Monday, November 30, 2015

Hail and Blessed

The Nativity by Giotto
Here is an old prayer which if meditated upon daily from the feast of St. Andrew until Christmas Eve is said to be instrumental in bringing many graces. (An old Italian nun once told me it was supposed to be pondered fifteen times a day, rather like the prayer of the rosary, so that the soul comes to taste the meaning of the words, and enter into the ineffable mystery.)
Hail and blessed be the hour and the moment when Jesus Christ was born of the pure Virgin Mary at midnight in Bethlehem in piercing cold. At that hour vouchsafe O my God to hear my prayer and grant my petition through the intercession of Jesus Christ and the Virgin Mary His Mother. Amen.

Sunday, November 29, 2015

Ad te levavi

It is the First Sunday of Advent. Here is the Entrance Antiphon (Introit):
Unto you have I lifted up my soul. O my God, I trust in you, let me not be put to shame; do not allow my enemies to laugh at me; for none of those who are awaiting you will be disappointed.
V. Make your ways known unto me, O Lord, and teach me your paths (Ps 24:1-4).
From Vultus Christi:
 There is movement in today’s liturgy: a great sweep upward and away from all that holds us bound and confined “in darkness and in the shadow of death” (Lk 1:79). This is the ecstatic movement of prayer, of all right worship: out of self, upward, and into “the fullness of God” (Eph 3:19). The Introit sets the tone, not only for this the first Mass of Advent, but also for the rest of the Advent season and, indeed, for the whole new liturgical year. “To Thee, my God, I lift up my soul” (Ps 24:1) or, as Ronald Knox translated it, “All my heart goes out to Thee, my God.”

The heart, in going out to God, leaves much behind and cannot look back. This is the law of prayer, this is what it makes it costly, sacrificial and, at the same time, unspeakably sweet. The things we leave behind are mere trifles but, oh, the hold they can have on us! The old self, fearful and anxious about many things, grasps at every illusory promise of security, clings to things, arranges them in great useless piles, looks on them caressingly and takes inventory of them. The loss of any thing, even the most insignificant, represents for the old self, the loss of control, the loss of power, and of comforting familiar pleasures. All of this in incompatible with the prayer that the liturgy places on our lips today: “All my heart goes out to Thee, my God” (Ps 24:1). The upward flight of today’s Introit has nothing to do with cheap pious sentiment. It is an uncompromising call to detachment, to poverty of spirit, and to an obedience that is off and running with all speed, ready for the leap of hope. (Read more.)
More First Sunday of Advent meditations from Silverstream Priory, here:
 There is a second way of hearing today’s Introit. The stational church in Rome for the First Sunday of Advent is the Basilica of Saint Mary Major, the oldest temple in Christendom dedicated to the Mother of God. By singing this particular psalm in this particular place the Church is suggesting that we are to hear the voice of the Virgin Mary in it. Everything in Our Blessed Lady is in readiness for the advent of God. The Mother of God, Our Lady of Advent, prays and teaches us to pray, “All my heart goes out to thee, O God” (Ps 24:1). The second part of the verse is equally important. “Of those who wait for thee, not one is disappointed” (Ps 24:3). The Virgin Mary teaches us to pray Psalm 24 as she prayed it; by teaching us to pray with her, she becomes the Mother of our Hope. (Read more.) 

 Many people struggle with loneliness during this season of the year. Here are some words from the great Benedictine Dom Hubert van Zeller: 
After sin, the three evils most to be dreaded are doubt, fear and loneliness. Of these, loneliness is the worst. Loneliness can give rise to doubt and fear, while if a man knows he is not alone he can fight his doubt, and disguise- which is half the battle- his fear. We can force ourselves to laugh at our doubts and fears, but loneliness forbids laughter. Loneliness is an echoing ache in the soul, it hollows out the heart and scoops away at our reserves. It even communicates itself to the senses, and all the outer world seems indifferent and hostile. We must have something with which to meet this evil. We must find something which will turn it into good....

This is where we need to have faith. This is where we pull ourselves up and cry "It's a mood. It will pass. It is only a mood." That désespoir des lendemains de fête will melt away in time, giving place to color and light and normality and, finally, joy.
~ Dom Hubert van Zeller's We Die Standing, pp.62-63

Novena to the Immaculate Conception

Drawing close to Our Lady in the mystery of her Immaculate Conception is one of the best ways I can think of to spiritually ready the soul for the great feasts that are to come. The novena in honor of the Immaculate Conception, patroness of the United States of America, begins today. And here is an excerpt from the Little Office of the Immaculate Conception, much of which is based on Sacred Scripture:
Holy Mary, Mother of God, I firmly believe in thy Immaculate Conception. I bless God for having granted thee this glorious privilege. I thank Him a thousand times for having taught it to me by the infallible voice of the Church. Receive my heart, O Immaculate Virgin; I give it to thee without reserve; purify it; guard it; never give it back to me, preserve it in thy love and in the love of Jesus during time and eternity. AMEN.

V. Thy name, O Mary, is as oil poured out.
R. Thy servants have loved thee exceedingly.

Let us pray.
O God, Who by the Immaculate Conception of the Virgin, did prepare a worthy habitation for Thy Son: we beseech Thee, that as in view of the death of that Son, Thou didst preserve her from all stain of sin, so Thou wouldst enable us, being made pure by her intercession, to come unto Thee. Through the same Christ Our Lord. AMEN.

Sunday, November 22, 2015

Solemnity of Christ the King

It would be a grave error, on the other hand, to say that Christ has no authority whatever in civil affairs, since, by virtue of the absolute empire over all creatures committed to him by the Father, all things are in his power. Nevertheless, during his life on earth he refrained from the exercise of such authority, and although he himself disdained to possess or to care for earthly goods, he did not, nor does he today, interfere with those who possess them. Non eripit mortalia qui regna dat caelestia.[27]
Thus the empire of our Redeemer embraces all men. To use the words of Our immortal predecessor, Pope Leo XIII: "His empire includes not only Catholic nations, not only baptized persons who, though of right belonging to the Church, have been led astray by error, or have been cut off from her by schism, but also all those who are outside the Christian faith; so that truly the whole of mankind is subject to the power of Jesus Christ."[28] Nor is there any difference in this matter between the individual and the family or the State; for all men, whether collectively or individually, are under the dominion of Christ. In him is the salvation of the individual, in him is the salvation of society. "Neither is there salvation in any other, for there is no other name under heaven given to men whereby we must be saved."[29] He is the author of happiness and true prosperity for every man and for every nation. "For a nation is happy when its citizens are happy. What else is a nation but a number of men living in concord?"[30] If, therefore, the rulers of nations wish to preserve their authority, to promote and increase the prosperity of their countries, they will not neglect the public duty of reverence and obedience to the rule of Christ. What We said at the beginning of Our Pontificate concerning the decline of public authority, and the lack of respect for the same, is equally true at the present day. "With God and Jesus Christ," we said, "excluded from political life, with authority derived not from God but from man, the very basis of that authority has been taken away, because the chief reason of the distinction between ruler and subject has been eliminated. The result is that human society is tottering to its fall, because it has no longer a secure and solid foundation."[31]
~Pope Pius XI "Quas Primas"

