I’m rereading a book by one of the leading theologians at Vatican II, Yves Congar, OP called “The Mystery of the Temple, Newman Press, Westminster, Maryland 1962.” As I noted in a previous blog, Congar wrote out of his experience of increasing secularization in France in the 1950s. People were abandoning God and the church.
I’m only realizing it now (I’m a slow learner) that his treatment in this book of the Presence of God in sacred history, beginning with the patriarchs and extending to the time of David and the prophets, was a way he was figuring out the Presence of God in this period of time. Where is God now?
These sentences struck me: “We are always tempted to confine ourselves to what we see and touch, to be satisfied with this and to think that a preliminary achievement fulfills God’s promise.”
Abraham thought God’s promise was fulfilled in Ismael, Joshua thought it was the conquest of Canaan. Solomon thought it was in his immediate descendants…”but these promises were capable of more complete fulfillment which would only materialize after long periods of waiting and urgently needed purification. Only the prophets–and this, in fact, is their task–draw attention to the process of development from seminal promises and to the progress of the latter towards their accomplishment through successive stages of fulfillment continuously transcending one another.” (p 31-32)
We may look at the church or our world at this time and think it’s the end, but it isn’t. It’s only a “preliminary achievement” in God’s plan. We need prophets to “draw attention to the process of development from seminal promises” by successive stages of fulfillment.
God is the Pillar of Cloud leading us on, Emmanuel, God with us. “It ain’t over till its over.”
“Each year Jesus’ parents went up to Jerusalem for the feast of the Passover, and when he was twelve years old they went up according to festival custom.” Luke 2,41
At twelve, Jesus enters a new stage in life – his “Bar Mitzvah.” He took on the responsibilities of the law, which later he said was: “Love the Lord, your God, with your whole heart…Love your neighbor as yourself.”
Growing up, Joseph and Mary led him to know God and his neighbor in nature, in the scriptures and in ordinary human life at Nazareth. Their hand is evident in his later teaching; they influenced him. Now he entered a new stage in his life; “each year” the attraction to the temple increased, until he “had” to go up to Jerusalem. His destiny was there.
The young Jesus was absorbed in the life of the temple, Luke indicates. Here he questioned the rabbis in its courts, but more importantly here he experienced in a unique way the Presence of God. “Why were you looking for me? Did you not know I must be in my Father’s house.”
What did Joseph and Mary make of this as they anxiously searched for the Son they raised as their own? Certainly it raised questions, but did they too grow in love of his Father’s house when they found him? Did he deepen their thirst for the living God who dwelt there?
I’m reading the Letters of St. Paul of the Cross and for the next few weeks I leave some excerpts:
“You may not be able to give much time to prayer and other spiritual practices now, but I will give you–with confidence Jesus Christ would agree–a rule about praying always. One prays always who does what is right. For this, I ask you to stay faithfully in the Presence of God in all that you do.
God will help you acquire this practice little by little. You may spend hours preoccupied and not remembering God’s Presence. That doesn’t matter, because your original intention empowers all you do.
But keep your heart and spirit aware of your beloved good God, yet do this gently, not straining your heart and mind. Say, for example, “I don’t want to forget you, O God.” “My God, you are with me, in me, I live entirely in you and because of you.” God lives in you. You breathe in God, you walk with God, you work in God, who is joy, love, fire.
Get accustomed to making acts like that.. When God enters your heart as you are making those acts of love, stop, and like a bee take in the honey.