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Tanto Tempore Vobiscum Sum

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May 11
Saints Philip and James, Apostles

Today's Office Antiphons

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. If you have an Antiphonale, open it and sing them! 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:

Domine, Ostende Nobis Patrem

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).

Et Non Cognovistis Me?

The second 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).

Qui Videt Me

The third 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).

Et Amodo

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).

Si Diligitis Me

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

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 Holy Mass. The Eucharist is the Church coming to the Father through the Son, united to Him as His Body and His Bride.

Magnificat

The Magnificat at Vespers will be framed by Our Lord's words: “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.

[Note: The latest edition of the Antiphonale Monasticum (Solesmes 2007) gives John 1:45 for the Benedictus Antiphon and John 15:7 for the Magnificat. I prefer the ones given in the 1934 edition, probably because they have been my "friends" for lo all these years. One does develop a holy familiarity with certain liturgical texts and melodies. It is always unsettling when they are changed: like getting a letter back marked, "Left no forwarding address."]

Meditatio At Its Best

By means of these antiphons, the various fragments of today’s Gospel are clothed in melodies that make them easier to assimilate and remember. One is gently compelled to linger over each word, holding it in the heart. Today’s liturgy is a perfect example of how the Divine Office spreads the radiance of Holy Mass throughout the day, moving us in the direction of ceaseless prayer. This is meditatio at its best: the repetition of the Gospel, sustained by simple melodies that allow it to be stored up in the secret tabernacle of the heart.

And Then We Shall Be Satisfied

Saint Philip’s request is one that, secretly, we all burn to put to Jesus; “Lord, show us the Father, and we shall be satisfied” (Jn 14:8). This is the desire that the Finger of God (the Holy Spirit) has inscribed deep within the human heart. We were created to see God. We can be satisfied with nothing less. “My soul thirsts for God, the living God. When shall I come and behold the face of God” (Ps 41:2). And to this Philip adds: “and then we shall be satisfied” (Jn 14:8).

The Yearnings of the Human Heart

Ultimately the Face of God is the only reality that can satisfy the yearnings of the human heart. The eyes of the soul were created to feast upon the Divine Countenance. To see the Face of God is the craving that tormented and delighted the friends of God in every age: from Moses, Elijah, and David to Philip and James; and from the apostles to the saints of every age. I am reminded, in particular, of two holy priests of our own time, both ardent adorers of the Face of Christ: Saint Gaetano Catanoso (1879-1963) and the Servant of God, Benedictine Abbot Ildebrando Gregori (1894-1985). Both priests burned with desire to contemplate the Face of Christ. They found the Face of Christ veiled in the Eucharist. The found the Face of Christ in every human being marked by suffering, especially in needy children, in the poor, and in the sick. Pope John Paul II said that the basic task of every Christian is to become, first and foremost, “one who contemplates the Face of Christ.” Am I that Christian? Are you?

The Icon of the Invisible God

The drama of today’s Gospel is that Philip is face-to-face with Our Lord and doesn’t realize who He is. In the Prologue of Saint John we read: “No one has ever seen God; the only-begotten Son, who is in the bosom of the Father, he has made him known” (Jn 1:18). To contemplate the Face of Jesus Christ is to know God. Saint Paul says to the Colossians: “He is the image, the icon of the invisible God” (Col 1:15). In the Letter to the Hebrews, we read: “He reflects the glory of God and bears the very stamp of his nature” (Heb 1:3).

And Yet You Do Not Know Me

And so, Jesus says, “Have I been with you so long, and yet you do not know me, Philip? (Jn 14:9). Our Lord addresses the same question to each of us: How long have I been with you? How long have you been baptized? How long have you had the sacraments, the liturgy, the Scriptures, the Mother of God, the friendship of the saints? And not without a divine sadness, Jesus says: “And yet you do not know me?” (Jn 14:9).

The Face of Christ

We know Our Lord when we experience in the bright darkness of faith that to contemplate His Face is to see the Father. Christ would have us gaze upon his Face with the eyes of faith; he would have us experience, by the grace of the Holy Spirit, that He is in the Father and that the Father is in Him (cf. Jn 14:10). One who contemplates the Holy Face here below with the eyes of faith has begun already to participate in the joy of the blessed in heaven.

