Sunday, December 31, 2017

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."

Saturday, December 30, 2017

The Passion of the Infant Christ

I love Caryll Houselander's book, The Passion of the Infant Christ. From Fr. Mark:
Houselander understood that nothing of the paschal mystery of Christ is locked in an irretrievable past. The liturgy is the passion of the Infant Christ made present to us and for us, here and now, in all its fullness. Are you in Egypt, “groaning under bondage” (Ex 2:23), learning to pray in suffering? Are you wandering in a desert waste, tortured by hunger and thirst, a prey to temptations and terrors of the night? Have you crossed over into that good and broad land where milk and honey flow? Through the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass the Infant Christ is with you, his prayer in yours, and yours in his: a prayer that says “Yes” to the wood of the cradle, to the wood of the Cross, and to everything that lies in between.

Caryll Houselander, a woman of our own times, a woman “acquainted with grief” (Is 53:3) can, I think, help us understand something of the mystery of the Innocent Christ, something of the mystery of suffering innocence in each of us. “The Divine Infancy in us,” she wrote, “is the logical answer to the peculiar sufferings of our age and the only solution to its problems. If the Infant Christ is fostered in us, no life is trivial. No life is impotent before suffering, no suffering is too trifling to heal the world, too little to redeem, to be the point at which the world’s healing begins.” (Read more.)

Friday, December 29, 2017

"The Holy Blissful Martyr"


Today is the feast of St. Thomas Becket, who was killed not by pagans but by his own Catholic brethren. To quote:
Today is the 5th day of Christmas, I hope you are still keeping the feast. In 117o St Thomas Becket, Archbishop of Canterbury was hacked to death by three knights in his own Cathedral. One of the things I love about St Thomas is that he didn't go quietly, he shouted, he swore, he cursed his assailants. Whilst all this was going on the monks continued to sing Vespers. They left his bloody body before the altar where he had been slain. (Read more.)

Thursday, December 28, 2017

Holy Innocents



Hail, martyr flowers!
On the very threshold of your life
Christ's persecutor destroyed you,
As a whirlwind does the budding roses.
~
Salvete flores martyrum
According to Butler's Lives:
Our Divine Redeemer was persecuted by the world as soon as he made his appearance in it. For he was no sooner born than it declared war against him. Herod, in persecuting Christ, was an emblem of Satan and of the world. That ambitious and jealous prince had already sacrificed to his fears and suspicions the most illustrious part of his council, his virtuous wife Mariamne, with her mother Alexandra, the two sons he had by her, and the heirs to his crown, and all his best friends. Hearing from the magians who were come from distant countries to find and adore Christ that the Messias, or spiritual king of the Jews, foretold by the prophets, was born among them, he trembled lest he was come to take his temporal kingdom from him. So far are the thoughts of carnal and worldly men from the ways of God, and so strangely do violent passions blind and alarm them. The tyrant was disturbed beyond measure and resolved to take away the life of this child, as if he could have defeated the decrees of heaven. He had recourse to his usual arts of policy and dissimulation, and hoped to receive intelligence of the child by feigning a desire himself to adore him. But God laughed at the folly of his short-sighted prudence, and admonished the magians not to return to him. St. Joseph was likewise ordered by an angel to take the child and his mother, and to fly into Egypt. Is our Blessed Redeemer, the Lord of the universe, to be banished as soon as born....
Fr. Mark writes of the Passion of the Infant Christ, HERE. To quote:
I can never celebrate this feast of the Holy Innocents without returning to a book written many years ago by Caryll Houselander: The Passion of the Infant Christ. Writing in London during the Second World War — literally “under the bombs” — she was inspired to speak of the Passion of the Infant Christ. Seeing the sufferings of her own life and of those she loved with the pure vision of one become a child in Christ, she recognized in both cradle and cross wood hewn from the same tree.
The way to begin the healing of the wounds of the world is to treasure the Infant Christ in us; to be not the castle but the cradle of Christ, and in rocking that cradle to the rhythm of love, to swing the whole world back into the beat of the Music of Eternal Life. It is true that the span of an Infant’s arms is absurdly short; but if they are the arms of the Divine Child, they are as wide as the reach of the arms on the cross; they embrace and support the whole world; their shadow is the noonday shade for its suffering people; they are the spread wings under which the whole world shall find shelter and rest (Caryll Houselander, The Passion of the Infant Christ).
Houselander understood that nothing of the paschal mystery of Christ is locked in an irretrievable past. The liturgy is the passion of the Infant Christ made present to us and for us, here and now, in all its fullness. Are you in Egypt, “groaning under bondage” (Ex 2:23), learning to pray in suffering? Are you wandering in a desert waste, tortured by hunger and thirst, a prey to temptations and terrors of the night? Have you crossed over into that good and broad land where milk and honey flow? Through the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass the Infant Christ is with you, his prayer in yours, and yours in his: a prayer that says “Yes” to the wood of the cradle, to the wood of the Cross, and to everything that lies in between. (Read more.)

Wednesday, December 27, 2017

St. John's Day

The love of things invisible. (From Vultus Christi.)
The Johannine chorus speaks with the unmistakable authority of those who have gone into the wine-cellar and rested beneath the banner of love (cf. Ct 2:4-5). Their breath is fragrant with honey and with the honeycomb, of wine and of milk: that is with the imperishable sweetness of the Holy Spirit, with the Blood of the Lamb and with the pure milk of the living Word of God. These are the ones who have eaten and drunk, drunk deeply (cf. Ct 5:1) of the streams of living water that flow ever fresh from the pierced Heart of the Bridegroom (cf. Jn 7:37-38). These are the descendants of Saint John the Beloved, those to whom the Father has given the eagle’s vision, those who are little enough and poor enough to be borne aloft and carried away into the “love of things invisible,” as the Christmas Preface puts it. (Read entire post.)

