Sunday, January 28, 2018

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.

Wednesday, January 24, 2018

St. Francis de Sales

Today is the feast of Saint Francis de Sales. He is a saint very close to my heart. Here is one of his best-known sayings:
Do not look forward to the mishaps of this life with anxiety, but await them with perfect confidence so that when they do occur, God, to whom you belong, will deliver you from them. He has kept you up to the present; remain securely in the hand of his providence, and he will help you in all situations. When you cannot walk, he will carry you. Do not think about what will happen tomorrow, for the same eternal Father who takes care of you today will look out for you tomorrow and always. Either he will keep you from evil or he will give you invincible courage to endure it. Remain in peace; rid your imagination of whatever troubles you.
Fr. Mark writes on confidence and peace according to St. Francis de Sales.
Once we have accepted that all things are in the hand of God, and that the great events of history, like the smallest details of our own lives, are willed or permitted by Him, we begin to experience an unassailable peace of heart. “In everything, says Saint Paul, God works for good with those who love Him” (Rom 8:28). Worry has never advanced the kingdom of heaven. Worry has never made anyone holy. Panic, fretting, and anxiety are not fruits of the Holy Ghost. The Holy Ghost produces confidence in God, trust in His mercy, abandonment to His designs, surrender to His will and, always, peace.
Control
Again, Saint Francis de Sales has a word for people who have the need always to be in control:
When we let go of everything, our Lord takes care of all and manages all. If we hold back anything — this shows a lack of trust in Him — He lets us keep it. It is as if he said, “You think yourself wise enough to handle this matter without me; I allow you to do so; you will see how you come out in the end.”
It is a sound observation of human psychology that the more one feels that the big things in one’s life are spinning out of control, the more one grasps at the little things, trying desperately to control what one can. (Read more.)

Tuesday, January 23, 2018

The Espousals



 
On the traditional Carmelite calendar, today is celebrated the Espousals of Mary and Joseph. According to Archbishop Sheen:
Mary and Joseph brought to their espousals not only their vows of virginity but also two hearts with greater torrents of love than had ever before coursed through human breasts. No husband and wife ever loved one another so much as Joseph and Mary. Their marriage was not like that of others, because the right to the body was surrendered; in normal marriages, unity in the flesh is the symbol of its consummation, and the ecstasy that accompanies a consummation is only a foretaste of the joy that comes to the soul when it attains union with God through grace. If there are satiety and fed-up-ness in marriage, it is because it falls short of what it was meant to reveal, or because the inner Divine Mystery was not seen in the act. But in the case of Mary and Joseph, there was no need of the symbol of the unity of flesh, since they already possessed the Divinity. Why pursue the shadow when they had the substance? Mary and Joseph needed no consummation in the flesh, for, in the beautiful language of Leo XIII: "The consummation of their love was in Jesus." Why bother with the flickering candles of the flesh, when the Light of the World is their love? Truly He is Jesu, voluptas cordium. When He is the sweet voluptuousness of hearts, there is not even a thought of the flesh. As husband and wife standing over the cradle of their newborn life forget, for the moment, the need of one another, so Mary and Joseph, in their possession of God in their family, hardly knew that they had bodies. Love usually makes husband and wife one; in the case of Mary and Joseph, it was not their combined loves but Jesus Who made them one. No deeper love ever beat under the roof of the world since the beginning, nor will it ever beat, even unto the end. They did not go to God through love of one another; rather, because they went first to God, they had a deep and pure love, one for another. To those who ridicule such holiness, Chesterton wrote:
That Christ from this creative purity
Came forth your sterile appetites to scorn.
Lo! in her house Life without Lust was born
So in your house Lust without Life shall die
. (Read more.)

Wednesday, January 17, 2018

Our Lady of Hope

On this day in 1871 the heavens opened at Pontmain in France. Once again, the Blessed Mother gave hope to her children. According to Fr. Mark:
Before the beautiful Lady appeared a blood red crucifix. At the top of the cross, on a white crosspiece, the Name of Jesus Christ was written in red letters. The beautiful Lady grasped the crucifix in both hands and showed it to the children while a small star lit the four candles in the blue oval. Everyone prayed in silence. They sang the Ave Maris Stella. The red crucifix disappeared. The beautiful Lady extended her hands in a gesture of welcome. A small white cross appeared on each shoulder. Everyone knelt down in the snow. A white veil, like a great sheet, covered the beautiful Lady from foot to head. “It’s finished,” said the children. Eleven days later the armistice was signed. The Prussians never entered Laval. (Read more.)

