Thursday, February 25, 2010

THE EUCHARIST AS SACRIFICE

THE EUCHARIST AS SACRIFICE 
- THE SOURCE AND SUMMIT OF THE CHURCH IN INDIA

by Fr. Bryan Lobo, S.J.


(Fr Bryan Lobo s.j with Pope Benedict XVI)

INTRODUCTION
I am writing this paper as an Indian Catholic Theologian. I shall therefore present the convictions and beliefs of the Catholic Church on the Eucharist, in the light of the Synod of Bishops that was recently held on the Eucharist and which was called, “THE EUCHARIST: SOURCE AND SUMMIT OF THE LIFE AND MISSION OF THE CHURCH”, bearing in mind my Indianness. Among the many important themes emerging from the Instrumentum Laboris[1] and from the 50 Propositions[2], I have chosen SACRIFICE as the Eucharistic theme for my paper. This theme I find extremely important for the Indian Church because of its intimate connection to the Indian religious psyche[3].

THE EUCHARIST AS SACRIFICE
The OT is replete with instances of sacrifices offered to God. Animals, birds and crops were offered to God for various intentions; for worship (Gen 4: 2-5), for atonement of sin (Heb 9:22), to seal a covenant (Exod 24: 4-8) and to strengthen the bond between God and the devotees. In this way sacrifice became a means to relate to God for personal and communitarian salvation[4]. 

There were also moments in the life of the Israelite community when animal sacrifices became abominable to God especially when offered by devotees who never bothered to do the will of God in their personal and social lives and took the cover of sacrifices to appease God and assure salvation for themselves. This attitude led to cultic ritualism which was heavily criticised by prophets especially Isaiah, Hosea and Amos (Isa 1:2-31; Hos 6:6; Amos 5:21-24). Outward sacrifices could therefore not be an excuse for inner disobedience. Sacrifices to God had to be pure in both ways interior and exterior. Only then would it be pleasing to God and assure one the salvation that one sought. 

The sacrifice of Jesus was seen as transcending the sacrifices of the OT. In the OT the sacrifices were repeated but the sacrifice of Jesus was once and for all (Heb 10:1-10). The OT sacrifices were animal sacrifices but the sacrifice of Jesus was of himself; a self-offering. The benefit of the OT sacrifices also included the priest but the sacrifice of Jesus benefited him in no way; it was for the salvation of others. The salvific motif is later seen by the Apostles as the underlying motif of Jesus’ death. 

What makes the Apostles see this motif in the death of Jesus? 
It was the Last Supper. At the Last Supper Jesus celebrates the Passover meal with his disciples, giving his own interpretation of that meal. Jesus was placing himself as the Passover lamb who had to be sacrificed for the salvation of all[5]. In 1Cor 5: 6-7, Paul alludes to the Passover feast calling Christ the Paschal lamb that was sacrificed. Jesus understands this sacrifice not only as a one way process from God to humans but also vice versa because he makes us participate in that sacrifice by asking his Apostles (and the future Church that would come into existence), to eat the bread and drink the wine as though they were his body and blood (Mk 14: 22-25; Mt 26: 26-29; Lk 22: 14-23; 1Cor 11: 23-26). 

In this way Jesus makes the future Church (the people of the new Covenant), participate in his sacrifice of redemption. It is this participation that brings salvation and wholeness to the participants. This motif of sacrifice became central to the Eucharist especially during the times of the persecutions of the early Christians. The self-sacrifice of Martyrs, right from the first Pope, Peter, down through the centuries, was and is venerated by a kiss of the altar (the centre of which is supposed to contain the remains of the Martyrs), by the main Celebrant (and Concelebrants) of the Eucharist. The Fathers of the Church, living in varied contexts, gave different perspectives to this sacrificial motif of the mass. 

We know the famous words of St. Ignatius of Antioch (? – 107 AD), “I am the wheat of God, when I am ground may I be found pure bread”(Rom 4).[6] Eusebio of Caesarea (365 – 440 AD) calls the Eucharist the fulfilment of the past prophecies, as a sacrifice offered in a new way according to the law of the New Covenant (Dem. Ev. I. 10).[7] Gregory I (540 – 640 AD) Pope and Doctor of the Church gave a lot of importance to the Eucharist as sacrifice. The sacrificial vocabulary – sacrificium, oblatio, immolatio, victima, hostia, etc were words extensively used by him. 

According to him the passion of Christ is mystically imitated in the Eucharist because the sacrifice of Christ is made present at every Eucharist celebrated by the Priest (Dialogue IV, 58: PL 77, 425).[8] We could go on giving examples on how the Fathers of Church laid prime importance on the sacrificial aspect of the Eucharist but for the lack of time we have to move on. After Martin Luther’s (1483 – 1546) attack on the sacrificial aspect of the Eucharist,[9] many other Catholic theologians like Thomas Cranmer (1486-1556), Robert Bellarmino (1542-1621), and others wrote in defence of the sacrifice of the Eucharist[10]. The Council of Trent (1545) finally upheld the mass as making present the sacrifice of the Cross. It said, “It is one and the same victim here offering himself by the ministry of his priests, who then offered himself on the Cross; it is only the manner of offering that is different” (DS 1743)[11] 

The Second Vatican Ecumenical Council (1962-1965), which opened the doors of the Church to a great renewal, did not allow this sacrificial aspect to loose its significance in the Eucharist. It says, “… our Saviour instituted the Eucharistic Sacrifice of his body and blood … in order to perpetuate the sacrifice of the Cross throughout the ages, until he should come again” (Sacrosanctum Concilium 47). It also sees the faithful as participating in the Eucharistic sacrifice and along with the divine victim offer themselves to God (Lumen Gentium 11). The Church therefore sees the mass as the inseparable sacrificial memorial in which the sacrifice of the Cross is perpetuated (Catechism of the Catholic Church 1382). 

Keeping this whole tradition in mind, the late Pope John Paul II in his Encyclical Ecclesia de Eucharistia, exhorts his faithful to see the sacrifice of Christ as intrinsically connected to the Eucharist. I would like to quote him in full: “The sacrificial nature of the Eucharistic mystery cannot therefore be understood as something separate, independent of the Cross or only indirectly referring to the sacrifice of Calvary.By virtue of its close relationship to the sacrifice of Golgotha, the Eucharist is a sacrifice in the strict sense, and not only in a general way, as if it were simply a matter of Christ’s offering himself to the faithful as their spiritual food” (12 – 13).By now it has become clear that the sacrificial aspect is the sine qua non of the Church’s understanding of the Eucharist. Without this aspect any conception of the Eucharist would be incomplete. Secondly it is taken for granted that Christ’s sacrifice is a means for the salvation of all. This is what makes the Eucharist a means to salvation for all.

SACRIFICE IN HINDUISM
I had mentioned earlier that sacrifice is intimately connected to the Indian psyche. With all the varied religions and their inner dynamics and conflicts in India, Hinduism plays an important role in shaping the psyche of the Indians. The concept of sacrifice is central to Hinduism. Yajna, Tyaga, Tapas, and Bali are words and concepts intrinsically connected to sacrifice. 

In Hindu Cosmogony creation itself is seen as the self sacrifice of the primordial Person who is God. The primordial Person is Purusha (a word that means also ‘man’). We find this idea in the Purusha-Sukta, one of the latest hymns of the Rigveda.[12] This hymn describes a mysterious ancient sacrifice which led to the division of the primordial Purusha from which emerged the different parts of creation[13]. Here two points have to be noted that Cosmos comes into being through the Anthropos (a;nqrwpoj) namely that man (primordial Man who is also considered as Supreme Being), is responsible for the creation of the universe. Secondly it is His sacrifice that brings the universe into existence.[14] Sacrifice therefore becomes the foundation of life itself. When life gets corrupted and looses its inner harmony or rta, sacrifice is performed called Yajna to bring back the cosmos into harmony. Yajna is the re-presentation[15] of the primordial sacrifice of the Purusha. Sacrifice is therefore intimately connected to Wholeness. If wholeness is possible at the cosmological level then it should be a reality at the personal level too. 