Tuesday, December 26, 2017

St. Stephen the First Martyr


"Lord Jesus, receive my spirit!" From Scott Richert:
Not much is known about Saint Stephen's origin. He is first mentioned in Acts 6:5, when the apostles appoint seven deacons in order to minister to the physical needs of the faithful. Because Stephen is a Greek name (Stephanos), and because the appointment of the deacons occurred in response to complaints by Greek-speaking Jewish Christians, it is generally assumed that Stephen was himself a Hellenist. However, a tradition arising in the fifth century claims that Stephen's original name was Kelil, an Aramaic word that means "crown," and he was called Stephen because Stephanos is the Greek equivalent.
In any case, Stephen's ministry was conducted among Greek-speaking Jews, some of whom were not open to the Gospel of Christ. Stephen is described in Acts 6:5 as "full of faith, and of the Holy Ghost" and in Acts 6:8 as "full of grace and fortitude," and his talents for preaching were so great those Hellenist Jews who disputed his teaching "were not able to resist the wisdom and the spirit that spoke" (Acts 6:10).
Unable to combat Stephen's preaching, his opponents found men who were willing to lie about what Saint Stephen taught, to claim that "they had heard him speak words of blasphemy against Moses and against God" (Acts 6:11). In a scene reminiscent of Christ's own appearance before the Sanhedrin (cf. Mark 14:56-58), Stephen's opponents produced witnesses who claimed that "we have heard him say, that this Jesus of Nazareth shall destroy this place [the temple], and shall change the traditions which Moses delivered unto us" (Acts 6:14). (Read more.)

(Image)

Monday, December 25, 2017

Merry Christmas!

And a Happy New Year! Thanks to everyone who has visited this blog in 2017~ I have prayed for you all at Mass this Christmas Day. Please pray for me.
Welcome, all wonders in one sight!

       Eternity shut in a span;

Summer in winter; day in night;

       Heaven in earth, and God in man.

Great little one, whose all-embracing birth

Lifts earth to heaven, stoops heav’n to earth.
 ~  from "In the Holy Nativity of Our Lord" by Richard Crashaw

Sunday, December 24, 2017

The Three Masses of Christmas

When speaking of Holy Communion in the Way of Perfection (Ch. 34), St. Teresa of Avila said: "This is something that is happening now." In the Christmas liturgy, the Church teaches us that the birth of Jesus is not just something that happened two thousand years ago in Bethlehem. Our Lord's nativity is something that is happening now, especially through participation in the Mass, and in the liturgy of the hours which radiate from it. In The Church's Year of Grace, Fr. Pius Parsch explains that this is why the word hodie or "today" is repeated again and again in the Christmas Masses and offices. The Invitatory for December 24 proclaims: "Today you will know the Lord is coming, and in the morning you will see His glory." We are called to Midnight Mass with this antiphon: "The Lord said to me: You are my Son. Today I have begotten you." At Morning Prayer (Lauds) we say: "Today the Savior of the world is born for you." The antiphon for the Canticle of Mary closes the most joyful of feasts with the words: "Christ the Lord is born today; today the Savior has appeared...."

Dom Gueranger comments: "...This today is the Day of eternity, a Day which has neither morning nor evening, neither rising nor setting." (The Liturgical Year, Vol. II) Through the sacraments, especially through the Eucharistic sacrifice, we already belong to that Day of eternity. At Christmas Mass, we truly and mystically assist at His birth.

Christmas is celebrated with three Masses. At Midnight Mass, the angels marvel at the Word made flesh, born of the Virgin Mary. The Dawn Mass sees the shepherds hurrying to the stable to adore the newborn King. The third Mass celebrates the Eternal Word, Who is the Son begotten of the Father from all eternity.
Jesus, Who is born tonight, is born thrice. He is born of the Blessed Virgin, in the stable of Bethlehem; he is born by grace, in the hearts of the shepherds, who are the first fruits of the Christian Church; and He is born from all eternity in the bosom of the Father, in the brightness of the saints: to this triple birth, therefore, let there be the homage of a triple Sacrifice! (Dom Gueranger, The Liturgical Year, Vol. II)

Christmas Eve


Today you will know the Lord is coming, and in the morning you will see His glory. ~Invitatory Antiphon for December 24. (Thanks to Karen for the picture.)

The Christmas Martyrology.
In the five thousand one hundred and ninety-ninth year of the creation of the world from the time when God in the beginning created the heavens and the earth;
the two thousand nine hundred and fifty-seventh year after the flood;

the two thousand and fifteenth year from the birth of Abraham;
the one thousand five hundred and tenth year from Moses and the going forth of the people of Israel from Egypt;
the one thousand and thirty-second year from David's being anointed king; in the sixty-fifth week according to the prophecy of Daniel;
in the one hundred and ninety-fourth Olympiad;
the seven hundred and fifty-second year from the foundation of the city of Rome;
the forty second year of the reign of Octavian Augustus;
the whole world being at peace,
in the sixth age of the world, Jesus Christ the eternal God and Son of the eternal Father, desiring to sanctify the world by his most merciful coming, being conceived by the Holy Spirit, and nine months having passed since his conception, was born in Bethlehem of Judea of the Virgin Mary, being made flesh.
Listen to the Christmas martyrology chanted at Silverstream Abbey in Ireland.

Saturday, December 23, 2017

O Emmanuel

O Emmanuel, our King and Lawgiver, the Expectation and Savior of the nations! come and save us, O Lord our God!
Fr. Mark's commentary is here:
O Virgo Virginum

O Virgo Virginum, the last of the Great O Antiphons in the old English liturgy of Sarum , occurs on December 23rd. Its structure is quite different from all the other Great O Antiphons. The first part is a question addressed to the Virgin Mary; in the second part she replies with another question, and then, gives her answer.
O Virgin of virgins, how shall this be?
For neither before thee was any like thee, nor shall there be after.
Daughters of Jerusalem, why marvel ye at me?
That which ye behold is a divine mystery.
Here, at Silverstream Priory, since December 17th, we have been singing O Virgo Virginum as the Marian Antiphon at the end of None.

