Tuesday, February 28, 2017

Preparing for Lent

Adam and Eve by Lucas Cranach the Elder
Here is a meditation by a Carmelite tertiary who shall be known on this blog as Mi Amigo:
Our first parents ate, against the will of our Father, the forbidden fruit. What is the fruit? We might consider, "Is the 'fruit' of the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil the birth of “conscience”? Prior to eating the fruit, Adam and Eve did not have any knowledge of evil in their nakedness. Was their realization of “something wrong” in their self-exposure the birth of human conscience?
The Banishment of Adam and Eve by Masaccio 
The Catechism of the Catholic Church, Section 1776, states, "Deep within his conscience man discovers a law which he has not laid upon himself but which he must obey. Its voice ever calling him to love and to do what is good and to avoid evil, sounds in his heart at the right moment….For man has in his heart a law inscribed by God….His conscience is man’s most secret core and his sanctuary. There he is alone with God whose voice echoes in his depths."

In the human heart, God inscribes his Law. In the heart, we are either single-minded toward the will, the law, of God, or we are double-minded, divided in ourselves between God and the world. The season of Lent is upon us, a time of reflection, to turn within to our most secret core and sanctuary, our conscience, and listen to the voice of God echoing in our depths, a time to repent from our double-mindedness and, a time of conversion, to re-commit ourselves with single-mindedness to the will and love of God in those areas of our life to which our conscience directs us.

This Lenten season, let us turn within and from our hearts pray as Thomas a Kempis, "O God my Truth, make me one with you in eternal love. Often I become weary with reading and hearing many things. You are all that I want and desire. Let all teachers be mute and all creation keep silence before you. Speak to me, You and You alone."
Jesus in Gethsemane by Carl Bloch

Shrove Tuesday

Shrove Tuesday is the feast of the Holy Face of Jesus. Don Marco has some excellent meditations on this beautiful devotion. To quote:
Face and Person are synonymous, not only by reason of the Greek etymology, but even more because there is nothing more personal, nothing more precious, nothing dearer than the face of a loved one. The psalmist’s cry, “I long to see Thy Face” (Ps 26:8), is the cry of every lover to his beloved, the cry of child to parent, of parent to child, and of friend to friend. The most poignant moment in the rites of death and burial comes when the face of the deceased is covered for the last time. We cherish photographs of those we love, but what is a photograph without a face? The relationships that we call “heart to heart” never tire of the “face to face.”
The Holocaust that took place during the Second World War was, at the deepest level, an attempt to erase the dignity and uniqueness of each person, a sin against the Face of Christ, the Holy Face mirrored in millions of Jewish faces. Every sin against the dignity of the human person is a sin against the Face of Christ. Every act of violence, irreverence, or scorn directed against the human person is a sin against the Face of Christ. The abortion that prevents a child’s face from seeing another human face in the light of day is a sin against the Face of Christ. Torture and cruel ridicule are sins against the Face of Christ. The hard, stony gaze that looks at a person without seeing him is a sin against the Face of Christ. The eyes that judge, the look that condemns, is a sin against the Face of Christ. The refusal to see Christ in the faces of the sick, the stranger, and the immigrant is a sin against his Holy Face.
Reparation is the prayer that seeks to make whole what is fragmented by putting love where there is no love, by gazing with reverence upon what has been disdained, by allowing our eyes to rest on “One from whom men hide their faces” (Is 53:3). The extraordinary thing about the prayer of reparation is that it is healing not only for the one offended but for the offender as well. If by sin we offend the Face of Christ, by reparation to the Holy Face we are healed of our sins. “Thou has set our iniquities before thee,” says the psalmist, “our secret sins in the light of Thy Face” (Ps 89:8).

