A priest friend of mine says very regularly, “All of us are called to holiness.”  This is a constant call of his, showing up in nearly every sermon, a preaching of a main theme of Vatican Council II.  “Great.  We get it,” I said one day.  “Now tell us what to do.

Men (male and female) are body and soul.  We have a physicality that is a part of being human, and any true spirituality involves both body and soul, as weightlifter Joel Raines recently pointed out on this site.  Because we have a body with senses, this is how we learn things – through our senses and with our body.  Angels, on the other hand, know things by immediately “grasping” them in their intellect.  Because they don’t have bodily senses like us, they don’t learnthings “gradually,” like us, but they knowthem immediately and intuitively.  This is why, for example, the decision of the angels to disobey God makes them immediately and eternally damned – they know the full weight of the decision.

This is similar to the reason mortal sins can damn you, because you knowthe sin you are committing.  This is also why some say women are more like angels, because they have a strange ability to intuit something before reasoning to it, which is the more heavenly way of coming to know a thing.  This doesn’t mean they’re all heavenly; because angels can be fallen and still have the intuition to know how to help us fall too, as a temptress might know how to destroy a man.

Back to the priest. What is the first thing we need to doto grow in holiness?  This is my practical question to him.  Holiness is not found in trying harder, in feeling better about ourselves, or in being more altruistic.  Holiness, in fact, comes from being more and more united and like the Holy One, Jesus Christ.  This is why the first thing that you, as a man, must cultivate in yourself is likeness and closeness to Christ.  This is great news because it’s practical news.  It’s not an esoteric spiritual platitude that few can reach, but a straightforward and earthy path (even if a bit narrow).

The incarnation is the great gift of God to us, that He took on our human and physical nature and lived like us in all things but sin (See John 1 and Hebrews 4).  This is why all of the great spiritual writers recommend daily meditation on the words and deeds of Christ.  “All sanctity is effected in us by contact with the Sacred Humanity,” said Fr. Edward Leen, “this contact is created by our willing contemplation of the great mystery of the Incarnation.”[1]  In other words, learn and know what Jesus said and did.  Think on it in a conversational way with God, which is the means of meditation for a Christian.  Put yourself in the stories, listen to the words as if you were there, be a character, and engage your imagination using the physical realities of Christ’s life.

And it’s not just the spiritual greats that saw daily meditation on Christ is necessary,but Our Lady too.  In all of her apparitions in the last few centuries she has insisted on the daily praying of the Rosary, of which the chief act is meditation on the events of the Gospel.  Her desire is not just the racking up of Ave’s, as good as that is, but that more Christians are meditating on Christ and therefore becoming more Christian by becoming more like Christ.  Get it?

No matter where you are today spiritually, from a fresh conversion to decades into the ups and downs of the spiritual life, the thing to dodailyto grow in holiness is to meditate, read, and get to know the events of the Incarnation, the nitty gritty reality of God made man.  Don’t try to soar immediately to metaphysical heights, but go from a birth near dung to an uppity 12 year old that runs off to the Temple to a man that takes the time to make an actual whip before cleansing the temple of money traders. In two millennia the tree of fruit in the Gospels has not been exhausted, so start up or double down on this daily practice.  Today.

[1] Edward Leen, Progress Through Mental Prayer, 176.  Emphasis added.

05 / 03 / 2018
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