O Emmanuel
Like the six Great O Antiphons that preceded it, O Emmanuel is addressed to our Lord Jesus Christ. It seems to me that, with each succeeding day, the O of our invocation, and the Veni of our supplication has grown more confident, more intense and, in a sense, more urgent.

Afraid Never Again
Writing in 1964, Mother Marie des Douleurs Wrotnowska, the foundress of the Congregation of Benedictines of Jesus Crucified, offers us a somewhat anguished meditation on the Great Antiphon O Emmanuel. It appears to come out of an experience of weakness, fear, and uncertainty. Some would dismiss it as deeply pessimistic and too gloomy for Advent. I sense something else in it: the prayer of woman wrestling with her inner demons, as we all do, and confident nonetheless in the mystery of God-with-us. This is what she wrote:
Emmanuel. Could we have found a name more sweet? God-with-us. That is to say that nothing in our difficulties, our misunderstandings, our sorrows, even in our agony, will find us alone. We will always have Someone with us, Someone present in our very heart to give the strength and light necessary in those moments.
Also, at the same time, our Beloved is always before us. He is the All-Powerful and He wants that we should be saints, all of us. Therefore, we never again need to be afraid. We can be certain that, should it be called for, even heroism is within our reach because our Companion on the road, our daily Food, is always there. We know that He is in us and we know what He asks of us. We know to what degree of detachment and to what gift of self He calls us. We know to what point we must be found holy at the moment of our death.
(Read more.)
 Now all is fulfilled....Ecce completa sunt omnia....(Lauds of December 23)

(Artwork courtesy of Micki)

Friday, December 22, 2017

O Rex Gentium

O King of nations, and their desired One, and the cornerstone that makes both one; come and save man whom thou formed out of earth.
Here is an excerpt of Fr. Mark's excellent commentary:
By calling the Messiah the “Desired of all nations,” Scripture and the Sacred Liturgy recognize the aspirations of every nation and culture towards the good, the true, and the beautiful, as aspirations towards Christ. In every culture there are traces of a mysterious preparation for the Gospel. Every time a human being seeks the splendour of the truth, the radiance of beauty, the purity of goodness, he seeks the Face of Christ, the “Desired of all nations.” When the missionary Church proclaims Our Lord Jesus Christ, she is proclaiming the “Desired of all nations.”
To Proclaim Jesus Christ
Without knowing His adorable Name, without having seen His Face, without having been told of His Heart opened by the soldier’s lance, the nations of the earth desire Christ and wait for Him, insofar as they desire and wait for truth, beauty, and goodness. The missionary task of Christians is to preach the Name of Jesus, to point to His Face, and to bear witness to His pierced Heart, saying, “Here is the truth, here is the goodness, here is the beauty you desire: Jesus Christ, the Son of God, born of the Virgin Mary, crucified, risen from the dead, ascended into glory, and coming again.”

In an important “Doctrinal Note On Some Aspects of Evangelization,” the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith reaffirmed the Church’s commitment to the missionary mandate received from Our Lord. First, the document identified the problem:
There is today . . . a growing confusion which leads many to leave the missionary command of the Lord unheard and ineffective (cf. Mt 28:19). Often it is maintained that any attempt to convince others on religious matters is a limitation of their freedom. From this perspective, it would only be legitimate to present one’s own ideas and to invite people to act according to their consciences, without aiming at their conversion to Christ and to the Catholic faith. It is enough, so they say, to help people to become more human or more faithful to their own religion; it is enough to build communities which strive for justice, freedom, peace and solidarity. Furthermore, some maintain that Christ should not be proclaimed to those who do not know him, nor should joining the Church be promoted, since it would also be possible to be saved without explicit knowledge of Christ and without formal incorporation in the Church.
(Read more.)

(Artwork courtesy of Holy Cards)

Thursday, December 21, 2017

O Oriens


O Orient! Splendor of eternal light, and the Sun of justice! come and enlighten them that sit in darkness and in the shadow of death.
There is no need to be afraid, in five more days Our Lord will come to us. (Benedictus Antiphon for December 21)

Fr. Mark explains the reason why the Mass was traditionally said facing east, ad orientem.
Oriens: the word is familiar because every morning the Church sings: “Per viscera misericordiae Dei nostri — literally, through the inmost heart, the secret places of the mercy of our God — in quibus visitavit nos Oriens ex alto — in which the Orient from on high has visited us” (Lk 1:79). Oriens was the name of the ancient Roman sun god, the source of warmth, energy, and light. At the same time, Oriens means the rising sun, the victory of light over the shadows of the night. From the earliest times, Christians at prayer have turned towards the East. Christ is the Dayspring, the rising sun who dawns upon us from high “to give light to those in darkness and in the shadow of death” (Luke 1:9). The eastward orientation of churches and altars is a way of expressing the great cry of every Eucharist: “Let our hearts be lifted high. We hold them towards the Lord.”

When, in the celebration of the liturgy, the priest faces the “liturgical east,” he is “guiding the people in pilgrimage towards the Kingdom” and with them, keeping watch for the return of the Lord. “This Jesus, who was taken up from you into heaven, will come in the same way as you saw him go into heaven” (Acts 1:11). Pope Benedict XVI has reminded us that a powerful witness is given in the prayer of a priest and people who stand together facing eastward and giving voice to the same hope. “The Spirit and the Bride say, ‘Come.’ And let him who hears say, ‘Come’” (Revelation 22:17).  (Read more.)

