A Special Easter 2020 Novena

Dear Friends of the Sophia Foundation,

Over one hundred years ago, Rudolf Steiner began speaking about the reappearance of Christ in our time. Just as Christ incarnated into a physical body almost 2,000 years ago, on September 23, AD 29, Rudolf Steiner indicated that around the 1930’s, it would become clear to some people that Christ had incarnated into an elemental body, a body of life-forces (“etheric” in theosophical/anthroposophical parlance).

While a physical body experiences itself as limited to taking up a certain amount of space for a limited amount of time, an elemental body experiences fluidity; it is a body of Time rather than in time. The early Christians referred to this second coming of Christ as the Parousia—or “advent,” “appearance,” “arrival (especially of royalty),” “presence”—indicating that Christ, during this second coming, could be present for all peoples everywhere, simultaneously.

Rudolf Steiner saw this Parousia beginning around the 1930’s, and this indeed came to pass, although not perhaps in the way that the Anthroposophical Society suspected or noticed. In 1931, Christ appeared to Sister Maria Faustina of the Blessed Sacrament, a simple 26-year old nun of little education, at a convent in Płock, Poland. From Wikipedia: 

On the night of Sunday, February 22, 1931, while she was in her cell in Płock, Jesus appeared wearing a white garment with red and pale rays emanating from his heart. In her diary, she wrote that Jesus told her to “paint an image according to the pattern you see, with the signature: ‘Jesus, I trust in You.’ I desire that this image be venerated, first in your chapel, and then throughout the world. I promise that the soul that will venerate this image will not perish.” Three years later, after her assignment to Vilnius (then in Poland, now in Lithuania), the first artistic rendering of the image was performed under her direction. In the same February 22, 1931 message about the Divine Mercy image, Kowalska also wrote in her diary that Jesus told her that he wanted the Divine Mercy image to be “solemnly blessed on the first Sunday after Easter; that Sunday is to be the Feast of Mercy.”

In late May 1933, Sister Faustina was transferred to Vilnius to work as the gardener, completing tasks including growing vegetables. Shortly after arriving in Vilnius, Faustina met Father Michael Sopoćko, the newly appointed confessor to the nuns. When Faustina went to Sopoćko for her first confession, she told him that she had been conversing with Jesus, who had a plan for her. After some time, in 1933 Sopoćko insisted on a complete psychiatric evaluation of Faustina by Helena Maciejewska, a psychiatrist and a physician associated with the convent. Faustina passed the required tests and was declared of sound mind. 

Thereafter, Sopoćko began to have confidence in Faustina and supported her efforts. Sopoćko also advised Faustina to begin writing a diary and to record the conversations and messages from Jesus that she was reporting.Faustina told Sopoćko about the Divine Mercy image, and in January 1934, Sopoćko introduced her to the artist Eugene Kazimierowski who was also a professor at the university.By June 1934, Kazimierowski had finished painting the image based on the direction of Faustina and Sopoćko. That was the only Divine Mercy painting Faustina saw. A superimposition of the face of Jesus in the Image of the Divine Mercy upon that in the already well-known Shroud of Turin shows great similarity.

Faustina wrote in her diary that, on Good Friday, April 19, 1935, Jesus told her that he wanted the Divine Mercy image publicly honoured. A week later, on April 26, 1935, Sopoćko delivered the first sermon ever on the Divine Mercy, and Faustina attended the sermon.The first Mass during which the Divine Mercy image was displayed occurred on April 28, 1935, the first Sunday after Easter Sunday, and was attended by Faustina. This day was also the celebration of the end of the Jubilee of the Redemption by Pope Pius XI. Sopoćko obtained Archbishop Jałbrzykowski’s permission to place the Divine Mercy image within the Gate of Dawn church in Vilnius during the Mass that Sunday and celebrated the Mass himself. On September 13, 1935, while still in Vilnius, Faustina wrote of a vision about the Chaplet of Divine Mercy in her diary. The chaplet is about a third of the length of the Rosary. Faustina wrote that the purpose for chaplet’s prayers for mercy are threefold: to obtain mercy, to trust in Christ’s mercy, and to show mercy to others. 

Later in 1936, Faustina became ill, since speculated to be tuberculosis. She was moved to the sanatorium in Prądnik, Kraków. She continued to spend much time in prayer, reciting the chaplet and praying for the conversion of sinners. The last two years of her life were spent praying and keeping her diary. On 23 March 1937, Faustina wrote in her diary that she had a vision that the feast of the Divine Mercy would be celebrated in her local chapel and would be attended by large crowds and also that the same celebration would be held in Rome attended by the Pope. In July 1937 the first holy cards with the Divine Mercy image were printed. In August, Sopoćko asked Kowalska to write the instructions for the Novena of Divine Mercy, which she had reported as a message from Jesus on Good Friday 1937.

