Christ and the Church: Triumphant, Suffering and Militant
Praised be Jesus Christ!
Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,
Last month, I was pleased to inform you that, by the grace of God and through an intensive rehabilitation program, I have been able to return to the daily offering of the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass. Offering daily Holy Mass is essential to my identity as priest, Bishop and Cardinal, and also the greatest service that I can give to God’s holy people. While the intensiveness of my rehabilitation continues to prohibit a return to public ministry, I nevertheless hope that I will, one day soon, resume my normal pastoral activities. During this time of convalescence, you and your intentions remain daily in my prayers. Please, continue to keep my full recovery and my priestly ministry in your prayers.
In my message to you last month, an update regarding my health was only an introductory point to the more important message of developing the daily devotion of the Holy Rosary, for I take most seriously the fatherly help for your spiritual life, for which I have been ordained to give you. As I did last month, I now refocus this letter to a spiritual topic relating to the conclusion of the Church Year.
During these final weeks of the current Church Year, the Sacred Liturgy draws our attention to what are traditionally called the Four Last Things: Death, Judgment, Heaven, and Hell. November 1st, for instance, is the Solemnity of All Saints, recalling to our minds and hearts the grace for holiness of life, which we received through the Sacraments of Baptism and Confirmation, destining us for eternal life in Heaven. On the following day, All Souls Day, we remember all of the faithful departed – the Church Suffering or in Purgatory – praying that all temporal punishment due to sins which they may have committed may be remitted and that they may be joined to the Saints in Heaven – the Church Triumphant.
The final Sunday of the month, November 28, the First Sunday of Advent, begins the new Church Year, while the prior Sunday, according to the Ordinary Form of the Roman Rite, is the Solemnity of Jesus Christ, King of the Universe. In the Extraordinary Form, the same important feast is celebrated on the last Sunday of October, October 31, this year. Honoring Our Lord under His title of King of Heaven and Earth, we are deeply conscious of our vocation and mission to be His co-workers, His soldiers, in the establishment of His Kingdom in the world. We – the Church Militant – are one with the Church Suffering and the Church Triumphant. In fact, we depend on the prayers of the Saints in Heaven and of our brothers and sisters in Purgatory to help us in carrying out the mission of Christ the King in the world. We ask their prayers, so that our hearts, one with the Immaculate Heart of Mary and the Purest Heart of Saint Joseph, may belong purely and totally to the Sacred Heart of Jesus. Christ the King reigns over the world from His glorious Heart, pierced for our salvation. From His Sacred Heart flows unceasingly and immeasurably the graces necessary to be truly His co-workers, His soldiers.
As the current Church Year draws to a close and as we anticipate the beginning of the new Church Year, a new year of grace, the Sacred Liturgy leads us to contemplate more fully the Second Coming of our Sovereign King, when He will establish “new heavens and a new earth in which righteousness resides” (2 Pet 3, 13). Working daily, so that the Kingdom of Christ may come, as He taught us to pray in the Our Father, we look for His Final Coming.
We want only to be those faithful co-workers, steadfast stewards, whom He will find watching and waiting to welcome Him at His Coming. Our Lord teaches us: “Let your loins be girded and your lamps burning, and be like men who are waiting for their master to come home from the marriage feast, so that they may open to him at once when he comes and knocks” (Lk 12, 35-36). We gird our loins by striving to lead a good and holy life, in accord with the grace which Our Lord unfailingly pours into our hearts from His Royal Heart. We keep our lamps burning by seeking Our Lord and His Reign through prayer, devotions and, above all, our participation in the Sacred Liturgy. The sure prospect of Our Lord’s Second Coming inspires in us a holy fear, that gift of the Holy Spirit which we call “Fear of the Lord.” It is not a fear of terror before Our Lord but of profound respect for His sublime Holiness and our unworthiness to stand before Him. It is a fear which inspires confidence, for, if we are longing and looking for His Coming, we are eager to welcome Him, trusting in His “infinite goodness and promises” (Act of Hope).
According to the world’s way of thinking, the Kingship of Christ takes away our freedom, subjugating our wills to His own. But the opposite is true. When Christ reigns in our hearts, then we are truly free. We realize our fullest dignity in the pure and selfless love of God and of our neighbor. We give our hearts completely to the Sacred Heart of Jesus, for in Him alone do we find the freedom and peace which we so much desire. Christ reigns in our hearts by His pure and selfless love, so that we may love with purity and selflessness. As He promised: “If any one thirst, let him come to me and drink. He who believes in me, as the scripture has said, ‘Out of his heart shall flow rivers of living water’” (Jn 7, 37-38).
