This may seem odd to you at first – but it strikes me that our spiritual life resembles (in some ways and to a certain degree) the life cycle of a … butterfly. Let’s go through the stages.
First, a butterfly starts its life as a tiny, barely visible egg. Then, when it hatches, you’ll see a larva, which sounds much better to my ears as a caterpillar… All caterpillars do is… eat. And it basically eats the leaf it was born onto. Now, an important thing, so I’ll quote it in full: “When a caterpillar is born, they are extremely small. When they start eating, they instantly start growing and expanding. Their exoskeleton (skin) does not stretch or grow, so they grow by “molting” (shedding the outgrown skin) several times while it grows.” [About butterflies]
When finished growing, a caterpillar will turn into a pupa, also known as chrysalis, and that beautiful second name means: “a sheltered state or stage of being or growth” according to Merriam-Webster Dictionary.
And I’ll quote another interesting part: “From the outside of the pupa, it looks as if the caterpillar may just be resting, but the inside is where all of the action is. Inside of the pupa, the caterpillar is rapidly changing.” [About butterflies]
Finally, a moment we are all waiting for! The caterpillar is gone, the chrysalis is no longer needed, and a beautiful butterfly emerges, and in a couple of hours, it starts flying and looking for a mate to reproduce.
In spiritual life we do not have eggs, but we do have seeds of faith. They are also very small – Jesus said they are as tiny as the mustard seed. But what grows out of them, if it grows, is astounding in its size. If you imagine someone who converts, because the tiny seed finally took root and started growing, or even better, if it resembles your own case, remember how zealous you were at first. How HUNGRY for spiritual food. And sadly, sometimes you were undiscerning about it, because that takes some times too. Still, you grew and grew, (also in discernment). Such a caterpillar-stage may be very long. We are not like animals when it comes to spiritual life – sometimes, unfortunately, we forget to eat and drink and we stop growing, and start shrinking. Some even die in the reverse process (spiritually, that is).
Eating and drinking refers mostly to the Holy Communion, but nourishment for the soul comes in various ways – prayer being of the utmost importance and a sine qua non of spiritual growth. There is also spiritual reading, getting rid of old nasty habits, working on virtues – all this obviously means a cooperation with God’s grace. None of it can we do just by ourselves. As Saint Paul says: “The one who remains in Me, and I in him, will bear much fruit. For apart from Me you can do nothing.” (John 15:6) And here: “For it is God who works in you to will and to act on behalf of His good purpose.” (Philippians 2:13)
If you remember what happens to the caterpillar while growing – set it side by side with our trying to “do in” our old man in ourselves. In many ways, we are made new by conversion (but if we were baptized as babies, that happened then, too), but we are made new after each sincere confession, after each new conversion experience – we keep shedding the [inside] “skin” – our old selves. More and more spiritual, less and less carnal – we leave behind the world, in a sense, and its worldly ways, we shun its society and reject its maxims (and by the world I mean the spirit of the world as our enemy, never other people as such). We stop committing mortal sins, venial sins are less frequent.
What happens all along, and is connected with food and growing, is doing God’s will. Here is what Jesus says about it: “My food,” said Jesus, “is to do the will of him who sent me and to finish his work.” (John 4:34) It starts early on, when we convert, for what else is prayer, mortification, spiritual reading, doing good works, battling demons and one’s own human spirit? But it has degrees of perfection. More about it in the next stage description.
The next stage does not come for everyone – but that’s not because God doesn’t want that! Many people remain caterpillars all their lives, those will most likely be purified in the purgatory before entering Heaven, and I suppose that’s the majority of us. However, everyone, with good, strong will, strengthened by grace most of all, but also by prayer and mortification, can enter the chrysalis state – when protected powerfully by God’s amazing grace – the caterpillar starts transforming into a butterfly. God’s holy butterfly – a saint. What needs to happen, and is always the astonishing, most beautiful work of God – is by perseverance of the soul (God’s grace, too, but we need to ask for it, which people forget about) in good, the soul not only wants to turn its back on the world, reject evil, and subdue its corrupt nature (which is nicely called by Father Frederick Faber – “taking it captive)”, but is increasingly focused on God Himself, on loving Him, and all else through and in Him. Such a person works towards the union with God. And God is absolutely eager for that union with souls.
