Wednesday, July 17, 2019

Thy Whole Heart, Thy Whole Soul, Thy Whole Strength

For this command that I enjoin on you today is not too mysterious and remote for you. It is not up in the sky, that you should say, 'Who will go up in the sky to get it for us and tell us of it, that we may carry it out?' Nor is it across the sea, that you should say, 'Who will cross the sea to get it for us and tell us of it, that we may carry it out?' No, it is something very near to you, already in your mouths and in your hearts; you have only to carry it out. (Deut 30:14)

The Carthusian tells us: “We have all we need to enter immediately upon a life of the greatest intimacy with God.” Do we believe this? What is more, do we have the will to act on it? Do we permit ourselves to imagine that the kingdom is without us and thus squander our time searching far and wide for what is all the while immediately at hand, thus putting off our promised conversion? Do we even realize the value of that which we profess to seek?

Our Lord tell us that the kingdom of God is within us; and not only within us, but in the very depths of our being. If anyone love me, he says, he will keep my word, and my Father will love him; and we will come to him and make our abode with him (John 14:23).

Unfortunately, we are so apt to forget these truths. There are, of course, many faithful souls who endeavor to lead good lives, and strive to attain to a certain ideal of moral virtue. But how few know how to live a life of real faith, sustained by hope and aflame with the love of God, in order to participate fully in the life that Jesus longs to share with us. We are surrounded and enfolded with the loving care of divine Providence; we have all we need to enter immediately upon a life of the greatest intimacy with God, but we lack the will to live the supernatural life. We know the principles: the way lies open before us. If anything prevents us from embarking upon it, then the fault lies in ourselves. We must admit that the children of this world are wiser in their generation than the children of light (Luke 16:8). We have, indeed, received an infinite treasure, but we do not realize its true worth. And the very fact of our ignorance of its value prevents us from making the good use of it that we should. Our Lord surely had our heedlessness in mind when he recounted the parable of the wasted talent, which the foolish servant hid, to no purpose, in the ground.

What is outside of us is something other than ourselves, and thus it can only be entered into for a time and constitutes only a part of our lives. But the kingdom, God himself, is within us; His commandments, His kingdom, and His very self – they dwell in the very depths of our beings and thus are a part of our whole life. We either exist integrated within ourselves, and thus one with the God who is within us, or we exist disintegrated and thus alienated from our own selves and from God.

We must not rest content with a few devotional exercises at the beginning and in the course of the day: that does not constitute a life. The word life denotes a constant, persevering activity: and Our Lord wants to be our life. He said: I am the Life (John 11:25). And so we must not only follow in his steps but continue to do so. It is not just this or that particular devotion that he asks of us, but our whole life, our whole strength and our whole soul; so that we may with his help begin, even
now, our eternal life. In a word, we must respond to the call of Christ, if we would breathe the pure and radiant air of eternal truth and love.

Saint Charbel writes: “Do not weary yourself looking for other keys with which to open the gate of heaven, or fabricating others. Many are those who spend their life trying to design their own keys, believing that they would be capable of opening the gate for them; and many too are those who ridicule the cross of Christ. In front of the gate the truth shines forth, and they notice then that all their keys are in vain... There is only one true key: the cross of Christ..” Here the Carthusian tells: “There is only one door by which we can enter into our spiritual heritage . . . This one door is Christ.” All our actions, all our asceticism must be carried out for Christ and through Christ, and for and through Him alone.

Looking back in all sincerity over our spiritual life, we are surprised, if not disheartened, at our slowness, not to say complete lack of progress. How is it that there has been so much effort with so little to show for it? Why, after so many years, it may be, of a life of asceticism, must we own to the same weaknesses, admit the same faults? Is it not possible that from the very beginning we have missed the essential point of it all, and have been following the wrong road?

For there is only one door by which we can enter into our spiritual heritage. In our vain attempts to enter by some other way, it is obvious that we are bound to meet with insuperable difficulties. Have we not been rather like a foolish robber who seeks by some ruse to effect an entrance into a place only too well defended? He that entereth not by the door, but climbeth up another way, says Our Lord, is a thief and a robber (John 10:1). This one door is Christ: faith in Christ; a faith quickened by love, which by fortifying our heart makes us capable of loving in return with a love which burns more intensely and radiates more widely, thus resembling more and more the love of Jesus.

But first of all we must make one thing perfectly clear. Any kind of asceticism which has for its sole object the perfecting of self ––an asceticism which is egocentric–– is utterly worthless. Such a way of life pays very poor dividends, and the profits it yields are very disappointing. He who sows human seed can only expect to reap a human harvest.

Christian asceticism is based absolutely upon a divine principle, and this same principle inspires and animates it, and guides it to its end. Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with thy whole heart, and with thy whole soul, and with thy whole strength (Deut 6:5). Here we have the summing-up and essence of the Old Law: the New Law has done no more than repeat this first and greatest commandment, making it clearer for all to understand, and promulgating it universally in all its divine simplicity and force. From the very beginning of our spiritual life we must keep our soul set towards this plenitude of love, towards God alone. To act otherwise is to fail to recognize the profound purpose of Christianity; to return to the notion of a self-centered perfection, to that delusive egoism of certain pagan moralists––in a word, to Stoicism, ancient and new––which is so exacting a culture of so miserable a pride. If only we could convince ourselves once and for all of the truth of the words of our divine Master:Without me, you can do nothing (John 15:5), how changes our whole outlook would be. If only our minds were penetrated with the doctrine of life contained in those few words, we would concentrate on practicing, not just one or two virtues, but all without exception, knowing so well that it is God himself who must be both the term and source of our actions.