Saturday, November 21, 2015

Presentation of Mary

Father Mark offers some history and thoughts to ponder on the feast commemorating Our Lady being taken to the Temple at the age of three by her parents.
In the hidden recesses of the old Temple, the Holy Ghost prepares the new Temple, the all-holy Virgin, to become the Mother of God . Destined to be the living Temple of the Word, Mary dwells in the Temple of the Old Dispensation. She hears the chanting of the psalms, the prophets, and the Law. Was it there that the Most Holy Virgin learned Psalm 118, the long litany of loving surrender to the Word? And was it from Psalm 118, held in her heart from so tender an age, that she drew her response to the message of the Angel, “Be it done unto me according to Thy Word” (Luke 1:38)?
There planted in the Lord, the dew of His Spirit made her flourish in the courts of her God, and like a green olive she became a tree, so that all the doves of grace came and lodged in her branches. (Saint John Damascene, Upon the Orthodox Faith, Book IV, ch. 15)
Virgin Mother of the Lamb
There Mary smells the fragrance of incense and burnt offerings. There she observes the faithful of Israel streaming towards Zion, filling the Temple, seeking the Face of the Lord. Priest, altar, and oblation are not unfamiliar to the Virgin who, gazing upon her Son, will recognize in Him the Eternal priest, the Altar of the New Covenant, the pure Victim, the holy Victim, the spotless Victim offered in unending sacrifice.
To Belong to God
In the seventeenth century — the age of France’s “mystical invasion” — the mystery of the Presentation of the Virgin in the Temple captivated the hearts of Monsieur Olier and of others on fire with zeal for the holiness of the priesthood, for the beauty of the consecrated life, and for the worthy praise of God. The so-called French School of spirituality, marked above all by the imperative of adoration and the virtue of religion, gravitated to the feast of November 21st as to the purest liturgical expression of the desire to be offered to God, to belong to God, and to abide in God’s house.
Virgo Sacerdos
When, in 1641, Jean-Jacques Olier (1608 – 1657) established the seminary of Saint-Sulpice, he placed it under the patronage of the Virgin Mary in the mystery of her Presentation in the Temple. The Child Mary, hidden in the Temple, learns the meaning of sacrifice and oblation; she is the sacerdotal Virgin, prepared by the Holy Spirit to stand at the altar of the Cross united to her Son, High Priest and immolated Lamb. Under the influence of the French Sulpicians, many religious congregations, established after the horrors of the French revolution, chose the feast of the Presentation of the Virgin Mary as their foundation day, the day of religious profession, and of the renewal of vows.
This feast is a wonderful prelude to Advent. According to Dom Gueranger:
Mary, led to the Temple in order to prepare in retirement, humility, and love for her incomparable destiny, had also the mission of perfecting at the foot of the figurative altar the prayer of the human race, of itself ineffectual to draw down the savior from heaven. (From Abbot Gueranger's The Liturgical Year, Vol XV )

Tuesday, November 17, 2015

St. Elizabeth of Hungary

On November 17 the Church gives us the feast of Saint Elizabeth of Hungary (1207-1231) who in her twenty-four years on earth embodied virtues which in today's world have almost ceased to exist: honesty, modesty, courage, chastity, self-denial and fidelity. She was not queen of Hungary, as many people think, but a princess. Her parents were the king and queen. Being royal in those days meant that your life was not your own. Marriages between two ruling families would form an alliance between countries and keep two countries from going to war. So from her infancy, Elizabeth was a living pledge of peace, since she was promised in marriage to the heir of Thuringia.

Elizabeth was sent to Germany at the age of four to be raised in the household of her betrothed, Louis of Thuringia, as was the practice of the time. It was heartbreaking for her parents to separate from their lively, dark-haired little girl, but they commended her to God and Our Lady. Louis' family disliked her, as was often the case with foreign royal brides, but he always cherished and protected his little fiancée. Elizabeth, although far from home, was a Magyar princess, and there was an intensity in her commitment to God and her husband which was repugnant to the placid Thuringians. They were married when Elisabeth was fourteen and Louis was about seventeen; he had inherited the dukedom of Thuringia from his father by then. Thuringia is roughly where Hesse-Darmstadt is now. In the thirteenth century it was a prosperous and powerful territory, although Louis was a duke, not a king.

Elizabeth had always shown a strong inclination toward piety as well as a great love of helping the needy and downtrodden. She opened a hospital for the poor in one of her castles and ran a soup kitchen. She was passionately in love with her husband, which is one of her most appealing aspects - she was a saint but she was also very much a woman. Louis truly loved his wife and sought for a fervent priest to guide her spiritual life. Unfortunately, her later confessor, the overzealous Conrad of Marburg, was excessively harsh with Elizabeth.

As Duchess, she established the Franciscan order in Thuringia and became herself a tertiary (with St. Louis of France, she is the patroness of tertiaries.) . Louis and Elizabeth had three children.