However, for that union to be possible, and for the spiritual, beautiful butterfly to emerge from the shell, two things are necessary: perfect conformity to God’s will, and losing all attachments the soul has in this world. Not just to sin (that is required for plenary indulgences, for example), but to people, innocent pleasure, health, etc. Desert Fathers called that state apatheia, which means basically that one doesn’t want rather health than sickness, or riches than poverty (but, strangely for some, it goes both ways) – basically it’s an acceptance of whatever God wills for us. Not just acceptance, or surrender, but even a joyful acceptance – after all God loves us infinitely and wants only what is best for us. And then, a butterfly can fly…
A few more ideas – butterflies immediately want to reproduce – similarly, butterfly souls are extremely eager for salvation of souls – making new butterflies for God, planting seeds with God’s help. Also, they are not just beautiful, or soar into the sky – like a freed soul can soar high to God in fervent prayers, or an infused contemplation. Butterflies are also very many in kind, size and visual attractiveness. Some are huge, some small; some are incredibly beautiful and immediately attract attention, while some are so plain (because their beauty is hidden), you barely notice them. With saints and souls in general it is the same, just so much more – “each soul is a different world” like Saint Faustina said. The “attractive” ones (with butterflies on our mind) are those we can see acting in the world – like Saint Mother Theresa of Calcutta, or Saint John Paul II; while the ordinary ones, such as you see, and not really see – are those that are hidden in the monasteries, or their own private homes. Like Saint Faustina, Saint Therese of Lisieux, or Saint Joanna Beretta Molla. You look at them, here they are, just normal people you think… but in fact they are God’s butterflies, holy and free, closer to Heaven than to earth.
The attractiveness or size don’t matter however. Like with perfect souls, all butterflies are perfect in their own kind. All we need to be, to become, is as close an imitation of Jesus in us, as possible – and as everyone is unique, each perfect likeness will be unique as well.
Alphonsus de Liguori was born at Marianella, Italy, near Naples, on the 27th of Septemeber. He was a Catholic priest, then Bishop, a prolific spiritual writer and a theologian. He also founded the Redemptorists, which is an order that focuses on evangelizing. He was canonized in 1839 by Pope Gregory XVI and declared a Doctor of the Church in 1871, a well deserved title, for a number of reasons.
Alphonsus was an obedient and meek child, and his faults were but child’s faults. He was exceptionally intelligent and learnt very quickly. At first he pursued a career in law, and he took his Doctor of Laws degree as early as at the age of 16 (while it was customary to do that at 20). He was a very persuasive and well-read advocate, and so at 27 he was one of the leaders of the Neapolitan Bar – but it was then that he finally learnt that the world was not for him, when he lost an important case, and decided to focus on his salvation rather than a worldly career (which started to slowly pull him away from God).
“Banquets, entertainments, theatres,” he wrote later on–“these are the pleasures of the world, but pleasures which are filled with the bitterness of gall and sharp thorns. Believe me who have experienced it, and now weep over it.” In all this there was no serious sin, but there was no high sanctity either, and God, Who wished His servant to be a saint and a great saint, was now to make him take the road to Damascus. (after http://www.catholic-saints.net/saints/st-alphonsus-liguori.php)
In 1723, Alphonsus began his seminary studies in order to become a priest, much to his father’s regret, but still with his reluctant consent. He was ordained a priest in December 21, 1726. His first years of priesthood were spent “with the homeless and marginalized youth of Naples” (after https://liguorisociety.blogspot.com/2010/03/biography-of-saint-alphonsus-liguori.html), werehe founded the “Eveing Chapels” – centers of prayer and education, as well as social life for the youngsters. Already then his oratorical skills were observable as highly conducive to conversion. Later in life, not only as a preaching Redemptorist, but also as a spiritual writer, he would be recognized as one of the most influential people in faith life both of the religious and the laity.
“On November 9, 1732, St Alphonsus founded the Congregation of the Most Holy Redeemer, when Sister Maria Celeste Crostarosa told him that it had been revealed to her that he was the one God had chosen to found the Congregation.” The order was to preach and teach, especially the poor. (https://liguorisociety.blogspot.com/2010/03/biography-of-saint-alphonsus-liguori.html)
One their main goals was also fighting a heresy of Jansenism, that was taking Catholics away from the Eucharist.