(Thanks to Micki for the picture)

Wednesday, December 20, 2017

O Clavis David

O Key of David and scepter of the House of Israel! who opens and no man shuts, who shuts and no man opens; come, lead the captive from prison, sitting in darkness and the shadow of death.
Here is some commentary from Fr. Mark:
 The antiphon draws its invocation from the twenty-second chapter of Isaiah. The Lord says to Shebna, the master of the household of King Hezekiah, “And it shall come to pass in that day, that I will call my servant Eliakim the son of Helkias, and I will clothe him with thy robe, and will strengthen him with thy girdle, and will give thy power into his hand: and he shall be as a father to the inhabitants of Jerusalem, and to the house of Juda. And I will lay the key of the house of David upon his shoulder: and he shall open, and none shall shut: and he shall shut and none shall open. And I will fasten him as a peg in a sure place, and he shall be for a throne of glory to the house of his father” (Is 22:20-23). (Read more.)

(Artwork courtesy of Holy Cards for your Inspiration)

Tuesday, December 19, 2017

O Radix Jesse


O Root of Jesse, who stands as the ensign of the people; before whom kings shall fall silent; to whom the nations shall pray: come and deliver us, do not delay.
Here is commentary from Fr. Mark:
O Root of Jesse

The image of the Root of Jesse comes from the eleventh chapter of Isaiah where he says, “And there shall come forth a rod out of the root of Jesse, and a flower shall rise up out of His root” (Is 11:1). It is the passage that enumerates the gifts of the Holy Ghost; from the Vulgate, the Catholic tradition counts seven gifts. “And the spirit of the Lord shall rest upon Him: the spirit of wisdom, and of understanding, the spirit of counsel, and of fortitude, the spirit of knowledge, and of godliness. And He shall be filled with the spirit of the fear of the Lord” (Is 11:2-3). This means that when we cry out, “Come,” to the Root of Jesse who is Christ, we are, in the same prayer, invoking the Holy Ghost who, in His sevenfold gift, comes to us with the Son.

The Tree of the Cross

Isaiah goes on to say in the tenth verse of the same chapter: “On that day the root of Jesse shall stand as a signal to the peoples; the nations shall inquire of Him.” The Root of Jesse is given, not only to Israel, but as a signal to the nations, a standard around which all peoples will rally. In fulfillment of Isaiah’s prophecy, Jesus says of himself, “And I, when I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all men to myself” (Jn 12:32). The Root of Jesse is already the profile of the Cross: a figure of the glorious standard of the King, the Vexilla Regis of which we sing in the Vespers hymn of September 14th. Today’s O Antiphon opens onto the paschal mystery: the Root of Jesse announces that the advent of the Son is ordered to the mission of redemption that He will accomplish on the Tree of the Cross. (Read more.)
Here is a quote from the ancient Ambrosian liturgy:
Blessed is the womb of the Virgin Mary, which bore the invisible God.
There did he deign to dwell, whom seven thrones cannot hold

And she bore him as a light weight in her womb.

(from Dom Gueranger's The Liturgical Year, Vol I)

(Artwork from Holy Cards)

Monday, December 18, 2017

O Adonai

O Adonai and leader of the House of Israel, who appeared to Moses in the fire of the flaming bush, and gave him the law on Sinai, come and redeem us by thy outstretched arm.

From Vultus Christi:
Again today the great cry goes up, a cry wrung from the depths of our being, a cry framed between two expressive words: O and Veni. The musical treatment of both words is the same: do-fa-mi. The interval do-fa is a stretching heavenward. We hardly reach the dominant fa of our confidence when we fall to the precarious mi, an unstable note in the second mode, one that suggests just how fragile we are. The mi is suspended: we have cast our prayer upward into the heavens. The uncertainty of the mi obliges us to hope against hope, to believe without seeing, to abandon our prayer once we have thrown it into the heavens, trusting that the hand of God will receive it and take it to heart.
ADONAI
Yesterday we called to the Christ, naming Him Wisdom, Sapientia; today we call Him ADONAI, Sacred Lord, Master of All, Majesty. Today we have the most Jewish of the O Antiphons: ADONAI, Moses, and Sinai — the Lord God, the man of God, and the mountain of God are named in a single brief prayer. ADONAI is used frequently in the Hebrew scriptures. The Jews use it in place of the holy and unutterable name, the name that it is forbidden to pronounce. You see, then, the significance of this name given to Christ. Christ is the “angel of God” who appeared to Moses in a flame of fire out of the midst of a bush (cf. Ex 3:2). “And, lo, the bush was burning, yet it was not consumed. And Moses said, ‘I will turn aside and see this great sight, why the bush is not burnt” (Ex 3:2-3). (Read more.)

(Artwork courtesy of Micki)

Sunday, December 17, 2017

The Great Antiphons: O Sapientia

Today the "O Antiphons" begin at Vespers. The antiphon for today is O Sapientia.
O Wisdom coming forth from the mouth of the Most High God, Your lordship is over all that is, stretching from the beginning to the end, You who order all things with might and with sweetness, come teach us the path of prudence.
Fr. Mark has a beautiful meditation on the meaning of true wisdom. To quote:
We call upon Christ as Holy Wisdom, the eternal Wisdom of the Father, and we make a very specific petition: “Come, teach us the way of prudence.” What is prudence? It is the habit of using our reason, in every circumstance, to discern what is our true good and of choosing the means to achieve it. Saint Thomas calls prudence “right reason in action.” Prudence is an austere virtue because it means that we will not allow our decisions, our course of action, or our reactions to be determined by our emotions.
When we allow our choices to be determined by fear–fear of loss, fear of rejection, fear of making a mistake, fear of failure, fear of the future, or any other fear–we are not being prudent. When we allow our choices to be determined by an unwise love, a disordered love, we are not being prudent. When we choose impulsively, we are not being prudent. When we delay choosing and put off acting, we are not being prudent. Prudence has to do with choosing wisely so as to act wisely. And so today, we cry out to Wisdom, begging to be taught the way of prudence. (Read more.)

