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Top Ten Books Read in 2013 – 1

Sorry for the wait. I have no excuse. (sad puppy dog face) Anyway, the best book I read last year is by an author who has On Hopealready been top of my list before and has already appeared on the list this year. Josef Pieper’s On Hope is one of those life changing mind blowing books. I was introduced to Hope as a life changing awesome thing through Pope Benedict XVI’s Spe Salvi, but unfortunately, I found that I had trouble internalizing it (looking at my life, not much changed after I had read it).

Pieper started from our natural perspective as human persons: we are pilgrims. We are not where we are in fulfillment. We live a mortal not-there-yet life. “The state of being on the way .. refers rather to the innermost structure of created nature. It is the inherent ‘not yet’ of the finite being.” Which, as an editorial note, is why ‘getting there,’ the dream job, the dream house, the dream net worth, is an ontological contradiction. It is in our nature to never get there. I that’s why we take solace in stories with ‘happily ever after.’

This state is inherently uncomfortable. “The only answer that corresponds to man’s actual existential situation is hope. The virtue of the status viatoris (state on the way); it is the proper virtue of the ‘not yet.’ In the virtue of hope more than in any other, man understands and affirms that he is creature, that he has been created by God.”

This is hope the book starts, and it only goes deeper and more theologically, philosophically, and spiritually mind lowing. It change the way I understand the virtue of hope and how I practice this virtue. His thoughts of ‘the fear of the Lord’ provide the most cogent explanation of that misunderstand gift of the Holy Spirit.

I have recommended this to spiritual directees, but will tell you, this book, to be understood well, requires some greater than average comprehension skills because of his references to foreign languages and philosophical concepts that don’t appear on a state college curriculum. That being said it’s short (92 pages) and well worth the time to mull through.

Top Ten Books Read in 2013 – 4

Sorry for the slack in posts the last few days. Saturday took all day and it took Sunday and Monday to recover. Tuesday is no excuse.

This next book is nothing new for the blog (if you happened to following us this long ago). Two years ago, I picked up this book as spiritual reading for Lent. I had a reading schedule and everything. I didn’t hold to it. I picked it up again the next Lent and didn’t finish it. Third time’s a charm, right? I picked it up again this year and finally finished it.Abandonment to Divine Providence

Abandonment to Divine Providence by Jean Pierre de Caussade took me three time because it kicks your prideful, selfish little behind. It doesn’t hold  any punches with regard to how to live a saintly life. His principles are very simple but they require a deep and abiding faith. He says simply to be holy is to abandon yourself to the will of God.

This would be a great book if you are looking to go deeper in your spiritual life and willing to put in the work of humility. But check with your spiritual director first.

On the Severe Lack of Time (And Why I Haven’t Written in Awhile)

“You, the eternal Creator of all times, art before all times, and that no times are co-eternal with You.”-St. Augustine

God has no time, and how would envy Him were it not for the fact that He loves me. Those creatures like myself, existing in time and space, feel our limitations most profoundly this time of year. The holidays are upon us and, in addition to our regularly stuffed schedules, we must find time to relax with family. In order to find this time, we must cook, clean, shop, spend, hunt and help in more ways than ever before, all amidst turbulent weather and even more turbulent emotions.

God, however, has no time and therefore never must worry about a lack of it. So maybe the greatest of all sacrifices that he experienced in those first months on earth was the shock of time. Think of that baby Jesus, containing within His heart all the secrets of human love, having to wait years until he’d even be able to speak a single word. In Christ, the Word became speechless, the Eternal Logos was at a loss for words. And the only remedy: to wait in time.

As we all try to fit more things into an already-cramped 24 hours, perhaps the greatest imitation of Christ we can offer is to stop. Just stop. Like right now.

Pray.

Listen.

Let the King of the Universe reign sovereign in your schedule. Then he will have time enough to reign in your heart. Teresa of Avila reminds her fellow Christians that Christ has no hands but ours, no feet but ours, no body but the Body of Christ on earth. I would take it one step further: Christ has no time but ours. God, being timeless, needs us to surrender our time to Him.