Saint Alphonsus was very dedicated to the poor, the sick, and the ignorant. He accepted the nomination to bishop only out of obedience, but was naturally an excellent bishop to his people.
“He fed the poor, instructed the ignorant, reorganized his seminary, reformed his convents, created a new spirit in his clergy, banished scandalous noblemen and women of evil life with equal impartiality, brought the study of theology and especially of moral theology into honour, and all the time was begging pope after pope to let him resign his office because he was doing nothing for his diocese. To all his administrative work we must add his continual literary labours, his many hours of daily prayer, his terrible austerities, and a stress of illness which made his life a martyrdom.” (http://www.catholic-saints.net/saints/st-alphonsus-liguori.php)
“Alphonsus wrote 111 works on spirituality and theology. The 21,500 editions and the translations into 72 languages that his works have undergone attest to the fact that he is one of the most widely read Catholic authors. Among his best known works are The Great Means of Prayer, The Practice of the Love of Jesus Christ and “The Visits to the Most Holy Sacrament.” (https://liguorisociety.blogspot.com/2010/03/biography-of-saint-alphonsus-liguori.html)
His many books are full of excellent advice, based on Scripture, and frequently quoted Saints – as Saint Alphonsus had an admirable memory, and was very well-read. Very often he writes deep from the heart, making his texts quite emotional, though also simple and easy to understand for everyone, despite his obvious intellectual abilities.
The amount of written text is also reflected in any other works that his performed, and that is because Alphonsus made and kept a vow not to waste a single moment of time – being aware that all time belongs to God, and the time here is always limited – to do good works and gather riches for Heaven. Prayer and work, always clothed in great love towards God and his neighbors – that would describe his life quite well, but his life was rich – both in sufferings, miracles and tremendous amounts of all kinds of work – always for God.
“Alphonsus was of middle height”, says his first biographer, Tannoia; “his head was rather large, his hair black, and beard well-grown.” He had a pleasant smile, and his conversation was very agreeable, yet he had great dignity of manner. He was a born leader of men. His devotion to the Blessed Sacrament and to Our Lady was extraordinary. He had a tender charity towards all who were in trouble; he would go to any length to try to save a vocation; he would expose himself to death to prevent sin.” (http://www.catholic-saints.net/saints/st-alphonsus-liguori.php)
As we know, there are no saints in Heaven who were not humble, and saint Alphonsus was famously so. To quote a longer passage:
“While the continual intensity of reiterated acts of virtue which we have called driving-power is what really creates sanctity, there is another indispensable quality. The extreme difficulty of the lifelong work of fashioning a saint consists precisely in this, that every act of virtue the saint performs goes to strengthen his character, that is, his will. On the other hand, ever since the Fall of Man, the will of man has been his greatest danger. It has a tendency at every moment to deflect, and if it does deflect from the right path, the greater the momentum the more terrible the final crash. Now the saint has a very great momentum indeed, and a spoiled saint is often a great villain.
To prevent the ship going to pieces on the rocks, it has need of a very responsive rudder, answering to the slightest pressure of Divine guidance. The rudder is humility, which, in the intellect, is a realization of our own unworthiness, and in the will, docility to right guidance. But how was Alphonsus to grow in this so necessary virtue when he was in authority nearly all his life? The answer is that God kept him humble by interior trials. From his earliest years he had an anxious fear about committing sin which passed at times into scruple.
He who ruled and directed others so wisely, had, where his own soul was concerned, to depend on obedience like a little child. To supplement this, God allowed him in the last years of his life to fall into disgrace with the pope, and to find himself deprived of all external authority, trembling at times even for his eternal salvation.”