The Love of the Sacred Heart

To all who seek His Face, to all who gaze upon it through the lattice of the Scriptures, and hidden beneath the sacramental veils in the Most Holy Eucharist, Our Lord makes this promise: “Whatever you ask in my name, I will do it, that the Father may be glorified in the Son; if you ask anything in my name, I will do it” (Jn 14:14). Contemplating the Face of Christ emboldens us to ask, and to ask confidently, in His Name. One cannot look into the Face of Christ, the human Face of God, and remain paralyzed by fear. The contemplation of the Face of Christ is liberating; it is the secret of living in the love that casts out fear, the love of His Sacred Heart.

Asking

The Holy Sacrifice of the Mass is the school of all right asking in the name of Christ and in the light of His Face. In response to the Church’s sublime “Eucharistic Asking” the Father will pour forth the Holy Spirit on our gifts of bread and wine, and on all of us. In that Asking-in-the-Name-of-Christ and in the light of His Face the Father will be glorified. “Look upon us, O God, our protector, and behold the Face of your Christ” (Ps 83:9).

Whitsunday

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A Pentecost Meditation

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.

Today the valley of dry bones
begins to stir, to rattle, and to reverberate.
Behold, I will cause the Spirit to enter you,
and you shall live:
and they lived and stood upon their feet,
an exceeding great host
singing: Alleluia!

Today the Cenacle sealed like tomb
opens, a joyful Mother’s fruitful womb.
None was ever born of the Spirit
who did not take his birth from her,
and each, claiming from her the springs of his life,
calls her forever glorious, repeating: Alleluia!

Today the Spirit is poured out in superabundance;
today sons and daughters prophesy;
today old men dream dreams and young men see visions;
today menservants and maidservants
join the choir to chant with one many-tongued voice: Alleluia!

Today the Virgin whom the Spirit covered with His shadow
is wrapped in Love and crowned in flame.
Today the Woman who interceded at Cana
tastes New Wine, for the Hour has come.
Today the Mother who stood watching by the Tree
remembers the stream of water and of blood
and filled with sweetness, cries: Alleluia!
Today the Spirit helps us in our weakness
and we who do not know to pray as we ought,
pray in a way that is wonderful and new;
for now the Spirit Himself intercedes for us
with sighs too deep for words.
In the valley of the shadow of death
there rises the canticle of life: Alleluia!

Quaesivi Vultum Tuum

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Seventh Sunday of Paschaltide
Sunday of the Holy Face of Christ

The Most Holy Face of Christ is celebrated on various days of the liturgical year. In the tradition of Carmel, especially in France, the feast of the Transfiguration, August 6th, is marked by loving attention to the Face of Christ. Mother Maria-Pierina De Micheli and the Servant of God Abbot Ildebrando Gregori, O.S.B. promoted the feast of the Holy Face on Shrove Tuesday.

The Congregation of the Benedictines of Jesus Crucified, founded by Mother Marie des Douleurs in 1930, has the custom of turning to the Holy Face in a special way on the Sunday after the Ascension of the Lord. The choice was motivated by the Introit of the Mass:

“Listen to my voice, Lord, when I cry to Thee, alleluia.
True to my heart’s promise I have eyes only for Thy Face;
I seek Thy Face, O Lord!
Turn not Thy Face away from me, alleluia, alleluia” (Ps 26: 7-9).

One of the unfortunate consequences of the lamentable transfer (in some places) of Ascension Thursday to the following Sunday is the loss of the magnificent Proper texts of the Sunday after the Ascension, both for the Mass and the Divine Office . . . and the loss of a Sunday that leaves us with the gaze of our souls riveted to the Face of the Beloved.

A Longing to See Him Again

The soon to be beatified Cardinal Newman wrote somewhere that the Ascension of the Lord is “at once a source of sorrow, because it involves His absence; and of joy, because it involves His presence.” For Our Blessed Lady and the Apostles, standing on the Mount of Olives with their eyes riveted to the heavens, the Ascension was the last glimpse of the Face of Christ on earth. The disappearance of the beloved Face of Christ leaves in the heart of the Church a longing to see Him again, a burning desire for His return.

I Seek Thy Face

This is the reason for Exaudi, Domine, today’s incomparable Introit: “Listen to my voice, Lord, when I cry to Thee, alleluia. True to my heart’s promise I have eyes only for Thy Face; I seek Thy Face, O Lord! Turn not Thy Face away from me, alleluia, alleluia” (Ps 26: 7-9). The desire to contemplate the Face of Christ becomes a persistent longing; this is the experience of all the saints. The vitality of one’s interior life can be measured by the intensity of one’s desire to see the Face of Christ.

