2020. december 27., vasárnap

Three Sermons for the Feasts

The Holy Family – With Renewed Eyes 


How can we connect the theme of the Holy Family with our annual thanksgiving? It is worth looking at, first, the theological content, then what our 'emotional intelligence' is saying.  

Today's feast celebrates the human family unit, as well as the ultimate family unit: Jesus, Mary, and Joseph. The Feast of the Holy Family is not just about the Holy Family, but about our own families too. The main purpose of the feast is to present the Holy Family as the model for all Christian families, and for domestic life in general. We celebrate the 'dialectic' of grace: our family life becomes sanctified when we live the life of the Church within our homes. This is called the "domestic church" or the "church in miniature." St. John Chrysostom urged all Christians to make each home a "family church." And in doing so, we sanctify the family unit.  

Just how does one live out the Church in the family? The best way is by making Christ the center of family and individual life. Ways to do this include: reading scripture regularly, praying daily, attending Mass at least on Sundays and Holy Days of Obligation, imitating the actions of the Holy Family, receiving the Sacraments frequently, all done together as a family unit. Just as parenting requires effort and sacrifice, living as a Christian family is a similar toiling but hugely rewarding work. And the good news is that it does not matter if one lives in a single household. In the 'church family' we are always partners of grace.  

Let us also look at the 'emotional content' of the feast when we relate it to our annual thanksgiving. Of course, we are giving thanks for the many gifts of God from the past year. Our health, our work, the time we enjoyed together, and the things we used, which sustained our lives. Today, we are gathered again around the Crib, with the Holy Family. So let the message to our 'emotional intelligence' come through. What are we giving thanks for at the end of the year – as individuals and as a 'Church family'? And this message is the miracle of the Crib. Our thanksgiving is guided by how the members of the Holy Family look upon each other. Let us pause for a second, and connect our hearts with Mary, Joseph, and the Baby Jesus. (…) In the light of their love for each other. Let our heart speak and pray.  

So personally, this light has taught me to see all of us as 'extended' members of the Holy Family. Today I most of all give thanks for incredible gifts of the member of this congregation. Today, as your priest, I can realise and see clearly how much extraordinary talent, experience of life, and goodness is in you. I am really amazed and humbled by the love and faith you have for Jesus, and each other, and for our community.  

I am sure, that our hearts have said the same or similar prayer in front of our mirror, the Crib with the Holy Family. If this vision gets blurred, if we our confidence in our or other's goodness is fading, no worries. In those moments, let us reconnect with the 'mental image' of the feast. Let us recall this crib in front of us and let us listen to the prayer it has taught our hearts today. 



As God's Family 


Happy Birthday! We have come to wish you, our Lord and Saviour, a happy birthday! The conjunction of planets Jupter and Saturn, just few days ago, on Monday, was the same sight that led the three magi to the crib. Friends sent me photos of the bright star, it was shivering to see the lights of the first Christmas.  

Now we are gathered around the Crib as God's family. The newborn baby is loved by Mary and Joseph beyond all words. Like in every parents' life, the birth of a child changes everything. It brings out the best of a mother and a father. Jesus is loved wholeheartidly. Contemplating this love, the chief commandment comes to mind, as the source of this love. 'You must love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind.' Mary, just like Joseph, loves Jesus with all her heart, all her soul, and all her mind. 

The birth of Jesus, the second divine person, the Son becoming incarnate, mobilises not only human love, but Divine Love itself. The Father, our heavenly Father, is also leaning over this spot where we are standing right now. All his love is poured out on this child. This is on outpouring love. The fullness of Love is focused on this family; and we are standing in this limelight. Jesus is loved, fully, we are loved, fully by the Father.  

Pope Francis, in his Christmas Eve homily said that in today we are told by God, the same thing, as the Divine Child is told: 'I love you so much. You are so precious. Don't ever be tempted by the thought that "I am a failure"'.  

Let us allow ourselves to be washed by this shower of love. Let it remove our anxieties, our worries about the pandemic, and make it bearable.  

God knows that our worries and challenges are real. Today, however, and in this Christmas season, he wants us to pray differently. Whenever we share with him our innermost needs, let us keep our eyes on the joy of the Holy Family. Let us make our requests and prayers in the experience of being loved. We stand in front of the crib as God's family. Let it remind us, that this is a place, where God looks upon the Saviour. It means that all situations where this Child and Teacher is present are redeemable! There is no lost cause in his presence. So, let us learn to pray as God's family, drawing strength from the crib's message: from now on, the Redeemer walks by us. 



The Shortest Prayer for Christmas Eve 


This Christmas, just compared with last year's, feels so much different. All of us know why, because of the global pandemic of Covid 19. However, Christmas always is the same. We celebrate the wonderful news, that the Saviour of the World has been born! Like children, yearning for truth, we contemplate the Crib. 

We need this good news more than ever. What is different, perhaps, that the familiar words this year have regained their full weight. We are in such a need of our Saviour, and our Healer, the Incarnate Son of God. Today, on this Holy Night, we can share the expectation of past generations. People cried out to God in times of crisis. For them the Saviour was real. Let us cherish this gift of faith, that God, the Christian message of Christmas has become real for us. 

God was always real, true, and faithful. It was us who have chosen to be 'unreal', unfaithful, and self-centered. Tonight, we celebrate that the Angel's song is real. The pastors are real. The manger, with the animals, with the Mother of God, and Joseph, and with the Baby Jesus is real. Just as we are present for him now. All we have is the gift of our presence. Our prayer is the shortest this evening. Let it echo in us in the coming days. Newborn King, child-Jesus, 'Save us. Use us. Use me'. We all want to be yours. Let this prayer echo in us, in this Eucharist, and on our way home, and when we awake tomorrow morning to savour the good news of tonight: 'Let us all rejoice in the Lord, for our Saviour has been born in the world. Today true peace has come down to us from heaven!' 