This makes individuals do tapas, tyaga, and other personal sacrifices for personal wholeness. The persons who attain wholeness are called Yogis, sants or saints etc. These saints in turn work for the welfare of the people and the society (lokasamgraha). We therefore see that personal and cosmic wholeness are the obligatory goals of sacrifice in Hinduism[16]. At this point one is struck at the vision of Hinduism in terms of sacrifice which so much coincides to the vision of sacrifice in the Eucharist although the differences cannot be overlooked. What remains to be shown is how the Eucharist as sacrifice differs from the vision of sacrifice in Hinduism, at the same time how it upholds and completes the central desire of that vision, becoming in the process, the source and summit of the Church in India.


THE EUCHARIST AS SACRIFICE: THE SOURCE AND SUMMIT OF THE CHURCH IN INDIA
The Purusha Sukta is a myth. The idea of God sacrificing Himself for Cosmic creation or Cosmic wholeness is not realised for the Hindu (Indian) consciousness in an Historical context. One may be even tempted to think that such realizations can only be imagined or construed by one’s theocentric or theistic convictions and may be historically impossible. Well the impossible has become possible in Jesus Christ. God became man in Jesus to reconcile the whole world to Himself. The body and blood of Jesus, who is God historically and really, sacrificed on the altar of the earth on the specific hill of Calvary, has restored wholeness to the Cosmos. It was Theos (qeo.j) becoming Anthropos (a;nqrwpoj) to be sacrificed for the wholeness of the World. 

The Hindu desire expressed in the Purusha Sukta, becomes an Historical reality in Jesus Christ. It gets completed in Jesus Christ. The sacrifice of Jesus Christ is not seen as the Cause of creation as one finds the sacrifice of the Purusha in the Purusha Sukta but of Second Creation (a term used by many theologians today), of Restoration and Redemption. This sacrifice, although it accomplished the work of redemption once and for all, always remains as an offer to humanity for its own wholeness. The person who accepts this offer and participates in this sacrifice by eating the body and drinking the blood of Christ regains health and is made whole and redeemed. How is the presence of the Catholic Church looked at today in India? The presence of the Catholic Church is looked at as leaven in the bread of India. The Catholic Church is helping India to move unitedly to the goal of Dev Rajya, or as many Hindus call it, the Ram Rajya, which we Catholics call the Kingdom of God.[17] 

The Eucharist is the source and summit of the Kingdom of God because the Kingdom of God is realized in the Paschal mystery of Jesus Christ. The Paschal mystery is relived at the Eucharist. It is made present fully and really at the Eucharist. Cardinal Martini very well states, “The Eucharist is, … the Kingdom which is to come; it is a synthesis and a making-present of the Kingdom, and its goal is to be incarnated in those who are fed with the Eucharistic bread and wine, and who thus enter into Jesus’ own sentiments and actions”[18]. 
The Kingdom of God is that cosmic wholeness which the Hindu consciousness and for that matter the Indian consciousness seeks. 

The Eucharist is that moment where the personal and cosmic wholeness is realized. One has to look at this realization with the eyes of faith. Without the eyes of faith the Eucharist may seem a simple ritual where the bread and wine are seen as just symbols of the body and blood of Jesus Christ. This is one of the greatest temptations of the Church in the Indian context. The Eucharist is seen just as a memorial meal where people of all faiths can participate and the bread and wine are simply given to the people as food of the celebration. Such a reductive comprehension of the Eucharist means that we have not understood the reality of the Eucharist at all. It could also mean that the Church through its pastors has failed in providing the proper catechesis required to approach the Eucharist with awe, wonder and faith. 

In Ecclesia de Eucharistia, Pope John Paul II says, “At times one encounters an extremely reductive understanding of the Eucharistic mystery. Stripped of its sacrificial meaning, it is celebrated as if it were simply a fraternal banquet” (10). The Eucharist is not just a ritual or a banquet, but “the sacrament of the sacrifice of Christ done once and for all on behalf of all of us” (The Lime Document 8).[19] In this way the Eucharist cannot be fully understood. It is a mystery whose meaning can never be comprehended but could be deepened in different times and contexts. Cardinal Martini says that the “Eucharist defies human understanding and defies our ability to completely capture its meaning. Pope John Paul II in his letter Mane nobiscum Domine,[20] says, “We are constantly tempted to reduce the Eucharist to our own dimensions, while in reality it is we who must open ourselves up to the dimensions of the Mystery” (14). In Ecclesia de Eucharastia 10, he says, “The Eucharist is too great a gift to tolerate ambiguity and depreciation”. All this goes to say that anyone approaching the Eucharist would be denigrating it if he does not approach it with faith, wonder, respect and love for Jesus in his heart. 

After the consecration, the gifts of bread and wine become really and fully Jesus’ body and blood. It is this belief and conviction that procures for us the salvation of the sacrifice of Jesus represented in the Eucharist. It is because of this requirement that the sacrament of baptism, the catechesis leading to the first holy communion and confession, are preparations presupposed before receiving God in holy communion. The Eucharist is the microcosm of the Kingdom of God. It contains the Kingdom of God in its womb. The salvation sought by the world is so to speak contained in the Eucharist because the Eucharist ‘re-presents’ the salvific activity of the Paschal Mystery of Jesus Christ. On the other hand since the presence of the Catholic Church in India is to help it reach the Kingdom of God, the Eucharist ipso facto becomes the source and summit of the Church in India. All the social, educational, medical and pastoral work done in India by the Indian Church is not just labour but a great sacrifice done by the religious, clergy, missionaries and the Christian people. 

This is the daily martyrdom of the Church in India the source of which, is the sacrifice of Christ celebrated in the Eucharist. As Johannes Betz says: “Christ’s sacrifice is not to be understood primarily in terms of ritual sacrifice, but in terms of martyrdom; it is a person’s total offering of self”.[21] The source of this is the Eucharist. At the same time the Indian Church is helping India in its growth towards the Kingdom of God which is already present in the sacrifice of the Eucharist. In this way the Eucharist as sacrifice becomes the source and summit of the Church in India.

CONCLUSION
In all the preparatory documents of the Synod of Bishops on the Eucharist, especially in the letter of Pope John Paul II, “Mane nobiscum Domine” and his document “Ecclesia de Eucharastia”, one finds great importance given to the sacrificial aspect of the Eucharist. 

The 10th proposition in the Relatio Post Disceptationem[22] makes it explicit that this sacrificial aspect needs to be deepened and its truth taught with greater emphasis. 

The 37th point of the Instrumentum Laboris,[23] makes it clear, that the Eucharist makes present the sacrifice of the Lord without adding to it or multiplying it. Even in the ‘Message’ given after the Synod we find the desire of the Synod to celebrate the Eucharist as a Holy Sacrifice to “announce the salvation of the World” (7).

[24] Finding this theme as important to the Indian context I tried to show how this aspect of the Eucharist fulfils the desire of the Indian psyche for salvation and wholeness both at the personal and the Cosmic level.

[25] In this way the Eucharist gives meaning and mission to the Indian Church because the presence of the Church in India is to offer salvation, which is symbolised in the Kingdom of God, to the people with whom it comes into contact. In this way the Eucharist becomes the source and summit of the Indian Church.