A Contribution to the Spirituality of Dealing with Trolls

Nearly a month ago I traveled to Boston for the Catholic New Media Conference. I have my initial reflections here, but a few things in particular required some further thought. No matter the session or group I was in, over the course of the day, one thing continued to pop up, trolls.

In the roundtable discussion I gave my initial, analogical reflection. We need to be like Bilbo Baggins (I’m not in any way partial to hobbit wisdom). In dealing with the three, rather hungry and slow witted trolls on the way from The Shire. Bilbo, figuring out that they turned to stone at day’s break, continued to engage them in conversation until the sun rose. I made the comparison that when speaking to trolls engage them until the Son rises. It was more comical than terribly helpful especially when five very vocal trolls take over your combox and each has differing views attacking you or each other. Your combox turns into the halls of Moria during the invasion of the goblins, loud, intense and no way out. Engaging them as such per comment would consume your time, your patience, and your charity.

Well, when I arrived back into my hotel room that afternoon, I was catching up on the Liturgy of the Hours before going out for good company that evening. It just so happened that that Saturday was the memorial of the French Jesuits who were martyred in Southern Canada. The Office of Readings was a letter from St. Jean de Brebeuf. He’s writing to his fellow Jesuits on the European continent about the relative nearness of his own martyrdom. Towards the end of the letter he said this,

“My God, it grieves me greatly that you are not known, that in this savage wilderness all have not been converted to you, that sin has not been driven from it. My God, even if all the brutal tortures which prisoners in this region must endure should fall on me, I offer myself most willingly to them and I alone shall suffer them all.”

Now my mind immediately went to trolls who are above all influenced by some sinful inclination, of different varieties and with different circumstances but all with lack of charity. They are an opportunity for those of us in new media to participate in Christ’s cross, to receive with him the buffets and slanders and misunderstandings. The combox can be a walk up Calvary. A means for us to grow in holiness. Then, trolls are a gift, a means to sanctify us, and when one person is truly sanctified, others around him/her are invited to deeper sanctity (I call this the equation of sanctity. Think of Monica and Augustine, Andrew and Peter, Albert and Aquinas, Ignatius and Francis Xavier.)

Then, in the next ‘hour’ one of the psalms was Psalm 141 which held the title, “A Prayer When in Danger.” I found the first nine verses pertinent. It can be a prayer on our lips when dealing with trolls.

I call upon thee, O LORD; make haste to me!
Give ear to my voice, when I call to thee!
Let my prayer be counted as incense before thee,
and the lifting up of my hands as an evening sacrifice!

Set a guard over my mouth, O LORD,
keep watch over the door of my lips!
Incline not my heart to any evil,
to busy myself with wicked deeds
in company with men who work iniquity;
and let me not eat of their dainties!

Let a good man strike or rebuke me in kindness,
but let the oil of the wicked never anoint my head;
for my prayer is continually against their wicked deeds.
When they are given over to those who shall condemn them,
then they shall learn that the word of the LORD is true.
As a rock which one cleaves and shatters on the land,
so shall their bones be strewn at the mouth of Sheol.

But my eyes are toward thee, O LORD God;
in thee I seek refuge; leave me not defenseless!
Keep me from the trap which they have laid for me,
and from the snares of evildoers! 

“Keep a guard over my mouth, O Lord” what a great prayer in speaking with a talking to trolls! And I couldn’t have made a better connection to the Biblo analogy if I tried! The psalm does two things: 1) it brings the Lord into the equation and 2) it allows for us to separate ourselves ever so briefly from the frustration of a troll.
I hope these paltry insights are helpful to you. And continue on in your proclamation of the gospel.

Sea of Red (or Lift the Veil and See)

The life of a priest is rarely uneventful. Something will arise in the course of a day that will be different than the last, and Sundays are a bit busier for us than most.

