The Most Blessed of All Dwellings

“Come, lady, die to live: this wedding-day
Perhaps is but prolong’d: have patience and endure.”
– William Shakespeare

A great dark wave seems to be covering the earth, hiding us in the shadows of grief and unrest. Each morning brings us the reality of illness and isolation, desolation and death, as we endure what seems to be a darkness unescapable. In a time when we cannot see or even touch many of our loved ones, we also cannot remain untouched by a communal sorrow which words can barely express. And as we are called to fast from sacramentally receiving Christ—our Bridegroom, Love, and greatest Friend—in the Eucharist, it can seem like the remaining lights are slowly flickering out.

How could we not weep all this while, joining our tears with those of Mary Magdalene outside the tomb? “The ‘sincere gift’ contained in the Sacrifice of the Cross gives definitive prominence to the spousal meaning of God’s love. As the Redeemer of the world, Christ is the Bridegroom of the Church. The Eucharist is the Sacrament of our Redemption. It is the Sacrament of the Bridegroom and of the Bride” (St. Pope John Paul II). When we receive the Eucharist, we receive Christ’s Body and Blood, Soul and Divinity in the most intimate manner. “God’s whole life encounters us and is sacramentally shared with us” (Pope Benedict XVI), and we become little tabernacles of the Indwelling God.

It is strange: these days of fasting and mourning are not necessarily “when the Bridegroom [has been] taken away” (Matthew 9:15), like Good Friday—but when the Bride has been taken away. Unlike Mary Magdalene, we know where He has been laid. We can even see Him through the livestreaming of Mass and Adoration! Instead, it is we who have been taken, who must remain hidden, and who are called to fast from the foretaste of the wedding banquet, dying to self and holy desires in acts of love so that we and others might live. Fortunately, “both spiritual and physical hunger can be a vehicle of love” (Pope Benedict XVI). We can receive Christ through spiritual communion, which, as St. Thomas Aquinas describes, “comprises the desire or yearning for receiving this sacrament” (III, Q. 80, Art. 11, co.).

While the Eucharist is the source and summit of our life, and a mystery of trinitarian love that shows the “indissolubility to which all true love necessarily aspires” (St. Pope John Paul II), we have yet more reasons to hope. “The entire Christian life bears the mark of the spousal love of Christ and the Church. Already Baptism, the entry into the People of God, is a nuptial mystery; it is so to speak the nuptial bath which precedes the wedding feast, the Eucharist” (CCC 1617). It is “in Christ, dead and risen, and in the outpouring of the Holy Spirit, given without measure (cf. Jn 3:34), that we have become sharers of God’s inmost life” (Pope Benedict XVI). Through Baptism, we receive the Holy Spirit, who comes to dwell in our souls—and through the Holy Spirit, the entire Trinity, since the Holy Trinity is indivisible: “He is One” (Mark 12:32).

We are baptized into His death so that we may have life—His life—dwelling in us (Galatians 2:19-21). So long as we remain with Him in a state of grace, He remains in us. As St. Elizabeth of the Trinity explains, “Realize that your soul is the temple of God, it is again Saint Paul who says this; at every moment of the day and night the three Divine Persons are living within you. You do not possess the Sacred Humanity as you do when you receive Communion; but the Divinity, that essence the blessed adore in Heaven, is in your soul; there is a wholly adorable intimacy when you realize that; you are never alone again” (L273). Even “in the most difficult hours, when He sometimes seems very far away, [He] is in reality so close, so ‘within’ us,” (L160) hidden in the little cells of our hearts. “It seems to me that I have found my Heaven on earth, since Heaven is God, and God is [in] my soul” (L122).

In today’s Gospel, we are all called to love this trinitarian God more than we love each other—with all of our heart, soul, mind, and strength (Mark 12:30)—and we are called to love each other very much indeed, loving our neighbor as our self (Mark 12:33). When Christ sees that the scribe understands this, He tells him that he is “not far from the Kingdom of God” (Mark 12:34). This is true for us as well, as we are not far from the hidden life of the Trinity in the kingdoms of our souls. And with this Love, we can love Him and our neighbors as best we can, all while remaining hidden ourselves. Perhaps there is no better saint to show us this than the one whose feast we celebrated yesterday—St. Joseph, who could be called the patron of the hidden life. “St. Joseph performed no single brilliant act of holiness… What did he accomplish? He loved. That alone is what he did and that alone was enough to glorify him. He loved God with an incalculable and undiminishing love, and he was loved the same way in return” (Bl. Jean-Joseph Lataste).

We may not know what is happening. Our reason may point to what we can see: inescapable waves of darkness, fear, loneliness, and suffering that in turn point to the end of days, or at least to the end of life as we know it. But His grace points to what we cannot see: the divine Life dwelling in our souls, an Indwelling most blessed—and a divine Light, “the true light that enlightens every man” (CCC 1216), even in the midst of darkness and suffering. As Tolkien writes, “in this hour, I do not believe that any darkness will endure.” Instead, Love will endure, a Love which “endures all things” (1 Corinthians 13:7). So too must we hope and “endure with patience these hours of waiting.” And in that hidden, faithful waiting for the wedding feast of the Lamb here and in Heaven, where we will again see our loved ones, receive Christ, and sing for joy, let us dwell in Him and Him in us, letting Him love us and others through us in the House “of all dwellings the most blessed.”

