Homilies: January 2013 Archives

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Votive Mass of the Passion of Our Lord Jesus Christ

Yesterday (Friday) morning we had the Votive Mass of the Passion of Our Lord Jesus Christ (Humiliavit). It is, to my mind, one of the most beautiful Votive Masses in the Roman Missal. The Collect is addressed directly to Our Lord Jesus Christ.

Collect
O Lord Jesus Christ, who didst descend from heaven to earth from the bosom of the Father, and hast poured out thy Precious Blood for the remission of our sins: we humbly beseech thee; that at the last day we may be found acceptable in thy sight, and receive thy gracious invitation: Come ye blessed of my Father.

God Descends

The little phrase who didst descend from heaven to earth recalls the words that God, speaking out of the burning bush, addressed to Moses.

And knowing their sorrow, I am come down to deliver them. (Exodus 3:8)

God comes down. The fulfillment of this descent is, of course, the Incarnation of the Son of God. He descends from heaven into the Virgin's womb. He descends into the manger at Bethlehem. He descends into Egypt as a refugee child whose very life is threatened. He descends to Nazareth. He descends into the ordinary life of every child of Adam, and so knows hunger, thirst, weariness, sorrow, tears, loneliness, and fear. He descends into the humiliations of His bitter Passion. He descends into death. He descends into the tomb. He descends into Hades.

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In the Most Holy Sacrament

Even ascended into glory where He is enthroned at the right hand of the Father, He descends day after day to the altars of His Church, where, lest we forget the mystery of His coming down, He hides Himself beneath the appearance of a fragile piece of bread. The Most Holy Eucharist is the mystery of the humility of God, the humility of God who comes down to the point of pouring Himself out utterly. This is what Mother Mectilde de Bar calls the anéantissement of the Son of God in the adorable Sacrament of the Altar: the mystery of the All-Powerful God descending so low as to assume the appearance of bread. For love of us, sinners, and because that love compels Him to remain with us, and to nourish us with His own Body and Blood, He hides Himself and remains silent in the Most Holy Sacrament.

Lesson: Zacharias 12:10-11; 13:6-7
Thus said the Lord: I will pour upon the house of David, and upon the inhabitants of Jerusalem, the spirit of grace and of supplications: and they shall look upon me whom they have pierced, and they shall mourn for him, as one mourneth for his only son, and shall be in bitterness for him, as one that is in bitterness for his firstborn. In that day shall there be a great mourning in Jerusalem. And one shall say unto him, What are these wounds in thine hands? Then he shall answer, Those with which I was wounded in the house of my friends. Awake, O sword, against my shepherd, and against the man that is my fellow, saith the Lord of hosts: smite the shepherd, and the sheep shall be scattered, saith the Lord Almighty.

The Holy Spirit

The Spirit of grace and supplications is none other than Holy Spirit, apart from whom, according to the teaching of Saint Paul, no one can say, Jesus is Lord. (1 Corinthians 12:3) The Spirit of grace and supplications, says the Apostle,

. . . helpeth our infirmity. For we know not what we should pray for as we ought; but the Spirit himself asketh for us with unspeakable groanings. And he that searcheth the hearts, knoweth what the Spirit desireth; because he asketh for the saints according to God. (Romans 8: 26-27)

Adoration and Reparation

It is, then, the Holy Spirit -- transmitted to the Church on Calvary in the breath of Jesus Crucified, and flowing out His pierced side -- who compels some souls in every generation to abide before the Son of God, humble, hidden, and silent in the Host, in profound adoration and reparation.

"They shall look upon me whom they have pierced," says the Lord. The Holy Spirit directs the gaze of the soul to the One who, in glory and in the Sacrament of His Love, remains the Pierced One. One cannot gaze upon the Pierced One, the immolated Lamb, the Victim of the Altar, without experiencing the sweet bitterness of compunction and reparation.

A Great and Sorrowful Mystery

Seeing the fairest of the children of men, the Only-Begotten Son, wounded in His Heart, His feet, and His hands, one is compelled to ask, "What are these wounds in thine hands?" The wounds in the hands of Christ -- His hands raised in prayer, His hands extended in blessing, His hands baptizing those darkened by sin, His hands nourishing souls with the Bread of Angels, His hands anointing the sick -- these wounded hands signify His priesthood. "Then he shall answer, Those with which I was wounded in the house of my friends." (Zacharias 13:6). This is a great and sorrowful mystery: Christ's hands wounded in the house of His friends.

