Saint Thomas Aquinas states that the highest spiritual perfection is the contemplative – active life. But the contemplative spiritual life is superior to the active spiritual life. What this means is that those who spend their time in a quiet life of union with God are superior to those who live in the world actively doing christian charity. Again, to put it in another way, is to say that the cloistered nun, who prays and works in silence, has a superior way of praying than a religious sister who prays and is active in running a hospital. But the greatest way of pleasing God in a life of prayer, is contemplative – active. This would be like St. Francis who would spend half a year in prayer and penance and the other half preaching and penance. More so, he would be in an attitude of prayer and mystical union with God both when he was in the cave and when he was out in the world preaching.
St. Paul says in his famous passage on love: 1 Corinthians 13: 8 “But when that which is perfect is come, that which is in part shall be done away.” We will be actively serving God in preaching here in this life, but our contemplation of God and union with Him will always be part of our heavenly reality.
You may not agree with Jesus on this issue. I say Jesus, because He was the one who affirmed Mary’s prayerful attention given to listening to Him and the scolding Martha received for being active in the Holy Gospel of Luke 10:38-42
“Now it came to pass as they went, that he entered into a certain town: and a certain woman named Martha, received Him into her house. And she had a sister called Mary, who sitting also at the Lord’s feet, heard his word. But Martha was busy about much serving. Who stood and said: Lord, hast thou no care that my sister hath left me alone to serve? speak to her therefore, that she help me. And the Lord answering said to her: Martha, Martha, thou art careful and art troubled about many things: But one thing is necessary. Mary hath chosen the best part, which shall not be taken away from her.”
St. Augustine (De Verb. Dom. Serm. ciii) says “Not that Thou hast chosen badly, but–She has chosen better. Why better? Listen–because it shall not be taken away from her. But the burden of necessity shall be at length be taken from thee: whereas the sweetness of truth is eternal.”
The first new commandment is: “Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with thy whole heart, and with thy whole heart, and with thy whole mind”. So the contemplative life of loving prayer in union with God, is primary.
The second new commandment is to love your neighbor as yourself. So, the active life of charity to others, is secondary.
Both are commanded by God, but love of God comes before love of created creatures. If you do not love God and have a contemplative prayer life, you will quickly give up charity of neighbor or end up doing it without love and only as a social worker for pay.
I am clarifying all of this for a very very serious reason. The “Mass of All Ages” or the Holy Tridentine Mass is often disliked and by many hated because:
1) they do not understand Latin
2) they are not actively involved, like in reading and giving out Holy Communion
3) it is quiet and you have to kneel a lot
4) they cannot hear the priest
5) at Holy communion they have to kneel down and receive Jesus on the tongue
6) there is no hip hop, make me feel good, upbeat music
7) there is no holding hands, shaking hands and clapping
8) the congregation does not respond to the prayers
These people are absolutely correct in what is not in the Latin “Mass of all Ages”. But they hate it because they have never experienced or value contemplative prayer and the foretaste of heaven. In heaven, as seen in the Book of Revelation, is ADORATION OF GOD and the SLAIN LAMB OF GOD. All cast down their crowns and adore. The angels, saints and martyrs adore adore adore in silence. Yes the Angels will remind us we are in the presence of God as the sing: “Sanctus Sanctus Sanctus”. “Holy Holy Holy are you God of All Creation. Heaven and earth are full of your GLORY. Hosana in Highest”. We say or sing this in every mass to remind us we should be experiencing Heaven there.
So when we spend an hour a day, or a week, of adoration in front of Jesus in the Holy Sacrament of the Altar, we are not active. We kneel and sit in adoration. We do not need to be doing anything but be present heart to HEART with Jesus. Maybe you have your favorite prayers, or pray the Holy Rosary, but the more perfect contemplative way to be present, is in loving adoration, without words, heart to HEART. This is not appreciated in the over active, frenzied world we live in.
Where can anyone experience silence anymore? We run away from silence and being alone because we might hear our consciences telling us of who we really are and how little charity we really have. We will feel our true loneliness and longing for God that we have squished out by our self-centered lives. Go go. Do do. Buy by. Shop shop. TV tv. Music music. But no silence and sitting still, because it is foreign to us and uncomfortable.
So we will not be happy in Heaven where there is adoration of God instead ourselves. Heaven is quiet except for the loving presence of the Mystery of God and the songs of angels. There will be no sexy love songs of selfish people. Most Catholics will find heaven very boring and hate it just like they do the “boring” Holy Sacrifice of the “Mass of All Ages”.
If you are open to pleasing God and not yourself, recognize that the world teaches you to only do what is pleasing and comfortable. And not, as St. Francis said in many of his writings, to seek the path of holiness through a life of penance and prayerful contemplation. Go to the “Holy Mass of All Ages” as a humble follower of Jesus and just be there with Him. Do not seek human pleasure there. Go because you want to love and Adore Jesus. Is it too much to ask you to give Jesus one hour of your week in silent adoration where you are not the center of the Holy Mass, but instead God. If you go in gratitude for all God has given you you will leave a greater person filled with God, love and interior peace. We who have discovered this are so so fortunate. We are practicing being in the presence of God for all eternity in Heaven. Then at some Holy Latin Mass you may actually begin to experience real contemplation and be transported to Heaven. That is why it is called “the Most Beautiful Thing This Side of Heaven”.
If at first you cannot experience this, give yourself time. But realize the problem is not with the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass, but with our self-centered catholicism we have been practicing. All the saints throughout history, up till 44 years ago, loved the great treasure of the Latin Mass. We are not more evolved then they were way back 44 years ago. NO! They were humble people who loved and adored God in contemplation at the Holy Mass and outside the Holy Mass. May we try to be like the saints.
The original author of this blog passed away in July of 2016. RIP Father Carota.