Guide Ignited: Volume 1: The Saints Rising

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Sacred ministers, for their part, are living images of Christ the Head and Shepherd who guides his people during this time of "already and not yet", as they await his coming in glory. It is the duty of the consecrated life to show that the Incarnate Son of God is the eschatological goal towards which all things tend, the splendour before which every other light pales, and the infinite beauty which alone can fully satisfy the human heart.

In the consecrated life, then, it is not only a matter of following Christ with one's whole heart, of loving him "more than father or mother, more than son or daughter" cf. Mt — for this is required of every disciple — but of living and expressing this by conforming one's whole existence to Christ in an all-encompassing commitment which foreshadows the eschatological perfection, to the extent that this is possible in time and in accordance with the different charisms.

By professing the evangelical counsels, consecrated persons not only make Christ the whole meaning of their lives but strive to reproduce in themselves, as far as possible, "that form of life which he, as the Son of God, accepted in entering this world. Jn , By imitating Christ's poverty, they profess that he is the Son who receives everything from the Father, and gives everything back to the Father in love cf.

By accepting, through the sacrifice of their own freedom, the mystery of Christ's filial obedience, they profess that he is infinitely beloved and loving, as the One who delights only in the will of the Father cf. Jn , to whom he is perfectly united and on whom he depends for everything. By this profound "configuration" to the mystery of Christ, the consecrated life brings about in a special way that confessio Trinitatis which is the mark of all Christian life; it acknowledges with wonder the sublime beauty of God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit, and bears joyful witness to his loving concern for every human being.


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Contemplation of the glory of the Lord Jesus in the icon of the Transfiguration reveals to consecrated persons first of all the Father, the Creator and Giver of every good thing, who draws his creatures to himself cf. Jn with a special love and for a special mission. In response to this call and the interior attraction which accompanies it, those who are called entrust themselves to the love of God who wishes them to be exclusively at his service, and they consecrate themselves totally to him and to his plan of salvation cf.

This is the meaning of the call to the consecrated life: it is an initiative coming wholly from the Father cf. Jn , who asks those whom he has chosen to respond with complete and exclusive devotion. The experience of this gracious love of God is so deep and so powerful that the person called senses the need to respond by unconditionally dedicating his or her life to God, consecrating to him all things present and future, and placing them in his hands.

This is why, with Saint Thomas, we come to understand the identity of the consecrated person, beginning with his or her complete self-offering, as being comparable to a genuine holocaust.

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The Son, who is the way which leads to the Father cf. Jn , calls all those whom the Father has given to him cf.

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Jn to make the following of himself the whole purpose of their lives. But of some, those called to the consecrated life, he asks a total commitment, one which involves leaving everything behind cf. Mt in order to live at his sideand to follow him wherever he goes cf. Rev In the countenance of Jesus, the "image of the invisible God" Col and the reflection of the Father's glory cf.

Heb , we glimpse the depths of an eternal and infinite love which is at the very root of our being. Those who let themselves be seized by this love cannot help abandoning everything to follow him cf. Mk ; ; , Like Saint Paul, they consider all else as loss "because of the surpassing worth of knowing Jesus Christ", by comparison with which they do not hesitate to count all things as "refuse", in order that they "may gain Christ" Phil They strive to become one with him, taking on his mind and his way of life. This leaving of everything and following the Lord cf. Lk is a worthy programme of life for all whom he calls, in every age.

The evangelical counsels, by which Christ invites some people to share his experience as the chaste, poor and obedient One, call for and make manifest in those who accept them an explicit desire to be totally conformed to him. Living "in obedience, with nothing of one's own and in chastity,"consecrated persons profess that Jesus is the model in whom every virtue comes to perfection. His way of living in chastity, poverty and obedience appears as the most radical way of living the Gospel on this earth, a way which may be called divine, for it was embraced by him, God and man, as the expression of his relationship as the Only-Begotten Son with the Father and with the Holy Spirit.

This is why Christian tradition has always spoken of the objective superiority of the consecrated life. Nor can it be denied that the practice of the evangelical counsels is also a particularly profound and fruitful way of sharing in Christ's mission, in imitation of the example of Mary of Nazareth, the first disciple, who willingly put herself at the service of God's plan by the total gift of self.

