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Friday, February 25, 2011

Ark of the Covenant

I have not developed much thought on this blog concerning Our Blessed Mother; this is both because I feel she is so worthy a topic that I feel whatever I say shall be inadequate, and also because there will always be more to say of the one who is Virgin Mother of God and Mother of the Church.

Many saints have devoted their entire lives to her honor, seeking to better understand the mysterious graces granted to this little girl who gave her total "fiat" to the angel Gabriel and became the Mother of Christ through the Holy Spirit. St. Louis de Montfort, perhaps one of the better known, wrote many beautiful things in his small book "True Devotion to Mary."
(If you would like to read it, the entire work in available online, here:

St. Alphonsus Ligouri also had a great love for Our Lady and wrote "The Glories of Mary" (which I have not yet read, but intend to):

You of course have the many saints who were blessed to actually see Our Lady, such as St. Bernadette in Lourdes, France, St. Juan Diego in Guadalupe, Mexico, and Venerable Sr. Maria Lucia and Bls Francisco and Jacinta Marto in Fatima, Portugal.

I do not have the time to list here any form of proper record of the early Church Fathers and their love for Our Lady, but St. Augustine, St. Jerome, St. Irenaeus, and many others wrote beautiful and profound things concerning her privileges and the honors given to her by God. Here's a short summary page from Dr. Mark Miravalle:

Surely we cannot ignore the beautiful documents of Church history given by our Magisterium in regards to the Blessed Mother, most recently in the document of the Second Vatican Council, Lumen Gentium. A brief overview of the Doctrines on Mary can be found here:

Therefore, the point is that my reflections are more from personal love of my Mother than they are meant to be in the form of teaching.

First, I would like to list the Ten Virtues of Mary as explained by St. Louis de Montfort in True Devotion. (In alphabetical order for easy memorizing, they go as follows:)

Angelic Sweetness
Ardent Charity
Blind Obedience
Constant Mental Prayer
Divine Purity
Divine Wisdom
Heroic Patience
Lively Faith
Profound Humility
Universal Mortification

These virtues are wonderful topics of meditation and contemplation in our journey to holiness, and how we might better come to know the Heart of Christ through the Heart of His Mother.

Other aspects of honor for Our Lady include the many titles that have been attributed to her throughout Church history, especially considering her typifying of the Church as Bride of Christ and the many analogies drawn of her as New Eve, spiritual Mother of us all, the Body of Christ even as the Church is Body, etc...

One of my favorite titles within the Tradition is "Ark of the Covenant."
St. Louis de Montfort uses this title in the Litany of the Blessed Virgin in his preparation for Total Consecration to the Immaculate Heart.

To really consider this title properly, we must reach back into the Old Testament and seek to understand how the Ark of the Covenant was understood. We do not have time for much exegesis here, but suffice it to say that the Ark was the visible sign among the Israelite people of God's presence with them, the Holy place where the Glory of the Lord dwelled.

The Ark therefore is a sign and symbol as well as a reality. In some ways one can see the Ark as a prefigurement for the Church, for the Tabernacle where God will remain with us, in Christ's very Flesh. Likewise, the analogy is not hard to understand in light of the Mother of Jesus. She who bears Christ within herself, within her womb, is much like the Ark of the Old Testament. Within her is the Glory of God, is God Himself. She bears Him to the world, carrying Him within her holy temple. The language of the human body as a temple is not a stretch for Biblical theology as St. Paul reminds us: "Do you not know that your body is a temple of the holy Spirit within you, whom you have from God, and that you are not your own? For you have been purchased at a price. Therefore, glorify God in your body" (1 Cor. 6:19-20). Therefore, if the body is a place where the Holy Spirit dwells with us, and likewise the same place where we meet God in the Flesh and Blood of Christ in the Eucharist, certainly it can be said that the Mother of Jesus was the temple within which He dwelt for nine months! Moreover, as the Holy Spirit "came upon" Mary when she conceived Jesus, He remains with her, and she is Spouse of the Spirit in a unique way. So as we all are temples of the Holy Spirit, in an honored fashion, Mary is the temple of the Holy Spirit.

I could go on, but there is much to think about in those short thoughts.

I want to end with a prayer from the Preparation for Total Consecration which St. Louis de Montfort includes. I cannot help but think of Our Mother's title as "Ark of the Covenant" whenever I read this:

O, Jesus Living in Mary
Come and live in Thy servants,
In the spirit of Thy holiness,
In the fullness of Thy might,
In the truth of Thy virtues,
In the perfection of Thy ways,
In the communion of Thy mysteries,
Subdue every hostile power
In Thy spirit, for the glory of the Father.