2020. december 24., csütörtök

Building That House


'Look, I am living in a house of cedar while the ark of God dwells in a tent.' David was concerned that God does not have a proper abode among his people. Let the king's desire to provide God with a Temple, which can express and worship His beauty and power, be our desire, too. On the threshold of Christmas let it be our concern, too. How can we welcome our Creator and Redeemer?  

Is it a physical abode? Partially, it is, as we have to give expression to the Sacred. When we build a church, it is a witness to God's life-giving power. We need the temple also as the expression of our ability to welcome what is Sacred. The physical building is always a reminder to preserve in us this capacity of welcome. 

Yet, Christmas Eve will teach us, that God shows us the most important way, his way of building the Temple of His presence. God will choose to live and serve among us. To love among us, literally, us. So let us see in the Christmas story not God's poverty but something even more powerful than his kenosis (self-emptying). It Jesus' ability to show God as Emmanuel, the Sacred as our companion, and real friend. 



2020. december 22., kedd



Saturn and Jupiter Conjunction (21 Dec 2020)

Suddenly things have their stakes. It has been always the case in personal life. Finding a job, finding a school for our children, learning of someone's being unwell in the family. On this level of everyday existence stakes were higher or lower: our story always felt like real.  

When a society lives in peace, and wars do not affect it directly, history becomes somewhat 'weightless'. An undisturbed local culture, like that of the privileged West, glued to the screen, loses the sense of history. It no longer resonates sensitively in all of us, we no longer feel how sensitively all of us vibrate along its joint strings. It is only a matter of time when 'the real strikes' again, and history becomes painfully real. Covid-19 entered our life, and we are aware of our vulnerability again. In parallel, however, we again awaken to solidarity, that history embraces us all - and is formed by all of us.  

I don't know if there is a connection with this sudden change, but a parallel fact is also certain. God, whom now generations found (missed out?) as 'weightless', can enter our collective life again. Yep, we Christians are convinced that this sudden straightforward return would be beneficial for us. We could see things more clearly and could make better decisions. We could handle conflicts better on an international level. 

Yet, the big question is there. Can, will the Lord return into our lives, with all the benefits only He can bring? The prophet makes us cautious. 'And the Lord you are seeking will suddenly enter his Temple' (Malachi 3:2) At the same time, he leaves this question open. Is it only for the seekers, who will experience the Lord's return to his Temple (Church, and History)? Or is it through the faithful waiting of those who have faith, that hastens and welcome this Return? Or our world simply will remain alone with all the pains which the aforementioned 'weight of history' brings along? And we shall be without God's helping hands, just because we did not contact him in time? 

Advent's wisdom helps us to converge our answers. 'The Lord will suddenly enter' history again. Thus, the real question is how shall we respond to this big change, the arrival of his Power? 



Closing the Gap (An Advent Homily)

One of our major experiences of Advent should be by now the diminishing distance between us and our Lord. At least spiritually, we feel closer to Him. This effort of thinning what separates us is the great lesson of Advent.  

The coming of the Lord (close to us) shows that it is possible to blend, in an organic way, the sacred and the profane in our lives. It is possible - says Advent - to undo the painful contrast, nay, division between them. 'God is present only in the church but not in real life.' Advent has shown us that it is no longer true. 'Christians behave differently in the temple than in their real life'. No longer true. Moreover, this reconnecting the two can be done joyfully and in peace.  

Advent wants to become a permanent feature of our life and thinking. As we prayed, Incarnation is real, and our unum necessarium, our only vital need. 'O God, who, seeing the human race fallen into death, willed to redeem it by the coming of your Only Begotten Son, grant, we pray, that those who confess his Incarnation with humble fervour may merit his company as their Redeemer. Who lives and reigns with you in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever.' 




2020. december 21., hétfő

More Than Talking to Plants


Some people talk to their plants. And, in their recollection (science seems to confirm it), they respond. The plants perceive and react to this positive confirmation of their identity. This is the key: a human being pays respect to their life. They acquire an added quality of life 'being loved'. The plants belong to someone who cares for them.  

A similar 'deep-conversation' can, is taking place in creation. Talking to God, the Creator, brings about a real change. He is present in things, particularly in situations. When we talk to Him, a person, a situation, nature, even our things and household can change.  

In our Covid-19 stricken world, something similar happens - or is waiting to happen. We are surrounded by yearning for health and wholeness. That is why, we Christians believe, it is so important to pray to the Lord, to his potential healing arrivals.  

Today's Advent reading, the vision of the Beloved's arrival, can inspire us to this time of 'prayer of invitation'. This is a song which reveals the 'hidden DNA' of God's Presence in all what surrounds us. Let this beautiful song sustain our hope in the hoped transformation of the present situation. 'I hear my Beloved. See how he comes leaping on the mountains… For see, winter is past, the rains are over and gone. The flowers appear on the earth. The season of glad songs has come, the cooing of the turtledove is heard in our land…Come then, my love, my lovely one, come.' (Song of Songs 2:8-14) 




2020. december 20., vasárnap

Childhood Memories


We tend to think of Jesus' childhood as something of a nice prelude to his adult work. We relegate it to an almost 'sweet phase' of his life, perhaps because of the sentiments that are attached to it at Christmas. The finish of Advent, and Christmas in particular, however, wants to get the balance right. The birth and the childhood of Jesus are far more significant that we think. On the fourth Sunday of Advent, when we read of the Annunciation, we are invited to contemplate an important question. What does God want to communicate through this divine childhood? Why this 'prelude' is so important for Him?  

I found a useful and thought-provoking idea in Julia Kristeva and Philip Soller's new book, Marriage as Fine Art. When two adults who fell in love meet, in retrospect they recover their childhood. Love opens up the newly formed couple to each other. All of us can recall, that indeed, strangely, in the time of courting, people share their childhood stories. We not simply reflect on our past but revisit those formative years and events since childhood. Couples share how they become the persons who they are. These memories of formation and bonding, with all the positive experiences, are retrieved, revealed, and intensely renewed. This sharing and openness bond the lovers, and form a ground for their later life-covenant.  