Sunday October 26 the Archdiocese celebrated World Youth Day, which is a diocesan wide youth event put on by the diocesan youth ministry office. Two thousand teens from the greater New Orleans area converged on the Ernest Morial Convention Center (the same place where the New Orleans ComiCon is held).

Like such events there was a keynote, which I missed because I had the morning masses in the parish. In the early afternoon, there were over twenty break-out sessions varying from theological to spiritual to quirky (How to Survive the Zombie Apocalypse, which of course was given by a Daughter of St. Paul).

The day ended with mass celebrated by the Archbishop. Here is where my story lies. While I was concelebrating I couldn’t help but look up to a two thousand strong congregation of teenagers dressed in the red t-shirt they received as part of the day. I looked out to see a sea of read, and I was struck by the power of that image. 

My thoughts were immediately draw to the martyrs in the book of Revelation. “After this I looked, ad behold, a great multitude which no man could number, from every nation, from all tribes, and peoples and tongues, standing before the throne and before the Lamb … These are they who come out of the great tribulation; they have washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb.”

Before me was the church militant imaging, in a scene of hope, the church triumphant (earth revealing heaven). I was immediately overwhelmed by the presence of the saints in the room with us worshipping the Lamb slain on the altar before me. We were all oriented toward the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world.

The veil between this world and the next is surprisingly thin in the sacrifice of the mass because the sacrifice is itself heavenly worship. We often veil our own eyes due to a weak faith, but let the Lord pull back the shades and let the light of eternal glory shine through. Who knows what we will see!

#popefrancislife

My students have gotten me in the habit of putting #life at the end of any description or tale that involves irony, paradox, awkwardness or humility (ie: those things that the world considers to be mere inconveniences, but in which are contained the meaning of existence). #life, unlike its distant cousin #yolo, is something a of real philosophical sentiment. It alludes to the fact that life is almost predictable. Just when you think you have life figured out and under control, your tire pops on the way to a job interview, you trip and fall in front of that attractive new co-worker, you sleep in late thinking its Sunday…only to remember it is actually Monday. Life is intelligible, but that intelligibility makes it none-the-less unpredictable. In fact, #life is nothing more than expressing that most shared of human experiences: that the only real rule in reality is to expect the unexpected.

As usual, GKC put it better than I;
The real trouble with this world of ours is not that it is an unreasonable world, nor even that it is a reasonable one. The commonest kind of trouble is that it is nearly reasonable, but not quite. Life is not an illogicality; yet it is a trap for logicians. It looks just a little more mathematical and regular than it is;its exactitude is obvious, but its inexactitude is hidden; its wildness lies in wait. (Orthodoxy)

Indeed, what could be more Orthodox than to wake up and realize that a God more rational and loving than you made the universe? What could be more #life? Reality should make perfect sense, but when we try to explain it, we always miss some critical step, trip, fall and end up upside-down. #life

The real misunderstanding, though, is not with the universe. #life, by its very nature, implies that there is something wrong with those that have life. And those that have life are not the objective rules of reality, but us. Pope Francis, with all his talk on sin, healing, Satan and holiness, seems keenly aware of this. In his interview last Thursday, his allusion to the Church as a ‘field hospital’ can only be interpreted in this way. Whether its due to his American upbringing, his Jesuit formation, his contact with contemporary issues or sheer grace of the Holy Spirit, Pope Francis understands #life better than many of the young people who have popularized this slogan.

And he’s up to something. It was not without calculation that he released an interview about finding a new balance in the Church’s theology on abortion but two days before addressing a group of Catholic gynecologists in Rome. On Thursday he surprises the world by saying our Prolife stance can be over-emphasized…and then on Saturday he says that the unborn “bear the face of Jesus Christ,” a strongly emphatic Prolife statement! Is the Pope pastorally self-contradictory? Or is he driving at something deeper.

Could it be that he knows that the root of the Church’s stagnation is a certain spiritual pride, a certain evangelical laxity? Is it that, for too long, Catholics and Christians have spouted their favorite doctrines without applying them in charity? Could it be that the Pope is saying and doing these things, not so much to surprise the media, as to unsettle complacent Christians? After all, he certainly has got our attention. When was the last time we listened this much to the Pope? The world, for its part, can’t seem to figure him out. But it seems to me that he’s got the world figured out. And he’s got us figured out to. And I think he aims to do something about it. So, if you were happy being a back-pew Catholic and coasting along not having to explain or explore your faith, get ready: this Pope is pulling the pew right out from under you. #life #popefrancislife

Sensuum Defectui (Or, the Diet Coke Adventure)

“The most incredible thing about miracles is that they happen.”-GKC

Twice today I had experiences of the surreal nature of reality that can only be called miraculous. Every once in a while, the true colors of our Divinely created universe shift into focus and blind us with their intensity. Science, when taken as merely a form of study, often numbs us to these colors, yet reason itself confirms that numbness is a sign of a distortion from reality. A numbed mind, like a numb finger or blurry eye-sight, may indeed come in contact with reality, but because it fails to connect with reality in its full spectrum, rendering our experience false before it can even try to be true. And perhaps no one knows this truth better than the person who’s numbness is taken away from them to be replaced by a sudden and vivid sensitivity. Such was my experience today.

It is dreadfully hot in New Orleans. Cruising from one side of the river to the other, my mind began to fall into that perilous lethargy that Southerners associate with the month of August. I was leaving the school where I hold classes to pay a bill at another school where I take classes. I walked through the cool halls on my way to the financial office, walked through the door, and was shocked into a state of consciousness beyond hot or cold. When I had come to this office three years ago, I could distinctly remember a diet coke sitting on the desk next to the computer. Certainly there was a new financial aid person behind the desk. It was clear from the boxes and bags littering the office that she had recently moved in. There was a new computer, new decorations, new paint, but the same diet coke sat in the same place I remembered it being before. After all, one does not forget the petty details of so oppressive a place as an financial aid office. Rarely does a student find themselves in such a place without fear. On my visit three years prior, I had sat nervously trying to finalize my information before the semester deadline. In the midst of my turmoil, I remember contemplating the cool perspiration on the diet coke. And here it was again, gloating like the face of fate. I could see the fresh carbonation rising from its sneering mouth, laughing at me.

And my mind, awoken with a strange suddenness to the vexing twists of reality, grappled to make sense of it all. Had, for three years, the world spun dizzily around this one can of coke? Did paint dry, people pack, papers fly, all the while this coke remaining unmoved? Was this round metal the true axis of the universe, on which we all spun. I imagined a time-lapse in which the desk was emptied, the room cleaned, furniture replaced, and all the time this on can of diet coke remained fixed in the center of it all. If the desk rotted into ruin, I wondered, would the coke remain hovering in midair?

I am not a superstitious man. Some might argue the point, however, when they read what I did next: I ran to the chapel. Once inside the stillness of that room, I approached the Tabernacle, but once more awoke with a new horror. This was the same Tabernacle I had seen early today when on the other side of the river! Inside was the same host, the same True Presence, that I had felt early today but in a totally different location. Now two uncanny thoughts swirled in my mind: that of an ever-fixed can of coke that waited for me in the other room and of an ever-loving God who relentlessly chased me across rivers and bridges.

I said I am not a superstitious man, but for a moment I felt on the verge of becoming one. Lightheaded, I prayed to God, then saw these mysteries in their true light. Superstition, a wise man once told me, is not when man thinks too much of God’s place in universe (a logical impossibility) but when he thinks too little of his own place here. The superstitious man forgets in whose image he is made and thus lets the trivialities of nature make sport of him. Made in the image of God, it is totally possible, nay even likely, that two totally different people might take different can’s of coke and place them in the same place. Human beings like regularity and order. We make all cans of coke the same for the same reason that God makes all trees different: creative efficiency. Taking into account the fact that we willfully choose to drink coke at our desks, it would only make sense that I might see two such objects in the same place. Coffee stalls at airports, benches on street corners, Walmarts at Interstate Exits: these things indicate not a mythic quality in the universe but the material mysticism of man. Man, whether praying or building, always likes to be regular.

