On our patronal feast day we were glat to see once again some of the religious of the Holy Cross Order who spent the day with us. One of the perks in being a pastor is the reception of gifts by visitors, and on this occasion I gratefully accepted from the nuns a delicious loaf of homemade spelt bread, some fine chocolates, and a biography of the woman who was the impetus for the Work of the Holy Angels, one Mother Gabriele. The little book is entitled God Is Good, evidently a favorite motto of the holy lady.
I confess that I have always found that phrase somewhat of a trifle. After all, isn't the most obvious, minimalistic thing to say about God that He is good? (Would anyone ever have thought God to be bad?) Of course, the intended meaning of asserting God's goodness is much more than its face-value meaning, for it conveys also His mercy, love, generosity, and much else. The words in question are found in the sacred scriptures, almost as a recurring refrain: "Give thanks to the Lord for He is good." And so, I withdraw my petty objection in humble assent to the word of God which proclaims that He "is good."
My discomfort with that expression was due to something I once grumbled about in a sermon, to wit, that for many God is too little, too small. These are they who undervalue the immensity of Infinite Being; who regard Him casually as their chum, a great gift-giving Giveaway, who dismisses human crimes as mere peccadillos. By such standards He doesn't much care how we talk to Him or about Him, or what clothes we may wear in His Presence. He's no big deal, loving us no matter what, and, sure as He is God, will usher everybody into heaven in the end.
This undue familiarity with and distorted view of the Almighty reduces His size and recklessly ascribes to His all-good nature the dismissal of any consequences for sin. This is the "no-fault," non-judgmental, PC mindset that has formed the moral criteria for the millennial generation and which has affected even those of a more venerable age who ought to know better.
Recently I have been reading The Mystical City of God, a life of the Virgin Mary by the Venerable Mary of Agreda. It's not a book (or rather series of books) for everyone's reading. I would definitely not recommend it to those who have no tolerance or appreciation for mystical discourse: they would find it odious or bewildering. I mention this work because of the portrait of the Virgin Mary which emerges from it. She is a being of such unspeakable, divine-bestowed excellence as to astound the mind over the prodigy of grace and virtue which ennobles Her perfectly saintly life. In coming to know Mary through these prodigious divine endowments, one becomes so much more appreciative not only of who She is in truth but also of who God Himself must be. Put in the context of what is written above, 'God is goo' has a meaning that so far transcends the ability of the intellect as to make one conclude that all one can ever come to know of God, even by the most brilliant of minds, is closer to knowing nothing than to have knowledge. God is that big!
In the practical order this means that the God who is my pal, my buddy, is an offensive caricature, and that His indulgence towards sinners in an unfathomable reach of divine condescension for which no one ought ever to be presuming. On the devotional level, this has made me realize once again that the more one knows the greatness of the Holy Virgin Mary, the better one comes to know God; and the more one effaces himself before the divine Majesty the more one begins to know Him and to see Her as the finest jewel in all His handiwork.
My final word on this is to say that it is important that you pray to God reverentially (not that one needs high-falutin' words); that you dress modestly and decorously for Holy Mass; that you feel deep contrition for your sins, and so on. It is also important to place Our Lady in the uniquely high place She occupies in reality, in the sight of God. And if She is that holy of holies which houses God, and if He is unutterable Infinite Being, we ought to be very much more reverential in our manners before the mysteries of God, of Mary, and indeed of all things we hold in the creed of the Catholic Church.
Does your estimation of things divine perhaps need a little stretching?
Sunday, August 27, 2017
Fr. Perrone: how the majesty of Mary can preserve our reverence for God
Fr. Eduard Perrone, "A Pastor's Descant" [temporary file] (Assumption Grotto News, August 27, 2017):