Saturday, April 25, 2009

Womb of Mercy

I come across masters of expression every once in a while and to paraphrase them does injustice. Erasmo Leiva-Merikakis is one of these people. In his book, Fire of Mercy, Heart of the Word: Meditations on the Gospel According to Saint Matthew: Vol. 1, he comments on the fifth beatitude. Blessed are the merciful for they shall obtain mercy.

"Having mercy at bottom means bestowing life. God is merciful by nature because he is the Creator by nature. This essential aspect of mercy has solid philological roots. Recall the particular way the Benedictus refers to God's mercy: per viscera misericordiae Dei nostri (Lk 2:78), which the older translations rendered literally as "by the bowels of the compassion of our God". One word for mercy in Hebrew is rachamim, which literally means the "viscera" occupying the abdominal region and , specifically the womb. Probably one reason for this is the feeling of compassion manifested physically in that area of the body. We say that our "heart skipped a beat" or our "insides turned over". In Spanish, something held to be very dear is said to be entranable, from entranas (one's "insides" or "entrails"). More profoundly this expression is metaphorically referring to God as a mother who has compassion on her children and feels it in that part of her body because it is there that she conceived them, bore them, and gave them birth. The act of having mercy may thus also be called the act of giving birth in the spirit...

God calls us to be in the world and extension of his paternal and maternal activity, whereby he is ever bearing and giving birth. Ex utero matutini velut rorem genui te [From the womb of the morning like the dew have I begotten you] (Ps 109:4), says the Father to the Son and to all those who are born in the Son"(Merikakis, pp 197-8).

God also says, "Can a woman forget her sucking child,that she should have no compassion on the son of her womb? Even these may forget,yet I will not forget you. Behold, I have carved you on the palms of my hands;your walls are continually before me" (Is 49:15-16). We have a God who is merciful to us and knows us from before our conception in the womb. We have a God who Himself became Mercy Incarnate in the Womb of the Virgin. John the Baptist "leapt for joy" in the womb of Elizabeth with the joy of receiving the Good News of the Mercy of God from Mary. God was so faithful to us that He wrote the law of love in our hearts of flesh even as He allowed us to write our names in the palms of His hands and soles of His feet with our sins and the nails of the Cross--the spear of Longinus writing our names in His most Sacred Heart in return for the law of love he writes in our hearts. The Anima Christi says, "Within your wounds hide me." I say, "Within your womb hide me."

Saturday, April 18, 2009

Womb of the Upper Room: Part III

The disciples were locked in the upper room "for fear of the Jews." On the evening of that first day of the new creation Jesus, the New Adam came and stood in their midst saying, "Peace be with you." It is only after he shows them his hands and feet that they recognize him and rejoice. Fear, grief, sorrow and despair are replaced with trust, solace, joy and hope. In the Gospel of John the apostles are given the gift of the Holy Spirit as Jesus breaths upon them.

"Jesus therefore said to them again, 'Peace be with you'. And when he had said this, he breathed upon them and said to them, 'Receive the Holy Spirit: whose sins you shall forgive are forgiven them and whose sins you shall retain are retained'" (Jn. 20:21-23).

Adam, the first born of the new creation shares his breath with them. He breathes in their nostrils the new life of God which is eternal. They shall rise again with him on the last day to life everlasting. They receive a Spirit of power and charity and discipline (2 Tim. 1:7). Jesus stirs into flame the new life of the Holy Spirit within them. Jesus gives them the Holy Spirit by whom we have the Incarnation, the Church, the communion of saints, the forgiveness of sins, the Resurrection of the body, and life everlasting.

Thomas was not there and did not believe that the others had seen the Risen Jesus. He boldly proclaims that he will not believe unless he can put his fingers in the wounds of Jesus' hands and feet and his hand in Jesus' side. Eight days later Jesus stands before them again saying, "Peace be with you." He tells Thomas to put his fingers in his hands and feet and his hand in his side and to no longer persist in unbelief but to believe. Thomas says the immortal words of faith, "My Lord and my God!" Jesus then gives us words of faith to live by, "You have believed because you have seen me, but blessed are those who have not seen and yet believe!" We believe because of the Spirit inspired witness of the Apostles: most of them witnessing in their own blood to Jesus Christ, Risen and Glorified as God's own Son.

Jesus tells us that when we pray we are to go to our room and pray to our Father who is in secret. "And your Father who sees in secret will reward you" (Mt. 6:6). It is in the womb of your personal "upper room" where you must go, not out of fear, but with courage: the courage to call God "Father." The Father knows what we need even before we ask it and Jesus tells us therefore to ask with confidence. In the Gospel of Luke Jesus says that we are to knock and it will be opened unto us. He says that the Father will give us the Holy Spirit when we ask (Lk. 11:9-13).

God the Father and Jesus long to give us the gift of the new life in the Spirit that has overcome death.

"Behold, I stand at the gate, and knock. If any man shall hear my voice, and open to me the door, I will come in to him, and will sup with him, and he with me" (Rev. 3:20). Jesus also said,
"If any one love me, he will keep my word, and my Father will love him, and we will come to him, and will make our abode with him" (Mt. 14:23).

When we love Jesus with the Spirit with which he loves the Father, we cry out; not in slavery to sin and fear, but in a Spirit of freedom and adoption the most intimate name of God the Father, "Abba" (Rom. 8:15). This same Spirit also gives us the courage to say, "Jesus is Lord" (1 Cor. 12:3). The Holy Spirit makes us partakers in the hidden inner life of the Trinity (2 Pt. 1:4).

Jesus is Risen! The Spirit and the Kingdom are within in us and upon us. In the womb of our upper room in secret we ask God, our Father, the most intimate desires of our hearts freely and without fear. God in turn shares with us every good thing, supping with us giving us some of the secret manna and calling us by a secret name known only to us that names us as God's beloved child (Rev 2:17).