The prayer of reparation is most at home in the presence of the Most Blessed Sacrament. The light that shines from the Eucharistic Face of Christ heals us sinners, and heals those against whom we have sinned. The love we bring to the Eucharistic Face of Christ reaches every human face. The prayer of reparation is the veil of Veronica lifted to the face of Christ in His Passion; it is the hand that seeks to wipe away every disfiguring stain of filth, of blood, and of tears. (Read more.)
The image to the left is the representation of the imprint of Our Lord's face on the Veronica veil, as it is venerated in the Carmelite Order, and propagated by Sister Marie de Saint Pierre and Venerable Leo Dupont.

Here is the prayer of Saint Thérèse of Lisieux to the Holy Face:
O Jesus, who in Thy bitter Passion didst become "the most abject of men, a man of sorrows," I venerate Thy Sacred Face whereon there once did shine the beauty and sweetness of the Godhead; but now it has become for me as if it were the face of a leper! Nevertheless, under those disfigured features, I recognize Thy infinite Love and I am consumed with the desire to love Thee and make Thee loved by all men. The tears which well up abundantly in Thy sacred eyes appear to me as so many precious pearls that I love to gather up, in order to purchase the souls of poor sinners by means of their infinite value. O Jesus, whose adorable Face ravishes my heart, I implore Thee to fix deep within me Thy divine image and to set me on fire with Thy Love, that I may be found worthy to come to the contemplation of Thy glorious Face in Heaven. Amen.
Another site with everything about the Holy Face devotion is HERE.

Relic of the Veronica Veil at St. Peter's Basilica
Here is a formula from the ancient Ambrosian liturgy, as quoted by Abbot Gueranger in The Liturgical Year for Shrove Tuesday:
Sweet is this present life, but it passes away; terrible, O Christ is thy judgment, and it endures forever. Let us, therefore, cease to love what is unstable, and fix our thought on what is eternal: saying: Christ, have mercy upon us!
Now the time has come to go into the desert, the desert of Lent.

Sunday, February 26, 2017

Quinquagesima Sunday

It is Quinquagesima Sunday. According to New Advent:
The period of fifty days before Easter. It begins with the Sunday before Ash Wednesday, called Dominica in Quinquagesima....
For many early Christians it was the beginning of the fast before Easter....For some, Quinquagesima marked the time after which meat was forbidden....In many places this Sunday after and the next two days were used to prepare for Lent by a good confession; hence in England we find the names Shrove Sunday and Shrovetide.
As the days before Lent were frequently spent in merry-making, Benedict XIV by the Constitution "Inter Cetera" (1 Jan., 1748) introduced a kind of Forty Hours' Devotion to keep the faithful from dangerous amusements and to make some reparation for sins committed.
In the words of Dom Gueranger for Quinquagesima Sunday:
We are commanded to use this world as if we used it not; to have an abiding conviction of our not having here a lasting city, and of the misery and danger we incur when we forget that death is one day to separate us from everything we possess in this life.
~from Abbot Gueranger's The Liturgical Year, Vol. IV
More HERE.

Saturday, February 25, 2017

Reverence at Prayer

From Vultus Christi:
Grace seeps into what is inward through what is outward. For this reason Tertullian says Caro salutis est cardo, that is, “the flesh is the hinge of salvation”. Scholastic philosophy frames it this way: Nihil est in intellectu quod non sit prius in sensu, “Nothing is in the intellect that was not first in the senses”. Outwardly, then, the monk will take great care to do all things with attention and dignity: standing, sitting, walking, bowing, signs of the cross, prostrations, raising one’s eyes heavenward, the way one holds one’s hands, the way one holds one’s book and turns its pages. In the carrying out of the Opus Dei there must be nothing rushed, nothing small or cramped, nothing routine and formalistic. The sign of the cross, for example, must be generous, majestic, and grand; no furtive flapping of the hands about one’s face and shoulders. The profound bow from the waist, holding the torso and head straight, is part of the sacred choreography of the Opus Dei; it signifies a man’s complete submission to the adorable mystery of the Most Holy Trinity. It is more than a mere lowering of chin to chest. Every bodily attitude and every gesture is significant; the smallest details are sacramental. For this very reason, I put Romano Guardini’s classic, Sacred Signs, on the reading list for postulants. Another book, Maurice Zundel’s The Splendour of the Liturgy, complete’s Guardini’s little book. (Read more.)