Then, having done all we can (as though success depended solely upon our own efforts) we would remain humble in our progress and confident after our falls. Knowing that of ourselves we can do nothing but that in Christ we can do all things, we should no more be discouraged by our faults than proud of the virtuous acts his grace has made possible.

And not only that. Once we are convinced that we are nothing and that God is all, our very weaknesses and failings need no longer be obstacles. Indeed, they are changed into means: they are an occasion for our faith to grow by the exercise of heroic acts, and for our trust to triumph before the manifest rout of all that draws us away from God. Gladly will I glory in my infirmities,says the Apostle, that the power of Christ may dwell in me (2 Cor 12:9). Once, then, we have learned to trust in God and mistrust our own strength, we shall run like giants in the way of love. More and more will love motivate our actions and purify our intentions, until before long its influence will penetrate every corner of our lives.

And so, if we would be faithful to the teaching of the Gospel, we must spare no effort until we have arrived at acting solely from motives of faith and love. And since a purely natural principle can never produce supernatural results, we shall never reach our goal unless from the outset we endeavor to act solely from specifically Christian motives. For if, as Saint Paul says, we cannot pronounce our Lord’s name save by his grace, how can we hope, by our own efforts, to arrive at our supernatural ends.

The kingdom of Christ lies open before us. Not only so, but it is Our Lord’s express desire that we should make that kingdom ours. Abide in me, and I in you (John 15:4). Why not respond to his call, and begin to live by faith now?

The Prayer of Love and Silence
A Carthusian

Wednesday, June 5, 2019

We Must Conquer Weakness

St. Charbel speaks with simplicity and guilelessness but also with the strength and vision of a prophet.  He can see very clearly the source of the world's sorrow (our sin) and its healing (the Cross).  The Cross alone is the key that opens the gate of heaven for us.  Yet, so many think there is no lock or that they can fashion a key of their own making. Vanity and delusion blind us to reality and our efforts and energies mock the true Cross.

Our path must be one of repentance. Such a path does not allow us to be immobilized by our poverty and failings.  We must courageously move forward, trusting not in ourselves but in the mercy of God and the intercession and support of Our Lady. No amount of sorrow or trials can match the infinite joy of the Kingdom found at the end of the journey.  So press on!  Know that your enemies will be numerous and hostile, but in the midst of violence you must preserve the face of Christ. Do not treat enemies as such but rather speak to them with the language of the Cross. 

Every lock has its key.  Every door has its lock that opens only with the key that belongs to it.  Death shut the door and sin bolt it.  The cross is the key that frees the lock from sin and the bolt from death; the cross opens the gate of heaven, and there is no other.

The gate of heaven is found where heaven and earth meet, at the summit of Calvary.  The gate is well-known, tangible, and visible; everyone has eyes to see it.  Some think that it has no lock and that it opens if you push it; but when you draw close to it you understand that it has a lock that opens only with its key.  We can know the right key only if it is inserted into the lock.  There is only one true key: the cross of Christ.

Do not weary yourself looking for other keys with which to open the gate of heaven, or fabricating others.  Many are those who spend their life trying to design their own keys, believing that they would be capable of opening the gate for them; and many too are those who ridicule the cross of Christ.  In front of the gate the truth shines forth, and they notice then that all their keys are in vain.

Our whole life is a journey toward this age, and you will arrive there at the end of your pilgrimage; if you are holy the key in your hand, you will open it and enter.  If not, you will stop in front of the gate without being able to go in, because the keys that you have are nothing but your own handiwork.  They will disappoint you.

Therefore, carry the cross of Christ, and you will have the key of heaven.  Carry the cross with joy ardor, and courage.  Do not weep, do not lament every time you fail.  Salvation history is not made up of tears and lamentations, even though the gate of heaven opens only to those who strike their breast and utters cries of lamentation.  Just one tear is enough to open the gate of heaven, the tear of repentance that bathes the cheek of the courageous believer.

Carry the cross of Christ and follow in his footsteps; you will find the Virgin at your side, as she was for Christ.  Every time that you feel hurt, say: "By the wounds of Christ."  When you suffer, say: "By the sufferings of Christ."  When they persecute you, when they mistreat you or insult you, say: "For the glory of the Lord."

You must conquer your weakness and not make it an excuse to let yourself go.  If you carry the cross of Christ, no suffering can bend you, no weariness can demoralize you; you will walk steadfastly, patiently, silently.  Once you have arrived at the gate, you will feel that the joy of your passage far surpasses your suffering and fatigue during the walk.  The happiness at your arrival at the destination will infinitely surpass the sorrow of your travels.

The road to Calvary in this corner of the world is long, and here you carry the cross of Christ on your shoulders.  Your enemies are numerous because they are enemies of the cross; do not take them as enemies; always speak to them with the language of the cross, even if they are hostile toward you because of it.

The months and years to come will be very difficult, bitter and as heavy as the cross.  Endure them by praying.  May your prayer proceed from your faith, may hope spring from your patience, and may the cross make your love grow.

Violence will reign over all the earth.  The planet will be stabbed by the knives of ignorance and hatred.  All the nations that surround you will totter user the weight of suffering; fear will beat down on the whole earth like a storm; sadness will overflow from the heart of everyone.  Ignorant and hostile men will preside over the destiny of all their peoples, dragging them along the paths of mystery and death, because of the blind revenge that they will nickname "justice" and because of the lugubrious ignorance that they will call "faith."

Rancor and ignorance will prevail in all four corners of the world.  Resist and stand firm in faith and charity.  The face of the earth will change, but you will preserve the face of Christ.  Boundaries, communities and regimes will be erased and redrawn, nations will totter beneath the weight of fire and sword; but you will preserve your love without boundaries.

