25 August 2006

Rattle them bones

20th Week OT: Ezekiel 37.1-14 and Matthew 22.34-40
Fr. Philip N. Powell, OP
St. Albert the Great Priory, Irving, TX

Prophesy over these bones! Prophesy to the spirit, prophesy, son of man! The people of God have been saying, “Our bones are dried up, our hope is lost, and we are cut off.” The people of God have been saying, “Our Church is in ruins, our priests are lost, and we aimlessly wander a new desert without certain Truth, without sure teaching, without good Christian example.” Therefore, prophesy over these bones! Prophesy to the spirit, prophesy, son of man and say over these bones, “Dry bones, hear the word of the Lord! Thus says the Lord: I will bring spirit into you, that you may come to life[…]O my people, I will open your graves and have you rise from them[…]I have promised, and I will do it, says the Lord.”

And surely He did: the birth, life, suffering, death, and resurrection of His Only Son for our redemption fulfilled this promise, bringing His people back to Him, making us a nation of prophets, priests, and kings, making us a holy family, participants in His Divine Life through His Son. And yet, with Ezekiel, we can walk the plains of the Church and see in every direction dry bones, members of the Body dying and drying out, worrying themselves raw with scandal, dissension, contests over how we will pray together, pitched battles over who and what counts as “Catholic,” and who has power and who doesn’t and on and on. Sometimes my own hands ache with anxious twisting and I think my bones will dry out worrying. Surely, our hope is lost, and we are cut off.

Thus says the Lord, “O my people[…]I will put my spirit in you that you may live!” And that spirit, the Holy Spirit, is the love that the Father and the Son have for one another, the love that breathed the Word over the void: “Let there be Light!”; the Word spoken to Moses and Aaron and Abraham, Isaac and Jacob; the Word spoken to the prophets—“Thus says the Lord!”; the Word spoken to Mary by an angel; the Word conceived in her womb and given to the world; the Word that knocked Paul off his horse; the Word that silenced the naysayers who ridiculed Jesus; the Word that healed the blind, the lame, the deaf, the demonically possessed, and brought the exiles home; the Word that defies Roman law, suffers Roman violence, dies on a Roman cross, and bleeds for the salvation of Rome and Jerusalem and Athens; the Word that breathes its last across the world, rips the temple veil, and re-creates the whole of creation—a New Man, a New Covenant, a new image and a new likeness.

If we will participate in this creating and recreating Word, this breath of God and the love of the Blessed Trinity, we will hear this commandment with ears eager to obey, eager to listen: You shall love the Lord, your God, with all your heart, your soul and your mind. You shall love your neighbor as yourself. You shall. Not a suggestion. Not a wistful hope. You shall. That’s an imperative. A command. And it means that we hold in our hearts, our souls, our minds the whole of the law and the prophets, the salvation history of a holy people—not drying bones and wasting flesh, not hearts flabby with worry or stretched thin by anger, not minds clouded with alien philosophies and speculative theological junk, but hearts and minds eternally abandoned to God, just thrown away to His will.

Can these bones come to life? Ezekiel answers, “Lord, you alone know that.” We can answer, “Yes! Even dry bones have hope in Christ’s love. Our dry bones can love since Christ has loved us first.”

22 August 2006

Sonship of Jesus, Queenship of Mary

Queenship of Mary: Isaiah 9.1-6 and Luke 1.26-38
Fr. Philip N. Powell, OP
St Albert the Great Priory, Irving, TX

One week from her assumption into glory, we celebrate the Blessed Mother’s crowning as the Queen of Heaven. Why? Why do we call her “Queen of Heaven” and why do we celebrate the event?

Every liturgical celebration of the Blessed Mother is always a celebration of her Son first. I mean, we celebrate our Mother’s conception, her birth, her life, her motherhood, her suffering and her assumption into glory always in reference to her mission and ministry in bearing the Word into the world, in giving birth to the Christ for the salvation of all creation. As the handmaid of the Lord, we honor her as the Blessed Virgin. As Jesus’ mother we honor her as our Mother in faith. With Christ her Son, the King, we honor her as Queen. She is Handmaid, Mother, and Queen because Jesus is Lord, Son, and King.

Mary no more needs our honor than the Father needs our praise. Our desire to praise the Father is His gift to us for our growth in holiness. We have nothing to contribute to His perfection; we have nothing that He lacks b/c He lacks nothing. We honor Mary, a creature like us, though lifted above us, for her fidelity to the will of the Father in becoming the Mother of His Word. But our praise adds nothing to her glory, nothing to her honor in heaven. To praise Mary is to ignite in us the desire to imitate her fidelity, to follow the path she has blazed for us to her Son. As a people who once walked in darkness, we have seen a great light and that Great Light is the Prince of Peace.

Following our Mother in faith to the Great Light, Jesus Christ, is first a matter of surrender, surrendering our will to the Will of He created us in His image and likeness, surrendering who we pretend to be without Him so that we become who we are made to be with Him. The creation-rattling fiat of a Jewish peasant girl is exactly how we come to the Father: “May it be done to me according to your word.” Mary is Queen of Heaven b/c she was first the Handmaid of the Lord.

In the encyclical establishing this memorial, Ad caeli Reginam, Pope Pius XII wrote: “We are instituting a feast so that all may recognize more clearly and venerate more devoutly the merciful and maternal sway of the Mother of God. We are convinced that this feast will help to preserve, strengthen and prolong that peace among nations which daily is almost destroyed by recurring crises”(ACR 51). Right now, this is the greatest reason to honor our Mother, to offer her praise for her fiat. Can we watch the evening news without wondering if we will destroy ourselves in waves of avarice and hatred, endless repetitions of domination and vengeance, and the idolatrous worship of violence, of terror and war?

Celebrating our Mother, honoring her sacrifice, praising her gift of her life for her Son—these will get us moving on the way to peace, but it is when we follow her in her surrender to the Father’s will that we achieve the true peace of Christ, the perfect peace of absolute freedom in righteousness.

Mary brought into the world the One who broke the slavers’ yoke, the taskmasters’ rod. We start this day by honoring her surrender as a handmaid and her exaltation as Queen. Can we live the day and end it doing more than giving her honor? Can we repeat, loud and clear: “I am the servant of the Lord! Let it be done to me according to His Word!”