John Paul II

Eight years ago in Novo Millennio Ineunte, the Servant of God Pope John Paul II placed the new millennium under the radiant sign of the Face of Christ. Then again, at the beginning of the Year of the Eucharist, the year of his death, Pope John Paul II again directed our eyes to the Face of Christ concealed and revealed in the Sacrament of the Eucharist. The teaching of Pope John Paul II confirms, in a striking way, the spiritual patrimony left by Mother Marie des Douleurs to the Congregation she founded. “Devotion to the Holy Face,” she wrote, “is the particular aspect by which the Holy Spirit makes us learn again all that we need know to become the saints that Jesus desires. This devotion is of such central importance and so vital for us that we cannot live without it.”

The Holy Spirit

I am touched by the connection Mother Marie des Douleurs makes between the Holy Spirit and the Face of Christ. “Devotion to the Holy Face is the particular aspect by which the Holy Spirit makes us learn again all that we need know to become the saints that Jesus desires.” Recall the promise of Our Lord before His Passion: “He who is to befriend you, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send on my account, will in His turn make everything plain, and recall to your minds everything I have said you” (Jn 14:26). “It will be for Him, the truth-giving Spirit, when He comes, to guide you into all truth” (Jn 16:13).

The Holy Spirit teaches souls by referring them to the adorable Face of Jesus. The Sacred Scriptures themselves are illumined by the Holy Spirit who so opens our eyes that we perceive the Face of the Bridegroom shining through the text. “Now,” says the Bride of the Canticle, “He is looking in through each window in turn, peering through every chink” (Ct 2:9).

The Pentecost Novena

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We began the Solemn Pentecost Novena this morning at the Monastery of the Glorious Cross by singing the Veni, Creator Spiritus at the end of Holy Mass. Today, being the First Friday of the month, was also a day of Eucharistic adoration.

The day was made even more special by eight year old Marcelo's First Confession. After the Gospel Marcelo donned the white garment recalling his Baptism, and received a lighted candle. Marcelo participates in the Catechesis of the Good Shepherd, a Montessori inspired preparation for the sacraments, at Saint Mary's Church in New Haven, Connecticut. Marcelo will be receiving his First Holy Communion on Sunday.

Creator Spirit! Pow'r Divine!
Come! visit all the souls of thine;
With Heav'n-descending grace pervade
The breasts which Thou Thyself hast made.

Thou who art named the Paraclete!
Rich gift from God's own mercy seat!
O Fount of Life, and Fire of Love!
Soul cleansing Unction from above!

Thou in thy Sevenfold Glories bright!
Thou Finger of God's Hand of Might!
Who dost o'er lips the timely store
Of speech, the Father's promise pour!

Thy light to every sense impart;
Diffuse thy love through every heart;
The weakness of our mortal flesh
With thy unfailing strength refresh.

Drive far away th'assailing foe,
And all thy holy peace bestow;
So thou be our preventing Guide,
No mischief can our steps betide.

Through Thee may we the Father learn,
And know the Ever-Blessed Son;
Sweet Spirit! so of Both receive,
Thee! as we evermore believe.

Praise to the Father, as is meet,
The Son and Holy Paraclete!
So may the Son to every heart,
The Holy Spirit's grace impart. Amen.

I Will Pray My Father

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Sixth Sunday of Pascha, Year A

Acts 8: 5-8, 14-17
1 Peter 3: 15-18
John 14:15-21

At First Vespers

The Magnificat Antiphon at First Vespers of Sunday is our first contact with the Sunday Gospel, the first taste of the Gospel that we will proclaim and hear, and repeat in various ways, praying it, and holding it in our hearts. The Magnificat Antiphon at First Vespers is the key to our Sunday lectio divina. It is a threshold text and, as such, it opens onto the Mystery. It invites into “the banqueting house” (Ct 2:4) so as to be able to say, Sunday after Sunday, with the bride of the Canticle, “With great delight I sat in his shadow, and his fruit was sweet to my taste” (Ct 2:3).

