Recently in Paschaltide 2007 Category

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Alleluia!
The Spirit of the Lord has filled the whole world (Wis 1:7);
every created thing trembles for joy,
every waiting heart recognizes the sound of his voice.
The accent of the Father whispers to children playing in the wind.
“It is the Spirit himself bearing witness with our spirit
that we are children of God” (Rom 8:16).
The breath of God carries far and wide the confession of the Rock:
“This Jesus God raised up,
and of that we are all witnesses,” (Ac 2:29) singing, “Alleluia!”

Today the Holy Spirit is poured over the face of the earth
turning confusion to communion,
gathering in what was scattered,
making clear what was obscure
and teaching all to sing, “Alleluia!”

Hear the Pentecostal concert and rejoice;
voices of Parthians and Medes and Elamites,
voices hailing from Mesopotamia, Judea and Cappadocia,
from Pontus and Asia, from Phrygia and Pamphilia,
from Egypt and the parts of Libya belonging to Cyrene,
voices of Romans, both Jews and proselytes, of Cretans and Arabians
all singing, “Alleluia!”

Those lacking in understanding
find themselves standing under tongues of fire.
Those once dark are illumined from within;
the flame over every head dances its way into every heart
and faces once abashed shine as they have never shone before.
Unveiled now, they “behold the glory of the Lord” (2 Cor 3:18)
and in every mouth there is the taste of new wine
and the sound of a new song: “Alleluia!”

Today the Pentecost is fulfilled,
the mystic number counted out,
To the seven times seven of fulfillment filled full
is added the one of superabundance.
This is the fiftieth day akin to the eighth,
the day of “the cup that overflows” (Ps 22:5).
The spatium laetissimum in closing is opened;
the space of the Church’s endless joy,
the vastness of her jubilation:
an immensity of bliss stretching from earth to heaven
and causing all to sing, “Alleluia!”

The dancers having danced their forty-nine steps,
take today the final leap
“Leap!” says the Choreographer of Heaven.
“The Kingdom of Heaven lies open before you.
Leap, while you have the light, lest the darkness overtake you.
While you have the light, leap into the light
that you may become children of light
and all together sing, 'Alleluia!’”

Today the Lord comes down in Fire,
the Spirit who is “Lord and Giver of Life.”
The Upper Room becomes a furnace
-- fornax ardens caritatis --
and the Mother and the disciples walk in the midst of the fire (cf. Dan 3:25),
set ablaze yet not consumed (cf. Ex 3:2).
The Lord descends to Sinai’s height;
there Moses stands alone no longer (cf. Ex 19:20)
for the top of the mountain has become the Church
and the Church cannot but sing, “Alleluia!”

Today Life descends into the valley of death.
“I will put my Spirit within you, and you shall live,
and I will place you in your own land;
then you shall know that I, the Lord, have spoken,
and I have done it,” says the Lord (Ez 37:14).
Hear the rattle and clink of bone against bone (cf. Ez 37:7),
the sound of the dead brought back to life,
the sound of everything scattered being reassembled,
the sound of the Spirit at work in every dry and sterile place,
causing all to sing, “Alleluia!”

Today the wine flows freely,
more copious now than when it flowed new into Cana’s wedding cups!
The best wine has been kept for last.
“These men are not drunk, as you suppose,
since it is only the Third Hour of the day” (Ac 2:15).
“All have been made to drink of one Spirit” (1 Cor 12:13).
This is the hour of sober drunkenness foretold by the prophet Joel.
Laeti bibamus sobriam ebrietatem Spiritus!
Prophesy, sons and daughters!
Young men, see your visions, old men dream your dreams,
menservants and maidservants, open to the sweetness
that like a river rushes into the vale of tears,
and learn to sing the holy table song of all the saints: “Alleluia!”

Today the Spirit gives utterance to those at a loss for words.
Today the Spirit gives breath to the breathless,
health to the sick,
wholeness to the broken,
peace to every troubled heart
and a song that rises irrepressible: “Alleluia1”

Today there is coolness in the heat,
solace in the midst of grieving,
dew poured out on every dryness,
water washing guilt away,
and a voice “like the sound of many waters” (Rev 1:15),
intoning in the presence of his Father, “Alleluia!”

Today the stubborn, bending sin’s old stiffness, give into grace.
Today the restless, turning, churning, find repose in the heart of the Lamb.
Today the frozen are thawed by the Spirit’s gentle flame
and those in the grip of a long chill meet the warmth of the Father’s embrace
and in the Spirit begin to sing, “Alleluia!”

Today locked doors mean nothing.
Keys are useless, bolts hold nothing closed.
“Let him enter the King of Glory” (Ps 23:7)!
Today fear runs frightened, exorcised by the Wounded One,
the Prince of Peace.
“Let God arise, and let his enemies be scattered:
and let them that hate him flee from before his face” (Ps 67:2).
Behold, he stands in the midst of his own.
He breathes on us and says, “Receive the Holy Spirit” (Jn 20:22).
“Open wide your mouth and I will fill it” (Ps 80:1).
“Receive at last the kiss of my mouth (Ct 1:2),
'my love, my dove, my perfect one’ (Ct 5:2),
my Church, my Body and my Bride;
and sing your song unceasingly: 'Alleluia!’”

