"The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, for he has anointed me..." [Lk 4:18]
THE SPIRIT OF THE LORD
is upon us” to make us sharers in Jesus' own consecration and mission. Great as this gift is, it is not a point of arrival as much as a point of departure. The “laying on of hands" is not only the beginning of our mission, but the beginning of our consecration, a consecration that is by no means something static; it is life, Jesus' life in us, His own consecration that has been planted in us as a seed. But that seed exists only to put out branches and "bear much fruit" (Jn 15:8), and so our interior consecration needs to be lived, nourished, deepened, exteriorized. As for Jesus, our inner consecration exists solely to be outwardly fulfilled. Jesus himself considered this outward fulfilment of His inner consecration so much a part of a single reality, a single mystery, that He referred to that paschal fulfilment with the same expression: "I consecrate myself..." (Jn 17:19).
His outer consecration consisted in that one movement of self-emptying for the Father and for mankind that led from the poverty of Bethlehem to the culmination of the cross and glorification, and to the gift of the Eucharist which contains all the mysteries of that one priestly consecration. a faithful reflection of Jesus' life, doctrine, and ministry.
Jesus consecrated Himself that the world might in turn be consecrated with the "spirit of sonship" (Rm 8:15), but in a special way His consecration was in view of ours, since it would be through our priestly consecration that He would continue to consecrate the world in every age: "I consecrate myself that they also may be consecrated..." (Jn 17:19). His great concern was, and is, that His consecration find fulfilment, channeling, and reflection in the faithfulness and generosity with which we live our own consecration in Him.
And so our initial consecration by the "laying on of hands" requires a daily, lived "consecration of self," allowing Jesus to complete our initial consecration by continuing His own completed consecration within us, drawing us ever more deeply and concretely into His paschal mystery of self-emptying love in poverty and cross, and drinking from the living waters of His own anointing through Eucharist and prayer.
POVERTY OF THE CROSS
“When Our Lord wanted sisters for H is work among the poor, He expressly asked for the poverty of the cross. Our Lord on the cross possessed nothing .He chose poverty because it is the means of possessing God, of bringing His love down to this earth..." (MT).
Paradoxically it is in voluntary poverty, a chosen poverty, that the involuntary poverty of our human condition finds its only true wealth, becoming enriched by Him who despoiled Himself that in despoiling ourselves with Him we might possess all in "possessing God," and so be enabled to share with others the gift, the inner wealth our outer poverty attests to, able to "bring His love down to this earth".
“When Our Lord wanted sisters for H is work among the poor, He expressly asked for the poverty of the cross. Our Lord on the cross possessed nothing .He chose poverty because it is the means of possessing God, of bringing His love down to this earth..." (MT).
Paradoxically it is in voluntary poverty, a chosen poverty, that the involuntary poverty of our human condition finds its only true wealth, becoming enriched by Him who despoiled Himself that in despoiling ourselves with Him we might possess all in "possessing God," and so be enabled to share with others the gift, the inner wealth our outer poverty attests to, able to "bring His love down to this earth.
Jesus' self-emptying was the first expression of voluntary poverty and shall ever remain its model and source. His and our poverty finds its basis, motivation, and strength only in love. Love alone led Jesus to empty Himself; His poverty was not a value in itself but an expression, though a necessary expression, of love: "He being rich, made himself poor for love of us" (2 Cor 8:9). Poverty is first of all and above all charity, totality of gift; and so charity inevitably leads to the desire, the need for poverty; "love and poverty go together, hand in hand" (MT).
A spirit, a desire for a certain poverty is a requisite to our loving as Jesus loved us; not only because Jesus loved us through poverty, but because poverty itself is basic to the very nature, to the inner dynamics of love, of compassion. Love leads to the desire to share, but sharing requires a despoiling of self to give what is ours and to take on the need or the suffering of the other.
Love leads to service, but service requires an inner emptying an inner poverty that disposes one to serve and an outer poverty that frees one to serve. To love, Jesus made Himself poor. To love we must likewise be poor: poor to share and poor to serve, free enough to give witness to the gospel we preach, if only before our "Father who sees in secret" by returning to the gospel practice o giving alms. Those of us the Lord has blessed materially must remember that abundance is not for us, but is to pass through our hands to those in need: "Your abundance shall supply their want” (2 Cor 8:13). "For Christ's sake I have suffered the loss of all things, and count them as refuse, in order that I may gain Christ and be found in Him…" (Phil 3:8).
Jesus' external poverty cannot be disregarded as merely incidental to His life and mission. An attentive look at His life reveals that poverty as the constant outer manifestation of His inner poverty, the poverty of His loving yes to the Father (obedient unto the poverty of death on a cross) and His loving yes to man and to our condition ("appeared in human form. ..took the likeness of a servant"). Since His was not an accidental poverty, the fact of that poverty cannot be dismissed or underestimated. He Himself sought out that poverty, He "made Himself poor." From Bethlehem to burial He was poorest among the poor: voluntarily stripped of His dignity as Son, born in a stable, thirty years son of a lowly carpenter, with "nowhere to lay His head" during His public ministry, humbly nailed to the wood He had humbly worked, thirsting, betrayed and abandoned, and finally laid to rest in a borrowed tomb. "From the very first day of His human existence, Jesus was brought up in poverty, the depth of which no human being will ever be able to experience, because being rich He made Himself poor. As I am His coworker, 'alter Christus,' I must be 'brought up' and nourished by that poverty which Our Lord asks of me..." (MT).
If Jesus was poor - how then not we, we who are to be a sign of Christ, another Christ? Achieving that degree of poverty the Lord asks of each one of us involves a gradual process of inner and outer self-emptying.
Interiorly we will feel the need to live Jesus' humility, to find the inner freedom of detachment from ambition and possessions, seeking the last place, that littleness of a child that alone shall gain us entrance into the kingdom, knowing that "It is our emptiness and lowliness God wants, not our plenitude” (MT). Inner poverty is our openness, our yes to Providence in the spirit of the Sermon on the Mount. "We must be poor like Jesus. His way of poverty was simple, He trusted His Father completely" (MT).
Exteriorly, we will gradually feel the need to simplify our life, to live gospel poverty more fully, to incarnate our spirit of inner poverty, choosing not to have or use certain luxuries. “Jesus could have had everything. He chose to have nothing…Our Lord had nowhere to lay His head, and what a shame it would be for His coworkers to live in a richly furnished house with every comfort and beauty and without any want” (MT). Exterior poverty not only expresses but reinforces our yes to God: "Voluntary acts of conscious poverty also serve to remind us that we are in the presence of God…” (MT). Even though at present we may feel unable to respond fully to His invitation, let us not "go away sad" as the rich young man, let us not dismiss the idea but preserve the ideal, certain that "the Lord who has begun this good work in you will see it to completion" for His glory (Phil 1:6).
Jesus' self-emptying found its culmination in the poverty of the cross, the maximum consequence of the incarnation and the supreme revelation of man's thirst and God's thirst to satiate us. The cross was not an isolated reality but the final and fullest consequence of His inward and outward poverty: that double crucifixion of spirit and flesh (as in the humiliation of His crown of thorns, and the thorns of His crown of humiliation), both expressed in His one great cry of thirst. The cross is a living of poverty, and poverty is a living of the cross.
Poverty is a living of the cross not so much because it is sacrifice, but as an expression of love. As love finds its expression in poverty, a poverty of "incarnation" and oneness, so that poverty leads in turn to a yet deeper oneness: the oneness of the cross, to both sharing and bearing one another's burdens, one another's cross, feeling as well as heeding the cry of thirst from each one's hidden Calvary.
In this spirit and with this conviction we will gradually feel the desire to take on the sufferings of our people in our own voluntary acts of abnegation and in the joyful acceptance of the crosses and trials sent us by the Lord in our daily life and ministry.
