Reflections on Abbot Anderson’s “Rugged Road”

presents us with some great images and examples for understanding the “rugged road” of the Beatitudes: Blessed Fra Angelico’s image of the dance,  the educational vision of John Senior, on Vatican II, St John of the Cross, St. Benedict, and Judith Cabaud. Surrounded by such a cloud of witnesses we are encouraged to make the ascent, to continue up the road, and to embrace the cross of Good Friday.
The special poem written by Mark van Doren for John Senior is quite remarkable and instructive. For a good effect does the Abbot cite this poem to remind us: “What Mark Van Doren was saying in his poem is that if you do not put your feet in this path and climb upwards, you will eventually slide down hill into the deadly waters of nothingness, as in this life a man cannot remain neutral, cannot rest on slope of the mountain of perfection.  If you are not tending upwards, you will be sliding downwards.” Solzenhitsyn, in the Gulag (in vol. 2, The Soul and barbed wire) also reminds us — we ascend or we descend, for the line dividing good and evil runs through the heart of every man (Adam).
Pope continues in his opening to Veritatis splendor with this thought:
But no darkness of error or of sin can totally take away from man the light of God the Creator. In the depths of his heart there always remains a yearning for absolute truth and a thirst to attain full knowledge of it. This is eloquently proved by man’s tireless search for knowledge in all fields. It is proved even more by his search for the meaning of life. The development of science and technology, this splendid testimony of the human capacity for understanding and for perseverance, does not free humanity from the obligation to ask the ultimate religious questions. Rather, it spurs us on to face the most painful and decisive of struggles, those of the heart and of the moral conscience.VS §1
Yes, the Abbot’s Lenten talks should “spur us on to face the most painful and decisive of struggles, those of the heart and of the moral conscience.”
Then in section 2 of the opening of Veritatis splendor, Pope John Paul II returns to the fundamental story about Christ as the new Adam, and we get a new look at Gaudium et spes §22: “Consequently the decisive answer to every one of man’s questions, his religious and moral questions in particular, is given by Jesus Christ, or rather is Jesus Christ himself, as the Second Vatican Council recalls: ‘In fact,it is only in the mystery of the Word incarnate that light is shed on the mystery of man. For Adam, the first man, was a figure of the future man, namely, of Christ the Lord. It is Christ, the last Adam, who fully discloses man to himself and unfolds his noble calling by revealing the mystery of the Father and the Father’s love.'”
I am also appreciative of the Abbot’s reference to the universal call to holiness:

One of the key intuitions of the Second Vatican Council, often referred to by the Servant of God Pope John Paul II in his discourses (e.g. Christifideles Laici, numbers 16-17), is that the Catholic faithful are in fact called to this perfection Christ speaks of.  In other words, whereas often in the past most people thought of perfection, or “sanctity” or “holiness” (all of these terms covering nearly the same reality) as belonging exclusively to priests and nuns and members of religious orders, this call is truly universal.  Just as God calls all human beings to the Christian faith (the Catholic Faith being this Faith in its complete form), so He calls all Christians to be perfect as their Heavenly Father is perfect. 

 The laity will receive the grace to live according to their state of life. I have found a good passage in the Letter to the Church in America: “On a continent marked by competition and aggressiveness, unbridled consumerism and corruption, lay people are called to embody deeply evangelical values such as mercy, forgiveness, honesty, transparency of heart and patience in difficult situations. What is expected from the laity is a great creative effort in activities and works demonstrating a life in harmony with the Gospel.”

It is a rugged road. But the Abbot’s closing remarks about Mary as a model and providing a motto are very instructive:

Our Motto is: “Ecce-Fiat” from the Gospel of the Annunciation.  Ecce = humility; Fiat = obedience.  They both lead to Magnificat at top of mountain, where God is all and God is love and we will be happy and blessed, having climbed the mountain of the Beatitudes and having re-entered the Paradise we lost, once upon a time. 

“Ecce-Fiat” should be our watchwords for Lent — and further up the rugged road.

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