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Where can the weak find a place of firm security and peace, except in the wounds of the Savior? Indeed, the more secure is my place there the more He can do to help me. The world rages, the flesh is heavy, and the devil lays his snares, but I do not fall, for my feet are planted on firm rock. I may have sinned gravely. My conscience would be distressed, but it would not be in turmoil, for I would recall the wounds of the the Lord: He was wounded for our iniquities. What sin is there so deadly that it cannot be pardoned by the death of Christ? And so if I bear in mind this strong, effective remedy, I can never again be terrified by the malignancy of sin.
Surely the man who said: "My sin is too great to merit pardon," was wrong. He was speaking as though he were not a member of Christ and had no share in His merits, so that he could claim them as his own, as a member of the body can claim what belongs to the head. As for me, I can appropriate whatsoever I lack from the Heart of the Lord who abounds in mercy. They pierced His hands and feet and opened His side with a spear. Through the openings of these wounds I may drink honey from the rock and oil from the hardest stone: that is, I may taste and see that the Lord is sweet.
He was thinking thoughts of peace, and I did not know it, for who knows the mind of the Lord, or who has been his counselor? But the piercing nail has become a key to unlock the door, that I may see the good will of the Lord. And what can I see as I look through the hole? Both the nail and the wound cry out that God was in Christ reconciling the world to himself. The lance pierced His soul and came close to His heart, so that he might be able to feel compassion for me in my weaknesses.
Through these sacred wounds we can see the secret of His heart, the great mystery of love, the sincerity of His mercy with which he visited us from on high. Where have Your love, Your mercy, Your compassion shone out more luminously than in Your wounds, sweet, gentle Lord of mercy? More mercy than this no one has than that he lay down his life for those who are doomed to death.
My merit comes from His mercy; for I do not lack merit so long as He does not lack pity. And if the Lord's mercies are many, then I am rich in merits. For even if I am aware of many sins, what does it matter? Where sin abounded grace has overflowed. And if the Lord's mercies are from all ages for ever, I too will sing of the mercies of the Lord for ever. Will I not sing of my own righteousness? No, Lord, I shall be mindful only of Your justice. Yet that too is my own; for God has made You my righteousness.
Saint Bernard, Sermons on the Canticle

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Readers familiar with the work of Adé Béthune will recognize here her Good Shepherd. Clean lines, simplicity, and strength characterize Adé's work. She has had an enduring influence on my life since my apprenticeship to her in the early 1970s. Ade shared my passion for Gregorian Chant. One of her favourite expressions was, "Plain Chant for plain folk." More about Adé here.

Fourth Sunday of Paschaltide

Good Shepherd Sunday

The Voice of the Shepherd

On this Good Shepherd Sunday, the Lord Jesus says, "My sheep will hear My voice" (Jn 10:16). For the sheep of His flock, the voice of Jesus the Good Shepherd has a uniquely penetrating quality, an unmistakable accent of tenderness, a note of divine authority that goes straight to the heart. The believing heart leaps with recognition at the sound of Jesus' voice. "The sheep hear His voice, and He calls His own sheep by name, and leads them out" (Jn 10:3).

Say Only the Word

The word of Christ accomplishes what it expresses. Just before approaching the altar for Holy Communion, we will pray in the words of the centurion, "Lord, I am not worthy that you should enter under my roof; but say only the word, and my soul shall be healed" (Lk 7:6-7). Our hearts may be frozen in an icy indifference. They may be shriveled up in the desert wastes of sin, or numbed by a secret pain. Even so, the psalmist sings, "He sends forth His word and it melts them; at the breath of His mouth the waters flow" (Ps 147:18).

Listen with the Ear of the Heart

To listen to the voice of Jesus with the ear of the heart is the first step in any relationship with Him. In the book of the Apocalypse He says, "Behold, I stand at the door and knock; if anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and eat with him, and he with me" (Ap 3:20-21). Intimacy with Christ the Good Shepherd requires a listening heart. A listening heart will be a vulnerable heart. To listen with the ear of the heart is to open oneself to the other; it is to risk relationship. When the heart stops listening to the other, relationship -- communion with the other -- begins to disintegrate. This is true of friendship. It is true of marriage. It is true of our relationship with Jesus Christ.

The Good Portion

Recall that in Saint Luke's gospel, Mary of Bethany, the sister of Lazarus and of Martha, seated herself at the Lord's feet and stayed there listening to His words (Lk 10:39). Mary of Bethany was like a lamb resting at her shepherd's feet, and Jesus praised her listening heart. "Mary has chosen the good portion, which shall not be taken away from her" (Lk 10:42). The Song of Songs interprets her experience, "With great delight I sat in His shadow, and His fruit was sweet to my taste" (Ct 2:3), and again, "His speech is most sweet, He is altogether desirable" (Ct 5:16). This is the experience of all who, down through the ages, have stilled and quieted their hearts to listen to the voice of the Shepherd Christ. Our relationship with Christ necessarily expresses itself in action -- and in words -- but it begins in listening. This listening in adoring silence is, to borrow Dom Chautard's expression, the soul of the apostolate.

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Alleluia!
Today the Spirit of the Lord has invaded the cosmos and filled it!
Life spills out of the Cenacle
and, like a torrent of wine,
courses through the streets of Jerusalem.
God arises and His enemies are scattered;
those that hate Him flee before his face,
and those that love Him sing: Alleluia!

