Homilies: February 2007 Archives

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Saturday After Ash Wednesday

Isaiah 58:9-14
Psalm 85:1-2ab, 2c-4, 5-6
Luke 5:27-32

The Voice of Mercy

While we are yet on the threshold of Lent, Mercy passes by, looks into our hearts, sees every bit of your story and of mine, and, astonishingly, says, “Follow me” (Lk 5:27). He wants us for himself. “I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance” (Lk 5:32).

Saint Augustine

We do well to attend to the traditional Lenten Stational Churches of Rome. We are, after all, Roman Catholics; our liturgy and our piety are shaped by the practices of the Church that is at Rome. The best peoples’ missals used to offer a map of the Eternal City marking the location of the Stational Churches so that, at least in spirit, Catholics the world over could follow the Christians of Rome in their Lenten progress. Every day in Lent offers us the opportunity to make a spiritual pilgrimage to the designated Stational Church. I speak of this because today’s church, that of Saint Augustine, is wonderfully suited to today’s gospel. The Confessions of Saint Augustine are confessions of the Mercy of God. “Though I am but dust and ashes,” says Augustine, “allow me to speak in your merciful presence, for it is to your Mercy that I address myself” (Confessions, Book I, 7).

Mercy on the Face of Christ

Our friends from the Fraternity of Communion and Liberation would tell us that the core of their commitment is in the event of an encounter with Christ, the Way, the Truth, and the Life. Today’s gospel relates exactly such an experience: the event of Levi’s encounter with Jesus. The richness of God’s Mercy is revealed in Jesus. We see the Mercy of God on His face. We hear the Mercy of God in His voice. We feel it in the touch of His hands. We experience it flowing from His heart. Christ, being the Mercy of God, is the Way to those who, confused and disoriented, have lost their way in life. Being the Mercy of God, He is the Truth to those who go stumbling in the darkness and knocking at all the wrong doors, hoping to find truth at home. Being the Mercy of God, He is the Life to those deceived by a culture of death.

And He Arose

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Monday of the Seventh Week of the Year I
Mark 9:14–29

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A Tormented Child

Today's Gospel recounts the deliverance of a boy tormented by an evil spirit from his infancy. "And oftentimes hath he cast him into the fire and into waters to destroy him. But if Thou canst do anything, help us, having compassion on us" (Mk 9:21). The Evil One throws the boy into extremes; this is characteristic of the devil's work. Whereas the action of the Holy Spirit is marked by a sweet discretion, by gentleness, and by moderation, the action of the Evil One is marked by exaggerations, by excesses of all sorts, by imprudent starts and by bitter endings. These are the things that cast the soul into discouragement and sadness.

Faith

How does one restore order and balance to a soul that has lost both? "And Jesus saith to him: If thou canst believe, all things are possible to him that believeth" (Mk 9:22). Our Lord asks for one thing only: a little faith. Here, faith means trust. Faith is not an intellectual assent to a metaphysical construct; it is the word or action by which one entrusts oneself (or another) to God. "And immediately the father of the boy crying out, with tears — the perfect definition of the prayer of supplication: a crying out with tears — said: I do believe, Lord: help my unbelief" (Mk 9:23). The father responded to the word of Our Lord by asking Him to place within his soul the dispositions of faith necessary for his son's deliverance. Not only does he ask for his son's healing; he asks that his own faith be made whole.

Struggle and Death

A terrifying struggle and a kind of death follow. And crying out and greatly tearing him, he went out of him, and he became as dead, so that many said: He is dead" (Mk 9:25). Struggle and apparent death are part of the healing process.

And He Arose

The narrative culminates in a spiritual resurrection. "But Jesus taking him by the hand, lifted him up; and he arose" (Mk 9:26). "And he arose" — how easy it is to pass over this little phrase that, in some way, is the key to all the rest. This is a true resurrection into newness of life. Henceforth, nothing will be the same in the young man's life, and nothing will be the same in the life of his father.

Prayer and Fasting

The disciples are puzzled by the Our Lord's boy's deliverance. They had attempted to deliver him and had failed. "And when He was come into the house, his disciples secretly asked Him: Why could we not cast him out? And He said to them: This kind can go out by nothing, but by prayer and fasting" (Mk 9:28). Our Lord refers here to "The Soul of the Apostolate," to the hidden life, the source of all spiritual authority and fruitfulness.