As her health deteriorated at the end of 1937, Faustina’s reported visions intensified, and she was said to be looking forward to an end to her life. In April 1938, her illness had progressed, and she was sent to rest in the sanatorium in Prądnik for what was to be her final stay there. In September 1938, Sopoćko visited her at the sanatorium and found her very ill but in ecstasy as she was praying. Later in the month, she was taken back home to Kraków to await her death there. Sopoćko visited her at the convent for the last time on 26 September 1938. Faustina died at the age of 33 on October 5, 1938 in Kraków. She was buried on October 7and now rests at Kraków’s Basilica of Divine Mercy.

There is of course, much more to this amazing story, involving the spread of popularity of devotion to the Divine Mercy, as well as its rocky road to official approval from the Papacy—a road that was trod primarily by Pope John Paul II, who himself died on the eve of Divine Mercy Sunday (April 2, 2005). Please visit the Wikipedia article to read more:  https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Faustina_Kowalska

During exactly the same time period that Faustina was bringing about devotion to the second coming of Christ, the Anthroposophical Society, which was intended to be the vehicle for experiencing Christ “in the Etheric,” was tearing at the seams. In April of 1935, two key members of the first executive council of the Society (Ita Wegman and Elizabeth Vreede) were expelled, and along with them thousands of members of the Dutch and English Free Anthroposophical Groups. While interpersonal conflicts, jealousy, and drama were absorbing the attention of anthroposophists, the Parousia was taking place and going unnoticed! Unfortunately the ten virgins had not kept their lanterns lit.

One of the core tasks of the Sophia Foundation, since its beginning over 25 years ago, is to draw attention to Christ in his second coming, and create avenues by which individuals and communities can come to a living experience of him. The purpose of this Easter message is twofold. First of all, I wanted to make sure that all of you were aware of the devotion to the elemental Christ that exists already as a long-standing tradition in the Catholic Church. Notice that this devotion is in the form of an image. The elemental Christ exists in the sphere of living imaginations, of archetypes. It is only fitting that He be portrayed as a living image, an icon that can speak to the heart of virtually anyone, regardless of language or soul capacities. 

The second intention of this Easter message is to make more widely available an extraordinarily potent, yet accessible path to experiencing Christ in his second coming. The core of this path is that of praying the Novena of the Divine Mercy, referenced above, keeping in mind the words of the anonymous author of Meditations on the Tarot, in his 19th Letter-Meditation on The Sun (page 551, brackets my editorial):

Now, the mystery of the number nine, that of the development of the Trinity [Father, Son, and Holy Spirit] into the luminous Trinity [Father and Mother, Son and Daughter, Holy Spirit and Holy Soul], also lives in the practice of prayer and ritual within the Church.

I have in mind the practice, universally diffused in the Catholic Church, of the novena—the most practiced form of which is the act of prayer consisting of one Pater Noster and three Ave Marias, to which one devotes oneself for nine days. One makes a novena by appealing to the paternal love of the Father (Pater Noster) and to the maternal love of the Mother (the three Ave Marias) simultaneously for nine days, for the sake of a person or cause. What depth there is underlying this practice that is so simple! In truth—in any case for the Hermeticist—the direction of the superhuman wisdom of the Holy Spirit is manifested here!

So with the novena, we are entering into one of the highest and most effective forms of sacred magic. The Novena to the Divine Mercy is practiced everyday from Good Friday (this year on April 10) until the eve of the Divine Mercy (Saturday, April 18), ideally at 3 PM, the hour of Christ’s death (local time; what is important here is the position of the Sun in the sky relative to the one praying, and not so much that “everyone pray at the same time”). Here is a link to a relatively simple version of the Novena to the Divine Mercy:  https://www.shrineofdivinemercy.org/novena-prayer/46

And a more in-depth version:   https://www.thedivinemercy.org/message/devotions/novena

For more information on novenas in general, see here:  https://www.shrineofdivinemercy.org/what-are-novenas

Of even greater importance for Sister Faustina was the praying of the Chaplet of the Divine Mercy, which is a specific version of the Rosary prayer. In the same section of the Letter-Meditation on the Sun (pages 551-52, brackets my editorial), the anonymous author states:

Similarly, it is so with the rosary prayer, where appeal to the two aspects of divine paternal love in the prayer addressed to the Father and the Mother is made during meditation on the mysteries of the Joy, Suffering, …Glory [and Light] of the Blessed Virgin. The rosary prayer is—in any case for the Hermeticist—again a masterpiece of simplicity, containing and revealing things of inexhaustible profundity…a masterpiece of the Holy Spirit!

Here is a link to detailed instructions for praying the Chaplet, which is possible to do even if one does not have Rosary beads:   https://www.thedivinemercy.org/message/devotions/pray-the-chaplet

We must not fall into the same trap as the Anthroposophical Society in 1935. Something is happening, right under our noses, and we are distracted from it by pettiness, drama, jealousy, and indolence. We react to it out of hysteria and panic, because we do not yet know how else to react. For truly these are apocalyptic times—and apocalypse means nothing other than “uncover, reveal, disclose.” Apocalypse does not mean “the end of the world” in the sense of, for example, the mutually assured destruction of the Cold War; rather, it means “the end of an old world, and the beginning of a new one.” Unfortunately, we react as though it only meant “the end of the world altogether”!

