Sunday, November 11, 2012
Building a Village of God
The Right Rev'd Philip Anderson
Abbot of Clear Creek Monastery
Lost City, Oklahoma
Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,
My very dear sons,
Today's feast, through the liturgical texts that it employs, transports us into the courts of the heavenly Jerusalem, where all the saints, who have fought the good fight on earth, enjoy evermore the fruits of their victory over sin and death. And they praise God and the Lamb, that is to say Our Lord as He appears in the Apocalypse of Saint John, knowing that their victories derive, in fact, from Christ's own Passion, Death and Resurrection. “And I saw: and behold in the midst of the throne and of the four living creatures, and in the midst of the ancients, a Lamb standing as if slain ...” (Apoc. 5:6). The Saints are truly this "cloud of witnesses" that the Epistle to the Hebrews mentions (12:1), who encourage us from above in our own combats here below.
In our increasingly secularized society, it seems that the strongmen on the political scene (and behind the political scene) are moving forward with a plan to marginalize little by little the presence of the Christian Faith in the public square and to push all Christians — especially Catholics — behind the walls of their churches, in such a manner as to make of religion a purely private affair. This is already happening with the infamous HHS mandate that the current administration has prepared and which effectively forces upon our consciences such highly immoral practices as abortion and artificial contraception. If this law were to remain, many Catholic hospitals and schools would have to close their doors — and that would be just the beginning. Despite praiseworthy efforts of late to organize Catholics in prayer and adoration in order to combat these tendencies, it is clear that our voices are all but ignored in Washington and in the major media sources. Secular society pays less attention to us even than Goliath did to the youth who advanced in his direction, once upon a time, carrying a slingshot and five pebbles in his shepherd's bag.
In this Year of Faith it is important to place this situation facing the Catholic Church in America within the context of the whole story of the faith described by the author of the Epistle to the Hebrews:
“By faith Abel offered to God a sacrifice more excellent than did Cain. By faith Noe, having been warned concerning things not seen as yet, prepared with pious fear an ark in which to save his household. By faith he who is called Abraham obeyed by going out into a place which he was to receive for an inheritance. By faith also Sara herself, being barren, received strength to conceive seed, because she believed that he was faithful who promised. By faith Moses left Egypt, not fearing the wrath of the king; for he persevered as if seeing him who cannot be seen.”
It is a similar effort of faith that is required of us today, because we too are called to join the "cloud of witnesses" who give praise to God through living in this spirit of faith that is also the spirit of the Beatitudes.
“Blessed are the poor in spirit: for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are the meek: for they shall be comforted. Blessed are they that hunger and thirst after justice: for they shall have their fill ...”
We might note that each beatitude, in this regard - much like each act of faith - is a kind of passage from darkness to light, from something painful to consolation. That is just the way it is with the faith. In the vision of eternity no sadness enters in, but that is not so in our present condition. Faith is a kind of light, but also a kind of darkness, since we do not see directly the object of our faith, which is God Himself. Faith might thus be called a "luminous shadow." Or perhaps it is something like the light that appears at the end of night on the horizon before dawn actually breaks.
But will we really win, as David won, in this unequal combat? Will we triumph against the modern Goliath? Of course! That is as long as we do not try to put on, so to speak, "Saul's armor." In other words as long as we remain within the logic of the true Catholic Faith and do not try to beat the prince of this world at his own game by trying to know all the secrets of his evil at work in society, we will have God's strength with us. Being strong in the Faith, simple and sober-minded, we have a share in Christ's own victory, which is crushing to the enemies of the Church and quite complete. We just have to wait for God's hour to bring it all about.
We accomplish all of this, of course, sailing through life in a somewhat leaky boat, Peter's bark. If the Church remains in her essence, as Saint Paul affirms, “not having wrinkle, or any such thing, holy and without blemish.” (Eph. 5:27), she is nevertheless composed of very imperfect human beings. “For see, brethren, that there are not many wise according to the flesh, not many mighty, not many noble.” (I Cor. 1:26). The same Saint Paul gives us a clue as to why this is: “But the foolish things of the world hath God chosen, that He may confound the wise; and the weak things of the world hath God chosen, that he may confound the strong.” (ibid. v. 27).
Let us continue, during this Year of Faith, to call upon all the saints, who form a "cloud of witnesses" from age to age through Christian history, but especially upon those who have a particular role to play in our time and place. We would do well to pray in particular to the recently canonized Saint Kateri Tekakwitha, the first Native American to be raised to such an honor, to Saint John Neumann, to Saint Elizabeth Ann Seton and to the other American saints. Let us ask God to grant us the grace of seeing in our lifetime the overturning of unjust laws such as those allowing abortion and other offenses against the dignity of human life — crimes that so darken our land — and the return to what truly builds a civilization based on natural and divine law, the "civilization of love," following the expression of several recent popes. It is the spirit of faith that leads to the establishment of such a civilization and of such a culture.
Following the Blessed Virgin Mary, the "star of the New Evangelization," and, on the contemporary scene of this world, the Holy Father Pope Benedict XVI, whose own tranquil faith continues to inspire us, let us construct right here at Clear Creek a small but significant corner of that true civilization of love. Saint Augustine spoke of the "City of God." May Clear Creek become the "Village of God" and the rugged but beautiful birthplace of a new generation of saints for America and for the world.
(H/T to Rooster Cogburn.)