In seeking the intercession of Saint Gabriel the Wonderworker during this novena, we, like the father in the Gospel are saying, "I do believe, Lord: help my unbelief" (Mk 9:23). To the prayer of supplication we do well to add some form of fasting — and there are many, many forms of fasting — taking care to practice moderation and discretion. Fasting, by engaging the body, becomes a physical investment in prayer. Fasting anchors prayer in the heart.

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Seventh Sunday of the Year C
1 Samuel 26:2, 7-9, 12-13, 22-23
Psalm 102: 1-2, 3-4, 8, 10, 12-13
1 Corinthians 15:45-49
Luke 6:27-38

The Ten Commandments of Mercy

I counted ten commandments of mercy in today’s Holy Gospel.

1. Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you (Lk 6:27).
2. Bless those who curse you, pray for those who abuse you (Lk 6:28).
3. Give to everyone who asks of you (Lk 6:30).
4. Do to others as you would have them do to you (Lk 6:31).
5. Lend expecting nothing (Lk 6:35).
6. Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful (Lk 6:36).
7. Judge not, and you will not be judged (Lk 6:37.
8. Condemn not, and you will not be condemned (Lk 6:37).
9. Forgive and you will be forgiven (Lk 6:37).
10. Give, and gifts will be given to you (Lk 6:38).

Who Are the Saints?

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Saturday of the Sixth Week of the Year I
Mark 9:2–13

Jesus Alone With His Friends

Who are the saints? The saints are those who allow themselves to be taken by Jesus “up a high mountain apart by themselves” (Mk 9:2). The saints are those who accept the invitation of the Master to go with him to a place of solitude and to remain with him there. The saints are those who, leaving behind what is familiar and reassuring, choose the company of Jesus alone — a wondrous and fearful thing — amazed that Jesus has chosen to be alone with them. “It is not you who seek my company,” he says, “it is who seek yours.”

Those to Whom God Speaks Face to Face

The saints are the blessed companions of Moses to whom “the Lord used to speak face to face, as a man speaks to his friend” (Ex 33:11). They are the friends of Elijah fed by an angel in the wilderness (1 K 19:5-7): Elijah to whom God spoke not in a great wind, nor in an earthquake, nor in fire, but in “a still small voice” (1 K 19:13).

Seekers of the Face of God

The saints are those in whom the prayer of David is a ceaseless murmur by day and by night: “It is your face, O Lord, that I seek; hide not your face from me” (Ps 26:8-9). The saints are those before whom Jesus shows himself transfigured, “his garments glistening, intensely white” (Mk 9:3), his face “shining like the sun” (Mt 17:2) — and this as “in a mirror darkly” (1 Cor 13:12). The saints are those who, having caught a glimpse of “the fairest of the sons of men” (Ps 44:2) cannot detach their gaze from his face, those who live with their eyes fixed in his.

The Measure of Our Weakness

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Sixth Friday of the Year I
Mark 8:34-9:1

I just came from the altar, having celebrated the Votive Mass of the Most Precious Blood. This particular Votive Mass is profoundly significant here at Santa Croce in Gerusalemme where the the relics of Our Lord's Passion are preserved and venerated. The Wood of the Cross and the Thorns of the Crown were soaked in the Precious Blood of the Lamb. I remembered my dear friend Father Jeff Keyes, C.PP.S. who offered Holy Mass at this same altar just a few weeks ago.

Holding Fast to Christ

Our Lord calls any man who would come after Him to "deny himself, take up his cross, and follow Him" (cf. Mk 8:34). If I love Christ I will choose always to remain with him, to abide close to him. “I found Him whom my soul loves. I held Him and would not let Him go” (Ct 3:4).

Our Lord's call to deny ourselves, take up our cross, and follow him is not, first of all, a call to suffer. It is a call to be with Him, to “follow the Lamb wherever He goes” (cf. Rev 14:4). The sequela Christi, the following after Christ is the expression of our desire to be with Him.

To the Father by the Way of the Cross

Today’s gospel presents us with dynamic images; there is movement. Attend to the verbs: “to come after Me,” says Jesus, and again, “follow Me.” If Jesus says, “follow Me,” it is because He is moving on. “I go to the Father” (Jn 14:28).

The Necessity of the Cross

The Christian life is movement. Why then, you may ask, cannot one simply leave the weight of the cross behind? Would that not make the movement forward easier? Why struggle beneath the weight of the cross if its burden slows our steps? If Our Lord says that we are to come after Him without leaving the cross behind, it is because the cross is somehow necessary. It was concerning this very point that the risen Jesus enlightened the disciples on the road to Emmaus: “Was it not necessary that the Christ should suffer these things and enter into His glory?” (Lk 24:26).