Safeguard your ecclesial community, and may your rule be the Gospel.  Be the anchor that holds fast the boats that wander on the turbulent seas; may your hearts be the port of refuge for every human being who is lost, astray, and in need of protection.  By your prayers you can bring down the rain of mercy and water the earth with your charity.  Pray to soften hardened hearts, to open darkened minds, to comfort those who have experienced catastrophes and horrors.

Finally, have no fear, because the light of Christ will rise and shine, the cross and the Church will illumine each other.  Stand fast in your faith in Christ, have no fear, have confidence in the God of the Resurrection and of Life.  To him be glory eternally.

Love is a Radiant Light
Homilies of St. Charbel

Friday, May 10, 2019

Travel the Path with the Joy of the Resurrection

Rooted as he is in the scriptures, St. Charbel pulls us into the rich images used by Jesus and brings them to life for us.  We find ourselves walking along the path to the well with the Samaritan woman, weighed down by the burdens of our life; carrying all the "treasures" once held dear but now broken and shattered dreams.  We carry the shards, still treasuring what is worthless or only a distraction. St. Charbel tells us to get rid of what the world would make us carry. Have only one jar, he teaches, the jar of Christ, which will enrich you with everlasting love and lift you up.  Simplify your lives.  To multiply jars is to multiply ones burdens and concerns.  It will blind us to the world around us and we will lose sight of our neighbor.

Likewise, he tells us to be full grains of wheat that can bear the winnowing to come. You must have the substance of the Kingdom so as not to be blown away with the chaff.  You must become the wheat that can be ground into flour and baked with the fire of God's charity.  Persevere, Charbel exhorts us, through this whole process and travel the path of sanctity that will bring you to the fullness of Life. 

You walk along the path of your life, carrying the weight of burdens and many cares, loaded with all sorts of jars; some of them useful, others useless, while scattering your treasures in them.

You mix up your treasures with your junk, and you no longer know where, in what jar they are.  The jars are so cumbersome that some of them fall and are broken, some treasures are lost.  Some people fritter away their fortune along the path of their life and arrive loaded down only with clay.

Every jar you carry that does not contain your treasure is a useless burden full of distractions, which slows your march and tires you.

Get rid of the jars that the world obliges you to carry, even if you have carried them during a long, tiring journey and perhaps have become accustomed to them.

Know where your treasure is and put your whole heart there; store it all in just one jar and carry it carefully.  Thus you will preserve it, and you will arrive rich with this treasure.

Carry just one jar, the jar of Christ, who enriches you with love and carries it with you.  Even when it is full, it will always be able to hold more; although heavy, it will be easy to carry.

The other jars are all made of clay; even when empty  they will be difficult to carry and will bend your back.  Choose for yourselves your paths in this world, and do not let the path choose you.  Do not carry the jars that the world imposes on you to distract and exhaust you.

The more your jars multiply, the more remote you will be from your neighbor.  Each one of them demands a distance.  The more numerous they become, the greater the distances around you, and you be obliged to distance yourselves from one another so that your jars do not collide and run the risk of breaking.  Therefore the jar becomes more important that your brethren.  In your anxiety to protect your jars, you will have lost your brethren and your neighbors.

Know that your treasures are very precious, but that you carry them in an earthen treasure, and all your brethren own a precious treasure, and they too carry it in an earthen vessel.

You make your jars with your own hands and shut yourselves up in them, telling yourselves: "The world is made of clay?"  Someone who puts himself inside the jar sees all of life as though it were made of clay.  Come out of it and see the world as it is, and not as you have imagined it from inside.  Let everyone fill his jar with the treasure of Christ, who is the only true treasure.

Be full grains of wheat on the Lord's threshing floor so that you may have weight and fall when the fork winnows you and you may be gathered upon so as to be stored in the barns of life.  Do not be light, empty grains like the straw that the wind carries off far from the threshing floor and scatters.  Only Christ can fill you and give you weight.

Be filled with Christ so that you can remain on the threshing floor and be gathered up.  As long as you remain on the threshing floor, the shovel will keep winnowing you to remove the straw from you.  Every grain of wheat remains alone, even if it is gathered with the others in the measure and in the sack.

The mill, the water, and the fire make the flour into one lump of dough and one loaf.  It is a long process from the field to the bread.  Pray for the sickle that cuts you down, for the flail that threshes you, for the threshing floor that gathers you, for the fork that winnows you, for the mill that grinds you, for the water the kneads you, and for the fire that bakes you.

The path of sanctity extends from the field to the bread, from the dusk to the light, from the crib to the cross.

Travel it with the joy of the resurrection.

St. Charbel
Love is a Radiant Light

Tuesday, April 23, 2019

Build well the temple of the Lord without growing weary

St. Charbel does not mince words: we are to be about the work of our Heavenly Father!  What we spend our energy on and what we seek to build must be the life that He has made possible for us in His Son.  The temple that we are to build lies within us and we are to adorn it with jewels of every virtue.  We are to labor for what does not perish.  In similar terms, St. John Chrysostom wrote: "Nothing is weaker than human affairs. Whatever term therefore one may employ to express their insignificance it will fall short of the reality."  All knowledge and labor, all riches and worldly achievements, fall short of the reality of the new life of the Resurrection.  Pope Benedict XVI said that the Resurrection is for us an "Evolutionary Leap": we have become something that we were not before - sons and daughters of God who share in the life of Christ.  In so far as we seek to find meaning and purpose in worldly knowledge rather than the knowledge that comes through Love, we destine ourselves to be crushed by anxiety and sadness.  Christ alone is our salvation and we must not rest from the labor of seeking Him.  "God is love; he is the goal and guide of this lost humanity. Christ is the remedy of the sick man. The water of baptism in the Spirit is what extinguishes the fire raging in the world."