Today He who came down to see Babel’s tower
and confused the speech of the proud
visits the Upper Room.
He unties the tongues of the humble
and unites into one holy people those long divided by sin.
Amazed at what she sees and hears,
the Church intones her birthday song: Alleluia!

Today He who on Sinai descended in fire,
causing rocks to quake and peaks to pale,
descends upon Jerusalem;
tongues of fire dance over the heads of those
who, cloistered in the Cenacle, waited to meet their God
and at His coming, they cry out: Alleluia.

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Saturday of the Seventh Week of Paschaltide

Acts 28:16–20, 30_31
Psalm 10:4, 5 and 7 (R. 7b)
John 21: 20–25

The Forty–Ninth Day of The Pentecost

We have come to the 49th day of The Pentecost! We have come to the close of Paschaltide, to the end of the Acts of the Apostles, and to end of the Gospel according to Saint John. These days have been but One Day: the Day which the Lord has made (cf. Ps 117:24). The past 49 days have been the Church’s yearly spatium laetissimum, her “space of surpassing joy.”

Conversion

The prayers of today’s Mass make it very clear that we cannot close Paschaltide without making a firm resolution to persevere in the grace of conversion and in newness of life. Today’s Collect already speaks of the paschal festivals as something in the past; at the same time it makes them the fulcrum of an effective conversion of life. If by the grace of Christ, we have indeed celebrated Paschaltide worthily, then certain things have changed in our lives, and must continue to change.

Grant, we beseech you, Almighty God,
that, having celebrated these paschal festivals,
we may, by your gracious gift,
hold fast to them in our conduct and in our life.

The Holy Spirit and the Forgiveness of Sins

The Prayer Over the Oblations calls the Holy Spirit “the forgiveness of all sins.” To stand in need of forgiveness is to stand in need of the Holy Spirit.

Lord, may your Holy Spirit, by his coming,
prepare our minds for these divine sacraments,
since he himself is the forgiveness of all sins.

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Fifth Thursday of Paschaltide

Acts 15:7-21
Psalm 95: 1-2a, 2b-3, 10
John 15:9-11

O God whose grace makes just men out of wicked ones,
and blessed men out of wretched ones,
be present to your works,
be present by your gifts,
so that those made just by faith,
may not lack the strength of perseverance.

The First Council

In today’s reading from the Acts of the Apostles we find ourselves present at the very first Council of the Church, the Council of Jerusalem. Saint Luke tells us that “there was much debate” (Ac 15:7). “And after there had been much debate, Peter rose” (Ac 15:7) and spoke. “Peter rose,” says the text; he emerges from the body of “the church and the apostles and the elders” (Ac 15:4), invested with a unique grace. He speaks in the midst of the Church even as he spoke on the day of his confession of faith, saying, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God” (Mt 16:16). The core of Peter’s teaching is this: that the grace of Christ is all-sufficient for the Gentiles as for the Jews. The voice of Peter announces the faith of the Church: “We believe that we shall be saved through the grace of the Lord Jesus, just as they will” (Ac 15:11).

The Grace of Christ

The little word” grace,” so rich in meaning, links the first reading to today’s marvelous Collect. Translated literally, the Collect has us pray: “O God whose grace makes just men out of wicked ones, and blessed men out of wretched ones, be present to your works, be present by your gifts, so that those made just by faith, may not lack the strength of perseverance.”

Adjusted by Grace

Amazing grace indeed, the grace that takes a wicked individual, one profoundly maladjusted to the designs of God, to adjust him to the glorious will of God for his wholeness, for his holiness! The just man is one rightly fitted to the plan of God. The just one stands in correspondence to “what no eye has seen, nor ear heard, nor the heart of man conceived, what God has prepared for those who love him” (1 Cor 2:9).

Blessed

The second phrase takes this even further. The grace of God, it says, “makes blessed men out of wretched ones.” The Latin word for wretch is miser, giving us our English miser, the original meaning of which was a profoundly unhappy person. The grace of God takes miserable, unhappy wretches and makes them blessedly happy. This is no mere fluctuation on the emotional thermometer. This is not about going from “I feel wretched” to “I feel happy.” The change wrought by grace is inward and real. It is what Saint Paul calls “being qualified to share in the inheritance of the saints in light” (Col 1:12). “I have told you this,” says Jesus in today’s gospel, “that my joy may be in you, and that your joy may be full” (Jn 15:11).

Adesto

The Collect goes on to ask God not once, but twice, to be present to his works, to be present by his gifts. Adesto operibus tuis, adesto muneribus. The rhythmic repetition of adesto — be present — gives the Collect a tone of urgency. “Be present to your works, be present by your gifts.” I know of no other Collect where this particular, insistent pattern is found. Why is the petition so urgent? The Collect gives the answer: “so that those made just by faith may not lack the strength of perseverance.” The grace that falls upon one rotten to the core to make him just, the grace that surprises a miserable wretch with a joy that is nothing less than divine, is a humble grace. It does not impose itself; it waits always to be received. “The strength of perseverance” is an abiding openness, an expectant readiness, it is the position of one who, at every moment, raises empty hands to God.