If the awareness of our subjective oneness with our people should lead us to share their cross, how much more the awareness of our objective oneness with Christ should bring us to share, even desire His cross, to carry with love the cross He carried out of I for us. Though in effect He has made the cross of our people one with His, in motivation our ascent with Him to Calvary, “stretching out our hands to go where we would not go” must always be as for Peter our response to His continual query: “Do you love me more than these...?" (Jn 21:15).
"If we are really united to Jesus, really in prayer, if we come really very close to the Passion of Christ then we need that sharing of His Passion, we need that mortification, we need that cross… Bring this across, this living of the Mass, sharing the Passion of Christ in His suffering people…” (MT).
Like the disciples of Emmaus, we too are so often "slow to understand” , the value and necessity of the poverty of the cross. As with poverty, so too the cross must come to have the same place in our life and mission as it had in Jesus'. And as we attempt to live it we see that poverty becomes our ability to enrich, and the cross our ability to give life. And once we have understood and accepted this truth then we too must begin to live and not merely preach the Beatitudes, to "love until it hurts, without counting the cost” (MT), with Jesus “setting our faces towards Jerusalem.”
“Without suffering our work would be just social work, very good and helpful, but it would not be part of the work of Jesus Christ, not part of the Redemption. Jesus wanted to help us by sharing our life, our loneliness, our agony and death. All that He has taken on Himself…only by being one with us has He redeemed us. We are allowed to do the same: all the desolation of our people, not only their material poverty, but their spiritual destitution must be redeemed, and we must share in it…for only by being one with them can we redeem them, that is, bring God into their lives and bring them to God…” (MT).
THE BREAD OF LIFE
For the Christian the Eucharist is the center of the world. The Eucharist is everything, truly everything, because the Eucharist is Jesus. It is the living, acting Jesus, "the true bread come down from heaven" (Jn 6:32), in which the Father gives to every man of every place and time the personal gift of His Son, the gift of all He is and has done poured into the poverty of our distressing disguise through the utter poverty of the appearance of bread, satiating His hunger in ours with the Bread of Life that transforms us into Him whom we consume and allows us to live with His life, doing what He has done "and greater works still." Through the Eucharist we not only receive all that Jesus is and has done, we are not only in touch with Him who is "Son of God and Savior," in touch with His incarnation, in touch with His passion and death, in touch with His resurrection, ascension, and sending of His Spirit; we become all that Jesus is, and we begin to do what He has done: His works enter time not only in the Eucharist but through us who are nourished by that Eucharist.
We become not only daily witnesses of the paschal mystery, we ourselves enter into that mystery, we enter into Jesus' own Eucharist, we “who have eaten the flesh of the Son of Man" (Jn 6:53) become as it were a living extension of His Eucharist and His mysteries. The mysteries of Jesus take flesh in the mystery of each one's life, a life in which we reproduce every aspect of the life of the Son through living communion, continuing His works of charity whose supreme expression was His passion and death which are but one thing with the Eucharist which daily feeds our charity with that same paschal mystery. In works of charity it is truly Jesus who acts, since through the Bread of Life "it is no longer we who live" (GaI 2:20). By entering His charity in the Eucharist, and His charity entering us and then entering the world through our acts of love, we become one living Eucharist with Jesus. In those works of love, works which are the continuation of His mystery of love on Calvary, His Eucharist and His work of divinization of man and praise of the Father are consumated, for in that charity we take on the likeness of Christ, and so the Father continues to be glorified in the Son in us.
"Each time we partake of this Bread" we proclaim and we live His death, we proclaim and live His love for man and obedience to the Father, His poverty which fills us still, His oneness with us, and His thirst, "until He comes in glory" (1 Cor 11:27).
Before the immensity and smallness of the Eucharist, before the magnitude and poverty of God, one can only be silent; silent before this silent gift that speaks all that can ever be said, silent before an infinite greatness wrapped in infinite humility. God has become small that in fidelity to our smallness we might "become God," and to teach us that in harmony with the poverty of the Eucharist our seemingly small works, the poverty of our humble gifts can contain even the immensity of the love of Calvary, can hide beneath them as the Eucharistic Bread the heart of the Most High. Because of the very smallness of the Eucharist, its greatness can be reflected in our smallest acts and in our most insignificant moments. It can be at one and the same time the center of the world and the center of our lives, the center of our smallest acts.