The Kingdom of God is like the construction site of a temple whose building stones come from rocks taken from the quarries of this world. Human beings are the workers on the site at God’s decree, and the builders build according to his will. They hew the stones from the rocks taken from the quarries and place them stone upon stone, one after the other. And God breathes life into them so that human beings become living stones of this temple.

Many men build their own temple with the stones hewn from the rocks and claim to be their owners. They build them stone by stone, one after the other, without being able to give them life, however, because God alone is capable of providing it. Those people perish, leaving behind them the stones, rocks, and quarries, as well as their little temples built of dead stones. Subject to deterioration, they are annihilated over time. They too are perishable along with their temples.

Only the temple of the Lord is eternal because it is alive. Build up this temple and be living stones in it, instead of raising your little fleeting temples with dead stones that time will ruin. Work diligently, joyfully, cooperatively, and lovingly; do so with patience, humility, and obedience to the Lord of the temple. Since you work by his decree, build according to his will.

Build well without growing weary. Do not seek rest, because that is the source of a great danger for you. If you see an idle worker, do not criticize him, do not condemn him, and do not curse him. On the contrary, with your pick or your sickle in hand, continue your work; thus you will oblige him to work, because the building belongs to both of you. The harvest is yours and his, and the whole thing belongs to the Lord of the temple and to the God of the harvest.

Respect your fellow man as you respect yourself. There is always in you something of what you see in your brother, because the other is you with a few differences. Instead of speaking against your brother, go and speak with him; if not, then kindly keep quiet.

Never condemn, and do not judge by what your eyes see. You cannot pass judgement on the water that you see in a glass, because with your eyes you cannot tell whether it is fresh or salty, drinkable or insipid.

To outward appearances, jars of wine are all alike, even if the wine inside is not the same. Look at the outside with your eyes, but at the inside with your hearts. The heart does not condemn.

Do not claim to have absolute knowledge and this build temples by the measure of the things that you know; they will fall down on your heads and kill you. Knowledge needs love in order to becomes understanding.

However great your knowledge may be, you cannot understand as long as you do not love. Love is much nobler than intellect. The logic of love is much more sublime than that of the intellect.

Knowledge without love lacks soul; it destroys a human being. The earth is a sanctified globe on which the God of the universe has set his foot. He has illuminated it with the light of the Spirit, and his divine Heart watches over it.

With their loveless knowledge, human beings have made the earth sick. Their food poisons them, their drink makes them thirsty. They mistake their illnesses for medications; the air that they breath stifles them, their food tires them, their peace causes them anxiety, their joy saddens them, their happiness torments them, their truth is an illusion and their illusion truth, their light darkness.

Human beings have more knowledge than wisdom. Their theories have become in their minds like the fog on the mountains and in the valleys; they prevent them from seeing things as they are. Their theories rob them of sight.

Their buildings rise, their morality sinks. Their worldly goods increase, their values diminish. Their speeches multiply, their prayers grow scarce. Their interests deepen, their relationships wear thin; their facades expand, their interiors become impoverished. Their roads are broadened, their vision become shortsighted.

They have many paths, but they do not lead them to each other’s houses. They have multiple means of communication, but they do not help them to communicate with each other. Their beds are spacious and comfortable, but their families are small, broken up, and exhausted. They know how to go faster without being able to wait. They are always running to make a living, forgetting to lead their lives.

They hurry toward the outside and neglect what is inside. They are prisoners who take pride in the comfort of their prisons, lost travelers who boast of the distances that they have covered, dead men who flatter themselves with the luxuriousness of their tombs. They die of hunger while sitting next to a kneading trough, poor men, yet sitting on the treasures that they themselves have buried.

Why do you take a place beneath the table to eat the crumbs that fall from it when the meal is being served for you? Human beings sow thorns which, while still tender and new, caress their feet; but once they have hardened they will tear the feet of future generations.

You cut the wood, you pile the logs, you light the fire, you feed it so as to throw yourselves into it, and you wonder why you are burned by it! Humanity has gone astray, man is sick, and the world is catching fire.

God is love; he is the goal and guide of this lost humanity. Christ is the remedy of the sick man. The water of baptism in the Spirit is what extinguishes the fire raging in the world.

Base all of your knowledge on Christ; all knowledge built apart from the foundation of Christ will condemn you. All knowledge without soul is considered ignorance.

An edifice based on man may well rise, but it ends up crushing him. Man lives in sadness and anxiety; he is satisfied and fulfilled only when he is unified in the heart of God.

Meet one another, look at one another, listen to one another, greet one another, console one another with sturdy, charitable words, go out from yourselves to visit one another, embrace one another in the love of Christ work in the Lord’s field without growing weary or bored.

May the sound of your picks fill the valleys and drown out the noise of the world, and may the sound of your scythes’ call remind people of the harvest.

May your prayers split the deaf rocks and cause the mute springs to gush forth. The rocks hear prayer, the springs speak about it, and together they all pray and glorify God.

St. Charbel
Love is a Radiant Light

Monday, March 11, 2019

The End For Which You Were Created

The diminishment of the priesthood and the scandals surrounding it cannot be understood or healed by anything one can see or do by one's own capacity.  In Christ alone do we receive all that we need for our sanctification and in Him alone can the Church and the priesthood be healed.  St. Charbel tells us clearly that we cannot give what does not belong to us.  Before all things we must stop and throw off the shackles that bind us and keep us from loving God.  We must purify ourselves in order that our intellects might not be darkened and our hearts might not be hardened.  We must not be under the illusion that we can offer anything to this world unless the light of Christ shines brightly within us and that we do not hinder it.

Why do human beings have to descend when the path of the Lord ascends?  People are loaded down with many burdens that bend their backs so much that their foreheads touch the ground, preventing them from standing up and raising their heads to see the face of God.