We witness the truth of Our Lord’s promise in the Immaculate Heart of Mary, His Mother and His First and Most Perfect Disciple. Having been preserved from every stain of sin from the first moment of her life, by the Mystery of the Immaculate Conception, she was prepared to be the living tabernacle in which God the Son would take a human heart under her Immaculate Heart. She was always totally for her Divine Son. As the account of the Finding of Our Lord in the Temple concludes, she treasured the Mystery of the Redemptive Incarnation in her heart. In the same way, she, with Saint John the Apostle and Evangelist and with Saint Mary Magdalene, stood at the Foot of the Cross, receiving, through the words of Our dying Lord to her and to Saint John, the commission to be the Mother of Divine Grace: “Woman, behold, your son! … Behold, your mother!” (Jn 19, 26-27).
Intimately one with her Immaculate Heart is the Purest Heart of Saint Joseph, her True Spouse and the Foster-Father of her Divine Son. God granted to Saint Joseph extraordinary graces of purity and justice, so that He could be the fitting spouse of the Virgin Mary and, with her, provide the family for God the Son Incarnate. Even as he was the Guardian of the Virgin Mother and her Divine Son, so he is our Guardian and Protector in the Church. Saint Joseph teaches us how to live, one in heart with the Immaculate Heart of Mary, in the company and service of Jesus. On another occasion, I will write more fully to you about devotion to the Purest Heart of Saint Joseph.
After Our Lord had died on the Cross, the Roman soldier pierced His Side with a lance and from His Heart flowed “blood and water” (Jn 19, 34), the sign of the never-failing outpouring of divine grace in the Church. At that same moment, in fulfillment of the prophecy of Simeon at the Presentation, the Immaculate Heart of Mary was mystically pierced: “And Simeon blessed them and said to Mary his mother, ‘Behold, this child is set for the fall and rising of many in Israel, and for a sign that is spoken against (and a sword will pierce through your own soul also), that thoughts out of many hearts may be revealed’” (Lk 2, 34-35). The Blessed Virgin Mary, Mother of the Church, Our Mother, draws us to her Immaculate Heart, so that our hearts may rest in the truth and love of the Sacred Heart of her Divine Son.
In the Immaculate Heart of Mary, we find the total freedom which is ours, when we give our hearts, without reserve, to the rule of the Royal Pierced Heart of Jesus, so that we pray with her in the Magnificat: “My soul magnifies the Lord, and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior” (Lk 1, 46-47). Under the maternal care and guidance of the Virgin Mother of God, we find the freedom and joy of a life lived in Christ, lived in the Sacred Heart of Jesus, in Whom all virtues are united in the unutterable perfection of Divine Love. Thus, we also pray, with Mary Immaculate: “And His [God’s] mercy is on those who fear him from generation to generation” (Lk 1, 50). Let us continue to draw near to the Blessed Virgin Mary, especially through the praying of the Holy Rosary, so that the many graces of the month of November may lead us to draw upon the gift of Fear of the Lord and thus to live more fully our life in Christ, our communion in the Church – Triumphant, Suffering and Militant.
Let us unite our hearts to the Immaculate Heart of Mary who gave her heart completely to the Lord: “Behold, I am the handmaid of the Lord; let it be to me according to your word” (Lk 1, 38). Let us follow her maternal counsel, the counsel of the Mother of Divine Grace, first given to the wine stewards at the Wedding Feast of Cana: “Do whatever He [Jesus] tells you” (Jn 2, 5). Let us unite our hearts to the Sacred Heart of Jesus in the Eucharistic Sacrifice. Thus, our hearts, resting in His freedom, one with the Immaculate Heart of Mary, will manifest the truth of the Four Last Things. Thus will we live in steadfast anticipation of Our Lord’s Second Coming, when He will bring to fullness His Kingdom, the supremely royal work of eternal salvation.
Imploring Our Lord, through the intercession of Our Lady of Guadalupe, to bless you, your homes, your families, and all your labors, I remain
Yours in the Sacred Heart of Jesus and the Immaculate Heart of Mary, and in the Purest Heart of Saint Joseph,
Raymond Leo Cardinal Burke