Monday, February 27, 2006

Quinquagesima Week. "Divine intimacy" by Fr Gabriel of St. Mary Magdalen OCD.
'Corporal mortification'

PRESENCE OF GOD - O Jesus Crucified, grant that my love for you may make me willing to crucify my flesh with You and for You.
1. As a result of original sin, man no longer has complete domination over his senses and his flesh; therefore he is filled with evil tendencies which try to push him toward what is base. St. Paul humbly admits:"I know that there dwelleth not in me, that is to say, not in my flesh, that which is good....For the good which I will, I do not; but the evil which I will not that I do" (Rom 7, 18.19). God will certainly gives us the grace to overcome our evil tendencies; but we must also use our own efforts, which consist in voluntary mortification: "They that are Christ's have crucified their flesh, with the vices and concupiscences" (Gal 5,24). The purpose of corporal mortifications is not to inflict pain and privation on the body for the pleasure of making it suffer, but to discipline and control all its tendencies which are contrary to the life of grace. The Apostle warns us: "If you live according to the flesh, you shall die: but if by the Spirit you mortify the deeds of the flesh, you shall live" (Rom 8,13). We must curb ourselves in order to avoid falls; we must prune the useless or harmful branches in order to avoid deviation; we must direct toward good the forces which, left to themselves, might lead us into sin. For these reasons mortification, although it is not an end in itself not the principal element in Christian life, occupies a fundamental place in it and is absolutely indispensable means toward attaining a spiritual life. No one can escape this law without closing off all access to eternal salvation, to sanctity. St.Paul, who had done and suffered much for Christ, did not consider himself dispensed from it, and said, "I chastise my body and bring it into subjection: lest perhaps, when I have preached to others, I myself should become a castaway" (1 Cor 9,27).
2. St. Teresa warns us that "If prayer is to be genuine it must be reinforced with this practice [of mortification]: for prayer and self-indulgence do not go together"(Way, 4). It would be an illusion to think that we can reach intimacy with God without serious exercise of physical mortification. In this regard, we must take care that love of our own body and of our physical welfare does not cause us to reject all potential practices under the pretext that they will ruin our health. In reality, there are many corporal mortifications which, without the slightest danger to our health, have the great advantage of keeping our spirit of generosity on the alert by the voluntary acceptance of a little physical suffering. If we are to be generous in this respect, we must "rid ourselves of all inordinate love for our body" (ibid., 10), that is, of all excessive preoccupation about health; and we must put aside all anxiety about food, clothing, rest and comfort. "This body of ours," says St. Teresa, "has one fault: the more you indulge it, the more things it discovers to be essential to it.....and if there is any reasonable pretext for indulgence, however little necessity for it there may be, the poor soul deceived and prevented form making progress" (ibid.,11). Anyone who wants to advance on the road to sanctity and union with God must be ready to sacrifice everything, even in the physical order, to the point of "giving up his skin and everything else for Christ," as St. John of the Cross says. He teaches, however, that in these matters we must always depend on our superiors or confessors; "corporal penance without obedience is no more than the penance of beasts" (DN I, 6,2), because it prefers a material practice to obedience "which is penance of the reason and discretion," and is, therefore, the sacrifice most pleasing to God.
.....Help me O Lord, to gain the mastery over my body and to conquer it completely, so that I may attain that magnificent liberty of spirit which allows the soul to devote itself undisturbed to the exercise of a deep interior life.

The St Andrew Daily Missal - Quinquagesima Sunday Mass Epistle of St. Paul (I Corinthians XIII. 1-3).
The merit of our good works, like the light which enlighten our minds, will be in proportion to the charity we possess. Let us therefore, dispose our will to detachment from everything in it that is opposed to divine charity, so that having seen God "through a glass in a dark manner," by faith, here on earth, we may behold Him "face to face" in Heaven, in all fullness of our love for Him.
If I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, and have not charity, I am become as sounding brass or a tinkling cymbal. And if I should have prophecy, and should know all mysteries and all knowledge; and if I should have all faith so that I could remove mountains, and have no charity, I am nothing. And if I should distribute all my goods to feed the poor, and if I should deliver my body to be burned and have not charity, it profiteth me nothing.
Charity is patient, is kind; charity envieth not, dealeth not perversely, is not puffed up, is not ambitious, seeketh not her own, is not provoked to anger, thinketh no evil, rejoiceth not in iniquity, but rejoiceth with the truth; beareth all things, believeth all things, endureth all things. Charity never falleth away; whether prophecies shall be made void, or tonques shall cease, or knowledge shall be destroyed. For we know in part, and we prophesy in part. But when that which is perfect is come, that which is in part, shall be done away. When I was a child, I spoke as a child, I understood as a child, I thought as a child. But when I became man, I put away the things of a child. We see now through a glass in a dark manner; but then face to face. Now I know in part; but then I shall know even as I am known. And now there remain faith, hope and charity, these three; but the greatest of these is charity.