Monday, February 20, 2017

Honoring the Mother of God

Caravaggio (1571-1610) - Rest on the Flight into Egypt (Detail)
Here is a meditation on Our Lady by a Catholic writer who wishes to be known as Mi Amigo.
All Christians, Protestants and Catholics, as the Christian family seems to be divided, or defined, these days, have one thing in common: all believe in the divinity of Jesus Christ. In the matter of honoring his mother, Mary, with devotion and imitation, however, the commonality dissolves. Why?

All believe that In the beginning was the Word, that the Word is God, that woman and man are creatures made in the image and likeness of the Word, and that the Word incarnated on earth as a man in the fullness of God, as Jesus, born of a virgin known as Mary, to save us by the forgiveness of sins.
Mothers, imagine your child is the incarnation of the Word. An angel appears to you, and tells you that you are favored by God, for He sees that you are full of grace, so that He will overshadow you by His Spirit and bless you with His Presence so that you will bear....wait....Himself?….yes, Him.
Mothers, imagine that your child is born, and you are visited by kings, wise men, who bow down to your child and present Him with gifts representing royalty, prophecy and priesthood.

Mothers, imagine that your child is presented to the High Priest in the temple, and he looks you directly in the eyes with love and compassion, with thankfulness that you have blessed him with the opportunity to hold your child in his arms, and he tells you that your child will be a stumbling block to your nation, even while a Savior of the world, and that you, yourself, will be pierced in the soul.

Mothers, who are you? Who is Mary? You are the bearers, teachers, protectors, nurturers of the bodies of humanity bearing His breath of life, of us bearing his image and likeness, and we are eternally grateful in love to you for you. Mary was also the bearer, the teacher, the protector, the nurturer of a child: He who made you and us, your children, He from whom, in whom, and through whom we were made and now exist, and have the promise of eternal life.

Mothers, your children listen to you, follow you, and obey you (at least ideally, or for the most part hopefully!). Jesus did the same in respect of his mother. How much more proper was it that Mary listened to, followed, chased after even, and obeyed her Lord? Mother, here is your son, and son, here is your mother.

Mothers, imagine knowing, not only because the angel of God told you before your child was born, but because you saw with your own eyes, and touched with your own hands and soul, every day of your child's life, from infancy to young adulthood, the blind given sight, the lame walking, the feeding of thousands with only a few loaves, the dead brought back to life, the condemned forgiven....imagine knowing that your child, yes the child to which you gave birth, is God come to save us.

Mothers, imagine witnessing, before your own eyes, your child condemned by false witness, He who was Truth, whipped, bruised and battered, and then nailed to a cross, hanging in front of you on the trunk of a tree, praying for his persecutors, thirsting, fulfilling His purpose.

Mothers, can you imagine that this child is yours?

Why? Again, I ask, why? It seems to me that only the one of us who stands in Mary’s shoes has any standing to respond with any considerable answer. Anybody? Why?

As brothers and sisters, at least, certainly, we can recognize Mary our common mother, because, if for no other reason, Jesus is our brother.

We honor Mary with singular devotion because no ark has ever borne the Covenant like she did.

Sunday, February 19, 2017

Novena to the Holy Face of Jesus

The image above is the drawing of the imprint of Our Lord's face on the Veronica veil, as it is venerated in the Carmelite Order, and propagated by Sister Marie de Saint Pierre and Venerable Leo Dupont. It was a devotion spread to protect the people from Communism, which had begun to manifest itself as a political movement in 1848.

