Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Memory and Praise

The history of the people of Israel in the Book of Exodus follows in the wake of Abraham’s faith. Faith once again is born of a primordial gift: Israel trusts in God, who promises to set his people free from their misery. Faith becomes a summons to a lengthy journey leading to worship of the Lord on Sinai and the inheritance of a promised land. God’s love is seen to be like that of a father who carries his child along the way (cf. Dt 1:31).

Israel’s confession of faith takes shape as an account of God’s deeds in setting his people free and acting as their guide (cf. Dt 26:5-11), an account passed down from one generation to the next. God’s light shines for Israel through the remembrance of the Lord’s mighty deeds, recalled and celebrated in worship, and passed down from parents to children.

Here we see how the light of faith is linked to concrete life-stories, to the grateful remembrance of God’s mighty deeds and the progressive fulfilment of his promises. Gothic architecture gave clear expression to this: in the great cathedrals light comes down from heaven by passing through windows depicting the history of salvation. God’s light comes to us through the account of his self-revelation, and thus becomes capable of illuminating our passage through time by recalling his gifts and demonstrating how he fulfils his promises
Lumen Fidei, 12

Reflection -  Tuesdays with Francis time again! I have never made an Ignatian retreat, although I know many members of Madonna House who have, and have seen the excellent good fruit a 14- or 30- day retreat with the Spiritual Exercises can do for a person. I understand that one of the early days of the retreat consists in making a sort of inventory of one’s life, not from the point of view of what the retreatant has done or failed to do, but of every grace, every gift, every action, every manifestation of God’s presence, power, and love in one’s life, from the time of your conception to the present day, leaving nothing out however trivial or fleeting.

This sounds to me like a very powerful exercise – certainly on odd occasions when I’ve even begun to do it in my own personal prayer life I have quickly been overwhelmed at the goodness of God to me. But this is exactly what the encyclical is talking about here in bigger and broader terms. Faith as remembrance, faith as holding fast to what God has been and done, not as a pathetic clinging to the past, but because this is our surety for the future. The God who has been this for us will be this for us, because He is faithful and unchanging.

From this remembrance, so much at the heart of our whole Christian faith and worship, comes praise and thanksgiving. If we hold in our minds and hearts the great deeds of the Lord for us personally and for all mankind in Christ, praising and thanking God has a way of emerging almost spontaneously from us.

We all have troubles in our lives, big or small. I certainly do, and I don’t know anyone who doesn’t. Things that make us cry, or want to cry, or get mad, or want to run away. We all got that stuff going on somewhere in our life. It’s because of the bad stuff that we have to hold fast to the memory of God and his faithfulness and praise and thank him for it, and for his present and future grace which may not be so readily apparent to us at this moment.

Remembrance and thanksgiving: the life of faith begins to look quite a bit like the Eucharist then, doesn’t it? We remember the great deeds of God, hold them before our minds, and give thanks to Him in a sacrifice of praise. And then… God comes, mysteriously. God acts, invisibly. God loves, hiddenly. 

And God is present, miraculously. Bread and wine become His body and blood. Your life and mine become… something other than what our own efforts and plans and best wishes can make them. Our whole life has a eucharistic character, but central to that character is the remembrance, the telling, the celebrating of God’s faithful love as it has come concretely and truly to you and to me. So let’s try to live this day doing this, a little bit at least.

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