Monday of the Fourth Week of Advent
Not long ago, in an affluent neighborhood I stopped into a coffee shop full of wealthy people. Looking at the crowded cafe, one phrase came to mind as I looked at the faces before me and imagined each expressing: “I’ve been wronged.” It stunned me, for the cars on the street, the clothing, all spoke of tremendous worldly success: the sort of worldly success that claims everything for itself, and has no apparent need for God. And yet this wound.
The resentment of modern humanity is all-pervasive. There is a sense that God has failed us, has abandoned us, and that being the case, we have to “make it” on our own. So much the worse for God! Respect God? Why? Fear Him: that is primitive.
And yet, we are creatures of a day, frail, passing wraiths who prance god-like upon the stage of life, soon to be gone, replaced by yet other generations resentful of this status of exile in which we find ourselves.
Yet there was one woman who, distinct from all others, truly respected God: truly feared God with a “holy fear.” One who was not corrupted by original sin, not corrupted by that blindness that turns the light of mind and heart toward self. And His mercy on her was so great, she brought His Son into the world, embracing our powerlessness, and the punishment of our self-centered godlessness. She was wrapt in gratitude, magnifying the Lord. She is “our life, our sweetness, our hope.” As are none of our possessions.
Grace: An intimate knowledge of the many blessings received, that filled with gratitude for all, I may in all things love and serve the Divine Majesty.
Reflection: In the meditation upon sin, we made reference to Dante’s vision of hell, a cold, desolate place where the fire of love has been extinguished and all lies in a spiritual torpor. This is the perfect image of the heart grown cold to the stirrings of love which God places within it. At the opposite end of Dante’s journey lies a vision that perfectly encapsulates the final meditation of the Spiritual Exercises, the Contemplation to Attain Divine Love. From the lowest reaches of the spiritual universe, Dante ascends to the heights of heaven, where he views “the love that moves the sun and the other stars.” At the heart of the universe lives the Trinitarian God, whose perfect love draws all being into an ordered symphony of praise. Dante feels himself drawn into this harmonic vision through the enflaming of his passions and desires. No one with eyes to see can sit impassively at the vision of God’s love. From the disordered state in which Dante had fallen at the beginning of the poem, he becomes progressively cleansed of his disordered affections through the grace of God and the intercession of Beatrice until finally he is able to pass through the heavens and stand in the presence of God. But notice that Dante only sees God’s depths after he has been interiorly transformed.