They try to liberate themselves from them; everyone gets rid of them only to load themselves down in other ways, and finally they find themselves weighed down with even heavier burdens.

Jesus Christ is the only one capable of liberating all human beings from their burdens, for a slave cannot set another slave free.

A human being is born tied up with cords and bound with chains to which he becomes accustomed throughout his life; many are those who die without being freed from them.  People get used to their chains; they cherish them as though they were an integral part of themselves, so that it becomes difficult for them to set themselves free of them.

Their gleaming chains dazzle their eyes so that they no longer see the Lord's face.  Their deafening racket prevents them from hearing His voice.  They are so proud of the brilliance of their fetters and of their clanking that they cherish them.  The chains may well gleam, but they are nonetheless alienating.

Instead of polishing them, break them; instead of making music with them, unfasten them so as to free yourself from them.

The Lord suffered to see the people for whom He was made flesh, died, and rose again in order to give them life and eternal happiness, chained up and seeking their happiness where they will not find it.

Your happiness in this world is not of this world, for if you were of this world you would have remained in it.

Your happiness does not lie in material goods, for they will not procure it for you.  Why do men run about seeking gold?  A human being is much more valuable than gold!  He is the son of God and his value is in himself.  Gold does not liberate a human being from his attachments; it only makes them more splendid.

Your happiness does not come from men who cannot offer it to you, because they do not possess it, and because no one can give what does not belong to him.  Jesus alone is able to give you true happiness.

Only human beings live between asphalt and concrete.  Their minds become blackened like asphalt, and their hearts harden like concrete.  Their intellects produces only dark ideas, and their souls become empty of any love.  Human beings are like an inert, soulless matter, and some of them resemble stones.

Proud as they are, they stubbornly seek happiness in sin, which causes them nothing but worry, sadness, misery, and emptiness.  They have become proud with regard to themselves, toward one another, and toward God.

Do you not realize that the Lord is able to reduce them to dust in an instant?  But the love of our God is great.  He loves human beings with an unending love because they are His sons and daughters.  He wanted them to be the light of the world, in His image.

Every human being is a flame created by our Lord to enlighten the world.  Every human being is a lamp made by Him to shine and to give light.  Someone who obtains a lamp does so in order to light up the darkness.  A lamp is made to illuminate darkness.

But these lamps, human beings, are interested only in their appearance: they color their glass panes, cover them with ornaments, whereas God created them plain and transparent so as to protect and propagate the light.  They have become thick and hard to the point of hiding the light, and the world remains plunged in darkness.

These lamps that our Lord made to be bearers of light to the world turn themselves into works of art, embellished and tinted but without light.  What good is a lamp that does not light up the darkness?  You cannot see a lamp in the darkness unless it is lit.

Whatever the beauty of the lamp may be, its light is even more beautiful.  The world is going to ruin in the darkness; but it's light.  Make your glass panes thin and transparent again so as to light up the world and to achieve the purpose for which God created you.

Our Lord has in store a purpose that each creature must fulfill through its life.  Contemplate all the creatures on the earth and you will find that each on of them does its work precisely and honestly; not one of them is miserable.

The most miserable creature on earth is sure happier than a sinful human being who, at the moment of judgment, stands shamefaced before the grandeur of God's love; this love that created the universe, that gave life, is the only treasure piled up that will last so as to accompany you into the next world.

All your treasures, your money, and your accomplishments that you think you possess here below, even your bones, will not belong to you any more.

He who appears before Lord, empty of love, will die of shame.  That is his true death and not the moment when he gives up his soul.

If a human being is not transformed by love, he dies, for God is love, a love that is eternal.  Let Him fill your hearts and let humility govern your minds.  Pray and be converted.  Pray to Jesus Christ, He will hear your prayer; open your hearts to Him, He will enter in and give you peace.  Pray from the bottom of your hearts without ceasing.

Do not bother to search for the truth far from Christ; no truth exists outside of Him.  Christ is the only truth.  When you know Christ, you will know truth and you will be free.  Christ wants you to be free.  Have no fear, take courage;  know that Christ has conquered the world.

Homily of St. Charbel
Love is a Radiant Light
Hanna Skandar

Thursday, February 14, 2019

The Silent Anchorite of the Tabernacle and the Crosses We Bear

"Come to me, all you that labor and are burdened, and I will refresh you."

O beautiful words of consolation, than which none more beautiful were ever spoken at a bed of suffering!  Every word is full of jubilation and carries the joy of the Resurrection into the hearts of men.

These words of consolation Jesus made a reality throughout His life.  Who could enumerate the miracles which He has worked for the salvation of men, for relief of the sick and possessed, who could estimate the blessings which He poured forth upon the human race?  Never, during the thirty three years of His earthly pilgrimage, did any sorely tried being appeal in vain to him for help!  Were even one such case on record, we might rouse the silent Anchorite in the tabernacle from His calm and say to Him: "You are not faithful to your beautiful promises.  Were not all and sundry invited to Your door to receive the alms of consolation?  Yet You abandoned this man to his sorrow and grief!"  However, no such abandoned sufferer is to be found.

On the contrary, we read how His soul was deeply moved by the sight of the poor widow on the street of Nain, because she brought her only son to the churchyard.  By the grace of His dear friend Lazarus He shuddered with grief for his poor sisters.  And when He thought of the destruction that threatened Jerusalem His eyes were filled with tears, and sighs laden with love and a cry of lamentation to His lips.

O heart of my Redeemer, Thou seemest formed of sheer goodness, sheer love, sheer compassion, and infinite pity, - a true Samaritan's heart, pure gold of love without dross!

