The content of the Gospel is simple, but it is difficult to express simply. Consider the rare eloquence of a crucifix, or the unsurpassable summaries of the faith in Scripture: e.g., “God is love” (1 Jn 4:16). Akin to these condensations is a little book by St. Athanasius called On the Incarnation. Before reading the book as an undergraduate, I had never seen the whole account of Christianity so plainly and appealingly set out.
Although they rarely get the respect they deserve, our tongues really should be numbered among our most prized bodily members. With them we sing of love, we broker peace, we passionately preach, and we attempt to express our very selves. They are nothing less than the tools that build up humanity and the kingdom of God. The psalmist sees the tongue as the instrument of God’s praise: “my tongue shall tell of thy righteousness and of thy praise all day long” (Ps 35:28). Our tongues, as a part of our human bodies, are destined for eternal glory, for union with God. At the Resurrection of the body, the whole of the human person will be united with God, and our tongues will perform their part in the eternal worship of God.
Now take Francis and take Poverty
to be the lovers meant in my recounting.
Their harmony and their glad looks, their love
and wonder and their gentle contemplation,
served others as a source of holy thoughts.
So sings Saint Thomas Aquinas in Dante’s Paradiso. The great Dominican theologian lauds the virtue of the holy and beloved Saint Francis of Assisi in Dante’s epic poem. Perhaps surprising to some, Dante, writing less than a century after the death of Saint Francis, chooses a Dominican to give his eulogy. And in the next canto, it is none other than the great Franciscan theologian Saint Bonaventure who sings the praises of Saint Dominic. By thus arranging his poem, Dante immortalizes the profound bond between the Dominican and Franciscan orders.
Life is full of questions. From the time we wake up to the time we spend on the clock to the time we have for relaxation—we ask questions all the time: What’s next? Where do I go from here? When is the next thing going to happen? Am I doing this correctly? Questions pervade our daily life; they occupy our minds. Our questions can be as mundane as “What is today’s date?” or as life-determining as “How am I going to pay for these bills?” When we ask a question, we wish to receive an answer: What’s next? This is next. Where do we go? Let’s go there.
One evening, about a month ago, I went to use the faucet to wash my hands and no water came out, just a sputtering sound of air and a faint gargle echoed through.
The joyous clash of tambourines and the rollicking reels of pipes and strings were punctuated with exultant shouts as the Ark of the Covenant was led into Jerusalem. At the head of the ecstatic procession, clothed only with a linen apron, King David danced exposed before God and man. For a moment, the ancient joy was found once more upon the earth. The son of him who hid from his Creator once more danced naked in His sight.
During the home stretch of our St. Dominic’s pilgrimage last year, as we left St. Matthew’s Cathedral in DC, a heavy rainstorm began. Our group numbered about twenty friars. After a few moments of hiding ineffectually under a tree and with no sign of the rain letting up, we realized that the only way home was walking for an hour in the rain.
I made up my mind that this Easter I am going to live and act like it really is Easter and not just a season called “Not Lent.” The question is how to do this. “Not fasting” can’t be the entirety of the answer and “not praying” and “not giving alms” don’t seem like good Easter fare either. The answer must be “joy.” But the next question is how to live this joy. After all, the advice “Be joyful” doesn’t seem specific enough—sort of like if someone were to give you the moral advice “Do good, avoid evil.” Excellent advice, but breaking it down a little more might help.
With Pope Benedict’s renunciation and Pope Francis’s election, there has been a lot of talk over the past two months about the controversial issues facing the Church. MSN News ran an article by Eli Epstein last month speculating about where Pope Francis stands on five “controversial” issues: gay marriage, same-sex adoption, baptizing children born out of wedlock, abortion, and euthanasia.
C. S. Lewis’ last sermon (since he was a layman he said he was “comparing notes”) was titled “A Slip of the Tongue.” He reflects on an experience of his in prayer: