You, who are so great and rich, have made Yourself little and poor for us! You chose to be born far from home, in a stable, to be wrapped in swaddling clothes, to be nourished at Your Virgin Mother’s breast, to be laid in a manger between an ox and an ass. Today is the dawn of the new redemption, of the old restoration, of eternal happiness. Today the heavens have distilled honey throughout the whole world. Then, O my soul, kiss this divine manger, press your lips to the Infant’s feet and embrace them. Meditate on the shepherds watching their clocks, contemplate the angelic hosts, prepare to join the heavenly melody, singing with your lips and with your heart: ‘Glory to God in the highest, and peace on earth to men of good will.’
Sacrifice is an absolutely universal law for the perfecting of the creature. Everything which passes from a lower nature to a higher nature has to pass through self-sacrifice, mortification, and death. The mineral assimilated by the plant becomes living matter. The vegetable which is consumed is transformed in the animal into sensible living matter. The man who yields up his whole soul to God through the obedience of faith finds it again in glory. The angel who has renounced the natural light of his intelligence to plunge himself into the darkness of faith has found the splendour of divine light.
Raïssa Maritain (1883–1960)
It’s nice to hear stories about how the saints interacted with one another. Sometimes they do so as friends, sometimes as colleagues (in agreement or in disagreement), sometimes indeed as superiors and inferiors in life or in the work of God. One example of the latter is Saint Alphonsus, founder of the Redemptorists, and Saint Gerard, one of the first lay brothers in that congregation.
While under investigation for a crime he did not commit (and while being unjustly punished for it), Saint Gerard lived in the same house as his order’s founder. When walking along the corridor, they once ran into one another. Gerard paused and then said to Saint Alphonsus, his rector: “Your face is like the face of an angel. Every time I see it, I am consoled.”
(We can smile upon hearing this, I think!)
All in all this is rather the same thing they said of Saint Stephen, the first martyr: “And all who sat in the council looked intently at him, and they saw that his face was like the face of an angel” (Acts 6:15). This inspires love in some, hatred in others. For Saint Gerard seeing Saint Alphonsus, he loved the holiness; for those who looked on Saint Stephen, they were agitated and fearful in their hearts. But no matter whether are hearts are disposed to love the good or to hate it, what we have, at the core, is the very transfiguration of the body – the taking up of the flesh deeper into the human spirit, animated more and more by the Holy Spirit.
In a letter to her mother, Blessed Elizabeth of the Trinity advises:
P.S. Remember to pray while you are on the train on Friday, as that is a very good opportunity for prayer.
Likewise, Jacques Maritain:
One can pray on the train, in the subway, in the dentist’s waiting room.
This is very astute. It’s also dear to my heart. I love to pray on buses, on the subway, on planes, and on trains.
Humanly speaking, there is good motivation. While sitting on these modern forms of transportation, there is a silence; but it is not absolute. We are still with our brothers and sisters; we can notice them and their struggles, without be obtrusive, and gather them into our prayer also, taking their troubles, apparent and unseen, to Jesus’ feet.
Also, there is something in the economy of salvation, as administered by the Church. Travel by trains, buses, and airplanes is (partly) under the patronage of the angels. Raphael the Archangel is, as per his role in the Book of Tobit, patron saint of all travellers. Other angels are patrons of those who travel, especially by modern means. So perhaps, being with the angels and the Church of Heaven, we are well advised to take the opportunity for prayer, too.
And, of course, any time to be alone with the angels and, in particular, our guardian angel, is good for us.
A humanity united in Christ and through Christ is the temple in which the Triune God has his abode… And as the head of humankind, which combines in itself the higher [spiritual] and the lower [corporeal] reaches of being, Christ is the head of creation in its totality.
Saint Teresa Benedicta of the Cross
In place of Solomon’s temple, Christ has built a temple of living stones, the communion of saints. At its centre, he stands as the eternal high priest; on its altar he is himself the perpetual sacrifice. And, in turn, the whole of creation is drawn into the “liturgy,” the ceremonial worship service: the fruits of the earth as the mysterious offerings, the flowers and the lighted candlesticks, the carpets and the curtain, the ordained priest, and the anointing and blessing of God’s house. Not even the cherubim are missing.
Saint Teresa Benedicta of the Cross
How should we correct others? How should we show them virtue? How should we speak to them about the truth? Saint Francis de Sales, Doctor of Love, writes to his friend Saint Jane Frances de Chantal,
As much as possible, we must touch the hearts of others as do the angels: delicately and without coercion.
How is this possible? We’re not angels! No, but we are spiritual creatures, too: a bit ruder a rougher than the angels, but definitely spiritual creatures as well. The greatest power we have is spiritual. This power can always be gentle, for it is spiritual. It can even be silent and unseen, or almost silent and almost unseen; but it remains real. There are good effects that the saints call diffusive and which are a bit like contagious imprints, impressing goodness on souls by the mere presence and receptivity of souls. Although seemingly hidden, this is the most prevalent way in which we can act on the world: by the natural and humanly uncalculated diffusion of goodness, contemplation, peace, truth, love, the Holy Spirit’s gifts.
This is one of those many reasons that being contemplative in the midst of the everyday is open to us and indeed asked of us: the reason of hope to effect change in the world when all is hopeless.