Why not contemplate the scene of the Annunciation in this light? Jesus wants to share this formative event of his life with us. By telling the story of his conception owing to the yes of his Mother, he wants to share with us how wonderful it was to be embraced by the Father's love - and become incarnate in human flesh. How joyful it was for the Second Divine Person, the Son, to undertake the journey to save us. He tells of his positive experience, however unconscious it was, of his conception, birth, and real childhood. Jesus wants to share how fully he could rely on his mother's love and care, and his Father's providence. 

Through his story telling and sharing his 'invisible story', we are invited to a similar exercise. In the upcoming three days leading up to Christmas Eve, why don't we share our own childhood, and positive, formative events of life with God? Just as we opened up in love to the beloved one, let us be interested in the life of our ultimate partner and friend, Jesus Christ himself. If he shares his story wit us, if we share ours with him, what a covenant of love shall be renewed! 



2020. december 16., szerda

Unconscious (A Twofold Dialogue in Isaiah)

There is very little serious talk about God. Which is surprising in view of the ordeals we are facing during the global epidemic. It tells a lot about the mindset of an age, nay, that of a whole civilisation. This silence just a good hundred years ago would have been unimaginable. True, the earlier we go back in time the less devices and power we had against disease. So today, our culture's 'background knowledge' is that we are self-sufficient. 

Isaiah's passage, in a masterly composition, reveals what is beneath the surface. (Isaiah 45:6-8. 21-26.) Not only that God's Word is the very ground of culture and the human self, but also, our unconscious and suppressed desire to articulate these inner voices.  

'Apart from me, all is nothing. I am the Lord, unrivalled, I form the light and create the dark. I make good fortune and create calamity, it is I, the Lord, who do all this.' To this 'ground Presence', our self (cultural and individual) responds: 'Send victory like a dew, you heavens, and let the clouds rain it down. Let the earth open for salvation to spring up. Let deliverance, too, bud forth, which I, the Lord shall created.' No, we are not mistaken when we see it as a dialogue. In this latter request our soul, our culture, speaks and yearns, literally, in God's words. Let us get stylish, again. Facing the newest waves of the epidemic, it is time to pray. Not in our own words, but in the words that the Spirit teaches us to ask for. 



2020. december 13., vasárnap

Two Images


On the third Sunday of Advent, I would like us to contemplate two images. That of the 'frozen snow' and the advent wreath with growing lights. All this in the light of our entrance antiphon, which stands for our third, special light on it: 'Rejoice in the Lord always; again I say, rejoice. Indeed, the Lord is near.' (Phi 4:4-5) 

Janos Pilinszky has a captivating image in one of his poems (Vesztőhely télen). When turning the winter landscape into a poetic image. He speaks of the frozen snow as 'exiled sea'. '…And what about the snow, the winter snow? Perhaps, a sea in exile, the silence of God.' 

We are the 'frozen humanity', immovable, idle, because of our frozenness. Owing to our sins, lack of faith, and now, because of Covid-19, we cannot return to our origins. This origin, as Gaudete Sunday reveals, is rejoicing. The experience of joy, the experience of shared joy, which makes us humans. As we prayed in our opening prayer, 'O God, wo see how your people faithfully await the feast of the Lord's Nativity, enable us, we pray, to attain the joys of so great a salvateion and to celebrate them always with solemn worship and glad rejoicing.' 

Our second image, the growing lights of the advent wreath, shift our emphasis to this holy joy. Today we are anticipating it from Christmas Eve. So, Advent feels like a season when God, whom we made silent, because of the distance from Him, suddenly speaks again. Isaiah's words, with an unsurpassable beauty, show how our God comes to us and covers us with the warmth of his love. 'Be happy at all times; pray constantly; and for all things give thanks to God…' (1 Thessalonians 5:16-24) In Isaiah we could fully face the source of this melting, the Sun of Love, our coming Messiah. 'The spirit of the Lord has been given to me, for the Lord has anointed me. He has sent me to bring good news to the poor, to bind up hearts that are broken; to proclaim liberty to captives, freedom to those in prison; to proclaim a year of favour from the Lord.' (Isaiah 61:1-2,10-11) 

But advent does something more. It makes us fertile again, in order to bring that change into the world, which our previous (present) frozenness prevented. This Sunday, in the simplest way, connects us with Jesus' example. We just need to imitate his acts, his gesture and thoughts. Let us join him in bringing good news to the poor, consolation to the broken hearted, freedom to situations. So, we can see our Advent preparation is yet not finished. 

How can we sum up our two images? Perhaps, by realising, that Advent is our threshold between our being a 'frozen see' and our 'melting exile'. And today, we were allowed to visit, to have a glimpse, even if for only a day, of the full joy when soon, our Saviour will have been born.  



2020. december 10., csütörtök

‘Melting Exile’ (Isaiah 41:13-20)


Janos Pilinszky has a captivating image in one of his poems (Vesztőhely télen). When surveying a winter scene, he speaks of the snow as 'exiled sea'. '…And what about the snow, the winter snow? Perhaps, a sea in exile, the silence of God.' 

We are the 'frozen humanity', immovable, idle, because of our frozenness. Owing to our sins, lack of faith, we cannot return to our origins. Advent is feels like a season when God, whom we made silent, because of the distance from Him, suddenly speaks again. Isaiah's words, with an unsurpassable beauty, show how our God comes to us and covers us with the warmth of his love. 'I, the Lord, your God, I am holding you by the right hand; I tell you, "Do not be afraid, I will help you." Do not be afraid, Jacob, poor worm, Israel, puny mite. I will help you, it is the Lord who speaks, the Holy One of Israel is your redeemer.' We start being melted. Our exile is being melted.  

