Liturgical Year as Mystical Journey Epiphany IV Commentary
The readings for Sunday include Moses’ farewell promise that prophets will arise to guide Israel, but warns also to watch for false prophets. (Deuteronomy 18:15-20).The Galilean ministry of Jesus continues in Capernaum: the outburst of a possessed man interrupts his teaching in the synagogue.Congregants already impressed with Jesus’ “authority” witness the healing of the man with the unclean spirit. (Mark 1:21-28) For the season of Epiphany we’re looking at texts from the study of the mystical “illuminative way” of prayer for the purpose of personal soul-work.Meditating upon “the call” last week, now the consequences of saying “yes” unfold. As light shines into the crevices of the heart, fearful, unclean spirits once comfortably hidden, may lash out irrationally. Brought to the Light, they dissipate.As the practice of surrender to Light continues, discernment brings forth if not authority, at least a desire for authenticity.
Writing in 1919 Dom Columba Marmion writes:
The Epiphany continues too in the faithful soul when her love becomes more fervent and steadfast.Fidelity to the inspirations of grace – it is Our Lord Himself Who tells us so, - becomes the source of a more ardent and brighter illumination : Qui diligit me … manifestabo ei meipsum.*Happy the soul that lives by faith and love !Christ Jesus manifests Himself ever more and more within her; He makes her enter into an ever deeper and closer comprehension of His mysteries. Marmion, Christ in His Mysteries, p.150-151, (1919)(* John 14:21He who has and keeps my commandments … I will love him and manifest myself to him.)
Meditation Prompt One
Possession and “Peace” I have a nagging hunch that the gospel’s power in our own time is about to be manifested in a manner as repugnant to the sensibilities of the society at large, and all of us who have accommodated ourselves to it, as the early Christian message was to Roman paganism. Our society is possessed, Christians as much as anyone. We are possessed by violence, possessed by sex, possessed by money, possessed by drugs. We need to recover forms of collective exorcism as effective as was the early Christian baptism’s renunciation of "the devil and all his works." - Walter Wink, Engaging the Powers
(Sweetly, it is true,) the illuminated mystic may live; but not, as some think, placidly.Enlightenment is a symptom of growth: and growth is a living process, which knows no rest.The spirit, indeed, is invaded by a heavenly peace; but it is the peace, not of idleness, but of ordered activity. “A rest most busy,” in (Walter) Hilton’s words: a progressive appropriation of the Divine.Underhill, Mysticism, p.264
Desire nothing but God: seek for nothing but God: and you shall taste of peace: you shall taste it in defiance of the world.Francois Fenelon (1651-1715) Pious Reflections, The Seventeenth Day
Meditation Prompt Two
Authority and Authenticity
What the Fathers sought most of all was their own true self, in Christ.And in order to do this, they had to reject completely the false, formal self, fabricated under social compulsion in “the world.” p.5-6 The simple men who lived their lives out to a good old age among the rocks and sands only did so because they had come into the desert to be themselves, their ordinary selves, and to forget a world that divided them from themselves. p.22-23 … We cannot do exactly what they did.But we must be as thorough and as ruthless in our determination to break all spiritual chains, and cast off the domination of alien compulsions, and to find our true selves, to discover and develop our inalienable spiritual liberty and use it to build, on earth, the Kingdom of God. p.23-24
Thomas Merton , the opening essay of The Wisdom of the Desert (New Directions)
Fourth Sunday after the Epiphany
Almighty and everlasting God, you govern all things both in heaven and on earth: Mercifully hear the supplications of your people, and in our time grant us your peace; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.
The Feast of the Presentation
Almighty and everliving God, we humbly pray that, as your only-begotten Son was this day presented in the temple, so we may be presented to you with pure and clean hearts by Jesus Christ our Lord; who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen.
The Excorcism, Limbourg Brothers, Les Tres Riches Heures du Duc de Berry
But the path of the righteous is like the light of dawn, which shines brighter and brighter until full day. Proverbs 4:18
Detail, The Presentation, Giotto
Feasts of Light
With golden splendour, and with rosy loveliness, Thou didst illumine, Light of Light, the universe; the heave’ns adorning with a glorious martyrdom, This day, which bringeth pardon to the penitent. Aurea luce et decore roseo - Monastic Office Hymn
Days of light and love continue in the cycle of feasts: the Confession of Peter (January 18) and Conversion of Paul (January 25) and the Presentation (February 2). Peter backs into insight, as many of us do.Light confronts Paul head- on, blinding him. And the dying light in Simeon meets the Light Come Into the World. The liturgical church takes his prayer as a nightly lullaby and practice for our own death when our own light meets Light face to face, at last.
Lord, lettest thou thy servant depart in peace, according to thy word; for mine eyes have seen thy salvation which thou hast prepared in the presence of all peoples, a light for revelation to the Gentiles, and for glory to thy people Israel. RSV Luke2:29-32
Luke adds a disturbing coda.Simeon says to Mary, “And a sword will pierce through your own soul also, that thoughts out of many hearts may be revealed.”Vs 35.While unclear whether the last phrase refers back to the child, or means that Mary’s sorrow will bring forth revelation in many hearts, using this text for prayer is continually illuminating.How often has your broken heart given others access to Divine Love?
Presentation in the Temple, Duccio, 1308-11, Museo dell'Opera del Duomo, Siena, wga