But the Eucharist will be the centre of our life only if we make it so; if our heart is humble enough to receive His humility, pure enough to receive His unspoiled gift, rooted enough in faith as to see beyond the bread and to hunger for what we have seen. The greater our faith, the greater wilt be our hunger, and the more hunger for the Lord beneath these humble appearances the more we ourselves can contain that same Lord beneath the humble appearances of our daily life. Through this hungering, this living and giving of the Eucharist, our lives become “woven with the Eucharist, so much so as to give only Jesus” (MT). This weaving is in two directions: not only does Jesus enter us, we enter Him, we begin to consciously and really enter into His paschal mystery, His undivided love, His poverty, humility and obedience, His wholehearted service of Father and mankind. in a word, into His Eucharist. It is our life that gives glory to God, not merely our words: "It is not those who say 'Lord, Lord' who will enter the kingdom, but those who do the will of my Father who is heaven." The Eucharist is liturgy because it contains Jesus' life and His act of offering that life, a life that was itself liturgy, was itself perfect praise of the Father. And so by entering His Eucharist in fervent celebration and fervent living, we become what we celebrate: with Jesus our lives become a living liturgy, a living “sacrifice of praise” to the Father, and a living Eucharist to be broken for others.
“In each of our Iives Jesus comes as Bread of Life to be eaten, to be consumed by us. This is how He loves us, and then Jesus comes into our human life as the Hungry One, the Other hoping to be fed with the bread of our life, with our hearts by loving, with our hands by serving" (MT). Jesus becomes our Eucharist that we might become that same total gift in poverty and weakness for others. With the Bread we must be broken, with the Cup our lives must be poured out.
In contemplating Jesus in the utter poverty of the Eucharist we begin better to see Him in the poverty of those around us, to understand with the disciples of Emmaus the connection, the oneness of the broken bread of the Eucharist with the sufferings of the broken Body of Calvary. In those moments of intimate contemplation, our hearts too "burn within us" so that we exclaim "Stay with us, Lord!" He grants that prayer in a boundless and beautiful way, disappearing so as to remain under the signs that continue to make His thirst and passion still present: the Eucharist and the poor and suffering. The two are mysteriously one, united in a bond Jesus himself has forged and which we must penetrate and live if indeed we are to continue His Eucharist. The poor and suffering live the passion of Jesus we celebrate, and if He continues His passion in them, in them He continues also His Eucharist. In bringing together in our lives what Jesus has already joined, the priesthood and the poor can complement and complete each other: we become together one Eucharist, one Jesus. If Jesus says “This is My Body” of the Eucharist and of every manifestation of human poverty, we must say the same, we must create in ourselves the same unity, that same identification with the Eucharist a nd His poor suffering members. To live the Eucharist, the priest needs Jesus' poor, Jesus' lonely and helpless, Jesus' broken ones.
To live the Passion, the poor and suffering need Jesus' priest. Living this mystery in all its fullness, living the mystery we contemplate, and contemplating the mystery we celebrate, we discover ever anew that the Eucharist is truly the centre, the Eucharist is truly everything, for the Eucharist is Jesus in our midst, giver of the Spirit, quencher of our thirst who thirsts for us, and living font of our priestly anointing and renewal.
PRAYER: CONTINUING THE EUCHARIST
The absolute centrality of the Eucharist in no way diminishes the importance of service or personal prayer, but rather lends to both a new and deeper significance. The centrality of the Eucharist is not in contrast with that of service or prayer, for the Eucharist embraces and contains them both. Prayer and service share in the very centrality of the Eucharist because they are the two poles of eucharistic living through which we ourselves become a living offering for God and man in Jesus. Conscious interior continuation of the Eucharist is prayer. Conscious exterior continuation of the Eucharist is service.
In practice the two become again one: prayer becomes service by praise and intercession on man's behalf , service becomes prayer by seeing and touching God in man. But that service will not be an expression of the Eucharist if it is not first a true expression of prayer, if not performed in an atmosphere of prayer. Hence the absolute primacy and priority our Movement gives to personal prayer: as a living of the Eucharist and as preparation and condition for extending that Eucharist in service.
Prayer is not something we do, it is something we enter. From the moment of our baptism the Spirit of Jesus cries out silently and continuously within us: "Abba, Father" (Rm 8:15). Here is the great mystery of prayer: Jesus himself is ever praying in us. “In reality there is but one prayer, only one substantial prayer, Jesus himself” (MT). We have not so much to forge our own prayer as to enter His, to enter Him who continues His Eucharist in our tabernacle of the heart. We are the House of God, we are His House of Prayer. Prayer is as a well which is always springing up within us. We have only to "roll away the stone" covering, muffling the Spirit's prayer within us to allow it to rise with Risen One, to "let prayer pray in us" (J. LaFrance).
Desirous of entering the mystery of Jesus who prays in the Eucharist and who continues His eucharistic prayer in us, the Movement heartily encourages a period of daily adoration in the physical presence of this mystery, as a means of indispensable contact with that reality which is the source of our priesthood, our prayer, our personal renewal, and our service. In our estimation it is an unparalleled opportunity of entering into Jesus' prayer, of interceding with Him for our people, and of deepening and growing in all that we are to be for Jesus and for others as His coworkers in priesthood.
Fidelity to this daily hour of oneness brings a growing hunger for God and for His will. The more we hunger the more we are satisfied, and the more we are satisfied, the more we hunger still. This hunger of the heart heightens our sensitivity, our sense of awareness of God and His presence deep within us, and constitutes an invitation to meet Him at that deeper level in prayer. We need deep prayer, we need the courage to descend beneath our distractions to the “place of the heart” as the Greek Fathers exhort, refusing to content ourselves with a superficial prayer which can neither satisfy nor ever change us. Deep prayer is a contact with eternity. It "brings with it, sooner or later, the awareness of being an earnest of fulfillment not achievable here below.
Such prayer brings an immediate yearning for eternity, for it is the mysterious beginning of eternal life. ..We must put all that we are in our prayer, a complete selfgiving in the present moment so that in that moment at least we can say that we prefer Jesus absolutely to anything else in the world. Living thus is the only disposition to contemplative prayer. Only the poor of heart can prefer Jesus to all else" (Voillaume). Poverty of heart in prayer is silence, silence of desire and silence of word, a total silence and emptiness so as to hear, be filled, and reverberate with the Word within. “The priest is to proclaim Christ. But he cannot proclaim Him unless his heart is full of God. That is why he needs in the silence of his heart to hear the words of God, for only then, from the fullness of his heart, can he speak the Word of God…Souls of prayer are souls of great silence" (MT).
In the silence of prayer we come to identify consciously with Jesus who through that prayer transforms us into Himself, both in our awareness and in our very being: "I live, but it is no long I but Christ who lives in me." This conscious identification with Jesus is expressed, but also fed by the way we live out our prayer, especially in little things. "Nothing can make us holy except the presence of God, and to me the presence of God is in fidelity to small things” (MT). Despite the demands and distractions of daily ministry, this sense of identification with Jesus and continuance of His Eucharist gained in prayer can gradually bring us to pray the work, to consciously do all "for, with, and to Jesus" (MT), to bring service and prayer back into harmony, back into the oneness of the Eucharist from which they spring.
We are not only to bring the people our work, but also the prayer it expresses, the prayer which can give Jesus' peace and presence to their lives as well. We must teach our people to pray, even to pray deeply. We must teach them to taste in prayer the Word they have believed through our preaching and received through our Eucharist. And, of course, to teach the experience of prayer we must know the experience of prayer.
