Thursday, December 31, 2015

Happy New Year!

As Saint Thérèse of the Child Jesus said, "As this year has gone, so our life will go, and soon we shall say 'it is gone.' Let us not waste our time; soon eternity will shine for us."

Sunday, December 27, 2015

Feast of the Holy Family

St. Joseph most obedient. To quote:
Look closely at the obedience of Saint Joseph, his obedience in the dark night of faith. Joseph’s obedience allows the whole mystery of Israel — the going down into Egypt and the back up — to be revealed and completed in Christ. In some way the “Do this in memory of me” (Lk 22:19) of the Last Supper is made possible by Joseph’s obedience to the commandments delivered to him in the night.
Twice Saint Joseph obeys the word of the angel who visits him by night. Twice Saint Matthew uses the very same formula to evoke the obedience of Saint Joseph: “And Joseph rose and too the child and his mother by night, and departed to Egypt” (Mt 2:14); and again, “And he rose and took the child and his mother and went into the land of Israel” (Mt 2:21).
 Where is the source of Saint Joseph’s obedience? Is it in the word of the Angel? The Angel appears in a dream. Is anything more fleeting than a dream? If we remember our dreams at all in the morning, we do so in a vague and hazy way. Rarely do we find in our dreams the strength to make great changes in our lives. Dreams may sow suggestions in the imagination; rarely do we translate them into action, especially when they ask of us what Saint Benedict calls “things that are hard and repugnant to nature in the way to God” (RB 58:8). (Read more.)

Monday, December 14, 2015

The Mystical Doctor

A few years ago our Pope Emeritus offered a beautiful meditation on Our Holy Father Saint John of the Cross.
John is considered one of the most important lyric poets of Spanish literature. His most important works are four: "Ascent of Mount Carmel," "Dark Night of the Soul," "Spiritual Canticle," "Living Flame of Love."

In the "Spiritual Canticle," St. John presents the path of purification of the soul, that is, the progressive joyful possession of God until the soul feels that it loves God with the same love that it is loved by him.

The "Living Flame of Love" continues in this perspective, describing in greater detail the transforming union with God. The example used by John is always that of fire: as the fire burns and consumes the wood, it becomes incandescent flame, so also the Holy Spirit, who during the dark night purifies and "cleanses" the soul, then in time illumines and warms it as if it were a flame. The life of the soul is a continuous celebration of the Holy Spirit, that enables one to perceive the glory of the union with God in eternity.

The "Ascent of Mount Carmel" presents the spiritual itinerary from the point of view of the progressive purification of the soul, necessary to ascend to the summit of Christian perfection, symbolized by the summit of Mount Carmel. This purification is proposed as a journey that man undertakes, collaborating with divine action to free the soul from all attachment or affection contrary to the will of God. The purification, which to arrive at union of love with God must be total, begins with the way of the senses and continues with the one obtained through the three theological virtues -- faith, hope and charity -- the purification of intention, memory and will.

The "Dark Night" describes the "passive" aspect, that is, God's intervention in the process of "purification" of the soul. On its own, in fact, human effort is incapable of getting to the profound roots of the person's bad inclinations and habits: It can restrain them, but not uproot them totally. To do so, the special action of God is necessary, which purifies the spirit radically and disposes it to the union of love with him. St. John describes this purification as "passive" precisely because, though accepted by the soul, it is realized by the mysterious action of the Holy Spirit who, as a flame of fire, consumes every impurity. In this state, the soul is subjected to all types of trials, as if it were in a dark night.

These indications on the saint's principal works help us to approach the outstanding points of his vast and profound mystical doctrine, whose objective is to describe a sure way to arrive at sanctity, the state of perfection to which God calls us all. According to John of the Cross, everything that exists, created by God, is good. Through creatures, we can come to the discovery of the One who has left his imprint on them. Faith, however, is the only source given to man to know God exactly as he is in himself, as God One and Triune. All that God willed to communicate to man he said in Jesus Christ, his Word made flesh. He, Jesus Christ, is the only and definitive way to the Father (cf. John 14:6). Anything created is nothing compared with God, and nothing is true outside of him. Consequently, to come to perfect love of God, every other love must be conformed in Christ to divine love.

