Pope Paul VI to the Archbishop of Canterbury Dr Michael Ramsey

"(B)y entering into our house, you are entering your own house, we are happy to open our door and heart to you." - Pope Paul VI to Dr Michael Ramsey, Archbishop of Canterbury.

Friday, February 15, 2013

A dry martyrdom

The Pope got old and tired and thus he wanted to retire. That is in essence what Pope Benedict XVI did  this week to the utter surprise of the cardinals and to the shock of the rest of the world.

The Pope has no military force to speak of, only a tiny corps of Swiss Guards who offer protection for him. The Swiss Guards are more known for their Michelangelo designed dress that is a big Vatican tourist attraction than for anything else. The Pope doesn't wield real political power outside the walls of the Vatican but he has spiritual power by virtue of the commission he received from Christ and even more immense moral authority and power, again by virtue of the Divine. For his is not a secular office, but a spiritual one. And yet he is tired.

The secular world thinks of retirement as a time when one gets to enjoy life, play golf, island hop etc. This is especially if one got a good deal in superannuation and one had the luck that these retirement contributions didn't fade with usual financial crash. Benedict had none of that. He doesn't have a salary and so no pension fund. He has no condo investment to spend the remaining days but a monk's cell in the Vatican.

And so Benedict has hinted that he will go into seclusion as a monk. This is how it used to be. In the earliest times of Christianity, bishops who retired (and escaped martyrdom) went to the desert to be contemplatives.

The secular world doesn't understand what contemplatives do and what contemplation means. And yet secular people yearn for the contemplative life. They think it will make them get nearer to the Divine. That is true and so they seek all sorts of spiritualities and even come up with new ones. The Jedi spirituality inspired of Lucas' films is an example of seeking contemplation, of course in the Bright Side of the Force whilst trying to understand the Dark Side which is always with you.

Contemplation means leaving all that rat race behind and yet having the rat race within the monastic cell. I am not a monk but I come from a Christian tradition that has a monastic quality that laypeople live whilst in the world. Oh how I value those quiet times which at the end of the day is a must. But quiet means not disturbed. For it is during these quiet contemplation, that we face the magnitude of our unworthiness due to sin.

Anglicanism's spirituality has this contemplative nature and in the Mass of the Anglican Use, the Prayer of Humble Access which is always said in a contemplative manner before receiving the Sacrament, says it best. We are not worthy that even the dogs have more right to the crumbs!

"We do not presume to come to this thy Table, O merciful Lord, trusting in our own righteousness, but in thy manifold and great mercies. We are not worthy so much as to gather up the crumbs under thy Table. But thou art the same Lord, whose property is always to have mercy: Grant us therefore, gracious Lord, so to eat the flesh of thy dear Son Jesus Christ, and to drink his blood, that our sinful bodies may be made clean by his body, and our souls washed through his most precious blood, and that we may evermore dwell in him, and he in us. Amen."

Benedict as a tired man felt he wasn't worthy. Indeed he is like the rest of us. However he took his office like Christ took his cross while we are just exhorted just to do so. Many of us will shirk at the cost of bearing the Cross choosing instead to bear the very light cross of our imaginings.

The Pope got worn down by the battle against a secularism that is based on relativism that eventually kills what makes as human. But the Pope is just but human and it is time that a much younger bishop takes the Cross.

But taking the Cross means eventual crucifixion and the hope of rising again. And there won't be Simon of Cyrenes on our via dolorosa. A Baptist minister the Reverend Dr Martin Luther King understood it very well as he was moved by the Spirit. "The Cross is something you bear and eventually die on." He was right. There is no other way.

And so Benedict retires to a monk's cell, with his Cross and as the Mystics all have experienced (we know since they wrote about it) that the Devil is within the same cell also.  Benedict will need our prayers even more, more so than when he held the papal office.

This is not the retirement we secular creatures look forward to.

But the Cloud of Witnesses will be there to intercede. England has produced so many, Europe, Africa, Asia also and in our dear Philippines we have many too.

Yes the Church militant will get tired in the battle but cannot rest. I am not really a fan of Marian private revelations but it appears that the messages of the Lady of All Nations focus on this and the prophecy has passed. But the seer, a woman in Amsterdam who received the messages say of the Pope, a bishop, Westminster Abbey and the wearying struggle and the need to fight. Perhaps the seer saw Benedict and Rowan Williams in the Abbey. The messages have been approved by the local bishop as of supernatural origin. The Lady of All Nations mentions the role of the Anglican Church in this struggle several times.

Even then, the battle is on us.

Prayers will be said where God has called us in our state of life.

Benedict is living a dry martyrdom in his mission to spread the Faith and the Reason needed to live it according to God's will. And this in all meekness and charity. He was ridiculed, misunderstood and became tired.

Let us pray for like the Pope we are not worthy of all these grace.

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