Silence

There are moments in life when “the strength of perseverance” can be expressed only in silence. Today’s passage from the Acts of the Apostles alludes twice to the silence of the Church. “And all the multitude kept silence” (Ac 15:12); and again the text says, “And after they kept silent, James spoke” (Ac 15:13). In some mysterious way perseverance in grace is linked to perseverance in silence, perseverance in the silence that is openness to the Word, perseverance in the silence that promises the joy of Christ and allows us to taste it even now.

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Fifth Wednesday of Paschaltide

Acts 15:1-6
Psalm 121: 1-2, 3-4ab, 4cd-5
John 15:1-8

Repetition

Today’s Gospel of the vine and the branches recurs frequently in the Sacred Liturgy. I have no difficulty whatsoever in the repetition of the same texts. Repetition is integral to the pedagogy of the Church. Anthropologists tell us that ritual is all about doing the same things, in the same way, at the same time, over and over again. Culture flourishes where the same stories are repeated over and over again in the same way. From the point of view of the human sciences, repetition, not variety, is the ground of culture. From the Catholic point of view, it is outward repetition that makes inward change — conversion — possible. It is sameness that makes the difference. It is by hearing the same Word repeated in the same way that our hardened hearts are touched and, by the operation of the Holy Spirit, pierced and opened to holiness.

Always New

Though we may, from time to time, read the same text, the Gospel remains always new. Every time the holy Gospel is proclaimed, the voice of the risen Christ resounds in the Church. The Gospel is a sacrament of Christ’s abiding presence. The Church has always been conscious of this mystery. She has, over the centuries, surrounded the Book of the Gospels and the proclamation of the liturgical Gospel with marks of solemnity and of joy. Unlike other books, the Book of the Gospels may be placed upon the altar. In the Corpus Christi procession in some places, the Book of the Gospels is carried by a deacon, under the canopy with the Blessed Sacrament, to signify that the same Christ, who speaks in the Gospel, gives himself as food in the Eucharist.

Christ the Energetic Word

No one, I think, has better expressed this profoundly Catholic sense of the reality underlying the Gospel than the English writer, Evelyn Underhill. “The reading of the liturgic Gospel,” she writes, “is something more than a mere instruction of the faithful. It is a vital moment in the sacred action of the Church. In it Christ the Energetic Word speaks and acts. The ceremonial and reverence with which all the ancient rites surround it, the psalm of joy with which it was welcomed, the Alleluia which announced the Divine presence — also the sacred character which the Eastern Church still ascribes to the Book of the Gospels, and the deep awe with which its entrance is received — may serve to remind us that the words and deeds, indeed the very life of the Incarnate Logos, are themselves sacramental impartings of the Infinite God to man, and the proper causes of his adoring gratitude and joy” (The Mystery of Sacrifice, 9-10).

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Fifth Tuesday of Paschaltide

Acts 14:19-28
Psalm 144:10-11, 12-13ab, 21
John 14:27-31a

My Peace I Give to You

Today’s Gospel gives us the very words of Christ that are repeated in every Mass. “Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you” (Jn 14:27). “Lord, Jesus Christ, who said to your apostles, Peace I leave you, my peace I give you, look not on our sins, but on the faith of your Church, and graciously grant her peace and unity in accordance with your will. Who live and reign forever and ever.” This prayer for peace, addressed to our Lord Jesus Christ Himself, is familiar to all of us. We have heard it hundreds of times.

Prayer Reposes on the Words of Christ

The prayer begins by repeating to Christ the words of Christ. Our Lord’s own words are the foundation and support of our petition. The basis of our prayer is not in something we have conjured up; it is in those solemn words of Christ uttered in the Upper Room on the night before His Passion. “Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you” (Jn 14:27). This is a particular application of one of the universal laws of prayer: prayer begins not with our word addressed to God, but with the Word of God addressed to us.

The Faith of So Great a Cloud of Witnesses

After recalling the words of Christ, the prayer asks Him to turn His gaze from our sins and to fix it, instead, upon the faith of his Church. No matter what the failings, weaknesses, and even betrayals of individual members of the Church may be, the faith of the Church, the Bride of Christ, remains virginal, shining, and indomitable. The faith of the Church encompasses and perfects the faith of Abel, of Enoch, of Noah, Abraham, Sarah, Isaac, Joseph, Moses, Rahab, Gideon, Barak, Samson, Jephthah, David, Samuel and the prophets (cf. Heb 11:1-32). The faith of the Church is the faith of the Mother of God, and of the Apostles. It is the faith of the martyrs and of the saints of every age.

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There is comfort in knowing that when our own faith is weak and faltering, we can take refuge in the faith of “so great a cloud of witnesses” (Heb 12:1). This is the secret of that strong, efficacious prayer recommended by Christ in the gospel. “I say to you, if two or three agree on earth about anything they ask, it will be done for them by my Father in heaven” (Mt 18:19). It is helpful, even necessary at times, to lean upon the faith of another in our prayer. It is good to seek the intercession of the saints, good to ask for the prayer of the Church. In the Third Eucharistic Prayer the Church commemorates the saints "whose intercession in Your presence is our unfailing pledge of help.”

Does this make our own prayer less effective or less pleasing to God? On the contrary, the poverty and truth of such a prayer pleases the Lord who takes pity on the lowly and the weak. It makes our prayer resemble that of the father who prayed for his child, saying, “I believe; help my unbelief” (Mk 9:24).