But advent does something more. It makes us fertile again, in order to bring that change into the world, which our previous (present) frozenness prevented. 'I will make rivers well up on barren heights, and fountains in the midst of valleys; turn the wilderness into a lake, and dry ground into waterspring.' But things are not yet finished. Advent is our threshold between the'frozen see' and 'melting exile'. 



2020. december 7., hétfő



'Let the wilderness and the dry-lands exult, let the wasteland rejoice and loom, let it bring forth flowers like the jonquil, let it rejoice and sing for joy.'  

Why not compare the season of Advent to aging? Advent is a time to realise that our time for action is shorter than we think. Being suddenly aware of our aging means that we have less life left, shorter with our previous letting time carelessly flow by.  

Advent is good news. It assures us that there is a reawakening, which can be followed by a recapitulation of the essence of our life. We can regain the lost focus of our plans, dreams, and actions. Still, we can recuperate our vigour. May be not in terms of doing what we missed but reconnecting them with their essence. Prayer and repentance. Strength for prayer, and if possible, for action, will surely follow. 



2020. december 6., vasárnap

Why Do We Need to Pray for Christ’s Coming? (Sermon on the Second Sunday of Advent Year B)


Advent wants to challenge us on all possible fronts. Today, let us try to answer the paradox echoing in our readings. John Henry Newman, in his 4th Sermon on Advent ('Shrinking from Christ's Coming') brought attention to serious tensions regarding our Advent preparation. There is a mixture of fear and comfort. 'We are looking out for Christ's coming, we are bid pray for it; and yet it is to be a time of judgement….How can [we] look forward to it with joy, and not knowing the certainty of [our] own salvation?' How is it that in our prayers we hasten the Lord's coming, and at the same time, we are not ready at all? Or to sharpen this paradox further, how can we quicken the arrival of our Judge in parallel with the fact that His arrival would be 'shortening the the time of our present life, and cut off those precious years given us for conversion, amendment, repentance and sanctification? Is there not an inconsistency in professing to wish our Judge already come when we do not feel ready for Him?' Why do we need to pray for Christ's coming? 

I would like to highlight two directions in answering this paradox. One is theological, the other is practical. 

First let us focus on one of Newman's historical homily, what he says about the importance of our prayer. It is true that it is a discomforting thought to be 'judged for all our doings by an unerring Judge.' 'Try to trace back the history of your life in memory, and fancy every part of it confessed by you in words, put into words before some intimate friend, how great would be your shame!... But how gladly would you in that day [disclose it] to a fellow-sinner, to a world of sinners, compared with the presence of an All-hoy, All-seeing creator. Think of all this, and you will not deny that the thought of standing before Christ is enough to make us tremble.' 

But Newman continues with an encouragement. We have reasons to pray to Him, and hasten his coming. God's presence is hold out to us as our greatest good! Even if we are afraid of this coming meeting, it is our duty to obey on faith. 'Let us do what He bids, and leave the rest to Him.' And Newman's answer gets really exciting on this point. 'We do not pray that He would simply cult short the world, but that He would make time go quicker… Before He comes all the Saints [his elect] must be gathered in; and each saint must be matured. All we pray is, that He would please to crowd all this into a short space of time, that He would accomplish - not curtail, but fulfil - the circle of his Saints. 

When then we pray that He would come, we pray also that we may be ready; […] and make us the holier the closer He comes… That when he shall appear, we may have confidence, and not be ashamed before Him.' 

We need to take seriously that task of prayer as it is our only way of preparation. Why? Because, as Newman highlights, we can never be fully prepared: 'you can never be profitable to Him even with the longest life.' Yet, 'you can show faith and love in an hour!' 

And this is where Newman's final answer comes. How can we stand before the Lord and God? 'How do you bring yourself to come before Him now day by day? Consider what it is you mean by praying, and you will see that, at that very time that you are asking for the coming of His kingdom you are anticipating that coming, and accomplishing the thing you fear. When you pray, you come into His presence.' And though we know that we are of 'unclean lips and earthly heart', we also know 'that He is All-merciful, and that he so sincerely desires my salvation that He has died for me.' 'If we have lived, however imperfectly, yet habitually, in His fear, if we trust that His Spirit is in us, then we need not be ashamed before Him.' That is why our prayer life in the Church is so, so important. 

In view of this, Newman emphasises the importance of receiving the Holy Communion. 'For this is in very form an anticipation of His coming, an near presence of Him in earnest of it.' Jesus offers his friendship through the Communion, he teaches us to look upon him with trust. In the Eucharist we receive we anticipate the future day to come. 

The second answer to our paradox is thoroughly practical. 'Prepare a way for the Lord!' Advent is about reawakening to do and live what Christ teaches. So our advent preparation is about 'getting real'. Let us make our prayers be substantial and efficient… 

'Think about when you're working on your weekly schedule. For those of you who don't have weekly planners or a good app on your phone, opting to juggle it all inside your head instead, you'll know what I'm talking about: When you consider your work hours, the outing with your friend, your "me-time" watching television and the errand you have to run, somehow it all seems to work. "Yeah, I got this. I'll squeeze it all in, and have time to take my oldest kid out for ice cream, too." 

But then reality happens, and whoops! There's not enough time. The work hours pile up, something goes on too long, an unexpected emergency comes up, and the ice cream outing is a long-forgotten promise. 

But if you take the time to speak it out, to put a pen to paper, to use a good working app, and actually go through the week and map out your schedule, you have a good chance at succeeding. Sure, you may have to knock off a few things you were planning to do, but whatever remains on your schedule is now a good bet.' (Aharon Loschak) 

Advent also runs the risk of living in our 'Advent-imagination'. However creative and fertile our ideas of our possible preparation are, these are not year real. All what we dream about are only our 'thought-kids'. Let us put down real targets and tasks to be done. Let our Advent preparation produce not mere 'thought-deeds', but real ones. 'A voice cries, "Prepare in the wilderness a way for the Lord. Make a straight highway for our God across the desert. Let every valley be filled in, every mountain and hill be laid low!"'