[1] This document was called the “working document” of the synod fathers.
[2] The 50 propositions was a list of various themes that emerged from the discussions to help the Magisterium prepare the final document which is still to be published.
[3] When I say “Indian”, I primarily mean the Hindu religious psyche.
[4] Here ‘salvation’ must be understood not just in an other-worldly way but also in a this-worldly way of health, happiness and prosperity.
[5] For a systematic, in-depth and scholarly account of this aspect of the Last Supper, see, Joachim Jeremias, The Eucharistic words of Jesus (New York: Charles Scribner’s Sons, 1964), pp. 218-237.
[6] Goffredo Boselli, “Notizie Eucaristiche Antichità”, in Eucharistia: Enciclopedia dell’Eucaristia, sotto la direzione di Maurice Brouard, (Bologna: EDB, 2004), p. 885.
[7] Ibid., p. 886.
[8] Mary Shaefer, “Notizie Eucaristiche Medioevo”, in Brouard, op.cit., p. 891.
[9] Here again due to the lack of time, we cannot go into the nuances of Luther’s argument against the Eucharist as sacrifice.
[10] André Haquin, “Notizie Eucaristiche Epoca Moderna”, in Brouard, op.cit., p.897. Here mention could be made of the books Thomas Cranmer and Roberto Bellarmino wrote against the Reformers. Cranmer wrote a book, In defence of the true and Catholic doctrine of the sacrifice of the Eucharist, cited in, Brouard, op.cit., p. 897. Bellarmino wrote a book, Disputationes de controversies christianae fidei adversus huius temporis haereticos, cited in, Brouard, op.cit., p.897.
[11] Cited in the English translation of the Encyclical Ecclesia de Eucharistia by Pope John Paul II (Pauline Publications, 2003), endnotes no. 16, p. 71. This edition will be used for the future references of the Encyclical. Here I would like to offer the reader the Latin original in full: “Una enim eademque est hostia, idem nunc offerens sacerdotum ministerio, qui se ipsum tunc in crude obtulit, sola offerendi ratione diversa”. (DS 1743).
[12] Arthur A. Macdonnell, A Vedic Reader for Students (Madras: Oxford University Press, 1976), p. 195. In Subhash Anand, Hindu Inspiration for Christian Reflection: Towards a Hindu-Christian Theology (Gujarat: GSP, 2004), p. 3.
[13] Cf., Anand, op.cit., p. 3.
[14] This aspect is very well stated and developed in the book of Anand, op.cit., I am very much indebted to this book for these ideas.
[15] Here the word ‘re-presentation’ should not be understood in a Christian way because the sacrifice of the Purusha was not an historical event.
[16] Due to the lack of time we have not gone in the detailed analysis of the concept of sacrifice in Hinduism.
[17] Although both the concepts of Ram Rajya and the Kingdom of God have many similarities, they are symbols that have emerged in different religious and cultural contexts so differences between them exist.
[18] Carlo Maria Cardinal Martini, from a talk given by Cardinal Martini in Rome on February 24, 2005. Translated by Fr. Murray Watson for Catholic Biblical Association Journal, Ontario Canada. I received this talk by email without mention of its source.
[19] In Ibid.,
[20] John Paul II, “Mane nobiscum Domine”, Apostolic letter to the episcopate, clergy and the faithful for the year of the Eucharist Oct. 2004 – Oct 2005 (Pauline Publication: 2005).
[21] Quoted in, J. Ratzinger (Pope Benedict XVI), “Is the Eucharist a Sacrifice”? Translated by John Drury, Concilium 3/1967, vol. 4, pp. 35-40.
[22] Synodus Episcoporum, XI Coetus Generalis Ordinarius, Eucharistia: Fons et Culmen Vitae et Missionis Ecclesiae, Relatio Post Disceptationem, editiones latina et italica (E Civitate Vaticana, MMV).
[23] Synod of Bishops, XI Ordinary General Assembly, The Eucharist: Source and Summit of the Life and Mission of the Church, Instrumentum Laboris. The English translation is available at the following internet site: http://www.vatican.va/roman_curia/synod/documents/rc_synod_doc_20050707_instrlabor-xi-assembly_en.html.
[24] Synodus Episcorum, XI Coetus Generalis Ordinarius, Eucharistia: Fons et Culmen Vitae et Missionis Ecclesiae, Nuntius, English translation (E Civitate Vaticana, 2005), p. 21.
[25] Here the reader could also refer to the 32nd Proposition which states the cosmological dimension of the Eucharist.

Sunday, February 21, 2010

Blessed Anne Catherine Emmerich - vision of HELL

A Detached Account of the Descent into Hell

WHEN Jesus, after uttering a loud cry, expired, I saw his heavenly soul under the form of a bright meteor pierce the earth at the foot of the Cross, accompanied by the angel Gabriel and many other angels. His Divine nature continued united to his soul as well as to his body, which still remained hanging upon the Cross, but I cannot explain how this was, although I saw it plainly in my own mind. The place into which the soul of Jesus entered was divided into three parts, which appeared to me like three worlds; and I felt that they were round, and that each division was separated from the other by a hemisphere.
    I beheld a bright and beautiful space opposite to Limbo; it was enamelled with flowers, delicious breezes wafted through it; and many souls were placed there before being admitted into Heaven after their deliverance from Purgatory. Limbo, the place where the souls were waiting for the Redemption, was divided into different compartments, and encompassed by a thick foggy atmosphere. Our Lord appeared radiant with light and surrounded by angels, who conducted him triumphantly between two of these compartments; the one on the left containing the patriarchs who lived before the time of Abraham, and that on the right those who lived between the days of Abraham and St. John Baptist. These souls did not at first recognise Jesus, but were filled nevertheless with sensations of joy and hope. There was not a spot in those narrow confines which did not, as it were, dilate with feelings of happiness. The passage of Jesus might be compared to the wafting of a breath of air, to a sudden flash of light, or to a shower of vivifying dew, but it was swift as a whirlwind. After passing through the two compartments, he reached a dark spot in which Adam and Eve were standing; he spoke to them, they prostrated and adored him in a perfect ecstasy of joy, and they immediately joined the band of angels, and accompanied our Lord to the compartment on the left, which contained the patriarchs who lived before Abraham. This compartment was a species of Purgatory, and a few evil spirits were wandering about among the souls and endeavouring to fill them with anxiety and alarm. The entrance through a species of door was closed, but the angels rapped, and I thought I heard them say, ‘Open these doors.’ When Jesus entered in triumph the demons dispersed, crying out at the same time, ‘What is there between thee and us? What art thou come to do here? Wilt thou crucify us likewise?’ The angels hunted them away, having first chained them. The poor souls confined in this place had only a slight presentiment and vague idea of the presence of Jesus; but the moment he told them that it was he himself, they burst out into acclamations of joy, and welcomed him with hymns of rapture and delight. The soul of our Lord then wended its way to the right, towards that part which really constituted Limbo; and there he met the soul of the good thief which angels were carrying to Abraham’s bosom, as also that of the bad thief being dragged by demons into Hell. Our Lord addressed a few words to both, and then entered Abraham’s bosom, accompanied by numerous angels and holy souls, and also by those demons who had been chained and expelled from the compartment.


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    This locality appeared to me more elevated than the surrounding parts; and I can only describe my sensations on entering it, by comparing them to those of a person coming suddenly into the interior of a church, after having been for some time in the burial vaults. The demons, who were strongly chained, were extremely loath to enter, and resisted to the utmost of their power, but the angels compelled them to go forward. All the just who had lived before the time of Christ were assembled there; the patriarch; Moses, the judges, and the kings on the left-hand side; and on the right side, the prophets, and the ancestors of our Lord, as also his near relations, such as Joachim, Anna, Joseph, Zacharias, Elizabeth, and John. There were no demons in this place, and the only discomfort that had been felt by those placed there was a longing desire for the accomplishment of the promise; and when our Lord entered they saluted him with joyful hymns of gratitude and thanksgiving for its fulfilment, they prostrated and adored him, and the evil spirits who had been dragged into Abraham’s bosom when our Lord entered were compelled to confess with shame that they were vanquished. Many of these holy souls were ordered by our Lord to return to the earth, re-enter their own bodies, and thus render a solemn and impressive testimony to the truth. It was at this moment that so many dead persons left their tombs in Jerusalem; I regarded them less in the light of dead persons risen again than as corpses put in motion by a divine power, and which, after having fulfilled the mission intrusted to them, were laid aside in the same manner as the insignia of office are taken off by a clerk when he has executed the orders of his superiors.