This is where John of the Cross derives his insistence on the need for purification and interior emptying in order to be transformed in God, which is the sole end of perfection. This "purification" does not consist in the simple physical lack of things or of their use. What the pure and free soul does, instead, is to eliminate every disordered dependence on things. Everything must be placed in God as center and end of life. The long and difficult process of purification exacts personal effort, but the true protagonist is God: all that man can do is to "dispose" himself, to be open to the divine action and not place obstacles in its way.

Living the theological virtues, man is elevated and gives value to his own effort. The rhythm of growth of faith, hope and charity goes in step with the work of purification and with progressive union with God until one is transformed in him. When one arrives at this end, the soul is submerged in the very Trinitarian life, such that St. John affirms that the soul is able to love God with the same love with which he loves it, because he loves it in the Holy Spirit. This is why the Mystical Doctor holds that there is no true union of love with God if it does not culminate in the Trinitarian union. In this supreme state the holy soul knows everything in God and no longer has to go through creatures to come to him. The soul now feels inundated by divine love and is completely joyful in it. (Read more.)

Saturday, December 12, 2015

The Virgin of Guadalupe

Women's Guild explores the symbols hidden in the miraculous image, saying:
Clothing is often so much more than a few pretty things to wear, as the iconography of Our Lady of Guadalupe shows. It is important to bear in mind her status as the most important Mexican religious and cultural symbol, from her apparition to an indigenous Mexican, Juan Diego, during a period of conversion to Christianity from the Aztec religion, to her role as a symbol of national unity during the War of Independence.

Sun and moon: as in Revelation 12:1, "arrayed with the sun, and the moon under her feet, and upon her head a crown of twelve stars". However in this case the stars are on the cloak and there are far more than twelve. Another interpretation is of an image of triumph over the Aztec sun and moon deities -in fact the little squashed figure underneath may be a winged moon god.

Cloak: Blue and green were Aztec colours of divinity. I have seen detailed argument that the arrangement of stars is that which appeared in the night sky on the date of the apparition, although to my untrained eye they do seem quite regularly spaced.

Dress: Rose coloured, as one might expect given that the apparition story involves the production of Castilian roses from a Mexican hill. Interpretations of the pattern range from more roses, to a contour map of Mexico.

Belt: A black belt was an Aztec symbol of pregnancy.

Brooch: On the original icon, and some detailed reproductions, it is possible to see a cross shaped brooch at her neck. Despite the indigenous influences, she is definitely a Christian figure.

So, the clothing of one relatively simple and well known image of Our Lady can lead to many interesting discoveries -more of her political and social implications as a Mexican national symbol are discussed in this essay.

