Leonardo"s Notebook by Mattheus Mei

I have been impressed with the urgency of doing. Knowing is not enough; we must apply. Being willing is not enough; we must do.

Saturday, April 19, 2008

Pope's Homily at St. Patrick's

[Photo from AP]

Again, Rocco has the text up from the Homily, but here some initial thoughts and reflections on excerpts from today's Mass at St. Patrick's. First his teaching on the first reading which was used a reference to the historicity of Catholicism in America:
Gathered as we are in this historic cathedral, how can we not think of the countless men and women who have gone before us, who labored for the growth of the Church in the United States, and left us a lasting legacy of faith and good works? In today’s first reading we saw how, in the power of the Holy Spirit, the Apostles went forth from the Upper Room to proclaim God’s mighty works to people of every nation and tongue. In this country, the Church’s mission has always involved drawing people “from every nation under heaven” (cf. Acts 2:5) into spiritual unity, and enriching the Body of Christ by the variety of their gifts. As we give thanks for past blessings, and look to the challenges of the future, let us implore from God the grace of a new Pentecost for the Church in America. May tongues of fire, combining burning love of God and neighbor with zeal for the spread of Christ’s Kingdom, descend on all present!
[Photo from AFP] I'm reminded of my Protestant upbringing and the constant call for revival or renewal for the people to rediscover their faith. And though I'm sure that's part of it, Benedict is extolling especially the clerics and religious gathered that as Catholics we've struggled in this nation to earn our place in the Sun and now that we've arrived in the mainstream (some 7o million strong) what are we doing to shore up our faith. Praying to God for a new Pentecost is not only asking for a revivification of faith within those who remain, but also praying for the courage to stand up as Christians and proclaim the Good News in a world that desperately needs but constantly rejects that Good News.

And then he made a spiritual analogy out of the actual building itself that was powerful and inspiring.

I would like to draw your attention to a few aspects of this beautiful structure which I think can serve as a starting point for a reflection on our particular vocations within the unity of the Mystical Body.
First up the Stained Glass Windows:
The first has to do with the stained glass windows, which flood the interior with mystic light. From the outside, those windows are dark, heavy, even dreary. But once one enters the church, they suddenly come alive; reflecting the light passing through them, they reveal all their splendor. Many writers – here in America we can think of Nathaniel Hawthorne – have used the image of stained glass to illustrate the mystery of the Church herself. It is only from the inside, from the experience of faith and ecclesial life, that we see the Church as she truly is: flooded with grace, resplendent in beauty, adorned by the manifold gifts of the Spirit. It follows that we, who live the life of grace within the Church’s communion, are called to draw all people into this mystery of light.
What a beautiful analogy for the path and life of faith, he reminds us though that just because we have the light of faith made manifest by entering into it's mysteries and communion doesn't mean that the struggle is the dimming of that light, whether by sin, routine, and the obstacles placed in our paths by society and the world.

And then on the interior architecture of great Cathedral:
Like all Gothic cathedrals, it is a highly complex structure, whose exact and harmonious proportions symbolize the unity of God’s creation. Medieval artists often portrayed Christ, the creative Word of God, as a heavenly “geometer”, compass in hand, who orders the cosmos with infinite wisdom and purpose. Does this not bring to mind our need to see all things with the eyes of faith, and thus to grasp them in their truest perspective, in the unity of God’s eternal plan? This requires, as we know, constant conversion, and a commitment to acquiring “a fresh, spiritual way of thinking” (cf. Eph 4:23). It also calls for the cultivation of those virtues which enable each of us to grow in holiness and to bear spiritual fruit within our particular state of life. Is not this ongoing “intellectual” conversion as necessary as “moral” conversion for our own growth in faith, our discernment of the signs of the times, and our personal contribution to the Church’s life and mission?
But the Pope then reminded us about over analyzing our faith and said that one of the disppointments of the second Vatican council was despite the call for engagement and mission in the world that we've inturn imported as American Catholics the partisanship that riddles our society. He said "We can only move forward if we turn our gaze together to Christ! In the light of faith, we will then discover the wisdom and strength needed to open ourselves to points of view which may not necessarily conform to our own ideas or assumptions." He continued with the comparison when he said "Was not this unity of vision and purpose – rooted in faith and a spirit of constant conversion and self-sacrifice – the secret of the impressive growth of the Church in this country?"

And his final comparison was the overwhelming goal of the structure is to always move up away from the earth toward's the Heavenly Kingdom and serve as a conduit showing us the way.
The unity of a Gothic cathedral, we know, is not the static unity of a classical temple, but a unity born of the dynamic tension of diverse forces which impel the architecture upward, pointing it to heaven. Here too, we can see a symbol of the Church’s unity, which is the unity – as Saint Paul has told us – of a living body composed of many different members, each with its own role and purpose. Here too we see our need to acknowledge and reverence the gifts of each and every member of the body as “manifestations of the Spirit given for the good of all” (1 Cor 12:7).
This was followed by a reminder to the Presbytery and Diaconate and Religious, indeed to all in a vocational life in how they're a part of that upward movement, that heavenly direction and conduit of grace. "So let us lift our gaze upward! And with great humility and confidence, let us ask the Spirit to enable us each day to grow in the holiness that will make us living stones in the temple which he is even now raising up in the midst of our world."

And much like his analysis of the architecure as a Spiritual Analogy, his homily reached it's Zenith with this his last paragraph and perhaps the ultimate goal of the Papal Visit to the United States of America.

The spires of Saint Patrick’s Cathedral are dwarfed by the skyscrapers of the Manhattan skyline, yet in the heart of this busy metropolis, they are a vivid reminder of the constant yearning of the human spirit to rise to God. As we celebrate this Eucharist, let us thank the Lord for allowing us to know him in the communion of the Church, to cooperate in building up his Mystical Body, and in bringing his saving word as good news to the men and women of our time. And when we leave this great church, let us go forth as heralds of hope in the midst of this city, and all those places where God’s grace has placed us. In this way, the Church in America will know a new springtime in the Spirit, and point the way to that other, greater city, the new Jerusalem, whose light is the Lamb (Rev 21:23). For there God is even now preparing for all people a banquet of unending joy and life. Amen.

What a wonderful Homily. What an inspiration to American Catholics and what a pastoral message of hope and love and faith that we find rooted in Christ and tended to by the Successor of Peter which we bloom and blossom in our live's vocations - whether Priest Bishop Deacon Religious Single or Married. This same Successor of Peter who after the mass thanked all for embracing him, even him with his failings much as the early church did Peter in an impromptu speech post Communion.
[photo AFP]

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