Every mission begins with the attitude expressed by Mary at the Annunciation: "Behold, I am the handmaid of the Lord; let it be done to me according to your word" Lk A significant spiritual interpretation of the Transfiguration sees this cloud as an image of the Holy Spirit.

Like the whole of Christian life, the call to the consecrated life is closely linked to the working of the Holy Spirit.

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In every age, the Spirit enables new men and women to recognize the appeal of such a demanding choice. Through his power, they relive, in a way, the experience of the Prophet Jeremiah: "You have seduced me, Lord, and I have let myself be seduced" Jer It is the Spirit who awakens the desire to respond fully; it is he who guides the growth of this desire, helping it to mature into a positive response and sustaining it as it is faithfully translated into action; it is he who shapes and moulds the hearts of those who are called, configuring them to Christ, the chaste, poor and obedient One, and prompting them to make his mission their own.

By allowing themselves to be guided by the Spirit on an endless journey of purification, they become, day after day, conformed to Christ, the prolongation in history of a special presence of the Risen Lord. With penetrating insight, the Fathers of the Church have called this spiritual path philokalia, or love of the divine beauty, which is the reflection of the divine goodness.

Those who by the power of the Holy Spirit are led progressively into full configuration to Christ reflect in themselves a ray of the unapproachable light. During their earthly pilgrimage, they press on towards the inexhaustible Source of light. The consecrated life thus becomes a particularly profound expression of the Church as the Bride who, prompted by the Spirit to imitate her Spouse, stands before him "in splendour, without spot or wrinkle or any such thing, that she might be holy and without blemish" Eph The same Spirit, far from removing from the life of humanity those whom the Father has called, puts them at the service of their brothers and sisters in accordance with their particular state of life, and inspires them to undertake special tasks in response to the needs of the Church and the world, by means of the charisms proper to the various Institutes.

Hence many different forms of the consecrated life have arisen, whereby the Church is "adorned by the various gifts of her children Rev "and is enriched by the means necessary for carrying out her mission in the world. The evangelical counsels are thus above all a gift of the Holy Trinity.


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  8. The consecrated life proclaims what the Father, through the Son and in the Spirit, brings about by his love, his goodness and his beauty. In fact, "the religious state reveals the transcendence of the Kingdom of God and its requirements over all earthly things. To all people it shows wonderfully at work within the Church the surpassing greatness of the force of Christ the King and the boundless power of the Holy Spirit. They bear witness to these marvels not so much in words as by the eloquent language of a transfigured life, capable of amazing the world.

    To people's astonishment they respond by proclaiming the wonders of grace accomplished by the Lord in those whom he loves. To the degree that consecrated persons let themselves be guided by the Spirit to the heights of perfection they can exclaim: "I see the beauty of your grace, I contemplate its radiance, I reflect its light; I am caught up in its ineffable splendour; I am taken outside myself as I think of myself; I see how I was and what I have become.

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    O wonder! I am vigilant, I am full of respect for myself, of reverence and of fear, as I would be were I before you; I do not know what to do, I am seized by fear, I do not know where to sit, where to go, where to put these members which are yours; in what deeds, in what works shall I use them, these amazing divine marvels! The deepest meaning of the evangelical counsels is revealed when they are viewed in relation to the Holy Trinity, the source of holiness. They are in fact an expression of the love of the Son for the Father in the unity of the Holy Spirit.

    By practising the evangelical counsels, the consecrated person lives with particular intensity the Trinitarian and Christological dimension which marks the whole of Christian life. The chastity of celibates and virgins, as a manifestation of dedication to God with an undivided heart cf. Poverty proclaims that God is man's only real treasure. When poverty is lived according to the example of Christ who, "though he was rich This gift overflows into creation and is fully revealed in the Incarnation of the Word and in his redemptive death.

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    Obedience, practised in imitation of Christ, whose food was to do the Father's will cf. Jn , shows the liberating beauty of a dependence which is not servile but filial, marked by a deep sense of responsibility and animated by mutual trust, which is a reflection in history of the loving harmony between the three Divine Persons. The consecrated life is thus called constantly to deepen the gift of the evangelical counsels with a love which grows ever more genuine and strong in the Trinitarian dimension: love for Christ, which leads to closeness with him; love for the Holy Spirit, who opens our hearts to his inspiration; love for the Father, the first origin and supreme goal of the consecrated life.