(Artwork courtesy of Micki)

Gaudete Sunday

It is Gaudete Sunday. Let us rejoice, for the Lord is near. As Fr. Mark says:
Today’s Introit is one of the few drawn from Saint Paul. It is an exhortation to joy, but its mood is quiet and reflective. “Joy to you in the Lord at all times; once again I wish you joy. Give proof to all of your courtesy. The Lord is near. Nothing must make you anxious; in every need, make your requests known to God, praying and beseeching Him, and giving Him thanks as well” (Phil 4:4-6). What the Latin gives as, “gaudete,” and the English as “rejoice,” is astonishingly rich in Saint Paul’s Greek. Any one translation would be inadequate. Paul says, “chaírete.” It is the very same word used by the angel Gabriel to greet the Virgin of Nazareth. “Chaire, kecharitoménè!” “Joy to you, O full of grace!” (Lk 1:28). The word is untranslatable. Just when we think we have seized its meaning once and for all, another door opens inside it. “Chaírete” was the ordinary greeting of the Greeks. It embraces health, salvation, loveliness, grace, and joy, all at once. In the mouth and in the ear of Christians, the taste of the word is indescribable. “Grace to you, and loveliness, and joy in the Lord; again I wish you grace, and loveliness, and joy” (Phil 4:4). Paul’s greeting is not so much an imperative — a command to be joyful — as it is the imparting of a gift in the Lord. “What I wish for you, what I send you, what I give you in the Lord is grace, and loveliness, and joy.” (Read entire post.)

Saturday, December 16, 2017

The Miraculous Birth of Christ

An explanation of the ancient and constant teaching of the Church of Our Lady's painless delivery of Christ. To quote:
...There have questions about whether Mary’s delivery of Christ was: A) painless, and B) left her physical virginity intact. Some have felt that it somehow undermines the humanity of Christ to assert these Catholic beliefs. We must recall that Christ walked on water, was transfigured on Mount Tabor, exited the sepulcher before it was opened, and walked through locked doors. None of these facts undermine the humanity of Christ. Consequently, to believe that Christ exited the womb of the Blessed Mother in a mysterious way is neither credulous or impious. Rather, it is the conviction of the holiest and brightest saints of the Catholic Church. For anyone who would deny the painless and intact nativity of Christ, let us challenge you to produce a citation from any saint or pope who teaches otherwise – that is a text that affirms that the nativity of the Christ Child caused pain to Mary and broke her physical virginity.

After a little research I discovered that of the 33 Doctors of the Church, none deny the painless and intact nativity of Christ. Moreover, at least 20 of the Doctors of the Church explicitly affirm that the birth of Christ was painless and miraculously left Mary’s physical virginity intact. Again, it all goes back to Isaiah 66:7: “before her pain came, she was delivered of a man child.” This prophecy refers to Christ plain and simple.
I have assembled the most important texts from the Sacred Scriptures, Fathers, Doctors, Councils, and Popes below. (Read more.)

Christmas Novena

The novena in honor of the Divine Infant begins today. Let us pray for the unborn, and for all the children in the world, especially those who are suffering abuse or neglect.

INFANT OF PRAGUE NINE DAY NOVENA
 
[You may state your special intention for the Novena at the start
on the first day, or ask it anew each day.]


ORIGINAL PRAYER OF VEN. CYRIL TO THE MIRACULOUS INFANT JESUS OF PRAGUE 

JESUS, unto Thee I flee,
Through Thy mother praying Thee
in my need to succor me.

Truly, I believe of Thee
God Thou art with strength to shield me;
Full of trust, I hope of Thee
Thou Thy grace wilt give to me.

All my heart I give to Thee,
Therefore, do my sins repent me;
From them breaking, I beseech Thee,
Jesus, from their bonds to free me.

Firm my purpose is to mend me;
Never more will I offend Thee.

Wholly unto Thee I give me,
Patiently to suffer for Thee,
Thee to serve eternally.
And my neighbor like to me
I will love for love of Thee.

Little Jesus, I beseech Thee,
In my need to succor me,
That with Joseph and Mary
And the Angels, I may Thee
Once enjoy eternally. Amen.


FIRST DAY:
 
Happily familiar to Catholics the world over is the little Infant of Prague. The dear and charming statues of Him, copied from the miraculous image in the capital of harassed Czechoslovakia, belong now to the whole of Catholicity. Today they can be found everywhere. Christ is a king, the King. 

This fact we celebrate in the majestic, glorious Feast of Christ the King. But Christ is the King not only of power and might. He is the King not alone of terrible love, ruling from His Cross, the conquering monarch entering into the glory of His Heavenly kingdom. 

He is also the Infant King, the king of Bethlehem and of the nursery in Nazareth . . . the king too small to defend Himself save by flight into Egypt . . . the king small enough to hide in the Host or in a human breast. 

So before the little Infant of Prague we say:
 
THE PRAYER OF CHRIST THE KING
 
SECOND DAY:
 
Fundamental to Christianity and basic to our faith and hope is the fact that the Son of God, the second Person of the Blessed trinity, became a Baby. 

This was the wonder that exalted the early Christians and repelled the pagan monarchs.
Suddenly the best of good news broke over the horizon. The remote God was as near as Bethlehem. The great God had become as small as a baby. The hands that fashioned the universe were infant hands. The all-creative voice that had cried the stupendous "Fiat lux," broke into the cries of babyhood. 

"We can pick up our God in our arms and hold Him as we hold a child." The thought made early Christians joyous as they took Him as their guest in the Eucharist. 

To the pagan world the idea was repellent. A king must be powerful, aloof, threatening, crowned with awesome majesty. He must be reached through messengers and surrounded by the restraining pomp of courts. 

So God became a Baby. Christianity was born with the birth of an Infant King. Christ's birth was a rebirth for human souls. 

