Homilies: August 2010 Archives

Saint Helena, Empress

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The feast of Saint Helena is August 18th. When I lived at Santa Croce in Gerusalemme in Rome, it was celebrated with all due solemnity. Evelyn Waugh has a marvelous novel entitled Helena, based on her life. It is well worth reading.

A Relic of the True Cross

Our monastery is privileged to possess and venerate a little fragment of the True Cross. It is a direct link with Saint Helena who unearthed the wood of the Cross in Jerusalem in about the year 326. It is also a link with the Basilica of Santa Croce in Gerusalemme in Rome from which fragments of the wood of the True Cross have been dispensed to Catholics the world over for centuries. It is, above all, a sign of the saving love of Our Lord Jesus Christ who, “lifted up from the earth, draws all men to himself” (Jn 12:32). This is the wood before which the Church sings on Good Friday, “Behold the wood of the Cross, on which hung the Saviour of the world.”

Most of the fragments of the True Cross that we venerate in our churches derive from the Wood of the Cross kept in Rome since the early fourth century. When one sees, as I have, the faith of pilgrims coming from all over the world to venerate the Wood of the Cross at the Basilica of Santa Croce in Gerusalemme, when one witnesses their tears and hears their prayers before the relics of the Passion and Cross, there is no doubt that we are in the presence of a great and holy sign, the pledge of a life-giving mystery.

Saint Ambrose Speaks

Saint Helena, the mother of the Emperor Constantine, was already an old woman when she set out for Jerusalem intent on excavating the holy places of Christ’s Passion. Saint Ambrose relates Saint Helena’s discovery of the true Cross;

Helena burned with desire to touch the remedy of immortality, but feared to tread on the sacrament of salvation. Joyful in her heart, but fearful in her steps, she knew not what to do; she came nonetheless to the throne of truth. Helena began to visit the holy places and, from the Holy Spirit, had the inspiration to search for the Wood of the Cross. She arrived at Calvary and said, “Behold the place of the battle, where is the victory? I seek the standard of salvation and find it not. I am on the throne and the Cross of the Lord is in the dust? I am in the midst of gold and the triumph of Christ among the ruins? See the devil’s deed; he has buried the sword by which he was brought to nothing. Let the debris be cleared away so that life may appear; let the sword that severed the head of the true Goliath be brought to light; let the earth split open that salvation may shine forth.


La guarigione del sordomuto, Cristoforo de Predis, Milano, 1440-1486

11th Sunday After Pentecost

Today's Introit, well served by its sturdy 5th mode melody, is a ringing affirmation of the presence of the living God in His holy place.

The Church, and, in its own way, the monastery, which is a microcosm of the Church (an ecclesiola, a little Church) fulfills the words of the Prophet-King:

God is in His holy place;
God who maketh men of one mind to dwell in a house;
He shall give power and strength to His people.
V. Let God arise and let His enemies be scattered:
and let them that hate Him flee from before His face.

(Ps 67: 6, 7, 36)

God Is Available

The good news is this: that God is in His holy place. He is at home, and is receiving visitors. God is very near, not remote and inaccessible. God is available, even to the smallest and humblest of His children, not engaged in meetings with the powerful of the earth, and forever absorbed in the affairs of the cosmos "The sparrow hath found herself a house, and the turtledove a nest for herself where she may lay her young ones. Thy altars, O Lord of hosts, my King and my God" (Ps 83:4).

A Place Prepared

This is the house of which Our Lord says, "In my Father's house there are many mansions. If not, I would have told you: because I go to prepare a place for you. And if I shall go, and prepare a place for you, I will come again, and will take you to myself; that where I am, you also may be" (Jn 14:3). The desire and will of Our Lord's Divine Heart are clearest in His priestly prayer to the Father: "Father, I will that where I am, they also whom Thou hast given me may be with me; that they may see my glory which Thou hast given me, because Thou hast loved me before the creation of the world" (Jn 17:24).

Where Sons Abide

So lavish is the Divine Hospitality, that those who enter His house as guests are invited to abide there as members of His household, as adopted sons in the Son. "Blessed are they that dwell in Thy house, O Lord: they shall praise Thee forever and ever. . . . Better is one day in Thy courts above thousands. I have chosen to be an abject in the house of my God, rather than to dwell in the tents of sinners" (Ps 83:5, 11).

One House, One Heart, One Soul

"God maketh men of one mind to dwell in a house." This is the very sentence used by Saint Augustine in the 2nd article of his Rule. Saint Augustine, moreover, couples this sentence from the psalm with the description of the primitive Church from the Acts of the Apostles:

"And the multitude of believers had but one heart and one soul:
neither did anyone say that aught of the things which he possessed, was his own;
but all things were common unto them" (Ac 4:32).

The Pierced Side: A Door

The holy place of God is the Body of Christ. The entrance to that holy place is the door opened in the Sacred Side of Jesus by the soldier's lance. If you would find God, go to His temple, that is, go to the Body of Christ. Enter His Church, and then, press on to cross the threshold of His pierced Side.. It is concerning this temple that God said to Solomon:

I have chosen this place to Myself for a house of sacrifice . . .
My eyes also shall be open,
and My ears attentive to the prayer of him that shall pray in this place.
For I have chosen, and sanctified this place,
that My name may be there forever,
and My eyes and My heart may remain there perpetually. (2 Para 7, 12. 15-16)

The Collect

After the Introit, Kyrie, and Gloria, we pray one of the most beautiful Collects of the entire series for the Sundays After Pentecost:

Almighty and everlasting God,
Who art always more ready to hear than we to pray,
and art wont to give more than either we desire or deserve,
pour down upon us the abundance of Thy mercy,
forgiving us those things of which our conscience is afraid,
and giving us those good things which we are not worthy to ask.
Though our Lord Jesus Christ, Thy Son,
Who liveth and reigneth with Thee,
in the unity of the Holy Ghost,
one God, world without end.

The Voice of the Son and the Voice of His Bride

One who prays from within the Church, prays from within the temple of the Heart of Jesus, and one who prays from within the temple of the Heart of Jesus, has discovered what it means to pray with the Church. Such a prayer is always heard, for in it, the Father recognizes the voice of the Son speaking on behalf of His Mystical Body, and the voice of His Bride, the Church, ever pleading the interests of her Bridegroom's Heart.

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.

Donations for Silverstream Priory