    I next saw our Lord, with his triumphant procession, enter into a species of Purgatory which was filled with those good pagans who, having had a faint glimmering of the truth, had longed for its fulfilment: this Purgatory was very deep, and contained a few demons, as also some of the idols of the pagans. I saw the demons compelled to confess the deception they had practised with regard to these idols, and the souls of the poor pagans cast themselves at the feet of Jesus, and adored him with inexpressible joy: here, likewise, the demons were bound with chains and dragged away. I saw our Saviour perform many other actions; but I suffered so intensely at the same time, that I cannot recount them as I should have wished.


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    Finally, I beheld him approach to the centre of the great abyss, that is to say, to Hell itself; and the expression of his countenance was most severe.
    The exterior of Hell was appalling and frightful; it was an immense, heavy-looking building, and the granite of which it was formed, although black, was of metallic brightness; and the dark and ponderous doors were secured with such terrible bolts that no one could behold them without trembling. Deep groans and cries of despair might be plainly distinguished even while the doors were tightly closed; but, 0, who can describe the dreadful yells and shrieks which burst upon the ear when the bolts were unfastened and the doors flung open; and, 0, who can depict the melancholy appearance of the inhabitants of this wretched place!


    The form under which the Heavenly Jerusalem is generally represented in my visions is that of a beautiful and well-regulated city, and the different degrees of glory to which the elect are raised are demonstrated by the magnificence of their palaces, or the wonderful fruit and flowers with which the gardens are embellished. Hell is shown to me under the same form, but all within it is, on the contrary, close, confused, and crowded; every object tends to fill the mind with sensations of pain and grief; the marks of the wrath and vengeance of God are visible everywhere; despair, like a vulture, gnaws every heart, and discord and misery reign around. In the Heavenly Jerusalem all is peace and eternal harmony, the beginning, fulfilment, and end of everything being pure and perfect happiness; the city is filled with splendid buildings, decorated in such a manner as to charm every eye and enrapture every sense; the inhabitants of this delightful abode are overflowing with rapture and exultation, the gardens gay with lovely flowers, and the trees covered with delicious fruits which give eternal life. In the city of Hell nothing is to be seen but dismal dungeons, dark caverns, frightful deserts, fetid swamps filled with every imaginable species of poisonous and disgusting reptile. In Heaven you behold the happiness and peaceful union of the saints; in Hell, perpetual scenes of wretched discord, and every species of sin and corruption, either under the most horrible forms imaginable, or represented by different kinds of dreadful torments. All in this dreary abode tends to fill the mind with horror; not a word of comfort is heard or a consoling idea admitted; the one tremendous thought, that the justice of an all-powerful God inflicts on the damned nothing but what they have fully deserved is the absorbing tremendous conviction which weighs down each heart. Vice appears in its own, grim disgusting colours, being stripped of the mask under which it is hidden in this world, and the infernal viper is seen devouring those who have cherished or fostered it here below. In a word, Hell is the temple of anguish and despair, while the kingdom of God is the temple of peace and happiness. This is easy to understand when seen; but it is almost impossible to describe clearly.




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    The tremendous explosion of oaths, curses, cries of despair, and frightful exclamations which, like a clap of thunder, burst forth when the gates of Hell were thrown open by the angels, would be difficult even to imagine; our Lord spoke first to the soul of Judas, and the angels then compelled all the demons to acknowledge and adore Jesus. They would have infinitely preferred the most frightful torments to such a humiliation; but all were obliged to submit. Many were chained down in a circle which was placed round other circles. In the centre of Hell I saw a dark and horrible-looking abyss, and into this Lucifer was cast, after being first strongly secured with chains; thick clouds of sulphurous black smoke arose from its fearful depths, and enveloped his frightful form in the dismal folds, thus effectually concealing him from every beholder. God himself had decreed this; and I was likewise told, if I remember rightly that he will be unchained for a time fifty or sixty years before the year of Christ 2000. The dates of many other events were pointed out to me which I do not now remember; but a certain number of demons are to be let loose much earlier than Lucifer, in order to tempt men, and to serve as instruments of the divine vengeance. I should think that some must be loosened even in the present day, and others will be set free in a short time.

    It would be utterly impossible for me to describe all the things which were shown to me; their number was so great that I could not reduce them sufficiently to order to define and render them intelligible. Besides which my sufferings are very great, and when I speak on the subject of my visions I behold them in my mind's eye portrayed in such vivid colours, that the sight is almost sufficient to cause a weak mortal like myself to expire.




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    I next saw innumerable bands of redeemed souls liberated from Purgatory and from Limbo, who followed our Lord to a delightful spot situated above the celestial Jerusalem, in which place I, a very short time ago, saw the soul of a person who was very dear to me. The soul of the good thief was likewise taken there, and the promise of our Lord, ‘This day thou shalt be with me in Paradise,’ was fulfilled.


    It is not in my power to explain the exact time that each of these events occurred, nor can I relate one-half of the things which I saw and heard; for some were incomprehensible even to myself, and others would be misunderstood if I attempted to relate them. I have seen our Lord in many different places. Even in the sea he appeared to me to sanctify and deliver everything in the creation. Evil spirits fled at his approach, and cast themselves into the dark abyss. I likewise beheld his soul in different parts of the earth, first inside the tomb of Adam, under Golgotha; and when he was there the souls of Adam and Eve came up to him, and he spoke to them for some time. He then visited the tombs of the prophets who were buried at an immense depth below the surface; but he passed through the soil in the twinkling of an eye. Their souls immediately re-entered their bodies, and he spoke to them and explained the most wonderful mysteries. Next I saw him, accompanied by a chosen band of prophets, among whom I particularly remarked David, visit those parts of the earth which had been sanctified by his miracles and by his sufferings. He pointed out to them, with the greatest love and goodness, the different symbols in the old law expressive of the future; and he showed them how he himself had fulfilled every prophecy. The sight of the soul of our Lord, surrounded by these happy souls, and radiant with light, was inexpressibly grand as he glided triumphantly through the air, sometimes passing, with the velocity of lightning, over rivers, then penetrating through the hardest rocks to the very centre of the earth, or moving noiselessly over its surface.




310


    I can remember nothing beyond the facts which I have just related concerning the descent of Jesus into Limbo, where he went in order to present to the souls there detained the grace of the Redemption which he had merited for them by his death and by his sufferings; and I saw all these things in a very short space of time; in fact, time passed so quickly that it seemed to me but a moment. Our Lord, however, displayed before me, at the same time, another picture, in which I beheld the immense mercies which he bestows in the present day on the poor souls in Purgatory; for on every anniversary of this great day, when his Church is celebrating the glorious mystery of his death, he casts a look of compassion on the souls in Purgatory, and frees some of those who sinned against him before his crucifixion. I this day saw Jesus deliver many souls; some I was acquainted with, and others were strangers to me, but I cannot name any of them.


    Our Lord, by descending into Hell, planted (if I may thus express myself), in the spiritual garden of the Church, a mysterious tree, the fruits of which—namely, his merits—are destined for the constant relief of the poor souls in Purgatory. The Church militant must cultivate the tree, and gather its fruits, in order to present them to that suffering portion of the Church which can do nothing for itself. Thus it is with all the merits of Christ; we must labour with him if we wish to obtain our share of them; we must gain our bread by the sweat of our brow. Everything which our Lord has done for us in time must produce fruit for eternity; but we must gather these fruits in time, without which we cannot possess them in eternity. The Church is the most prudent and thoughtful of mothers; the ecclesiastical year is an immense and magnificent garden, in which all those fruits for eternity are gathered  together, that we may make use of them in  time. Each year contains sufficient to supply the wants of all; but woe be to that careless or dishonest gardener who allows any of the fruit committed to his care to perish; if he fails to turn to a proper account those graces which would restore health to the sick, strength to the weak, or furnish food to the hungry! When the Day of Judgment arrives, the Master of the garden will demand a strict account, not only of every tree, but also of all the fruit produced in the garden.



Blessed  Anne Catherine Emmerich (1774-1824)
Mystic, Stigmatist, Visionary, and Prophet  
  

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

A muslim girl encounters Jesus and becomes a Catholic

HOW DID MUNIRA BECOME FATIMA?

A personal testimony of a muslim and her journey to Christianity. (source http://vachanolsavam.org - October 2006 Magazine)

By Munira
 
I was born in a Muslim family and my name was Munira. Although my family was very affluent, I was always in anxiety and despair. I approached many palmists, soothsayers, and diviners in the hope of finding some solutions, but my mind continued to be worried. Although I had all the material comforts, my heart was filled with darkness and hollowness. 

NEW LIGHT The experience of a relative of mine who had an overdose of sleeping pills affected my life greatly. He was in an unconscious, hallucinatory state and then he felt that he was making a journey to the den of death, passing through a dark tunnel. At the end of the tunnel he saw some powerful halo of light. Two images were seen in the halo. He told me it was Jesus and Mary. My faith was given a rude blow with this revelation. 

Imam and his explanation
I approached the Imam of our mosque with the intention of clarifying my religious doubts. From the explanation he gave me I understood the significance of Jesus. The Imam told me that it was Jesus that receives the souls after the death of people and that is why he is called “Isa Ruhalla”. Now doubts began to pester my mind. What is the truth: the things I was believing in so far or the new revelation? My mind was like a tumultuous ocean. That night I had a dream in which I heard a sound telling me, “Munira, follow him!” As I looked in the direction of the pointing finger, I saw a man in the garment of a shepherd, holding a sheep hook. It was Jesus. I realized the truth now. “There is no other name under heaven given among mortals by which we must be saved” (Acts 4:12). EVERYTHING OLD HAS PASSED AWAY From then my efforts were to know more about the Truth, Jesus. 

Retreat Conducted by Fr Rufus and revelations
During a retreat conducted by Fr. Rufus, I got more revelations. When I practised the message to repent, to forgive and to make the divine experience my own, my heart throbbed with joy. Along with my daily prayers, I began to say the Rosary. From the time I came to know of the promise given in the Acts of the Apostles that even Gentiles can get the Holy Spirit, I earnestly prayed for the anointing of the Spirit. In the Holy Land, where the footsteps of Jesus are imprinted, I too received the Pentecost experience. I was the only non-Christian among 72 pilgrims. As I was immersed in prayer, the Holy Spirit filled my being. As a mild breeze caressed me, I was filled with anointing and suddenly I began to pray in tongues. TO BE ONE IN LOVE Just like the woman of Canan that begged tearfully for blessings, I too was keen on experiencing the love of Jesus through the Holy Eucharist. There were obstacles on the way. There were objections, too. 

INTO THE CATHOLIC FAITH
By the grace of God, in the private Chapel of the Pope in Rome, I was admitted into the Catholic faith. Because of my special love and reverence for the Holy Mother I took the name Fatima. After that I was able to take part in a feast attended by cardinals, priests and the religious sisters. How lucky I was! My eyes were filled with tears of joy. When we came to know the power of Jesus, my entire family became Christians. I was able to partake not only of the joy of the Lord, but also of his sorrow. 


Persecution by relatives
Our relatives and friends ostracized us. When our business collapsed, we were in financial straits. “He has graciously granted you the privilege not only of believing in Christ, but of suffering for him as well” (Phil 1:29). Some people began a propaganda campaign against us that we became Christians with the motive of profit. This was our biggest pain. Still we have problems. But the presence of Jesus - the King of Peace – fortifies us. 

Do pray for us.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Vision of Hell - True Life in God

March 7, 1987

Vision of Hell as given to Vassula Rydén by Lord Jesus Christ

I saw myself underground. It looked like an underground cave, dark; lit only by fire. It was damp and the ground sticky. I saw several souls in a row. They were tied and only their heads shown, faces of agony. It was very noisy, it sounded like iron machines at work. Lots of clamouring, hammerings, shrieks, it was very busy. In front of those heads was someone standing his hand outstretch and inside his palm was lava his arm waved from right to left, pouring (splashing) the hot lava across those faces which were swelled up from burns. Suddenly this man who I understood was Satan noticed our presence, and turned around.

(Satan speaks:) "Look at her!" and he spat on the ground with disgust and fury, at the sight of Jesus' presence and mine, "miserable worm, look at her we even have worms nowadays. coming to suck out our blood, go and f--- off." He said to me: "Look," and he threw hot lava again across those faces. I heard them cry out "Oh let us die ..." Then Satan, who looked exactly like a mad-man, fuming with rage called out: "Creatures of the earth hear me to meeee you will come!" I just thought that although he was menacing he was a fool to believe that in the end he would win. He must have read my thoughts of contempt and very menacingly said: "I am not a fool!" then he with a malicious laugh and with irony said, to those poor souls: "Have you heard, she called me a fool," then with sarcasm ... "Dear beloved souls I will make you pay for her sayings."
He was ready to take new lava to throw. I turned to Jesus in despair, asking Him to do something! To stop him! Jesus replied:)

I will stop him;

(The minute S. had lifted his arm to throw the lava it gave him great pain and he screeched with pain; cursing Jesus; then to me, "Witch, goooo, yes, go, leave us!" Voices from souls, found at the gates of hell were crying: "Save us, save us." Then someone came forward, I understood it was one of Satan's adepts and he (S.) asked him: "Are you on your duty? Are you doing what I have asked you to do? Hurt her, destroy her, discourage her." I knew S. was referring me. He wanted this demon to discourage me meeting Jesus, by giving the wrong word, or destroying the message I get. I asked Jesus if we could leave. He said:) 

I want My children to understand that their souls live and that evil exists; all that is written in My Blessed Word is not a myth; Satan exists and seeks to ruin your souls; I suffer to see you slumbering and unaware of his existence; I come giving you warnings, giving you signs, but how many of you will read My warnings like fairy-tales?

beloved, I am your Saviour; do not deny My word, turn to Me and feel the pangs of love I have for you; why, why are you so willing to thrust yourselves at Satan's feet?

O come all of you who believe no more in Me; come to Me all who have forsaken Me; come and behold, for this is the time to listen; all you who wound My Soul arise, revive, and see My Light; do not fear Me, I have forgiven you; I will take your sins and My Blood will wash them; I will condone your weakness and forgive you; come and absorb the dew of righteousness, restoring your souls which are heading for perdition; I come to look for you, I come in search of My lost sheep; will I, as the Good Shepherd, see you lost and remain indifferent?

listen to Me and repeat after Me,
"O Holy Father,
by Thy Power and with Thy Mercy,
I implore You, gather all your sheep,
forgive them and let them return to Your Beloved Home,
look upon them as your children
and with Thy Hand bless them, amen"
come in My Heart, for therein is profound Peace; 




Position of the Catholic Church on TLIG


source - TLIG - http://www.tlig.org

Repent, And Believe In The Gospel (Mark 1:15)

The Holy Season Of Lent is a time we spend in the presence of our God, re-evaluating our ways of living and our ways of thinking. A period we realize the fleetingness of our existence on this earth and feel a great need to reach out to our God to tangibly experience Him – to open our hearts to His Love and be assured of His constant Presence in our lives. Ash Wednesday – the first day we enter into the Holy Season of Lent - is observed as a day of fasting and prayer by the Church. A day we resolve to make reparation for the many times we have hurt God by forsaking Him for the temporary and sinful pleasures of this world.