God made us so. The image of His order and goodness haunts even our sin. Therefore, when He became man (and then became bread) that we might be saved, he left us evidence of His own will by placing himself in all the places we might want to be with Him. Yet He knew that we could not handle the strange solidity of idol worship. Had he become a statue, His Presence would have haunted us like the Immovable Can of Diet Coke, perched ominously in a single Temple like the pagans of old had envisioned. Yet, had he merely given us a symbolic representation of Himself, then how could our hearts recover from the bitingly real enigmas and separations of the material world? That is to say, lovers are never satisfied with representation. We like regularity.We need to be close. We like our coke in the afternoon on the middle of our desk. We like our spouses in our arms at night. A simple “symbol” of His love would never “do the trick.” Only a True Presence would satisfy us. To paraphrase Flannery O’Connor, if the Eucharist is only a True Symbol, then to Hell with it.

“The incredible thing about miracles is that they happen.” In a universe where the food and drinks we desire appear with such regularity, shouldn’t our miraculous God be willing to appear with an even more regularity. The Almighty could not have His show stolen by cans of coke! So, in ways never foreseen and never guessed at, He made His Presence among us known in flesh and blood and bread and wine. According to Aquinas, the power by which He did this was greater than any of the mysteries of creation. Still, the greater mystery is why His love would go through such trouble, why He would bother to leap over a river and mount a cross, just to be with you and me.

Christianity As a Minority

I am told that, in the course of my short lifetime, Christians have become a minority in this nation. While it is true that many people still self-identity as “Christian” in censuses and opinion polls, the fact of the matter is that very few in our culture live out that Christian identity in their own lives.

I need not cite any particular data. Almost all of the reports agree: attendance at Sunday worship is down, knowledge of Scripture has diminished and efforts at both Evangelization and (Christian) Social Justice simply do not bear the sort of fruit they once did. In contrast, secular alternatives to these Christian responsibilities are gaining significant ground every day. Instead of going to church on the weekend, most people go to the mall. Sales of Twilight, Fifty Shades of Grey and any number of other neo-pagan novellas are up. Most Americans spend more time at the ubiquitous fundraisers, demonstrations and campaign rallies than they do preaching Christ or feeding the poor. In short, we have lost ground, much of it irrecoverable at this point.

It would be easy to look at these facts (that is what they are: facts) and miss the important truth they signify. The keys of the kingdom were given to the Apostles. The task of evangelization and catechesis were entrusted to us. If fewer and fewer people are choosing Christ, it is not that it is because He is less attractive now than He was centuries ago. Nor is it simply thay our culture offers more distractions than any other in history (though this is a major factor). No, the problem lies with us. If people are not choosing Christ, it is because we are failing to consistently offer the inviation.

Many other men better than myself have already noticed this. Men like Billy Graham, JP II and now Pope Francis have been quick to give us both advice and example on how to preach the gospel to this rapidly Paganizing world. Read their works and study their lives for lessons. To their words and works I can only add this: I find that the current situation is an interesting novelty. And Novelty, for me, has always been closely attached to Opportunity.

