The night of nights

The Night of Nights

by Catherine Doherty.

This is the night of nights. This is the apex of the love story. The first part came to us as the cry of a Child. The second, as the hammering and planning of wood by a Carpenter.

The third, as a Voice—picked up by the megaphone of centuries and brought to us: Christ the preacher, in his public life. Next, the sound of whips upon human flesh and of nails entering that flesh. Then in the quiet of that night, flame, fire, and song got together, and suddenly God arose.

Christ is risen! In him is my faith, my love; in him I live.

He sang us a love song from the moment of his birth to the moment of his Ascension—which comes soon—he will leave us tokens of his love: first, himself in the celebration of the Eucharist and in the Blessed Sacrament, and in his priests. For he is so in love with us that, though he went to the Father, he remained with us. Only God can do that.

Night of nights! It must be a night of such a profound love for one another that we know, through the tremendous mystery of faith, that each one I love is the Lord. Christ meets Christ. This tremendous surge of love should so fill us that, at least one night in all the year, we might try to love him and one another as he loves us.

— From Season of Mercy, pp. 117-118, available from MH Publications.

If any one of you feels guilty

“If any one of you feels guilty and you know that you deserve it, fear not.  Look at Jesus Christ.  You only need to say, ‘Have mercy on me.’  Then, with the eyes of faith . . . see an unseen hand wipe out all your sins and misdemeanors.  You will realize you are in paradise because he who is merciful dwells in you.  Where he is, there is paradise.  It is as simple as that. …

Charlie Mackesy

“Faith assures us that when we come close to God with sorrow in our heart, his consuming fire cleanses everything in us.  His arms reach out and take us in and rock us back and forth.  We rest against his breast and are lulled by the heartbeats of God.” (Servant of God Catherine de Hueck Doherty)

“Faith is a country of darkness”

I frequently turn to Catherine Doherty’s writings when I am struggling.  This is one of my favorites of hers.  May reading it bring you hope.

Faith is a country of darkness into which we venture because we love and believe in the Beloved, who is beyond all reasoning, all understanding, all comprehension.  And at the same time, paradoxically, is enclosed within us: the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit.  Faith must go through this strange dark land, following him whom it loves.

Christ, our Beloved, becomes the door, the way into and through this darkness.  And suddenly our heart knows that if we will pass through the door and walk along that way, we will see the Father.

What does it mean to see the Father?  It means to assuage that hunger that has been put in man’s heart by God himself, the hunger of finally meeting absolute love.  We yearn for it.  All of us do.  We arise and go on a pilgrimage, guided only by faith that we must journey toward the face of perfect Love–because for this we were created, to be one with the Love.

If we embark upon this quest, into the land where we may not be able to hear, may not be able to see, may not be able even to speak, suddenly we will be mysteriously visited.  A hand will touch our ears and they will be opened, not only to the speech of man but to the speech of God.  A hand will touch our eyes and we will see, not only with our eyes, but with the sight of God.  A hand will touch our tongue, and we will speak, not only as men do, but as God speaks, and we will become prophets of the Lord.

True, on the road to the Father we shall fall, for we shall sin.  We may turn away from God, we may leave the Church, we may think that we have left everything.  But faith being a gift of God, it does not desert us; we desert it, but it follows us.  We leave the Church, but the Church–which is part of faith, for it is part of Christs–does not leave us.  We turn away from God, but God never turns away from us.

Look at yourself through His eyes

This is for all of you who struggle with a positive image of yourselves, finding it hard to believe that God could love you.

When you have an inferiority complex–and who of us hasn’t–you say things like, “I just don’t believe that what God made is good.  Look at me.  I’m a louse.”  Don’t dare to challenge God like this.  Everything he made is good, including yourself.  Don’t listen to that serpent who is giving you apples that look red on the outside and are full of inferiority complexes on the inside.  Don’t eat that apple, or else you are going to go down into a pit prepared by Satan for you for your whole life.

How can you have a wrong image of something or someone that God touched?  God touched you and he created you.  You passed through his mind and you were begotten.  Anyone of us that passes through God’s mind, anyone of us that God touched, cannot be this horrible person we think we are.  No!  Each one of us is beautiful–we’re beautiful because he touched us.

Sometimes this is very difficult for us to accept.  We look at ourselves and say, “He made us in his image, equal to himself in a manner of speaking, heir to his Son?  This just can’t be.  He hasn’t looked into my heart.  he doesn’t know what I’m made of!”  We say those silly things because our evaluation of ourselves is very poor.  We haven’t looked at ourselves with the merciful, tender, compassionate eyes of God.  So we walk in despair half the time.  As a result, the ability to realize that God is both in our midst and in us–a realization that is the fruit of faith–fades and disappears.

