Words from our Principal
Dear Families and Friends of Lumen,
On November 9, the Church celebrated the Feast of the Dedication of the Lateran Basilica, the official cathedral of the diocese of Rome – in other words, the true cathedral of the Pope! You can virtually tour this remarkable basilica on the Vatican’s website, or you can watch this reverently silent video tour here for a true sense of the scale and scope of this breathtaking edifice.
Yet, as the Office of Readings reminded us on the day of the Feast, as magnificent as this building is, it is nothing compared to the tabernacle of our souls. As St. Caesarius of Arles reminds us:
We ought to be the true and living temple of God. . . God does not dwell only in structures fashioned by human hands. . . but rather He dwells principally in the soul made according to His own image. . . My fellow Christians, do we wish to celebrate joyfully the birth of this temple? Then let us not destroy the living temples of God in ourselves by works of evil. . .
Whenever we come to church, we must prepare our hearts to be as beautiful as we expect this church to be. Do you wish to find this basilica immaculately clean? Then do not soil your soul with the filth of sins. Do you wish this basilica to be full of light? God too wishes that your soul be not in darkness, but that the light of good works shine in us, so that He who dwells in the heavens will be glorified. Just as you enter this church building, so God wishes to enter into your soul, for He promised: I shall live in them, and I shall walk the corridors of their hearts.
Preparing our souls so that God may dwell in us: this is the whole meaning and purpose of Advent, which begins in just a few days. It’s a season of cleaning out our souls, so that the light of Christ can shine within and through us.
So often, I think, our culture pushes us towards maximalism – towards doing more, accomplishing more – and this attitude can infiltrate our prayer lives as well. Perhaps I speak only for myself, but as I prepare for great liturgical seasons sometimes I feel tempted to add on more to do: Let me try out this prayer journal! This devotional book! This really cool Jesse tree project! (And yes, I did indeed order for myself all of these resources!) This is not to say that the use of these resources is not good, worthwhile, and even holy. Yet this past week, I came to sense that there was an unnecessary freneticism to my desire to “add more” to my prayer life, which, in the end, may be antithetical to the “cleaning out” that Advent asks of us. As Mother Teresa reminded her sisters:
The devil very often tempts the good with good things, so that good people, distracted by things they should not be doing, compromise the few good things they should be doing. So instead of doing what they’ve been called to well, they do many good things God never asked them to do poorly.
Perhaps, then, what is necessary is not an adding on, but a pruning – a paring back, a stripping away of what is unnecessary, and focusing on doing what is essential well. According to the tradition of our Church, the “tried-and-true” ways of preparing for the coming of Christ are prayer, fasting, and almsgiving. Perhaps a simple recommitment to those basic pillars of our faith is all that is needed: praying with the Church through her liturgies in Mass, in the Divine Office, and in the Sacrament of Reconciliation; fasting from a spirit of consumption and consumerism (both materially and spiritually!); and giving the alms of our loving attention to the people we encounter in our everyday lives, and the alms of our material resources when we come across (as we naturally will!) the charities and organizations that seek our assistance during this season.
I do not quite know how these thoughts may relate to our School Honor Code, except to say that our Honor Code asks our scholars to be a “courteous host to all visitors to our school.” And what else is Advent but a way of preparing our own hearts to be a courteous host to Christ? Let’s do our best to ensure that He finds them clean, quiet, and calm – not cluttered, anxious, and stuffed to the brim with accouterments that, however beautiful they may be, are not what He needs or wants from us when He comes seeking rest as a newborn baby in our souls.
May God bless your weeks as we prepare for this busy season!
Pax et bonum,
Theatre in the Park
Distinguished Guest Lecturers
New York based artist, Matthew Smith recently guest lectured at Lumen. Our scholars were able to learn and practice some of his techniques for displaying faith in an artistic way.
Photo Credit: George Martell