This is still at best a very sketchy biographical note – I would advise to anyone who is interested in the lives of saints – his full biography, a book by Fr. Tannoia, available online for free: https://archive.org/details/TheLifeOfStAlphonsusLiguori
It is absolutely not surprising that Jesus, being the Son of God, one of the persons of the Holy Trinity, would go through life doing “everything well” (Mark 7:37): “You know what has happened throughout the province of Judea, beginning in Galilee after the baptism that John preached – how God anointed Jesus of Nazareth with the Holy Spirit and power, and how he went around doing good and healing all who were under the power of the devil, because God was with him.” (Acts 10:37-38) All we know about God points to His unparalleled goodness, mercy and wisdom, His infinite love for us and his most astounding humility in coming down to Earth as mere man to help us, serve us, die for us, and become our food till the end of times.
But have you ever wondered about how “doing everything well” is one of the many things we are asked to imitate when we want to follow Jesus? Well, there are the ten commandments – usually as the first steps for ascent, the simplest signposts on the way up to God – that we ought to obey, but once we sort of absorb that, and just live by those rules, there are the evangelical pieces of advice that are here and there, throughout the New Testament (and a lot of wisdom in the Old Testament as well, anyway) – such as “deny yourself” or “don’t flaunt your good deeds” or even simple “don’t worry – the day has enough of its worries” and so on – and we can, and should follow this advice as well.
Afterwards, there’s just the Hymn about Love in the First Corinthians 13 – that you could easily treat as a manual on how to live next – and it all comes down to love, as the most important, key commandment –“Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.” (John 13:34-35) Of course all the above is only possible when you humble yourself before God and before people…
The next steps, it seems to me, are all about growing in love and humility. It is a process that can only end with death of the body, and then your love becomes full, complete and perfect in Heaven. But before that happens there’s TIME to grow. And it strikes me that all time is God’s time – He created it, as He created us. Jesus said to Saint Faustina, that all creatures do His will willingly or not – and since we are perfectly aware that God never wills sin, it can only mean that He allows it – but still, if there’d be anything anywhere God wouldn’t want to happen, He just wouldn’t allow it. For plenty of people this presents a serious problem – the problem of evil and suffering – but since this is not my subject here, and there is a lot of books, articles and teachings (Catechism included) on the subject, I only want to focus on that TIME question, as I find it worth pondering.
So – what time’s got to do with all this? Everything… Memento mori – rings a bell? It was very popular in Middle Ages, but is not a new invention – it’s at least 2000 years old – Jesus said Himself, that we need to be vigilant, because we never know when we’d die. You have to prepare yourself – like the maidens with (or without) oil and the lamps; or like the man who gathered riches for himself and God would call him a fool, because he would die that day. All time is God’s time – and His timing is His own. Saint Alphonsus di Liguori wrote many excellent books – one of which is Preparation for death – it’s one of the few books that were in possession of Saint Charbel. It’s absolutely worth reading (like all his other works I dare say).
Preparing for death however, doesn’t mean getting ready for one’s own burial (although nobody says a thing against that) or saying hasty goodbyes to all the loved ones etc; it’s not just doing the yet unfinished business – though that may be good (practical) as well. Preparation for death means getting ready to meet the Lord. For people who already try to follow Jesus this has a larger dimension than just dying in sanctifying grace, without the mortal sin on your conscience, which is absolutely great and necessary for salvation (although God calls to souls at the very moment of death too, and you can always beg for God’s mercy – and receive it, because God is always good). However, people who really love Jesus want to come to Him as pure as possible, carrying as it were many souls with them – in their hearts and prayers.
And for that one moment in future when you will come to meet the Lord, you want and need to grow in love and humility as much as possible – and waste no time. Because in this life there is time that you can use well or badly – there’s no neutral ground in the spiritual world. Saint Augustine said that you either go forward or backwards, there’s no standing still. It’s always a journey. Every minute counts. Whether it is a contemplative life in a monastery or active life in the world, or a mixture of both – but all with love for God and in service of God – all that is precious in the eyes of the Lord. We should all try to live a life in such a way that we’d get closest to the ideal: “He has done all things well” – much as it is rarely happening for a human being to be all of his or her life good – like in case of Jesus and Mary (and perhaps a handful of saints); it still is best to try as hard as we can, not to waste a single moment to just get a little closer to Jesus, to know Him a bit more – every day, without pause. Because all time is God’s time, and that time should be love-filled.
The beatification of Cardinal Stefan Wyszynski, the Primate of Poland, will take place on the 7th of June, 2020 in Warsaw. Cardinal Wyszynski died on the 28th of May, 1981. Both during his life and after his death, he was considered holy, by a great number of people. His beatification process started eight years after his death, in Warsaw.
Stefan Wyszynski was born on the 3rd of August, 1901 in Zuzela nad Bugiem (a little village over the river Bug). He graduated from a seminar in Włocławek and there, on his very birthday, he was ordained a priest. He later studied in Catholic University of Lublin, in Canon Law and Social Studies Department and there received his PhD degree. He then travelled in western Europe and came back to become a professor of social sciences in Włocławek. He was simultaneously very active in ministering to the workers in the city.
After he survived war. he started to rebuild a destroyed clerical seminar in Włocławek, and in 1945 he became its rector. A year later, professor Stefan Wyszynski was appointed bishop by Pope Pius XII and only two years later ,after the then Primate of Poland, August Hlond died, he himself was appointed Archbishop of Gniezno and Warsaw, and the Primate of Poland.
And so his crusade against communist regime began. In 1953, on the 12 of January, Stefan Wyszynski became cardinal. He was arrested and interned eight months later and spent three years in prison. Despite the antireligious and anti-Christian state authorities, the Primate lived a holy life, loving his neighbors, excluding nobody – said Fr. Gabriel Bartoszewski, OFM Cap, vice-postulator in the beatification process of the cardinal. The primate wrote in his “Prison Notes” – “I forgive my enemies everything, those that are close, those that are far away and think they can do anything.”
The Cardinal loved God, and Our Lady, and he looked at reality through the lenses of faith. He defended the faith many times, talking frequently with the communist officials, those at the lowest, and at the highest levels. He even talked to Gomułka for several hours, a couple of times.
Towards the end of his imprisonment he wrote the renewed Vows of the Nation, that were then pronounced at Jasna Góra, 26th of August, 1956. In years 1957-65 he led the Great Novenna before the Thousandth Anniversary of the Baptism of Poland. It was during that time the communist secret service arrested… the picture of Our Lady of Częstochowa. In 1964, due to his request, Virgin Mary was declared the Mother of the Church by the Holy Father.
In 1978, John Paul the Second said to him that he wouldn’t have become the Pope if it hadn’t been for the Primate’s faith that cared nothing for imprisonment and suffering, his heroic hope, his trust in the Mother Church and Jasna Góra connected to the Cardinal’s service as bishop and Primate. Cardinal Wyszynski’s picture was always there in JP II’s private apartment.
According to cardinal Nycz, there are three pillars of Cardinal Wyszynski’s teachings: motherland, the Church and the Virgin Mary. He also strongly supported family, seeing it as having a key role in transmitting faith to next generations.
Naturally, all the merits of the Cardinal are plenty and significant, but more importantly, the Primate was a man of heroic virtues, united with Christ in His Church and definitely worth remembering, studying and in his love of God, worth imitating.
[Written basically after: https://ekai.pl/zycie-i-droga-na-oltarze-kard-wyszynskiego/]
Below are a few quotes from Cardinal Stefan Wyszynski:
“The spirit of darkness is a spirit of anxiety. He doesn’t always strive to lead us to sin directly. He often knows that he can’t achieve it, because God’s grace is sufficiently strong in us. Then he at least sows anxiety, causing a hundred of difficulties and doubts, that are significantly sublime in character, and the theme is almost sacred and religious. Often it is even the result of the concern for the Christ’s Church and God’s Kingdom, and being almost afraid that God Himself may not have enough strength to save Himself and stay in the world. Then we are afraid for everyone and everything.” (From meditations on “Our Father” prayer)
“Each love must be tried and tested. But if it perseveres, it will be rewarded – a triumphant joy. Each true love must have its own Good Friday… So if we love truly, let’s persevere faithfully, like Mary with the women on Calvary, and let’s trust! The Good Friday will end, and the Holy Saturday will follow, and then the triumph of the Easter Day!” (Warsaw, 28 March, 1965)
“(…) blessed is the man who is dissatisfied with himself, because it’s a starting point.” (Warsaw, 25.09.1953, a homily in St. Anne’s Church
“You are the salt of the earth. But if the salt loses its saltiness, how can it be made salty again? It is no longer good for anything, except to be thrown out and trampled underfoot.” (Matthew 5:13)
In the usual context, the salt represents here the true disciples of Jesus. Such disciples that don’t distort the moral teachings, don’t hide their faith in the closet when leaving home to meet the world outside, and are thus like the salt in the wounds for all those people whose souls are hurt by their sins.
There’s, as always with the Word of God, so much more to this – like the colors – the salt is white, it’s polar opposite being black. What comes to my mind is pepper which is black. However, the colors here correspond to the light versus dark analogy found often in the Gospels:
“For a little while longer, the Light will be among you. Walk while you have the Light, so that darkness will not overtake you. The one who walks in the darkness does not know where he is going. While you have the Light, believe in the Light, so that you may become sons of light.” (John 12: 35-36) And in another place: “This is the verdict: Light has come into the world, but people loved darkness instead of light because their deeds were evil. Everyone who does evil hates the light, and will not come into the light for fear that their deeds will be exposed. But whoever lives by the truth comes into the light, so that it may be seen plainly that what they have done has been done in the sight of God.” (John 3:19-21)
The division is now clear enough, no need to explain that. Yet, what becomes apparent is that it doesn’t look like that in the world – not if you think of observable light and darkness. Just think – what happens when there’s light, and then all the lights go out one by one? It gradually becomes dark – there’s some grayness in between, some feeble light. Or the other way, if in a dark room you start lighting the candles, and then lamps, one by one, then it becomes very bright, but it’s gradual too. Surely, you can just suddenly turn on a lot of lights, or just turn them off simultaneously. That makes one think perhaps of souls that are converted, journeying home, Heavenward, becoming brighter with each step towards God, with each heartfelt prayer, and especially with each confession and Holy Communion. And so the world is becoming either a darker, or a brighter place. Only in Heaven and Hell the opposites are total and eternal.
But before the Last Coming of the Lord in Glory, here we are, in some seemingly grey area – but is it? – to me it’s more like salt and pepper. And that’s because God let the sun shine on both the saints and the sinners… Thus we have salt-white Christians (not many of them great saints, but hopefully more than we think), and pepper-dark unbelievers, whose hearts are hardened, and whose eyes and ears are closed to God. And with this mix, in each little community, or a society, or a whole nation, and then the whole world, you can still perceive the difference – between the individual grains of salt and pepper – it doesn’t become all gray (unless seen, perhaps, from a very great distance). God sees the difference very clearly. And then one can perhaps better understand how the salt, perhaps salty from tears and suffering sometimes, but mostly something that improves the quality of food (life) is like the light that you become in the world – which is swallowed by darkness. The stronger the faith, the greater the holiness, the larger, more darkness-repelling beacon of light becomes that can show the Way, the Truth, and then lead to the Life.
We are this salt and pepper humanity, like the wheat and the weeds in the parable – they are allowed to grow together until the harvest day (Matthew 13:26). Let’s hope and pray that there will be more salt and light as the time progresses. And that the priests we are praying for will become such beacons of light guiding us all like the lighthouses guide ships at night in the storm so that they might reach the harbor safely.
Christmas is coming. Many people, not only atheists, celebrate Christmas without… Christ. As if that was only family, presents-giving, “magical” time. But not for us Catholics, or many non-Catholic Christians. For us it is the time to remember that the unthinkable happened. And it happened because God loves us infinitely.
Let’s do a mental exercise. Imagine, as well as you can, impossible as it is, but let’s not be so soon discouraged – a great, vast expanse of the Universe. Then even some more of it, and then make a mental point number one: God is greater than that. Afterwards, think of time – the time passed, the time being, the time to be, how it is indispensable to us humans, how we cannot really normally function and think outside of it, and make a mental point number two – God is outside of time, and He created it. Not just time, but space as well. Now, impossible as it is for a human brain – try to somehow comprehend the idea of infinity – precisely as the infinity of God, and His attributes. The more you delve into this mental experiment, the more it becomes “painful” for the brain – there’s no scope, no scale, no tertium comparationis. If you do this “exercise” well, your mind “stops” – sort of. Somehow or other we try to limit God in order to grasp it all. And that’s the wrong approach…
Jesus said: “No one knows the Son except the Father, and no one knows the Father except the Son and those to whom the Son chooses to reveal him.” (Matthew 11:27) There’s just too much to ever know all of God – and only the Holy Persons of the Trinity are able to know each other in depth and truly understand one another. But here’s the most beautiful twist to the Salvation History – “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life” (John 3:16) That’s the GOOD NEWS. And that’s not all – much as that is (and it’s everything!) – Mother Angelica liked to say that she was thankful for each day of her life, because every day she could learn something new about God. And that to know God, was to love Him. And to know Him more, was to love Him more. Aren’t we commanded to love God above all with all our strength? Yes, we are – thus it is good to be able to get to know God more and more.