Saturday, January 13, 2018

We Have Seen the True Light

Baptism of Christ by Grigory Gaagarin
The Baptism of the Lord. From Vultus Christi:
Very few Catholics grasp the reality of their divine sonship by adoption. For too many, the great baptismal grace that is divine adoption remains something notional. something vague and, as it were, something obscure in the back of one’s mind. This is why, in every age, God raises up saints, and doctors, and mystics to call us back to what makes Christianity different from every other religion, philosophy, ethical system, and mystical meandering on the planet: divine sonship by adoption. We are, by grace, what Jesus is by nature. All the Fathers taught this. The Doctors scrutinised it and marveled at the divine condescension. Mother Mectilde seized upon this in the 17th century and wrote about it in her letters. Saint Thérèse, Blessed Abbot Marmion, Blessed Elisabeth of the Trinity, and the Venerable Itala Mela, all of these were raised up in modern times to say to souls: You are not mere seekers after wisdom, you are not slaves in submission to a remote divinity, you are not keepers of a moral order; you are sons in the Son. This is so stupendous a mystery that many put it aside and prefer to concentrate on things less unsettling.
 
We bring Thee offerings, O Lord, for the appearing of Thy new born Son, humbly beseeching Thee that, as He is the author of our gifts, so also He may mercifully receive them. (Secret of the Mass) (Read more.)
(Image source.)

Tuesday, January 9, 2018

St. Andrew Corsini

A thaumaturge of the Carmelite order and a Bishop of the Church. January 9 is his feast on the Carmelite calendar.
St. Andrew was born at the beginning of the fourteenth century in Florence and before his birth, his holy parents offered him to the Blessed Virgin as the first fruits of their marriage.  On the night in which he was born, his mother, Peregrina, had a dream which filled her with alarm.  It seemed to her, as if she had brought forth a wolf, who, fleeing to a church, was changed into a lamb.  This was a picture of what was afterwards to happen to Andrew.  His pious parents employed every care and precaution, to bring him up in the fear of God; but, as too often happens, through the influence of bad company, an immoderate desire of play, and neglect of duty, he fell into the greatest disorders. Dissipation hurried him from one vice to another until he was without affection for his parents,whom he disobeyed without remorse; so that all who knew him were full of apprehension for the future.
Meanwhile, his mother, mindful of her dream, sought consolation from Mary by continual prayer.Andrew, while one day preparing for a party of pleasure, expressed himself to his mother in a very disrespectful manner and she burst into tears and told him the depth of her affliction.  She told him about her dream and that before his birth she had offered him to the Blessed Virgin.  This made such an impression on Andrew that he was unable to sleep during the following night.  The thought that he had been dedicated to the Mother of God occupied his mind.  At that point, he exclaimed "Virgin Mother, because I am thy servant, I will unceasingly serve thee."

The following day, he went to the church of the Carmelites, and prostrating himself before an image of Mary, offered himself up to this merciful Mother, and bade her change this wolf into a lamb. He frequently repeated this prayer and it was heard.  He made great advances in virtue and was subsequently ordained a priest. (Read more.)

(Picture source)

Monday, January 8, 2018

Mysteries of the Epiphany

From Vultus Christi:
The Five Mysteries of the Epiphany correspond to the five great Epiphany Gospels given us by the Church (in the traditional calendar and Liturgy) on the day of the Epiphany, 6 January; on the feast of the Baptism of the Lord, 13 January; and on the Second, Third, and Fourth Sundays after Epiphany. Each of these Gospels presents a particular manifestation of the Divinity of Our Lord Jesus Christ.
1. Matthew 2:1-12, Our Lord makes himself known to the Magi by means of a star, and receives their adoration in Bethlehem.
And behold the star which they had seen in the east, went before them, until it came and stood over where the child was. And seeing the star they rejoiced with exceeding great joy. And entering into the house, they found the child with Mary his mother, and falling down they adored him. (Mt 2:9-11)
2. John 1:29-34 -- At His Baptism in the Jordan by John, the Holy Ghost descends in the form of a dove, and the voice of the Father reveals Jesus as His Beloved Son, in whom He is well pleased.
Now it came to pass, when all the people were baptized, that Jesus also being baptized and praying, heaven was opened; And the Holy Ghost descended in a bodily shape, as a dove upon him; and a voice came from heaven: Thou art my beloved Son; in thee I am well pleased. (Lk 3:21-22)
3. John 2:1-11 -- At the wedding feast in Cana of Galilee, Jesus, at His Mother's bidding, changes water into wine.
And the wine failing, the mother of Jesus saith to him: They have no wine. And Jesus saith to her: Woman, what is that to me and to thee? my hour is not yet come. His mother saith to the waiters: Whatsoever he shall say to you, do ye. (Jn 2:3-5)
4. Matthew 8:1-13 -- Jesus, with a word, cleanses a leper.
And behold a leper came and adored him, saying: Lord, if thou wilt, thou canst make me clean. And Jesus stretching forth his hand, touched him, saying: I will, be thou made clean. And forthwith his leprosy was cleansed. (Mt 8:2-3)
5. Matthew 8:23-27 -- Jesus calms the raging sea.
And behold a great tempest arose in the sea, so that the boat was covered with waves, but he was asleep. And they came to him, and awaked him, saying: Lord, save us, we perish. And Jesus saith to them: Why are you fearful, O ye of little faith? Then rising up he commanded the winds, and the sea, and there came a great calm. (Mt 8:24-25)
(Read entire post.)