When Elizabeth was twenty, her husband died while on crusade. She ran shrieking through the castle, as if she had lost her mind. Her brother-in-law coveted the inheritance; he evicted Elizabeth and her three small children from their home. He forbade everyone in Thuringia to give them shelter. The little family had to hide in a pig pen from the rain. Poverty, loss and persecution did not embitter Elizabeth, as it would have embittered others, especially when it involved the suffering of her small children. She accepted everything from the hand of God.

Finally, someone got word to Elizabeth's father the King of Hungary, and he prevailed upon the Holy Roman Emperor to intervene. Elizabeth's lands were restored to her but she voluntarily chose holy poverty. After securing her children's welfare, she lived in a small room in the hospital she had founded and cared for the sick and the lepers. That would be like someone going to live with AIDS patients today.

Emperor Frederick begged for Elizabeth's hand in marriage but she refused. She died at the age of twenty-four and as she passed from this world a great light filled the room. Many miraculous cures were reported at her grave site. She was buried wearing the imperial crown which she had refused in life.

Thinking of St Elizabeth can help us when ever we feel afraid of poverty, or of being alone. Her spirit of humility and the renunciation of worldly honors can be imitated by all.

Saturday, November 14, 2015

Litany for France

From Vultus Christi:
O God the Father of mercies: — Have mercy upon us.
✢ O God the Son, who wept over Lazarus: — Have mercy upon us.
✢ O God the Holy Ghost, the Comforter: — Have mercy upon us. ✢ Holy Mary, assumed into heaven: — Have mercy upon us.
✢ Mother of Christ, Lady of Sorrows: — Have mercy upon us.
✢ Mary, our Advocate in this vale of tears: — Have mercy upon us.
✢ Saint Michael, heavenly defender of Christians: — Have mercy upon us.
✢ Saint Denis, faithful martyr of the Lamb: — Have mercy upon us.
✢ Saint Martin, merciful Confessor of Christ: — Have mercy upon us.
✢ Saint Genevieve, protector of Paris: — Have mercy upon us.
✢ Saint Remigius, Enlightener of the Franks: — Have mercy upon us.
✢ Saint Francis, Apostle to the Muslims: — Have mercy upon us.
✢ Saint Louis, champion of justice: — Have mercy upon us.
✢ Saint Joan, valiant in battle: — Have mercy upon us.
✢ Saint Vincent de Paul, captive of the Turks: — Have mercy upon us.
✢ Saint Therese, little martyr of love: — Have mercy upon us.
✢ Blessed Charles, brother of Christ and of all men: — Have mercy on us.
✢ All ye Saints of France: — Have mercy upon us.
✢ All ye holy Martyrs and Confessors: — Have mercy upon us.
✢ All ye Saints of God, men and women: — Have mercy upon us.
✢ O Lord, be merciful: — Spare us, O Lord.
✢ From all evil, — Spare us, O Lord.
✢ From all sin, — Spare us, O Lord.
✢ From thy wrath, — Spare us, O Lord.
✢ From a sudden and unprovided death, — Spare us, O Lord.
✢ From anger, hatred, and all ill-will, — Spare us, O Lord.
✢ From plague, famine, and war, — Spare us, O Lord.
✢ From everlasting death, — Spare us, O Lord.
✢ O Lamb of God, that takest away the sins of the world, grant them rest.
✢ O Lamb of God, that takest away the sins of the world, grant them rest.
✢ O Lamb of God, that takest away the sins of the world, grant them rest eternal.
V. Give peace in our time, O Lord.
R. For it is thou, Lord, only, that makest us dwell in safety.
Let us pray.
Do well, O Lord, unto those that are good and true of heart; grant the rule of thy salvation, watch over thy people’s safety with constant care, and restrain with thy right hand the rage of the enemy. Through Jesus Christ, thy Son our Lord: Who livest and reignest with thee, in the unity of the Holy Ghost, ever one God, world without end. Amen.
✢ Most Sacred Heart of Jesus: — Have mercy upon us, and upon France.
✢ Most Sacred Heart of Jesus: — Have mercy upon us, and upon France.
✢ Most Sacred Heart of Jesus: — Have mercy upon us, and upon France.

Dom Benedict wrote this litany upon hearing of the terrorist attacks in Paris on Friday, 13 November 2015.
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