The unthinkable, unspeakable greatness and infinity of God’s glory and His love became observable in a human body: Jesus of Nazareth. We can and do learn a lot about God from the Old Testament – but we only understand it well when we apply a key to its meaning – that is Jesus Christ, the Messiah. Jesus from the Gospels, is a Man from inside of time and space, having a mother (the Mother) and a father (St. Joseph to people at first, Jesus’ legal guardian, His protector and in some ways, a teacher) but, as nobody else in history – the Father, that is the Heavenly Father. Jesus would be a child, sometimes he’d be hungry and cold, sometimes, joyful and happy, then He’d grow in the Spirit and at the God-appointed time He would start the public ministry and teaching. We know what He said, did, and sometimes felt. The good moments (like finding somebody with great faith) and the bad – like in Gethsemane – they all show us our God – because whosoever sees the Son, sees the Father (John 14:9), and “because whatever the Father does the Son also does.” (John 5:19)
Jesus taught us everything there is to know about Himself, but He also did it in such a way, that in hundreds and perhaps thousands of years we still uncover all of the wonderful meanings of it – all the shades of love, and life, and truth that there are. And some mystics were shown and given to understand more in a moment of infused contemplation. What they always would say – when they were brought to their usual human limited senses – would be that there are no words to describe it adequately. It’s beyond human capacity. Very much like Saint Paul says about Heaven: “What no eye has seen, what no ear has heard, and what no human mind has conceived” (1 Corinthians 2:9)
What and incredible blessing therefore it is for us to have some taste of it in Jesus Christ! The immense and immeasurable love God has for us, and shows us in the Incarnation itself. We do realize that it is even more evident in Christ’s Passion and Crucifixion – but now is the time to focus (without forgetting how the story “ends”) on the Infant Jesus – on the fact that He, GOD, the eternal I AM – in a gesture of amazing humility and love and mercy – became one of us.
“The Church is fortunate that Irenaeus was involved in many of its controversies in the second century. He was a student, well trained no doubt, with great patience in investigating, tremendously protective of apostolic teaching, but prompted more by a desire to win over his opponents than to prove them in error.” (https://www.franciscanmedia.org/saint-irenaeus/)
Saint Irenaeus was a bishop of Lyons, a spiritual grandson of John the Apostle, the spiritual son of Saint Polycarp. He was one of the Fathers of the Church, and is mostly remembered for his writings Against Heresies, that were directed against the false teachings of the Gnostics (claiming they had some special revelation directly from Jesus, that nobody else had) and the books were indeed successful in defeating the heresy that was menacing the Catholic faith.
We do not know for certain when St. Irenaeus died, but it most likely in the year 202. His remains were buried under the altar in the church of St. John, in the crypt, but unfortunately his tomb was later destroyed by the Calvinists in 1562, and no relics could be found. (after https://www.catholic.org/saints/saint.php?saint_id=291)
As his name means “peaceful”, coming from the Greek name Ειρηναιος (Eirenaios), it is no surprise that known more to be willing to unite than conquer and divide, Saint Irenaeus would inspire the following reflection:
“A deep and genuine concern for other people will remind us that the discovery of truth is not to be a victory for some and a defeat for others. Unless all can claim a share in that victory, truth itself will continue to be rejected by the losers, because it will be regarded as inseparable from the yoke of defeat. And so, confrontation, controversy and the like might yield to a genuine united search for God’s truth and how it can best be served.” (https://www.franciscanmedia.org/saint-irenaeus/)