2020. december 4., péntek

God's 'Future Perfect' (Divine Grammar)

'In a short time, a very short time, shall Lebanon become fertile land and fertile land turn into forest?' The prophetic vision of forthcoming events in the Bible has a very strange nature. It is just as much about the future as the past. When we hear of falling empires, the fall of the Holy City, or exile - in the words of the prophet actually past generations also speak. They had experienced these horrors. They want to emphasise, under the surface of the grammatical future, that these sufferings are real. What is going to happen, what is predicted - it already happened. The Biblical future is never a phantasy. It always speaks of what is real.  

When we read the prophet's words, in us, a hidden community is reading and remembering. These 'future perfects', that all this will have happened, should strengthen our relationship with past generations. Through the depth of our DNA, it is not only me, the child of the present, but they also speak, hope, and investigate the future. They warn us, who are entrapped in and veiled by the present, that we need to be strengthened by their experiences. We need them, this fellowship created by history, in order to have sufficient desire for the future promised by God. Otherwise there won't be a way out of our cyber-presence (grammatically 'cyber-present-perfect'). 



2020. december 3., csütörtök

‘Trust in the Lord’ (Isaiah 26:1-6)


If Advent is the time for waiting for the Lord, then it is about the how of this waiting. Namely, how to reignite our desire for waiting. We live in an age, when there is non contrast between 'having spiritual energies' and not having it. These energies have been dissipated in very subtle ways. Our soul's attention is caught in diverse ways. Actually, we live in a constant state of dispersing our soul's life.  

One perhaps can go even saying, that it is a special form of 'slave holding society' regarding these energies. Why? Because in our modern age, based on production and consumption, we need so much of our inner resources that we are (almost) forced to use up those energies of the soul which is reserved solely for prayer. That's why the pathetic (and cheep) saying that 'God is dead' is not true. Our soul is dead. Our sacred, untouchable energies, are exploited and have vanished. 

That is why it is so important and healing to close this tap of a continuous loss. In the words of Isaiah, 'Trust in the Lord for ever, for the Lord is the everlasting Rock.' Advent is a crucial time for recharge. 




2020. december 2., szerda

Forms of Waiting (‘Fuller of Life’)


Let us pause for a moment and have a look at our ability of 'waiting for'. This is one of our deepest desires. We can catch ourselves in the act of waiting many times during the day. Today I was ashamed by the fact that after the morning prayers I instinctively wanted the browse the news; what has happened since yesterday. Then I decided to skip that momentarily passion. Indeed, we can live without those moments. Few hours delay with catching up does not really matter. 

What matters however is the recognition that we could invest this precious energy into something more focused. For we can wait for the Lord (being Advent) with the same desire. What would happen if we did not waste these sacred energies during the day? What a powerful focusing on what is essential it would be. Our life, down to the tiniest cell of our body, would be literally different. Fuller of life. 



2020. november 30., hétfő

Depth to Things (Isaiah 11:1-10)

It would be worth having a closer look at the surface of the pieces of furniture and the decorations with which we are surrounded. It seems that there is 'a uniform' our rooms are wearing. The surfaces are nice to the eye. 'Clear' lines, white, almost sterile surfaces. Laminated floors, shiny, nice, but thin, without any depth. Plastic-varnish. A bit like our recent cars. Shiny, metallic imitations these modern car interiors are almost vulgar. These surfaces, if we are critical, only imitate quality. Easily disposable. Light-weight. If they suffer a surface injury that's the end.  

I had a purpose with the above (perhaps exaggerating) description. The modern aesthetics that surround us have another, far more significant, implicit meaning. Their 'sterility' is also a denial. A denial of human vulnerability. They (on our behalf) try to suppress our very nature, that we are vulnerable by time. Mortality and sufferance need to be hidden from our eyes. They would cause anxiety.  

Isaiah's portrait of the Messiah cut through these denials. The 'surface of the Gospel' feels differently. It is time worn, our vulnerability, and weariness is reflected in it. But they reward us with depth. They invite us to accept the depths of our lives. The words of the Gospel want us to be brave, and also proud of, when facing who we really are. Children of time, marked by the scars of our personal and collective history. They are imperatives to see beyond our present, its siren surfaces. 

All what Isaiah says of Him an invitation to genuine depths. For there is authentic power, love, attention and compassion which chooses us. 'A shoot springs from the stock of Jesse… on him the spirit of the Lord rests, a spirit of wisdom and insight, a spirit of counsel and power… He does not judge by appearances, he gives no verdict on hearsay, but judges the wretched with integrity, and with equity gives a verdict t for the poor of the land.'  

In this new light, suddenly, all what surrounds starts regaining their in-depth beauty. Somehow our tings start to last, and lose their 'empty sterility', and more and more reflect us. Our own transformation, when 'our home will be glorious'. 




2020. november 29., vasárnap

His Coming as Real


The Advent season, what happens in it, can be viewed from two aspects. What we do, in terms of our preparation, and what God does. This is a season when we remember Christ's first coming, his birth at Christmas. But with an equal emphasis, we remind ourselves for his second coming as a Judge. 

What God's role in Advent is, is well illustrated, as an analogy, by the contemplative poet, Janos Pilinszky. In a conversation, entitled 'On the Margins of the World', he says about the very ground of his poetry: 'From the beginning in my life I was instinctively interested in things in the world which 'fell outside' from the world. Strictly speaking, my imagination was caught by beings that were exiled to the margins of the world. I felt that if I help them to get back to the heart of the heart of the world, I did something more important than praising those things which enjoyed already attention and had a proven status.' ('On the Margins of the World' in: Beszélgetések Pilinszky Jánossal, Magvető Kiadó, Budapest 1983, p.150) 

What God does, what Jesus does in Advent and on the final Judgement day is captured very well in the role of the poetic attention. God is interested in the ignored details of life. He pays particular attention to those who suffer anonymously, the forgotten, the ignored, what is incomplete in one's life, those situations that can be mended, or when there is no human remedy for a situation. In Advent, he 'wants to take them back to the heart of the world'. To live a life of dignity, attention, being loved and fulfilled, and functional again. And all this is done to enable them for thanksgiving, and to search Him without any handicap. 

