Friday, December 31, 2021

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."

Thursday, December 30, 2021

Tolkien's Poem to Our Lady

From uCatholic:
The ancient dome of heaven sheer
Was pricked with distant light;
A star came shining white and clear
Alone above the night.
In the dale of dark in that hour of birth
One voice on a sudden sang:
Then all the bells in Heaven and Earth
Together at midnight rang.

Mary sang in this world below:
They heard her song arise
O’er mist and over mountain snow
To the walls of Paradise,
And the tongue of many bells was stirred
in Heaven’s towers to ring
When the voice of mortal maid was heard,
That was mother of Heaven’s King.

Glad is the world and fair this night
With stars about its head,
And the hall is filled with laughter and light,
And fires are burning red.
The bells of Paradise now ring
With bells of Christendom,
And Gloria, Gloria we will sing
That God on earth is come.
(Read more.)

Wednesday, December 29, 2021

"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:
A strong man who wavered for a moment, but then learned one cannot come to terms with evil, and so became a strong churchman, a martyr, and a saint—that was Thomas Becket, archbishop of Canterbury, murdered in his cathedral on December 29, 1170. His career had been a stormy one. While archdeacon of Canterbury, he was made chancellor of England at the age of 36 by his friend King Henry II. When Henry felt it advantageous to make his chancellor the archbishop of Canterbury, Thomas gave him fair warning: he might not accept all of Henry’s intrusions into Church affairs. Nevertheless, in 1162 he was made archbishop, resigned his chancellorship, and reformed his whole way of life!

Troubles began. Henry insisted upon usurping Church rights. At one time, supposing some conciliatory action possible, Thomas came close to compromise. He momentarily approved the Constitutions of Clarendon, which would have denied the clergy the right of trial by a Church court and prevented them from making direct appeal to Rome. But Thomas rejected the Constitutions, fled to France for safety, and remained in exile for seven years. When he returned to England he suspected it would mean certain death. Because Thomas refused to remit censures he had placed upon bishops favored by the king, Henry cried out in a rage, “Will no one rid me of this troublesome priest!” Four knights, taking his words as his wish, slew Thomas in the Canterbury cathedral. (Read more.)

Tuesday, December 28, 2021

Childermas Day

The Feast of the Holy Innocents. From Dr. Eleanor Parker at A Clerk of Oxford:
Medieval writers were honest and clear-eyed about such uncomfortable truths. The idea that thoughts like these are incongruous with the Christmas season (as you often hear people say about the Holy Innocents) is largely a modern scruple, encouraged by the comparatively recent idea that Christmas is primarily a cheery festival for happy children and families. Our images of Christmas joy, both secular and sacred, are all childlike wonder and picture-perfect families gathered round the tree. And this is nice, of course, for those who have children or happy families, but for those who don't - those who have lost children or parents or others dear to them, those who face loneliness or exclusion, those who want but don't have children, family, or home - it can be intensely painful. Not everyone can choose not to think about grief at Christmas; many people will find it intrudes upon them, whether they wish it to or not. 'In sorrow endeth every love but thine, at the last'. The modern version of Christmas tends to sideline and ignore that pain, asking it to at least keep quiet so as not to spoil the 'magic'. But that's not the case with medieval writing about Christmas and the Christ-child. There are, of course, many merry and joyful medieval carols, and the season was celebrated in the Middle Ages with great enthusiasm; but there are also many carols like this which are serious, melancholy, and sad, which acknowledge the fact that the child whose birth is celebrated came to earth to die. Older writings on Christmas, like this lullaby, do not exclude but encompass human pain - it's that pain, they say, which Christ has come to earth to share. The idea is well expressed by John Donne, writing a little later than the medieval period (though only a few decades after the Coventry mystery plays were abolished), in a sermon he preached on Christmas Day 1626:
The whole life of Christ was a continual passion; others die martyrs, but Christ was born a martyr. He found a Golgotha, where he was crucified, even in Bethlehem, where he was born; for, to his tenderness then, the straws were almost as sharp as the thorns after; and the manger as uneasy at first, as his cross at last. His birth and his death were but one continual act, and his Christmas Day and his Good Friday are but the evening and morning of one and the same day.
(Read more.)

Monday, December 27, 2021

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.

Sunday, December 26, 2021

Feast of the Holy Family

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

Saturday, December 25, 2021

Merry Christmas!

And a Happy New Year! Thanks to everyone who has visited this blog in 2021~ I will pray for you all this Christmas Day in the morning. 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

The Joy of Wonder

From iBenedictines:
For me that mystery is expressed in the line about the Church being filled with wonder at the nearness of her God. Wonder is not fashionable. It has no street cred. It is the reverse of ‘cool’, yet wonder is one of the most generous and joyful of emotions. We are surprised with wonder at the unexpected or even the familiar seen or heard as for the first time. It is not dependent on our circumstances. I remember once being moved almost to tears by the luminous beauty of a raindrop slowly coursing down a window-pane. At the time, I was busy with many things, distracted and irritable, but my attention was suddenly held and a rainy day transformed by that glimpse of loveliness. Christmas Day is a little like that. At one level, it is a day like any other; at another, it is a day out of time, a day that allows us a glimpse of eternity and of God himself. 
Today we are invited to wonder at the miracle of God made man, the mighty Word reduced to a baby’s wail. This we can celebrate no matter where we are or the circumstances in which we find ourselves. Too much family or too little, feasting or forced to fast, our God is near to us. All glory, honour and praise be to Him for ever and ever! (Read more.)

Friday, December 24, 2021

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.

Thursday, December 23, 2021

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.

[...]
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.

 

 Now all is fulfilled....Ecce completa sunt omnia....(Lauds of December 23)

At the completion of the O Antiphons, we reflect on the acrostic ERO CRAS, which means "Tomorrow I shall come" or "Tomorrow I shall be."