Before the Infant King we say: 

THE PRAYER OF CHRIST THE KING
 
THIRD DAY:
 
It was given to Wise Men to see the kingdom of Infancy. A million, million Christians have prayerfully and happily followed the Magi as they traveled from pagandom onto the very center of the Church. 
 
Exultantly Catholics have seen these men, the wisest of their times, pierce the thin veil of babyhood and know that a Child could be a king, and God could in His quest of hearts assume the most heartwarming disguise. 

Wise as only the holy are wise, they saw the majesty in humility and the strength in love. Before the Infant King they placed their royal treasures. 

How like they were to those holy souls who in far-off Prague placed about the Infant King the trappings of royalty. The three Wise Men gave Him jewels to stud into a crown, and gold to beat into fine thread for His royal raiment, and the perfumes that were burned only in the braziers that sent clouds of sacrificial incense upward to God. 

History repeats itself in glad insistence. The gifts that were laid at the feet of the Infant of Bethlehem, modern faith has duplicated for the Infant of Prague. 

We join the Magi in saying:
 
THE PRAYER OF CHRIST THE KING
 
FOURTH DAY:

Our age likes to think of itself as wise and grown up and sophisticated. Often we see our age for what it is, old and tired and faltering to an atomic grave. 

It was the wisest of all teachers, Christ Himself, Who reminded us that unless we become as little children we shall not enter the Kingdom of Heaven. 

Nicodemus was puzzled by the whole idea of rebirth, infancy, childhood. Christ explained to him, on that secret night of his abashed visit, the rebirth through Baptism. All His life Christ explained to the tired old world of His age the importance of the virtues that keep the world young. 

Sin makes men old. Virtue keeps them immortally young. Sin speeds us to quick death. 
Virtue wings us to endless life. "Suffer the little children to come unto me . . . for such is the Kingdom of God" . . . men and women of childlike faith in their Father in Heaven . . . men and women unwearied by the dull pounding of sin . . . 

How wise the Church to encourage us, of this weary old generation, to kneel before the holy Infant and learn once more the beauties of childhood and the virtues of a heart that never grows old. 

Before the young King, the Infant God, we say:
 
THE PRAYER OF CHRIST THE KING
 
FIFTH DAY:
 
"Unless you . . . become as little children . . ." 

Who among us does not turn back to the happy days of childhood? The incredible moment of our first Holy Communion . . . the day when in Confirmation we became temples of the Holy Spirit . . . the years when mother and father were all in all to us and carried every burden and guarded us against all dangers. 

Those were the days without worry or burden, without the demands of each day pressing hard upon us. The world was new and beautiful, and God was very near. We walked with our guardian Angel. We knew the Saints by their favorite names. 

Sin had not put its lines on our soul. We loved purely, and we acted on warm, generous impulses. Why regret childhood? Saints grow old; but they are the happy children of God's tenderest protecting care, whatever their weight of years or mantle of responsibility. We might ask God to give us back the childhood of our souls, our simple faith, our untarnished love, our clear vision of the supernatural, our trust in our fellow men, our glimpses of Heaven all around us. 

All this we ask of the Infant of Prague in:
 
THE PRAYER OF CHRIST THE KING
 
SIXTH DAY:
In an age that depends upon adult cleverness, it is like God to work miracles before the statue of a little child. 

The statue of the Infant of Prague has been a wonder-working statue. In itself it is, as all statues are, stone or plaster or wood. In its symbolism it is deep and precious and meaningful. 

So it has been that near the feet of the Baby King the sick have found their health, the troubled their peace, the weary their rest, the doubting their faith, the despairing their hope. 

Strangely enough it has been toward temporal affairs, the affairs that are constantly bungled and mismanaged by the wise adults of earth that the miracles have flowed most frequently. Why not? God has used the wisdom of the simple to confound the wise, as He used the Babe of Bethlehem to upset the wiles of Herod and brought into ancient Egypt the eternal Word of God, His Infant Son. 

Miracles there will always be, but only for the trusting hearts. In a cynical world, only a humble heart shall be so blessed. So asking for simple faith, which is always the fountain of the greatest miracles, we say: 

THE PRAYER OF CHRIST THE KING
 
SEVENTH DAY:

Before the Infant Christ was born into the world, childhood was not a precious thing. Life was cheap, and the attitude of the pagan world toward new life was contemptuous. Only those who were strong enough to enforce their demands had any rights. 

Then came the Infant Christ, and for the first time childhood became precious. Every baby born into the world by God's hope and design was His child and heir. Christianity saw in strong, pure, religious youth the guarantee of strong, pure, religious nations. 

Marriage was founded no longer chiefly upon the lust of man and woman, a love that was to ripen into the living symbol of love --- the newborn baby. The child completed upon earth the trinity of the home--- itself an incarnate spirit of love --- as the Holy Spirit of love completed the Trinity in Heaven. 

Today, our nation and almost all of the nations of the world have once more spurned the precious gift of life and infancy, in its blood-lust for abortion and fetal experimentation.They violate their own dignity and know not what it is they truly do. We need the Infant of Prague and His innocence more than we ever have. 

As we look upon the Infant of Prague, we are glad that God became weak so that we could learn tenderness and mercy to the weak. We are glad that the Infant in the holy house gave marriage its high dignity and the home its beautiful sanctity.
Conscious of the dignity of of childhood, we say:
 
THE PRAYER OF CHRIST THE KING
EIGHTH DAY:

Children give us an amazing opportunity to show our generosity. The decent adult cannot fail to feel a strong impulse toward giving when he sees the smile and the outstretched hands of an infant. 

Infancy becomes and excuse for human generosity. Certainly infancy has the power to waken even in the most selfish breasts the desire to give. Christmas proves this power --- Christmas that centers around the Child in the manger and the children in our homes.
Those holy souls who bedecked the Infant of Prague manifested beautifully this response of human generosity to childhood. 