This is the main reason, it seems to me, why the Father sent his Son to us, why the Word was made flesh and dwelt amongst us as one of us.  The Father, having given us the fantastic gift of faith, wanted to help us accept this awesome gift.  He sent his Son Jesus Christ so that we, unbelieving, might believe.  We are like children; we need to touch.

Every human being is a mystery.  The mystery of man enters into the mystery of God, and bursting forth with great joy, comes faith and understanding.  When faith is there, all is clear, and a love relation with God enters into your heart.  When you have faith, it is such a simple thing to accept his love, even if you do not understand why he loves you.  (Catherine de Hueck Doherty)

Praying for you that you have faith in His love for you.

Walking and loving in darkness

Catherine Doherty writes about the love that finds us in the darkness:

Through faith we are able to turn our faces to God and meet his gaze.  Each day becomes more and more luminous.  The veil between God and man becomes less and less until it seems as if we can almost reach out and touch God.

Faith is a pulsating thing; a light, a sun that nothing can dim if it exists in the hearts of men.  That’s why it’s so beautiful.  God gives it to me saying, “I love you.  Do you love me back?  Come and follow me in the darkness.  I want to know if you are ready to go into the things that you do not see yet, on faith alone.”

Then you look at God, or at what you think is God in your mind, and you say, “Look, this is fine, but you’re inviting me to what?  An emptiness?  A nothingness?  There is nothing to see.  I cannot touch you.  I cannot feel you.”  Then God goes on to say, “I invite you to a relationship of love: your love of me, my love of you.”  Yes, God comes to us as an invitation to love. . . .

At this moment love surges in our heart like a tremendous sea that takes us in and lays us in the arms of God whom we haven’t seen but in whom we believe.  Across the waves we hear, “Blessed are they who have not seen and yet believe” (John 20.29).  Now I walk in the darkness of faith and I see.  I see more clearly than is possible with my fleshly eyes.

(Catherine Doherty, Re-entry into Faith: “Courage–be not afraid!”)

What is there to be afraid of?

Some thoughts from Catherine Doherty on fear:

When I was little, my father used to say that, if you were a real Christian, you would never be afraid of anything of anyone.  For were you not, if you were in the state of grace, the temple of the Holy Trinity?  And wasn’t the Blessed Mother there?  For where the Trinity was, there Our Lady of the Trinity was sure to be. And naturally your patron saint would be within you too, as would your angel guardian.  Furthermore, as a Christian you had the right and the duty, when in danger or need, to call on all the heavenly spirits for help, to call on anyone or everyone in the Church Triumphant  which is all the people of God in heaven.  So, living, walking, breathing in such a glorious company, how could you be afraid of anything but sin?  Sin alone has the power to bring real death.  It has to be feared with a great fear, but nothing else.

You shouldn’t fear illness or even death –both are precious gifts of the Lord!  Sickness can make you into his likeness, even as all pain and sorrow does, and bring deep spiritual peace and understanding that cannot be reached any other way.  And death?  Death is Christ calling your soul for an eternal rendezvous of love.  Oh, the joy of at long last being home, in the arms of the beloved!

The Year of Faith

An article by Catherine Doherty from Madonna House on faith–faith in the God who loves us no matter what.  Be encouraged!

Getting Ready for the Year of Faith

by Catherine Doherty.

When I was a young wife in Petrograd, the city was in chaos when the communists took over. My husband Boris and I were sleeping on the floor after everything was taken away from us.

I said to him, “Boris, I am afraid.” He yawned and said, “Why? You are a Christian.”

That was a pretty good answer, and I never forgot it. If I am a Christian, can I give way to hopelessness? No. The resurrected Christ is in our midst.

What we have to battle in this day and age is our own hopelessness. Many people are depressed. They are depressed by their image of themselves.

Well, the picture they see in the mirror is false. Then, on top of this depression and in it and over it comes a terrible loneliness.

The answer to it is so utterly simple. The answer is faith. A very small word, but one of such immense power that it can lift you to the very feet of God. Faith in who you are as a child of God, faith in what you stand for, faith in where you are going.

These days, who of us doesn’t need faith, love, peace, compassion, understanding? So many of us cannot escape the fears that bay at us like a pack of wolves at our heels.

And so many of these fears are nonsensical. Let us stop listening to them.

We don’t have to worry about our sinfulness. We just need to go to confession. And forget all that nonsense about being ugly and unlovable. Throw yourself into the arms of God who incarnated himself to become like you and me.

You can read the rest here.

Entering Holy Week

Entering Holy Week

by Catherine Doherty.