The ritual carried out on Ash Wednesday, in keeping with the tradition of the Church practices, is the blessing and laying of ashes on our foreheads. This is an ancient custom of the Church and has Biblical origins signifying the predestined end of the brief and miserable condition of human life. "You are dust, and to dust you shall return.” (Genesis 3:19) The laying of ashes is a sign cautioning us that if we live only for the insignificant pleasures of this earth, w will perish with it. At the same time, it is also a symbol of hope inviting us to look to God as the Giver of Eternal Life and to put our trust in Him.

"Man Shall Not Live On Bread Alone." (Matthew 4:4)
The season of Lent is a time of self-purification, a time we open our heart to God. The attitude with which to observe the season of Lent is explained in the Gospel passage which pertains to the temptations faced by Jesus. "And he fasted forty days and forty nights, and afterwards he was hungry. And the temper came and said to him, ‘If you are the Son of God, command these stones to turn to become loaves of bread.' But he answered, 'It is written, Man shall not live on bread alone, but by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God." (Matthew 4:2-4)

What is the meaning of bread? Bread does not mean only those things which we eat to satisfy our hunger. Eating is only one of the basic needs of our human form. Our body has many other needs and a large portion of our energy and time is spent in the pursuit of those things that will fulfill these needs of our body. We not only need bread to feed ourselves, we also need many other things to make life comfortable and secure. Most of us, in the pursuit of comfort and security, will not hesitate to drive ourselves to any extreme to have a successful career and status symbols that come with it – the latest luxury car, a spacious bungalow, a comfortable bank balance etc. – even to the detriment of our health and declining relationships with loved ones.

Besides, we like to indulge in various activities that not only give us joy and pleasure but also pamper our egos; theme birthday parties with an extravagant spread, luxury holidays and the like. Very often, it is a pathetic bid to keep up with the Joneses. For all these purposes, we need money! So while we are on this earth, we are busy all the time making money – for a life that concentrates only of satisfying our body’s needs. But there is a great danger in this living. The danger is we could be preoccupied with the needs of this world and end up becoming slaves to these same needs. In the pursuit of money to meet our requirements for bread and other temporal necessities of life, our existence becomes a miserable vicious circle. We become totally blind to our soul’s need to relate to the Creator and thus deprive ourselves of the spiritual delights that come from living in closeness to God. Therefore, we need to come to the realization that men should not base his existence for and on bread alone. Instead, he should live by and on the power of the Word of God. That is the real life we are called to live!
 

"Seek First His Kingdom And His Righteousness” (Matthew 6:33)
I remember talking to a very happy and successful businessman once. He told me that every morning, he would go to his office and spend the whole day there. But in the evening, he would put everything aside to go home to be with his family. At home, he would spend time with his wife and children. He would lead them in prayer and then they would praise God together – surrendering their lives to Him. Then, they would spend time eating and laughing together, discussing with each other, planning for the future and just being there for each other. For him, his relationship to God and family was most important among all other things of this world. I thought to myself, “What a model human being!” Here was an ideal businessman, making money, in the pursuit to live and meet the needs of his family. But he was not a slave to money. All his time and energy was not spent to make money. He had his priorities and values in the right perspective. To this man, God and his family came first in the right order of priority.

But very often, this is not the case with many of us. When we are living on this earth, we are so busy making money to meet various expenses that the temporal needs of this earth become idols for us. In the pursuit of these idols, we neither have the inclination nor the time to pray. God and family take secondary and tertiary positions as we concern ourselves with personal achievements and material acquisitions in this world. Herein lies the danger – for in the race of materialism, we lose sight of our God and our relationships fail. What a heavy price to pay when we are not focussed on our priorities in this life.

"For I Do Not Do The Good I Want, But The Evil I Do Not Want Is What I Do." (Romans 7:19)
It is in this Holy Season of lent that we come to God and raise our hearts to Him and evaluate – where do we stand? “Are my values in the right perspective and in the right order of priority? Do the things that have to be given first place, come first always?” The season of Lent is a spiritual journey towards freedom. To free us from the numerous shackles of slavery that life has put on our hearts, minds and lives. If we open our eyes wide enough we would become aware of the corruption, deception, envy and injustice, all around us. We too could be contributing to it! Let us look into our hearts and make a very honest soul-searching. “Why am I sad when my companions or my colleagues make it better in life? Why am I not able to rejoice with them and appreciate them sincerely? My neighbour is prospering more than I but I am not able to rejoice at his good fortune!” Today, man is travelling to space and walking on the moon. Why is walking in space easier than walking to my neighbour whom I do not like? Why am I often hot-tempered? Why am I getting discouraged all the time when someone makes a comment – a negative comment about me? Why am I so depressed? Why do I become so angry and agitated? Why is it that I have no time for my family?” When we ask ourselves these questions, it would reveal to us the areas of slavery that we are living in.

All these questions on a personal level lead us to a greater awareness of the person we are. Once we identify those areas of our lives which disturb us, we need to make a conscious effort to change them by surrendering those very areas to God and seeking His help. If I am not open to God and have no time to pray and read His Word, I will continue to be plagued by negative attitudes and tendencies that enslave me.

"Everyone Who Commits Sin Is A Slave To Sin." (John 8:34)
St. Paul was forthright when he laments, "I do not understand my own actions. For I do not do what I want, but I do the very thing I hate. Now if I do what I do not want, I agree that the law is good. So then it is no longer I that do it, but sin which dwells within me, that is, in my flesh. I can will what is right, but I cannot do it. For I do not do the good I want, it is no loner I that do it, but sin which dwells within me." (Romans 7:15-20) But then he looks up to Jesus, praises Him, and says joyfully, "Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord!" (Romans 7:24) St. Paul acknowledges Jesus as His God, who gives him freedom and liberation from sin. It is a similar journey we have to embark on during this Holy Season of Lent. How do we come out of this quagmire in which we find ourselves today?

Firstly, we need to identify the many areas of slavery that we are living in. In the pursuit of bread and other perishables of this earth, we tend to become earthbound. Affected with all the negative attitudes of selfishness and sin, our earthly life will become meaningless. So we need to raise our hearts up to God and look at Him and straighten out our ways. It is Him that we must be reaching for all the time as the final goal and destination of our pilgrimage on earth. While making a pilgrimage, we are always moving with our minds and hearts raised to God. Our journey on earth should be just like a pilgrimage and then we will help to make everything beautiful on the face of this earth. In this Season of Lent, let us ask the Lord to give us the grace to discern the real meaning of life and may all the fasting, prayers and penance that we take upon ourselves lead us and help us towards that end.

4 Promises that will be realized in Forgiveness

Ash Wednesday - the beginning of the Season of Lent is a period when all of us are called to examine our hearts.

Remember the Parable of the Wicked Servant? 
(Mathew 18:21 - 35) The servant owed his Master 10,000 talents. In those days, a servant would have to labour for 15 years to make 1,000 talents! Despite that, the Master forgave this huge amount of debt for this servant. However, this wicked servant did not show any mercy to a fellow servant who owed him a mere 100 dinari - equivalent to just a 100 days wages in those days. He had him put into prison and persecuted him. The other servants who saw this became upset and told everything to their Master. He was angry and sent the servant to the dungeons for the rest of his life. It was a big punishment for the wicked servant because he did not understand and he did not forgive. Jesus said, "That is how my Father in heaven will treat everyone of you unless you forgive your brother from your heart." (Mathew 18:35) It is a powerful message that Jesus wants to give us - the message of forgiveness.