This same Heart, also beats in the tabernacle  Therefore, I may cry out with greater confidence than before: You cross-bears of the world, raise up your heads and hope!  Your Redemption is at hand.  The Anchorite here in the tabernacle has an arm which conquers every sorrow and a heart which is always ready to help.  Cry out to Him in your need.  He will surely help you.

Yet, what do I see?  Many a cross-bearer knits his brow and shakes his head, as if he could not believe my words.  I heard thousands disputing and complaining.  "Go to the tabernacle and pray for relief?" they ask.  "Better save ourselves the trouble.  It is no use.  How long have I not dragged my cross; how often have I not appealed to Jesus in the tabernacle - yet always there is the old sorrow and old worry!"

A beautiful task here falls to my lot.  I am privileged to defend the loving Son of God.  How often have I not wished that I had lived 2000 years ago, when they haled Jesus into court, and produced false witnesses against Him!  I would have pleaded for Him until my tongue cleaved to my mouth.  Unfortunately I did not exist at that time; but now I am alive and able to plead for You, O kind Redeemer, and it is an easy task to clear You from the reproach just made.

They assert that You did not relieve them of their cross.  Did you promise that?  The Apocalypse holds out the certain prospect of relief, but only for that triumphant Easter morning, when we shall shake the dust of the earth from our feet and be allowed to enter the Heavenly Jerusalem: "God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes: and death shall be no more, nor mourning, nor crying, nor sorrow shall be any more, for the former things are passed away" (Apoc. 21,4).  Not until that blessed hour will the bells ring out the eternal Sabbath, when every care will cease and every cross will be lifted.

The silent Anchorite in the tabernacle only wishes to refresh, to console, and to strengthen, not to remove the cross and its burden entirely from our shoulders.  Everlasting praise and thanks be to Him for willing to do only this!  For this "less" is "more," nay "considerably more," seeing that one joy of Heaven outweighs a thousand sighs on earth.

How would things have shaped themselves if the Eternal Father had granted the fervent petition of Jesus in the Garden of Gethsemane, to spare Him the bitter chalice of sorrow?  Humanity would have been kept forever in filth and sorrow of sin; Heaven would still be barred, while hell would drag down into its fiery abyss far more victims than before.  Instead the Father sent an angel to console and strengthen the agonizing Savior, thus enabling Him to drink the chalice to the dregs.  And as a reward He is enthroned forever for all eternity on the right hand of the Father, as conqueror over death and hell, and sees redeemed mankind marching in a long procession to Heaven.

A skillful gardener acts the same way when the weight of the fruit of July threatens to break down a tree.  He does not pluck the green apples before they are ripe, but props the branches with strong poles, to enable the tree to go on bearing its fruit until it becomes ripe.

The Redeemer in the tabernacle desires only to refresh those who turn to Him for help, but He will not completely relieve them of the cross which they bear.  Some day when death takes the cross from their shoulders, and harvest time is arrived, and they behold the many full baskets of merits which they have gathered by patiently carrying the cross, they will turn to the tabernacle and give fervent thanks to Jesus, that he has refreshed them, but not taken away the cross.

This is one of the great laws which God has made with reference to the sanctification of men.  St. Catherine has formulated it as follows in her 78th letter: "From the beginning to the end of the world God never wills that anything great should be accomplished except through great suffering."  And in the Apocalypse, when one of the ancients asks in pious curiosity: "These that are clothed in white robes, who are they and whence came they?" the answer comes: "These are they who are come out of great tribulation, and have washed their robes, and have made them white in the blood of the Lamb.  Therefore they are before the throne of God, and they serve him day and night in his temple: and he that sitteth the throne, shall dwell over them.  They shall no more hunger or thirst, neither shall the sun fall on them, nor any heat.  For the Lamb, which is in the midst of the throne, shall rule them, and shall lead them to the fountains of the waters of life." (Apocalypse. vii, 13 sqq.)

Now we know how the silent Anchorite in the tabernacle occupies His time. There are millions of cross-bearers who daily approach Him for comfort, strength and relief.  Truly, He has no idle hour, and boredom will never be His lot.

But is He adapted to the described task?  Has He an adequate comprehension of our needs?  Jesus son of Sirach asks: "What doth he know that hath not been tried?  He that hath learned many things shall show forth understanding" (Ecclus. 34,9).

It is difficult for one to comprehend the meaning of soul torments, earthly cares, and family troubles if he has never known anything but the sunny side of life.  To pour out one's heart to such a man is almost like addressing him in a strange language utterly unknown to him.  In order that the Redeemer should adequately fulfill His office of consoler, it is necessary that, besides His strong arm and compassionate heart, He should have a profound understanding of every kind of misery and affliction.

Now Christ is a Master in everything, including the comprehension of our troubles and the art of comforting the afflicted.  Did He not spend thirty three years in a veritable school of sorrow?  And does not St. Paul assure all cross bearers that "we have not a high priest who cannot have compassion on our infirmities, but one tempted in all things like as we are, without sin"? (Heb. 4,15.) "Let us go therefore," he continues, "with confidence to the throne of grace: that we may obtain mercy, and find grace in seasonable aid" (Heb. 4,16).

We sigh over poverty and privation.  But did not our Blessed Redeemer lie as a new born babe on rough straw in a stable?  Had He not to flee to Egypt, and be satisfied for many years with the hard bread of banishment?  After such trials, should He not know poverty and privation?  Who does not know the touching confession made in His later life: "The foxes have holes, and the birds of the air nests, but the Son of man hath not where to lay his head"? (Matt. 8,20).

From early morning till late at night our shoulders are pressed by the heavy yoke of toil, and yet we eke out a miserable existence. If we complain of our hard lot to the Redeemer, will He be lacking in sympathy?  He who for eighteen years labored from early morning till dusk at a carpenter's bench, toiling and moiling to exhaustion?