Let us pray that like Our Lady, we will come to know the heart of Christ in a special way through the intimate time spent with him in prayer and contemplation and through the mysteries of the Sacraments, especially the Eucharist. Let us also ask the Holy Spirit to come upon us and form us into His very likeness, that we can always be living temples and witnesses of God's love.

Tuesday, February 22, 2011


Hmm. There it is. There he is. There she is.
You can't really help yourself, you must keep looking.
You understand what it means to be held captive, to be riveted, to be spellbound.
The colors, the movements, the shape, the lines, the sound, the fabric, the many facets that are remarkable to your senses - they all collide and converge to trap you, right there, as you are, and you are helpless to be free.
Moreover, you have no desire to be free. No, you are a happy and willing captive, for the conquerer is living within your own heart.

This, my friends, is what I believe we experience when we encounter the beautiful.

Please, allow me to preface with the usual form of disclaimer: I am NOT Hans Urs von Balthasar, Joseph Ratzinger, Karol Wojtyla or any other person of consequence who has something to say about beauty.
That being said, I do have eyes, ears, a nose, a mouth, fingers, and a heart, and I do live in this world.
That does not make me an expert, but it does give me all the cause in the world to speak of the beautiful, for it is all around us and taken up in the world.

Some questions, pehaps, ought to be considered.
What is beauty?
What is "objectively beautiful"?
Is there such a thing?
Is beauty truly in the "eye of the beholder," or is there something more to this idea?
Is beauty simply an idea, or is it some type of reality?

Now, to be fair, I don't think these questions can be fully treated on this blog. However, I want them to be present in your mind when we speak of "beauty" because I believe the answers to be fundamental to our understanding of this concept and this reality.
To begin with, I would say that there is indeed an objective beauty, or at least an objective way to define what is beautiful. I mean "objective" here as "true" or "inherent" or "real." I would also say that our individual affinities and what we find familiar certainly do affect what is beautiful to each person, so that there is of course the subjective sense of beauty as well. However, I would also argue that overall, the objective truth of something beautiful is prior to, or has priority over, what is found subjectively beautiful. And I believe beauty is both an idea and a reality. This is because, above all else, beauty is personal. As something which is both an idea and a reality, beauty is something that we encounter. It is both the tangible reality which we see or feel or know in some way through our senses and the draw and desire that takes hold within us and makes its home in our mind and heart.

Consider something that you do find beautiful, whether it be a seashell or a woman or a symphony, etc... What is it that moves you? That captures you? Do you walk over to the orchestra and say, "you are beautiful!" before they have begun to play? Or is it rather that once the music reaches you and you enounter the movements, then you know it to be beautiful. To say that something like an idea is personal is to personify it in some sense. It is different than the personification of a spoon or some inanimate object, because this personality is more specific to the relation it has with you.

Perhaps I am drawn more to dark hair and you to light hair, as far as what we find beautiful or attractive. Both can be said to be good. Yet one reaches into my heart in a different way than it does to yours. What is important is that both of us can be aware that there is something outside of us or beyond us that is drawing us to it. What is also important is that we recognize that although our responses to this object are different based on the subjective desires we have, the goodness of the thing itself is the starting point and presence of the beauty that is inherent in the object.

It is vital that what is beautiful is good, because what is beautiful is something that displays "what it is meant to be," and fulfills to some extent the goodness that was always present within it. For example, let us take a table. I have a little side table in the living room which was made rather simply, out of something close to cardstock, and because it was made without real wood, it has little appeal as something of beauty. However, I also have a little side table in my bedroom, and this table is made out of wood. You can see the pattern of the wood throughout the table, and it has been stained so that there is a rich color to it. Both of these tables serve the same purpose. Yet one seems to "be" more of what a side table "ought to be," while the other seems to display little value in the sense of fulfilling its potential.

Another example could be when something is old or broken. When placed next to a new version, the object will typically show how limited it is in revealing what it was meant to be, and the fullness of its particular potential. Now, this must be qualified both in terms of what attracts an individual and in terms of what we mean by potential. For example, I may have a strong affinity for old and comfortable things, and find them most comforting and desirable when they are worn in and remind me of home. Therefore, an old couch might actually seemt to fulfill its "goodness" to me over and above a new one, because a couch is meant to be sat on and used. Yet, another could argue that the new couch is beautiful while the old one is threadbare and ugly.

So we cannot outright define something as "beautiful" simply if it is the "best it can be," but of course we can understand how there is some truth in the point.

We also need to consider what attraction or affinity mean. To be drawn to something means to recognize a good that we believe would be good for us, such as something that would make us happy, improve us, or be helpful. However, the highest attraction to things is when we can see the good in them for themselves, or of themselves, rather than something for us. In this case, we want to be with it or in it or participate with it - not only because it will make us happy (although that will probably be a nice side-effect), but simply because it is a good in and of itself. For instance, when the sunlight shines into a room and we can see all the dust particles in the air. Children will often try to catch them or at least stand in the sun to be part of this "magical" phenomenon. This is not because the child thinks that they are going to be able to hold onto the particles or that this experience is going to make them happier or better... it is simply because they see what they understand as good and beautiful and they want to be part of it.