Tuesday, December 8, 2015

The Jubilee of Mercy

"The Immaculate Conception" by Bartolomeo Altomonte
The Jubilee of Mercy begins today, the Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception, and will end on the Solemnity of Christ the King on November 20, 2016. Any Jubilee Year is a time when the Church opens the coffers of her graces to the faithful and penitent. Our Holy Father Pope Francis has placed a special emphasis on the Mercy of Our Savior, which brings to mind the devotions of the Sacred Heart of Jesus and the Divine Mercy. There is also special relation of today's feast with the Mercy of God. To quote from Our Holy Father's Bull of the Extraordinary Jubilee of Mercy:
This liturgical feast day recalls God’s action from the very beginning of the history of mankind. After the sin of Adam and Eve, God did not wish to leave humanity alone in the throes of evil. And so he turned his gaze to Mary, holy and immaculate in love (cf. Eph 1:4), choosing her to be the Mother of man’s Redeemer. When faced with the gravity of sin, God responds with the fullness of mercy. Mercy will always be greater than any sin, and no one can place limits on the love of God who is ever ready to forgive. I will have the joy of opening the Holy Door on the Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception. On that day, the Holy Door will become a Door of Mercy through which anyone who enters will experience the love of God who consoles, pardons, and instills hope. 
On the following Sunday, the Third Sunday of Advent, the Holy Door of the Cathedral of Rome – that is, the Basilica of Saint John Lateran – will be opened. In the following weeks, the Holy Doors of the other Papal Basilicas will be opened. On the same Sunday, I will announce that in every local church, at the cathedral – the mother church of the faithful in any particular area – or, alternatively, at the co-cathedral or another church of special significance, a Door of Mercy will be opened for the duration of the Holy Year. At the discretion of the local ordinary, a similar door may be opened at any shrine frequented by large groups of pilgrims, since visits to these holy sites are so often grace-filled moments, as people discover a path to conversion. Every Particular Church, therefore, will be directly involved in living out this Holy Year as an extraordinary moment of grace and spiritual renewal. Thus the Jubilee will be celebrated both in Rome and in the Particular Churches as a visible sign of the Church’s universal communion. (Read more.)
Here is a Litany of Trust in the Mercy of Christ from Vultus Christi:
Let Thy mercy, O Lord, be upon us,
as we have placed our trust in Thee.
For myself, a poor sinner,
I trust in Thy mercy.
For all whom I have offended,
I trust in Thy mercy.
For all who have offended me,
I trust in Thy mercy.
For all whom Thou hast brought into my life,
I trust in Thy mercy.
For all whom Thou hast entrusted to my prayer,
I trust in Thy mercy.
For all Thy priests,
I trust in Thy mercy.
For my family
I trust in Thy mercy.
For the sick,
I trust in Thy mercy.
For the dying,
I trust in Thy mercy.
For prisoners,
I trust in Thy mercy.
For those who are farthest from Thee,
I trust in Thy mercy.
For those who persecute Thee in the members of Thy Mystical Body,
I trust in Thy mercy.
For those who kill Thee in the unborn,
I trust in Thy mercy.
For those who perpetrate violence,
I trust in Thy mercy.
For those who harbour resentment in their hearts,
I trust in Thy mercy.
For those enslaved to money, pleasure, and power,
I trust in Thy mercy.
For those who treat with irreverence, mockery, and scorn
the adorable Mysteries of Thy Body and Blood,

I trust in Thy mercy.
For those who blaspheme Thy Most Holy Name,
I trust in Thy mercy.
For those who dishonour Sunday, the Day of Thy Resurrection,
I trust in Thy mercy.
For those who revile Thy Bride, the Church,
I trust in Thy mercy.
For those who have fallen away from the Holy Catholic Faith,
I trust in Thy mercy.
For those who are consumed by hatred,
I trust in Thy mercy.
For those who will face death in despair,
I trust in Thy mercy.
For those who remain impenitent in their last hour,
I trust in Thy mercy.
For those who have taken their own lives,
I trust in Thy mercy.
For all the Holy Souls in Purgatory,
I trust in Thy mercy.
For those who will die this day,
I trust in Thy mercy.
For those who no longer believe in mercy,
I trust in Thy mercy.
For those who refuse to show mercy,
I trust in Thy mercy.
For all poor sinners,
I trust in Thy mercy.
Let Thy mercy, O Lord, be upon us,
as we have placed our trust in Thee.

Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception

Fr. Angelo has a magnificent post about our Queen. To quote:
This interpretation of the doctrine of the Immaculate Conception is confirmed and strengthened with the support of the Church’s understanding of Apocalypse 12, another militant passage in which the Woman is pitted against the serpent (this time in the form of a red dragon). In this passage Our Lady is clothed with sun, stands on the moon and is crowned with twelve stars. In some images of the Immaculate Conception of the Imagery of Genesis 3 and Apocalypse 12 are combined, both strengthening the symbolism and using the one passage to interpret the other (as Ruben’s renders it above). This imagery of Apocalypse 12 indicates both a state of militancy and triumph. Our Lady is both suffering here on earth and glorified in heaven. This is because She is the personification of the Church, which is both militant and triumphant. Those of us who still suffer already share in the victory of those who have passed through the veil. This is particularly true in the way in which we participate in the victory of the Woman. (Read more.)
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