Our sin is against the infinite mercy of our God so our sins, according to Jesus, are debts that we owe to God. And God forgives - when we confess, all our sins are forgiven. But we, do we forgive, when others hurt us? If we do not forgive, the dark dungeons are a warning to us. In the bible, the dark dungeon is a symbol of hellfire. It is a big warning to every one of us.

That is why Jesus taught us to pray the "Our Father" in Luke Chapter 11, "Forgive us our sins as we forgive those who does us wrong." (Luke 11:4) My dear sisters and brothers, the most important commandment we are given, in fact, the only commandment given to us with 4 promises, is to forgive.

    * "If you forgive others the wrong they have done to you, your Father in heaven will also forgive you." (Mathew 6:14)- If I forgive others, my sins will be forgiven

    * "And when you stand and pray, forgive anything you may have against anyone, so that your Father in heaven will forgive the wrongs you have done." (Mark 11:25) Our prayers will be answered when we forgive others.

    * "So if you are about to offer your gift to God at the altar and there you remember that your brother has something against you, leave your gift there in front of the altar, go at once and make peace with your brother, and then come back and offer your gift to God." (Mathew 5:23-24)

    * "So then confess your sins to one another and pray for one another, so that you will be healed." (James 5:16)

When I forgive others, all those 4 promises will be realized, and will be fulfilled in me. Forgiveness is a seed that we are sowing. A seed is a little thing. Does any farmer regret having lost a seed? Does a farmer say, "I am losing all that seed?" No! A farmer is not sad because he is sowing. In fact, the time of sowing is a time of celebration - a time of rejoicing because when the farmer sows the seeds, there is a great vision in the mind o the farmer. What is that vision? Every seed that goes out of his hand is part of the harvest. Imagine one seed sprouting up into a green plant; maturing and bearing 100 grains - 1 seed bearing 100 grains? What will a 100 seeds become? It will become a beautiful harvest.

When you and I go to forgive, when we go to reconcile with our husbands, wives, colleagues, or friends - there is a little humiliation. But that little humiliation is the beginning of a rich harvest - the harvest of God's graces! My prayers are going to be answered, my sins are going to be forgiven, my life is going to be accepted and my ailments are going to be healed. Great heavenly blessings are coming to us.

In the book of Acts, St Stephen the first martyr of the Church, a deacon, died seeing a vision - a vision of glory. His heart was filled with great joy and so he did not feel the stones piercing his flesh. He was laughing and every one thought that he was mad. He was actually seeing a vision of the glory Jesus in heaven. He knew he was being invited to be with Jesus. He prayed the same prayer that Jesus did, "Forgive them, Father! They don't know what they are doing." (Luke 23:34) St. Stephen did not feel the pain in his body.

Today, we must also be seeing visions. There are people who hurt us. Make the decision to go and get reconciled. You will be fulfilling the command of Jesus and you will receive great graces from God. Alleluia! Thank you, Jesus! Praise you, Jesus!

Our 40-day journey through the desert of temporality and the dust

On Ash Wednesday we enter into pure paradox. The Gospel reading warns against practicing our piety before others; then we come up to have ashes put on our foreheads. What could be more public? But the Church insists we walk through a day outwardly wearing the inward reality of our own mortality not to reward us for our faith, but to remind us of our failing. 

Our 40-day journey through the desert of temporality and the dust from which we were formed is a countercultural endeavour. As Paul says in today’s fi rst reading, ‘We are treated. … as dying, and see – we are alive; as punished, and yet not killed; as sorrowful, yet always rejoicing; as poor, yet making many rich; as having nothing, and yet possessing everything.’

Our self-obsessed culture may see Lent’s fasting, prayer, sacrifi cial giving and self-refl ection as a result of low selfesteem. But by participating in this season we boldly embrace our identity and appear every bit as odd as our first-century brothers and sisters in Christ. 

Ever since God breathed into us the breath of life, we have been both living beings and the dust to which we return. While this dust seems at first to be only the dry remnant of a life ended, in fact it’s the fecundity of a God who creates life from void, who breathes God’s self into earth to bring forth us, the creature. The same God who brings forth living water from God’s own broken humanity.

Our journey is in the desert. Following Christ, we leave our false oasis of instant gratifi cation, indulgence of every whim and stuff—lots and lots of stuff. The body of Christ is not an oasis in the desert but a desert in the oasis. In our diabetic coma of self-absorption, we are at times vaguely, silently aware that we have
gorged on the promises of the Dream and are left hungry.

We go to church on Ash Wednesday to be told that we are dust and to dust we shall return; the collagen-injected lips turn to dust, even the pilates-lengthened muscles, the 12 essential vitamins and minerals and the bottled water. We are told that we can live forever with the right combinations of exercise, diet and elective
surgery. But we know—in those inevitable moments of disquieting silence—that the oasis is not all it’s cracked up to be, and so we enter the desert where we can no longer turn from the inevitable dust, where the seemingly impossible happens: destructive self-centeredness is transformed into cruciform living.

As we pray the Lenten lectio, individually or with others, may we discover anew the God who continually calls us to become transformed into this cruciform way of living in order to share more deeply in the Easter Mystery of resurrection life.


- By David Walker, OLOR Cathedral
Bishop of Broken Bay, NSW, Australia


Lectio divina and The Reflection

By simply logging on to the website each week (http://thereflection.vividas.com), you will be able to participate in a lectio divina for Lent, working with it at your own pace and in your own time over the week.

Saturday, February 13, 2010

A room the devil had prepared for me - St Theresa of Avila

St Theresa of Avila's Vision of Hell

"A long time after the Lord had already granted me many of the favors I've mentioned and other very lofty ones, while I was in prayer one day, I suddenly found that, without knowing how, I had seemingly been put in hell. I understood that the Lord wanted me to see the place the devils had prepared there for me and which I merited because of my sins. This experience took place within the shortest space of time, but even were I to live for many years I think it would be impossible for me to forget it. 

The entrance it seems to me was similar to a very long and narrow alleyway, like an oven, low and dark and confined; the floor seemed to me to consist of dirty, muddy water emitting foul stench and swarming with putrid vermin. At the end of the alleyway a hole that looked like a small cupboard was hollowed out in the wall; there I found I was placed in a cramped condition. All of this was delightful to see in comparison with what I felt there. What I have described can hardly be exaggerated.

"But as to what I then felt, I do not know where to begin if I were to describe it; it is utterly inexplicable. I felt a fire in my soul but such that I am still unable to describe it. My bodily sufferings were unendurable. I have undergone most painful sufferings in this life, and, as the physicians say, the greatest that can be borne, such as the contraction of my sinews when I was paralyzed, without speaking of other ills of different types - yet, even those of which I have spoken, inflicted on me by Satan; yet all these were as nothing in comparison with what I then felt, especially when I saw that there would be no intermission nor any end to them. 

"These sufferings were nothing in comparison with the anguish of my soul, a sense of oppression, of stifling, and of pain so acute, accompanied by so hopeless and cruel an infliction, that I know not how to speak of it. If I say that the soul is continually being torn from the body it would be nothing - for that implies the destruction of life by the hands of another - but here it is the soul itself that is tearing itself in pieces. I cannot describe that inward fire or that despair, surpassing all torments and all pain. I did not see who it was that tormented me, but I felt myself on fire, and torn to pieces, as it seemed to me; and I repeat it, this inward fire and despair are the greatest torments of all. 

"Left in that pestilential place, and utterly without the power to hope for comfort, I could neither sit nor lie down; there was no room. I was placed as it were in a hole in the wall; and those walls, terrible to look on of themselves, hemmed me in on every side. I could not breathe. There was no light, but all was thick darkness. I do not understand how it is; though there was no light, yet everything that can give pain by being seen was visible.