Here is the prayer of Saint Thérèse of Lisieux to the Holy Face:

O Jesus, who in Thy bitter Passion didst become "the most abject of men, a man of sorrows," I venerate Thy Sacred Face whereon there once did shine the beauty and sweetness of the Godhead; but now it has become for me as if it were the face of a leper! Nevertheless, under those disfigured features, I recognize Thy infinite Love and I am consumed with the desire to love Thee and make Thee loved by all men. The tears which well up abundantly in Thy sacred eyes appear to me as so many precious pearls that I love to gather up, in order to purchase the souls of poor sinners by means of their infinite value. O Jesus, whose adorable Face ravishes my heart, I implore Thee to fix deep within me Thy divine image and to set me on fire with Thy Love, that I may be found worthy to come to the contemplation of Thy glorious Face in Heaven. Amen.
Another site with everything about the Holy Face devotion is HERE.

Relic of the Veronica Veil at St. Peter's Basilica
 From Fr. Mark:
Today...marks the beginning of the Novena in honour of the Most Holy Face of Jesus. The feast of the Holy Face is celebrated, in many places, on the Tuesday before Ash Wednesday.

Litanies are among the oldest forms of Christian prayer. They invite us, not to a mechanical and vain repetition of words, but to a prolonged contemplation of one or another of the mysteries of our faith, shot through with an insistent appeal for mercy. Pray the Litany of the Holy Face quietly and slowly. Allow each invocation to open the eyes of your soul to the adorable countenance of Our Lord Jesus Christ, the Human Face of God.
The Litany of the Holy Face of Jesus
Lord, have mercy on us.
Christ, have mercy on us.
Lord, have mercy on us.
Christ, hear us.
Christ, graciously hear us.
God the Father of heaven,
R. Have mercy on us.
God the Son, Redeemer of the world.
R. Have mercy on us.
God the Holy Ghost,
R. Have mercy on us.
Most Holy Face of Jesus, radiant splendour of the Father,
R. Look upon us, and have mercy.
Most Holy Face of Jesus, spotless mirror of the majesty of God and image of His goodness,
R. Look upon us, and have mercy.
Most Holy Face of Jesus, where radiates the consuming fire of the Holy Spirit,
R. Look upon us, and have mercy.
Most Holy Face of Jesus, joy of the Virgin Mary,
R. Look upon us, and have mercy.
Most Holy Face of Jesus, Who allowed Thyself to be embraced by little children,
R. Look upon us, and have mercy.
Most Holy Face of Jesus, covered with sadness at the departure of the rich young man,
R. Look upon us, and have mercy.
Most Holy Face of Jesus, Whose gaze converted the sinful woman
and transformed the heart of Peter,
R. Look upon us, and have mercy.
Most Holy Face of Jesus, sought by all those who love Thee,
R. Look upon us, and have mercy.
Most Holy Face of Jesus, light of all the upright of heart,
R. Look upon us, and have mercy.
Most Holy Face of Jesus, Whose radiant beauty is veiled to the proud,
R. Look upon us, and have mercy.
Most Holy Face of Jesus, in Whose light our misery lies open,
R. Look upon us, and have mercy.
Most Holy Face of Jesus, Whose compassionate gaze wants to take away our bitterness,
R. Look upon us, and have mercy.
Most Holy Face of Jesus, Whose meekness is so sweet that it transforms souls,
R. Look upon us, and have mercy.
Most Holy Face of Jesus, on which we read Thine infinite Charity,
R. Look upon us, and have mercy.
Most Holy Face of Jesus, Whose look of mercy enfolds the whole world,
R. Look upon us, and have mercy.
Most Holy Face of Jesus, which will never be sufficiently honoured,
R. Look upon us, and have mercy.
Most Holy Face of Jesus, covered with a sweat of blood,
R. Look upon us, and have mercy.
Most Holy Face of Jesus, touched by the infamous traitor’s kiss,
R. Look upon us, and have mercy.
Most Holy Face of Jesus, crowned with thorns,
R. Look upon us, and have mercy.
Most Holy Face of Jesus, insulted by hatred, negligence, and infidelities,
R. Look upon us, and have mercy.
Most Holy Face of Jesus, buffeted by servants, struck by soldiers, and bruised abusively by the crowd,
R. Look upon us, and have mercy.
Most Holy Face of Jesus, stained with spittle, dust, and blood,
R. Look upon us, and have mercy.
Most Holy Face of Jesus, despised by the powerful of this world,
R. Look upon us, and have mercy.
Most Holy Face of Jesus, trembling with sorrow upon meeting Mary,
R. Look upon us, and have mercy.
Most Holy Face of Jesus, tenderly wiped by Veronica,
R. Look upon us, and have mercy.
Most Holy Face of Jesus, on which we can read all the traces of our sins,
R. Look upon us, and have mercy.
Most Holy Face of Jesus, hidden in the Holy Sacrament,
R. Look upon us, and have mercy.
Most Holy Face of Jesus, which the Angels so greatly desired to see and before which they can only be silent and adore,
R. Look upon us, and have mercy.
Most Holy Face of Jesus, Whose brightness will one day be the reward of the just and the most burning punishment of sinners,
R. Look upon us, and have mercy.
Most Holy Face of Jesus, before which the elect cast their crowns in everlasting praise,
R. Look upon us, and have mercy.
Most Holy Face of Jesus, Whose radiance is all the beauty of holy souls,
R. Look upon us, and have mercy.
Most Holy Face of Jesus, which will transfigure us from glory to glory,
R. Look upon us, and have mercy.
Lamb of God, Who takest away the sins of the world,
spare us, O Lord.
Lamb of God, Who takest away the sins of the world,
graciously hear us, O Lord.
Lamb of God, Who takest away the sins of the world,
have mercy on us.
V. Behold, O God our protector.
R. And look upon the Face of Thy Christ.
Let us pray.
O Lord Jesus Christ, glory of the Heavenly Father
and light of souls,
we beseech Thee with confidence that,
as we make our way amidst the shadows of this world,
the splendour of Thy Face may shine upon us,
that in the light of Thy Countenance,
we may at length merit to contemplate the eternal light
in which Thou livest and reignest with God the Father,
in the unity of the Holy Ghost,
forever and ever.
R. Amen.

