One of my favorite parts, of the second nocturn for Matins, are the readings that consist of a homily given by a Church Father, Doctor of the Church or a past pope in the Roman/ Carmelite Rite of the Divine Office. Because the Carmelite Rite has no English translation, I purchased the Roman Rite as well, so I can read these glorious sermons daily. Not always, but more often than not, when I compare today’s homilies with those that come from hundreds of years ago, the latter is so much more eloquent, fervent, and of course, not filled with the overrated and quite frankly uneducated, slang used today.
Priests trying to be “hip and cool” does not cut it for me. We do not need to get with the times; the times need to get with the Church. Therefore, I look especially to Saint Paul. When someone reads to me one of his verses, the style alone is enough to tell me which fiery Apostle the words belong to. He speaks like a zealous poet, with a burning love for God. He does not sugar-coat the truth either, but again, this is what ultimately lead to his martyrdom, was it not? How much of what he predicted in his own time, is coming true as we speak?
“For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine; but after their own lusts shall they heap to themselves teachers, having itching ears; and they shall turn away their ears from the truth”. (2 Timothy 3)
How much more urgent are these words now? And currently coming from the very heart of the Catholic Church. Rather than speak of the great, and present, tumult in the Church I want to share my favorite part of the homily given by Pope Saint Leo, for today’s feast of the Transfiguration. A few lines stood out to me, one of which reminded me of the Apostle, depicted with the sword, we just spoke of: Saint Paul. I strictly use the Douay-Rheims, Latin Vulgate translation now, because it is used in the Latin Mass Missal, as well as the Old Office. So, I try to stay away from other translations, that can often be misleading, yet the one exception I have made is for Romans 5:4. Rheims says, “Tribulation worketh patience”.
Another, that is still particularly my favorite, translates to: “Endurance produces character”. I have always related to this one right away because I was a long-distance Cross Country and Track/Field runner in high-school and almost had an opportunity to run in college. My Grandfather, who was a previous coach, even had that phrase coined on a trophy for one of his students. When Saint and Doctor, Catherine of Siena, was told by Our Lord that the sufferings of the body do not compare to that of the soul, how much more this endurance can be applied to the interior life. Above all, this endurance is tested, tried, and cast into the furnace during times of waiting. Jesus and Mary knew in advance all that was to befall Them, what did They do? They WAITED for the day of the crucifixion… year after year, after year. Thirty-three years. With endurance comes forbearance, fortitude and heroic patience- only brought about by tribulation. I was reminded of this while reading Pope Leo’s homily this morning:
“Peter the Apostle was moved by these revelations [the Transfiguration on Tabor] of mysteries. Despising the things of the world and scorning those of earth, he was rapt and carried out of his mind by the desire of the things that are eternal and, filled with the joy of the vision, he hoped to dwell with Jesus in the very place where he had been gladdened by the site of His glory. And so he said, ‘Lord, it is good for us to be here. If you wish, let us set up three tents here, one for You, one for Moses, and one for Elias’. But the Lord made no reply to this suggestion, showing that Peter desired, not something wrong, but something inordinate, for the world could not be saved except by the death of Christ. Here the Lord’s example calls the faithful to believe that, while we are not to doubt His promises of immortality, nonetheless we should understand that, in the temptations of this life, we are to ask for endurance rather than for glory.”
There was a time, when Cross Country season was just beginning, where the entire first week of practice I could barely walk. I would be limping around my high-school campus wondering, “if I am having a hard time walking, how will I run at practice?” When I opened my eyes, first thing in the morning, it often felt like the only muscle in my body that did not ache, were my eyelids. I did not want to move, because I knew everything would hurt. But I forced myself to “get it together” and run another six miles or so that very day. I was sore because muscles in my body, that were not often used, were being exorcised in a new way. It’s the same in the spiritual life.
Remember in one of my former posts, where I said, “waiting is the cross?” Perhaps, just like Track and Field, there are short-distance runners and long-distance runners in the spiritual life. If you find yourself waiting right now, for example, friends of mine who are suffering infertility, this requires endurance, but waiting ALWAYS does. Have you ever noticed that in the word endurance is endure? Even though I was in physical pain as a runner, I kept running the miles each day. Overtime, it did not hurt so much because my muscles adjusted. In the spiritual life, in order to see this endurance expand, we simply have to continue carrying out our daily duties for our state in life, all the while bearing our cross.
If you have waited months, perhaps years, I believe it is safe to say, that like Jesus and Mary, you are expected to be a long-distance runner in your interior, for the sake of the Kingdom of Heaven, and your reward will be very great. And so, with Pope Leo, let us remember: while we are not to doubt His promises of immortality, nonetheless we should understand that, in the temptations of this life, we are to ask for endurance rather than for glory.”