Peace: A Gift from Above

Our petition, then, will rest upon a secure foundation: the words of Christ himself, and the faith of Christ’s Bride, the Church. The request itself is direct and unadorned: “Graciously grant her peace and unity in accordance with your will.” We are not asking here for a sentimental kind of peace nor are we asking to experience a feeling. Peace is not a feeling. Feelings are subjective; they originate within ourselves. The peace and unity for which we pray originate not in man, but in God. Peace and unity descend from above, “coming down from the Father of lights with whom there is no variation or shadow due to change” (Jas 1:17).

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Fifth Monday of Paschaltide

Acts 14:5–18
Psalm 113B:1–2, 3–4, 15–16 (R.1ab)
John 14:21–26

Grateful to Saint Jude

We are grateful to the Apostle Saint Jude for the marvelous dialogue recounted in today’s Gospel. Our Lord reveals what it means to love Him and to be loved by Him. He declares that anyone who loves Him will be loved by the Father. He promises to love the one who loves him and to manifest Himself to him. “He who loves me will be loved by my Father, and I will love him and manifest myself to him” (Jn 14:21).

The Way of Love

Saint Jude doesn’t immediately grasp what Our Lord is saying. He cannot conceive of a way of knowing Christ apart from the obvious way given to all. Jude seems to think that it is enough to observe Jesus: something that everyone can do. That there should be a higher way of knowing, a more intimate way, the way of love, completely eludes him. “Lord, how is it that you will manifest yourself to us, and not to the world?” (Jn 14:22).

The Divine Indwelling

Our Lord explains that the manifestation of Himself to His disciples will be inseparable from His Father’s love for them. He promises a mysterious indwelling: “We will come to him and make our home with him” (Jn 14:23). He declares that anyone who loves Him will hold fast to His words. Those who let go of his words, those who fail to store them up in their hearts, will not enjoy the manifestation reserved to His friends. They will remain strangers to the joy of the indwelling of the Father and the Son.

Friends of the Sacred Heart

How can we not relate this Gospel to the tender love Our Lord revealed in manifesting Himself to the friends of His Sacred Heart over the centuries. To each one of them He said in a unique way, “Behold, I love you and manifest Myself to you, even as I promised.”

I am thinking above all of the Virgin Mother beneath whose own Pure Heart His Sacred Heart of flesh first began to beat. I am thinking of Saint John the Beloved Disciple who, inflamed by his experience of the Heart of Jesus, was compelled to write: “That which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we have looked upon and touched with our hands, concerning the word of life— the life was made manifest, and we saw it, and testify to it” (1 Jn1:1–2).

I am thinking of Saint Bernard, Saint Gertrude, Saint Mechthilde, Saint Lutgarde, and Saint Bonaventure. I am thinking of Saint Margaret Mary and of Saint Claude la Colombière, of Mother Marie Adèle Garnier of Tyburn, Mother Clelia Merloni, and Blessed Marie de Jésus Deluil–Martiny; of Blessed Charles de Foucauld, and of Blessed Marie–Joseph Cassant. For each one of these men and women Our Lord fulfilled the promise he makes in today’s Gospel: “He who loves me will be loved by my Father, and I will love him and manifest myself to him” (Jn 14:21).

A Gift Without Price

Devotion to the Sacred Heart of Jesus, before being a gift of ours offered to Christ is a gift that He offers us. “If you but knew the gift of God!” (Jn 4:10). This is the clear teaching of Pope Pius XII in Haurietis Aquas: “We are perfectly justified in seeing in this same devotion . . . a gift without price which our divine Saviour . . . imparted to the Church, His mystical Spouse in recent centuries when she had to endure such trials and surmount so many difficulties” (HA, art. 2).

The Holy Spirit, First Gift of the Heart of Christ

For Pope Pius XII, the Holy Spirit is the first Gift from the Heart of the risen Christ. This too is announced in today’s Gospel: “The Counselor, the Holy Spirit whom the Father will send in my name, he will teach you all things, and bring to your remembrance all that I have said to you” (Jn 14:26). The work of the Holy Spirit is threefold. (1) The Holy Spirit is our Advocate with the Father, “interceding for us with sighs too deeps for words” because “we do not know how to pray as we ought” (Rom 8:26). (2) The Holy Spirit is sent to teach us all things, that is, to make clear for us “the unsearchable riches of Christ” (Eph 3:8). (3) The Holy Spirit is sent to quicken the memory of the Church, to bring to remembrance all that Christ said, lest any word of His be neglected or forgotten.

Advocate, Teacher, and Prompter

The Holy Spirit is our Advocate, our Teacher, and our Prompter. As Advocate, the Holy Spirit aligns us with the prayer of the Sacred Heart of Jesus to the Father; “the Spirit intercedes for the saints according to the will of God” (Rom 8:27), that is, according to the Heart of Christ. As Teacher, the Holy Spirit gives us “the power to comprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth, and to know the love of Christ which surpasses knowledge” (Eph 3:18); in a word, the Holy Spirit teaches us the Heart of Christ. As Prompter, the Holy Spirit calls to mind the words by which Christ communicates to us all “the treasures of wisdom and knowledge” (Col 2:3) hidden in His Sacred Heart.

