INTRODUCTION

 

 

Over many years of my existence on this planet, I have been touched my many experiences. Many were bad but many more were good. I have had my ecstatic moments of joy when my heart has felt elevated in the extreme, and moments of downs and total dryness of spirit. After all, realistically, we all know that life is full of winters and springs, sunny days and cloudy ones…But above all I count the many gifts and blessings God has bestowed on me.

 

With many years of meditation before the Lord, many insights have come to my mind thanks to the working of the Holy Spirit within me. It is my intention to share these insights, as I feel it would be selfish on my part not to do so. Hopefully those who read these insights will be enriched. My first effort to place some of these ideas into writing was in 1979, when I wrote a book of celebrations with focus on the Christian Initiation for Children which included ritual and song for each basic theme. This was in Buenos Aires, Argentina and therefore written in Spanish. (see details in the Bibliography)

It is not my intention to be an expert in anything, though I have had my many studies in diverse disciplines. I intend to reach everyone who is interested in sharing my insights and not just the experts. You will realize that I have a great love for Scripture, nature and above all for the Paschal Mystery with a special emphasis on Jesus' maximum expression of love for us on the cross. No doubt, being a member of a religious congregation called the Congregation of the Passion, commonly known as the Passionists, has helped to shape my spiritual life over many years to what I have become today. My whole purpose is to center on the Crucifixion of Jesus and allow different meditations to flow from that contemplation. I will allow the Old Testament to be connected to the New Testament which it naturally is, and particularly to this key moment when in the New Testament when Christ is crucified. I am inspired by the Typology used by many Fathers of the Church, beginning with Origen, following Jesus' example that connects himself with the Old Testament.  But I also will allow my own imagination to make other connections which we can call allegory. I follow in this sense the definition given to the differences of these two categories by Hansen:

 

For Hanson, typology was successful because it discerned legitimate correspondences between two sets of events, whereas allegory was the name given to arbitrary nonliteral exercises in which no convincing link was discovered between the original event and its nonliteral referent. (Martins 2008)

 

I've always loved symbols and my rich imagination loves playing around with words that repeat and intertwine with real events. Jesus made use of them continually like calling himself the Good Shepherd (John 10:11.14), the Gate (John 10:7.9), the Vine (John 15:1.5) the Light of the World (John 8:12), the Bread of Life (John 6:35.41)…all preceded with the divine title "I am" (Exodus 3:14). The gospel of John does this a lot. Take chapter 6 for instance. There is the multiplication of bread (John 6:1-13), followed by Jesus' announcement that He is the living bread come down from heaven, as one to be  believed in (John 6:32-35). He goes on to link this experience with the historical experience of the Israelites who were fed with manna in the desert (Exodus 13:4-13). From there, Jesus goes on to an even deeper level, stating that the living bread is his Body (John 6:48-51). These are three different levels. The first part of chapter 6 starts with the experience of the multiplication of the bread, building on the historical experience of a past experience mentioned in the Old Testament of Israel being fed with the manna in the desert: This would be an example of Typology, where an event from the Old Testament is tied to an event in the New Testament. The following is a sample of Typology mentioned by Fr. Barnabas M. Ahern, CP in his book New Horizons:

 

As Israel was baptized into its new life with God by passing through the waters of the Red Sea, so Christ inaugurates His ministry for God by accepting baptism in the waters of the Jordan (Mt. 3:13-17;  Mk.1:9-11). Therefore both Israel and Christ live through a period in the desert life and temptation. The forty days of Christ in the desert has its parallel in the forty years of Israel; His temptation accords with Israel's testing; His food is the word of God that comes down from heaven, just as Israel's food in the desert is not the bread of man's making but the manna of God's giving (Mt.4:1-11; Mk. 1:12-13). (Ahern p. 39)

 

These are very powerful ways of leading us into deep mysteries where Christ reveals characteristics of himself using symbols like those mentioned, while always leaving more to be said. "I am who I am" is an ongoing revelation throughout history of the mystery of God. While Christ is the full revelation of God, it will take the rest of human history to unveil and lead us to greater understanding of the Mystery of God.

