Skip to comments.HOLY INNOCENCE
Posted on 02/14/2009 3:26:18 PM PST by NYer
All those who sat in the Sanhedrin looked intently at him and saw that his
face was like the face of an Angel. (Acts 6.15)
As they were stoning Stephen, he called out
Lord Jesus, receive my spirit.
and Saint Stephen, innocent of the world ...
Holy innocence stands, as it were, in perplexity before the clamor of the world.
We see this in children. They do not know the ways of the world, only the promptings of their hearts and the irrepressible joy borne of total simplicity and untrammeled trust. Children do not distinguish between appearances and realities. To them, appearances are the only realities. There is nothing of guile in the world, and nothing of malice. Childhood is that brief stage in our lives in which we most closely approximate something of that sinless and happy state that our first parents, Adam and Eve, had enjoyed prior to the Fall. Our instincts had not been honed to survive, but simply to exist. In this state of the simplicity of our existence, we most closely conform to our created nature as the imago Dei, the Image of God --- for it is the image of the God Whose existence is simplicity itself and whose simplicity is existence itself. We become then, like unto our First Parents in their original state of felicity, or happiness, and like unto the God in Whose image our first parents (and subsequently, we) were made. It is, in a manner of speaking, a living the Prologue of life, after which the chapters succeeding the Introduction (to life) become more complex, and the plot, as it were, more oblique and potentially sinister. It is not without warrant that childhood is often spoken of in terms of a Garden; a Garden into which as yet no serpent obtruded itself.
Childhood engages the world with wonder --- a wonder that too quickly vanishes before the ways of the world, and in direct proportion to its familiarity with the ways of the world ... and finally devolves to either suspicion or cynicism. We learn that the world is manipulative, deceptive, untruthful, and in the end, largely corrupt. We enter adulthood. Are we then forevermore "banished" from that First Garden of beautiful innocence --- an innocence to which we can never return? It appears to us much like asking if an erstwhile virgin can be a virgin once again. Because we are worldly, sophisticated ... we laugh. Or should we?
Christ Himself tells us that, "ómnia enim possibília sunt apud Deum" --- "all things are possible with God." It is possible to reacquire lost innocence --- and, yes, it is even possible to reacquire lost virginity. We scorn the notion because we know the ways of men, and not the ways of God ... Who has insistently told us that His ways are not our ways. Indeed, they are better. Far better. Supremely better. "So", you ask, "how am I, steeped in sin --- and what is more, with no discernible way out --- to reacquire this innocence of which you speak, this innocence that I myself once possessed long ago, and which, in a sad trade, I had exchanged for the allure of "sophistication"? Much like Nicodemus, you effectively ask, "How can a man be born when he is old? can he enter a second time into his mother's womb, and be born again?" 2 "It is not possible!" And you are absolutely correct. It is not possible --- to you ... to man ... but it is possible to God! And we have countless instances of it --- in the lives of the Saints ... both known and unknown; enrolled in the Martyrology of the Church --- or the Book of Life in Heaven itself.
Holy innocence is estrangement from this world through the soul's utter immersion in Christ ... in a sense, the innocent stand beneath the unceasing cataract of the Baptismal Font that perpetually anoints their hearts --- and in pouring upon them the unremitting love of Christ, removes even the rumor of malice from their minds. They have been washed clean in the Blood of the Lamb. They have died with Christ, and with Christ live anew. There are even those ... full of years ... who have the innocence of newly Baptised children! We have all known at least one. To be in their presence is to be under the breath of God.
And the world knows not what to make of them! Within them is a beauty for which the world has no metaphor and therefore cannot pervert to its own ends.
Oh, yes ... the world can --- and does, ever day --- exploit innocence, seduce it, corrupt it, trample it under foot! Utterly of God unable to conform to the world, it can --- it must --- be stamped out by the world as a reproach to the world! And it was always so:
It was radiant on the face of Stephen before the Sanhedrin as it was radiant on the face of Christ before Caiaphas, Herod, and Pilate a silent witness and testimony to the enormity of sin.
Provoking deadly outrage, innocence is extirpated from our midst. We hang it on a Cross, tear it from the womb, bury it beneath stones. It is a reproach to us, the living dead, by the dead yet living. We would stifle --- were it possible we would bury --- their reproach ... but we cannot lay rest to our lies. St. Paul tells us that, "we are surrounded by a cloud of witnesses." 3 They are the innocent, whom we have as surely put to death by our outrage as the stones that fell upon Stephen.
You have lost this innocence ... and so have I. But both of us can reclaim it, be clothed once again in this beauty that has no metaphor --- even knowing that we will be immolated in it, crucified for it, through that same outrage of the world that first crucified Christ. Indeed, the servant is not greater than his Master. The world hated Him. It will hate you. Christ promised this. Because we are not of this world. 4 Our true citizenship is Elsewhere and everlasting.
But we fear this; fear the rancor of the world, and the tribute in pain that it will attempt to exact from us as Christians, as Catholics. In one way or another, under one guise or another, we are summoned to choose Christ before the menacing face of the world that will not tolerate Him ... and if we follow Him, us.
Knowing the price, we politely demur.
We may not persecute the innocent --- but we allow the cloaks of those who have lost it to be placed at our feet.
1 St. Mark 10.27
2 St. John 3.4
3 Hebrews 12.1
4 St. John 15.19-20
This article was originally written to commemorate the Feast of St. Stephen, but it’s poignancy speaks to all of us, daily.