Fate deals us violent blows, and often an accident destroys all our hopes, A sudden flash of lightning, and the edifice of our future is a blazing mass of cinders.  But was not the bloody sword of the executioner drawn at the very cradle of the silent Anchorite who now inhabits the tabernacle?  Was He not compelled to fly with haste under cover of darkness?  Did not death rob Him of a dear father and later of a true friend, Lazarus?  Surely He knows how roughly fate can deal with men.

You sit alone in your room at night, and your eyes are red with weeping.  A carefully reared son has gone astray, or a daughter has fallen.  Your heart is almost breaking. Oh, remember that in the nearby tabernacle dwells One who understands you as no one else!  Peter, whom He had surrounded with love and kindness, denied Him three times, and Judas betrayed Him for thirty pieces of silver.  Therefore do not complain: "Great as the sea is thy destruction: who shall heal thee?" (Lam. 2, 13). In the tabernacle is One who understands and will comfort you.

You are persecuted, slandered, misunderstood.  Our Divine Savior was abused as a glutton and a drunkard, who associated with Beelzebub, the prince of devils.  His enemies wanted to stone Him and the Gerasenes shut their doors when He approached them with blessings and graces.  Open your heart to Him, He will comfort you.

You are oppressed by grief; your soul enveloped in darkness and storm. Was not the Redeemer sorrowful unto death?  And what a cry of lamentation came from His lips on Good Friday: "My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?"  He knows what grief is.  With what love did He not go with the two disciples to Emmaus and fill their heavy hearts with joy and hope.  To you also, as to them, He will speak from the tabernacle and infuse your should with new courage.

You are ill, you suffer intense pain; could He, who was scourged, crowned with thorns, and nailed to the Cross, be deaf to your complaints?

The silent Anchorite is the best comforter in every earthly sorrow.  None other has His strong arm, His loving heart, and His wide experience.  Therefore I can never be sufficiently astonished at His saying: "Come to me all you that labor and are burdened!"  Does that not sound like a command and an impatient bidding?  Must He then compel the cross bears to come to Him?  It seems to me He should rather have said: "Do not storm my house so incessantly, you who labor and are burdened!"  How explain this riddle?

Man is three parts sense and passion, and his mind is chiefly concerned with the present.  Therefore, whoever flatters his sense and sweetness the bitterness of the passing moment, seems to him the ideal comforter.  It was always thus, otherwise the loud lament had never escaped the lips of God: "Be astonished, O ye heavens, at this, and yet gates thereof, be very desolate, for my people have done two evils.  They have forsaken me, the fountain of living water and have digged to themselves cisterns, broken cisterns, that can hold no water" (Jer. 2, 12).

From the heights of the tabernacle the Redeemer sees how many cross bearers hasten to invoke false comforters; therefore He literally commands us: "Come to me!  But beneath this apparently harsh tone is concealed a world of love.

The Anchorite in the Tabernacle
Rev. F.X Esser, S.J.

Tuesday, January 15, 2019

Cling to Him

Dear Daughters,

Above all, you must cling to the Beloved. When the tears shed at the feet of the Eucharistic Lord have changed from those of gratitude and love to those of frustration: cling to Him. When the warm and content hours of Adoration you enjoyed at the start have given way to restless minutes, straining towards an hour, spent by a cold and distracted heart: cling to Him. When abundant promises made in love have become meager resolutions made with fear and doubt: cling to Him. Above all, cling to Him.

Do not cling to your feelings — they shift and vanish like smoke and betray the hearts of men. One moment they expand like a wide road before the pilgrim soul and the next they contract entirely and abandon the traveler to a perilous fall. Whatever your feelings may be, whether those of love and joy or of anger and bitterness, abandon them to the Lord and then continue on the narrow, but constant, path of obscure faith that surely leads to the Beloved. 

Do not cling to your plans — they fill your heart with anxiety and a multitude of distractions that act as so many ties to bind you to this life and keep you from running towards the Beloved. Pray for courage and trust and then allow your mind to truly forget all things but the One who is present before you. Why do you allow created things to take the place of the eternal One in your heart? Are you afraid of isolation, or loneliness, or that you will find yourself unhappy? Truly these are fearsome thoughts. Yet, the giving of one’s whole heart unreservedly is the leap of faith demanded by true love. It is the risk all take, who take for their only possession the Eucharistic Lord. It is the risk you too must take. 

It is not the Lord who has changed in your seasons of desolation; it is the mind that has become darkened by the affairs of this world, and the heart that has grown cold from a multitude of distractions. The Eucharistic Lord remains ever the burning furnace of charity that is never extinguished; the heart full of love that is never diminished.

Renounce, then, all that would draw you away from the Lord’s presence. Spurn your inclinations and make choices based on faith; turn from the mere feeling of desire and make true acts of love; set aside your anxiety to please others and seek to please your Lord. Persevere daughters. Amidst your own coldness of heart, amidst your distractions, amidst your lack of desire — persevere. Exercise and stretch your hearts in prayer, spend your hours with the Lord and, when you can bear the difficulty no more, look to the Host and stay a little longer. 

Why, you only just came into church and are you already thinking of leaving it again? Remember, there was a time when it was your sweetest delight to be with Me; and now even in My presence you find the moments hanging heavy on your hands. What is the reason, My child? Why have you changed so? Am I no longer your God? Does it no longer please you to be with Me? Are you afraid perhaps? Oh, what can it be that makes you so ill at ease? 

When I poured into your soul the sweetness of My consolations, oh, then the hour of adoration passed away all too quickly. You prayed . . . prayed . . . Oh how you prayed! But now that I offer you a tiny taste of My chalice, of My sorrowfulness, you seem to feel a sort of repugnance towards Me. You are so silent — so repelling! 

