His Great Gifts & Our Capacity to Receive

Saint Augustine by Philippe de Champaigne

His gifts are very great: our capacity to receive them is small and meagre. That is why it is also said to us in Scripture: ‘Open wide your hearts and do not share the lot of unbelievers.’ We are being prepared to receive that which is immensely great, that which eye has not seen because it is not color, which ear has not heard because it is not sound, that which has entered no human heart because the human heart must itself expand for it to enter. We shall receive in proportion to the simplicity of our faith, the firmness of our hope, and the intensity of our desire.

— From a letter of Augustine of Hippo (354-430)

 

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Purity of Heart

Homily preached by the Rev. James La Macchia
July 26, 2015
The Ninth Sunday after Pentecost – Proper 12B

2 Kings 4:42-44
Psalm 145:10-19
Ephesians 3:14-21
Mark 6:35-52

My Friends:

Many of you know that I spent most of my childhood and adolescence deeply immersed in the immigrant culture and spirituality of the pre-Vatican II Roman Catholic Church. And while that experience created dispositions and habits of mind and heart that I value and cherish to this very day, growing up surrounded by my extended family as a Roman Catholic in an Italian-American neighborhood of Boston did have its distinct anomalies, especially because my maternal grandparents and great-grandmother were genuinely pious Roman Catholics devoted to the Church.

My beloved grandfather, in particular, had a very deep devotion to the Sacred Heart of Jesus, a form of popular piety very much in vogue during the post-WWll years.  In fact, the first Friday of every month, together with the entire month of June, was especially dedicated to the Sacred Heart of Jesus back then.  So much so, that on every “First Friday” of the academic year, the sainted nuns would bring our entire Roman Catholic grammar school to a special Mass in our adjacent parish church to honor the Sacred Heart.  So, my grandfather’s devotion to the Sacred Heart was very much in the mainstream of Roman Catholic piety at that time. Continue reading

Trinity Sunday

adam_reation_iconicLord who hast form’d me out of mud,
And hast redeem’d me through thy blood,
And sanctified me to do good;

Purge all my sins done heretofore;
For I confess my heavy score,
And I will strive to sin no more.

Enrich my heart, mouth, hands in me,
With faith, with hope, with charity;
That I may run, rise, rest with Thee.

— George Herbert (1593-1633)

Prayer with Purity of Heart

The first lesson we have to learn about prayer is that it is God’s activity in us, and not a self-activated process of our own.  The Desert Fathers, those great masters of the spiritual life, knew all about the essential condition of learning to pray.  They called it ‘”purity of heart,” without which there could be no true metanoia, or conversion.   We can pray only if our hearts are truly pure in the sense of Jesus’ teaching on the Sermon on the Mount, where the pure in heart shall see God.    Prayer and daily life are indivisible.  We must learn to pray as we are, and to accept ourselves as we are, and not as the ideal people we would like to imagine ourselves to be.  We must grow to understand ourselves and accept that it is at the time when our natural passions are most active and our minds most distracted, that we can grow to a knowledge of ourselves as real persons.  That is the point of tension at which we must offer ourselves to God in prayer.

— From Encountering the Depths by Sr. Mary Clare, SLG