciously, it ‘accuses God’ and departs from Him.
When religion is ignored in society, we tend to think, like Elijah, that ‘I only, am left’. God sends him ‘Go forth, and stand upon the mound before the Lord’. Elijah is sent away, ‘forced’ to come out from his depression. We, too, has to recognise that the world is full of God’s grace; even if our world is unresponsive.
‘And, behold, the Lord passed by, and a great and strong wind rent the mountains, and brake in pieces the rocks before the Lord; but the Lord was not in the wind: and after the wind an earthquake; but the Lord was not in the earthquake; and after the earthquake a fire; but the Lord was not in the fire: and after the fire a still small voice. And it was so, when Elijah heard it, that he wrapped his face in his mantle…’
The Holy Spirit is this gentle voice of the powerful God. With Elijah, we can learn that God is not present in the power-clichés of this world. We, when we want to restore life in the church, in our culture, we have to leave behind the seductive voices which offer easy solutions. Elijah, is given a mission in this encounter, to anoint Elisha to be prophet.
What is interesting is his way back: ‘Go, return on thy way to the wilderness of Damascus.’ Re-visiting the wasteland of hopelessness tells us: God is the healer of depression! God breaks down and transforms Elijah’s pessimism. He heals it. He has the good news in his heart: his people will have a prophet! The future is open ended again! God’s life and grace indeed surrounds us!
In Saint Paul’s letter, we find a parallel to the above Old Testament Epiphany. Paul’s wisdom is a similar quiet manifestation to the ‘still small voice’ we saw in Elijah. ‘For I determined not to know any thing among you, save Jesus Christ, and him crucified. And I was with you in weakness, and in fear, and in much trembling.’ Christian wisdom is very different from the noisy truths of our culture of selling and buying. This wisdom is not ephemeral because it is rooted in the real power of God. ‘And my speech and my preaching was not with enticing words of man’s wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit of power: that your faith should not stand in the wisdom of men, but in the power of God’
At this hour, we are invited to contemplate Christian wisdom as ‘the wisdom of God in a mystery’. God’s Love is a permanent presence. Seemingly, it is a ‘still small voice’, but capable of healing of all. The Love of God heals the world. The Love of God heals our day-to-day disorientations. This love gives a distance from our anxieties and ‘what we have left undone’. This is a healing distance; a healing closeness. ‘But we speak the wisdom of God in mystery, even the hidden wisdom, which God ordained before the world unto our glory, which none of the princes of this world knew: for had they known it, they would not have crucified the Lord of Glory. Eye hath not seen, nor ear heard, neither have entered into the heart of man, the things which God hath prepared for them that love him. But God hath revealed them unto us by his Spirit: for the Spirit searcheth all things, yea, the deep things of God.’
The Holy Spirit, indeed, actively seeks our healing! The question is how do we make this Treasure visible beyond our community? The other thought, which challenges us is the above line: ‘had they known it, they would not have crucified the Lord of Glory.’ Indeed, it is important to make this Wisdom known in our wider communities. The stake is high. The knowledge of the Lord can prevent further wars and divisions; wrong decisions. Today we particularly pray that the Word of God (the commitment to Christ) might enlighten the minds of politicians and world leaders in order not to sell weapons to conflict zones. Can someone truly believe, with a fraction of Christ’s light in the heart, that through weapons we can achieve peace? ‘Now we have received, not the spirit of the world, but the spirit which is of God; that we might know the things that are freely given to us of God. Which things also we speak, not in the words which man’s wisdom teacheth, but which the Holy Ghost teacheth; comparing spiritual things with spiritual… We have the mind of Christ. ’
The Spirituality of Eucharistic Adoration 6: THE SPIRITUALITY OF EUCHARISTIC ADORATION: NEW BEGINNING AND GROWTH (Judges 6,25-end; Hebrews 5,11-6 end)
We hardly ever think of the Eucharistic adoration as a prophetic event; as a prophetic sign. In this sense, our Encounter with the Eucharistic Jesus, is profoundly counter-cultural. Through this Presence, God’s identity is stated. God, in Jesus, reveals himself as the unique and sole centre of all reality. ‘And it came to pass the same night, that the Lord said unto Gideon, Take thy father’s young bullock, even the second bullock of severn years old, and throw down the alter of Baal that thy father hath, and cut down the grove that is by it; and build an altar unto the Lord thy God upon the top of this rock…and offer a burnt sacrifice with the wood of the grove which thou shalt cut down.’
