Monday, February 14, 2011

Pseudo-Dionysius and Pope Gregory the Great

Pseudo-Dionysius the Areopagite

Pseudo-Dionysius shows that in the end the journey to God is God himself, who makes himself close to us in Jesus Christ. Thus, a great and mysterious theology also becomes very concrete, both in the interpretation of the liturgy and in the discourse on Jesus Christ: with all this, Dionysius the Areopagite exerted a strong influence on all medieval theology and on all mystical theology, both in the East and in the West. . . .

Where the light of love shines, the shadows of reason are dispelled; love sees; love is an eye, the experience gives us more than reflection. Bonaventure saw in Saint Francis what this experience is: it is the experience of a very humble, very realistic journey, day by day; it is walking with Christ, accepting his Cross. In this poverty and in this humility, in the humility that is also lived in ecclesiality, is an experience of God which is loftier than that attained by reflection. In it we really touch God's Heart. (Church Fathers and Teachers; Page 29, 30)

Pope Gregory the Great

He was a man immersed in God: his desire for God was always alive in the depths of his soul, and precisely because of this he was always close to his neighbor, to the needy people of his time. Indeed, during a desperate period of havoc, he was able to create peace and give hope. This man of God shows us the true sources of peace, from which true hope comes. Thus, he becomes a guide also for us today. (Church Fathers and Teachers; Page 42)


Autrice said...

Pope Gregory has a fascinating history. He's an example to live by; his quotes inspire deeper contemplation.

Ginny said...

Dionysius...well, people wonder if Jesus had one or two natures, so many different thoughts about some things that we will never ever be able to know for certain in this life. But it is so interesting and so much fun to study and learn and discuss them. It is too bad that these different ways of thought divide people into different camps, when we just need to believe in Jesus and his sacrifice, confess and obey. I think so many other issues, like future predictions and prediction of Revelation, our beliefs do not really depend on our salvation. I do not know very much about so much of this mystical aspect of the Eastern churches, but love to learn about new and different ways of thought, and perhaps do some melding. Though SO many people are very bound up in their tradition and horror struck if you try to introduce anything other than what they've known. Say the ashes. Our church has never done that, so I go to a different one on Ash Wednesday. But it wouldn't hurt any church to do it, would it? I really don't think it would ANGER God!!

Annie said...

He absolutely would not, Ginny. And I'm so glad you receive Ashes. I love to public acknowledgement of our sinfulness.

An acquaintance of mine, Fr. Eric Anderson writes, "In Ancient Rome, the liturgy of Ash Wednesday was celebrated at two distinct places. The people assembled at the church of St. Anastasia for the blessing of the ashes, then a solemn procession led by the Pope, barefoot, made its way to the station church of St. Sabina for the Solemn Papal Mass. But why ashes? The ashes we receive today are a remnant of an ancient practice of public penance in the Church from the first millennium.

In the first millennium of Christianity, the sacrament of Penance had a public element to it. If a person’s sins were private, they were confessed in private and kept private, according to the seal of Confession. But some sins were public in nature and thus, it was the practice to do public penance in order to restore the person’s public reputation or standing in the Church and in the community. This effected reconciliation with God and also reconciliation with the members of the Church who had suffered from the public sins of the penitent. We see this today when a movie star, a sports hero, or a politician commits a scandalous or sinful act in public. It has become standard protocol that he or she will call a press conference to publicly apologize for bringing shame on his or her family, spouse, children, etc.

Our celebration of Ash Wednesday is a participation in public penance. In the early Church, through the first millennium, public penance “consisted of various acts of mortification, –– wearing sackcloth and ashes, fasting, scourging one’s body, wandering about on foot (barefoot), retiring into a monastery, etc . . .

From the 11th century onward, 'the discipline of public penance began to fall into disuse and the holy rite of putting ashes on the heads of all the faithful indiscriminately became so general, that at length, it was considered as forming an essential part of the Roman liturgy'. So this Wednesday, the faithful will receive ashes on their foreheads as a public sign of penance as we enter into the 40 days of Lent. All are encouraged to receive the ashes early in the day if possible and to leave them on as a public witness to our faith, especially in the workplace and at school."