Wednesday, December 26, 2012

The hidden life: It's where it all begins

To Glorify God: In Silence

St. Louis de Montfort made the interesting observation that Jesus glorified God more during the thirty years of his hidden life at home obeying his mother than he would have if he were to travel the world preaching the Gospel. After all, if preaching the Gospel as a child, adolescent or young adult would have glorified God more, he certainly would have done it. But instead, he stayed at home, preparing for his three years of public ministry. For every year our Lord proclaimed the coming of the kingdom, he spent ten years praying.

To be sure, it was within the sanctuary of his home at Nazareth where silence, prayer and penance were daily observed. And it was during his hidden life with his Blessed Mother when the real power for saving souls would increase. Fr. Thomas Philippe, in his book, "The Mystical Rose: Mary, the Paradigm of Religious Life", reminds us of the necessary ground work that needs to be laid before a great enterprise can be launched:

“The Word of Jesus needs silence to give it a divine efficacy and a supernatural cutting edge. Silence is the fountainhead out of which it rises; and in order to have genuine maturity, it needs to be enveloped and borne by silence.”

Hidden Life: The Goal

The monastic-like existence of our Lord in Nazareth was not only the preparation for his mission and sacrifice, but it was also the foretaste of its goal; namely, heaven. To repose in God’s eternal happiness is the reward of a life marked by love and sacrifice. And among Christ’s disciples, this blessed repose would belong chiefly to Mary. As Fr. Thomas Philippe said,

“The public life of Jesus, or more exactly the public and apostolic activities of his life, remained enveloped by the hidden life. The latter inspired them and could even called their goal, as we have already said. This hidden life, however, was a privileged domain, reserved to Mary.”

This is where the secrets of God were revealed and the most intimate of conversations were had between Jesus and his Blessed Mother.

Hidden Life: The Continuation

This ongoing repose in God’s presence would be continued even after Christ’s ascension into heaven. At the foot of the Cross, our Lord looked to his Blessed Mother and St. John for its continuation. Fr. Thomas continues:

 “When Jesus saw his mother and the disciple there whom he loved, he said to his mother, ‘Woman, behold, your son.’ Then he said to the disciple, ‘Behold, your mother.’ And from that hour the disciple took her into his home.” (John 19:26-27)

In a word, Mary would resume the hidden life she once had with St. Joseph and her Son. And from her time with the apostle St. John, she would have this life perpetuated by lay brothers, sisters and priests in the life of the Church. “In the hidden life of the Church,’ Fr. Thomas said, “Mary needs both humble lay brothers like Joseph and priests like John. She sees Jesus imaged in both of them.”

It should be noted that the life of Christ continues in time but not just through the formality of teaching the Faith and administering the Sacraments. His blessed life continues in the intimacy of prayer and meditation. God’s communication to the inner chamber of the soul is sometimes quite difficult to express in writing or to even convey in words. Fr. Thomas Philippe even posited that the most profound truths of God’s are reserved for the heart alone. He said,

“Jesus gave John to Mary so that she would treat him as a son, as another Jesus, as Jesus continuing his hidden life in the Church. John became a pupil of Mary to learn the secrets of this hidden life under her maternal instruction. She taught him, not by public statements meant to be preserved in writing, but in the intimate language that is meant to be kept in the heart and shared only with the closest friends.”

This divine friendship, enveloped in a hidden life, prospered first within the house in Nazareth where the Holy Family lived; then in the house at Ephesus where St. John and the Blessed Virgin eventually moved to. From there, where the friendship of Christ was earnestly sought, a life dedicated to prayer would spread to monasteries and convents throughout the world. It just so happened that these communities of prayer were modeled after Mary’s hidden life. To be sure, they would be a place of refuge from the noise and distractions of the world.

It bears repeating that this environment, where the friendship with Christ is daily fostered, was the initiative and mission of Mary. After all, it was a life of prayer that was asked of her:

 “Her mission was to establish in the world a poor and humble home where the hidden life could be led, a common life of silence and sacrifice. In the midst of this world of sin and sinner, it would be a privileged terrain where the Holy Spirit could abide and give us Jesus.”

Where the Power Is:

Many of us give credit to the ministers, evangelists, authors, and teachers who are out in the mission fields advancing the kingdom of Christ. And no doubt, they are God’s instruments for such an undertaking. But the storehouse of the Church’s trophies that give God the greatest glory, and the ammo that most effectively wards off the evils of society, is to be in her own maternal hidden life.

“In the Church’s mystical motherhood,” Fr. Thomas Philippe reminds us, “precisely because it is so profound, extends far beyond the direct range of preaching, teaching, and the entire apostolate. This motherhood goes farther than the Church’s jurisdiction: it reaches all mankind.” To be sure, the life of prayer and sacrifice is unseen. Nevertheless, it is where spiritual and moral power is to be found.

In the late 1960’s and the early 1970’s, when abbeys, convents and monasteries were plundered of religious vocations by a secular wind that was blowing through the West, it wasn’t just the Catholic Church that took a hit; it was also civilization. Few consider the importance of prayers and spiritual sacrifices and how they appease God’s anger and ward off evils. Historically, the monastic/religious life was a font of cultural renewal; not only because it spawned new institutions that served the needy, but because it daily invoked God’s mercy in saving souls. And once souls were sanctified, people could then be civilized.

Hidden Life Undermined:

However, in recent years the hidden life of the Church has suffered a setback. The consequence is that the spirit of the world influenced people in thinking that they can do without God; especially with the recent progress of technology and entertainment. But in reality, we feel less secure and less trusting of our neighbor than we ever have in the past. It is even true to say that the average neighborhood used to be the playground for children. But today parents need to supervise their children 24/7 out of fear of the unknown predators.

This same fear has limited our social freedoms considerably over the last several decades. Indeed, there used to be a number of things we were free to do but can no longer do. Leaving our doors unlocked and leaving our children unattended are two such examples. This, no doubt, is indicative that the social order is closing itself off to the Lord’s grace of moral goodness and unity.

Hidden Life Returns:

With that said, we cannot forget that although the hidden life of Jesus and Mary has been subdued in religious communities, it is making a comeback. And this hidden life will be the essential movement that will roll back the Culture of Death. As Fr. Thomas Philippe put it so well:

“This movement [ i.e. the love of two hearts: Jesus and Mary] grows more intense as the world’s own movement accelerates and becomes more likely to draw souls away from God…The more the world gets involved in action and progress, thinking to find happiness therein, the more the Holy Spirit seems to ask his little ones to have recourse to the essential means, the so-called ‘vertical’ means: loving prayer and sacrifice, in union with Jesus our Redeemer and with the compassionate heart of Mary.”

The hidden life of the Holy Family glorified God in Nazareth some two thousand years ago. The same intimate conversations between Jesus and his Blessed Mother continues to this very day. Throughout the Church's history, consecrated souls who have dedicated themselves to a life of love, silence, prayer and sacrifice have joined and perpetuated this conversation. And, no doubt, by doing so, they have occasioned many of God's blessings for the Church and society.