Sunday, January 7, 2018

Epiphany: the Festival of Adoration

From Fr. Mark:
When a soul perceives the light of Christ, that soul is compelled to adore. Thus do we hear in the Holy Gospel: “And entering into the house, they found the child with Mary his mother, and falling down they adored him.” (Matthew 2:11).

There are, if you will, three moments in the grace of adoration. The first of these is the perception of the light. To see the light of Christ one must enter into the house that is the Church; from the outside, it appears, to some, small and, perhaps, confining. But when one enters the house of the Church, one discovers, from within, that it is immensely spacious. The Church is the place of the Divine Hospitality on earth. Not only is their room in the house of the Church for all; there is also pure water for cleansing; oil for the healing of every infirmity; and a banquet made ready with the living Bread come down from heaven, and with the joy-giving chalice of Christ’s Precious Blood.

The house of the Church is Mary’s house. Therein she is Mother: Mother, not only of Christ the Head, the Infant nourished at her breast, but also of the members of the Body of Christ, from the least to the greatest, all of whom she draws to her Immaculate Heart. Mary’s Virgin Body is the radiant monstrance of the Body of Christ; she holds Him in such a way as to show Him to us. She says to every soul who enters the house of the Church, “Arise, be enlightened, for thy light has come, and the glory of the Lord has risen upon thee.” (Isaiah 60:1).

The light that illumines Mary’s house, the house of the Church, shines from the adorable Body of Christ in the Most Holy Sacrament of the Altar. How can one open one’s eyes to the radiant Body of Christ, exposed in what Mother Mectilde de Bar called the soleil (sun) of the monstrance, and not see the fufilment of the words of the prophet Malachy? “The Sun of justice shall arise, and health — meaning healing and wholeness — in his wings” (Malachy 4:2)

The second moment in the grace of adoration is to fall down as it is written in the Gospel: “and falling down they adored him” (Matthew 2:11). What is this mysterious falling down? It is a response to the brightness of the Light; it is the first movement of one who would adore. To fall down is to attempt to become level with the ground. It is the expression of a profound desire to become very little, very lowly. It is an attempt to say with one’s whole body, that one would wish to be able to pour oneself out, to break oneself open, to allow one’s essence to be spent to the last molecule, like the precious perfume that flowed from the vase of alabaster, filling the whole house with its fragrance (John 12:3). This is what Mother Mectilde of the Holy Sacrament means when she speaks of anéantissement, and when she makes it the very condition of adoration in spirit and in truth. (Read more.)

Saturday, January 6, 2018

The Invisible Star of Grace

From Mother Mectilde de Bar:
...The feast of the Epiphany...signifies the manifestation of Jesus to the holy Magi Kings, who sought Him in the manger of Bethlehem to offer Him their respect and their adoration. This feast must bring us a special devotion because it corresponds more than any other to the spirit of our vocation which deputes us to adore the same Christ Jesus, whom the Magi adored, in the august Sacrament of the Altar, the mystery that contains within itself all the other mysteries of His holy life. For this reason, you can adore there [in the Most Holy Sacrament] the little Child of the manger; you can adore Him together with the Holy Kings and you can say even as they did, “We have seen his star in the east, and are come to adore him” (Matthew 2:2). The call to to the Institute [of Perpetual Adoration of the Most Holy Sacrament of the Altar] was your star, and even though you did not see a visible star, as the Magi did, you have had nonetheless the interior inspiration of grace, which is by far more secure than outward signs.

