On the third Sunday in July every year we celebrate the Feast of the Most Holy Redeemer: the title of the Order and the Congregation of the Most Holy Redeemer.
Ven. Maria Celeste Crostarosa was tremendously blest to have an intimate relationship with her Redeemer throughout her life. With being true to that relationship over the years there came the struggle of trying to implement the new Rule. All the heartache that accompanied it cost her dearly in her attempt to follow the Redeemer’s lead. Yet she experienced deep peace and grace as she surrendered her life to the One who loved her beyond all measure. In following the Jesus, Celeste practiced the virtues of the Man-God ‘on his Pilgrim Way.’ God tells her, ‘All these virtues of his are transformed into your soul and become yours by your union with him; all your feelings and passions become sanctified by him and transformed into his feelings and your body transformed into his.’ (Florilegium #74. Spiritual Exercises for December, med. 18)
Think of the caterpillar being transformed into a butterfly and the metamorphosis that transpires; the surrender and dying to self that takes place throughout its life cycle.
When any of us follow the Redeemer as Celeste did we surrender our very lives to be transformed into ‘new creatures in Christ.’ 2 Cor.5:17 ‘to form that perfect being who is Christ come to full stature.’ Eph 4:13
Celeste tells us when we are at prayer it is a special time of union with the Redeemer. She was instructed by Jesus that when you pray, ‘… join that praise of yours to the Praises which I, while I was on earth, offered to God my Father, and live as though I, not you, lived in yourself. Thus all the graces, gifts, and spiritual consolations which you receive from my Love, receive them not in yourself but in me.’ (Florilegium pg 96 The Little Garden)
Celeste spent many hours in adoration in front of the Blessed Sacrament and was always amazed at how the God-Man, with patience and mercy ‘stamped on himself’… ‘the humiliations and contempt of self’ which the Redeemer displayed in not exalting his ‘divine perfections but kept them submerged’. She continues, ‘He submerged his divine immensities beneath an admirable hidden silence while on earth as a Man, and not only that, but now while hiding – in the Most Holy Sacrament of the Altar beneath the accidents of bread – his divine grandeurs… to unite us with him and transform us into God, he has made himself the real food of man.’ (Florilegium pg 29)
As followers of the Redeemer we are called likewise to accept humiliations and have contempt for self. What does this mean? To me it means we are to be ‘living eucharists for the Church and for the world.’ (Associate Constitutions #6) We are to humble ourselves just as Jesus ‘humbled himself, taking on the form of a slave, becoming human like one of us’ (Phil 2:7) so we might follow his example and empty ourselves of our ego so that God can fill us with divinity that we may, by our union, can participate in Christ’s on-going redemption in the here and now.
In Celeste’s Autobiography Jesus tells her, ‘You are my friend and my delight and, therefore, I keep you in my Kingdom of the Cross and of Glory, in the Kingdom of my Peace and Rest, in sufferings and afflictions, just the way I lived on this earth.
‘Do not be troubled, you already know how much you have to destroy the self so that this Work (namely, this Work that is totally mine) may be carried out.’ (Florilegium pg 135)
‘This Work’ that Jesus was referring to is the foundation of the Order of the Most Holy Redeemer – but he could well have been speaking to us about our life in him today. We are the Works of His hands. Christ has no hands on this earth but ours, no voice on earth but ours, no heart but ours… Therefore, we are his friends, his delight, at peace and rest in the Kingdom of the Cross and of Glory. And in turn ‘he is the light of our faith, the strength of our charity and the source of our hope.’ (Associate Constitution #13)
Jesus, the Most Holy Redeemer was the love of Celeste’s life! She followed him in her own time and place. Our call as Nuns and Associates of the Most Holy Redeemer is the same. Our constitutions say, ‘The more we strive to live the love of Christ, the more the thoughts and feelings of Christ will fill our spirit and our heart, the more we will become His faithful images and the more also we will be able to be true witnesses of the love of Him who is our Beginning and our End, our Way and our Life.’ (Associate Constitutions #5)
Like Celeste let us each be a ‘Viva Memoria:’ the living memory of Jesus the Redeemer; a participant in God’s loving plan of redemption.
Questions for reflection:
Do you hear the Redeemer’s invitation?
How are you following Jesus, your Redeemer, today?
Have you ever felt deep peace in following the Holy Redeemer in times of humility and surrender?
How can I be a ‘living eucharist’ for the redemption of the world?