I Have Called You Friends

What did Our Lord say to His apostles, to His first priests, on the night before He suffered? "I will not now call you servants: for the servant knoweth not what his lord doth. But I have called you friends." (John 15:15) Before doing anything at all -- even before preaching the Word of God and dispensing His grace in the Holy Mysteries -- priests are called to be the friends of Jesus -- not mere acquaintances, nor business associates -- but friends. The house of the friends of Jesus is the Church. It is in the Church that Jesus is wounded in His hands: wounded in His priests, and wounded by His priests. Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger spoke prophetically of this in 2005 in his meditation on the ninth Station of the Way of the Cross:

Should we not also think of how much Christ suffers in his own Church? How often is the holy sacrament of His Presence abused, how often must he enter empty and evil hearts!How often do we celebrate only ourselves, without even realizing that he is there! How often is his Word twisted and misused! What little faith is present behind so many theories, so many empty words! How much filth there is in the Church, and even among those who, in the Priesthood, ought to belong entirely to him! How much pride, how much self-complacency!

Adoration and Reparation

Yes, Christ suffers in His own Church; He is wounded in His hands, and this in the house of His friends. To souls who grieve over the suffering of Christ in His own Church, the Holy Spirit proposes the only fitting response: adoration and reparation. Adoration allows us to kiss the wounded hands of Christ; reparation allows us to press them against our own wounds and against the wounds of all His priests. "He was wounded for our iniquities, He was bruised for our sins: the chastisement of our peace was upon him, and by His bruises we are healed." (Isaiah 53:5)

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And Jesus returned in the power of the spirit, into Galilee, and the fame of him went out through the whole country. And he taught in their synagogues, and was magnified by all. And he came to Nazareth, where he was brought up: and he went into the synagogue, according to his custom, on the sabbath day; and he rose up to read. And the book of Isaias the prophet was delivered unto him. And as he unfolded the book, he found the place where it was written: The Spirit of the Lord is upon me. Wherefore he hath anointed me to preach the Gospel to the poor, he hath sent me to heal the contrite of heart, To preach deliverance to the captives, and sight to the blind, to set at liberty them that are bruised, to preach the acceptable year of the Lord, and the day of reward. And when he had folded the book, he restored it to the minister, and sat down. And the eyes of all in the synagogue were fixed on him. And he began to say to them: This day is fulfilled this scripture in your ears. And all gave testimony to him: and they wondered at the words of grace that proceeded from his mouth, and they said: Is not this the son of Joseph? (Luke 4:14-22)

Adoration: It is Enough to Say "Amen"

The mysteries announced in the Gospel are fulfilled in the Most Holy Eucharist. Everything that we see Our Lord do, and hear Him say -- and all that He is in relationship to the Eternal Father, and in relationship to us -- is given us in the adorable Sacrament of the Altar. This is why Mother Mectilde, in a beautiful passage of her writings on Holy Communion, says that after receiving Holy Communion, it is enough for us to remain quiet, saying only "Amen" to all that we have received; to all that Christ is, in us, and for us, and to His Father.

This "Amen" that is the perfect thanksgiving after Holy Communion is, also, the perfect expression of our adoration of the Most Holy Sacrament. Today, as you gaze in adoration upon the Eucharistic Face of Jesus, what will you see?

-- You will see that the Spirit of the Lord rests upon Him. Wheresoever the Body of Christ is truly present, there also the Holy Ghost is present and, not only present, but communicated to us abundantly, like the oil poured out over the Head, that runs down over the entire Mystical Body of Christ, even to the very least of His. Members. To this, say "Amen."

-- You will see that from the Sacrament of His Love, He is preaching, at every moment, the Gospel to the poor. You have only to open the ear of your heart, recognizing that you are poor, and you will hear Him. To this, say "Amen."

-- You will see that from the Sacrament of His Love, even now, He is healing the broken-hearted. Bring to Him your broken heart, place it before Him, even when you feel that it is in a thousand pieces, and quite beyond being made whole again. He will do for you what the Holy Gospel announces: He will repair your broken heart. To this, say "Amen."

-- You will see that from the Sacrament of His Love, even now, He is preaching deliverance to captives. Acknowledge the things that hold you captive. Go to Him, and say, "In this thing, Lord Jesus, and in this other thing, I am not free. Do Thou for me what, of myself, I cannot do." Set me free so that, freely and joyfully, I may love Thee and live the abundant life that is Thy will for me." To this, say "Amen."

-- You will see that from the Sacrament of His Love, He gives sight to the blind. We saw, on the feast of the Epiphany, that the adorable mystery of the Eucharist is a wellspring of Light. There is no blindness that cannot be cured in contemplating the Eucharistic Face of Jesus. To this, say "Amen."

-- You will see that from the Sacrament of His Love, even now, He sets free those who are bruised from having been too long in bonds. He will not ask you why you have been so long in bondage, nor will He condemn you for having fallen into such an unfortunate state. His desire is only to set you free, and to spread the balm of His mercy over the bruises left on your soul by the heavy chains of sin. To this, say "Amen."

