the Holy Ghost
As a side note, blue is not to be regularly used as a liturgical color, with the exceptions of the Feast of the Immaculate Conception and some diocese of Spain, Portugal, Mexico, and South America. Blue is not permitted to replace the traditional violet of Advent.
Alright, now on to the tough stuff: "What's the whole deal with redemptive suffering? What is it? I hear a lot of Catholics say their suffering can be used to redeem others misfortunes, at least that's the way I heard it being communicated. Also, what does the church have to say about unnecessary suffering? Why does God allow it."Yes, Abraham, it is common to hear Catholic-Christians talking about suffering having meaning, or encouraging others to 'offer up' their suffering. Why? What does this all mean? And what sense can be made of 'unnecessary' suffering, especially of the vulnerable and innocent?
When people refer to 'redemptive suffering' they, of course, are first and foremost referring to the suffering of the Redeemer himself, Jesus, who poured out his very life in obedience and offering to God the Father in reparation for the sins of all humanity. When we ask ourselves the question of why the innocent must suffer, we must consider the suffering of Jesus himself to try to make sense of this concept. Why did God the Father send his only Son to earth in human form, only to suffer the most violent and incomprehensible sufferings (of every type -- spiritual, emotional, physical, and even the pains of death and, in the descent into hell, the pain of seeming separation from God)? God could have sent a Savior in any form to redeem us in any way. Shockingly, God chose to send us a Savior as one of us, who would redeem us from our suffering by taking it on himself. And out of the most incomprehensible suffering, and even death on a cross, came the most incomprehensible and undeserved reward -- the grace of salvation, the redemption of humanity, the gift of eternal life. Oh death, where is thy victory? Oh death, where is thy sting?
But if Jesus took all of the suffering on himself, then why must we still suffer? Suffering is fundamentally the risk of love. Suffering for it's own sake is senseless and absurd; the suffering of love is the only thing which makes life ultimately worthwhile.
In Jesus, we see the ultimate risk of love in its most dramatic form -- love not only unrequited, but vehemently spat upon, rejected, reviled, bloodied, lifted on a cross, and laid in a tomb. This is the part of Jesus that many so-called Christians reject, and the part that many cannot understand about Catholics. "Why do you still have Jesus on the Cross when he rose again?"
Jesus Resurrection means little, really nothing, if he did not actually suffer and die. If Jesus was just pretending to be a man the whole time he was on earth, and if his passion and death were all just an act, waiting for the big soap opera moment where we all found out that he was alive the whole time (and doing just fine, sipping margaritas on a remote island, perhaps) then what difference would it make that he came back? But Jesus was truly human. Jesus truly suffered. Jesus really died. And through his Resurrection from the dead, Jesus truly conquered death, and willed for his body to remain on earth (until his second coming) in two powerful ways: first, through the sacrament of the Eucharist (the fruit of the Cross, the new Tree of Life), and secondly, through us, the Church.
In this way, we can get some small glimpse of the meaning of human suffering. We, who live in Christ, no longer must suffer without meaning, for we now live as members of His body and in our sufferings, we mysteriously participate in the redemption of the whole world. On our own merits, our lives and sufferings ain't no thing but a chicken wing. But in Jesus, our lives and sufferings take on infinite merit, eternal significance, and unimaginable value.This is part of what people mean when they talk about 'offering up' their sufferings, or offering their sufferings to alleviate the misfortunes of others -- that as Christians, we have the ultimate hope that the Good Fridays of our lives will result in an Easter Sunday not only for ourselves, but for others as well; that our salvation and redemption is not just personal but communal (we're saved in bunches!); that when we suffer, we trust that God will make use of that suffering as He sees fit in His providential design for all humanity.
How do we 'offer up' our sufferings and unite them with Christ's? Surely, I'll spend a lifetime trying to learn. But this is what the Christian journey asks, or rather demands of us -- that we not allow the suffering of love to make our hearts grow hard, but rather to continually offer our entire lives to the Father in return for all He has given us, and that even in the face of the most incomprehensible tragedies and misfortunes we can re-echo the words of Job, who said, "The Lord giveth, and the Lord taketh away. Blessed be the name of the Lord!"
I'd like to close with a passage from Blessed John Paul II's "On the Christian Meaning of Human Suffering", which I recommend reading in full. It is the best treatment of this topic I have read and pondered.
24. Nevertheless, the Apostle's experiences as a sharer in the sufferings of Christ go even further. In the Letter to the Colossians we read the words which constitute as it were the final stage of the spiritual journey in relation to suffering: "Now I rejoice in my sufferings for your sake, and in my flesh I complete what is lacking in Christ's afflictions for the sake of his body, that is, the Church". And in another Letter he asks his readers: "Do you not know that your bodies are members of Christ?".
I hope this has been helpful. As always, thanks for stopping by, and be assured of my prayers.
Peace and all good,
Wednesday, February 27, 2013
Lent Day 15: On Vestment Colors and Redemptive Suffering
Long time blog reader, first time question asker!
What's the whole deal with redemptive suffering? What is it? I hear a lot of Catholics say their suffering can be used to redeem others misfortunes, at least that's the way I heard it being communicated.
Also, what does the church have to say about unnecessary suffering? Why does God allow it.
Lastly, what's the deal with with black and rose colored vestments?
Thanks so much for your questions. The first two are tough ones, so tonight the last shall be first. Then I'll try to give some insight into the Catholic-Christian view of suffering, especially in terms of redemption. Let's begin!
You asked, "what's the deal with with black and rose colored vestments?" First, check out this useful guide to liturgical colors from Catholic.com!