This new world calls for our active spiritual participation. And, as indicated before, traditional prayer is the most potent and accessible means to this participation. As the anonymous author points out on page 618-19, in the 21st Letter-Meditation on the Fool:

Prayer—which asks, thanks, worships and blesses—is the radiation, the breath and the warmth of the awakened heart: expressed in formulae of the articulated word, in the wordless inner sighing of the soul, and, lastly, in the silence, both outward and inward, of the breathing of the soul immersed in the element of divine respiration and breathing in unison with it…Thus, it is never in vain and without effect. Even a prayer-formula pronounced rapidly in a detached and impersonal manner has a magical effect, because the sum-total of ardour put into this formula in the past—by believers, saints and Angels—is evoked solely through the fact of pronouncing the prayer-formula. Every prayer-formula consecrated by use has a magical virtue, since is it collective. The voices of all those who have ever prayed it are evoked by it and join the voice of he who pronounces it with serious intention. This applies above all to all the formulae of liturgical prayer. Each phrase of the Roman Catholic Mass or Greek Orthodox Liturgy, for example, is a formula of divine sacred magic. There is nothing astonishing about this, since the Mass and the Liturgy consist only of the prayers of prophets, saints and Jesus Christ himself. But what is truly astonishing is that there are—and always have been—esotericists…who improvise cults, prayer-formulae, new “mantrams,” etc., as if something is gained through novelty! Perhaps they believe that the formulae taken from Holy Scripture or given by the saints are used up through usage and have lost their virtue? This would be a radical misunderstanding. Because usage does not at all deplete a prayer-formula, but rather, on the contrary, it adds to its virtue…

One should know, dear Unknown Friend, that one never prays alone, i.e. that there are always others—above, or in the past on earth—who pray with you in the same sense, in the same spirit and even in the same words. In praying, you always represent a visible or invisible community together with you…For this reason the Lord’s prayer is not addressed to “my Father in heaven,” but rather to “our Father in heaven,” and asks the Father to “give us this day our daily bread,” that he “forgive us our trespasses,” that he “delivers us from evil.” Thus, whatever the particular intention of the one who prays the Lord’s prayer may be, it is in the name of the whole of mankind that he prays.

And so through these powerful and uncompromising words of the anonymous author, we can see that the most potent and accessible spiritual activity in which we can engage is to pray traditional prayers in unison with devotees of the past and present, on Earth and in Heaven. We need not even set aside a special time or special place in which to say these prayers as “even a prayer-formula pronounced rapidly in a detached and impersonal manner has a magical effect,” as attested to above. 

For those who might be interested in, and have the time for, a more individual meditative path to complement the collective prayer path laid out above, here is a meditation given to Robert Powell over 40 years ago by Rudolf Steiner, one which illuminates the reality of the Christ of the Divine Mercy—the Etheric Christ—from a totally different perspective:

GRAIL KNIGHTS MEDITATION

In purity of heart I become aware of the I AM presence within,

Calling me to take my place, my appointed place, at the table of the Holy Grail—mirrored on Earth at the Last Supper.

I expand my awareness to become aware of other knights of the Holy Grail

At the table of the Holy Grail. 

Inwardly I connect with the Lord of Karma, the etheric Christ,

With His radiant blue aura—radiating Divine Light, Divine Love, Divine Life,

And Divine Peace—to which I open myself.

I open myself to His Sacred Heart, the source of unfathomable mercy,

Overflowing with compassion and mercy for all.

This is the Holy Grail.

I receive from this source, in purity of heart, purification:

Ray of radiant white light in which I immerse myself;

And new life:

Red ray of His etheric blood in which I immerse myself,

For the etherization of my blood in Christ’s blood,

For the birth of the I AM presence in me.

We can feel from this meditation that to engage in our time means to prepare ourselves, through Christ’s unfathomable mercy, to “cross the threshold.” This is the apocalyptic experience I referred to above. We are all becoming Knights of the Threshold. It is only through our collective, conscious appeal to Christ—as the Lord of Karma—that we can cross the threshold with confidence, in joy rather than in fear. For Christ, Karma no longer means Earthly justice (“an eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth); Karma now means Mercy—Karma equals Grace. Let us pray for Mercy and Grace for the whole world!

Finally, I would like to point out that on the Sophia Foundation website, we have available from Mara Maccari of the Italian Sophia community, beautiful images of Christ, the Fount of Mercy: https://sophiafoundation.org/product/christ-fount-of-mercy-prints/

Whatever you choose to do, or are able to do, at this intense time in human history, remember that above and below you, before you and after you, there are souls and spirits with you and for you. Pax et Bonum!

Michael-Sophia in Nomine Christi,

Joel Matthew Park, on behalf of the Sophia Foundation.

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