Monday, June 24, 2013

St. John the Baptist and the Knights of Malta

In the my novel The Night's Dark Shade there is a scene describing a 13th century St. John's Eve celebration in a bastide built by the Knights of St. John in the south of France. St. John the Baptist is still the patron of the modern Knights, known today as the Knights of Malta. Here is a homily by Fr. Mark Kirby to some Knights in Ireland:
Holiness cannot be stereotyped. Holiness comes in a splendid variety of forms, and colours. There is no age, no state in life, no occupation, no background, no place, nor race, nor culture that is, of itself, foreign to holiness. We, therefore have no excuse. God would have each us become a saint. To resist the call to holiness is to resist the will of God. "This is the will of God," says the Apostle, "your sanctification" (1 Thessalonians 4:3).

In the Order of Malta

The particular form of holiness to which you are called will be shaped, then, and coloured by your membership in the Order of Malta. What exactly does this mean? What might your holiness look like? Your charism -- that is to say, the special identifying grace that makes your Order what it is in the Church -- has been summed up in two Latin terms: Tuitio Fidei and Obsequium Pauperum, which I should like to render respectively as The Faith, Contemplated and Upheld, and The Poor, Served with All Devotedness. The second of these, The Poor, Served with All Devotedness, is motivated by and sustained by the first, The Faith, Contemplated and Upheld. For this reason, today, and in the context of the Year of Faith, I should like, for a moment, to consider the first of these terms: Tuitio Fidei.

Look, See, Contemplate

The Latin word tuitio is rooted in the verb tuere meaning, first of all, to look at; to see; to fix one's gaze upon; or, if you will, to contemplate. Our English word intuition -- a knowledge gained by looking deeply into something -- is derived from the same verb. Your first duty, then -- and what a sweet and life-giving duty it is -- is to gaze upon Christ in the mysteries of the faith; to look, not only at them, but into them; and then to be so changed by your contemplation, that you translate it, necessarily, into the devoted service of Christ in His poor.

How does one fix one's gaze upon the mysteries of the faith? Where does one find Christ in His mysteries so as to look upon Him? "We", you are undoubtedly thinking, "are not monks". We are people engaged in the frenzy and fury of a society increasingly hostile to the Gospel of Jesus Christ; to the mission of His Church, one holy, Catholic, and apostolic; and to the expression of the faith in public life. All the more reason, dear brothers and sisters, to commit yourselves to the Tuitio Fidei upon which your vocation to holiness in the Order of Malta is founded, and by which it is quickened and sustained.

The Sacred Liturgy, Wellspring and Summit

The Tuitio Fidei (The Faith, Contemplated and Upheld ) begins and flourishes in the sacred liturgy; it bears abundant fruit in the Obsequium Pauperum (The Poor, Served with All Devotedness), and returns to the sacred liturgy. This is, simply put, the teaching of the Second Vatican Council, which called the sacred liturgy the wellspring and the summit of the life and action of the Church (cf. Sacrosanctum Concilium, art. 10).
Your vocation to holiness, your summons to real sainthood as members of the Order of Malta, will be proportionate to your contemplation of Christ in His mysteries, and this by means of your actual participation in the sacred liturgy of the Church. Already in 1903 -- one-hundred-ten years ago -- Pope Saint Pius X called "active participation in the most holy mysteries" that is, in the liturgy, "the foremost and indispensable font of the true Christian spirit" (Motu Proprio, Tra le sollecitidini).

Today's Holy Mass is but one opportunity to do precisely this. It is an occasion of grace freely given you by God and by the Church to be quickened in your unique vocation as -- yes -- saints of the Order of the Malta. "I claimed thee for my own before ever I fashioned thee in thy mother's womb; before ever thou camest to birth, I set thee apart for myself" (Jeremias 1:5).

Under the Hand of God

We heard, concerning John the Baptist, in the Holy Gospel: "And indeed the hand of the Lord was with him. The child grew up and his spirit matured. And he lived out in the wilderness until the day he appeared openly to Israel" (Luke 1: 66, 80).

Submit to the hand of the Lord today, by placing yourselves humbly and willingly under the immense, and tender, and powerful liturgy of His Church. Open your eyes, your ears, and all your senses to every word uttered, to every note sung, to every gesture, and movement, and to the sacred silence which envelops this Mass and allows for the penetration of its particular grace into the most secret place of your souls. (Read entire post.)

No comments: