The other night my husband and I watched the final episode of the Catholicism series (great episode, and I recommend the full series!). Talking about Hell, following along with Dante, Father Robert Barron reminded us that Saint Augustine described sin as a state of “incurvatus in se” – meaning caved in on oneself. I didn’t remember it exactly so I looked it up in the companion book to the series (by the same name and which I also recommend!) where he adds that, trapped in ice, “Dante’s Satan, the sovereign of a kingdom precisely the size of his own self, splendidly exemplifies the Augustinian definition. The spirit is meant to fly out beyond itself – hence angels have wings – but sin traps us and weighs us down.”
After the episode I returned to another book that I recommend, Women, Sex, and the Church; A Case for Catholic Teaching, and was reading in the chapter titled, “Embodied Ecclesiology: Church Teaching on the Priesthood,” with the following review of the Catechism of the Catholic Church no. 901-913, describing something we studied last week when we studied Baptism, namely lay participation in Christ’s office of Priest, Prophet, King:
Under the priestly office it first mentions the offering of daily activities as “spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ,” the worship of holy actions, and the consecration of the world itself to God. Parents are said to exercise the office of sanctifying in marriage and family life. But the lay ministries of lector and acolyte, and the other forms of lay participation in liturgical worship are also incorporated under this heading. Laypeople exercise Christ’s prophetic office when they announce the Gospel in direct proclamation and by the witness of holy living; but the services of lay catechists, theologians, and communications specialists are also noted, along with their obligation to contribute to the correct expression of the faith and to the pastoral care of the faithful. The laity share in the kingly office of Christ through acquiring mastery over sin in their own lives and by working to overcome evil and to instill moral values in social institutions and culture. They also share in it by cooperating with the pastors in the service of the ecclesial community through the exercise of various ministries and through collaboration in particular councils, diocesan synods, pastoral councils and so on.
These two things together (the DVD and reading) drew my thoughts to what we are studying this week with the Sacrament of Confirmation, about the outpouring of the Holy Spirit for mission. The more we take seriously our baptism and the participation in that triple office of Christ, then the more “other” oriented we become – quite the opposite of Dante’s Satan! – and the more we really do need to be cooperating with the Gifts of the Holy Spirit if our lives are to produce fruit! I thought about our young people and the Gifts available to them to help them live out their Christian witness in an increasingly challenging environment.
… Then I thought of my own life and the call to live out my baptism and realized that I fall very short of being consistent in regularly asking to be filled anew with the Gifts of the Holy Spirit to equip me, instead depending on my own efforts. The timing of this conviction was perfect… last night was Confirmation at our parish … though I didn’t think I had any immediate connection with anyone being confirmed I decided to go … to pray for them, to pray in thanksgiving for those who prepared them, and to ask again for the Holy Spirit to fill me for the needs of the day, for they are many and I am a really leaked vessel.
We have a high and challenging calling in the offering our daily activities as spiritual sacrifice to God (so I need to be pretty attentive to the choices I make); in announcing the Gospel in word and deed (I need to continue to grow in understanding of the teachings of the faith, and live accordingly); and instilling moral values in social institutions and the culture (in the face of threats to Religious Liberty and increasingly diminishing regard for the dignity of life)…
But we don’t rely on our own strength. Today I have a renewed appreciation of the Sacrament of Confirmation! (Laurie E)