Christ should be manifest in our whole life: how to achieve Christian perfection

As I sit here on the shores of Lake Atitlan this morning, the Office of Readings this morning had provided another gem to chew on and mull over.

From a treatise on Christian Perfection by Saint Gregory of Nyssa, bishop

(PG 46, 283-286)

Christ should be manifest in our whole life

“The life of the Christian has three distinguishing aspects: deeds, words and thought. Thought comes first, then words, since our words express openly the interior conclusions of the mind. Finally, after thoughts and words, comes action, for our deeds carry out what the mind has conceived. So when one of these results in our acting or speaking or thinking, we must make sure that all our thoughts, words and deeds are controlled by the divine ideal, the revelation of Christ. For then our thoughts, words and deeds will not fall short of the nobility of their implications.

What then must we do, we who have been found worthy of the name of Christ? Each of us must examine his thoughts, words and deeds, to see whether they are directed toward Christ or are turned away from him. This examination is carried out in various ways. Our deeds or our thoughts or our words are not in harmony with Christ if they issue from passion. They then bear the mark of the enemy who smears the pearl of the heart with the slime of passion, dimming and even destroying the luster of the precious stone.

On the other hand, if they are free from and untainted by every passionate inclination, they are directed toward Christ, the author and source of peace. He is like a pure, untainted stream. If you draw from him the thoughts in your mind and the inclinations of your heart, you will show a likeness to Christ, your source and origin, as the gleaming water in a jar resembles the flowing water from which it was obtained.

For the purity of Christ and the purity that is manifest in our hearts are identical. Christ’s purity, however, is the fountainhead; ours has its source in him and flows out of him. Our life is stamped with the beauty of his thought. The inner and the outer man are harmonized in a kind of music. The mind of Christ is the controlling influence that inspires us to moderation and goodness in our behavior. As I see it, Christian perfection consists in this: sharing the titles which express the meaning of Christ’s name, we bring out this meaning in our minds, our prayers and our way of life.”

Some questions for reflection:

Does my life bear witness to the marks of our Savior, crucified?

Does my life lead others to Christ through my thought, word, deed, and action?

“Our lives are stamped with his thought” we’re created in the very image of the living God. Do our lives reflect the beauty and love of our creator?

“The inner and outer man are harmonized in a kind of music.” Are we healthy? Do we know ourselves? Who we are before God? Who we are before our brothers and sisters? Does our inner life and outer life live in harmony, reflecting the beautiful work of His hands that we are?

Behold the Lamb of God -A Reflection on the Incarnation 

 John 1:29-34. 

“John the Baptist saw Jesus coming toward him and said, “Behold, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world. 

He is the one of whom I said, ‘A man is coming after me who ranks ahead of me because he existed before me.’

I did not know him, but the reason why I came baptizing with water was that he might be made known to Israel.”

John testified further, saying, “I saw the Spirit come down like a dove from the sky and remain upon him.

I did not know him, but the one who sent me to baptize with water told me, ‘On whomever you see the Spirit come down and remain, he is the one who will baptize with the holy Spirit.’ 

Now I have seen and testified that he is the Son of God.”

“Behold the Lamb of God.” This line is one of my favorite lines of the Mass. Look! Behold! This is Jesus, the Christ! Look, see Him here hidden under the Eucharistic Bread and Wine! “Blessed are those called to the Wedding Supper of the Lamb!” “Blessed, special, Holy, thankful, are those who are called to receive him in Holy Communion.”
Each Wednesday I go and bring our Lord in Holy Communion with me to visit our parishioners in the Hospital. Each Friday I go and visit the home bound, always bringing Jesus along. I use a pyx which was given to me by my sister-in-laws mother who has since died of cancer. Each time I use it I think of Ms. Janet and day a prayer for her and ask her to intercede for me and those who I will visit that day. I also ask for the intercession of the others I have brought communion to, using that pyx who are no longer of this world but have passed away. 

There is a tradition in the Church to pray the rosary as you transport the Eucharist, asking our Blessed Mother to help us as she was the first to bring Christ to the world. I too pray my rosary and ask for our Lady to intercede for me and those I visit. I never know who, or even what I might encounter when carrying our Lord, but I do know that I always am filled with his grace and his love. Without which, I couldn’t go and bring Him to others. 

The people I visit are always thankful to receive our Lord; some will comment on how it is so nice to have received a visit and to be able to receive our Lord in Holy Communion. I too, am always thankful after having an encounter with someone and our Eucharistic King. 

At the end of the communion rite as I hold the host above the pyx and say: “Behold the Lamb of God, Behold Him, who takes away the sins of the world, blessed are those who are called to the Supper of  the Lamb.” I am always filled with an immense sense of gratitude and wonder at Christ who comes to feed us and give us what we need under the form of this simple host I hold in my fingers. 

One of my visits to a person who died shortly thereafter involved me holding the host and saying those words like normal. As I did that, I noticed that the catheter bag was beginning to fill up. My first thought was one of shock and I began to worry about what I should do in this situation. I closed my eyes, took a breath, and began the prayer again: “Behold the Lamb of God.” As I said those words I opened my eyes and saw the person there behind the host. I saw Christ and looking through the host to the person I saw Christ in them. Christ, the all powerful God who became man including every aspect of our humanity. Including the need to relieve ourselves and the ability to do so even in a catheter bag, during a communion visit. Through this person, expressing a perfectly normal part of their humanity I recognized the Incarnation, I saw the humanity of the God-child born in Bethlehem. I saw Him who wanted to come to this person under the form of bread, the one who had died for them, and who now wished to bless them with his presence through this “Supper of the Lamb.”

Those words bear more of a special weight now. Each time I say them, I think of the person who is deceased and hopefully with God at his eternal Supper. I ask for her prayers. I find that the many different people who touch my life through my ministry at the Cathedral, or the parishes I have been at before leave my heart wounded with the love of Christ in unique ways. When I say different words, use different objects, see different pictures, my heart is filled with the love of Christ for his flock. I have a closeness with these people. I have a desire to serve them and love them more like Christ. And I am encouraged to constantly seek to find Christ through them. 

And as I say those words: “Behold the Lamb of God…” I, like the person on the receiving end, look upon the face of our Eucharistic King and see Him who has come to visit us, who has come to visit me in the “Supper of the Lamb.” And I think and I pray that I might always be blessed to be called there to the side of the Lords flock, looking and gazing together upon the Lamb of God. 

Adoration with the Cathedral Youth Group