Ok, we’re moving slowly through Ephesians (this is Chapter One, Part Two), gazing at each verse through the lens of the Catholic Catechism. Did you miss a post? Introduction – What’s a Catholic Bible Study?; Ephesians Chapter One, Part One – Blessed, Blessing, Blessings!
The Catechism (CCC) has several references to Ephesians 1: 3-6. To paraphrase that section: “God chose us to be holy, and destined us to be His sons through Jesus – Praise Him!” Beautiful, like a rose, in itself, but beautiful, like a rose window, lit by the Magisterium!
The Church sees the Virgin Mary as the first of those chosen by God for holiness (CCC 492). Next, the Word of God leads us right to the very heart of the Church – its Liturgy. Connect the dots: what do Mary and the Liturgy have in common? They are the means by which He blesses us and generates the life of Christ in us. God blesses us so we can become who we are – sons of God, holy, fruitful (see CCC 1080), full of the life of Christ, surrendered wholly to Him (CCC 1078), resounding His praise (Eph. 1:6)
But He doesn’t just tell us He wants this abundant life for us – He provides the MEANS. What began in Mary – holy and blameless by His grace – and is being brought to perfection as each of us seeks holiness, will be finally fulfilled in the full realization of the Church, His Bride – holy and blameless – at the end of time (CCC 865). In each case – Mary, you, me, the Church – we must understand ourselves as the means through which God’s purpose has been accomplished, is being accomplished, and someday will perfectly have been wholly accomplished.
Something about this actuality thrills my soul! “In the Church’s liturgy, the divine blessing is…communicated.” (CCC 1082) I don’t think we realize the nth part of what is meant here by the word ‘communicated.’ We ‘get the message,’ but is the Message fully realized in us, fully realized in the Body of Christ? I don’t think so. And I think I know why.
We tend to abstract and disembody Great Ideas, and be content to admire and contemplate them. But God didn’t send His Son to bring a better idea into the world, or to be admired! He spoke that final Word into a law-and-Sabbath-prepared people, into a Woman filled with His grace, into a Church that could raise up His sons, into Scriptures by which persons could verify experience and develop doctrines, into individuals who could become, in turn, vessels of grace, into a Body whose unity under Christ, its Head, could change the world, and, finally, into a Bride – holy and blameless – that could bear the full weight of His glory. He used means. He didn’t just speak theoretically, but actually!
I cannot fully understand who I am outside the context of this extraordinary purpose of God. And I cannot fully become myself – can’t be fully realized – without the means by which God makes me “capable of responding to him, and of knowing him, and of loving him far beyond [my] natural capacity.” (CCC 52)
The means is…did you get it?? The Liturgy – formal prayer, offering, Sacrament, music, ritual, gesture, movement, stillness, quietude, response, order, beauty, obligation, structure, history, doctrine – these things are not the weekly price I have to pay to belong to the Catholic Club, or the extraneous accretions burdening a simple idea, or the re-enactment of an old story, but the very means by which I am made able to receive, to hold in my own being, actually, the very life of God! (CCC 257-260)
After reading this – and I already loved the Liturgy, went to Church joyfully, received Him wholeheartedly – I experienced a new awareness of this supernatural activity. During Mass, I began to perceive the way those words and gestures were actually enlarging upon my puny natural capacity for Christ – buttressing the flimsy walls of my being and strengthening me to stand in His presence, receive Him without fainting, walk away without losing Him. Who can bear the glory of God? Yet He intends us to bear it, and radiate it, and return every blessed thing to Him changed by it, and carry it to others as life-giving power!
This may sound loopy and poetic, but for me it was an earthy and grounded experience. One reason I love Blessed Elizabeth of the Trinity is that I sense she’d have understood completely a hard-to-express encounter with God, like mine. So, I’ll close with a quote from her that my Ephesians-Catechism study brought to light. (Quoted after CCC 260)
O my God, Trinity whom I adore, help me forget myself entirely so to establish myself in you, unmovable and peaceful as if my soul were already in eternity. May nothing be able to trouble my peace or make me leave you, O my unchanging God, but may each minute bring me more deeply into your mystery! Grant my soul peace. Make it your heaven, your beloved dwelling and the place of your rest. May I never abandon you there, but may I be there, whole and entire, completely vigilant in my faith, entirely adoring, and wholly given over to your creative action.
Blessed Elizabeth took the name ‘praise of His glory’ to sign her prayers (from Ephesians 1:6), wanting, above all things, to accept the means, to become the means by which God would be blessed.
Next up: Ephesians Chapter One, Part 3 – God’s Plan for Your Life