by Fr Richard Heilman | April 4, 2017 8:36 PM
In the “Three Ages of the Interior Life,” Fr. Réginald Marie Garrigou-Lagrange writes:
As soon as a man seriously seeks truth and goodness, this intimate conversation with himself tends to become conversation with God. Little by little, instead of seeking himself in everything, instead of tending more or less consciously to make himself a center, man tends to seek God in everything, and to substitute for egoism love of God and of souls in Him. This constitutes the interior life. No sincere man will have any difficulty in recognizing it. The one thing necessary which Jesus spoke of to Martha and Mary consists in hearing the word of God and living by it.
When this occurs, it is a tearing through a veil from a base, animalistic existence and entering into the “Divine Life.” As I wrote in an earlier article, I’ve come to understand – and lament – that we have, by and large, removed the very gateway into the Divine Life: Fear of the Lord or “Awe and Wonder.”
So, what is Fear of the Lord? According to Fr. John Hardon, Fear of the Lord …
“… inspires a person with profound respect for the majesty of God. Its corresponding effects are protection from sin through dread of offending the Lord, and a strong confidence in the power of His help. The fear of the Lord is not servile but filial. It is based on the selfless love of God, whom it shrinks from offending. Whereas in servile fear the evil dreaded is punishment; in filial fear it is the fear of doing anything contrary to the will of God.”
In speaking of the need for a New Evangelization, Pope Benedict XVI said, “the true problem of our times is the ‘Crisis of God’, the absence of God, disguised by an empty religiosity.”
Yes, we have gone a long way, over the past 50 years, to remove the very gateway to the Divine Life. Before the destructive post-Vatican II trend of stripping out of all things sacred, Catholicism led the way in preparing the souls of the faithful to receive this first and most necessary gateway Gift of Awe and Wonder through sacred art, sacred architecture, sacred music and special attention to the sacred offering of the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass.
St. Thomas Aquinas defined love as “to will the good of the other.” Any *authentic* love would then will the highest or greatest of all goods … the Divine Life, culminating in the reward of eternal life. This means that – if we truly love – our primary aim is to invite souls to become more interior and to tend to union with God. As long as they linger in an egocentric existence, they remain darkened in an impoverished and diminished existence disconnected from God.
St. Paul wrote:
“The unspiritual man does not receive the gifts of the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him, and he is not able to understand them because they are spiritually discerned” (1 Cor 2:14).
Therefore, all efforts must be made to assist the faithful in becoming “more open” to the first *gateway* gift of the Holy Spirit: “Awe and Wonder;” to help them move from “unspiritual man” to “spiritual man.” If we miss this, we miss everything.
After many years of “laying the groundwork,” I find myself evangelizing by inviting people to attend Sunday Mass. I know most people are sick and tired of the mundane and banal. Whether they are consciously aware of it or not, they have a great longing for the transcendent.
Knowing this, I have been in fast food stores, supermarkets, restaurants, etc., and I find myself leading the conversation to faith. Most of the time, I am speaking with someone who has left their faith years ago. While showing no signs of disappointment and judgment, I start speaking to them about the “heavenly Mass” at my parish.
I can’t begin to tell you just how positive are the responses. They assure me they can’t wait to come, and they do. I believe we have something truly substantial and authentic to offer them. In this “heavenly setting,” their hardened hearts are made soft and supple, like a sponge. They are laid open to receive what God so desperately wants to give them: The Divine Life.
So, what is this “groundwork” that allows the Mass itself to open people to the Divine Life? … To move them from “unspiritual man” to “spiritual man?” This is what we did …
While all of this is meant to assist the soul in being raised to a sense of transcendence, it also speaks of a “seriousness” of the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass. In such transcendent beauty and grandeur, it becomes difficult for the soul to remain flippant about their faith any longer. In many cases, this exposure to a sense of transcendence “flips a switch” in people’s faith lives, and they “get it” (they are illuminated) … they now know their relationship with God is the highest priority of their lives. Many, including myself, are moved to tears of indescribable joy in beholding the “Real Presence” of God in this most sacred liturgy. It is a union one never wants to lose.
This is the gift of “Awe and Wonder.” NOW, one has moved from unspiritual man to spiritual man. NOW, he can receive all of the Gifts of the Holy Spirit. NOW, the truths of God are no longer foolishness but a “way of life.” NOW, the soul hungers for “the more” of God. NOW, has the man been truly and authentically evangelized.
Anyone is free to disagree with me, but I believe the Church is in crisis, as Pope Benedict XVI said, because many Novus Ordo Masses are offered etsi Deus non daretur.
Pope Benedict XVI famously stated,
“I am convinced that the crisis in the Church that we are experiencing today is to a large extent due to the disintegration of the liturgy, which at times has even come to be conceived of etsi Deus non daretur (as though God were not there): in that it is a matter of indifference whether or not God exists and whether or not He speaks to us and hears us.”
If the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass – the very Source and Summit of our faith … is not assisting people to move into the Divine Life, we are spinning our wheels … our efforts are in vain. Any talk of evangelization must begin by getting our house in order.
So, I very much understand when those who attend the Traditional Latin Mass have grave reservations in regard to the Novus Ordo Mass.
However, I believe (and so do the giants in our Church – Cardinal Sarah, Cardinal Burke, Bishop Schneider, Cardinal Arinze, etc.) that the Novus Ordo, offered as I described above, plays a pivotal role for those who have been away from the Mass or have been immersed in a Protestantized etsi Deus non daretur version of the Novus Ordo for a lifetime.
Most of them have been conditioned to be very busy during the Mass, and most of them do not comprehend the value of using a language they do not understand. So, the long periods of, as most would say, “just sitting there,” or listening to something incomprehensible is, for most, non-negotiables. In other words, they are not yet “ready” for the Traditional Latin Mass. Now, I know there are exceptions, and I know some people will describe there own story that refutes this, but we are talking about the vast majority of souls who are simply “unspiritual” right now, mostly due to what Pope Benedict XVI refers to as “the disintegration of the liturgy.” Our charitable concern extends to them. We want to evangelize them.
In my own parish, I have witnessed this very thing. We have had a great influx of beautiful young families whose stories speak of anything from being away for years to being an atheist. One way or another, they checked out our more pure form of the Novus Ordo, and they received the gateway gift of the Holy Spirit – Awe and Wonder. A few years later, and some feel drawn to the Traditional Latin Mass. For these, the Novus Ordo, offered as described above, provided a bridge to the Traditional Latin Mass.
Who are they now? Deeply devoted Catholics who are inspiring others to “want” what they found.
This is authentic love … willing the greatest of all goods for the other.
I love this depiction of a woman receiving the gateway gift of Awe and Wonder. She will now be changed for life. (You can start watching at the 3:00 mark)
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