Allow me to explain. Now is not the time for some dreary message about how all hope is lost, how souls are daily plunging irrevocably into the great abyss, that culture is retrogressing and that the end of western civilization is nigh. All that may be true (and, if it is, it most certainly is tragic). Yet, deep down inside of me there is both a natural and a supernatural hope that I cannot shake. The natural hope is born of that strange human instinct for adventure and innovation. Christians today have an opportunity that many of our brethren in the past would envy: we have a Church that is, day by day, ever freer from confusions of society. Every reformer has noted that the ties between the Body of Christ and the body of the world, between the City of God and the city of man, are usually so blurred as to be indistinguishable. Not in our age, however. I feel that, at this moment, never has the line between “the Church” and “the world” been so sharply discernable. That is not to say that it is clear enough for us to judge what side of the line our neighbor is on. But I do believe, that perhaps for the first time since the founding of our country, the individual Christian finds herself in a climate where she can be certain of her own allegiance to Christ. If you put a political, economic or social agenda ahead of Him, it is very difficult to be blind to it. Consider the fact that, in our day, almost every political, economic and social force in this land has eventually stood at odds with the Gospel. That makes the pilgrim Church one of adventurers surrounded by hostile eyes and dangerous pitfalls. Such a fate is an exciting one, if nothing else.

I also spoke of a supernatural hope. It is this: following Christ will soon require of us a virtue that none of us has yet the opportunity to exercise. We will be rejected, spurned, “hated by all because of My Name.” We will be excommunicated from “good’ society. We will be delivered over to courts. Make no mistake: some of us will soon have the chance to be the first confessors and maybe even martyrs in the history of the United States. This is a chance to love unlike any other that can be offered the Christian. I cannot say on what issue the point will turn. Will we suffer for the unborn, or for our right to practice our religion according to conscience instead of government regulation? Will we die defending the immigrant or the infirm, both shunted away from their families by bureaucracy? Will our efforts to find peace in the world lead to destruction at home? I cannot say. I have not the vision. But I can say that this society, this culture, is close to losing patience with us entirely.

It require patience for an individual to endure the Gospel: any Christian knows that. To be constantly bombarded by its Truth, yet to live outside its grace, is an intolerable and annoying situation. To renounce its Love but to go on hearing its invitation is difficult. Soon, the members of this society might rise up against us. What form their anger will take is a mystery. But when the hour comes, we hope in Christ, who wanted so badly to find faith on earth while also bringing her the sword. Let us pray to Him for this faith, for the faith to remain true to the Love of His teaching, to reject all ethical shortcuts that would have us settle for “tolerance.” We are now being called to be adventurers and lovers of the highest order. Lets not dilute the water by wishing things were easier on ourselves.

Sweet Freedom (Or, the End of the School Year)

CS Lewis ended many of his books by admitting that he couldn’t really end his books. That is to say, all of his thought tended to culminate on the topic of heaven. Whether is was Chronicling the End of Narnia, anticipating Til We Have Faces, charting a Pilgrim’s Regress, or counting down The Four Loves, Lewis enjoyed visualizing the Beatific Vision. In all of these works, he acknowledges the purely hypothetical nature of these endings. He, like any sound Christian, was more than will to confess his utter ignorance on “what eye has not seen and ear has not heard.” Still, he also insisted that it was good, even necessary, for the Believer to dream of what that final Day will be like. It sets our hearts and minds on the hope that we so desperately need. And among these different visions of the End presented by the Oxford Don, Lewis’ admits that his original metaphor for heaven came while he was still a school boy. Summer vacation stood was his most vivid way thinking about what heaven will be like.

The Last Battle and Until We Have Faces give us some pretty beautiful pictures of heaven. Still, it was summer vacation that the pupil Lewis, and then the professor Lewis, personally used to contemplate the joy of entering our Homeland. Who would not agree? No matter how moving or descriptive a work of fiction, can any feeling compare to the freedom of finishing exams, passing out the doors and leaving school behind for a few months? There indeed is something of the Last Trumpet in the last bell of spring semester. We “strain forward” out the classroom, “looking to what lies ahead” (see Phillipians 3:13). We know that whatever it may be, whether its a beach or a mountain or a summer camp or a theme park, it will be more exciting a place full of many a good friend. The thrill of discovery matched by the comfort of companionship: what greater goods could there be! What greater contrast from the classroom, where everything is practice and precision and patience? There is no greater distance than the space between those tediums and the tenacity of summer fun. I write these words as both a teacher and a student. I know well what summer vacation means for both of us. And I do not envy those who are in other professions: they know not or have forgotten this singular joy. The end of the school year is a sacramental action. It prefigures the Climax: when human training, trial and test will produce the fullest fruit for the Kingdom.