Again, consider a beautiful scene, perhaps a sandy isolated beach or a far reaching field at the base of a mountain. These are typically things that stir in us a desire to participate. We don't want to put the sand in a bottle and think that we've taken what is beautiful for ourselves. We want to lay in it. We want to dig our toes in and feel the warm sand on top and the cooler sand below. We want to lay in that field and smell the flowers and hear the bees and feel the tickle of the tall grass. We want to accept the beauty around us into our hearts and into our memories. Certainly, we may want to try to take a souvenir with us, but we understand that to be a tangible memory of a beautiful experience, or the experience of the beautiful, rather than the containment of the beauty itself.

So we are dealing with a concept that requires our physical presence and the presence of something else which draws us, but also with the reality of things which in and of themselves are good, and possess a truth and therefore a beauty which we desire to be a part of and to know in more depth. This is ultimately the beauty we encounter in other people. When we come to know and love our family, friends and spouses, it is because we have first seen or experienced some amount of the beauty proper to the person, and have therefore been drawn more deeply into knowing the truth of their personal goodness. It is very hard to be a friend to someone who you cannot find this experience of the good in. It is hard not to be a friend to someone whose beauty profoundly moves you.

There is so much more to say about this, so perhaps I will attempt a bit of a series on the concept. For now, let us consider what it means to encounter the beauty of God. Is the love of our parents something we know as beautiful? What about the common prayer of the Church? Perhaps the family in their community? Are we left dumbstruck by the Eucharist? Do we sense the sacramentality of the world around us in its very nature as beautiful? Even driving through a busy city where there is far more concrete than there is grass, am I not still caught up in gratitude and longing when I see a sunset or a storm roll in? What does it even mean for man to yearn to be with the beautiful?

Let us consider St. Augustine's beautiful quote:
"Late have I loved you, O Beauty ever ancient, ever new, late have I loved you! You were within me, but I was outside, and it was there that I searched for you. In my unloveliness I plunged into the lovely things which you created. You were with me, but I was not with you. Created things kept me from you; yet if they had not been in you they would not have been at all. You called, you shouted, and you broke through my deafness. You flashed, you shone, and you dispelled my blindness. You breathed your fragrance on me; I drew in breath and now I pant for you. I have tasted you, now I hunger and thirst for more. You touched me, and I burned for your peace."

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Let Us Pray

I am such a fan of many prayers, and some are listed on this blog.
I came across this novena and couldn't help but share it! Our Lady of Czestochowa is a wonderful intercessor and a beautiful image of the love and suffering of Our Lady which we should all share in.

Sweetest Mother, draw us ever closer to your Son, who is Perfect Love. Amen.

He is Faithful

If we only knew the gift it was to be made from dust! What joy it is, to receive everything as gift! We have only but to accept, to say "yes", to be thankful, and we are caught up in mercy, love and peace. Our joy should never be stemmed, for we have deserved nothing and have been given everything; no, we have deserved death and have been given life.

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Poetic Last Days, January

I deeply apologize that "Poetic Last Days" was skipped in the month of December, and that January's is a day late.

I have to admit, this has a melody to it (aka, it's more song lyrics than a poem), but since you are not able to hear the music, I hope the reading of it will still convey some of the feeling behind the idea. Happy February everyone!

And yet
More than ever

But finding
New life

And alone
Unsure where
To go

Waiting for

To stand
And hold

To take
The leap

Stir up in us
Lord the fire
To blaze when all is dark

Stir up in us
Lord the joy
To sing when we are lost

Stir up in us
Lord the hope
To never be afraid

Stir up in us
Lord the faith
And we shall be saved

By your hands
By your mercy
By your grace
By your love
Falling in this place
Filling up this place
Moving in this place
Taking all the space
With you

For new

No doubt
Are coming

Drooping hands
And weak

Shake off
Of lies
And sin

Break down

Open doors
Let in

Flood within us Lord
Your mercy
Take us up into
Your glory
We'll carry the world
With us
Into your peace

Stir up in us
Lord the fire
To blaze when all is dark

Stir up in us
Lord the joy
To sing when we are lost

Stir up in us
Lord the hope
To never be afraid

Stir up in us
Lord the faith
And we shall be saved

By your hands
By your mercy
By your grace
By your love
Falling in this place
Filling up this place
Moving in this place
Taking all the space
With you

What else
Can we owe
Than life

Given over

And free
Unto Thee