So, our task seems straightforward. First, we need to contemplate God in this work, and then, try to imitate Him. By reconnecting what is 'dead', ignored, unexamined, uncorrected in us to 'heart' of payer, the miracle of Advent will happen. Namely, both our lives and the world become real, more real, step by step. 

 The second inspiration for our Advent preparation I am drawing on is a historical homily by John Henry Newman. Already its title is inspiring: 'Thine eyes shall see the King in His beauty: they shall behold the land that is very far off' (Isaiah 37:17) This homily was written in an age a good hundred years before the internet. When we read it, it is striking how real this Second Doming is! And how compelling is the task to prepare ourselves for this life-defining personal encounter. It is not a poetic imagination to say with Newman: Christ second coming is taking place in our life. It is going to happen soon, in our lives. It is a real event. We are going to see our Lord soon. It is a real return; it is going to happen in this advent season. Let us savour the weight of this statement. 

If this return is real, Newman suggests that we should take very seriously the means of preparation which God offers to us. This is worship. 'This indeed is the most momentous reason for religious worship. [People] sometimes ask, Why need they profess religion? Why need they go to church? Why need they observe certain rites and ceremonies? Why need they watch, pray, fast, and meditate? Why is it not enough to be just, honest, sober, benevolent, and otherwise virtuous?...Why must they be partakers in what the Church calls Sacraments?' Newman in answering this says that all this is for a simple reason. We are 'one day to change our state of being. We are not to be here for ever. Direct intercourse with God on our part now, prayer and the like, may be necessary to our meeting Him suitably hereafter.  And direct intercourse on His part with us, or what we call sacramental communion, bay be necessary in some incomprehensible way, even for preparing our very nature to bear the sight of Him.' He asks, 'what it would be to meet Christ at once, without preparation?' When his glory was suddenly manifested to the Apostles, they could not stay in his presence. 'Depart from me, form I am a sinful man, O Lord' said Saint Peter. And St John, 'when he saw Him, fell at His feet as dead.' 

So let us appreciate the time of preparation which we have been given. And let us be challenged and inspired by these words of Newman's sermon: 'Christ does not visibly show Himself. He has put a veil on, and He sits among us silently and secretly.' How does this poetic line influence your preparation? How can it alter the course of your actions? How will you act differently, and respond to this real presence? 


John Henry Newman: Sermon 1. Worship, a Preparation for Christ's Coming


"Thine eyes shall see the King in his beauty: they shall behold the land that is very far off." Isaiah xxxiii. 17. 

[Note] {1} YEAR after year, as it passes, brings us the same warnings again and again, and none perhaps more impressive than those with which it comes to us at this season. The very frost and cold, rain and gloom, which now befall us, forebode the last dreary days of the world, and in religious hearts raise the thought of them. The year is worn out: spring, summer, autumn, each in turn, have brought their gifts and done their utmost; but they are over, and the end is come. All is past and gone, all has failed, all has sated; we are tired of the past; we would not have the seasons longer; and the austere weather which succeeds, though ungrateful to the body, is in tone with our feelings, and acceptable. Such is the frame of mind which befits the end of the year; and such the frame of mind which comes alike on good and bad at the end of life. The days have {2} come in which they have no pleasure; yet they would hardly be young again, could they be so by wishing it. Life is well enough in its way; but it does not satisfy. Thus the soul is cast forward upon the future, and in proportion as its conscience is clear and its perception keen and true, does it rejoice solemnly that "the night is far spent, the day is at hand," that there are "new heavens and a new earth" to come, though the former are failing; nay, rather that, because they are failing, it will "soon see the King in His beauty," and "behold the land which is very far off." These are feelings for holy men in winter and in age, waiting, in some dejection perhaps, but with comfort on the whole, and calmly though earnestly, for the Advent of Christ. 

And such, too, are the feelings with which we now come before Him in prayer day by day. The season is chill and dark, and the breath of the morning is damp, and worshippers are few, but all this befits those who are by profession penitents and mourners, watchers and pilgrims. More dear to them that loneliness, more cheerful that severity, and more bright that gloom, than all those aids and appliances of luxury by which men nowadays attempt to make prayer less disagreeable to them. True faith does not covet comforts. It only complains when it is forbidden to kneel, when it reclines upon cushions, is protected by curtains, and encompassed by warmth. Its only hardship is to be hindered, or to be ridiculed, when it would place itself as a sinner before its Judge. They who realize that awful Day when they shall see Him face to face, whose {3} eyes are as a flame of fire, will as little bargain to pray pleasantly now, as they will think of doing so then. 

One year goes and then another, but the same warnings recur. The frost or the rain comes again; the earth is stripped of its brightness; there is nothing to rejoice in. And then, amid this unprofitableness of earth and sky, the well-known words return; the Prophet Isaiah is read; the same Epistle and Gospel, bidding us "awake out of sleep," and welcome Him "that cometh in the Name of the Lord;" the same Collects, beseeching Him to prepare us for judgment. O blessed they who obey these warning voices, and look out for Him whom they have not seen, because they "love His appearing!" 

We cannot have fitter reflections at this Season than those which I have entered upon. What may be the destiny of other orders of beings we know not;—but this we know to be our own fearful lot, that before us lies a time when we must have the sight of our Maker and Lord face to face. We know not what is reserved for other beings; there may be some, which, knowing nothing of their Maker, are never to be brought before Him. For what we can tell, this may be the case with the brute creation. It may be the law of their nature that they should live and die, or live on an indefinite period, upon the very outskirts of His government, sustained by Him, but never permitted to know or approach Him. But this is not our case. We are destined to come before Him; nay, and to come before Him in judgment; and that on our first meeting; and that suddenly. We are not merely to be rewarded or {4} punished, we are to be judged. Recompense is to come upon our actions, not by a mere general provision or course of nature, as it does at present, but from the Lawgiver Himself in person. We have to stand before His righteous Presence, and that one by one. One by one we shall have to endure His holy and searching eye. At present we are in a world of shadows. What we see is not substantial. Suddenly it will be rent in twain and vanish away, and our Maker will appear. And then, I say, that first appearance will be nothing less than a personal intercourse between the Creator and every creature. He will look on us, while we look on Him. 

