By Fr. Sam Koonamplackil, VC –
Revolutions were great milestones in the building up of our civilized society. Christianity too becomes inexplicable without revolutions. For Christ Himself was a great revolutionary. The month of September witnesses two great souls who vigorously responded to the call of revolution during their time.
The first one is Mother Mary and she was chosen by God to become a part of salvation history. The revolutionary character of Mary is beautifully portrayed in the Protoevangelium, “I will put enmity between you and the woman and between your offspring and hers. He will strike at your head while you strike at his heels” (Gen 3: 15). St. Ephrem in his first Hymn for the Nativity unearths the same, “The virgin earth had given birth to Adam, ruler of earth, the Virgin today has given birth to New Adam, ruler of heaven.”
The second is St. Vincent De Paul, whose life had proved him as one who influenced world history. His zeal for the love of God and souls prompted his first biographer Abelley to refer to him as, “Pre-eminently a man of incredible action.” These two figures remind us of the radical following of Christ. Their exuberance in imitating Him enabled them to leave aside all, even their selfish interests and personal comforts and to find refuge in Him. Let us figure out the ways and means that they used to imitate and loveJesus.
Philosophy of Revolution: The whole universe of Mary and Vincent revolved around two realities, God and the soul. This was the most simple and powerful philosophy behind their whole life. Even Mary’s dauntless affirmation to the will of God evolved from this strong insight. Bishop Sheen extracts this revolutionary character from a portion of Mary’s Magnificat. “…His mercy is from age to age…to Abraham and to his descendants forever.” (Lk 1:50-55) and reaffirms the same in his book “World’s First Love.” This idea heeded a tremendous revolution within her own self.
Scholars write that it made her an inseparable element in the formation of Christian mystery: the incarnation, the paschal mystery and Pentecost. The Church Fathers explain, “She was present at incarnation because it came about in her, her womb was the work worm where Holy Spirit wove the Word’s human form, the thalamus where God united Himself to humanity.” Her presence at the paschal mystery and Pentecost is given in Jn 19:25 and Acts 1:14. Direct encounters with the tough realities of the world taught Vincent to firmly base his life on this philosophy of revolution. It made him to exclaim, “We should give ourselves to God and wear ourselves out for God.” His epistemic processes never let him to limit his understanding about the reality of God. Thus, he prayed “for the grace of not having anything other than God and of doing everything for God.” This was the philosophy of these two great saints and the many who trod through the narrow ways that led them to eternal bliss.
Technique of Revolution: The technique applied here to execute the revolution is violence. Mary’s violence was not against the Jewish customs and traditions that isolated her all through and Vincent’s violence was not against the society of his times, but it was “against the cosmic powers of this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places.” (Ep 6:12) The weapons they used were the belt of truth, breastplate of righteousness, shield of faith, helmet of salvation and the sword of spirit. (Ep 6: 14-17). In the encyclical Redemptoris Mater St. John Paul II shows how Kenosis(self emptying of Christ) can rightly be equated in the life of Mary. He writes, Mary was completely united with Christ in faith until the cross. Her pilgrimage in faith began at the very encounter with angel Gabriel. That salutation, in other words, was the commencement of the series of sacrifices which culminated at Calvary.
The intensity of each suffering that her Son underwent, naturally and in accordance with the divine will, had a bearing in her heart (Lumen Gentium #58) which in its apex is symbolized in pieta. When Mary used the weapons to fit herself into the plan of God for the execution of the salvation history, Vincent used these weapons to make a mould fitting to his time and he called it the “little method.” It is an attempt to integrate an apostolate of faith and works of mercy, of preaching and natural aid. It is an experiment to fuse divine and the human, heaven and earth, altar and the hospital, God and human being. Such an austere life of both effected in becoming “all things to all” (1Cor 9: 22b) and “seeking the kingdom of God and His justice” (Mat 6:33a).
The Revolution of Love: “The Catholic Church cannot take weapons other than those of prayer and brotherhood among men. I leave here hundreds of young people who are the future of humanity, the true ones. I ask them not to give in to the violence and become apostles of the civilization of love.” This reaction of the Archbishop Lebrun to the young people of the world youth day 2016 about the attack on the French priest, Jaques Hamel (84) echoes the heart of the Church and its invitation to all, to be the apostles of love or the revolutionaries of love.
This theme of the revolution of love is permeated in all the teachings of Pope Francis. His first encyclical Laudato Si itself was revolutionary. It was not addressed specifically to the bishops or to any special group but to every individual on the planet, which means his intended audience was not Catholics alone (who make a minority). The Papal Bull Misericordiae Vultus followed Laudato Si and in paragraph 19, the Pope urges everybody to change our lives and to allow our hearts to be touched and in the apostolic exhortation Amoris Laetitia he welcomed all to the joy of love.
Mother Mary and St. Vincent used different techniques to follow Christ according to the needs of their times. Today we are called to create a revolution of love in this changing world where the future becomes a shock. Christ through the Church invites us to be the dreamers who believe in this new humanity, one that rejects hatred between people, the one that refuses to see boundaries and barriers. Pope Francis offers a possible solution to implement it, “Download the best link of all, that of a heart which sees and transmits goodness without growing weary.” Let us try to imbibe the spirit of Mother Mary and St. Vincent when we celebrate the nativity of Our Lady and the feast of St. Vincent De Paul this month. Furthermore, try not to forget to lend our hearts and ears to the call of revolution, a revolution of love.
Fr. Sam Koonamplackil, VC is Assistant Director, Logos Retreat Centre, Bengaluru