This is the hour of faith. We are going to need faith, because Holy Week, in a manner of speaking, will show us the reign of the prince of darkness, who rejoiced on Good Friday because he killed God, or so he thought.

One picture has haunted me throughout the years. It is Christ hanging on the cross while many who have benefited by his goodness—the halt, the lame, and the blind—are saying to him, “If you are who you say you are, come down from that cross and we shall believe you.”

How many miracles have happened to us, individually?

This is the week for meditating on how much we are loved. If there is anyone who thinks that he or she is not loved, let him follow the Holy Week liturgies, and he will know with what love we are all loved.

For those of us who do know a little of that love, let this week be a week of loving others, for no one can receive the infinite love of God without passing it on. God meant it to be that way. If we kept it for ourselves, it would break us.

It seems that each of us is always to have empty hands—to have our sinner’s heart with all its hostility, pain, and sin—yet a heart that is always turned to God. He who loves sinners has to come into our hearts again and again and constantly give us the mercy of his love.

Let us acknowledge this and let us share this love, emptying it onto the other, whoever he might be. It is immaterial who, for when one is loved by God, one loves everybody, because God lets the rain fall on the just and the unjust.

God’s love pouring into us is poured out to the other, and then another Niagara of his love comes in. It never stops.

When I think I have nothing to give, lo and behold, the cascade of God’s love passes through me and I am renewed. I can give again, because God became man, dispossessing himself.

When you fall in love with God, the desire for dispossession becomes like a fire in your heart, because when one falls in love, one wants to identify with the beloved. It has always been thus and still is.

The Gift of Tears

Russians say that this is the week of the gift of tears. We believe that there is a gift of tears that comes from the Holy Spirit. We say that it washes away our sins and the sins of mankind. Silence and tears and a contrite heart God will not reject.

This is the week of confession and also the week of overcoming sins, because it is one week in the year when we know that, while we can’t overcome our sins, Christ can.

As one of our MH priests has said, “During most of this holy season of Lent, you have to work at living Lent, but then comes the time when you no longer have to carry Lent. The liturgy is so strong, so powerful, that it just carries you. The strength and power at work in the Church carries us all through Holy Week.”

When you think of this holy week, it’s like a shiver passing through you. It is the mercy of God and his love for you. And because you are caught up in it, held by it, immersed in it, your soul opens up and you cease to be afraid. The God-man has erased your fear.

In this Holy Week, let us join hands in deep forgiveness of one another. Let us reconcile ourselves to whomever we are not reconciled. Let us each enlarge the circle of love in our hearts so that it can encompass the humanity that flows near us. Such is the love of God: mercy flows from it. Forgiveness is part of it. Humility sings a song to it. This truly is a week that is holy!

Let all of this sink into you, for God is with us every moment. He is present right now. Let his love, his simplicity, his ordinariness, and his extraordinariness—all of him—enter your heart, and then you will know why this week is called holy.

— Adapted from Season of Mercy, pp. 79-81, available from MH Publications.

“Season of Stillness”

Season of Stillness

by Catherine Doherty.

My Russian shrine stands peaceful and quiet. Its roof is covered with snow. The Virgin of Kiev is reflected in the vigil light that always burns before her face. It looks especially beautiful in the dark of the winter nights.

Squirrels and raccoons scamper around, leaving tracks on the snow, as does my doe who comes to drink at the river where the current is too swift to freeze. Once in a while, bear tracks are also seen on the snow!

In such an environment, December comes to greet me and leads me slowly and gently into Advent, to the Expected One—the Child in the cave—the Child who is God.

It isn’t difficult for me to imagine that snow and ice, trees and animals, share in my expectation. In December my island sings of the coming of the Prince of Peace.

The island is bare. And there is a stillness, a holy stillness, that makes very real to me the words of the Christmas antiphons, “When the night was still, your Almighty Word leapt down from heaven.”

My mind turns to that holy night that is always so close, though it happened almost 2,000 years ago. I cannot help meditating on this beautiful antiphon. My mind spins a cradle of silence into which the Word that leapt from heaven comes to rest.

Silence and speech, contemplation and action, these form the very heart of the Christian life. To receive the Word we must gather ourselves up, recollect ourselves.

The fire of the Holy Spirit is often expressed in many revolutionary ways which seem confusing to us. But if we are silent, if we recollect ourselves and prepare to hear the voice of the Word, then we will cease to be confused; we will be made ready for the revolution of love.

Yes, we must become cradles of silence, meditation and contemplation so that the Word may find our hearts ready to receive him—our souls and minds ready to hear his message of love. And, hearing it, may we arise and go forth and live it!

Adapted from Welcome, Pilgrim, (1991), p. 92, Madonna House Publications, out of print.