Why is the carrying of the cross necessary to us? Because the cross, by revealing our weakness, opens us to the grace of Christ. “My grace is sufficient for you,” said Christ to Paul; “for My power is made perfect in weakness” (2 Cor 12:9). What does that mean if not that the power of Christ is made perfect in bearing the cross? Paul understood. “When I am weak,” he says, “then I am strong” (2 Cor 12:10). “When, beneath the burden of the cross I come to know my weakness and accept it, then I am strong.” Why did Our Lord choose to fall three times beneath the cross, if not to give us in His weakness a mirror of our own and a reason to hope?

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Blessed Marmion and the Way of the Cross

Blessed Abbot Marmion made the Way of the Cross faithfully every single day of the year with the sole exception of Easter Day. I never tire of returning to his meditations on the Way of the Cross in Christ in His Mysteries. A little known fact about Blessed Abbot Marmion is that he waged a life-long battle against depression. Robust in appearance and outwardly jovial, he was obliged to face his hidden weaknesses and accept them. What was the source of his hope? It was, I think, his daily encounter with the suffering Christ in the Way of the Cross.

The Cross: Our Only Hope

In less than six weeks we will be singing the Passiontide Vespers hymn that, in the second to the last verse, raises a mighty cry of triumph: O crux, ave, spes unica — “Hail, O Cross, our only hope!” Christ fills with His grace every weakness, every poverty, every brokenness revealed by our acceptance of the cross. The cross, especially when we stumble and fall beneath its weight, allows us to take the measure of our weakness and so, reveals the immeasurable measure of Christ’s all-sufficient grace.

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The Mother of Sorrows

There is something else too, or rather someone else. There is the Blessed Virgin Mary, the compassionate Mother of Sorrows. She is ever present on the via crucis, never far from one who falls once, three, or one hundred times beneath the cross, for in each one she recognizes her Son. All of the saints devoted to the Passion of Christ encountered the Mother of God on the via crucis. They chose to remain in spirit by her side all the way to Calvary, standing with her at foot of the cross, suffering with her as she received the body of her Jesus in death, weeping with her at the tomb. The tears of the Sorrowful Mother, mingling with the Precious Blood of Christ, fall into the hearts of her children. The Virgin Mary’s tears are seeds of hope sown in a fertile soil to bear fruit for the whole Church.

Grace Measured to Every Weakness

The first sign of a faith made fruitful by love is adhesion to the cross. In holding out the cross, Christ offers grace measured to every weakness and, in that, He offers each of us a hope that will not disappoint.

The Joy of All Our Days

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A Feast in Europe

In all of Europe today is the feast of Saints Cyril and Methodius, co–patrons of Europe with Saint Benedict, Saint Catherine of Siena, Saint Birgitta of Sweden, and Saint Teresa Benedicta of the Cross.

The Ascension of the Lord

The Gospel given us today is Saint Mark's account of the Ascension of the Lord (Mk 16:15–20). This particular pericope is constructed like a triptych. The central panel is the radiant image of the ascended Lord Jesus, the King of Glory, seated at the right hand of the Father. "So then the Lord Jesus, after He had spoken to them, was taken up into heaven, and sat down at the right hand of God" (Mk 16:19).

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O Jesus, our redemption,
our love, and our desire,
God, Creator of all things,
become Man in the fullness of time.

What tender love, what pity
compelled you to bear our crimes,
to suffer a cruel death
that we, from death, might be saved?

You descended into death’s dark cavern,
and from it, brought forth captives free;
Your triumph won, you take your place,
you, the Victor, at the Father’s right.

It was a tender love, a costly compassion
that pressed you our sorrows to bear;
granting pardon, you raised us up
to fill us full with the splendour of your face.

You are already the joy of all our days,
who in eternity will be our prize;
let all our glory be in you,
forever, and always, and in the age to come.

(Iesu nostra redemptio, Hymn at Vespers of the Ascension)

The Things That Are Above

It is in the light of the glorious mystery of the Ascension, recapitulating the whole work of redemption, that Saint Paul writes: "Seek the things that are above, where Christ is seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth. For you have died and your life is hidden with Christ in God" (Col 3:1–3). This, it seems to me, is the message that contemporary Europe and the whole Western world need to hear.

Go Into the World

The first panel in Saint Mark's triptych depicts Our Lord's command to "go into the world and preach the Gospel to the whole creation" (Mk 16:15). Baptism is the necessary response to the prevenient gift of faith. Those who, having heard the preaching of the Gospel, refuse to put their belief in Christ, will be condemned by their own hardness of heart. The preaching of the Gospel is made compelling by the signs that accompany it. "And these signs will accompany those who believe: in my name they will cast out demons; they will speak in new tongues; they will pick up serpents, and if they drink any deadly thing, it will not hurt them; they will lay their hands on the sick, and they will recover" (Mk 16:17–18).