God Has Chosen Us
You have, then, seen His star, and you have come to adore Him. But what duration and extent must such adoration have? Every instant of our life, and with all our being. We are called  . . . of Perpetual Adoration. Oh, let us not bear so beautiful a name in vain; let us not be illusory adorers, let us correspond with all our capacity to this calling and to God’s choice of us to adore Him continually. Has He need of us for this, poor and miserable creatures [that we are] who can do nothing good of ourselves unless we be moved by His grace? Has He not millions of angels and heavenly spirits who ceaselessly render Him perfect adoration even in our churches, which are altogether full of them? Although we do not see them, this is the truth. All the same, He has chosen us and wants us to have the privilege of adoring Him as they do, and of being His perpetual adorers. We must, in a holy manner, glory in so lofty a vocation! But to carry out such a vocation, it is not enough to spend an hour or some in His presence in choir.

In Spirit and in Truth
Our adoration must be perpetual because the same God whom we adore in the Most Holy Sacrament is always present to us in every place.  We must adore Him in spirit and in truth. In spirit, by means of a holy interior recollection; in truth, by acting in such wise that all our observances become a continual adoration, and this by giving ourselves faithfully to God in all that He asks of us, because as soon as we fail in fidelity, we stop adoring.
Our Institute was created uniquely to make perpetual adorers of us. You have been called to this; it is, therefore, up to you to realise its grace and holiness by becoming authentic adorers who adore in spirit and in truth. Yes, such must be your care and diligence in adoring this God of majesty in spirit and in truth, so as to correspond to His choice of you. In spirit, by the certainty of your faith, believing all that He is in Himself, even without understanding it. His divine greatnesses and perfections deserve your homage, your respect, your adoration. In truth, by adoring Him with your whole being, in such wise that there be nothing in you that you do not wish to hand over and sacrifice to Him in order to adore Him as perfectly as possible according to your capacity and with all your heart. (Read more.)

Epiphany of the Lord

 Arise, be enlightened, O Jerusalem: for thy light us come....And the gentiles shall walk in thy light, and kings in the brightness of thy rising....All they from Saba shall come, bringing gold and frankincense, and showing forth praise to the Lord. (Isaias 60, 1-6)
Here is a quote on the Epiphany from Fr. Gabriel of St. Mary Magdalen's Divine Intimacy:
A star often appears in the heaven of our souls; it is the inspiration from God, clear and intimate, urging us to greater generosity and calling us to a life of closer union with Him. Like the Magi, we too must always follow our star with faith, promptness and selfless generosity. If we allow it to guide us, it will certainly lead us to God; it will bring us to the One whom we are seeking.
The Magi did not give up their quest, although the star- at one point- disappeared from their sight. We should follow their example and their perseverance, even when we are in interior darkness. This is a trial of faith which is overcome only by the exercise of pure, naked faith. I know that He wills it, I know that God is calling, and this suffices for me: Scio cui credidi et certus sum (2 Timothy 1:12); I know whom I have believed. No matter what happens, I shall trust Him. (Divine Intimacy, pp. 122-123)

Abbot Gueranger discusses the mystery of the Magi, HERE
.


(Artwork:
Journey of the Magi, 1902 by James Tissot)

Friday, January 5, 2018

Epiphany Eve

It is the Twelfth Night. Tomorrow in Rome the Holy Father will be celebrating the Solemnity of the Epiphany of the Lord. In the U.S.A. we  will celebrate the great manifestation of Our Lord to the nations on Sunday. In the meantime, Fish Eaters has a splendid article about Epiphany Eve.

Monday, January 1, 2018

Octave-day of Christmas

It is the Solemnity of Mary, the Mother of God.
Your blessed and fruitful virginity is like the bush, flaming yet unburned, which Moses saw on Sinai. Pray for us, Mother of God. (Antiphon for Vespers of January 1)
We recall that on the eighth day after His birth, Our Lord shed His first drops of blood for the redemption of the world. Fr. Blake reminds us that this feast was formerly known as "The Circumcision of the Lord."  
Up until recently today's feast had the title of the "The Circumcision of the Lord", it must have been incredibly embarrassing for nuns to explain to little girls, but today it seems a shame that we do not remember this very Jewish aspect of the Lord's life, such glorious material to preach on, especially when according to the Jewish Council of great Britain there is a rise of anti-semitism in Europe and the US. The Circumcision reminds us of the very Jewishness of Jesus, Mary and Joseph, of the importance of Jewish ritual and Law in his life. As lovely as it is to think of the Blessed Virgin as Mother of God, Theotokos, earlier title of the Feast gives us an great deal of catechetical material. I have no knowledge of why this feast's name should be changed but it does seem paradoxical that it should happen after the Council which called us to be ever more conscious of the Jewish origins of our faith. (Read more.)
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