Love does such things

Archbishop Aquila

How could God, who exists outside of time, enter into time and take on a human body? The great theologian Fr. Romano Guardini said he tried to intellectually understand this and failed. But a breakthrough happened for him when a friend made a remark that struck his heart.

At Christmas, we receive a gift that is at the same time mysterious and profound. And the fact that Jesus’ birth occurred 2,000 years ago adds to the mystery. If you went to Christmas Mass during the day you heard St. John describe the Son of God’s entrance into the world. “In the beginning was the Word,” he wrote, “and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things came to be through him, and without him nothing came to be.”

In his book “The Lord,” Fr. Guardini explains the Gospel passage by saying, “Let us consider carefully what this means: the everlasting, infinite Creator not only reigns over the world but, at a specific ‘moment,’ crossed an unimaginable borderline and personally entered into history – he the inaccessibly remote one!” It is easier to think of God as just “up there,” Fr. Guardini says, but instead he freely chose to enter into our imperfect reality.

That led him to write: “Before such an unheard of thought the intellect bogs down.” In our day, it’s difficult for most of us to see beyond the materialistic rituals that are marketed as Christmas, let alone contemplate the deeper truths of God’s entrance into the world.

Fr. Guardini was able to move beyond his intellectual impasse when a friend made a remark that we all should contemplate.  “But love does such things!” his friend said. The comment did not explain anything further to his intellect, but it aroused his heart and enabled it “to feel its way to the secrecy of God. The mystery is not understood, but it does move nearer …” (“The Lord,” p. 18).

We know that in order to understand a person or the world around us, we must ask what its purpose is. This holds true whether we are talking about water, sunlight, a tree, you, me, and even the Son of God. Jesus’ purpose in becoming a man was to make known the heart of the Father and carry out his will; it was to make love known. St. John confirms this truth in his Gospel, “For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him might not perish but might have eternal life” (John 3:16).

When we celebrate Christmas, we praise and adore God the Father for sending Jesus to us, for placing his divine love and power squarely in our midst. As we pray and think about how a child grew into a man who carried out this mission, seeking the will of the Father, each of us should reflect on what the mission is that God has given us and how we are carrying it out.

Every one of us has a God-given calling – a vocation that, if we faithfully fulfill it, brings his presence into the world and brings his kingdom nearer.  Before Jesus was born, St. John wrote, “No one has ever seen God. The only Son, God, who is at the Father’s side, has revealed him” (John 1:18). This was the mission that fulfilled through his ministry, and his Passion, Death and Resurrection.

Now, each of us is commissioned through our Baptism with the joyful charge of making the love of the Father known to the world. In the fifth century, Pope St. Leo the Great preached in one of his Christmas homilies: “Sadness should have no place on the birthday of life. The fear of death has been swallowed up; life brings us joy with the promise of eternal happiness. No one is shut out from this joy; all share the same reason for rejoicing. Our Lord, victor over sin and death, finding no man free from sin, came to free us all.”

Pope Francis reinforced the relevance this teaching for our time when he opened the Holy Door at St. John Lateran and preached, “This third Sunday of Advent draws our gaze towards Christmas, which is now close. We cannot let ourselves be taken in by weariness; sadness in any form is not allowed, even though we have reason (for sadness), with many concerns and the many forms of violence which hurt our humanity. The coming of the Lord, however, must fill our hearts with joy.”

We have joy because, as Fr. Guardini reminds us, “love does such things.”

In this Jubilee Year of Mercy, I pray that you will know this same joy, which comes from opening yourself to the truth of who you are before the Father, receiving his inexhaustible mercy, and bringing it to others. May the tender love of the Trinity bless you and your families this Christmas Season!

COMING UP: Local artists choose life in pro-life art show

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For someone who’s always been in love with art, it’s not surprising that Brett Lempe first encountered God through beauty. Lempe, a 25-year-old Colorado native, used his talent for art and new-found love of God to create a specifically pro-life art show after a planned show was cancelled because of Lempe’s pro-life views.

Lempe was “dried out with earthly things,” he said. “I was desperately craving God.”

Three years ago, while living in St. Louis, Mo., Lempe google searched for a church to visit and ended up at the Cathedral Basilica of Saint Louis.

“I was captivated by the beauty of the 40 million mosaic tiles,” he said.

Lempe is not exaggerating. This Cathedral is home to 41.5 million tiles that make up different mosaics around the sanctuary. Witnessing the beauty of this church is what sparked his conversion, he said, and was his first major attraction towards Catholicism.

Lempe continued on to become Catholic, then quit his job several months after joining the Church to dedicate himself completely to art. Most of his work post-conversion is religious art.

Lempe planned to display a non-religious body of artwork at a venue for a month when his contact at the venue saw some of Lempe’s pro-life posts on Facebook. Although none of the artwork Lempe planned to display was explicitly pro-life or religious, the venue cancelled the show.

“I was a little bit shocked at first,” he said. “Something like me being against abortion or being pro-life would get a whole art show cancelled.”

Lempe decided to counter with his own art show, one that would be explicitly pro-life.

On Sept. 7, seven Catholic artists displayed work that gave life at the Knights of Columbus Hall in Denver.

“Catholicism lends itself to being life-giving,” Lempe said.

The show included a variety of work from traditional sacred art, icons, landscapes, to even dresses.

Students for Life co-hosted the event, and 10 percent of proceeds benefited the cause. Lauren Castillo, Development director and faith-based program director at Students for Life America gave the keynote presentation.

Castillo spoke about the need to be the one pro-life person in each circle of influence, with coworkers, neighbors, family, or friends. The reality of how many post-abortive women are already in our circles is big, she said.

“Your friend circle will get smaller,” Castillo said. “If one life is saved, it’s worth it.”

Pro-Life Across Mediums

Brett Lempe’s Luke 1:35

“This painting is the first half at an attempt of displaying the intensity and mystical elements of Luke 1:35,” Lempe said. “This work is influenced somewhat by Michelangelo’s ‘Creation of Adam’ painting as I try to capture the moment when the “New Adam” is conceived by Our Blessed Mother.”

Claire Woodbury’s icon of Christ Pantokrator

“I was having a difficult time making that icon,” she said. “I was thinking it would become a disaster.”

She felt Jesus saying to her, “This is your way of comforting me. Is that not important?”

“Icons are very important to me,” she said. “I guess they’re important to Him too.”

Katherine Muser’s “Goodnight Kisses”

“Kids naturally recognize the beauty of a baby and they just cherish it,” Muser said of her drawing of her and her sister as children.

Brie Shulze’s Annunciation

“There is so much to unpack in the Annunciation,” Schulze said. “I wanted to unpack that life-giving yes that our Blessed Mother made on behalf of all humanity.”

“Her yes to uncertainty, to sacrifice, to isolation, to public shame and to every other suffering that she would endure is what allowed us to inherit eternal life.”

“Her fiat was not made in full knowledge of all that would happen, but in love and total surrender to the will of God.”

All photos by Makena Clawson