 

As God does not spoon-feed us, he expects us to use our talents to share in his mission of Salvation. He was among us 33 years and in a limited geographical area. The rest is in our hands, assisted by the Holy Spirit: to take Christ’s message to the entire world and throughout the rest of history. As he says in the last supper, within this context, I believe that we can build on images expressed in Scripture as the Spirit inspires us to do.

 

“I have much more to tell you, but you cannot bear it now. But when he comes, the Spirit of truth, he will guide you to all truth. He will not speak on his own, but he will speak what he hears, and will declare to you the things that are coming.” (John 16:12-13)

 

You will notice therefore, that when Jesus gives us the rich image of the grain of wheat that must die in order to produce abundant fruit, I have taken the liberty to build on that image. Or when he says that he is the vine and we are the branches (John 15: 5a), I build on that symbolically with the theme of the Church immersed in the Holy Trinity in tune with Jesus' prayer later in the same setting of the Last Supper, “that all may be one us” (John 17: 21). All my associations are in the context of the gospel message. The newness of my message is not so much ideas but images and symbols that thread ideas together.

 

Most of the Scripture quotations I deliberately have inserted in the main text unless they are repeated or because they break the flow of the text too much. I indent and bold the quotations so that those who are not familiar with the text may read them, saving them the hassle of looking for them elsewhere, while on other occasions, one can skip the text if one is familiar with it. I also use the same technique for other quotations. For the Scripture quotations I use the translation of the New American Bible (Revised Edition) (NABRE) and on one occasion the English Standard Version (ESV).

I also like to link together symbolic words like wood/ tree/ cross or rock-stone/ mountain or water/Red Sea, or link several symbols together with each other like water and rock. These words I stress by bolding them so that the connections are more easily noticed.

 

In this train of thought, all this is part of my being convinced that life at all levels is connected, all within the flow of history, while the Paschal Mystery is the center of history which becomes the "spiritual nucleus" that animates the flow forward through a constant death to the past and rising to the new in life as we grow and move forward personally and within a collective history. The Old and New Testaments therefore are deeply connected, reaching to its peak moment in the Paschal Mystery.  From this pivotal moment, the rest of history is enlightened and finds meaning. The "do this in memory or commemoration of me" is a memory that becomes present at each moment of our life till our final passage into eternity. I am also aware that 'disconnectiveness' is a sign of death. Death, for instance, sets in our bodies when the cells split up. I also believe that too much structure that compartmentalizes the elements of faith is deadly! If we see Mass (Eucharist) as something we are obliged to hear on Sundays and then live like pagans the rest of our time, then we are in a deadly situation. The Eucharist should be the source and summit of our life as Vatican II reminds us. It is therefore interconnected with the rest of our life. It is not something we listen passively to either, but it is a celebration of life, in which we partake in. Here is a metaphor of what I express here: it's like the heart, from which blood flows throughout the body, but returns to the heart to be re-energized with oxygen.

 

With this sense of connectiveness, I take the liberty not only to link the covenant of God with Noah, expressed in a rainbow, with the new and eternal covenant established from the open side of Christ on the cross from which water flows, but also link the colors of the rainbow with the seven sacraments, which in turn connects with important moments in our life, be it being born, feeding ourselves, becoming adults, getting married, being ordained, being reconciled when we mess up, getting sick, and dying. So there is a link with Christ the Proto-Sacrament, the Church as the Sacrament of Christ and the seven sacraments that flow from the Church reaching out to concrete

life's situation. Obviously we can feel the link with our historical human journey when Eve is formed from the open side of Adam (where his heart is) with the open side of Christ, the New Adam from which his Church, the New Eve is formed. This of course is an example of Typology abundantly contemplated throughout history and obviously in the mind of the author of the gospel of John himself. The link of the seven colors of the rainbow though is my inspiration unless others before me have come up with the same idea of which I am unaware of.