Only one thing more. Forty-four days ago, Christ rose from the dead (liturgically speaking). Soon, I will rise from my desk and steal away for two-and-a-half months. Yes, my rising is not like His, but does that mean there is nothing I can learn from it? Yes, the culmination of my lessons are unlike his “consummatum est,” but what of it? It is for freedom that He sets us free. It is for love that He loves us. So what if there is an Analogy of Being, a dissimilarity between creature and Creator!? What of it! My beach sandals are waiting for me. Both John of the Cross and Augustine contemplated God while walking on the dunes. I am going to swim and sing of my salvation. In baptism, I think He has told us whether the water and the Spirit are incompatible.

The Vision of St. Augustine, by Botticelli

Something Strange (or, “The Lord’s Descent”)

Something strange is happening – there is a great silence on earth today, a great silence and stillness. The whole earth keeps silence because the King is asleep. The earth trembled and is still because God has fallen asleep in the flesh and he has raised up all who have slept ever since the world began. God has died in the flesh and hell trembles with fear.

He has gone to search for our first parent, as for a lost sheep. Greatly desiring to visit those who live in darkness and in the shadow of death, he has gone to free from sorrow the captives Adam and Eve, he who is both God and the son of Eve. The Lord approached them bearing the cross, the weapon that had won him the victory. At the sight of him Adam, the first man he had created, struck his breast in terror and cried out to everyone: “My Lord be with you all.” Christ answered him: “And with your spirit.” He took him by the hand and raised him up, saying: “Awake, O sleeper, and rise from the dead, and Christ will give you light.”

I am your God, who for your sake have become your son. Out of love for you and for your descendants I now by my own authority command all who are held in bondage to come forth, all who are in darkness to be enlightened, all who are sleeping to arise. I order you, O sleeper, to awake. I did not create you to be held a prisoner in hell. Rise from the dead, for I am the life of the dead. Rise up, work of my hands, you who were created in my image. Rise, let us leave this place, for you are in me and I am in you; together we form only one person and we cannot be separated. For your sake I, your God, became your son; I, the Lord, took the form of a slave; I, whose home is above the heavens, descended to the earth and beneath the earth. For your sake, for the sake of man, I became like a man without help, free among the dead. For the sake of you, who left a garden, I was betrayed to the Jews in a garden, and I was crucified in a garden.

See on my face the spittle I received in order to restore to you the life I once breathed into you. See there the marks of the blows I received in order to refashion your warped nature in my image. On my back see the marks of the scourging I endured to remove the burden of sin that weighs upon your back. See my hands, nailed firmly to a tree, for you who once wickedly stretched out your hand to a tree.

I slept on the cross and a sword pierced my side for you who slept in paradise and brought forth Eve from your side. My side has healed the pain in yours. My sleep will rouse you from your sleep in hell. The sword that pierced me has sheathed the sword that was turned against you.

Rise, let us leave this place. The enemy led you out of the earthly paradise. I will not restore you to that paradise, but I will enthrone you in heaven. I forbade you the tree that was only a symbol of life, but see, I who am life itself am now one with you. I appointed cherubim to guard you as slaves are guarded, but now I make them worship you as God. The throne formed by cherubim awaits you, its bearers swift and eager. The bridal chamber is adorned, the banquet is ready, the eternal dwelling places are prepared, the treasure houses of all good things lie open. The kingdom of heaven has been prepared for you from all eternity.

This ancient homily is taken from the Office of Readings for Holy Saturday. It remains, for me, one of the highlights of the Triduum Liturgy. Favorite part: Christ introducing Himself to Adam as “your son.”