Friday, April 10, 2009

Womb of the Upper Room: Part II

The disciples have all run away. Christ has been taken from them. Two that we know of followed him. The rest we presume are in shock and terror that the Light of the world has been taken from them. They are in utter darkness and confusion. He had predicted His passion, death and resurrection and they still do not understand. They don't see any hope in this tragedy.

The one who betrayed Christ for thirty pieces of silver has turned in horror to face the evil he has committed. He throws the silver pieces back to those who have given it to him. In utter despair he does not seek forgiveness. He condemns himself to death and hangs himself.

News reaches them all of the horrors that happen to the Master. He is taken out and scourged, beaten, crowned with thorns, mocked, humiliated, rejected, made to carry the instrument of His death, crucified as one cursed to a tree, and He died as a God-forsaken criminal. After he is dead he is immolated on the end of a centurions lance and both blood and water pour forth.

The disciples are beginning to gather in the upper room in darkness, locking the door for fear of the Jewish leadership that handed over Jesus to death under the Romans. Only fear, sorrow, darkness, anguish, affliction, and despair seem to be present.

But somewhere...Mary the Mother who witnessed everything from the foot of the cross has found one of her "sons"(Jn. 19:26). Jesus her Only Son has given her the beloved disciple to be her son , and she has been given by Jesus as Mother to John and to all who would believe and do the will of the Heavenly Father (Mt. 12:50).

"If you love Me, you will keep My commandments. "I will ask the Father, and He will give you another Helper, that He may be with you forever; that is the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it does not see Him or know Him, but you know Him because He abides with you and will be in you. I will not leave you as orphans..." (Jn. 14:15-18).

Just as Jesus had promised the Holy Spirit by saying, "I will not leave you orphaned;" now He has already given His earthly Mother. Later He will give the Holy Spirit. For now it would seem Mary is the earthly model of the Divine "down payment" to be fulfilled at Pentecost (Eph. 1:14)..

The disciples were not orphaned. There is one who is quietly gathering them to the womb of the upper room. There is one who has never given up the Faith, Hope, and Love--the Divine Indwelling-- that has been with her since her Immaculate Conception. She is the mother hen in Jerusalem gathering her chicks. She is the Spouse of the Holy Spirit hovering as Gerard Manly Hopkins would say with "ahh bright wings!" Mary is the midwife of the Spirit helping the disciples prepare for their rebirth. All hope is dead (almost) and therefore seemingly lost...

Thursday, April 9, 2009

Womb of the Upper Room: Part I

The twelve disciples all gathered with Jesus on the night before he died in the upper room. Jesus gave them the gift of Himself in the Eucharist. Paul recounts the event in 1 Cor:23-26:

For I received from the Lord what I also passed on to you: The Lord Jesus, on the night he was betrayed, took bread, and when he had given thanks, he broke it and said, "This is my body, which is for you; do this in remembrance of me." In the same way, after supper he took the cup, saying, "This cup is the new covenant in my blood; do this, whenever you drink it, in remembrance of me." For whenever you eat this bread and drink this cup, you proclaim the Lord's death until he comes.

The disciples may have understood part of what he was saying since they would have heard Jesus speak of Himself as the Bread of Life before. However, they couldn't understand the full significance of what he was saying until after His passion, crucifixion and Resurrection.

Within the upper room, Jesus, by the power of the Holy Spirit, brought forth the first bread and wine now blessed and transformed into his Body and Blood for all humanity to eat and drink of until He should come again in glory. The same thing happened over thirty years earlier when His mother Mary said, "Let it be done to me according to your word." The Word became Flesh and dwelt among us! Now the God who became Incarnate becomes
Impanate: becomes bread for the life of the world. Now the God who became Incarnate becomes Invinate: becomes new wine poured out for the life of the world.

Jesus told the disciples that He would not leave them orphaned and that behold He was with
them even unto the end of days. He promised the Holy Spirit, the Divine Shekinah which over shadows and conceives and brings forth the first fruits of Jesus in many different ways. In particular the Eucharist is one of the greatest ways that Jesus stays present among us.

Each time we gather in our local church for the Eucharist, the priest calls down the Holy Spirit to bless the gifts of bread and wine "that they may become for us the Body and Blood of Your Son our Lord Jesus Christ." We do this is in "remembrance" or in greek anamnesis. It is not the kind of remembering you do of your favorite vacation. It is the kind of remembering (in hebrew zakar) that was done by the people of Israel in Exodus whenever they celebrated the passover meal. They were to eat with their loins girded and staff in hand as one on a journey (Ex. 12:1-14). They were by their actions (and God's Divine once-for-all action) to make present that day of their flight from Egypt through the Red Sea into the Promised Land. God always remembers His Covenant and always keeps His part of the Covenant. In the Eucharist we have God the Son having come now as one of us making a Covenant with God the Father in His own Body and Blood that shall never be broken. God is always faithful to Himself. By the Power of the Holy Spirit the Lord has sworn an oath to Himself which He shall eternally be faithful to.

What is born from the Divine action of God on the Table of the first Eucharist is to be born in us when we receive Jesus in communion. His Body and Blood are truly present. We the body have remembered with the priest our spiritual head and we all partake of the same bread and wine. We are now all born into each other as One Body, One Blood, and One Spirit in Christ. What happens to the least of us, happens to the greatest of us. We are all equal in dignity and love in the eyes of God. What is born from the womb of this table is our eternal life together in Christ Jesus. No one is saved alone and no one is damned alone. Then let us be mindful of how we conduct ourselves that we might not be the cause of our brothers and sisters falling into sin.

May the Body and Blood of Christ bring us to everlasting Life!