January 2006

Fr. Antony PortraitDear Brothers and Sistersin Christ,

The spiritual life is first of all, a life. It is not merely something to be known and studied, it is to be lived. Like all life, it grows sick and dies when it is uprooted from its proper element. Grace is engrafted on our nature and the whole man is sanctified by the presence and action of the Holy Spirit.
- Thomas Merton, Thoughts in Solitude

The Great Feast of Epiphany celebrates the revelation of God, the Holy Trinity, and the blessing of creation. By the Holy Spirit all things are filled with Divine Grace for He is the One who "is everywhere present and fills all things." Do we understand the implications of those words we pray so very often at the beginning of liturgical services and in our personal devotions?

If we understood them, then our entire lives would be transformed and our approach to the world would be reverence. Since God has so unreservedly poured himself out on the universe all that is left is for us to open our eyes to see. But do we want to see? Do we want to be healed? Are we not rather content to sit in the darkness within because it is "our own" darkness? We are like Adam and Eve in the Garden hiding from the face of God after their disobedience. If I can only hide myself well enough, then God will not notice me and I will be safe. The light of his gaze will pass over me and I will not be exposed for what I am, naked and helpless. We cannot hide, that is plain. We fool ourselves if we try .

The life is that we believe we must hide. That God will not love us as we are. We twist and turn in a futile effort to appear as if we have it all together and hope that God and everyone else will buy our charade. There is no way that will work forever. Eventually, our very nature rejects the idea and truth roars back in surprising and often painful ways. We end up where we began, fearful, depressed, and longing to hear someone say, "It's alright."

The Son of God became man to speak those words to each one of us. It is "all right" because he loves us. His light "shines in the darkness" where we lay hidden and we are illumined. Far from destroying, the Lord brings joy and freedom even to those of us who "are yet sinners". It is safe to come into the light. It is not necessary to wallow in guilt and despair for nothing is greater than Divine Grace.

The overarching element then of how we should live is to see each moment and each person as sacred. The question we ask ourselves is how do I, in every moment, bring compassion to bear? What can I do at each moment to incarnate the Beatitudes, to bring peace, mercy, humility, and purity in what I think, do and say for the benefit of all? To reverence God is to reverence his image in others and his presence in all creation. The implication of this are far-reaching and nearly impossible, but remember, "with God all things are possible."

As we sanctify water on Epiphany, we must also work to sanctify our lives so that they too are blessings for the wolrd.

Blessed Feast!

Fr. Antony Hughes