    The consecrated life thus becomes a confession and a sign of the Trinity, whose mystery is held up to the Church as the model and source of every form of Christian life. Even fraternal life, whereby consecrated persons strive to live in Christ with "one heart and soul" Acts , is put forward as an eloquent witness to the Trinity. It proclaims the Father, who desires to make all of humanity one family. It proclaims the Incarnate Son, who gathers the redeemed into unity, pointing the way by his example, his prayer, his words and above all his death, which is the source of reconciliation for a divided and scattered humanity.

    It proclaims the Holy Spirit as the principle of unity in the Church, wherein he ceaselessly raises up spiritual families and fraternal communities. The consecrated life, through the prompting of the Holy Spirit, "constitutes a closer imitation and an abiding re-enactment in the Church"of the way of life which Jesus, the supreme Consecrated One and missionary of the Father for the sake of his Kingdom, embraced and proposed to his disciples cf.

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    Mt ; Mk ; Lk ; Jn In the light of Jesus' consecration, we can see in the initiative of the Father, the source of all holiness, the ultimate origin of the consecrated life. Jesus is the One whom "God anointed Accepting his consecration by the Father, the Son in turn consecrates himself to the Father for the sake of humanity cf. Jn His life of virginity, obedience and poverty expresses his complete filial acceptance of the Father's plan cf. Jn ; His perfect offering confers an aspect of consecration upon all the events of his earthly existence.

    Jesus is the exemplar of obedience, who came down from heaven not to do his own will but the will of the One who sent him cf. Jn ; Heb , 7. He places his way of living and acting in the hands of the Father cf. Lk In filial obedience, he assumes the condition of a servant: he "emptied himself, taking the form of a servant In this attitude of submissiveness to the Father, Christ lives his life as a virgin, even while affirming and defending the dignity and sanctity of married life.

    He thus reveals the sublime excellence and mysterious spiritual fruitfulness of virginity. His full acceptance of the Father's plan is also seen in his detachment from earthly goods: "though he was rich, yet for your sake he became poor, so that by his poverty you might become rich" 2 Cor The depth of his poverty is revealed in the perfect offering of all that is his to the Father. The consecrated life truly constitutes a living memorial of Jesus' way of living and acting as the Incarnate Word in relation to the Father and in relation to the brethren.

    It is a living tradition of the Saviour's life and message. The dazzling event of the Transfiguration is a preparation for the tragic, but no less glorious, event of Calvary. Peter, James and John contemplate the Lord Jesus together with Moses and Elijah, with whom, according to the Evangelist Luke, Jesus speaks "of his departure, which he was to accomplish at Jerusalem" The eyes of the Apostles are therefore fixed upon Jesus who is thinking of the Cross cf.

    There his virginal love for the Father and for all mankind will attain its highest expression. His poverty will reach complete self-emptying, his obedience the giving of his life. The disciples are invited to contemplate Jesus raised up on the Cross, where, in his silence and solitude, "the Word come forth from silence"prophetically affirms the absolute transcendence of God over all created things; in his own flesh he conquers our sin and draws every man and every woman to himself, giving to all the new life of the Resurrection cf.

    Jn ; , It is in the contemplation of the Crucified Christ that all vocations find their inspiration. From this contemplation, together with the primordial gift of the Spirit, all gifts, and in particular the gift of the consecrated life, take their origin. After Mary, the Mother of Jesus, it is John who receives this gift. John is the disciple whom Jesus loved, the witness who together with Mary stood at the foot of the Cross cf. His decision to consecrate himself totally is the fruit of the divine love which envelops him, sustains him and fills his heart.

    John, together with Mary, is among the first in a long line of men and women who, from the beginning of the Church until the end, are touched by God's love and feel called to follow the Lamb, once sacrificed and now alive, wherever he goes cf. In the different forms of life inspired by the Spirit throughout history, consecrated persons discover that the more they stand at the foot of the Cross of Christ, the more immediately and profoundly they experience the truth of God who is love.

    It is precisely on the Cross that the One who in death appears to human eyes as disfigured and without beauty, so much so that the bystanders cover their faces cf.