Sexagesima Sunday

Scott Richert discusses the significance. To quote:
Sexagesima Sunday is the second Sunday before the start of Lent, which makes it the eighth Sunday before Easter. Traditionally, it was the second of three Sundays (Septuagesima is the first and Quinquagesima is the third) of preparation for Lent.
Sexagesima literally means "sixtieth," though it only falls 56 days before Easter. It most likely takes its name from Quinquagesima Sunday, which is 49 days before Easter, or 50 if you count Easter itself.
When the Roman Catholic liturgical calendar was revised in 1969, the three pre-Lenten Sundays were removed; they are now denominated simply as Sundays in Ordinary Time. Septuagesima, Sexagesima, and Quinquagesima are all still observed in the celebration of the traditional Latin Mass. (Read entire post.)
Here is some guidance on lectio divina from Fr. Mark for Sexagesima week.

Tuesday, February 14, 2017

Saint Valentine

According to the legend:
The first representation of Saint Valentine appeared in a The Nuremberg Chronicle, a great illustrated book printed in 1493. [Additional evidence that Valentine was a real person: archaeologists have unearthed a Roman catacomb and an ancient church dedicated to Saint Valentine.] Alongside a woodcut portrait of him, text states that Valentinus was a Roman priest martyred during the reign of Claudius the Goth [Claudius II]. Since he was caught marrying Christian couples and aiding any Christians who were being persecuted under Emperor Claudius in Rome [when helping them was considered a crime], Valentinus was arrested and imprisoned. Claudius took a liking to this prisoner -- until Valentinus made a strategic error: he tried to convert the Emperor -- whereupon this priest was condemned to death. He was beaten with clubs and stoned; when that didn't do it, he was beheaded outside the Flaminian Gate [circa 269].

Saints are not supposed to rest in peace; they're expected to keep busy: to perform miracles, to intercede. Being in jail or dead is no excuse for non-performance of the supernatural. One legend says, while awaiting his execution, Valentinus restored the sight of his jailer's blind daughter. Another legend says, on the eve of his death, he penned a farewell note to the jailer's daughter, signing it, "From your Valentine."