My child, are those the resolutions you made? . . . the ones you asked Me to bless? How often you have fervently assured Me that I am your only love, your only consolation, your God and your all! Oh, your heart seems to be so forgetful! Or has some other creature perhaps taken My place therein? Can it be possible that you have found something better than I am? Oh, why, why do you want to leave Me so soon? 

Are you not just a little ashamed to get tired of Me? Have you nothing to say to Me, child? Come, tell Me some of the many things you are always telling others. Just mix a little love with the words and then tell Me everything. Without haste. One thing after the other. Tell Me about the unpleasant things and the troubles; tell Me about your little trials; about the plans you are making; the difficulties that await you. Are you perhaps afraid of meeting disagreeable persons? Of living with them? Or are you afraid of some misfortune? Some rude disappointment? Some painful experiences? Just tell me everything! Keep nothing back. 

From time to time your behavior is so strange. When your poor heart has to fight distractions you quickly lose courage and run away from Me. Do you not know that even distractions can be transformed into a glorious prayer? Only listen to Me, Me child. I will tell you how. 

Are you distracted because of your daily work? Because of the duties of your state of life? Do these things keep you from prayer? Yes? But why do you not tell Me everything at once? Why do you not confide in Me? Gather all those things together and bring them to My feet. If you do so I will accompany your every step with My blessing. I will calm your fears. I will make your work fruitful. 

Are you distracted because of some joy that you hope for? Some expectation? Are you? But why not speak to Me about the desires of your heart? Why not tell Me what you long for? Who knows — perhaps I alone can procure that joy for you. Who knows — perhaps I alone can make it full and lasting. 

Are you distracted because someone has offended you, hurt you? Yes? But, child, why do you not tell Me that at once? Tell me about your sensitiveness, your anger, your revengeful thoughts. Why do you not tell Me how touchy, how irritable you are, how full of bitterness our heart is, how restless your soul? Do you think I am not able to restore peace to you? Have you forgotten that I can transform this bitterness into sweetness, this storm into calm? So be of good cheer, My child, and just talk it all over with Me. In this way your distractions can become the best of prayers. 

Sometimes you complain that no one in the world has a kind word for you. You are sad because no one seems to be interested in you. Oh, your poor, deal soul! See, I am the guilty one. I have put this atmosphere of quiet and seclusion around your I have placed you in this solitude. Have you never thought of that? Have you never realized this? And why do I do it? Just because I want . . . you to remain with Me. I want you to belong wholly to Me; no one else should have any right to you. I bid all others to be silent: I wish to be the only one to speak to you. Of, if you but know how much I have to say to you! But if you leave so quickly, My child, you will have no chance to listen to Me at all. My voice, you know, cannot be heard in the bustle of the world: it is too soft and low. It is more gentle than the throbbing of your heart. If you want to hear it everything must be very quiet around you. 

You think that when you visit Me you alone do the talking. No, no; that will never do; I, too, have something to say. I have many bits of advice to give you, some reproaches to make, some consolation to offer. But if you have no time, if you go from me so quickly, how can I whisper anything to you? 

So just stay here, My child. Yes; only be silent. I will do the talking, never fear! Nor are My words going to be wafted away, like a sweet odor in the air; no, they must be stamped upon your soul as the seal of My love. So stay here, and you will see that there is still someone who has a good word for you — who is wholly yours! 

See, child, there are so many men who want to have nothing at all to do with Me. And that despite the fact that I have heaped benefits upon them. But it seems that My gifts have made them the more forgetful, My consolations, the more heartless. Oh, what a detestable thing ingratitude is! What an ugly stain upon the mind of man! And upon this stain I must gaze continually. 

At least you must remain with Me a little while. Tell Me that you love Me, that you have not forgotten the tears you once wept at My feet, that you still remember the consoling sweetness that I poured so abundantly into you heart. Yes; and tell Me that the only reason why you did not let the abundance of your sufferings cast you into despair was that My saving hand was outstretched to you. Tell Me how you thankfully owe it to My grace that you still look upon life as a blessing. For, oh! You have no idea of the joy and satisfaction which I find in a soul that shows itself grateful for My benefits. 

Ah, if you but knew what I must see and hear from the tabernacle! Sins, and always sins; blasphemies; and then blasphemies again; from far; and from near; they are cruelly flung into My face. I am forced to see everything, to hear everything. My child, these things strike My heart like hailstones. Oh, I beg of you, do not leave Me so quickly! Stay with Me a little longer. Tell Me, my child, why are you in such a hurry, why do you run away so soon? Do you not see how a certain dryness of the soul is the direct result of your great haste? You complain to Me, and to your confessor, and to everybody who is willing to listen, that you no longer experience sweetness and consolation in your practices of piety. But do you not see you have not even the time and the patience to remain a tiny little while with Me . . . with Me . . . and I am the source of all spiritual delights. You complain that you feel cold; and, My child, at the same time you have not the perseverance to remain for half an hour at the fire here, to warm yourself at the glowing hearth of My Sacrament. 

So do not leave Me at once, My child. Stay with Me. Pray. Meditate. Examine your conscience. And if you can do nothing else just stay and listen to what I tell you. Look upon the tabernacle. Marvel at the whiteness of the glimmering host, and try at least a little to penetrate this fair white veil that covers Me. You will discover something surely; and some few words you will most certainly hear. 

My child, you well know that I have created and redeemed you, in order that you may one day live with Me for all eternity. Therefore enjoy a foretaste of heaven already now; taste a drop of the bliss of your future paradise. Listen to Me, dear Christian soul . . . do not go away . . . Oh, be so good as to stay here a little longer! 

Eucharistic Whisperings, Volume II