Thursday, December 10, 2015

Powers of Lightness

Following my sermon on the battle between the powers of darkness and light, it might appear that I am exercising a more Protestant point of view of the Atonement. I think that I'm being consistent with St Anselm's ideas rather than ascribing to any particular dialogue of the sixteenth century. However, one of the points I was trying to make in that sermon is that there exist spiritual beings called Powers (in the Latin) or Authorities (in the Greek). It is my belief that there is, at present, a spiritual warfare in progress involving the Powers of Darkness.

I have said that much of this world's power is just pomp - empty bluster involving things that have no permanence or substance in Eternity. That's a very negative viewpoint of the reality of our existence which is sad, because that very existence has been brought about by the free decision and limitless power of God. There is only one power worth desiring, and it is a power that we simply cannot possess.

I was listening to Fr. (now Bishop) Robert Barron speaking on the Catholic priesthood, and he made the very good point that, often, we have the wrong idea as to what power is or that should cultivate. True power is never ours, it is always from God. The only way that we ever become powerful is by becoming saints, i.e. living out the very calling that God wants for us. God wants us to be powerful,  not with our own power but His.

Every Advent Sunday, I used to be in a choir which sang the Matin Responsory by Palestrina.

V. I look from afar, and Lo! I see the power of God coming and a cloud covering the whole earth.
R. Go ye out to meet Him and say, Tell us, art Thou He that should come to reign over thy people Israel?
V. High and low, rich and poor, one with another.
R. Go ye out to meet Him and say.
V. Hear, O Thou Shepherd of Israel, Thou that leadest Joseph like a sheep.
R. Tell us, art Thou He that should come to reign over thy people Israel?
V. Stir up Thy strength, O Lord and come.
R. To reign over thy people Israel!
V. Glory be to the Father and to the Son and to the Holy Ghost
R. I look from afar, and Lo! I see the power of God coming and a cloud covering the whole earth.
V. Go ye out to meet Him and say,
R. Tell us, art Thou He that should come to reign over thy people Israel?

Those of us who desire power in life will always be dissatisfied with it. Those who seek the power of kings and caliphs will eventually lose what they seek. They will die in exactly the same way as the powerless. There will always be those who seek to claim the "power" of the priesthood or the "power" of bishops. This isn't the power that the world needs. Anyone who seeks power to do Good in the world must look to the sole arbiter and provider of what is truly Good. Goodness is defined by the very being of God. That will pull some people up short, especially those who believe that Goodness is a relative term. Since objective moral values exist, Goodness cannot be a relative concept.

If we seek the power to do some good in this world and to stand against the Powers of Darkness, then we have to accept that any power that we are given comes only from God. We have to look from afar and watch for the power of God coming. We have to accept His leadership of us like sheep; we have to desire His kingship over us. If we want the Powers of Light to conquer (and they will), then we have to allow that Power of Light conquer us first.

As Bishop Barron points out, the two of the most powerful saints of the Nineteenth Century were St Bernadette and St Thérèse of Lisieux, two very quiet and unassuming women. Their effect on Roman Catholicism has been huge, and it is their personal sanctity that has made them powerful, because it was the power of God that poured from them.

Our Lord bids leaders to be humble and to serve. Of course, priests and bishops exist to serve the laity. They have God's power to confect the sacraments, but that does not necessarily make them either leaders, or powerful human beings - perhaps it shouldn't. Indeed, the role of the priesthood is to help the laity to ready themselves to become full of the power of God. As Christ gives Himself on the Cross so that we might be given power to become sons of God, likewise priests must look first to their congregations and bishops to their sees to ensure that they are doing everything they can to assist the faithful laity to become filled with the power of God as befits each lay member's vocation.

If we really want to be powerful, whose power do we really want and why?

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