Wednesday, December 22, 2021

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.

Tuesday, December 21, 2021

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).  

Monday, December 20, 2021

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).

Sunday, December 19, 2021

Faith, Reason and the Virgin Birth

It is the ancient and constant teaching of the Church that Our Lady gave birth without loss of her virginity. In the words of Father Angelo:
In the Catholic view of things, faith and reason are mutually compatible, although through faith we are able to know things that we could not know by reason alone.  Hence, faith is both reasonable and transcends reason, just as grace builds on nature but also transcends it.  Reason shows us that what God has revealed is compatible with nature.  In other words, God is not arbitrary.  The natural law written in our hearts is confirmed by supernatural revelation not contradicted by it....

Among Catholics there is much confusion as to the precise meaning of the Virgin Birth.  It is not to be confused with the Virginal Conception of Our Lord.   The Church, from the earliest times, has articulated the Perpetual Virginity of Our Lady as pertaining to three distinct moments:  before the birth of Jesus (ante partum), during the birth of Jesus (in partu), and after birth of Jesus (post partum).  Virtually every time the magisterium has spoken on the subject, this threefold distinction is made.  This teaching is derived from the early fathers of the Church, who maintained, defended and made the teaching a universally held truth of the Catholic Church.

The Virginity of Our Lady “before the birth of Jesus” (ante partum) refers to the Virginal Conception, namely, that Jesus was conceived in the womb of Mary by the power of the Holy Spirit, and not by the seed of man.  That is fairly clear.  It is also clear that the Virginity of Our Lady “after the birth of Jesus” (post partum) refers to the fact that Our Lady never had sexual relations, even after the birth of Jesus, a fact that many Protestants deny.  For many Catholics, unfortunately, these two points say everything that is to be said about the Virginity of Our Lady and such Catholics proceed to explain away the Virginity of Our Lady “during the birth of Jesus” (in partu).  They say that the Virginity of Our Lady in partu, just refers to her “spiritual virginity,” an idea that is contrary to magisterial clarifications.  Or, they say, that the “Virgin Birth” is a misnomer for “Virginal Conception.”

But the middle moment of Our Lady’s Perpetual Virginity is real and its reality is the only viable reason why the Church would continue to insist on a threefold distinction as opposed to a twofold one.  In fact, unless the Virginity of Our Lady in partu means exactly what the Fathers of the Church said it means, namely, miraculous birth, then it means nothing at all and as a statement of faith is completely superfluous and meaningless.

Theologians can speculate all they want on what does or does not belong to the essential matter of the Church’s definition of the Perpetual Virginity, but the only reason anyone would doubt that the birth of Jesus is any less miraculous than the conception is a lack of faith.  People will cite this or that theologian, whose convoluted explanation of the Virgin Birth allows for a natural birth, including pain and afterbirth, but they cannot cite any ancient authorities or magisterial affirmations.  They do not want to believe the full truth of the Virgin Birth because it is hard to believe—and because it is not convenient doctrine for Apologetics. (Read entire post.)

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.

 

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)

Saturday, December 18, 2021

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.

A quote 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).

Friday, December 17, 2021

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 had 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.

Thursday, December 16, 2021

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

Wednesday, December 15, 2021

The Spanish Privilege

 

From The Liturgical Arts Journal:

Blue vestments are frequently a topic of very great interest -- so much so, one wonders why the Church doesn't simply permit this colour since it pretty clearly seems to be a development that is not only well situated with the precedent of custom but also the manifest desire of the lay faithful; but I digress. If you want a general guideline for 'decoding' blue vestments it is this: not all blue vestments are in fact blue (liturgically speaking); blue was sometimes meant to function liturgically as purple or even occasionally black. (For example, purple sometimes has strong blue undertones and when you look at it, you can see how it could be interpreted as either colour. Likewise, some blues are so dark, navy blue for example, it could easily function as black. To extend this further, some blues have green tones in them and could even be intended to function as liturgical green.) A good general starting point is this: the lighter the colour of blue -- and thus the less arguably able to function as purple or black -- the more likely it was specifically blue, or Marian, in its liturgical intent. The permission that was given for blue does in fact specify the shade of blue known as cerulean. (Read more.)

Tuesday, December 14, 2021

The Mystical Doctor

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Monday, December 13, 2021

Saint Lucy, Bride of Christ

"Lucy, Bride of Christ, by your sufferings you have gained mastery of your soul." —The Roman Breviary
St. Lucy died in 304 in Syracuse, Sicily during the persecution of Diocletian. She is the patroness of eye ailments. From Aleteia:
St. Lucy was a holy young woman...who was inspired by St. Agatha to dedicate her life to God. At the time she was betrothed to a man, but Lucy felt called by God to remain a virgin and distribute her dowry to the poor. This enraged her betrothed, who brought her in front of consul Paschasius for being a Christian. Paschasius commanded her to offer sacrifice to the pagan idols. Lucy adamantly refused and remained steadfast in the practice of her Christian faith. Paschasius was astonished by the fearless responses of Lucy and sought to break her will. The medieval text known as the Golden Legend narrates what happens next.
“The sting of the whip will silence your lip!”Lucy: “Those who live chaste lives are the temples of the Holy Spirit." 
“Then I shall have you taken to a brothel,” said Paschasius, “your body will be defiled and you will lose the Holy Spirit.” 
“The body is not defiled,” Lucy responded, “unless the mind consents. If you have me ravished against my will, my chastity will be doubled and the crown will be mine. You will never be able to force my will. As for my body, here it is, ready for every torture. What are you waiting for? Son of the devil, begin! Carry out your cruel designs!”
(Read more.)
"The Martyrdom of St. Lucy" by Pietro Novelli
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