We are called to bring down the idols of our age which we have inherited. In this meditation, first, we are invited to ponder the nature of this ‘idol’. It has a multifaceted meaning, which meanings converge. We can define an idol as the distance between our illusions and Truth. Also, an idol should not be seen purely in the negative. When we erect an altar to God from the fragments of a previous idol, we transform reality. We change something which we inherited, which is still part of us into something new. Idols are replaced by a renewed life; and our life is Christ.
There is always a resistance to the new life in Christ. Our culture reacts with indifferentism. Our human nature pretends blindness and deafness. Here, at Grahame Park, just as in the rest of London, our people do not show interest in meeting ‘God’s altar’. The human self, instinctively totalises and promotes itself, when there is a prospect of facing direct Revelation. We do not want to measure ourselves to this Order of Life. We have the same reaction like the fellow citizens of Gideon. ‘And when the men of the city arose early in the morning, behold, the altar of Baal was cast down…Then the men of the city said unto Joash, Bring out thy son, that he may die: because he hath cast down the altar of Baal, and because he hath cut down the grove that was by it.’
How can we convince our reluctant human nature to engage with Revelation? How can we address people and win them over to listen to God, to listen to what God says through the liturgy of the Church?
There might be many answers to this important question. In this Adoration, I would like to draw attention to significance of our own ‘presence’. The Sacred always reveals itself through our joint human mediation. The Eucharistic adoration becomes an effective presence through our involvement in it. In our Biblical scene, we see an ‘active’ Gideon. He is fully present to a fully present God. His dialogue with God reveals the fundamental conversation which takes pace at the heart of the Euchharistic adoration.
‘And Gideon said unto God, if thou wilt save Israel by mine hand, as thou has said, Behold, I will put a fleece of wool in the floor; and if the dwe be on the fleece only, and it be dry upon all the earth beside, then shall I know that thou will save Israel by mine hand as thou hast said.’ And God responds: ‘and it was so’. Then there is an interplay, between the attentive human heart and God’s life giving Heart. ‘…Gideon rose up early on the morrow, and thrust the fleece together, and wringed the dew out of the fleece, a bowl of full water.’
Our perseverance in prayer; our perseverance in the Eucharistic presence ‒ produces life. ‘A bowl of full water’. This humble but determined becoming the medium of ‘God’s dew’ serves as the ground of community life. When Gideon repeats the ‘test’, he is inviting God in an other way. ‘Let it now be dry only upon the fleece; and upon al the ground let there be dew.’ And God, in a playful way, engages in this ‘game’. In the Eucharistic adoration, here at Grahame Park, this same evoking of the Holy Spirit takes place.
First, in our hearts, within our reluctant human nature, God proves his presence. Our self-idolizing self is challenged to full defeat. ‘If he be a god, let him plead for himself, because one hath cast down his altar…. Let Baal plead against [God’s grace/ his Eucharistic Presence], because hath thrown down his altar.’ And through this defeat, we are transformed into our living self.
Saint Paul’s letter to the Hebrews is a powerful encouragement. It encourages all Eucharistic communities; and all fellowship nourished by the Eucharistic adoration. It marks out that important threshold which our commitment to prayer entails. ‘For every one that useth milk is unskilled in the word of righteousness: for he is a babe. But strong meat belongeth to them that are of full age, even those who by reason of use have their senses exercised to discern both good and evil.’ Committing ourselves to mission, committing ourselves to the renewal of the church and our own lives is a ‘strong meat’.
As a community of the Eucharistic Adoration, we shall know that the old altar always wants to rebuild itself. Through our own effort to have a spiritual life, we learn compassion for our neighbours who themselves struggle to remain faithful to their truer self.
Finally, I am inviting us to read Paul’s warning as an encouragement. When we fail, or when we feel weak, we need God’s Presence which heals our fall-backs. ‘For it is impossible for those who were once enlightened, and have tasted of the heavenly gift, and were made partakers of the Holy Ghost, and have tasted the good word of God, and the powers of the world to come, if they shall fall away, to renew them again unto repentance.’
This is also, indeed, a warning, a historical lesson. If a generation of believer ‘falls away’ from the observance of faith ‒ it shall be indeed very difficult to recover the faith. Pauls words are a warning to prevent this trans-generational trauma of ‘forgetting Christ’. For, as he says, our hope in Christ ‘is an anchor of the soul.’