Another Paraclete

The Magnificat Antiphon is our introduction to Mass on Sunday. “I will pray my Father, and He will give you another Paraclete, alleluia” (Jn 14:16). Even more, the Magnificat Antiphon at First Vespers introduces us into these last two weeks of Paschaltide: days of joy brought to fulfillment, days marked by the glory of the ascending Christ, and by persevering prayer for the gift of the Holy Spirit. The Magnificat Antiphon gives us the mystical core of the Sunday Gospel: Christ’s prayer to the Father and the promise of the Consoler, the Defender sent to our side to “help us in our weakness, for we do not know how to pray as we ought” (Rom 8:26). The text of the antiphon encloses and reveals the adorable mystery of the Trinity: the Son in prayer to the Father, and the gift of the Holy Spirit.

O King of Glory

As this week progresses through the Ascension of the Lord toward Pentecost, yearning for the promise of the Holy Spirit will become all-pervasive in the liturgy. We will intensify our prayer for “the Counselor” (Jn 14:16), “the Spirit of Truth” (Jn 14:17 and dispose ourselves to receive his seven gifts. Already, we are growing into the great cry that will well up from the heart of the Church on the evening of the Ascension: “O King of glory, leave us not orphans; but send upon us the promise of the Father, the Spirit of Truth, alleluia” (Magnificat Antiphon, Second Vespers of the Ascension).

The Simplicity of His One Prayer

The gift of God is proportioned to our desire. Desire grows with prayer, and prayer with desire. I speak not of our desire and prayer but of Christ’s desire and prayer in us. This is what the liturgy communicates to us: the one desire of the Heart of Christ and the one prayer of His Heart to the Father. Growth in holiness has to do with yielding the multiplicity of our desires to His one desire, and the abandonment of the complexity of our prayers to the simplicity of His one prayer. “In that day you will know that I am in my Father, and you in me, and I in you” (Jn 14:20).

Paenitentiam Ad Vitam

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The Benedictine abbot in the photo, an Irishman, is Blessed Columba Marmion (1858-1923). Upon the recommendation of a Trappist Father, I started reading Abbot Marmion when I was fifteen years old. Pope John Paul II beatified Dom Marmion on September 3, 2000.

Monday of the Fourth Week of Paschaltide

Acts 11:1-18
John 10:11-18

Life-Giving Repentance

Today’s reading from the Acts of the Apostles recounts Saint Peter’s illumination concerning the integration of Gentiles into the Christian community. It takes place in the city of Joppa while Peter is at his noonday prayers on the roof of the house where he was lodging. This is one of the events commemorated each day at the Hour of Sext, the Church’s Sixth Hour Prayer, corresponding to midday. The point of the reading is, I think, in the last sentence: “It seems God has granted life-giving repentance of heart to the Gentiles too” (Ac 11:18).

Penitence Unto Life

Life-giving repentance — what the Latin text beautifully calls paenitentiam ad vitam, penitence unto life — is a gift of God, an effect of divine grace. Repentance begins when the heart is touched by the Word of God, or by the Finger of God’s Right Hand, the Holy Ghost. We come again to the central notion of compunction. Blessed Abbot Marmion, in his classic Christ the Ideal of the Monk, devotes all of chapter seven to compunction of heart. He treats of it masterfully under six headings, drawing abundantly from Sacred Scripture, the Liturgy, and the experience of the Saints.

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Refresher Course

I don’t know when you last picked up Christ the Ideal of the Monk. I just know that there is no book quite like it. It is the work of a saint. And the chapter on compunction of heart is, to my mind, the spiritual core of the book. Treat yourself to a refresher course in Benedictine Life. Go back to the novitiate, at least spiritually. The book hasn’t changed, but you have.

Blessed Abbot Marmion asks: "Where will we obtain the spirit of compunction? How do we acquire so great a good? First of all, by asking it of God. This 'gift of tears' is so precious, it is so lofty a grace, that we will obtain it by imploring it of 'the Father of lights from whom descends upon us every perfect gift.'"

Verba vitae aeternae habes

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Third Saturday of Paschaltide

Acts 9:31-42
John 6:60-69

Paschaltide With Mary

There is a particular grace attached to the celebration of these Saturdays of the Blessed Virgin Mary in Paschaltide. Nobody experienced the joy of the Resurrection as did the Mother of Jesus, just as nobody experienced His bitter Passion as she did. This is why the surest way to enter deeply into the Paschal Mystery is in the company of Mary or, if you will, through her Immaculate Heart.