They clothed the Infant as we love to clothe a child in rich robes. They placed upon His Infant head a jeweled crown. 

Then they did in symbol what God had done in reality: They placed in the tiny hands of the Infant Christ the world, of which He is Creator and over which He rules, and the scepter, symbol of His dominion over all mankind. So does God impress on a worldly-wise and selfish world, the need of simple, generous love. And He commands our love in the guise of a baby.
Out of generous hearts we speak:
 
THE PRAYER OF CHRIST THE KING 

NINTH DAY:

Christ is our King; of that there is no doubt. Though He was battered and broken, He could stand in the presence of Pilate, representative of Rome's powerful monarch, and accept the governor's wondering question about His royalty.
"You say ----- and rightly ----- that I am king." 

No other king was ever more truly king in his own right than was Christ. As St. John points out in his glorious opening verses, the world is His, for He made it. 

When He established the unending Kingdom of His Church, He took over the world, knowing that the Church would see kingdoms and empires, republics and democracies rise and fall while it went its calm way. 

But most important He is King because a million, million men and women have freely and gladly accepted Him. He is the King of hearts, the Monarch of souls, the Ruler of men's lives, the Master of their destinies. He is the Sovereign Who never disappoints, the Emperor Who walks at the side of His humblest subject. 

He Who said: "I will be with you all days even to the consummation of the world," has chosen to keep His promise to us in our day in the guise of an infant, if only to confound our worldliness. 

Before the Infant King we say:
 
THE PRAYER OF CHRIST THE KING

Friday, December 15, 2017

The Purity of Mary

Lately I have had any number of discussions with various friends and acquaintances about whether the Blessed Virgin Mary struggled with the concupiscence of the flesh. Let us begin with the definition of concupiscence as given in the Catholic Encyclopedia:
In its widest acceptation, concupiscence is any yearning of the soul for good; in its strict and specific acceptation, a desire of the lower appetite contrary to reason. To understand how the sensuous and the rational appetite can be opposed, it should be borne in mind that their natural objects are altogether different. The object of the former is the gratification of the senses; the object of the latter is the good of the entire human nature and consists in the subordination of reason to God, its supreme good and ultimate end. But the lower appetite is of itself unrestrained, so as to pursue sensuous gratifications independently of the understanding and without regard to the good of the higher faculties. Hence desires contrary to the real good and order of reason may, and often do, rise in it, previous to the attention of the mind, and once risen, dispose the bodily organs to the pursuit and solicit the will to consent, while they more or less hinder reason from considering their lawfulness or unlawfulness. This is concupiscence in its strict and specific sense. As long, however, as deliberation is not completely impeded, the rational will is able to resist such desires and withhold consent, though it be not capable of crushing the effects they produce in the body, and though its freedom and dominion be to some extent diminished. If, in fact, thewill resists, a struggle ensues, the sensuous appetite rebelliously demanding its gratification, reason, on the contrary, clinging to its own spiritual interests and asserting it control. 'The flesh lusteth against the spirit, and the spirit against the flesh.'
According to Fr. John Hardon, S.J. in his classic work The Catholic Catechism: "From the time of her conception, Mary was freed from all concupiscence and also (on attaining the use of reason) free from every personal sin during the whole of her life." (The Catholic Catechism, p.158) In The Glories of Mary, St. Alphonsus Liguori, Doctor of the Church, writes of Mary:
Mary certainly could not be tormented at death by any remorse of conscience, for she was always pure, and always free from the least shade of actual or original sin, so much so, that of her it was said: 'Thou art all fair, O my love, and there is not a spot in thee.' From the moment that she had the use of reason, that is, from the first moment of her Immaculate Conception, in the womb of Saint Anne, she began to love God with all her strength, and continued to do so, always advancing more and more, throughout her whole life, in love and perfection. All her thoughts, desires, and affections were of and for God alone: she never uttered a word, made a movement, cast a glance, or breathed, but for God and His glory; and never departed a step, or detached herself for a single moment, from the Divine love. (The Glories of Mary, p. 351)
Here are excerpts of what the Fathers wrote of Mary and her purity (one gets the distinct impression that they did not view her as a typical teenage girl):