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On John 15:1–8

The Source of All Fecundity

Our Lord, in the fifteenth chapter of Saint John, raises us straightaway to the mystery of the Holy Trinity, the source of all fecundity. Consider the very first verse: ”I am the true vine and my Father is the vinedresser” (Jn 15:1). When Jesus says, — “I am . . . and my Father is,” He opens for us a door into His life with the Father in the Holy Spirit.

“Knock,” He says, “and the door will be opened to you; to him who knocks it will be opened” (Lk 11:9-10). Shall we stand on the threshold and peer in from the outside, or shall we heed the promptings of the Holy Spirit and cross the threshold of the banqueting house where the wine is already poured out? Let us go in to the Son, and with the Son and through Him, let us go in to the Father, drawn on by the Holy Spirit. “He has brought me to the banqueting house,” says the bride of the Canticle, “and His banner over me was love” (Ct 2:4).

Christ the True Vine

“I am the true vine” (Jn 15:1). Christ does not say, “I am like the vine.” The vine, rather, is like Christ. In Christ, the vine finds its perfection. The vine is like Christ, but Christ is the true vine, just as He is the true bread, sustaining us with eternal life; the true water springing up into eternal life; the true door opening onto the pastures of eternal life; the true Shepherd giving His life for the sheep of His flock that they may have eternal life. Today, He reveals Himself to us as the true vine imparting life to every branch and tendril, to every part of Himself.

The Father is the Vinedresser

Christ reveals the Father to us as the vinedresser (Jn 15:1). The prophets had already spoken of the God of Israel as the planter and keeper of the vine. Our Lord would have us understand that the Father is more than the One who tends the vine. The Father is the origin of its life, giving it growth from within. The Father fosters growth from within by pruning from without.

“Every branch in me that bears no fruit He cuts away and every branch that does bear fruit He purifies” (Jn 15:2). We should expect to be pruned. How are we to “bear fruit, fruit that will last” (Jn 15:16), unless we submit to the Father’s pruning? If we are to be fruitful, then everything withered, everything sterile, everything in the way of the expansion of divine life, every impediment to fecundity, in us must be pruned.

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Pruning the Branches

Pruning takes place in a variety of ways. It is inevitable and it is not without pain. For some the pruning takes place in the experience of physical suffering, for others in the crucible of emotional pain or spiritual desolation. In the lives of some, the pruning is subtle and protracted; in the lives of others, it is intense and brief.

Faith

There are persons for whom pruning takes the form of relentless doubts, of temptations against the Truth, and of rebellion against God. In these the Father may be fashioning a strong and shining Faith, capable of withstanding every assault.

Hope

There are others for whom pruning takes the form of an apparent loss of meaning, with violent temptations to discouragement leading at times to the edge of despair. Saint Thérèse of the Child Jesus and of the Holy Face experienced this. In souls tormented by temptations to despair, the Father may be fashioning an immense and glorious hope, capable of boundless confidence and of heroic surrender.

Charity

In still other persons, the pruning knife is applied to the most intimate impulses, to the desire to love and to be loved. The experience of rejection, of sweet loves turned bitter, of desires that rage within and batter the heart, may in fact lead to a purification of the passions, rendering the soul capable of accommodating the blazing fire of divine charity. In these, the Father may be fashioning true lovers, passionate lovers, inflamed with the Holy Spirit.

Fruitful Suffering

The cutting edge of the pruning knife is suffering and yet, the hand which holds the knife is the hand of Infinite Love. Suffering is not good; it is the effect of sin. And yet, with an indescribable tenderness, the Father makes use of it in such a way as to make us bear abundant fruit. How often lives of great suffering are lives of immense fruitfulness!

Feast of Saints Philip and James, Apostles

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John 14:6-14
Psalm 18:2-5
1 Corinthians 15:1-8


Today’s Antiphons in the Divine Office

There is no doubt that the antiphons given in the Divine Office for this feast of Saints Philip and James are among the most beautiful of the Paschaltide liturgy. The Church takes the dialogue of the Gospel and, with an artistry inspired by the Holy Spirit, presents it anew in a series of antiphons interwoven with alleluias:

The first antiphon is Philip’s bold request: “Lord, show us the Father and it is enough for us, alleluia” (Jn 14:8). Philip’s prayer echoes that of Moses in the book of Exodus: “I pray thee, show me thy glory” (Ex 33:18).

The second antiphon is Our Lord’s astonishing reply. He presents Himself to Philip as the icon of the Father: “Philip, he who sees Me sees also My Father, alleluia” (Jn 14:9).

The third antiphon is a poignant complaint of the Heart of Christ. It is addressed not to Philip alone, but also to each of us: “Have I been so long a time with you, and you have not known Me? Philip, he who sees Me sees also My Father, alleluia” (Jn 14:9).

The fourth antiphon is a gentle reproach; it ends nonetheless in a triple alleluia. The reproach becomes a promise full of hope: “If you had known me, you would also have known My Father. And henceforth you do know Him, and you have seen Him, alleluia, alleluia, alleluia” (Jn 14:7).

The fifth antiphon is an appeal to love. Like the fourth it ends in a triple alleluia: “If you love Me, keep my commandments, alleluia, alleluia, alleluia” (Jn 14:15).

Benedictus Antiphon

There are two more antiphons to be considered. At the Benedictus it is Our Lord himself who sings in the midst of His Church: “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father but through Me, alleluia.” The Church cannot but reply: “Yes, Lord, you are the way, and the truth, and the life. Behold, I come to the Father through You.” There is no better preparation for today’s Eucharist. The Eucharist is the Church coming to the Father through the Son, united to Him as His Body and His Bride.