Hearts Made for Each Other

The Immaculate Conception has a unique and unequaled sensitivity to the joys of the God-Man, her Son, just as she has a unique and unequaled sensitivity to the sorrows of His Sacred Heart. The most pure Heart of Mary is perfectly attuned to the Heart of Jesus. Nothing of what belongs to His experience is foreign to her. And nothing of what belongs to her experience is foreign to Him. Her Heart was made for His, and His Heart was formed for hers by the Holy Spirit in her womb.

Receiving From Her Hands

As Mediatrix of All Graces, Mary dispenses the gift of a share in her compassion to those of her children who are open to receiving it. Similarly, she dispenses the gift of a share in her joy at the Resurrection of her Son to those who are open to receiving it. Our Lady stands above us with open hands, just as she is depicted at the rue du Bac. Streams of grace flow from her hands. Some of these are bright; they signify the graces that souls welcome and receive with desire and gratitude. Others are dark; they signify the graces that she is ready to give, but that no one welcomes. One of the lessons that emerges from the apparitions to Saint Catherine Labouré at the rue du Bac is that a soul does well to say to the Blessed Virgin, “Give me, beloved Mother, the graces that no one else wants; the gifts that no one else claims; the blessings to which no heart is open.”

Immolated on the Altar

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Third Friday of Paschaltide
Memorial of Saint Stanislaus, Bishop and Martyr

Acts 9:1-20
John 6:52-59

Saint Stanislaus

We celebrate today the feast of Saint Stanislaus, patron of Poland. Like the young Karol Wojtyla, his successor as Bishop of Krakow, Stanislaus wished to embrace monastic life. Divine Providence, however, disposed otherwise. Stanislaus was appointed a canon of the cathedral of Krakow, and later, in 1071, named bishop of the same see by Duke Boleslaus. It was Boleslaus, become King of Poland, who with his own hand murdered Bishop Stanislaus on May 8, 1079, as he was celebrating Holy Mass.

Stanislaus had publicly reproved Boleslaus for his evil life and, as a last resort, excommunicated him. Boleslaus, instead of humbling himself and repenting of his sins, became enraged. One of the surest signs of the capital sin of pride is the inability to accept correction. Pride gives birth to rage. Rage either simmers below the surface, poisoning the soul, or expresses itself in violence. Had Boleslaus imitated the repentance of King David, he might have become a saint. Instead, he grew hard in his pride, and to his other sins added murder.

Saint Gemma

Today is also the dies natalis of Saint Gemma Galgani. When she was twenty years old, Gemma developed meningitis. Mystically befriended by the young Passionist Saint Gabriel of the Mother of Sorrows, Gemma was miraculously cured through his intercession. Sufferings, both physical and emotional, refined Gemma’s soul until her configuration to Jesus Crucified was confirmed by the wounds she bore in her flesh. Gemma died at the age of twenty-five on April 11, 1903. She was beatified in 1933, and canonized in 1940. Like Saint Gabriel, her spiritual brother, Saint Gemma is a powerful intercessor for young people. In Rome, I would sometimes go to pray at the altar dedicated to her in the Basilica of Saints John and Paul.

The Altar

What did the tenth century Saint Stanislaus and the twentieth century Saint Gemma have in common? They ate the Flesh of the Son of Man and drank His Blood. They anticipated the life of heaven by living on earth a life of Eucharistic grace. Saint Stanislaus died at the altar, perfectly identified with Jesus, Victim and Priest. Saint Gemma, worn out by sufferings, died on the altar of her bed, identified in her own way with Jesus, Victim and Priest.

Ego sum panis vitae

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Third Wednesday of Paschaltide

Acts 8:1-8
John 6:35-40

Eucharist-tide

The adorable mystery of the Eucharist illumines all of Paschaltide because, for the Christian, it illumines all of life. Paschaltide might just as well be called Eucharist-tide! The Eucharist is the sacrament of Our Risen Lord’s abiding presence, and the sacrifice of His Passion and Death renewed on the altar in an unbloody manner for the sake of the living and the dead.

Saint Thomas Aquinas tells us that for the sick, the Eucharist is an encounter with the Physician of Life; for the unclean, it is the fountain of mercy; for the blind, it is the light of eternal brightness; for the poor and needy, it is the open treasury of the Lord of heaven and earth.