The Spirituality of Eucharistic Adoration 5: EUCHARISTIC PRESENCE AND ASCENSION
Privilege: a richer presence
Jesus death, of which he predicted to his disciples, is not a loss. It means his return! He returns to the Father for a higher and richer union with us. The gifts of the Holy Spirit make this new fellowship with us present.
This union is indeed even richer than that the disciples enjoyed while Jesus was with then. Now we have the Spirit with all that the Spirit is able to do. We also have Jesus, in a higher manner, using all his divine attributes, in a spiritual presence. As it were, we have the Spirit combined with Him.
The new life is not simply the life of the eternal Logos but it stems from the Incarnation, which life Jesus made a foundation of life through his incarnation and redemptive death!
The test of discipleship
The test is always obvious and simple: a true disciple cherishes and guards every precept of Jesus which he has by holding to it in his heart and his life against all opposition. To our faithfulness, Jesus responds with his divine love. His love delights to show itself to he beloved in most intimate fashion. That is why he says, ‘And he that loves me shall be loved by my Father, and I will love him and will manifest myself to him.’
There is always the voice of Judas in us (not the Iscariot). Judas says to whom, Lord, what has occurred that only to us thou art about to manifest thyselef and not to the world? There is a kind of unbelief in us in his presence. The disciples, just before Jesus’ death, still expected him to be the Messiah-king of all the world, with earthly power.
The Spirituality of Eucharistic Adoration 4: ON THE DISTANCE BETWEEN US AND THE SACRED (28 April 2016)
I. ‘When ye see the ark of the covenant of the Lord your God, and the priests the Levites bearing it, then ye shall remove from your place, and go after it. Yet there shall be a space between you and it, about two thousand cubits by measure: come not near unto it, that ye may know the way by which ye must go: for ye have not passed this way heretofore.’
This is an important scriptural passage on our relationship to Tradition. The Eucharistic presence with its ‘silence’ tells us a lot about this relationship. The presence of the Body of Christ makes us silent first. It challenges us. In order to enter into a conversation with our Lord, we have to ‘silence ourselves’. All understanding comes after building up this bridge….this bridge of love.
The ‘space’ between the Jewish people and their priests in following the ark of the covenant challenges us. It shows us that there is a ‘gap’ between the sacred ministry (‘priesthood’) and the ‘laity’. However much we would like to diminish this distance today, nevertheless, it remains. It proves to be indelible. This ‘gap’ or distance of following tells us that we need to respect God’s ways. We should never forget that he is a sovereign Lord. We must respect his radical otherness.
We are prone to occupy and fill up this space. We often do not listen to ‘Tradition’, to the trans-generational wisdom of the Church. We often want to over-write Tradition with our own interpretation. Here, the Eucharistic Presence, teaches us something vital. We need to stand back as God has in store his interpretations. We must step back as Gad has his Revelation for us, and he will guide us.
‘Behold, the ark of the covenant of the Lord of all the earth passeth over before you into Jordan.’ What is the message of this line? When this ‘hidden partition’ of Tradition is listened to, then life giving-miracles happen to us. When we let God lead us, then, our life, unexpectedly, gets on the right tracks again.
From the Acts, we read Saint Paul’s own account of his conversion. ‘And I fell unto the ground and heard a voice saying unto me, Saul, Saul, why persecutest thou me? And I answered, Who art thou, Lord? And he said unto me, I am Jesus of Nazareth, whom thou persecutest.’
Paul was also challenged by the Presence of the Lord. He had to stand back from his previous understanding of Jewish Tradition. He had to re-learn everything again… Today, the Eucharist prompts in us the same question. ‘Who are you, Lord?’ In what ways are you present in my life? In what ways are you present in our life as a community?
‘And when the blood of thy martyr Stephen was shed, I also was standing by, and consenting unto his death and kept the raiment of them that slew him.’ The killing of Stephen disturbed Paul deeply! It is from his ‘chaotic memories’ (the semiotic dimension of our moral self!) that he starts seeing cleary. It is from the chaos of his ‘moral self/history’ through which he starts to understand what Tradition is, what the new covenant in Christ is. And Paul’s conversion is a breakthrough in understanding the richness of Christ. Through a conflict with himself, through the conflict with the Jewish tradition, he will understand that God is the God of all Nations.