Thank you for posting this. Its poignancy does speak, as you said. Today I am feeling a great sadness and longing for some kind of reassurance. It seems like “1984” and “Brave New World” have arrived, and things we never thought would occur are happening. Good to be reminded that we are never alone. May God bless and protect us.
Indeed. And it will get worse before it gets better. Our time on earth is brief. Remember that our destiny is not in this world; it is with our Lord in eternity.
The Book of Ecclesiastes reminds us that "everything old is new again". What has been in the past, returns in the present, festooned with fresh paper and ribbons. But the contents of the package remain the same. People replacing God with government; sacrificing their children and dallying in all sorts of perversions. Our Lord cautioned us to enter by the narrow gate. He also taught us: "Where your treasure is, there also will your heart be."
Your freeper name reminds me of the message our Lord gave to St. Faustina. Are you familiar with the Divine Mercy?
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Obama Says A Baby Is A Punishment
Yes, I am somewhat familiar with the Divine Mercy and pray the chaplet occasionally. It is beautiful, and comforting too. Thanks for another good reminder. My daily morning prayer time includes rosary for life, prayer to end abortion, and St. Gianna’s prayer. And daily Mass as often as possible.
It seems as though we are outnumbered, but then I am reminded of something Cal Thomas said at a talk that I attended a few years ago.
He spoke of visiting the catacombs in Rome. As he was down there he saw the pillar where St. Paul had been chained to. He could look out and see the same Roman Coliseum that Paul gazed upon.
Cal Thomas noted that even though the Christianity is always being persecuted, it continues to thrive while the Coliseum, once the strength of the Roman Empire, is left in ruins.
The Colosseum is in ruins mostly because popes and rulers took stone from it to build the Vatican, not because God let it go to ruin.
I think the point Cal was making is that the Roman Empire was expected to last forever, and Christianity was going to die out quickly.
And that’s a problem because?...
The problem is the reliance on inaccurate history to make a point. I’m sorry you don’t share my interest in the truth. Carry on.
Do you not see that this bigger than what happened to the coliseum?
I am sure you're right that the Roman Christians took it apart. I am not disputing that. the bigger picture is that there were Roman Christians.
The intent was to wipe out this sect of Christians that were small in number.
Christianity has now grown and is in the millions. I think that is what Cal Thomas was trying to explain.
The example used was historically inaccurate.
You don't have to explain it again. I don't care to derail the thread. I said the point was inaccurate. That's all.
I appreciate your thoughts. It's always good to be enlightened.
I appreciate what you said, and what Cal Thomas said.
Am really looking forward to Lent.
Saint Stephen, First Martyr
The Martyrdom of St Stephen
1603-04 - Oil on canvas
Musée du Louvre, Paris
St. Stephen was a deacon in the early Church and was the first Christian martyred for his faith. He was one of the seven deacons who helped the apostles (Acts 6:1-6) and was "filled with faith and with the Holy Spirit," and was "full of fortitude" (Acts 6:5,8). Stephen died praying for his executioners. The similarities between Stephen's martyrdom and the crucifixion of Our Lord emphasize his imitation of Christ even unto the complete gift of self. His name is included in the Roman Canon.
Source: Daily Roman Missal, Edited by Rev. James Socías, Midwest Theological Forum, Chicago, Illinois ©2003
today we celebrate the entrance of St. Stephen
into eternal glory.
He died praying for those who killed him.
Help us to imitate his goodness
and to love our enemies.
We ask this through our Lord Jesus Christ, Your Son,
who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit,
one God, for ever and ever. +Amen.
First Reading: Acts 6:8-10;7:54-59
And Stephen, full of grace and power, did great wonders and signs among the people. Then some of those who belonged to the synagogue of the Freedmen (as it was called), and of the Cyrenians, and of the Alexandrians, and of those from Cilicia and Asia, arose and disputed with Stephen. But they could not withstand the wisdom and the Spirit with which he spoke.
Now when they heard these things they were enraged, and they ground their teeth against him. But he, full of the Holy Spirit, gazed into heaven and saw the glory of God, and Jesus standing at the right hand of God; and he said, "Behold, I see the heavens opened, and the Son of man standing at the right hand of God." But they cried out with a loud voice and stopped their ears and rushed together upon him. Then they cast him out of the city and stoned him; and the witnesses laid down their garments at the feet of a young man named Saul. And as they were stoning Stephen, he prayed, "Lord Jesus, receive my spirit."
Responsorial Psalm: Psalm 31:3cd-4, 6 and 8ab, 16bc and 17
R. Into your hands, O Lord, I commend my spirit.
Be thou a rock of refuge for me,
a strong fortress to save me!
Yea, thou art my rock and my fortress;
for thy name's sake lead me and guide me,
Into thy hand I commit my spirit;
thou hast redeemed me,
O LORD, faithful God.
I will rejoice and be glad for thy steadfast love,
because thou hast seen my affliction,
My times are in thy hand;
deliver me from the hand of my enemies and persecutors!
Let thy face shine on thy servant;
save me in thy steadfast love!
Gospel Reading: Matthew 10:17-22
Beware of men; for they will deliver you up to councils, and flog you in their synagogues, and you will be dragged before governors and kings for my sake, to bear testimony before them and the Gentiles. When they deliver you up, do not be anxious how you are to speak or what you are to say; for what you are to say will be given to you in that hour; for it is not you who speak, but the Spirit of your Father speaking through you. Brother will deliver up brother to death, and the father his child, and children will rise against parents and have them put to death; and you will be hated by all for My name's sake. But he who endures to the end will be saved.
Related Link on the Vatican Website: