"Remember, I am with you always to the end of the age" (Mt 28:20)

30-Day Lockdown Retreat Journey: Topping Off Sunday—Rejoice All You Who Mourn... (DAY 8)


Today is Day 8 of our 30-day whole community retreat journey in light of the lockdown.

Point Of Departure: Today we will brush up on some Latin to formally enter a major milestone in every Ignatian retreat. The Latin phrase is Tantum Quantum (TQ), which means,  “in so far as.” The context of this Ignatian expression is St. Ignatius’ First Principle and Foundation (FP&F)the first among four weeks of the Spiritual Exercises. In this FP&F, Ignatius writes about the whole rationale of every spiritual journey. In a nutshell, “The human being is created to praise and serve God alone. All other created things on earth are to be used in pursuit of this end.” “We are to use themTQ—in so far as they lead us to our last end, and be rid of themTQ—in so far as they hinder us in the pursuit of the end for which we were created.” (Spiritual Exercises 23)

George E. Ganns, SJ uses the analogy of an architectural edifice particularly that of an arch—a hallmark of strength that the Romans harnessed. He says that the FP&F serves as the keystone of the Spiritual Exercises(I took the image above from the largest Buddhist temple in Borobudur. The more popular rounded arch is from the Romans. N.B. After you pray, you can read up more on arches.) We can profit to elaborate the analogy by grasping the significance of the capstone in every arch. The arch structure is unable to stand until the capstone is finally fixed at the center. Although this stage is clouded with some uncertainty, but it is a passing one. When the capstone is fixed, the whole structure is transformed, so to speak, gaining the stability and certainty so desired by the bricklayers. It is also uniquely called keystone, bearing a key role because it crowns and culminates every labor that was poured into the project. A certain builders’ rite—topping off rite—deserves to be celebrated with gratitude and joy among all the stone masons and bricklayers. This is a fitting image to celebrate any achievement of sorts. I asked also myself if this word Rejoice! is a welcome word when so many people are suffering and dying nowadays. I went back again to the liturgy's entrance antiphon where this is found (See full text below; cf. Is 66: 10-11) and I found the context of the word's usage, i.e., mourning and sorrow.

The middle of Lent is called Laetare Sunday (Latin for Rejoice!). This is equivalent to the 2nd Sunday of Advent, a.k.a., Gaudete Sunday (Another Latin term for Rejoice!). The two Sundays in the whole liturgical year are the “Topping-Off-Sundays.” (I suggest that you ritualize this day by getting a recent newspaper and other materials to serve as relics. You can search the web on how to go about this. Designate a “foundation stone” in your house where you will put the relics. Each time the members of the house see this “keystone” or if someone moves it, the person will see the relics deposited in there. What would you like to be reminded of when you see a relic? Follow your heart in choosing what to put there. This is your Topping-Off-Day. You may look at this outbreak as having led you to it. Look at the bright side of things and thank God.)

The keystone is just a stone if it does not function as a keystone. In so far asTQ—it serves its purpose then it is good. Similarly, your relics will just be ordinary objects, worth for nothing, until you find meaning in these—TQ. The worth of any keystone lies in its weight. This is the pull of gravity which is responsible to hold in place the structure securely. The keystone must have weight. Using the words of Ecclesiastes, "Vanity of vanities; all is vanity" (Ecc 1:2). The Hebrew word, הֶבֶל (heh'bel), which means "vapor or breath" is translated as vanity, i.e., without weight. Yet, the moment each creature is directed towards the "greater" praise and service of its Creator it bears some weight vis-à-vis God's gratuitous love. In this context, the meaning of "greater" or "magis" is not absolute but is always relative, i.e., in so far as it flows from the love of the ever greater God (Deus Semper Major). The magis of every creature is to be seen always in reference to God's work. It is not just the weight of one's own human works alone but always in relation to God as in every brick laid by the worker in reference to the keystone.

The passage that we will meditate on for our theme is the story of the man born blind who was miraculously healed by Jesus. A certain topping off happened in the life of the blind man. No less than Christ happened to him and after that his life was never the same again.
When Jesus heard that they had thrown him out, he found him and said, “Do you believe in the Son of Man?” He answered and said, “Who is he, sir, that I may believe in him?” Jesus said to him, “You have seen him, and the one speaking with you is he.” He said, “I do believe, Lord,” and he worshiped him.

Grace To Beg For: To ask for what I desire... interior freedom to turn to God, the Ever Greater, and allow myself to taste and see His divine plan for me.

Word Of God: (See full texts below from universalis.com)

  1. John 9:1, 6–9, 13–17, 34–38 (Jesus gives sight to a man blind from birth.)
  2. Ephesians 5:8–14 (“Take no part in the fruitless works of darkness; rather expose them, for it is shameful even to mention the things done by them in secret…”)
  3. 1 Peter 2:4-9 ("...rejected by human beings but chosen and precious in the sight of God, and, like living stones, let yourselves be built into a spiritual house to be a holy priesthood...")

Questions Or Considerations To Ponder:

  1. During retreats like this, or even unexpected moments like a crisis, a person is faced with the hard questions in life. St. Ignatius of Loyola asked the same question when he was recuperating after being hit by a cannonball. His leg that was shattered was easier to endure for him. What was more shattering was that his spirit was broken. Think of every action that you do and ask yourself, “Do my actions lead me closer to God?” If yes then that is good. But if it brings you farther away from God, then something is out of place in the process. When that happens we build or labour in vain because our perspective is not in the direction towards God. "Unless the LORD builds the house, its builders labor in vain. Unless the LORD watches over the city, the watchmen stand guard in vain" (Psalm 127:1).
  2. A person is good if one serves God without deception and all things on the face of the earth are also good, but only in relation to another. That is why it is necessary to choose “TQ”. And, we must make ourselves indifferent—that is—one cannot be too biased about one’s own choosing of things. (Adaptation of St. Ignatius’ Spiritual Exercises 23)

a. What are the worldly (inordinate) attachments in my life? Name a few. Have I been growing in freedom and indifference towards it? Is it a privilege, a person, a position, a project to be done or a period in the past that continue to cling to? How will I be when these attachments are no longer available to me?

b. How do you find Christ bringing light into your situation nowadays? What are lights and shadows in your life that the outbreak has opened your eyes to see?

c. Rejoice! Can you afford to rejoice even during crisis like this thinking that our Lord Jesus Christ has already won the salvation of our souls? Every Sunday celebration is a celebration of the Resurrection. Every Sunday is a topping off day! Be grateful to God for his divine plan.

Prayer Requests:
You can email request for prayers for the dead (Name—RIPusing 8thworkermercy@bloggercom—there is a DOT between 8thworker and mercy. It is restricted so that only me as blog author can read it. Others will NOT be able to read any email; instead they will get a message stating that this is private. We will offer your intentions during our regular 6:30AM Masses in our community of Jesuit priests and novices.

P.S. Feel free also to include the names of all who are sick (Name—Get well soon).

Fr. JM Manzano, SJ

Cf. Is 66: 10-11
Rejoice, Jerusalem, and all who love her.
Be joyful, all who were in mourning; exult and be satisfied at her consoling breast.

John 9:1, 6–9, 13–17, 34–38

The man who was blind went off and washed himself and came back able to see.

As Jesus passed by he saw a man blind from birth. He spat on the ground and made clay with the saliva, and smeared the clay on his eyes, and said to him, “Go wash in the Pool of Siloam”—which means Sent—. So he went and washed, and came back able to see.
  His neighbors and those who had seen him earlier as a beggar said, “Isn’t this the one who used to sit and beg?” Some said, “It is,” but others said, “No, he just looks like him.” He said, “I am.”
  They brought the one who was once blind to the Pharisees. Now Jesus had made clay and opened his eyes on a sabbath. So then the Pharisees also asked him how he was able to see. He said to them, “He put clay on my eyes, and I washed, and now I can see.” So some of the Pharisees said, “This man is not from God, because he does not keep the sabbath.” But others said, “How can a sinful man do such signs?” And there was a division among them. So they said to the blind man again, “What do you have to say about him, since he opened your eyes?” He said, “He is a prophet.”
  They answered and said to him, “You were born totally in sin, and are you trying to teach us?” Then they threw him out.
  When Jesus heard that they had thrown him out, he found him and said, “Do you believe in the Son of Man?” He answered and said, “Who is he, sir, that I may believe in him?” Jesus said to him, “You have seen him, and the one speaking with you is he.” He said, “I do believe, Lord,” and he worshiped him.

Ephesians 5:8–14
Arise from the dead, and Christ will give you light.
Brothers and sisters: You were once darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Live as children of light, for light produces every kind of goodness and righteousness and truth. Try to learn what is pleasing to the Lord. Take no part in the fruitless works of darkness; rather expose them, for it is shameful even to mention the things done by them in secret; but everything exposed by the light becomes visible, for everything that becomes visible is light. Therefore, it says: “Awake, O sleeper, and arise from the dead, and Christ will give you light.”

1 Peter 2:4–9 ·

You are a chosen race, a royal priesthood.

Beloved: Come to him, a living stone, rejected by human beings but chosen and precious in the sight of God, and, like living stones, let yourselves be built into a spiritual house to be a holy priesthood to offer spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ. For it says in Scripture:
Behold, I am laying a stone in Zion,
  a cornerstone, chosen and precious,
  and whoever believes in it shall not be put to shame.
Therefore, its value is for you who have faith, but for those without faith:
The stone that the builders rejected
  has become the cornerstone,
a stone that will make people stumble,
  and a rock that will make them fall.
They stumble by disobeying the word, as is their destiny.
  You are “a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people of his own, so that you may announce the praises” of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light.


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