|01-05-2006 - Traces, n.5
Christ Saves Us from Nothingness
The Mass on Saturday, April 29th, was celebrated by Archbishop Stanislaw Rylko, President of the Pontifical Council for the Laity
Dear friends: A cordial greeting to all of you who have come in such great numbers to the annual meeting of the Fraternity Spiritual Exercises. Looking at you, my thoughts turn to the whole people of the Movement of Communion and Liberation, spread throughout sixty countries on five continents, who in these days join together in spirit in this strong time of recollection, prayer, and meditation: an intense encounter with the Lord, who restores our spirit, regenerates our strength, and charges our journey anew with meaning. Greetings to Fr. Julián Carrón, to whom I am profoundly grateful for his gift of friendship and his generous willingness to collaborate with the Pontifical Council for the Laity. I also greet Professor Giorgio Feliciani, Vice-President of the Fraternity and faithful consultor of the Council for the Laity, which has for many years availed itself of his invaluable expertise. I gladly preside at this Eucharistic celebration, as a sign of the profound bond uniting you with the Holy See, through the Dicastery I have the honor to serve as President, and as an expression of the affectionate paternity the pastors of the Church feel for the Movement, as Fr. Giussani often had occasion to speak of with me. St. John writes, as we will hear shortly, “If we say we are free of the guilt of sin, we deceive ourselves; the truth is not to be found in us” (1 Jn 1:8). Let us begin, then, our celebration, placing ourselves before God in truth, acknowledging our sins. In the spirit of repentance and humility, let us say together: I confess to God, the Father Almighty…
1. Those who go on spiritual exercises enter into a time different from the normal–a sacred time, charged with the presence of and a particular closeness to God. Spiritual exercises are a true kairós, the time of the Lord’s passing, as He comes to encounter each of us personally. It is a time when Christ speaks to our heart, in an ever-new and ever-deeper way, of the things that are most important for our life. Each one of us arrives at this appointment with the Lord burdened with many problems and questions that fill us with disquiet because, alone, we are unable to resolve them. One in particular is the object of your meditation these days: “Where is the life that we have lost in living?” This question, formulated by Eliot with brilliant incisiveness, presses again urgently in our world, so dramatically and thoughtlessly superficial, distracted, and confused. “Where is our life?” “Where is my life?” We must be vigilant today, to avoid being defrauded of our own life, leaving our own identity, our own conscience, our own freedom at the mercy of a secular and secularizing culture, ideologies of all kinds, the dictates of fashion, the latest opinion leader. The danger is real, and we must be conscious of it. Thus, spiritual exercises are also a time to take back control of our own lives, to correct if necessary our route, and renew our commitment to take responsibility for our choices before God. He is the true Guarantor of our subjectivity, our freedom, of a truly successful and happy life. The need for light that each of us brings to the spiritual exercises–the need for light truly capable of sweeping away all the darkness of our existence–finds comfort in the reassuring certainty that St. John has given us in the first reading: “God is light; in Him there is no darkness.… If we walk in light… we have fellowship with one another” (1 Jn 1:5-7). Christians are called to live in the embrace of this light, not as solitary, isolated beings, but in communion with others, as a people, as Church. Thus, during the time of spiritual exercises, the Lord invites us to let the light of His word and His love penetrate every aspect of our existence, every nook and cranny, even the most deep and hidden. He invites us to a deeper communion with Him and our sisters and brothers. God is light, the light that transforms us and truly makes us born again, the light that enables us to find again the life “we have lost in living,” a miracle that happens in the sacraments, in Reconciliation and the Eucharist. …
2. If we truly walk in the light, writes St. John, we are in communion with each other. We all need this companionship, and we particularly need the companionship of the saints, masters of life from whom so much can be learned. Today, the Church celebrates the Feast of St. Catherine of Siena, a Doctor of the Church and the Patroness of Italy. A humble Third Order Dominican, Catherine influenced not only the life of her country, but the life of the Church in a dark era for the papacy. A point of reference and critical conscience for the popes and for the mighty of her times, powerfully present in the vicissitudes of the world and the Church, Catherine was a great contemplative whom God introduced into the abysses of His mystery! She wrote of her intimate experience of Mystery, “You, eternal Trinity, are like a profound sea, in which the more I search, the more I find; and the more I find, the more my thirst for seeking You increases. You are insatiable, and the soul, sating herself in your abyss, is not sated, because the hunger for You remains. I long for You more and more, O eternal Trinity, desiring to see You with the light of your light. I have tasted and seen your abyss with the light of the intellect in your light, O eternal Trinity” (Dialogue, also known as Treatise on Divine Providence). This is an extraordinary mystical commentary on the words of John, “God is light; in Him there is no darkness” (1 Jn 1:5). Like the wise virgins of the Gospel parable, Catherine is full of the wisdom that comes from on high, and has a great deal to teach twenty-first century men and women, afflicted with a deleterious activism, thinking we are living intensely, when instead we are losing our life. This saint shows all of us how contemplation is an indispensable dimension of the life of the baptized. The sensitivity to the ephemeral, typical of our times and our societies, also contaminates Christians, and we often forget that there is only one way not to “lose life in living,” not to let ourselves be stripped of what we are: living strongly anchored in God, grafted onto Him like the branches of a vine, living, that is, as true contemplatives. Today there is a widespread, erroneous conception of contemplation as escape from reality. It isn’t like this. The opposite is true: contemplation of the Mystery is the light that drives away the darkness and enables us to see more, and better; therefore, it is the way for finding ourselves again as creatures, as persons, as children of God, the way for finding our own life again. “He is your Lord, bow down before Him” (Ps 45 :12), we have repeated in the responsorial psalm. Man is never so much himself, never so great, as when he prostrates himself in contemplation before the fascinating mystery of God. It is precisely this act of prostration that exalts man’s dignity, making him the true subject of his actions, making him truly present where the life of the world is pulsing. I experience this every time I go to visit the Trappists at the Vitorchiano Monastery, immersed in contemplative prayer and extraordinarily present at the heart of the world and the Church. Spiritual exercises are a special occasion for rediscovering in contemplation a fundamental dimension of our Christian life. Contemplation is not something optional or incidental; rather, it is a necessary gesture for all Christians, be they laypersons, religious, or priests. We are all called to become “contemplatives in action”! You who are here today have found your anchorage in the mystery of God through the Movement, an encounter through which you have understood that immersing yourselves in Christ is the way to grow in humanity, to “be more,” to be Christians who are more present, and present in a new way in the life of the Church and the world, to find again the life that we are always in danger of losing….
3. I will conclude with a brief mention of the ecclesial event awaiting us in Rome on the Vigil of Pentecost, the Holy Father’s meeting with the ecclesial movements and new communities. Like the servant of God, John Paul II, Pope Benedict XVI has great affection for these new realities that have sprung up in the Church, and has reserved ample space in his pastoral program for the Church for the great sign of hope represented by the charisms that the Holy Spirit has so generously poured out on the Church of our times. On June 3rd, ecclesial movements and new communities are invited to give a common witness to their love for the Church and their faithfulness to her mission in the world. The Pope desires to meet you, and it will be a new, precious occasion to listen to his teaching, always so incisive and penetrating. It is an important appointment that we cannot miss. Thank you for the Fraternity’s generous collaboration in preparing this event. I’ll see you all again in Saint Peter’s Square!
The message of Cardinal Angelo Sodano, Vatican Secretary of State
From the Vatican, April 20, 2006
Most devotedly in the Lord,