Patristic writings on Mary's purity abound.
  • The Fathers call Mary the tabernacle exempt from defilement and corruption (Hippolytus, "Ontt. in illud, Dominus pascit me");
  • Origen calls her worthy of God, immaculate of the immaculate, most complete sanctity, perfect justice, neither deceived by the persuasion of the serpent, nor infected with his poisonous breathings ("Hom. i in diversa");
  • Ambrose says she is incorrupt, a virgin immune through grace from every stain of sin ("Sermo xxii in Ps. cxviii);
  • Maximus of Turin calls her a dwelling fit for Christ, not because of her habit of body, but because of original grace ("Nom. viii de Natali Domini");
  • Theodotus of Ancyra terms her a virgin innocent, without spot, void of culpability, holy in body and in soul, a lily springing among thorns, untaught the ills of Eve, nor was there any communion in her of light with darkness, and, when not yet born, she was consecrated to God ("Orat. in S. Dei Genitr.").
  • In refuting Pelagius St. Augustine declares that all the just have truly known of sin "except the Holy Virgin Mary, of whom, for the honour of the Lord, I will have no question whatever where sin is concerned" (On Nature and Grace 36).
  • Mary was pledged to Christ (Peter Chrysologus, "Sermo cxl de Annunt. B.M.V.");
  • it is evident and notorious that she was pure from eternity, exempt from every defect (Typicon S. Sabae);
  • she was formed without any stain (St. Proclus, "Laudatio in S. Dei Gen. ort.", I, 3);
  • she was created in a condition more sublime and glorious than all other natures (Theodorus of Jerusalem in Mansi, XII, 1140);
  • when the Virgin Mother of God was to be born of Anne, nature did not dare to anticipate the germ of grace, but remained devoid of fruit (John Damascene, "Hom. i in B. V. Nativ.", ii).
  • The Syrian Fathers never tire of extolling the sinlessness of Mary. St. Ephraem considers no terms of eulogy too high to describe the excellence of Mary's grace and sanctity: "Most holy Lady, Mother of God, alone most pure in soul and body, alone exceeding all perfection of purity ...., alone made in thy entirety the home of all the graces of the Most Holy Spirit, and hence exceeding beyond all compare even the angelic virtues in purity and sanctity of soul and body . . . . my Lady most holy, all-pure, all-immaculate, all-stainless, all-undefiled, all-incorrupt, all-inviolate spotless robe of Him Who clothes Himself with light as with a garment . . . flower unfading, purple woven by God, alone most immaculate" ("Precationes ad Deiparam" in Opp. Graec. Lat., III, 524-37).
  • To St. Ephraem she was as innocent as Eve before her fall, a virgin most estranged from every stain of sin, more holy than the Seraphim, the sealed fountain of the Holy Ghost, the pure seed of God, ever in body and in mind intact and immaculate ("Carmina Nisibena").
  • Jacob of Sarug says that "the very fact that God has elected her proves that none was ever holier than Mary; if any stain had disfigured her soul, if any other virgin had been purer and holier, God would have selected her and rejected Mary". It seems, however, that Jacob of Sarug, if he had any clear idea of the doctrine of sin, held that Mary was perfectly pure from original sin ("the sentence against Adam and Eve") at the Annunciation.
Paul Haffner in his book The Mystery of Mary offers a brilliant discussion about Mary and concupiscence which I recommend reading in full. Haffner says: Not only was Our Lady freed from original and actual sin, but also from concupiscence....The Angelic Doctor offers the various opinions of absence of concupiscence in Mary....Either that concupiscence was entirely taken away from her by her first sanctification or it was fettered. (The Mystery of Mary, pp 93-94)

As for the relationship of Our Lady and St. Joseph, St. Augustine of Hippo (who was not the first Calvinist as some people seem to think, but a Father, Doctor, Bishop and Saint of the Church) remarks that theirs was a true marriage, albeit unconsummated according to the flesh. To quote St. Augustine (I know, he would not be popular on the preaching circuit today):
The entire good, therefore, of the nuptial institution was effected in the case of these parents of Christ: there was offspring, there was faithfulness, there was the bond. As offspring, we recognise the Lord Jesus Himself; the fidelity, in that there was no adultery; the bond, because there was no divorce. [XII.] Only there was no nuptial cohabitation; because He who was to be without sin, and was sent not in sinful flesh, but in the likeness of sinful flesh, Romans 8:3 could not possibly have been made in sinful flesh itself without that shameful lust of the flesh which comes from sin, and without which He willed to be born, in order that He might teach us, that every one who is born of sexual intercourse is in fact sinful flesh, since that alone which was not born of such intercourse was not sinful flesh. Nevertheless conjugal intercourse is not in itself sin, when it is had with the intention of producing children; because the mind's good-will leads the ensuing bodily pleasure, instead of following its lead; and the human choice is not distracted by the yoke of sin pressing upon it, inasmuch as the blow of the sin is rightly brought back to the purposes of procreation. This blow has a certain prurient activity which plays the king in the foul indulgences of adultery, and fornication, and lasciviousness, and uncleanness; while in the indispensable duties of the marriage state, it exhibits the docility of the slave. In the one case it is condemned as the shameless effrontery of so violent a master; in the other, it gets modest praise as the honest service of so submissive an attendant. This lust, then, is not in itself the good of the nuptial institution; but it is obscenity in sinful men, a necessity in procreant parents, the fire of lascivious indulgences, the shame of nuptial pleasures. Wherefore, then, may not persons remain man and wife when they cease by mutual consent from cohabitation; seeing that Joseph and Mary continued such, though they never even began to cohabit?
St Alphonsus Liguori has a more poetic approach (which is why I long ago took him for my spiritual father) especially when discussing anything to do with the Most Holy Virgin. Of Our Lady's marriage to St. Joseph he says:
By reason of her purity, the Blessed Virgin was also declared by the Holy Ghost to be beautiful as the turtledove : 'Thy cheeks are beautiful as the turtle-dove's.'7 'Mary,' says Aponius, 'was a most pure turtle-dove.'8 For the same reason she was also called a lily : 'As the lily among the thorns, so is my love among the daughters.' 9 On this passage Denis the Carthusian remarks, that Mary was compared to a lily amongst thorns, because all other virgins were thorns, either to themselves or to others ; but that the Blessed Virgin was so neither to herself nor to others, for she inspired all who looked at her with chaste thoughts. This is confirmed by Saint Thomas, who says, that the beauty of the Blessed Virgin was an incentive to chastity in all who beheld her. Saint Jerome declared that it was his opinion, that Saint Joseph remained a virgin by living with Mary ; for, writing against the heretic Helvidius, who denied Mary's virginity, he says, ' Thou sayest that Mary did not remain a Virgin. I say, that not only she remained a Virgin, but even that Joseph preserved his virginity through Mary.'3 An author says, that so much did the Blessed Virgin love this virtue, that to preserve it, she would have been willing to have renounced even the dignity of Mother of God. This we may conclude from her answer to the archangel: 'How shall this be done, because I know not man ?'3 and from the words she afterwards added: 'Be it done to me according to thy word,'4 signifying that she gave her consent on the condition that, as the angel had assured her, she should become a Mother, only by the overshadowing of the Holy Ghost. (The Glories of Mary, pp. 457-458)
I think we are safe in assuming that the love Our Lady and St. Joseph had for each other was the love of true spouses but the love which spouses share in heaven. Because of Mary and Joseph's unique mission as parents of the Son of God, they began to live the life of Heaven even amid the many perils, trials, and sufferings of earth.
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