Tag Archives: synergy

Praying to the Father

27th Week in Ordinary Time, Wednesday (Year II)

Luke 11:1-4

Jesus was praying in a certain place, and when he had finished, one of his disciples said to him, “Lord, teach us to pray just as John taught his disciples.” He said to them, “When you pray, say: Father, hallowed be your name, your Kingdom come. 

Praying “Abba, Father!” to the Almighty God in the intimate manner of beloved children was unprecedented in the history of Israel (Romans 8:15; Galatians 4:6). The distant God of Mount Sinai and the Jerusalem Temple sent his Son into the world to show us his face: “He who has seen me has seen the Father” (John 14:9). Jesus wanted us to walk in familiarity, trust, and confidence with the Father just as he did throughout his earthy life.

Jesus, who is the Head of his Body, the Church, is completely ad Patrem (“toward the Father”). In his deepest mystery, the Father is the source of his only-begotten Son and our source.

In contemplating the Father as the “source,” “principle,” or “origin” of the Son, all concepts of time and space fall away. His being is not from another but from himself.The Son is eternally generated from the Father in an ineffable manner without passion or a co-principle.

Language bumps into a wall on every side as it gropes in the dark for words to describe the Father as an eternal “principle” (Latin Fathers) or “cause” (Greek Fathers) and the Son as eternally begotten or generated. All of our words derive from a world of change and becoming, yet the imperfection of mutability must be denied of God. The Father is the uncaused cause or principle without principle, and yet the Son and the Spirit are mutually eternal and immutable as God.

When we turn to God as Father, we address a divine person who is the source of all persons, being, and the cosmos. “Thy will be done” ultimately returns to the Father through Jesus Christ, a person to person union and communion.

The absolute principle of the universe is neither solitary nor impersonal. Christ’s revelation of the Father is truly unique in unveiling the personal dimension of ultimate reality. 

Give us each day our daily bread and forgive us our sins for we ourselves forgive everyone in debt to us, and do not subject us to the final test.”

Like children, we open our empty hands to receive our daily sustenance from God the Father. Forgiveness is constantly pouring out from the Father of mercy. We align ourselves to his merciful heart when we pray, “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do” (Luke 23:34).

Walking in the grace and synergy of the Holy Spirit, may we never swerve from the path of life. 

-GMC

1 St. John of Damascus, The Orthodox Faith, Book I, chapter 8 and St. Thomas Aquinas, Summa Theologiae, Prima Pars, question 33, article 1. 

The Law Incarnate

Divine Mercy Icon

22nd Week in Ordinary Time, Saturday (Year II)

Luke 6:1-5

While Jesus was going through a field of grain on a sabbath, his disciples were picking the heads of grain, rubbing them in their hands, and eating them. Some Pharisees said, “Why are you doing what is unlawful on the sabbath?” Jesus said to them in reply, “Have you not read what David did when he and those who were with him were hungry? How he went into the house of God, took the bread of offering, which only the priests could lawfully eat, ate of it, and shared it with his companions?” Then he said to them, “The Son of Man is lord of the sabbath.”

With hawk-eyed precision, the restless experts in the law spent their Sabbath “rest” measuring the Immeasurable and his disciples. Walking through a field was unobjectionable, but picking, rubbing, and eating grain amounted to the forbidden labor of reaping, threshing, winnowing, and meal preparation on the Sabbath.

David, Jesus pointed out, received divine sanction to consume the holy bread of the tabernacle and share it with his starving companions (I Samuel 21:1-6). Not one iota of the law was transgressed, for mercy is the spirit of the law. Without mercy, the letter of the law is dead (Hosea 6:6). 

Jesus, the giver of the Sabbath, could not contradict himself by transgressing the law. By his merciful actions on the Sabbath, he demonstrated the heart and spirit of the law. What appeared to be transgression was the fulfillment of the law. 

