On Purification of the Memory

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I was happy today to return to the lesson at Matins for the feast of Saint Raphael the Archangel: Saint Bonaventure's mystical exegesis of the Book of Tobit. The Seraphic Doctor presents the Archangel Raphael's three remedies for the soul made sick by sin: tears of repentance, the burning Heart of Christ, and greater earnestness in prayer.

The following section treats of the burning Heart of ΙΧΘΥΣ, that is, Jesus Christ, God's Son, the Saviour.

The Heart of the Fish

Raphael would deliver us from the devil's bondage by putting us in remembrance of the Passion of Christ. This is set forth in Chapter six of the Book of Tobit under a figure of the heart of the fish which, when it is burning, driveth away all kinds of evil spirits.

The Heart on Fire

And again in Chapter eight, where we are told that Tobias placed the heart on live coals and the evil spirit fled into the utmost parts of Egypt, and the Angel bound him. What is this? Could Raphael bind an evil spirit only when the heart of a fish is set on fire? Did the Angel need a fish to enhearten him with great strength? Not at all. There is nothing worthwhile here except we take it mystically.

The Heart of Christ Burning With Love

Now the fish is a long-used symbol of Christ, because its letters in Greek are the initials of these words: Jesus Christ, God's Son, the Saviour. And so we may understand by the heart of the fish that there is nothing today to free us from the bondage of the devil except the passion of Christ, which same proceedeth from the depth of Himself, namely His Heart burning with love. For the heart is the fervent fountain of all life.

Place the Heart of Christ Within Thee

The Heart of Christ, whence His passion proceeded, is the source of a charity which burneth with love, and so is the cause of devotion in us. But thy memory is often to thee coals of fire. If therefore thou will place the Heart of Christ within thee, upon the dead coals of thy memories, and let them burn with the flames of that Heart, at once the devil will leave thee. Yea, he will be rendered harmless, as though he were bound.

Saint Bonaventure, De Sanctis Angelis, Sermo V



That's what I get for not making Matins part of my horarium.

This is just what I needed today.

~ Jon

Dear Father Mark,
This is the first time I leave a comment on your blog, though it has been nurturing me for more than a year.
Heartfelt thanks for what you stand for, Father! In a time when the contemplative dimension of Christianity is, if not altogether ignored, either misunderstood or watered-down, a message from the cloister like yours, not only theologically sound but ablaze with that love for Christ that only authentic, infused contemplation ignites, is urgently needed. God bless you!
Francisco David

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About Dom Mark

Dom Mark Daniel Kirby is Conventual Prior of Silverstream Priory in Stamullen, County Meath, Ireland. The ecclesial mandate of his Benedictine community is the adoration of the Most Holy Sacrament of the Altar in a spirit of reparation, and in intercession for the sanctification of priests.

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