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Posted February 3, 2006

Book: To Follow You, Light of Life: Spiritual Exercises Preached Before John Paul II at the Vatican
Author: Bruno Forte
William B. Eerdamans Publishing Co., Grand Rapids, Michigan, 2006, pp. 190

An Excerpt from the Jacket:

A little more than a year before his death, Pope John Paul II gathered his closest aides for an extended retreat at the Vatican. During this retreat Bruno Forte offered a series of meditations revolving around Jesus’ words in John 8:12: “Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness but will have the light of life.”

Now translated by David Glenday and collected in this lovely book, these meditations draw us into the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus and orient us toward the mission of the church.

An Excerpt from the Book:

Eucharist and Beauty

A wonderful passage in the writings of St. Augustine introduces us to the theme of this present meditation, by summarizing in a particularly intense way what we have been contemplating about the church and Christ, the church’ s Head and Lord, whom the Gospel of John (10:11) portrays as “the beautiful Shepherd”:

“Two flutes play different tunes, but the same Spirit breathes through them both. The first: “You are the most handsome of men” [Ps. 45:2]; and the second: “He had no form or majesty that we should look at him” [Is. 53:2]. One and the same Spirit plays the two flutes: so they play in harmony. Do not fail to listen to them, but try to understand them. Let us ask the apostle Paul to explain the perfect harmony between the two flutes. Let the first play: “the most handsome of men,” “though he was in the form of God, he did not regard equality with God as something to be grasped: [Phil. 2:6]. This is how the beauty of the sons of men is surpassed. Let the second play: “that we should look at him,” he who “emptied himself, taking the form of a slave, being born in human likeness: [Phil. 2:7]. “He had no form or majesty” so that he might give you beauty and form. What beauty? What form? The love of charity, so that you may run in love, and love with the energy of one who runs. . . Look to Him through whom you have been made beautiful?”

The love with which he has loved us transfigures the “man of suffering . . .acquainted with infirmity. . .from whom others hide their faces” (Isa. 53:3) into “the morst handsome of men”: crucified love is the beauty that saves.

St. Thomas Aquinas takes the paradox of this beauty further: when he comes to consider the beautiful, he speaks of the Son. In Thomas’s view, beauty is an especially appropriate way of talking about the Son because beauty has three features that are also present in him: integrity, form, and splendor. Beauty, indeed, happens when the All makes itself present in the fragment; it happens, too, in the right proportion of the “form,” capable of reproducing the harmony of the whole “on a small scale: (thus it is that formosus means beautiful!); and finally, beauty happens like a burst of light when Beauty breaks into our reality and evokes ecstatic delight in us.

In the Son Jesus, all these three expressions of beauty meet. Because he is the image of the invisible God, he renders God’s face or form present in human flesh; because in him infinite Love breaks into death, he redeems our finitude by entering into it as light into darkness. Here Greek thought — for which beauty is forma, the this-worldly reproduction of the “heavenly numbers” – encounters what is new in Christian faith, which contemplates beauty in the One before whom we cover our faces, in the infinitely Good who handed himself over for us into the finitude of abandonment. In the Son, the Whole dwells in the fragment, the Infinite breaks into the finite: the Crucified God is the form and splendor of eternity in time. On the cross, the Verbum abbreviatum — kenosis or self-emptying of the eternal Word — reveals the Beauty that saves!

This mystery of the Son’s beauty is consigned to all at the Last Supper, the memorial in which by the Spirit’s power the event of Calvary is represented in time. In the fragment of the Eucharist signs there is the whole of him who is Love in person, crucified and risen to give himself. The Eucharist is the sacrament in which the eternal becomes present in time, the Trinity is here in history, and the history of the Trinity is welcomed and received. Precisely, then, the church is born from the Eucharist, the sacramentum unitatis, the beauty that offers itself in this sacrament is passed on to the whole communion of saints. This movement from beauty to beauty — from the beautiful Shepherd to the sacramental beauty of the Eucharist and on to the church’s beauty — cause the light of the divine Sun to shine in t he night of our time; the church that celebrates the Eucharist is like the full moon, radiantly beautiful with the beauty of Christ, her Bridgegroom. Thus the three inseparable aspects of the Eucharist celebration — “paschal memorial,” “sacrificial banquet,” and “pledge of future glory” — are like three windows opening on to the one Beauty that saves, offered to human beings in the fragments of the bread of life and the chalice of salvation.

Table of Contents:

First Day: Called to Freedom
1. Jesus, a story of freedom
The choice he made and the way he lived
2. Jesus: situating his freedom
3. The Father sets us free: Lectio Divina on Luke 15:11-32
4. Mary, listening Lady: Lectio Divina on Luke 1:26-38

Second Day: Journeying Toward the Cross
5. Jesus, the Gospel of sorrows
6. The cross as the story of the Trinity
7. Abraham and the Aqedah of Isaac: Lectio Divina on Genesis 12 and 22
8. Mary at Cana and the foot of the cross: Lectio Divina on John 2:1-11 and 19:25-27

Third Day: In Easter Light
9. The life-changing encounter
10. The Resurrection as the story of the Trinity
11. Moses and the Passover of Freedom: Lectio Divina on Exodus 3:1-15 and 14:5 - 15:20
12. Mary, Ark of the Covenant: Lectio Divina on Luke 1:39-45

Fourth Day: In the Church That is Communion
13. Ecclesia de trinitate
14. The Church, icon of the Trinity
15. The martyrdom of Peter
16. Mary, bride at the Messiah’s wedding feast: Lectio Divina on Luke 1:46-55

Fifth Day: The Church in Mission
17. Journeying home to the Trinity: the Church in mission
18. Eucharist and beauty
19. Paul, proclaiming the Good News
20. The woman of the Apocalypse: Lectio Divina on Revelation 12

Sixth Day: Conclusion
21. John, contemplating love