“For the just man there is no law, he is a law unto himself,” St. John of the Cross discovered in his mystical Ascent of Mount Carmel. The deified person no longer operates on the earthly plane alone, but moves in synergy with the Holy Spirit. Divine and human action are virtually indistinguishable at the top of the mount, where self-emptying and detachment have given way to radical transformation by divine grace. 

As long as the law remains external, it judges and condemns persons. But when “it is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me,” true freedom becomes possible (Galatians 2:20). Deification is complete identification with the law who is the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. 

“The Son of Man is lord of the sabbath,” declared Jesus, the Law Incarnate and gate to the deification of humankind. The person who has become one with the law “can judge everything but is not subject to judgment by anyone” (I Corinthians 2:15).

-GMC

Related post: Another Point of View

Trinitarian Cosmos

Slavic icon of creation

15th Sunday in Ordinary Time (Year A)

Isaiah 55:10-11; Romans 8:18-23; Mattthew 13:1-23

Thus says the LORD: Just as from the heavens the rain and snow come down and do not return there till they have watered the earth, making it fertile and fruitful, giving seed to the one who sows and bread to the one who eats, so shall my word be that goes forth from my mouth; my word shall not return to me void, but shall do my will, achieving the end for which I sent it.

In the light of St. John’s Prologue, this colorful, poetic prophecy of Isaiah is suggestive of the Trinitarian presence within creation: the Holy Spirit of life and fertility continually waters the earth, and the efficacious Word proceeding from the mouth of the Father unfailingly fulfills his will. The divine presence permeating all things assumed the entire cosmos and humanity in the Person of the Son, and bestowed upon them the seed of immortality by the grace of the Holy Spirit.

From the smallest quark to the furthest galaxies, all of creation “awaits with eager expectation the revelation of the children of God.” Humankind and the cosmos are not two, but one in spiritual and metaphysical solidarity. The deification of the cosmic, multi-personal Body began at the moment of the Woman’s “Fiat!” on behalf of Adam and his children. 

We know that all creation is groaning in labor pains even until now; and not only that, but we ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, we also groan within ourselves as we wait for adoption, the redemption of our bodies.

The Greek original for “bodies” is actually singular. Our Body encompasses the universe which is turned as one (uni-versum) towards the Trinity, and our communion personalizes every particle of matter. Nature is not impersonal but bears the stamp and breath of Three Divine Faces shining from within. At the level of matter, the immeasurable cosmos with its billions of light-years dwarfs the human figure, but each and every child of Adam utterly transcends it in person—the hidden “who” begotten in the Father’s Womb in the image of his Son. From the beginning, Adam’s vocation as King of the Universe was to divinize and personalize the universe in his Body. During this time of exile and return, something akin to consciousness—a mysterious desire—continues to radiate from matter in its yearning and groaning for transfiguration.

Christ, King of the Universe, fulfilled Adam’s vocation by crucifying in our Body the primal rebellion and making possible our adoption as children of the Father. However, the task remains for each person to freely respond in grace and be “baptized into his death” (Romans 6:3), dying to ego-separation from the whole and rejoining the One Many communion in the Trinity.

Personal response in the hidden depths of the heart is known only to the Father who knows us better than we know ourselves. The subjective element in receptivity is primary in Jesus’ Parable of the Sower. The Holy Spirit whispers continually within and without both in nature and in divine revelation, but persons are ultimately responsible for tilling a fertile ground for the seed to take root, flourish, and bear fruit. Hidden in the bosom of the Father, we can help one another without conscious awareness. The receptivity of one mysteriously awakens the receptivity of others by virtue of our metaphysical unity. A single good thought or intention sends out an energetic love in synergy with the Spirit more powerful than all the invisible lines of force in electromagnetism. 

“The ultimate end of the whole divine economy is the entry of God’s creatures into the perfect unity of the Blessed Trinity” (Catechism of the Catholic Church 260). 

-GMC

What is Life in the Spirit?

Entry into Jerusalem (Palm Sunday), 12th C. mosaic, Palermo Cathedral, Palermo, Sicily, Italy.

What is Life in the Spirit?

14th Sunday in Ordinary Time (Year A)

Zechariah 9:9-10; Psalm 145; Romans 8:9, 11-13; Matthew 11:25-30

The theme of littleness runs through the readings this Sunday, from the humble prince of peace riding on an ass to the little ones to whom the Son wishes to reveal the Father. The little ones of the kingdom bear the fruit of the Holy Spirit—love, joy peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control (Galatians 5:22-23).

In St. Paul’s letter to the Romans, many in the churches had not yet fully experienced this abundant grace in the Spirit; hence the need to point out its contrast with the fleshly life. After accepting Jesus Christ as their Savior, believers still struggled with pride and other vices. Elsewhere in St. Paul’s letters, contentions and factions also arose among the followers of the “meek” king. Why didn’t a simple assent to truth automatically translate into the transfigured, deified life?

An objective, detached assessment of the spiritual life must admit that baptism is not a magical rite that automatically divinizes a person. It plants a seed of grace that must be continually watered, nourished, pruned and guarded in order to allow it to grow and flourish. Grace is the seed of glory. Seeds can also die in dry and barren ground, and never bear fruit.

Brothers and sisters: You are not in the flesh; on the contrary, you are in the spirit, if only the Spirit of God dwells in you.

Why would St. Paul use the conditional “if,” unless deification (transformation into Christ) was not automatic, but a process requiring watchfulness and attention?

For if you live according to the flesh, you will die, but if by the Spirit you put to death the deeds of the body, you will live.

More “ifs” follow, plus the action verb “put to death,” with the Christian as the subject and the Spirit as our Paraclete. The baptized do not follow Christ by riding on his Cross, but by carrying it with him (a “yoke” is made for two) and crucifying the “old man” with its deeds. We have an Advocate to strengthen our spirit. The Greek Fathers used the word “synergy” to describe the process of deification—a mystical work of the human person and the Holy Spirit moving as one.

If the Christian life sounds burdensome, Jesus told us that the life of the little ones is restful:

“Come to me, all you who labor and are burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am meek and humble of heart; and you will find rest for yourselves. For my yoke is easy, and my burden light.”

In the Little Way of St. Thérèse of Lisieux, she described the spiritual life as a ride in an “elevator” to heaven, which sounds contradictory to the Pauline battle. But the life of the Little Flower was full of tearful self-conquest. Her testimony of ease and trust in Jesus (her “elevator”) came from a deep resolve to follow him day after day as a little child.

“The Lord lifts up all who are falling and raises up all who are bowed down” (Psalm 145:14).

-GMC

The Spirit of Truth

Simon Ushakov, Last Supper, 1685

6th Week of Easter, Monday

John 15:26-16:4a

At the nexus between heaven and earth, the Son and the Spirit orchestrate our grand return to the Origin. From the Father and to the Father, the Holy Spirit conceived the Son in the womb of the Virgin. By baptism “with the Holy Spirit and with fire,” He now conceives the Son in the hearts of human persons, commencing their return to the Womb of the Father. 

“When the Advocate comes… 

Or Paraclete, Counselor, Comforter, Intercessor, Strengthener… “he will testify to me. And you also testify…” 

As one, synergistic team. The Holy Spirit does not testify apart from us, nor we apart from Him. 

The apostles have a special role to play “because you have been with me from the beginning.” 

The transition from the Old Covenant to the New will be filled with turbulence as centuries-old traditions violently resist change. 

“They will expel you from the synagogues; in fact, the hour is coming when everyone who kills you will think he is offering worship to God.” Religious zeal, as in the case of St. Paul before his conversion, may be sincerely wrong.

“They will do this because they have not known either the Father or me.” The apostles, too, need to be strengthened in this truth in order to give it to others.

Before Pentecost, the disciples may feel like “orphans,” but when the Advocate comes—“the Spirit of truth who proceeds from the Father”— they will know with certainty, in union with the Son, that they have a Father in heaven.

-GMC