The face of God


Sunday June 3rd 2012,  is the SOLEMNITY OF THE MOST HOLY TRINITY.

The Gospel Verse is adapted from Apocalypse 1:8.  GLORY TO THE FATHER, THE SON, AND THE HOLY SPIRIT: TO GOD WHO IS, WHO WAS, AND WHO IS TO COME. 

Lectio:  The Gospel is Matthew 28:16-20. Read the text.  Stand back from the text. Reflect.  Read it a second time.  Take space. Allow the Holy Spirit to play on the fibres of your heart like a harpist and bring forth your response in prayer.

Meditatio:  Some background to the text which will help us respond. There is a wonderful Patristic commentary on this text by Nicholas Cabasilas.  His greatest literary output was after 1354.  One of his principal works was “The Life In Christ”.  It was written for Lay People and bore the kernel of his teaching:  the Christian’s deification by means of the Sacraments.  On the same theme, St. Hildegard of Bingen wrote:  “Divinity is aimed at humanity.”  Her works were written about 130 years before those of Cabasilas.

On this text from Matthew, Cabasilas writes:  “The Father set us free, the Son was our ransom and the Spirit our liberty.  The Father recreated us through the Son, but it is the Spirit who gives us life.  All blessings have their source in the Trinity.  

It was the Trinity that jointly willed my salvation, and providentially arranged the means for its accomplishment, but the active role belonged to the only-begotten Son of the Father.  Through the life of Christ our nature received new life…baptism was instituted. 


And St. Hilary of Poitiers, writing in the 4th century A.D.  prayed:  “May I always hold fast to what I publicly professed in the creed when I was baptized in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.  May I worship you, the Father of us all, and your Son together with you, and may I be counted worthy to receive your Holy Spirit, who through your only Son, proceeds from you.”

EVANGELIZATIO – my lived response to the texts given to me by the Church for my “formation”.  In responding to these texts I am listening with the ear of my heart, taking their riches into my life and changing all the time more and more into Christ.

The Holy Spirit prompts me to respond by understanding that there is no straight road to glory.  Glory is reached via the Passion, via Calvary, via the Resurrection.  In that awesome homily by Fr. Karl Rahner where he meditates on the Cross of Calvary, he asks the vital question, to which the answer is a matter of life or death for each one of us:  “When the cross on Golgotha pierced the heavens and the man thrust upon it died – what took place then, happens again and again: many pass by,  many remain.” 

Am I among those who pass by? Who pass by the truth of life…pass by the true Salvation?  Am I in the procession that flows past the cross and spills into the darkness?  Or, am I among those who remain?”  I won’t get the chance to be transported back in time to the historical Calvary, but I will have the chance, in my own lifetime, to pray with the dying, care for the grieving, comfort the sorrowful, visit the sick, minister to those in trouble. 

We reach GLORY via Calvary, as we grapple with the mystery of suffering (ours and that of others).  We don’t understand and we can’t rationalize.  We wish there wouldn’t be any suffering at all.  But there is.  And we have One who has gone before us and borne it all for us – our Lord on the Cross which was raised above the earth and which pierced the heavens. The Prophet Isaiah reminds us:  “He carried our sicknesses.  He bore our sufferings”. 

I am reminded of something St Hildegard of Bingen wrote: “It is easier to gaze into the sun than into the face of the mystery of God.  Such is its beauty and radiance.”  I believe that if we forget this truth, we have lost the plot!  So, let us continue to pray in faith:  “Glory be to the Father and to the Son, and to the Holy Spirit.”

Lectio Divina is a way of life, not a method of prayer.  It is about reading (and listening), reflecting, praying in tune with the Holy Spirit within me, resting in God, responding in the way I live, and continually pondering on the Scriptures.  The traditional Latin words for this way of prayer are:  Lectio, Meditatio, Oratio, Contemplatio, Evangelizatio and Ruminatio.  

– Sr Hildegard Ryan OSB is cloistered at Jamberoo Abbey.

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