-- You will see that from the Sacrament of His Love, He preaches, at every moment, the acceptable year of the Lord, and the day of reward. As soon as a soul enters the presence of the Most Holy Sacrament, that soul finds herself transported into the acceptable year of the Lord, and into the day of reward. By this, I mean, that adoration of the Most Holy Sacrament opens to us a vast space of grace in we discover, with Mary, that nothing is impossible to God; and with Saint Paul, that for those who love God, all things work together unto good. To this, say "Amen."

Thy Name and Thy Countenance

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Feast of the Most Holy Name of Jesus: Collect

O God, Who didst constitute Thine only-begotten Son the Savior of Mankind, and didst bid Him to be called Jesus: mercifully grant, that we who venerate His holy Name on earth, may fully enjoy also the vision of His countenance in heaven. Through the same Jesus Christ, Thy Son, who liveth and reigneth with Thee in the unity of the Holy Ghost, God, forever and ever.

Seek His Face; Call upon His Name

There are two things that make it easy for souls to adore Our Lord in the Sacrament of His Love: they can seek His Human Face, though it be veiled by the appearance of the Sacred Host; and they can call upon Him by His Human Name.

These are the two things that people crave in a relationship: knowledge of a face and of a name. From these, one experiences the heart of the other, and so a relationship becomes a communion, an exchange in which one finds fulfillment, that is, joy and a response to one's love in the other.

Shew me thy face, let thy voice sound in my ears: for thy voice is sweet, and thy face comely. (Canticle 2:14)

Something Not Difficult, Even for the Simplest Souls

By giving the world His Name and His Face (in the Sacred Scriptures and in Sacred Images) Our Lord has given us the way to His Sacred Heart, really and substantially present in the Most Holy Sacrament of the Altar. Thus has He made friendship with Him something that is not difficult, even for the simplest souls.

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It is enough to seek His Face where It is to be found -- in the Most Holy Sacrament of the Altar -- and to call upon Him by Name -- invoking the Name of Jesus. In doing these things, a soul makes reparation for those who blaspheme His Divine Person in HIs images and in His Holy Name. This is what the Venerable Servant of God Léon Dupont, the Holy Man of Tours (1797-1876), understood so well. In the Face of Jesus and in the Name of Jesus we have what is most precious to us for our journey through this valley of tears.

And it shall come to pass, that whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord, shall be saved. (Acts 2:21)

A God Who Has Come Very Close

Come, then, to Our Lord in the Sacrament of His Love, and call Him by Name. Come to Him in the Sacrament of His Love, and there you will experience the healing radiance of His Holy Face, His Human Face, formed by the Holy Spirit in the virginal womb of His Immaculate Mother. A God who has revealed to His creatures both His Name and His Face is a God who has come very close.

For what other nation is there upon earth like thy people Israel, whom God went to deliver, and make a people for himself. (1 Chronicles 17:21)

Through Word and Sacrament in His Holy Catholic Church

Come close to Him, then, who has made Himself so close to us. Let nothing keep you from knowing Him. To know Jesus Christ and to believe in Him is salvation, and it is eternal life. Now this is eternal life: That they may know thee, the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom thou hast sent. (John 17:3) This knowledge of Him -- of His Name and of His Face -- comes through Word and Sacrament in His Holy Catholic Church. Only there can souls come to experience Him as the Risen One with whom they can enter into a relationship so real that it is consummated in a Holy Communion, in partaking of His Body and Blood, and in becoming one with Him, even as He is one with His Father.

For Our Ears, Our Lips, and Our Eyes

For our ears and for our lips, Jesus gives us His Name. And for our eyes -- for the eyes of the soul -- He gives us HIs Sacred Face. His Divine Person, thus named, and thus beheld in the Sacred Host, becomes closer to us than ever a god was thought to be close to those who worship him. Christ Jesus is God, and there is no other. He alone is God with the Father and the Holy Spirit, and the soul who calls upon His Name and seeks His Face, has already entered into the mystery of the Divine Life that circulates ineffably and eternally among the Three.

This is, in essence, what Our Lord revealed to His Apostles on the night before He suffered. Leaving them to go to His Father, He was not leaving them orphans, for the Holy Ghost would open their lips to pronounce His Name and to preach it; and would open their eyes to recognize His Human Face hidden under the humble species of bread, and this until the consummation of the world.

And it came to pass, whilst he was at table with them, he took bread, and blessed, and brake, and gave to them. And their eyes were opened, and they knew him: and he vanished out of their sight. (Luke 24:30-31)

Fire and Light in this World

The Sacred Name and Sacred Face of Jesus are fire and light in this world that is becoming colder and darker by the day. In the end, the darkness will be forever vanquished by the fire of His Name and by the light of His Face, and then there shall be peace in His Kingdom fully revealed, and in the company of His saints who will sing praise to His Name and adore His Face, shining more brightly than a thousand suns, and this unto the ages of ages.

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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