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Preaching Everywhere

The third panel of the Gospel triptych shows the Church's obedience to the command of the Lord. Saints Cyril and Methodius are, in fact, examples of the last verse of the Gospel: "And they went forth and preached every where, while the Lord worked with them and confirmed the message by the signs that attended it. Amen" (Mk 16:19–20). Saint Mark's phrase, "and the Lord worked with them," corresponds to Saint Matthew's expression of the same mystery: "Behold, I am with you always, to the close of the age" (Mt 28:20).

The Soul of the Apostolate

The preaching of the Gospel is sustained by the contemplation of the risen and ascended Christ hidden for our sake in the sacred mysteries until His return in glory. Those who seek His Face and His Heart hidden in the adorable mystery of the Eucharist will not be disappointed in their hope. The central panel of today's Gospel reveals what Dom Chautard called "the soul of the apostolate." Without seeking the Face of Christ and exposing ourselves to the flames that emanate from His Sacred Heart, it is impossible to hear the commands of the Lord, and impossible to carry them out.

Reading the Signs

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Tuesday of the Sixth Week of the Year I
Mark 8:14–21

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Unintelligence

My French Bible subtitles today’s passage from Saint Mark: “The Unintelligence of the Disciples.” This does not suggest that the disciples were feebleminded; it means, rather, that they were incapable of reading the signs given by Jesus. The word “intelligent” derives from legere, to read, and intus within or inside. The disciples witnessed the multiplication of the loaves in a desert place. They saw Our Lord feed four thousand men and, with their own hands, distributed the miraculous bread to the people. They counted seven baskets left over. And still, the meaning of the sign escaped them. They were unintelligent: incapable of reading inside the meaning of the event.

Except for One Bread Only

We saw yesterday that the Pharisees, blind to the meaning of the multiplication of the loaves, asked Jesus for a sign from heaven. He sighed from the depths of his heart and left them. Today, we see Our Lord in the boat with his disciples. Listen carefully to what Saint Mark says, following the Greek and Latin texts closely: “Now they had forgotten to bring breads; and except for one bread only, they had none with them in the boat” (Mk 8:14).

The Bread of Life

By translating the second “bread” in the sentence as “loaf,” the American lectionary misses the point entirely. Both the Greek text and the Latin typical edition of the lectionary use the same word twice. “They had forgotten to bring bread (plural); and except for one bread only, they had none with them in the boat” (Mk 8:14). The “one bread” with the disciples in the boat is none other than Jesus himself. “I am the bread of life” (Jn 6:35). “I am the living bread which came down from heaven; if anyone eats of this bread, he will live forever; and the bread which I shall give for the life of the world is my flesh” (Jn 6:51). This is the unintelligence of the disciples: the one Bread necessary, the Bread of Life, is in the boat with them, and they fail to recognize him.

Sin Couching at the Door

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Monday of the Sixth Week of the Year I
Genesis 4:1–15, 25

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Cain's Fallen Countenance

The Sacred Liturgy sends us today to Chapter 4 of the book of Genesis: it recounts the first enmity, the first hostility between brothers. “In the course of time Cain brought to the Lord an offering of the fruit of the ground, and Abel brought of the firstlings of his flock and of their fat portions. And the Lord had regard for Abel and his offering, but for Cain and his offering he had no regard. So Cain was very angry, and his countenance fell” (Gen 4:3-4). There you have the first indications of enmity: anger and the fallen countenance. The bile of enmity secreted in the heart makes for a bitter face.

The Beast at the Door

God himself intervenes to save Cain from further sin. “The Lord said to Cain, ‘Why are you angry, and why has your countenance fallen? If you do well, will you not be accepted? And if you do not do well, sin is couching at the door; its desire is for you, but you must master it’” (Gen 4:6-7). The whole psychology of sin is contained in these two verses. God reads the anger in Cain’s heart on his face and immediately offers him a way out of it. It is not too late for Cain to “do well.” God warns Cain of the sin that, like a wild beast, is couching at his door. Sin wants to devour Cain, but God tells him that he must “master it.” The taming of the beast! Master the beast of anger lest it overcome you and eat your heart!

Beatitude: The Bliss of Blessedness

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Lourdes is the spiritual capital of the poor, the hungry, and of those who weep. The coincidence of today's Gospel with the memorial of the Blessed Virgin Mary of Lourdes invites us, rosary in hand, to make a spiritual pilgrimage to the grotto of Massabielle.

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Sixth Sunday of the Year C
Jeremiah 17:5-8
Psalm 1:1-4. 6 R. Ps 39:5
1 Corinthians 15:12. 16-20
Luke 6:17. 20-26

Beatitude

Blessedness, beatitude: words that are rarely part of our every day conversations. And yet who among us does not long for blessedness, for the happy life. There is no one who is not inhabited by a thirst for happiness, for beatitude. We come into the world with an immense emptiness inside: a capacity for the divine. What is blessedness? It is the possession of God. Nothing more and nothing less than the possession of God. The psalmist says: “To be near God is my happiness. . . God is my possession forever” (Ps 72: 28,26).

The Certainty of Being Loved

What is beatitude? During this life it is the certainty that we are loved by God, enfolded in God, held in the Heart of Christ: a certainty that comes not from sight but from faith. After this life, faith will dissolve into vision. Then we shall see with our own eyes the Love that enfolds us, the glory of the One who hides us in the secret of His Face. This is the meaning of blessedness.

The Happy Life

Beatitude is not something which God holds in reserve for the future. Beatitude is for today. Blessedness, the happy life intended by God for each of us, is for this very moment. God does not fill us with the longing for blessedness in order to frustrate us. He who gives the thirst, gives the spring. He who gives the hunger, gives the bread. He who gives the desire, gives the possession of that which is desired.

Exiles From Ourselves

Why then are so many dying of spiritual thirst? Why are so many tormented by the pangs of hunger of the soul? Why are so many embittered and unfulfilled? It is because we have lost the way to our own hearts. We are all, in varying degrees, alienated from the deepest part of ourselves. Saint Augustine experienced this. “You were with me,” he says, “and I was not with you” (Confessions X, 38). We are all exiles from the secret place within where a fountain of living water runs silent and deep. God planted each of us like a tree beside the flowing waters (Ps 1:3). Yet strangely, our roots have grown away from the source of life. Foreign, parasitical growths have entwined themselves around our roots, rendering our leaves dull and brittle, our fruit, bitter and sparse.

Tragic Delusions

The real problem is not that we experience inner poverty, not that we are consumed with spiritual thirst, not that we long for something more, weep over the shallowness of our roots, and lament that we are indeed exiles from our inmost selves. Jesus tells us in today’s Gospel that it is far worse to delude ourselves into believing that we are rich and satisfied. “Woe to you that are rich, for you have received your consolation” (Lk 6:24).

The Way to the Heart

It is far worse to think that professional success, for example, can silence the cravings of the heart. Nor is it enough to be young and rich and beautiful. “Woe to you that are full now, for you shall hunger” (Lk 6:25). It is far worse to think that all is well and that we are in the best of all possible worlds because when all is said and done, we seek the right things, try to get along, and toe the line. Holiness is something more. Jesus says to us, “Woe to you!” And He asks the question: “Do you know the way to your own heart?”

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Where Dragons Lurk

More often than not, the path to the deepest part of ourselves, the way to the hidden valley of the heart where the water of life murmurs its secret song, is overgrown with briars and weeds, strewn with fallen trees and blocked with rocks and rubble. There are dragons waiting to devour us, and monsters lurking in ambush. Now and again we begin the descent into the heart, but quickly become discouraged at the sight of the obstacles which stand in our way, or frightened by the dragons, or terrorized by the monsters. It is more convenient, more comfortable to live at the surface.

Signposts in the Form of the Cross

Woe to us if we live at the surface! Woe to us if we choose the convenient! Woe to us if we prefer the comfortable way! It is a great mercy, a severe tenderness of God, when He obliges us to turn back, when He compels us to seek out the way that leads to blessedness, the path to our own hearts. Poverty will do it. Hunger will do it. Failure will do it. Illness will do it. Rejection and exclusion will do it. Loneliness and loss will do it. Sorrow and tears will do it. Disappointment and pain will do it. Hurt and betrayal will do it. All of these are signposts constructed in the form of the Cross that say: “This way to blessedness.” And if all of these do not convince us to return to ourselves, then death itself will do it, because in the hour of death we will be obliged to descend into the depths of our own hearts and see ourselves as we really are.

Da nobis quaesumus

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Friday of the Fifth Week
of the Year I
Mark 7:31–37

Mediators and Intercessors

"And they brought to Him one deaf and dumb; and they besought Him that He would lay His hand upon him" (Mk 7:32). I am struck by the role of "the others" in today's Gospel: those who brought the man who was deaf and dumb to Jesus. They are mediators and intercessors. "And they besought Him that He would lay His hand upon him."

Beseeching

It is urgent that we recover the language of beseeching both in our liturgical and in our solitary prayer. The hapless translations of the liturgy to which we have been subjected for at least thirty–five years systematically eliminated the language of beseeching. The distinctive da nobis quaesumus of the Roman Rite disappeared from liturgical prayer not only in English but in other vernaculars as well.

To Hear and to Speak

The man in today's Gospel has, in fact, lost the ability to hear and to speak: to hear the Word of God and to speak the praises of God. Is this not the essential structure of the sacred liturgy? The Word of God heard; the Word of God repeated; the Word of God become praise, thanksgiving, and supplication in the mouth of the hearer; the Word of God held in the heart.

Touched By Christ

Both hearing and speaking are restored by the physical touch of Christ, that is, by contact with His vivifying Flesh. The hand of Jesus is the hand of God. the touch of Jesus is the touch of God. Every contact with Jesus is contact with God. I hold in my heart all that Blessed Abbot Marmion wrote concerning this in his classics, Christ in His Mysteries and Christ, the Life of the Soul.

A Place Apart

"And taking him from the multitude apart" (Mk 7:33). Our Lord does this not only because He wants to act quietly and without attracting attention, but also because He desires to grace this man with a moment of divine intimacy that will remain forever within his heart. There are certain healings which can take place only in solitude, in a place apart. By this I do not mean that Our Lord acts apart from His Body, the Church, nor that sacramental and, when God so wills, even charismatic mediations, such as the intercession of the saints, are not necessary. I do mean that what happens in solitary communion with Our Lord is the fruit of the intercession — beseeching — of the Church, flowing from the sacraments and leading back to them.

Eucharistic Healing

For us, healing contact with the Flesh of the Word is realized sacramentally not by means of saliva from the mouth of Christ nor by means of His finger in our ears, but by the ineffable gift of His Sacred Body and Precious Blood in the Eucharist. The liturgy itself, and the prayer before Holy Communion attributed to Saint Thomas Aquinas ascribe to the Holy Mysteries the divine virtus (power) by which we are healed of our infirmities and restored to the wholeness willed for us by God for His glory.

Father, Son, and Holy Spirit

"And looking up to heaven, He groaned, and said to him: Ephpheta, which is 'Be thou opened'" (Mk 7:34). Our Lord's "looking up to heaven" is the expression of His filial and priestly prayer to the Father; His "groaning" is the expression of the Holy Spirit. This one verse is a mysterious epiphany of the Trinity.

O Lord, Open Thou My Lips

"And immediately his ears were opened, and the string of his tongue was loosed, and he spoke right" (Mk 7:35). To speak right! Is this not why the Church makes us begin every day with the verse, "O Lord, open Thou my lips, and my mouth shall declare Thy praise? Is this not why the rubrics place this verse before the articulation of any other prayer? He who "speaks right" has entered into "all the truth" (Jn 16:12). He who "speaks right" has entered into the prayer of Christ to the Father. He who "speaks right" has received "the Spirit of Truth, who proceeds from the Father" (Jn 15:26). For this — for ourselves and for one another — let us beseech the Lord.

Eight Days Would Be Enough

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The Saints in Our Lives

The saints come into our lives, each one with a particular mission. We do not choose the saints to whom we are devoted in a special way; it is they who, in obedience to a mysterious design of God, make themselves known and devote themselves to us. This is something I have experienced over and over again. When a particular saint offers me the gift of his or her friendship, it is because God chooses, through this saint, to teach me something, to offer me a particular gift or, quite simply, to give me a heavenly companion for my journey, a counselor, and a friend.

Saint Peter Julian Eymard, Apostle of the Eucharist

Last December I was given a first class relic of Saint Peter Julian Eymard. Then, several trips to the Italian Consulate in Manhattan gave me the opportunity to pray in the magnificent Church of Saint Jean–Baptiste. The Church contains an altar dedicated to Saint Peter Julian and an important relic. Saint Peter Julian Eymard seemed to be approaching me with a message and with a gift.

I just finished reading two biographies of the saint; both books are in Italian. I found them here in the abbey library. San Pietro Giuliano Eymard, Apostolo dell'Eucaristia by Quirino Moraschini and Mondolfo Pedrinazzi, S.S.S. (Roma 1962), and Il Beato Pietro Giuliano Eymard by Paolo Dott. Fossati, Sacerdote Adoratore (Milano 1925).

What I found most striking is this particular teaching of Saint Peter Julian Eymard. Excuse my translation from the Italian, itself a translation from the French.

"The secret for arriving quickly at a life centred in the Eucharist is, during a certain period of time, to make Jesus in the Most Holy Sacrament the habitual object of the exercise of the presence of God, the dominant motive of our intentions, the meditation of our spirit, the affection of our heart, the object of all our virtues. And if the soul is generous enough, one will come at length to this unity of action, to familiarity with the adorable Sacrament, to think of it with as much and even greater ease than of any other object. Easily and gently one's heart will produce the most tender affections. In a word, the Most Holy Sacrament will become the magnet of devotion in one's life and the centre of perfection of one's love. Eight days would be enough for a simple and fervent soul to acquire this Eucharistic spirit; and even if one should have to put weeks and months to acquire it, can this ever be compared with the peace and the happiness which this soul will enjoy in the Divine Eucharist?"

A Eucharistic "Conversion of Manners"

What exactly is Saint Peter Julian Eymard saying here? To use the classic Benedictine expression, he is talking about a conversatio morum, a Eucharistic conversion of the way one lives, a turning toward the mystery of the Eucharist. the first expression of this Eucharistic conversion will be the re–ordering of one's priorities beginning with the organization of one's day. He is suggesting an intensive eight–day exposure to the healing radiance of the Most Holy Eucharist.

Power Comes Forth From Him

I have always loved the Communion Antiphon Multitudo languentium (p. 471 in the Graduale Romanum). The theological and musical summit of the antiphon is in the last line: Quia virtus de illo exibat et sanabat omnes. "For power came forth from Him and healed them all" (Lk 6:19). The fact that the liturgy makes us sing this text during Holy Communion tells us that healing power radiates from the Body and Blood of Christ received from the altar, and contemplated and adored in the tabernacle and in the monstrance. Saint Peter Julian Eymard is suggesting that eight days of conversion, i.e. of turning toward the Most Holy Eucharist is sufficient to begin the healing of one's heart and the renewal of one's life.

Bringing the Messy Bits to Adoration

My friend Lisa H. is famous for counseling folks with problems of all sorts to bring them to Eucharistic adoration. Lisa is 100% right. Bring your whole life to adoration, especially the messy bits, the very parts that you would be tempted to hide or disown. Bring your broken heart and your wounds to adoration. Try it for eight days. It will be the beginning of a Eucharistic conversatio morum.

The Human Face of Divine Mercy

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The painting (1488) is by Bartolomeo di Giovanni and was commissioned for the Hospital of the Innocents in Florence. The six-sided altar at the centre of the composition points to the Sixth Day Sacrifice of the Cross. There is fire burning on the altar, a sign of the Holy Spirit. The Blessed Virgin Mary's gesture indicates that she is offering the Infant Christ and participating in His sacrifice. Simeon's gesture is one of acceptance; he is an image of the Eternal Father. Saint Joseph holds the turtle doves in his cloak; Joseph was chosen by God to veil the mystery. Anna, entering the painting at the extreme left, holds the lighted candle of her faith and hope as she witnesses the arrival in the temple of the long–awaited Priest and Victim, the Consolation of Israel.

The Face of a Little Child

In today’s splendid Entrance Antiphon we sing that we have received Mercy “in the midst of the temple” (Ps 47:10). At the heart of today’s mystery shines the face of a little Child, the human face of Divine Mercy. The four other figures in today’s Gospel — Mary, Joseph, Simeon and Anna — are held in His gaze. In his letter for Lent 2006, Pope Benedict XVI spoke of the gaze of Jesus. “The gaze of Jesus,” he said, “embraces individuals and multitudes, and he brings them all before the Father, offering himself as a sacrifice of expiation.”

Today we meet the gaze of the Infant Christ, “made like his brethren in every respect” (Heb 2:17) and, looking into his eyes, we see that he is already our “merciful and faithful high priest in the service of God, to make expiation for the sins of the people” (Heb 2:17).

The Presentation of Christ Our Priest

Today in the midst of the temple the Father presents his Christ, our Priest, to us; today the Father presents us to Christ our Priest. Of ourselves we have nothing to present; we can but receive him and allow ourselves to become offering in his hands. “We have received your Mercy, O God, in the midst of your temple” (Ps 47:10). It is the Infant Christ, presented to us as our Priest, who in turn presents us to the Father. It is fitting that the symbol of the Infant Christ should be the living flame that crowns our candles. This Child has a Heart of fire, and so the prophet says, “But who can endure the day of his coming, and who can stand when he appears? For he is like a refiner’s fire . . . and he will purify the sons of Levi and refine them like gold and silver, till they present right offerings to the Lord” (Mal 3:2-3).