"Our Lord at that time would not let me see more of Hell. Afterwards I had another most fearful vision, in which I saw the punishment of certain sins. They were the most horrible to look at, but because I felt none of the pain, my terror was not so great. In the former vision Our Lord made me really feel those torments and that anguish of spirit, just as if I had been suffering them in the body there. I know not how it was, but I understood distinctly that it was a great mercy that Our Lord would have me see with my own eyes the very place from which His compassion saved me. I have listened to people speaking of these things and I have at other times dwelt on the various torments of Hell, though not often, because my soul made no progress by the way of fear; and I have read of the diverse tortures, and how the devils tear the flesh with red-hot pincers. But all is as nothing before this: It is a wholly different matter. In short, the one is a reality, the other a description; and all burning here in this life is as nothing compared with the fire that is there.

"I was so terrified by that vision - and that terror is on me even now as I write - that though it took place nearly six years ago, the natural warmth of my body is chilled by fear even now when I think of it. And so, amid all the pain and suffering which I may have had to bear, I remember no time in which I do not think that all we have to suffer in this world is as nothing. It seems to me that we complain without reason. I repeat it, this vision was one of the grandest mercies of God. It has been to me of the greatest service, because it has destroyed my fear of trouble and of the contradictions of the world, and because it has made me strong enough to bear up against them, and to give thanks to Our Lord who has been my Deliverer, as it now seems to me, from such fearful and everlasting pains.

"Ever since that time, as I was saying, everything seems endurable in comparison with one instant of suffering such as those I had then to bear in Hell. I am filled with fear when I see that, after frequently reading books which describe in some manner the pains of Hell, I was not afraid of them, nor made any account of them. Where was I? How could I possibly take any pleasure in those things which led me directly to so dreadful a place? Blessed forever be Thou, O my God! And oh, how manifest is it that Thou didst love me much more than I did love Thee! How often, O Lord, didst Thou save me from that fearful prison! And how I used to get back to it contrary to Thy will.

"It was that vision which filled me with very great distress which I felt at the sight of so many lost souls, especially of the Lutherans - for they were once members of the Church by Baptism - and also gave me the most vehement desires for the salvation of souls; for certainly I believe that to save even one from those overwhelming torments, I would willingly endure many deaths. If here on earth we see one whom we specially love in great trouble or pain, our very nature seems to bid us compassionate him; and if those pains be great, we are troubled ourselves. What, then, must it be to see a soul in danger of pain, the most grievous of all pains, forever? It is a thought no heart can bear without great anguish. Here we know that pain at last ends with life, and that there are limits to it, yet the sight of it moves us so greatly to compassion; that other pain has no ending, and I know not how we can be calm when we see Satan carry so many souls daily away.
"This also makes me wish that, in a matter which concerns us so much, we did not rest satisfied with doing less than we can do on our part - that we left nothing undone. May Our Lord vouchsafe to give us His grace for that end." 


Mystic - Teacher of Prayer - Doctor of the Church
St. Teresa of Jesus, also known as St. Teresa of Avila, lived in Spain during the 16th Century. Her life as a Carmelite, though far removed from the mainstream of modern culture, still speaks powerfully to us today, as we enter the third millennium. 


[Source: The Collected Works of St. Teresa of Avila, Volume 1, Chapter 32. Published by Institute of Carmelite Studies]

Friday, February 12, 2010

Description of Purgatory - Medjugorje

After the Medjugorje visionaries’ experiences with Purgatory, the responsibility of praying for the souls in Purgatory was placed very strongly in their hearts. Our Lady showed them how much the souls in Purgatory suffer and how much they depend upon our prayers. The following is their description of Purgatory.

Vicka’s description of Purgatory:

Purgatory is an endless space of ashy color. It was quite dark. I could feel people strangling and suffering there. The Blessed Mother told us we should be praying for souls stranded in Purgatory. She said only our prayers and sacrifices can release them from that place. The people there are helpless. They are really suffering. We can be like Jesus a little bit if we just do some voluntary penance for the souls on Purgatory, especially for the ones who are abandoned by their families on earth. I am aware of their suffering. I know some of their torment. I know how desperately they need our prayers. They are so lonely that it is almost sickening to remember those moments I was there. It is really a great joy to do penance for the poor souls because I know how much it helps them. And many of our family members who have died desperately need our prayers. The Blessed Mother says we must pray courageously for them so that they might go to Heaven. They are powerless to help themselves.


Mirjana’s description of Purgatory:


There are several levels in Purgatory. The more you pray on earth, the higher your level in Purgatory will be…The lowest level is the closest to hell, where the suffering is the most intense. The highest level is closest to Heaven, and there the suffering is the least. What level you are on depends on the state of purity of your soul. The lower the level the people are on in Purgatory, the less they are able to pray and the more they suffer. The higher the level a person is in Purgatory, the easier it is for him to pray, the more he enjoys praying and the less he suffers. The Blessed Mother has asked us to pray for the souls in Purgatory. They are helpless to pray for themselves. Through prayer, we on earth can do much to help them. The Blessed Mother told me that when souls leave Purgatory and go to Heaven most go on Christmas Day.

Many people were there. They were suffering immensely. They were normal people, all kinds. There was much physical suffering. I could see the people shivering, thrashing, and writhing in pain. I saw this place for a short time. The Blessed Mother was with me (during the vision). She explained to me that She wanted me to see Purgatory. She said so many people on earth today do not even know about Purgatory. I could not hear them. I only saw them. The Blessed Mother said so many people who die are quite abandoned by their loved ones. They cannot help themselves in Purgatory. They are totally dependent on the prayers and sacrifices of the generous people on earth who remember them. Our Blessed Mother hopes Her own children will help the souls in Purgatory by prayer and fasting and various penance for the poor souls to make restitution for them. Those who have died no longer have free will as they had on earth. They no longer have a body. It is no longer possible for them to make up for the things that they did when they had their body that hurt and harmed themselves and others. On July 24, 1982, the Blessed Mother said:‘We go to Heaven in full conscious of the separation of the body and soul. It is false to teach people that we are reborn many times and that we pass to different bodies. One is born only once. The body, drawn from the earth, decomposes after death. It never comes back to life again. Man receives a transfigured body. Whoever has done very much evil during his life can go straight to Heaven if he confesses, is truly sorry for what he has done, and receives Communion at the end of his life.’ Our Lady said that the souls in Purgatory can see their loved ones during those moments when we pray for them by name.


Ivanka was asked why did the Blessed Mother show her Heaven and Purgatory:

Ivanka: She wants to remind Her children of the results of their choices here on earth.
 

Marija, through several interviews, describes Purgatory:
 

Purgatory is a large place.. It is foggy. It is ash gray. It is misty. You cannot see people there. It is as if they are immersed in deep clouds. You can feel that the people in the mist are traveling, hitting each other. They can pray for us but not for themselves. They are desperately in need of our prayers. The Blessed Mother asks us to pray for the poor souls in Purgatory, because during their life here, one moment they thought there was no God, then they recognized Him, then they went to Purgatory where they saw there is a God, and now they need our prayers. With our prayers we can send them to Heaven. The biggest suffering that souls in Purgatory have is that they see there is a God, but they did not accept Him here on earth. Now they long so much to come close to God. Now they suffer so intensely, because they recognize how much they have hurt God, how many chances they had on earth, and how many times they disregarded God.

Ivan's description on Purgatory



The Blessed Mother told me that those who go to Purgatory are those who prayed and believed only occasionally that they were filled with doubt, that they were not certain that God exists. They did not know how to pray while on earth, or if they did know how, they did not pray Souls in Purgatory suffer. If no one prays for them, they suffer even more.



Read further about Hell on private revealations below

Description of Hell - Medjugorje
St Faustina's vision of Hell
Our Lady of Fatima
St John Bosco
Fr Jose (Near Death Experience)


Prayers for releasing Holy Souls from Purgatory

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