I need hardly quote any of the numerous passages of Scripture which tell us this, by way of proof; but it may impress the truth of it upon our hearts to do so. We are told then expressly, that good and bad shall see God. On the one hand holy Job says, "Though after my skin worms destroy this body, yet in my flesh shall I see God: whom I shall see for myself, and mine eyes shall behold, and not another." On the other hand unrighteous Balaam says, "I shall see Him, but not now; I shall behold Him, but not nigh; there shall come a Star out of Jacob, and a Sceptre shall rise out of Israel." Christ says to His disciples, "Look up, and lift up your heads, for your redemption draweth nigh;" and to His enemies, "Hereafter ye shall see the Son of man sitting on the right hand of power, and coming in the clouds of heaven." And it is said generally of all men, on the one hand, "Behold He cometh with clouds; and every eye shall {5} see Him, and they also which pierced Him; and all kindreds of the earth shall wail because of Him." And on the other, "When He shall appear, we shall be like Him; for we shall see Him as He is." Again, "Now we see through a glass, darkly; but then face to face:" and again, "They shall see His face; and His Name shall be in their foreheads." [Job xix. 26, 27. Numb. xxiv. 17. Luke xxi. 28. Matt. xxvi. 64. Rev. i. 7. 1 John iii. 2. 1 Cor. xiii. 12. Rev. xxii. 4.] 

And, as they see Him, so will He see them, for His coming will be to judge them. "We must all appear before the judgment-seat of Christ," says St. Paul. Again, "We shall all stand before the judgment-seat of Christ. For it is written, As I live, saith the Lord, every knee shall bow to Me, and every tongue shall confess to God. So then every one of us shall give account of himself to God." And again, "When the Son of man shall come in His glory, and all the holy Angels with Him, then shall He sit upon the throne of His glory. And before Him shall be gathered all nations; and He shall separate them one from another, as a shepherd divideth his sheep from the goats." [2 Cor. v. 10. Rom. xiv. 10-12. Matt. xxv. 31, 32.] 

Such is our first meeting with our God; and, I say, it will be as sudden as it is intimate. "Yourselves know perfectly," says St. Paul, "that the day of the Lord so cometh as a thief in the night. For when they shall say, Peace and safety, then sudden destruction cometh upon them." This is said of the wicked,—elsewhere He is said to surprise good as well as bad. "While the Bridegroom tarried," the wise and foolish {6} virgins "all slumbered and slept. And at midnight there was a cry made, Behold, the Bridegroom cometh; go ye out to meet Him." [1 Thess. v. 2, 3. Matt. xxv. 5, 6.] 

Now, when this state of the case, the prospect which lies before us, is brought home to our thoughts, surely it is one which will lead us anxiously to ask, Is this all that we are told, all that is allowed to us, or done for us? Do we know only this, that all is dark now, and all will be light then; that now God is hidden, and one day will be revealed? that we are in a world of sense, and are to be in a world of spirits? For surely it is our plain wisdom, our bounden duty, to prepare for this great change;—and if so, are any directions, hints, or rules given us how we are to prepare? "Prepare to meet thy God," "Go ye out to meet Him," is the dictate of natural reason, as well as of inspiration. But how is this to be? 

Now observe, that it is scarcely a sufficient answer to this question to say that we must strive to obey Him, and so to approve ourselves to Him. This indeed might be enough, were reward and punishment to follow in the mere way of nature, as they do in this world. But, when we come steadily to consider the matter, appearing before God, and dwelling in His presence, is a very different thing from being merely subjected to a system of moral laws, and would seem to require another preparation, a special preparation of thought and affection, such as will enable us to endure His countenance, and to hold communion with Him as we ought. Nay, and, it may be, a preparation of {7} the soul itself for His presence, just as the bodily eye must be exercised in order to bear the full light of day, or the bodily frame in order to bear exposure to the air. 

But, whether or not this be safe reasoning, Scripture precludes the necessity of it, by telling us that the Gospel Covenant is intended, among its other purposes, to prepare us for this future glorious and wonderful destiny, the sight of God,—a destiny which, if not most glorious, will be most terrible. And in the worship and service of Almighty God, which Christ and His Apostles have left to us, we are vouchsafed means, both moral and mystical, of approaching God, and gradually learning to bear the sight of Him. 

This indeed is the most momentous reason for religious worship, as far as we have grounds for considering it a true one. Men sometimes ask, Why need they profess religion? Why need they go to church? Why need they observe certain rites and ceremonies? Why need they watch, pray, fast, and meditate? Why is it not enough to be just, honest, sober, benevolent, and otherwise virtuous? Is not this the true and real worship of God? Is not activity in mind and conduct the most acceptable way of approaching Him? How can they please Him by submitting to certain religious forms, and taking part in certain religious acts? Or if they must do so, why may they not choose their own? Why must they come to church for them? Why must they be partakers in what the Church calls Sacraments? I answer, they must do so, first of all and especially, because God tells them so to do. But besides this, I observe that we see this plain reason {8} why, that they are one day to change their state of being. They are not to be here for ever. Direct intercourse with God on their part now, prayer and the like, may be necessary to their meeting Him suitably hereafter: and direct intercourse on His part with them, or what we call sacramental communion, may be necessary in some incomprehensible way, even for preparing their very nature to bear the sight of Him. 