THE SPIRITUALITY OF EUCHARISTIC ADORATION I.: THE EUCHARIST AS COVENANT
The stunningly beautiful verses of the book of Deuteronomy invite us to explore the Biblical depths of Eucharistic adoration. This reference makes our devotion a scripturally grounded piety. In the monstrance, which is an open or transparent receptacle, the consecrated Host is displayed for veneration. The monstrance (from the Latin 'monstrare', to 'show'; also in the sense 'demonstration or proof') shows Christ's body under the sign of the bread. But what do we contemplate in the Biblical sense? What Deuteronomy says of God’s Torah aptly describes the personal nature of the encounter with God when the Christian receives the Holy Communion. This same 'manifestation' takes place in the adoration, when we contemplate the Eucharistic Presence. God's nourishing Word “is very near you, it is in your mouth and in your heart, so that you may obey it” (Deut. 30:14). The language of the verses is full of rich physical imagery: "It is not up in heaven, so that you have to ask, ‘Who will ascend into heaven to get it and proclaim it to us so that we may obey it?’ (Deut. 30:12-13) These lines tell us that God's Law as the Word, the wisdom of the Incarnate Logos is not far away, is not 'other'. The divine Presence in the Eucharist tells us: it is in our heart. When partaking in this specific form of prayer, the adoration, we believe that the human heart itself can become a living monstrance, which makes the Lord present. If we give our hearts space to be known and embraced, our hearts can share the Wisdom that dwells inside. With this space, the 'wisdom of Torah' or God's Presence emerges in new ways. It is not general; it is very specific to each person, to the challenges and blessings that he or she has encountered in his or her life. In this sense, the Eucharistic adoration is always a unique dialogue between the Divine and the human heart. From God's part, it is the valuation of our individual efforts to internalise and imitate His wisdom. I find the following witness a particularly moving account of the value of the human soul in which God's wisdom dwells with covenantal faithfulness. "Over the last several years my mother has been living with Alzheimer’s disease. It is easy to imagine that as someone’s memory dissolves, so does his or her wisdom. But I have found that with my mother this is not true. Her wisdom continues to dwell within her. Very specifically, her wisdom lives in her gratitude. While she has less and less access to things that make most of us grateful, she has more and more access to simple gratitude itself. For her children. For what she understands to be her health. For life itself. Joining with my mother is an experience of entering into gratitude with her, breathing deeply into the reality that existence itself is a gift." (Rabbi Mychal Springer) The words of Deuteronomy, through the notion of the covenant, further sensitise us to the Eucharistic presence. The Eucharistic presence is a rich encounter with Jesus' Father, who is the God of history. The theme of 'covenantal presence' makes our perception dynamic. Our devotion is not a 'para-liturgy', a static addition to the celebration of the Holy Communion. Eucharistic adoration is embedded in God's covenant with us, which is a continuous creation. “I make this covenant, with its sanctions, not with you alone, but both with those who are standing here with us this day before the Lord our God and with those who are not with us here this day” (Deut. 29:13-14). Jewish commentators say that the reference to “those who are not with us” refers to future generations. We Christians can also love the idea that we all entered into the covenant together at that particular moment of salvation history. Those of us who were not yet Jews or Christians – but who would convert one day; we are also part of it. The Eucharistic adoration is a great reminder of how God, through his healing embrace, sees humankind as a unified family. The Eucharistic presence prompts us to see in the same way. Our Lord never lets us to give up this 'Catholic' view of his Creation. The Eucharistic presence is the presence of the Resurrected Jesus. Mysteriously, his resurrected body bears the marks of his earthly passion. These wounds invite us to widen the above notion of covenant. I would like to suggest that there is also another population of people who are both here and not here – people who are living with cognitive impairments, people whose communication is not linear, people who are referred to as “not being all there”; and people who live with mental unwellness. For God’s purposes, they are all there. We are called on to recognize them, to include them fully as participants in the covenant. The Eucharistic adoration is about this being embraced by the Compassion of Christ. The Eucharistic presence, when we are embraced into it, is a celebration of that we are safe in God's memory. God remembers that we are part of his ever new covenant, that we were all there, that His compassion is planted in each of us, that it is in our mouths and in our hearts. (A theological application of Rabbi Mychal Springer’s thoughts on Deuteronomy. This is my conviction that a dialogue with the Jewish theological heritage is an important way of making 'Anglo-Catholic' devotions biblically alive. The above ‘mini-dialogue’ attempts to integrate creatively Jewish spiritual exegesis with our sacramental heritage.) Joseph Gabor (in conversation with a JTS Torah-commentary)
