ONE AND DONE CONVERSIONS are a dime a dozen. There’s a kind of change and an emotional rush and then things go on as they never did before. Or at least so we are told in fairy tales end conversion movies. The Grinch’s small heart grew three sizes that day. Scrooge kept Christmas the best of any man in London. A kiss from Prince Charming wakes the princess and they live happily ever after. Electing this one politician will solve all your problems. Conversions in the Bible, however, are often more problematic. David stumbles all through his reign, Peter denies Christ, Abraham struggles with God’s promises (what was that bit about Hagar if not a loss of faith?), the Jonah runs away, Moses says “Just kill me now”. These stories are more real – because we know that as human beings “one and done” is not a thing. Today’s feast of the Conversion of St Paul is no different.
Today, St Paul realizes his mistake, but it takes years for him to apply the realization. Certainly, he takes it seriously but he doesn’t quite realize the fullness of the implications. He goes away to learn, to pray, and to meditate. Yet even when he comes back he is still struggling. Biblical Scholars who attempt to put the letters of the Apostle into what they believe is a chronological order can discern theological development on several topics. This is not a bad thing for there is no change there is only evolution. Paul struggles with his brothers and sisters in Christ – even fighting with Peter. And famously there is The Thorn in the Flesh.
Lest I should be exalted above measure through the abundance of the revelations, there was given to me a thorn in the flesh, the messenger of Satan to buffet me, lest I should be exalted above measure. For this thing I besought the Lord thrice, that it might depart from me. And he said unto me, My grace is sufficient for thee: for my strength is made perfect in weakness. Most gladly therefore will I rather glory in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me. Therefore I take pleasure in infirmities, in reproaches, in necessities, in persecutions, in distresses for Christ’s sake: for when I am weak, then am I strong. 2 Corinthians 12:7-10 (AV)
The Glorious Mysteries are the key to the entire Rosary. The rest of the Rosary is meaningless without these Mysteries. Our Lord’s life and death are in vain without his Resurrection. St Paul, in fact, says the entirety of the Christian teaching is meaningless without this. Calling out again, the Catechism:
516 Christ’s whole earthly life – his words and deeds, his silences and sufferings, indeed his manner of being and speaking – is Revelation of the Father. Jesus can say: “Whoever has seen me has seen the Father”, and the Father can say: “This is my Son, my Chosen; listen to him!” Because our Lord became man in order to do his Father’s will, even the least characteristics of his mysteries manifest “God’s love. . . among us”.
517 Christ’s whole life is a mystery of redemption. Redemption comes to us above all through the blood of his cross, but this mystery is at work throughout Christ’s entire life:
– already in his Incarnation through which by becoming poor he enriches us with his poverty;
– in his hidden life which by his submission atones for our disobedience;
– in his word which purifies its hearers;
– in his healings and exorcisms by which “he took our infirmities and bore our diseases”;
– and in his Resurrection by which he justifies us.
518 Christ’s whole life is a mystery of recapitulation. All Jesus did, said and suffered had for its aim restoring fallen man to his original vocation:When Christ became incarnate and was made man, he recapitulated in himself the long history of mankind and procured for us a “short cut” to salvation, so that what we had lost in Adam, that is, being in the image and likeness of God, we might recover in Christ Jesus.185 For this reason Christ experienced all the stages of life, thereby giving communion with God to all men.186
The story is told of the filming of the T.V. miniseries, Jesus of Nazareth, that after filming the crucifixion, the cast felt they were finished because that was so powerful a moment. Someone said, “Hey, shouldn’t there be a Resurrection somewhere?” I think this is apocryphal because most works are not film in a chronological sequence, but rather based on outdoor and indoor shoot schedules and the availability of studio space and special effects resources. But the story does point out the modern error that the crucifixion, itself, is the focus of the story.
Neither, point of fact, is the Resurrection on it’s own: but rather the Entirety of the Life of Christ from his action in the creation of the world to the the prophetic foreknowledge of the prophets, from his incarnation in the Virgin’s womb to his institution of the Holy Eucharist, from his Crucifixion to the Descent of the Holy Ghost, and finally to his action in the life of the Church, his Body, today. This is the ongoing action of salvation: we can no more point at one point in time as “the event of salvation” than we can point to magical words in the Eucharistic Canon as “the exact moment of consecration.” As the late Canon Edward West once said of the Eucharist, so it is for the life of the world: “We do not know when Christ enters in and we can not reach in and pull him out again.”
Christ is saving you right now if you are willing to participate in the on-going action of your salvation. What he began in the Garden, continued through the Old Testament, and Crowned in the Mysteries of the Rosary is all laying the foundations for what he is doing right now in your heart.
- The Resurrection of Our Lord
- The Ascension of our Lord
- The Coming of the Holy Ghost at Pentecost
- The Assumption of Our Lady
- The Coronation of Our Lady
The Glorious Mysteries show us what should be the crowning glories of our life as Christians: as our Lord Rises, so do we. As our Lord prays the holy Spirit down on the world from his Father, so do the saints continue to pray God’s grace into the world. As the Blessed Virgin is crowned, so are will we, by God’s grace, reign with her in Heaven.
But as with Christ, so with us: it is the entirety of the action of our life that becomes the actualization of Salvation. We cannot be crowned without being conceived, we cannot rise without dying. The Rosary of Our Blessed Lady shows us that the entirety of life has been sanctified: and that we are called to live in that on-going sanctification. The Natural Order of life can be broken by us, yes: but we can also live into it and offer it to God in a great Eucharistic action.