Thursday, April 26, 2012

The Indelibility of the Indwelling

Happy Easter everybody! Since the season began, I've been able to witness a lot of sacraments - something like 10 people who received all three Sacraments of Initiation at the Easter Vigil, as well as about 40 Gr. 7 students who received the Sacrament of Confirmation about a week ago.

The beautiful thing about the Sacraments of Baptism and Confirmation in particular, is that by them, we are forever changed. An indelible spiritual mark is placed by God on our soul, a mark that is the sign that "Jesus Christ has marked [us] with the seal of his Spirit by clothing [us] with power from on high so that [we] may be His [witnesses]" (CCC 1121). We are marked, sealed, and chosen for Christ from the moment the water is poured. And we are perfectly bound to the Church and are given increases of the Holy Spirit's gifts the moment that we are anointed with chrism by the laying on of the bishop's hand. What's more, it is impossible for sin to erase these spiritual marks, even if we choose to let sin prevent those sacraments "from bearing the fruits of salvation" (CCC 1272).

It's an amazing fact. But what's more amazing is what I fully realized after recalling some saintly quotes I had read from Fr. Jacques Philippe's book Time for God:

"It is clear to me that if I had understood, as I do today, that in this tiny palace of my soul, such a great King is living, I would not have left him alone so often." -St. Teresa of Avila

"The deepest center of the soul is God." -St. John of the Cross

And then from Fr. Jacques Philippe:

"God is present in His creation, and we can contemplate Him there; He is present in the Eucharist, and we can adore Him there; He is present in the Word, and we can find God by meditating on Scripture...There is, however, another mode of God's presence of the greatest importance for the life of prayer: God's presence in our own heart.... 'Do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you?' says St. Paul (1 Corinthians 6:19)."

We are temples of the Holy Spirit.

We have faith and know that God is in heaven, and that He is also around us. We understand that heaven is on a "higher" plane of existence, and so we associate God being above us, in the sky, looking down upon us, etc. I'm willing to bet that at least some of the time you pray, you do so by trying to "reach out" to God, grasping at That Which Is. We try to ascend to Him. But that's just counter to what the Incarnation is: God reaching out to Man. When we want to speak to God, all we have to do is look within - and I mean really look into the depths of our hearts. Love is there. I don't mean that as some kind of fluffy, Hollywood, inspirational coming-of-age cliche. The Holy Spirit - very seriously - has come to rest in the hearts of every person who has been baptized, and strengthens even more so those who have been confirmed. And just like the indelible spiritual marks of Baptism and Confirmation, the Spirit Himself dwells in us indelibly. He will never leave.

The ramifications of what this means are astounding, if not only for the apparent impossibility of the whole thing. How can the infinite rest within the finite? How can Strength rest in frailty? How can Perfection rest in imperfection? How can God rest in man? For God, That Which Is, isn't just REALLY BIG, acting as a kind of blanket over the whole universe. He is omnipresent, existing in His entirety, everywhere. And yet somehow, we are His temples. Temples that have been marked and sealed, set apart for The Holy Spirit who will always want to reside in us. He lives in us, yet we do not confine Him.

But make it personal now. It's what I did during my drive to the Gr. 7 Confirmation, and I found myself shocked at how much God loves us. Who am I, that the all-powerful creator of the universe should come to reside in me? Me, who has hated, doubted, lusted, despaired? Me, who has thought of myself before anyone else? A possible explanation for this conundrum could be that in coming to reside in man, God somehow lost a bit of His Godliness, and lowered Himself to our level; He "dumbed Himself down" in order that he could commune with us. But of course that's ridiculous - for God to be anything less than what His nature is would be to cease being God.

No, it must be the other explanation: that in coming to dwell in us, God actual raises us up to His level. He actually elevates our dignity and our humanity to take part in the divine. Look at yourself in a mirror. God wants that to be raised up to Him to have a share in the divine life.

Are you trembling yet? I'm being honest when I say that in the car, I could barely handle it. God wants you to be more, all through the Holy Spirit that dwells in your soul, never ceasing, never wavering. Indelible. I wonder if the Gr. 7s who are receiving the Sacrament of Confirmation realize this. I pray that they will. The only appropriate response is to take care of the soul and the body. We're God's house.

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