BIBLICAL MEDITATION FOR THE HOLY HOUR (Thursday 31 March 2016)
History and Easter
We really should re-read God’s Old Testament promises to the people of Israel during this octave of Easter. God’s promises and warnings just highlight the value and precious life of renewal that we have been given in Easter. This historical undercurrent gives a fresh dynamic to our experience of Easter. First, we should see this gift as a gift in history. As such, it is fragile. We can drift away from it, to the extent that we can even lose Easter – and become blind to its meaning. ‘I call heaven and earth to witness against you this day, that ye shall soon utterly perish from off the land whereunto ye go over Jordan to possess it…and the Lord shall scatter you among the nations.’ The state of Christian faith and community cohesion shows that we should face God’s Easter presence from the perspective of the Jewish people. The Sacred can be lost, if we are lost for the Sacred. As indeed it this case of how our churches suffer from losing the connection with the ‘centres’ of our faith. ‘And there ye shall serve gods, the works of men’s hands, wood and stone [and technology], which neither see, nor hear, nor eat, nor smell.’ The prospect of losing our Easter should be a sobering experience, an imperative for conversion. However, this is the nature of the gift of Easter, the rays of the Resurrection, will always reach and address us. The communion with the Resurrected Jesus surfaces in all circumstances when our ‘loss’ and becoming prodigal is recognised. ‘But it from thence thou shalt seek the Lord thy God [your Easter!], thou shalt find him, if thou seek him with all your heart and with all thy soul.’ Indeed, this is the mark of Easter in us: we are capable of mobilising our whole being. We are marked by Jesus’ full self-emptying for us and we can reciprocate it through our renewed love. When we contemplate Easter, we can see clearly how through this focal point of love we are being regenerated by God. What we celebrate in Easter is our formation as a community by our risen Lord. When we contemplate the Eucharist in the Adoration, this ‘light of communion’ shines on us. In the Bread, which is the body of the Resurrected Lord, we here the summoning voice of God. ‘Ask from the one side of heaven unto the other, whether there hath been any such thing as this great thing is, or hath been heard like it? Did ever people hear the voice of God speaking out of the midst of fire, as thou hast heard, and live? Or hath God assayed to go and take him a nation from the midst of another nation, by temptations, by signs?’ In the Eucharistic adoration, which is the condensed meaning of Easter, we celebrate our formation and recollection by the Lord of History. The Eucharist, its contemplation, becomes our Easter-Creed when look upon it. ‘Know therefore this day, and consider it I thine heart, that the Lord he is God in heaven above, and upon earth beneath.’ ⃰ In the Acts we can see the same gift of our formation as a community. ‘And the multitude of them that believed were of one heart and of one soul: neither said any of them that ought of the things which he possessed was his own; but they had all things common. And with great power gave the apostles witness of the resurrection of the Lord Jesus: and great grace was upon them all.’ This is perfect unity. They wanted to give utmost expression to this union, that is why ‘Neither was there any among them that lacked: for as many as were possessors of lands of houses sold them, and brought the prices of the things that were sold, and laid them down at the apostles’ feet: and distribution was made unto every man according as he had need.’ The question is not whether this ideal was sustainable or not, as it failed because of human weakness. This was not a model for organising society. Rather these gestures can be seen as the expression of the desire to form our identity in Christ. As such, this is a blueprint for our Anglican Catholic community here at St Augustine’s: we desire to be rooted in our Tradition with one heart. With an undivided heart. The above scene of distribution also shows that they acted in the spirit of Jesus. They felt, that through acts of sharing, Jesus was acting among them. This ‘presence’ is worth observing. The enthusiastic conversion of whole communities is owing to the fact that Jesus was well known in Jerusalem; the Palm Sunday welcome clearly showed it. Now they converted to his memory. They converted to the Resurrected Jesus as their Master.
BIBLICAL MEDITATION FOR HOLY HOUR (Thursday 7 April 2016)
The value of spiritual life (Deuteronomy 5,1-21; Acts 5,12-6,7.)
The Lord who is Lord of life, wants to confirm us: our life is precious in his sight. ‘The Lord Our God made a covenant with us in Horeb. The Lord made not this covenant with our fathers, but with us, even us, who are all of us here alive this day.’ When one appreciates his or he life and is aware of its value then the value of the world in which we life opens up for us in its full weight. Being valuated by God we start recognising the dignity and value of the world which surrounds us. Our own value in the sight of God also shows the value of the lives of those people with whom we have contact, and of those whom we do not know. So when we look at the Holy Body of Christ on the Altar, we face our God, who loves us; who confirms our unique value. ‘The Lord talked with you face in the mount of the midst of the fire.’