The Infant Priest and Victim

Today’s observance of the World Day for Consecrated Life must not be allowed to degenerate into a celebration of ourselves. Consider the images that the liturgy sets before us: a flame that burns, consuming the wax that holds it aloft; a Child with the all-embracing gaze of the “Ancient of Days” (Dn 7:13); an Infant who is already priest and victim.

Identification with Christ the Victim

One consecrated is a taper offered to the consuming flame of love. One consecrated has eyes only for the gaze that reveals a Heart that is all fire. One consecrated is presented and handed over to Christ the Priest. One consecrated is inescapably destined for the altar of sacrifice, for identification with Christ the Victim. Consecrated life cannot be anything less than this, nor can it be anything more. This is why the Apostle says, “I appeal to you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship” (Rom 12:1).

The Woman Wrapped in Silence

Each of the four figures surrounding the Infant Christ in the temple is an icon of consecrated life, beginning with his all-holy Virgin Mother. How does today’s Gospel present her? She is a woman wrapped in silence. Even when addressed by Simeon, she remains silent. Her silence is an intensity of listening. She is silent so as to take in Simeon’s song of praise, silent so as to capture his mysterious prophecy of soul-piercing sorrow and hold it in her heart. She is silent because today her eyes say everything, eyes fixed on the face of the Infant Christ, eyes illumined by the brightness of his gaze.

Wordlessly Mary offers herself to the living flame of love. She is the bride of the Canticle of whom it is said, “Behold, you are beautiful, my love, behold you are beautiful! Your eyes are doves behind your veil” (Ct 4:1). Consecrated life in all its forms, and monastic life in particular, begins in the silence of Mary that, already in the temple, consents to the sacrifice of her Lamb and to the place that will be hers beside the altar of the Cross.

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Malachy 3:1-4
Psalm 23: 7, 8, 9, 10
Hebrews 2: 14-18
Luke 2: 22-40

Susception Day

“We receive, O God, your mercy, in the midst of your temple” (Ps 47:10). This is the word from Psalm 47 that the liturgy places on our lips and in our hearts today. In the Middle Ages today’s feast was sometimes called Susception Day, from “suscepimus,” the first word of the entrance antiphon. Often translated as, “we receive,” or “we accept,” “suscepimus” has yet another meaning. This other meaning, while crucial to understanding the mystery we celebrate today, is often overlooked. “Suscipere” means to take up a new born child, and so acknowledge it. In ancient Rome a father acknowledged a child as belonging to him by taking the little one into his arms in the presence of witnesses. Knowing this, the entrance antiphon becomes transparent for us, illumined as it is by the word of the Gospel: “Simeon took him into his arms” (Lk 2:28). “We take up into our arms, O God, your Mercy, in the midst of your temple.”

To Cradle Mercy in Our Arms

The one thing that everyone finds irresistible is to hold a baby, even if only for a few moments. Elders are transformed by it. Boys suddenly become tender and girls motherly. Even little children vie for the privilege of holding the newest arrival. As the little one is passed from one person to the next, faces grow bright with awe and delight. A little child has the power to light up a room. The little child we celebrate today has the power to light up the world: “A light for revelation to the Gentiles, and for glory to your people Israel” (Lk 2:32). The entrance antiphon names the Child “Mercy.” Today, it is given us to cradle Mercy in our arms.

Guided by the Infant

An antiphon from today’s Office sings that, “the ancient carried the Infant, but the Infant guided the steps of the ancient.” Simeon, the image of all that in us has grown old with waiting, carries Mercy in his arms, but Mercy, by the light that shines on his face, guides the old man’s steps. If we would be guided by Mercy, we must first receive Mercy, the Mercy of God that comes to us in the outstretched arms of a little Child seeking to be held.

In the Middle of the Temple

The entrance antiphon says that Mercy is given us “in medio templi” — in the middle of the temple. This places the Infant Christ, the human Face of Divine Mercy at the heart of today’s mystery. As in the icon of today’s feast, all of the other figures in the Gospel are seen in relation to the Child. All of the other figures are seen, in fact, in the light of his face. “What can bring us happiness?” they ask. “Lift up the light of your face on us, O Lord” (Ps 4:7). “Look towards him,” they say one to another, “and be radiant” (Ps 33:6). Christ is placed in our arms today that we might gaze upon the human face of Divine Mercy and, in the light of that face, be transformed.

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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