instruere...inlustrare...delectare Disputations

Thursday, April 01, 2004

Seven into five

Just as two friends, frequently in each other's company, tend to develop similar habits, so too, by holding familiar converse with Jesus and the Blessed Virgin, by meditating on the mysteries of the Rosary and by living the same life in Holy Communion, we can become, to the extent of our lowliness, similar to them and can learn from these supreme models a life of humility, poverty, hiddenness, patience and perfection. -- Bl. Bartolo Longo, quoted in Rosarium Virginis Mariae
In a Lenten reflection last week, Fr. James Sullivan, OP, suggested a relationship between the five Luminous Mysteries, the Seven Sacraments, and the five virtues Bl. Bartolo claimed can be learned with the help of the Rosary. (Assume an "according to Fr. Sullivan" throughout the following.)

The first luminous mystery is the Baptism of the Lord, which obviously corresponds to the sacrament of Baptism. They both teach us something of humility: our Lord's baptism, because the Eternal God had become man, and was even prepared to accept baptism at the hands of a man unfit to loosen His sandal, for it was fitting to fulfill all righteousness; our own baptism, because it is an acknowledgement that we are utterly powerless to save ourselves. (Those of us who were baptized as infants must also allow the humbling fact that not even on the natural level did we choose baptism for ourselves.)

The Miracle at Cana calls to mind the sacrament of Matrimony. That particular marriage began with a great gift from God, a gift given secretly to cover the poverty of the newlyweds. All who are married are poor, dependent on God for the graces for their marriages to thrive and be a means of their salvation. Not all recognize this poverty, though, nor are rightly thankful to God for what He has done for them without their knowing.

The third luminous mystery is the Proclamation of the Kingdom. What the Pope adds in his letter proposing the luminous mysteries to the Church, which most descriptions of the new mysteries don't mention, is that Jesus' proclamation comes "with His call to conversion." [RVM 21] A call to conversion suggests the sacrament of Reconciliation, which in turn suggests hiddenness. We hear news of the Kingdom, and we ask ourselves whether it is to us a pearl of great price, and if so whether we are really willing to sell all we have to obtain it. We search the hidden recesses of our hearts to find what we will not yet part with, then go into a room, hidden from view, to confess our sins, and there, in the one sacrament protected by a seal of silence, we pronounce our intention of conversion and receive forgiveness for our sins.

Conversion may also suggest the Anointing of the Sick, where all else is set aside in the sick one's appeal to God for the grace of strenth, peace, and courage, to unite him more closely with the suffering of Christ and the fulfillment of the covenant Christ ratified by His suffering. The Catechism teaches that in receiving this sacrament a sick person "contributes to the sanctification of the Church and to the good of all men for whom the Church suffers." In doing so, he has accepted Christ's invitation to enter into His Father's Kingdom, taken up his cross, and begun to follow Christ.

What do the Transfiguration, Confirmation, and patience have in common? Confirmation completes Baptism, and if in Jesus' Baptism the Father announced His Son to the world, so in the Transfiguration He confirmed Jesus' Sonship, and showed to Peter, James, and John that Jesus completes the Law and the Prophets. St. Peter, as ever in the Gospels, fails his test of patience, wanting Jesus' fulfillment in time to be done with immediately -- and, by extension, his own journey to beatitude. The West has the custom of delaying confirmation, sometimes for years, after baptism; this in itself calls for patience (though I've never noticed impatience for the sacrament to be much of a problem for those children more than a year younger than the prescribed age).

The Institution of the Eucharist was, of course, the first celebration of the Sacrament of the Eucharist; its relevance to Holy Orders, and the centrality of offering the Eucharist in the lives of priests, are also evident. The Eucharist is the means to our own perfection in the image and likeness of the Son through Whose sacrifice we become sons and daughters of the Eternal Father. Christ Himself, in His humanity, was made perfect through the suffering signified in the Eucharist, and by participating in this sacrament we gain the graces we need to follow Him.