When we experience how precious we are in the sight of God, his glance shines into the depth of our lives. In this loving exchange, we are called to recall the past events of our lives. Whatever we did, good and bad, God embraces us as a whole. He valuates us with our full story. The events of our lives are marked by his Providence. ‘I am the Lord thy God, which brought thee out of the land of Egypt, from the house of bondage.’
The term ‘spiritual life’ is very biblical. This is the nature of having a spiritual life that we reflect on our past, present and future. This Adoration of the Eucharist is an encouragement that we can recall past events. We can revisit them. Not only for the purpose of being assured of God’s healing of our past. There is a communal element in this recollection. When we give thanks for the healing of past events or the joys and gifts of the past, this is an opportunity to pray for those who were involved in those events.
‘Thou shalt have no other gods before me’. This is a call that we have to work on our spiritual life. Having a physical life or biological life (day-to-day businesses of life) is not enough. We need to acquire a spiritual life; a spiritual face. This life and this face is not fragile, not perishable. It is marked by God’s love. It is through this ‘contact of our faces’, between ours and God’s that his Spirit keeps us alive, really alive.
‘Thou shalt not bow down thyself unto them, nor serve them: for I the Lord thy God am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children unto the third and fourth generation of them that hate me, and showing mercy unto thousands of them that love me and keep my commandments.’ This jealousy of God is one of the most intriguing feature of God. In view of the above said, it has an important meaning in terms of our spiritual life. ‘God is jealous’: he invites us to focus on him. This is a firm call to centre- and re-centre our life on Him.
For an individual, for a community, and for a culture ‒ it is dangerous to live without a spiritual life. It effects not only the course of how our individual life unfolds. Losing spiritual life, ignoring it, does affect the future of our community. Losing the contact with the Sacred (‘meaning of life’) inflicts upon the community a transgenerational trauma. Losing the joy and guidance of the Holy Spirit ‒ is ignoring the Covenant with God. The repair of this loss is a long, ‘transgenerational’ work.
In view of this loss, and gain, we can really valuate the life giving Face of God which his commandments reveal. Let us read them in love. ‘Thou shalt not take the name of the Lord thy God in vain: for the Lord will not hold him guiltless that taketh his name in vain… Keep the Sabbath day to sanctify it, as the Lord hath commanded thee. Six days thou shalt labour, and do all thy work but the seventh day is the Sabbath of the Lord thy God: in it thou shalt not do any work, thou, nor thy son, nor thy daughter, nor thy man servant, nor thy maidservant, nor thine ox, nor thine ass, nor any of thy cattle, nor they stranger that is within thy gates… Honour thy father and thy mother, as the Lord thy God hath commanded thee; that thy days may be prolonged, and that it may go well with thee, in the land which the Lord thy God giveth thee. Thou shalt not kill. Neither shalt thou commit adultery. Neither shalt thou steal. Neither shalt thou bear false witness against thy neighbour. Neither shalt thou desire thy neighbour’s wife, neither shalt thou covet thy neighbour’s house, his field, or his manservant, or his maidservant, his ox, or is ass, or any thing is thy neighbour’s.’ ⃰ The Acts shows, symbolically, a ‘community of spiritual life’. We are united in the Spirit, and our individual lives form a community. ‘And by the hands of the apostles were many signs and wonders wrought among the people; so they were all with one accord in Solomon’s porch.’ As the Community of the Eucharist, we shall be prompted to find those ways in which our environment best can be served. The stake of being spiritually alive is precisely this: through prayer we can grow into a pro-active community. We shall have our vision of what to do… and we shall have the joy of the community as a resource.
The escape of the imprisoned apostles, symbolically, shows the liberation from our age, which spiritual life brings about. Our life in the Holy Spirit makes us free from the harmful constraints of our age. This is what the guards of said: ‘The prison truly found we shut with all safety, and the keepers standing without before the doors: but when we had opened, we found no man within.’
Peter’s witness draws a beautiful portrait of Jesus whom we contemplate in the Eucharist. ‘The God of our fathers raised up Jesus, who ye slew and hanged on a tree. Him hath God exalted with his right hand to be a Prince and a Saviour, for to give repentance to Israel, and forgiveness of sins. And we are witnesses of these things; and so is also the Holy Ghost, whom God hath given to them that obey him.’
Let us re-read and cherish the words of Acts as the tangible very core of our spiritual life.