St. Valentine was a Priest, martyred in 269 at Rome and was buried on the Flaminian Way. He is the Patron Saint of affianced couples, bee keepers, engaged couples, epilepsy, fainting, greetings, happy marriages, love, lovers, plague, travellers, young people. He is represented in pictures with birds and roses. (Read more.)

Sunday, February 12, 2017

Septuagesima Sunday

It is Septuagesima Sunday, according to the traditional calendar. The season of Septuagesima is a time to start thinking about Lent; the "seventy" days until Easter are symbolic, among other things, of the seventy years of the Israelites' Babylonian captivity. We have all made mistakes; it is not too late to make amends while there is still time. We are being given a second chance. Redemption is at hand.

According to Dom Gueranger in The Liturgical Year, Vol. IV: "We are sojourners upon this earth: we are exiles and captives in Babylon, that city which plots our ruin. If we love our country, we long to return to it...."

Fr. Mark Kirby expresses it thus:
The seventy-day period that begins with Septuagesima recalls the seventy-year exile of the children of Israel in Babylon. Seventy is the perfect number, signifying that God has fixed for us a delay of mercy to pass from the anguish of sinful Babylon to the beatitude of Jerusalem. “How shall we sing the Lord’s song in a foreign land?” (Ps 136:4). We do well to recall Pope John Paul II’s assertion that, “the power that imposes a limit on evil is Divine Mercy.” The seventy days before Pascha signify this, and so become a season of hope for all who sit and weep by the waters of Babylon (cf. Ps 136:1).
At the same time, the history of the world is divided into seven ages. The first is from the creation of the world to the flood; the second, from the renewal after the flood to the call of Abraham; the third from the covenant with Abraham to the call of Moses; the fourth from Moses to King David; the fifth from the reign of David to the Babylonian exile; and the sixth from return from captivity to the birth of Christ. With the birth of Our Lord comes the seventh age: the appearance of the Sun of Justice who rises over the world “with healing in his wings” (Mal 4:2). This seventh age of “these last days” (Heb 1:2) stretches until Christ’s second coming as Judge of the living and the dead. The seven weeks before Pascha are a review of salvation history.
In the traditional Roman Rite Septuagesima Sunday is marked by putting away the Alleluia; the Gloria is omitted and, already, violet vestments are used in preparation for Lent. Sound psychology and practical pastoral wisdom indicate the need for a kind of countdown before Ash Wednesday. Otherwise Lent arrives all of a sudden, finding us flustered and frightfully ill prepared. (Read more.)
We are far away but drawing ever nearer; let us encourage our fellow travelers, and keep on going. In a little while it will be eternity.

Fr. Mark offers some suggested readings for lectio divina during Septuagesima week.

Saturday, February 11, 2017

The Spring of Lourdes

The stream of the river maketh the city of God joyful: the most High hath sanctified his own tabernacle. (Psalm 45:5)
On February 25, 1858 St. Bernadette was instructed by "the Lady" to dig in the dirt near the grotto of Massabielle, the town dump, and "drink from the spring." Bernadette humbly complied, in spite of the mockery of the crowd; a spring did bubble up on the spot where she dug, and it flows to this day. What is more, there have been many miraculous cures connected with bathing in or drinking from the water of the spring, some of which have been formally recorded. Although it is not an intrinsic part of the pilgrimage, thousands of people still line up every year in order to be plunged into the icy waters of Lourdes. The spring has been channeled into several large baths in which people can immerse themselves. Most of the healings do not occur at the baths themselves but during the Eucharistic procession which takes place every afternoon. Those seeking healing of any kind, be it spiritual, emotional or physical, are encouraged to make going to confession and receiving holy communion a part of their pilgrimage. Bathing in the spring is ultimately to be seen as a symbol of the renewal of one's baptismal commitment to Christ.
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