Friday after Ash Wednesday

Lectionary: 228


Then your light shall break forth like the dawn, and your wound shall quickly be healed; Your vindication shall go before you, and the glory of the LORD shall be your rear guard. Then you shall call, and the LORD will answer, you shall cry for help, and he will say: Here I am!


"Here I am!" is the original prayer, a declaration of readiness, availability, energy, trust and glad welcome to the Lord. It is Abraham's word, and the word of Samuel, Isaiah, Jeremiah, Mary, Paul and Jesus when they hear God our Father call.
The word is not very different from Amen. That too signifies consent, agreement, presence, availability. "I have heard the word and it is mine. Amen!" 
Surprisingly, "Here I am!" is also God's word to us, as Isaiah promises,  "you shall cry for help, and he will say: Here I am!"

I picked up recently a book published in 1902 entitled The Holy Sacrifice of the Mass, dogmatically, liturgically and ascetically explained; by Dr. Nicholas Gihr, translated from the sixth German edition. 
I can't recommend it because it's addressed to priests and much of it is in Latin, which I can't read; and the Kindle edition is a mess, as often happens with books run through scanning machines. What I notice in its opening paragraphs is the way Dr Gihr speaks of God. 
Written at the end of the nineteenth century, before two world wars, the Shoah and the atomic bomb; when few Catholics received the Eucharist at Mass, it describes a God who is supremely high in majesty. It's not a strange concept to me, but I have to wonder how the times have changed; and how history has changed our imaging God. Dr Girh wrote,
"The sublime virtue of religion ennobles man precisely in this, that it completely subjects him to the will and dominion of God and brings him into the closest communication with the primal Source of all holiness. For in offering honor and homage to God we submit our mind to Him, and it is in this submission that its perfection consists. An object is perfected by its submitting to its superior. [italics, mine]..."
"The worship due to the Divine Majesty consists principally in acts of adoration, thanksgiving, petition and propitiation. As we have seen, God immeasurably excels all creatures, even the highest and sublimest of the heavenly spirits; He excels them not merely by his infinite dignity and perfection, but also by reason of his boundless power and dominion. Hence at all times and all places, every creature is dependent upon God. It behooves man as a rational creature consciously and freely and actively to acknowledge his absolute dependence upon God -- in a word, to adore God.... 
"By adoration we understand that supreme and most perfect homage due, not to any mere creature, but only and solely to God on account of His infinite perfection, majesty and sovereign authority."

He continues in this vein for many pages. There has been, so far, little mention of "the Father" or of "Jesus Christ his Son."

Reading this I had to remember that, in 1902, kings, queens and tsars still ruled in Europe, and the pope wore a triple crown as he was carried around on a gestatorial chair. The God Gihr describes had to be supremely higher than these human majesties with all their courtiers, footmen, horse-drawn carriages and raiment. The Mass, whether low, high or solemn high had to reflect the exalted, infinite superiority of God. 
As the guard of the Emerald City told Dorothy, "...nobody can see the Great Oz! Not nobody, not nohow!"
The author's confident assertion of "man as a rational creature" also sounds anachronistic in our century, if not quaint. There is nothing rational about Nazism, the Shoah, genocides, building a wall to keep people out, or the continuing despoliation of the Earth.

At the beginning of this third millennium, I know Jesus is with us through the Mass, sacraments and liturgy. I see his presence in the faithful who join me in the VA hospital chapel. The Holy Spirit gathers people so that our celebration, necessarily brief, can be conducted with a real congregation of priest and people. The Lord often gathers even Catholic Veterans who have not attended a Mass in thirty years. (I coach them through the gestures, postures and responses.)
Catholics no longer look for God's presence in the great and powerful but among the poor, ostracised and despised. I often reflect upon the "train of his glory" which followed Jesus by the Sea of Galilee up the mountain, "the lame, the blind, the deformed, the mute, and many others."
The God who is revealed as trinitarian has emptied himself in love for suffering humanity, even to the point of death, death on a cross. This God carries a cross; he is not carried on a chair.
As we begin this sacred season of Lent we pray that the Lord hears our prayers, honors our almsgiving and fasting and again assures us, "Here I am!"

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I love to write. This blog helps me to meditate on the Word of God, and I hope to make some contribution to our contemplations of God's Mighty Works.

Ordinarily, I write these reflections two or three weeks in advance of their publication. I do not intend to comment on current events.

I understand many people prefer gender-neutral references to "God." I don't disagree with them but find that language impersonal, unappealing and tasteless. When I refer to "God" I think of the One whom Jesus called "Abba" and "Father", and I would not attempt to improve on Jesus' language.

You're welcome to add a thought or raise a question.