 

Another way I link the Paschal Mystery and the Eucharist and the sacraments, is with the history of Israel from the moment they celebrate the Paschal meal in Egypt till they enter the promised land. This connection for the most part has been developed through Christ and throughout the history of the Church.

 

* Christ for instance links the Eucharist we receive with the Manna that the Israelites receive in the desert (Exodus 13:4-13).

 

* The slavery in Egypt becomes an image of our slavery to sin;

* the crossing of the Red Sea (Exodus 14:1-31), becomes an image of our baptism;

 

* the covenant at Mount Sinai (Exodus 24:3-8) , becomes the focus of Jesus in the last supper, (Mathew 26: 26-29; Mark 14: 22-24), and when he gives us the new and eternal covenant that replaces the old one.

 

* We can make a link with each sacrament. However, not all the sacraments are clearly explicit. I take the liberty therefore to associate the sacrament of confirmation with the water which comes out of the rock for the thirsty Israelites to drink from, which will strengthen them, so to say. This will give them strength to fight the battle against the Amalekites, while Moses holds out his arms, supported by Aaron and Hur on each side. This is like Jesus, with outstretched arms on the cross between two criminals, where the battle against evil is won. (Exodus 17: 1-13)

 

On the other hand, I like to make mysteries easier to understand with the help of images. It's bringing out the teacher in me to be as 'visual' as possible. The interlocking of two triangles to form the Star of David representing the incarnation is one example. Another is using the seven colors in the rainbow to represent the 7 sacraments. These are symbols not only linking us with the past, even before Israel was formed, but enables us to understand deep mysteries like the incarnation of the Son of God and the sacraments. You will understand this well when I deal with the theme. Another visual I use, for instance, is crossing the two tables of the Law to form the Cross of Christ, representing the love toward God, expressed on one tablet and the love toward humanity on the other tablet. I use the symbols of the Star of David and of the tablets of the Law with great respect, as Christianity rose out of Israel, and Jesus himself, an Israelite. We Christians of course believe him to be the promised Messiah awaited by Israel.

 

In approaching the themes that emanate from contemplating Christ on the cross, there is repetition of quotes from the Scripture from different perspectives, much as seen in the gospel of John, like in chapter 6 in regard to the theme of the bread. This is in tune with a more oriental type of spirituality which centers on the same event while deepening into the mystery behind it. It is also similar to my consecration as a Passionist, as I spend the rest of my life focused on the Passion of Jesus and deepening down into its ever revealing mystery over time. The spirituality of the west in many places focuses more on novelty, jumping from one event to another, leading to a more superficial contemplation of reality. Let us not confuse, though, this kind of change with the developmental changes in life, which is happening all the time in the flow of history.

 

Personally, I believe that (Click link to view) time is like a cyclical continuum though never the same, with beginning and end, which makes it also linear. It's like a coil having a beginning in time but gets closer and closer to meet with the everlasting continuum at the end of time, which is without beginning or end. We see the everlasting continuum running through the center of the coil, always present to every moment in our personal history as well as the collective one. So, seasons for instance, will repeat yearly, but each season is different from the previous and the next. This is represented by the coil which never meets as it advances. Values like love, justice, freedom, truth, joy, and peace are eternal and are found in the depths of our personal existence and are present at every moment of history and beyond, as they are found eternally in God.

 

There are two parts to these meditations. Part I is about my own personal journey in life in regard to different types of suffering and near-death experiences, mostly extracts taken out of my autobiography. I try to be realistic in stating the positive and negative in myself and others, just as we see expressed in the Scriptures. For instance, none of the Apostles in the Gospels are spared from the mention of their limitations!

Part II emerges from the Part I when I meditate on the mysteries of suffering and death experiences in life. The styles are different.

 

Index

Part I

Part II

Conclusion

Bibliography

Appendix

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