The First Martyrs of the Holy Roman Church
The practice of vice is nothing new. From the very first chapters of the Bible we are told of human wickedness, a wickedness so great that God is shown as wiping out whole cities, but for a selected few, and then virtually the entire earth, but for Noah and his family. Time and again, humans – especially in urban agglomerates – lose their bearings before God, and fall into evil ways. The New Testament as well begins with just such a scenario, as St. Paul in writing to the Romans describes the behaviors into which they fell when they lost sight of God, and embraced what might have been called “secular humanism.” Godless.
It is hard to remember we are in God’s world, when we live in a world dominated by technological wizardry which claims ultimacy. Day and night, the artificial lights of our world mockingly shout out: “where is your God?” And, for awhile, there appears to be silence and darkness. For those in Jesus’ craft, seeing the great waves of immorality threatening the boat from every side, it sometimes seems all is lost, that God will not rouse Himself from apparent sleep.
The practice of vice makes people vicious. The ancient Romans cruelly – sadistically – tortured and killed the lambs of the Lamb, the followers of the gentle Jesus who had abjured the deeds of darkness to live in the light. We are forwarned many times in Scripture: we should not be terrified, even though the wickedness around us is terrifying. He who overcomes the storm is with us, and He is our only safety, our only refuge, in this often dark and vicious world. He alone is the true Light, a silent, gentle Light that overcomes the world.
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.