Magnificat Antiphon

At Vespers the Magnificat will be framed by the words of the Lord: “Let not your heart be troubled or afraid. You believe in God, believe also in Me. In my Father’s house there are many mansions, alleluia, alleluia” (Jn 14:1–2). These are words of comfort, words of hope for every situation of fading light and for those moments when darkness descends over the human heart.

Holding Fast to the Hard Saying

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Third Saturday of Paschaltide

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Acts 9:31-42
Psalm 115: 12-13, 14-15, 16-17
John 6: 60-69

A Eucharistic Lectio Divina

If in your lectio divina this past week, you submitted to the guidance of the Church (as Terry does) and opened yourself to the brightness shining from the sixth chapter of Saint John, the Eucharist has been at the heart of your reading, your repeating, your prayer, and your contemplation. This Third Week of Paschaltide was a kind of Eucharistic retreat. How well did we live it? It is not too late to claim today the Eucharistic graces reserved for us by our Lord for this week of listening to His discourse on the Bread of Life.

Peter Confessing the Mystery

In his Encyclical on the Eucharist, the Servant of God Pope John Paul II gave us a commentary on today’s Gospel. This is what he said: “Here is the Church’s treasure, the heart of the world, the pledge of the fulfillment for which each man and woman, even unconsciously, yearns. A great and transcendent mystery, indeed, and one that taxes our mind’s ability to pass beyond appearances. Here our senses fail us: visus, tactus, gustus in te fallitur, in the words of the hymn Adoro Te Devote; yet faith alone, rooted in the word of Christ handed down to us by the Apostles, is sufficient for us. Allow me, like Peter at the end of the Eucharistic discourse in John’s Gospel, to say once more to Christ, in the name of the whole Church and in the name of each of you: ‘Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life’ (Jn 6:68).”

Peter Addressing Christ

Christ spoke, revealing the astonishing mystery of the Eucharist. Peter responded. It is Peter’s response addressed to Christ that is the first manifestation of his place in the plan of God for the Church. Peter addressing Christ necessarily precedes Peter addressing the world, and this in all times and places. In the Mass, the Church does something similar. After the words of consecration, the priest intones “Mystery of Faith.” Mysterium fidei: a seal placed on all that has been said and done up to this point. The response of the praying Church is a confession of the mystery addressed directly to Christ really present: “We proclaim your death, O Lord, and profess your resurrection until you come.”

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“See my hands and my feet” (Lk 24:39). Jesus would have us contemplate his holy and glorious wounds. The wounds of the Risen Christ are the glory of the Father and the joy of the Church. The wounds of Christ are the indelible sign of his everlasting priesthood and the remedy for our wounds, fountains of healing for us, springs of salvation.

“Repent, therefore,” says Saint Peter, "and turn again, that your sins may be blotted out” (Ac 3:19). Turn again? Turn whereto? To the holy and glorious wounds of Jesus Christ. There is a very simple form of contemplative prayer in which the risen Christ applies His wounds to the wounds of the soul. It is an operation of naked faith, a wordless contact in the darkness. It touches the secret unexposed places deep within, concealed well below feelings and concepts.

The wounds of Christ are not only our healing; they are the glorification of the Father as well, and this, throughout all eternity. The risen and ascended Christ presents Himself before the Father’s face. He says to the Father exactly what he says to us: “See my hands and my feet.” The Father, reads the immensity of His love in the depths of His wounds, and in the wounds of the Son the Father is glorified.

Our Lord desires that we should contemplate His glorious wounds, even as the Father contemplates them in the heavenly sanctuary where Christ is living forever to intercede for all who come to God through him (Heb 7:25).

Our Wounded God

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Christ's Holy and Glorious Wounds

I was present in Saint Peter's Square last Sunday when, in the course of Holy Mass, Pope Benedict XVI preached the mystery of the Wounds of Christ. "He is a wounded God," said the Holy Father,"He let Himself be wounded through His love for us."

The Paschal Candle

All through Paschaltide the liturgy invites us to contemplate the Holy and Glorious Wounds of the Lord symbolized by the "wounds" in the "flesh" of the Paschal Candle. The Paschal Candle is an image of the Risen Christ who stands before His Father in the heavenly sanctuary and in the midst of His Church on earth, displaying His glorious wounds.

Benedict XVI Echoes the Experience of the Saints

The saints -- from Saint Bernard in the twelfth century and Saint Francis in the thirteenth to the Servant of God Marie-Marthe Chambon in the nineteenth and Saint Pio of Pietrelcina in the twentieth centuries -- teach us to fix our gaze on the wounds of Christ, Priest and Victim. The Holy Father's homily was in mystic continuity with the experience of the saints:

The Lord took His wounds with Him to eternity.
He is a wounded God; He let Himself be wounded through His love for us.
His wounds are a sign for us that He understands
and allows Himself to be wounded out of love for us.

These wounds of His: how tangible they are to us in the history of our time!
Indeed, time and again He allows himself to be wounded for our sake.
What certainty of His mercy, what consolation do his wounds mean for us!
And what security they give us regarding His identity: "My Lord and my God!".