Let us then take this view of religious service; it is "going out to meet the Bridegroom," who, if not seen "in His beauty," will appear in consuming fire. Besides its other momentous reasons, it is a preparation for an awful event, which shall one day be. What it would be to meet Christ at once without preparation, we may learn from what happened even to the Apostles when His glory was suddenly manifested to them. St. Peter said, "Depart from me, for I am a sinful man, O Lord." And St. John, "when he saw Him, fell at His feet as dead." [Luke v. 8. Rev. i. 17.] 

This being the case, it is certainly most merciful in God to vouchsafe to us the means of preparation, and such means as He has actually appointed. When Moses came down from the Mount, and the people were dazzled at his countenance, he put a veil over it. That veil is so far removed in the Gospel, that we are in a state of preparation for its being altogether removed. We are with Moses in the Mount so far, that we have a sight of God; we are with the people beneath it so far, that Christ does not visibly show Himself. He has put a veil on, and He sits among us silently and secretly. {9} When we approach Him, we know it only by faith; and when He manifests Himself to us, it is without our being able to realize to ourselves that manifestation. 

Such then is the spirit in which we should come to all His ordinances, considering them as anticipations and first-fruits of that sight of Him which one day must be. When we kneel down in prayer in private, let us think to ourselves, Thus shall I one day kneel down before His very footstool, in this flesh and this blood of mine; and He will be seated over against me, in flesh and blood also, though divine. I come, with the thought of that awful hour before me, I come to confess my sin to Him now, that He may pardon it then, and I say, "O Lord, Holy God, Holy and Strong, Holy and Immortal, in the hour of death and in the day of judgment, deliver us, O Lord!" 

Again, when we come to church, then let us say:—The day will be when I shall see Christ surrounded by His Holy Angels. I shall be brought into that blessed company, in which all will be pure, all bright. I come then to learn to endure the sight of the Holy One and His Servants; to nerve myself for a vision which is fearful before it is ecstatic, and which they only enjoy whom it does not consume. When men in this world have to undergo any great thing, they prepare themselves beforehand, by thinking often of it, and they call this making up their mind. Any unusual trial they thus make familiar to them. Courage is a necessary step in gaining certain goods, and courage is gained by steady thought. Children are scared, and close their eyes, at the vision of some mighty warrior {10} or glorious king. And when Daniel saw the Angel, like St. John, "his comeliness was turned in him into corruption, and he retained no strength." [Dan. x. 8.] I come then to church, because I am an heir of heaven. It is my desire and hope one day to take possession of my inheritance: and I come to make myself ready for it, and I would not see heaven yet, for I could not bear to see it. I am allowed to be in it without seeing it, that I may learn to see it. And by psalm and sacred song, by confession and by praise, I learn my part. 

And what is true of the ordinary services of religion, public and private, holds in a still higher or rather in a special way, as regards the sacramental ordinances of the Church. In these is manifested in greater or less degree, according to the measure of each, that Incarnate Saviour, who is one day to be our Judge, and who is enabling us to bear His presence then, by imparting it to us in measure now. A thick black veil is spread between this world and the next. We mortal men range up and down it, to and fro, and see nothing. There is no access through it into the next world. In the Gospel this veil is not removed; it remains, but every now and then marvellous disclosures are made to us of what is behind it. At times we seem to catch a glimpse of a Form which we shall hereafter see face to face. We approach, and in spite of the darkness, our hands, or our head, or our brow, or our lips become, as it were, sensible of the contact of something more than earthly. We know not where we are, but we have been bathing in water, and a voice tells us that it is blood. {11} Or we have a mark signed upon our foreheads, and it spake of Calvary. Or we recollect a hand laid upon our heads, and surely it had the print of nails in it, and resembled His who with a touch gave sight to the blind and raised the dead. Or we have been eating and drinking; and it was not a dream surely, that One fed us from His wounded side, and renewed our nature by the heavenly meat He gave. Thus in many ways He, who is Judge to us, prepares us to be judged,—He, who is to glorify us, prepares us to be glorified, that He may not take us unawares; but that when the voice of the Archangel sounds, and we are called to meet the Bridegroom, we may be ready. 

Now consider what light these reflections throw upon some remarkable texts in the Epistle to the Hebrews. If we have in the Gospel this supernatural approach to God and to the next world, no wonder that St. Paul calls it an "enlightening," "a tasting of the heavenly gift," a being "made partaker of the Holy Ghost," a "tasting of the good word of God, and the powers of the world to come." No wonder, too, that utter apostasy after receiving it should be so utterly hopeless; and that in consequence, any profanation of it, any sinning against it, should be so perilous in proportion to its degree. If He, who is to be our Judge, condescend here to manifest Himself to us, surely if that privilege does not fit us for His future glory, it does but prepare us for His wrath. 

And what I have said concerning Ordinances, applies still more fully to Holy Seasons, which include in them the celebration of many Ordinances. They are times {12} when we may humbly expect a larger grace, because they invite us especially to the means of grace. This in particular is a time for purification of every kind. When Almighty God was to descend upon Mount Sinai, Moses was told to "sanctify the people," and bid them "wash their clothes," and to "set bounds to them round about:" much more is this a season for "cleansing ourselves from all defilement of the flesh and spirit, perfecting holiness in the fear of God;" [Exod. xix. 10-12. 2 Cor. xii. 1.] a season for chastened hearts and religious eyes; for severe thoughts, and austere resolves, and charitable deeds; a season for remembering what we are and what we shall be. Let us go out to meet Him with contrite and expectant hearts; and though He delays His coming, let us watch for Him in the cold and dreariness which must one day have an end. Attend His summons we must, at any rate, when He strips us of the body; let us anticipate, by a voluntary act, what will one day come on us of necessity. Let us wait for Him solemnly, fearfully, hopefully, patiently, obediently; let us be resigned to His will, while active in good works. Let us pray Him ever, to "remember us when He cometh in His kingdom;" to remember all our friends; to remember our enemies; and to visit us according to His mercy here, that He may reward us according to His righteousness hereafter.