The people must be able to see and feel that we are men of prayer, to feel drawn as the disciples to say "Teach us to pray" (Lk 11:1). As Jesus who Himself felt the need of entire nights spent in silent communion with the Father, we must seek the time to pray. And, as Jesus, we must be faithful to that prayer, seeing it not as a duty but as a gift: “Love to pray. Feel often the need for prayer, and take the trouble to pray. If you want to pray better you must pray more" (MT). Once we have answered His call to "pray more," to "come and see where He dwells" -in the Eucharist and in the poverty of our heart -then no mask, no disguise, no other poverty shall ever again hide His face. Prayer is everything because the Eucharist is everything. Prayer binds us to the Eucharist, and is likewise the bond between the Eucharist and our work, between the Eucharist and all that we do. Prayer guarantees the centrality of the Eucharist in our life: if prayer is our al" the Eucharist will remain our al" and if the Eucharist is our all we will enact that Eucharist in service. But the first step is to pray. To pray better. To pray more.
The result of our renewal, the result of drawing deeply from the sources of our consecration so as to exteriorize in our style of life and ministry that inner anointing we share with Jesus, is that we become ever more faithful representatives and ever more efficacious and intelligible signs of Jesus and His gospel. Communion with Jesus produces communication of Jesus. As Jesus was so united to the Father as to be His splendour and image ("He who has seen me has seen the Father" [Jn 14:9]), so by our union with Jesus we become His radiance, a transparency of Christ, so that those who see us have in some way seen Him. "This is what it means to love Christ, and this is what priesthood is meant to be: that complete oneness with Christ" (MT). The people seek not our talents, but God in us. As the Greeks in John's gospel asked of the disciples, so the world asks of us: “We want to see Jesus..." (Jn 12:21). In "wanting to see Jesus” in us, our people are merely asking that we be who we are, that we develop and deepen our conscious identification and oneness with Christ. Only in this way will we be able to "give only Jesus" rather than self.
"Draw them to God, but never, never to self. If you are not drawing them to God, then you are seeking yourself, and people will love you only for yourself, not because you remind them of Christ" (MT). People expect, and rightfully so, to find something of Christ in us, to discover in us that sense of God whom we are to render nearer and more tangible not only through our ministry but in our very person. "Certainly I desire to preach the Word of God to the best of my ability," wrote the great French Dominican Père Grandmaison, "but it is not that sentiment which has brought me here. When I was in the world, I never approached a priest without the ardent hope of finding something of God in him…the feeling of the living presence of Christ. Yet when I was seeking God in this way and found only a man, I experienced a bitter and painful disappointment. My whole ambition, when I am ordained, is never to cause this disappointment to a single soul."
Being one with Jesus, giving only Him and letting the people see only Him in us - this is what it means to "radiate Christ.” “As a coworker, what is expected of me? Let Christ radiate and live His life in you and through you…What is our work for? To give Christ. Your fragrance, Lord, not mine -let them look up and see only Jesus. He wants to live His life in you, to look through your eyes, walk with your feet, love with your heart…” (MT).
Jesus desired and prayed to be glorified in the apostles (Jn 17:10), that is to say, in us. Our mission then is to be the "glory," the radiance of Christ, the shining of the Risen One. We are charged with continuing Christ's mission on earth, a mission of showing forth the Father and His love: "He who sees Me has seen the Father.” Just as Christ is the “image of the unseen God” (Col 1 :15), so too must the priest be the image of the unseen Christ, the living image of the One who sent Him. God's thirst to satiate, witnessed to in all the prophets, accomplished in Jesus and at work in His kingdom through the Holy Spirit, is carried on through the living of our consecration. The satiating Spirit is indeed upon us, in Him we have each been “clothed with power from on high” (Lk 24:49) so that Jesus, still longing to bring the good news to the poor, to give sight to the blind of heart and bind the wounds of His wandering people as Isaiah prophesied, may have the joy of being able to say to the world throughout the centuries, because of and through our sharing in His priesthood: "Today this prophecy is being fulfilled, even in your hearing" (Lk 4:21) in us.