And what a duty they are for us,
the duty to allow ourselves in turn to be wounded for Him!
God's mercy accompanies us daily.
To be able to perceive His mercy it suffices to have a vigilant heart.

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Here at Santa Croce in Gerusalemme, I have the privilege of living just a few steps away from the Chapel of the Sacred Relics where one can venerate the finger of Saint Thomas the Apostle, that very finger that probed the pierced side of Our Lord. Today's Gospel takes on a special meaning when one lives under the same roof as so sacred a relic.

The finger of Saint Thomas came to be enshrined here through a revelation to Saint Birgitta of Sweden; it was by means of an intervention of Saint Birgitta that the relic was found and brought to Santa Croce in Gerusalemme. The relic has been venerated by numerous other saints, blesseds, and servants of God; among them, Saint Philip Neri, Saint Benedict Joseph Labre, Saint Vincent Pallotti, Saint Gaspar del Bufalo, Saint Thérèse of the Child Jesus, and Cardinal Newman.

O Blessed Wound!

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On the occasion of the Holy Father's 80th birthday and in response to his invitation to contemplate the wounded Side of Christ, I offer again my own translation of a prayer "Alla Piaga Del Costato di Gesù," To the Wound in Jesus' Side, composed by the Servant of God Father Eustachio Montemurro (1857–1923). The Venerable Eustachio of Jesus and Mary, a physician and a civic leader, a man of noble ideals and courageous initiatives, became a priest at forty–five years of age, desiring to bringing healing to souls as well as to bodies. Shortly thereafter he founded two religious congregations: The Little Brothers of the Most Holy Sacrament and the Sisters Missionaries of the Sacred Side.

The holy founder was accused of "an excess of zeal" and, for the good of the institutes he had established, chose to exile himself from his spiritual sons and daughters. With the permission of the Pope, he moved to the sanctuary of the Madonna of the Rosary of Pompei, founded by Blessed Bartolo Longo, to devote himself selflessly to the service of souls. Father Montemurro died at Pompei on January 2, 1923, loved by all, and leaving a reputation for holiness.

O painless thrust of the spear
forever awaited with passionate love by my Saviour
that thou shouldst repair in the Father's sight
the terrible wound opened by the sin of Adam
in the heart of humanity!

O glorious wound,
gushing forth life, love, and peace!
I adore thee inexhaustible wellspring of salvation,
the womb of new children
born of the water and of the blood of the Bridegroom.
Thou art for me an ever open refuge,
the door giving access to the nuptial chamber,
the vestibule of the banquet of the Lamb.

The living water that, at every moment, springs from thee,
invites me with the language of love
to enter, through thee, into the heart of my Saviour
that therein I might take the regenerating rest of new life
and spread it all about me
just as the bride coming forth from the nuptial chamber
radiates among her friends the signs and the sweetnesses of love.

Be thou for me, then, O blessed wound,
my blissful abode.
May I be drawn always to thee,
that in thee I may live and die.
In thee may I find the splendid riches
which eye has never seen, nor ear heard,
nor the heart experienced.

I love Thee, Lord Jesus,
glory of my mind, joy of my eyes,
melody of my ears, gladness of my heart,
and peace of my soul.

I am Thine for time and for eternity;
nothing shall ever separate me from Thee,
for Thou hast espoused me,
drawing me with bands of goodness to Thy open side
and pouring out of Thy heart into mine
the joys of the Spirit
and the mercy of the Father who always hears Thee.

Second Sunday of Pascha
Divine Mercy Sunday

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Haec est dies quam fecit Dominus

“This is the day the Lord has made, let us be glad and rejoice in it!” (Ps 117:24). For eight days already we have celebrated a single day: the perfect and unending Day of the Risen Christ, the great and glorious Pasch of the Lord! For eight days now the splendour of “the Alpha and the Omega, the beginning and the end” (Rev 1:8) has flooded the Church with light and joy.

Quasimodo Sunday

In the early Church, on this Second Sunday of Easter, the newly-baptized would conclude their week-long celebration of new life by putting aside the white garments received at Baptism. And Mother Church, addressing herself to them, sings in today’s introit: “As you are new-born children, all your craving must be for the pure milk of the spirit so that you may thrive upon it to the health of your souls” (1 P 2:2). Today’s glorious Introit is a key text for us. It unlocks all the rest. It is the voice of a Mother addressing her newborn infants. So important is this text that, in ancient times, today was known as Quasimodo Sunday, from the first word of the Introit: “After the manner of newborn infants, alleluia, desire the pure milk of the Word, alleluia, alleluia, alleluia” (1 P 2:2).

Pure Spiritual Milk

“All your craving must be for pure spiritual milk” (1 P 2:2). This craving for the Word of God is a sign of spiritual health. Where do we go for this pure, spiritual milk of the Word if not to the breasts of Mother Church, to the Word of God given us in the liturgy day by day? This is why the faithful of the primitive Church used to “meet by common consent in the Portico of Solomon” (Ac 5: 12). This is why we assemble, Sunday after Sunday, not in Solomon’s portico, but in the living Temple of the new Solomon, the Body of Christ, the Church, and in “the shadow of Peter” (cf. Ac 5:15). Every time the Word is proclaimed, sung, repeated, preached, and prayed, we are nourished with pure spiritual milk. It is the corporate hearing of the Word that fashions us into a company with “one heart and one soul” (Ac 4:32).

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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