“Don’t be afraid, be completely in God’s peace, He loves you, He is watching over you like a mother over her little child. Remember that you are in Him, that He makes Himself your dwelling here below; and then, that He is in you, that you possess Him in the most intimate part of yourself, that at any hour of the day or night, in every joy or trial, you can find Him there, quite near, entirely within you. It is the secret of happiness; it is the secret of the saints; they knew so well that they were the ‘temple of God’ and that in uniting ourselves to this God, we become ‘one spirit with Him,’ as Saint Paul says; so they went forth to everything in His radiance” (L175).

St. Elizabeth of the Trinity, pray for us. Amen.

Reading & Listening Suggestions
Pope Benedict XVI, Sacramentum Caritatis
Fr. Eugene McCaffrey OCD, Let Yourself Be Loved
St. Elizabeth of the Trinity, The Complete Works: Volume 2
Fr. Donald Calloway, MIC, Consecration to St. Joseph
Fr. Marie-Dominique Philippe, O.P., The Mystery of Joseph
John Oliver, The Heart of Père Lataste
Jackie Francois Angel, New Creation
Daily Mass, Rosary, and Divine Mercy Chaplet live streams: St. Vincent Ferrer & St. Catherine of Siena

On This Friday We Call Good: Eucatastrophe and the Eucharist

From noon onward, darkness came over the whole land until three in the afternoon.

-Matthew 27:45

It is finished.

We listened as Christ’s final words were proclaimed from the altar. We adored His cross and kissed His wounds, following in the footsteps of Mary and the beloved disciple. And then, we received the Word made flesh in the Eucharist, “the one great thing to love on earth,” one last time.

Now, the sanctuary light is extinguished, the altar is bare, and the dim church is silent. The tabernacle is open, and empty. If “a stable once had some[one] inside it that was bigger than our whole world,” the absence of that dear friend leaves a hole just as large, and it seems like “all other lights [have gone] out,” that our “one companion is darkness” (Ps. 88:19). As another poet says, “O dark dark dark. They all go into the dark.”

Yet, even in this hour of remembering Christ’s passion, we “do not believe that any darkness will endure,” though the “shadow lies on [us] still.” Jesus tells us himself at the Last Supper that “you will weep and mourn… you will grieve, but your grief will become joy” (Jn. 16:20). This darkness is not the end of the story. Though we may be in anguish now, and remember how his apostles were then, we will see Him again, receive Him again, and our hearts will rejoice just as their hearts did. “The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it” (Jn. 1:5).

In his essay “On Fairy-Stories,” J.R.R. Tolkien writes about this “sudden joyous turn” when all hope seems lost, which he calls a eucatastrophe. The opposite of a tragedy’s catastrophe, it is a “sudden and miraculous grace: never to be counted on to recur. It does not deny the existence… of sorrow and failure: the possibility of these is necessary to the joy of deliverance; it denies… universal final defeat and in so far is evangelium, giving a fleeting glimpse of Joy, Joy beyond the walls of the world, poignant as grief.”

Evangelium—the Gospel, the good news. “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God… and the Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us” (Jn. 1:1, 14). As Pope Benedict XVI writes, “The Gospel is not just informative speech, but performative speech—not just the imparting of information, but action, efficacious power that enters into the world to save and transform… God’s word, which is at once word and deed, appears… For here it is the real Lord of the world—the Living God—who goes into action.” “For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him might not perish but might have eternal life” (Jn. 3:16).

As Tolkien continues, he says, “The Birth of Christ is the eucatastrophe of Man’s history. The Resurrection is the eucatastrophe of the story of the Incarnation. This story begins and ends in joy.” So too does Holy Week. On Palm Sunday, Jesus joyfully arrives in Jerusalem. On Holy Thursday, He gives us the gift of Himself in the Eucharist, the source and summit of our faith, which “[feeds] the will and [gives us] the strength to endure.” On Good Friday, He gives us His mother, Our Lady, to be our mother and companion in darkness, before giving up His very life for us on the cross out of love.

Soon, His love will be told not only on the cross, but also in the empty tomb. His faithfulness will be known among the dead, as He breaks the very bonds of sin and death. And His wonders will be known, even in the dark. We need only to take courage and wait a little while longer—for the winter will pass, the Son will be unveiled in the breaking of the bread, and the light will leap forth as we sing with Easter joy.

Referenced
Eliot, Four Quartets
Lewis, The Last Battle
Tolkien, The Lord of the Rings, On Fairy-Stories, Letters
Pope Benedict XVI, Jesus of Nazareth Vol. 1