Second Sunday after Epiphany 2020
Yesterday, in our daily reading of the Holy Rule, we began Chapter IV, The Instruments of Good Works. Saint Benedict gives us seventy-two instruments, or tools, beginning with the commandment to love God “with all one’s heart, all one’s soul, and all one’s strength” and ending with the counsel, “never to despair of God’s mercy.” The remaining seventy Instruments of Good Works are set between these two, suggesting that one who employs the first and last of the seventy–two Instruments of Good Works will, sooner or later, but most certainly begin to make use of all the others.
In today’s Epistle (Romans 12:6-16), the Apostle provides us with his own list of instruments of good works. Saint Paul calls them spiritual gifts, and these, like Saint Benedict’s “Instruments of Good Works” are set forth in order that we may make use of them in our life together. What are Saint Paul’s instruments of good works? They are, as he lists them, administration; teaching; preaching; almsgiving; authority exercised with care; deeds of mercy carried out with good cheer; unfeigned love; hatred of what is evil; holding fast to what is good; brotherly affection towards one another; precedence readily given to others; solicitude free of laziness; fervour of spirit; service of God; joy in hope; patience in tribulation; perseverance in prayer; provision for the needs of Christ’s own; hospitality; giving of blessings; empathy in another’s sorrow; oneness of mind with others; and preference for what is humble and lowly.
No one person will have all these spiritual gifts at the same time; they are distributed to each one as the community, functioning as a body made up of many members, has need.
Now there are diversities of graces, but the same Spirit; and there are diversities of ministries, but the same Lord; and there are diversities of operations, but the same God, who worketh all in all. And the manifestation of the Spirit is given to every man unto profit. (1 Corinthians 12:4-7)
What is the source of all these gifts? It is charity. Where are the Instruments of Good Works forged? They are forged in charity. By what logic are they given us? By the logic of charity. To what end are they given us? For the sake of charity.
What is this charity? “God is charity: and he that abideth in charity, abideth in God, and God in him. (1 John 4:16). Charity is the very life of God communicated to us. The Holy Ghost, the Third Person of the Most Holy Trinity, is charity, that is God giving us God, Love giving us Love. The Holy Ghost who indwells the hearts of all who belong to Christ and abide in Him, moves us towards the Father as members of the one Body of Christ. The Body of Christ is present wheresoever souls partake of the one “Living Bread come down from heaven” (John 6:41). The one Body of Christ, quickened by the Holy Ghost, is made visible in a vast multitude of local configurations: in the diocese, in parishes, in this monastery, and in your families as well.
The joy of the Church, the Body of Christ in every place, is the Holy Ghost. The water changed into wine at the wedding feast of Cana, the good wine kept until now, points to the Holy Ghost. How, you may ask me, am I to obtain even a drop of this river of new wine that is the Holy Ghost? I want to possess charity, so that having charity, I may lay hold of the Instruments of Good Works, and begin to make use of them wisely, humbly, and joyfully. Saint Bernard says this:
Men with an urge to frequent prayer will have experience of what I say. Often enough when we approach the altar to pray our hearts are dry and lukewarm. But if we persevere, there comes an unexpected infusion of grace, our breast expands as it were, and our interior is filled with an overflowing love. (Sermon IX on the Canticle)
If you would possess a limitless supply of charity, and in charity possess all else, go to the Mother of Jesus. The prayer of the Mother effectively opens hearts to the inpouring of the Holy Ghost. Her hour has come. The hour of the Blessed Virgin Mary becomes the Third Hour: the hour of Pentecost, the hour of the descent of the Holy Ghost in every age, in every place, in your life and in mine. The Blessed Virgin Mary’s hour is whatever hour in which her children, members of her Son’s Mystical Body, are in need of her presence and of the consolation of the Holy Ghost that is charity, the best and greatest of gifts. The Gift that is God giving God, even as the Apostle says: “the charity of God is poured forth in our hearts, by the Holy Ghost, who is given to us” (Romans 5:5). Our Lady’s hour is whatever hour, day or night, in which her children find themselves in sore need of her intervention. Our Lady’s hour is the hour in which any soul turns to her in confidence, saying, “Show thyself a Mother” (Vespers Hymn, Ave Maris Stella).
Today, as at the wedding feast of Cana, Our Lady is present in the Church, observing all things and attentive to every need. Today, even as at the wedding feast of Cana, the Blessed Virgin Mary intervenes quietly and effectively, even without being asked. Today, even as at the wedding feast of Cana, she speaks to her Son on our behalf — “They have no wine” — and, then, she speaks to us on His behalf — “Whatsoever he shall say to you, do ye”. And what does He say? “If you then, being evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father from heaven give the good Spirit to them that ask him? (Luke 11:13).
The Blessed Virgin Mary is the Mediatrix of all graces; she is the almoner of the Divine Munificence; she is the Mother of the Mystical Body, bending over the little ones, comforting those who weep, and lifting up the fallen. So attuned is her maternal Heart to the Heart of God that she, like Him, “fills the hungry with good things” (Luke 1:53) and causes the wine of the Holy Ghost — substantial Charity— to flow in abundance “lest anyone be troubled or grieved in the house of God” (Rule of Saint Benedict, Chapter XXXI).