Christus Passus

Our Lord is, in the Most Holy Eucharist, just as He is in the glory of heaven. He stands before His Father, offering Himself as Victim and Priest. He displays His glorious wounds to the Father, and allows them to speak for themselves on our behalf. How well I remember sitting in a classroom thirty years ago, listening to the saintly Dominican Father Urban Mullaney passionately expound the Eucharist as the sacrament of the Christus Passus: Christ in the very act of His passing-over to the Father by suffering, dying, rising, and ascending to His right hand. In the Eucharist there is no remote “there and then.” The mystery perpetually unfolds before the Father, and before the Church, in the “now” of eternity.

Every Year a Year of the Eucharist

Paschaltide is the Church’s spatium laetissimum, her space of exceeding great joy. We read the Acts of the Apostles in order to discover there the ongoing work of the Holy Spirit in the Church and among us. And we read the sixth chapter of Saint John in order to receive from it the grace of a Eucharistic renewal affecting all of life. For one who enters deeply into the Church’s Year of Grace, living Paschaltide as the Church intends it to be lived, every year is a Year of the Eucharist.

The Bread of Life

Today’s Gospel gives us but five verses, but they are enough to sustain a lifetime. “It is I who am the bread of life; he who comes to me will never be hungry, he who has faith in me will never thirst” (Jn 6:35). Take these words of Our Lord. Make them your own. Turn them around and address them to Him. “Thou, O Lord, art the bread of life. Thou art the bread of my life, my daily bread, the sustenance without which I will grow weak, and falter, and perish on the way. I come to Thee, that I may never be hungry. Give me faith in Thee, that I may never thirst.

Tamquam faciem angeli

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Third Monday of Pascha

Acts 6:8–15
John 6:22–29

Like the Face of an Angel

Saint Luke describes Saint Stephen as having a face like that of an angel. “And all those who sat there in the Council fastened their eyes on him, and saw his face looking like the face of an angel” (Ac 6:25). Those who have glimpsed the faces of angels tell us that they shine with an unearthly radiance and that they are beautiful beyond any mortal beauty.

They Behold the Face of my Father

The brightness of the angels is, like that of the moon, a reflected brightness. They are living spiritual mirrors of the uncreated beauty of God. Our Lord says in Matthew 18:10: “See to it that you do not treat one of these little ones with contempt; I tell you, they have angels of their own in heaven, that behold the face of my heavenly Father continually.” The angels participate in the brightness and beauty that they contemplate in the face of the Father, and in the glory of the Father that, Saint Paul tells us, “shines in the face of Jesus Christ” (2 Cor 4:6).

Whoever Has Seen Me

The face of Saint Stephen was like that of an angel because Stephen, being “full of the Holy Spirit” (Ac 7:55) had the eyes of his soul fixed at all times on the adorable Face of Christ. When the Apostle Philip said to Our Lord, “Let us see the Father; that is all we ask,” Jesus answered him, saying, “What, Philip, here am I, who have been all this while in your company; hast thou not learned to recognize me yet? Whoever has seen me, has seen the Father” (Jn 14:8-9).

Mercy Has the First Word

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Misericordia Domini

It is curious (and praiseworthy!) that Lutherans have, for the most part, conserved the Catholic practice of referring to a given Sunday by the incipit, or first words, of the Introit of the Mass. I noticed this not along ago while perusing The Brotherhood Prayerbook edited by The Reverend Benjamin T. G. Mayes, an American Lutheran pastor. Catholics are still accustomed to hearing the Third Sunday of Advent referred to as Gaudete Sunday, the Fourth Sunday of Lent as Laetare Sunday and, perhaps, the Second Sunday of Easter as Quasimodo Sunday, but the custom has largely disappeared.

A Triumphal Arch

The Introit of the Mass is, according to Father Maurice Zundel, like a triumphal arch through which we pass into the Holy Mysteries. Each Sunday has its own name derived from the Introit. Today, therefore, is Misericordia Domini Sunday. Mercy has the first word in today's Mass.

The earth is full of the mercy of the Lord, alleluia:
by the word of the Lord were the heavens made, alleluia, alleluia.
V. Rejoice in the Lord, O you righteous:
praise is comely for the upright. (Ps 32:5-6)

The Wound of Mercy

The death and resurrection of Our Lord Jesus Christ has bathed the whole world in mercy. The Mass, being the sacramental renewal of the Sacrifice of the Cross, remains for all time the wellspring of the inexhaustible torrent of mercy that ever flows from the wound opened by the soldier's lance in Jesus' Sacred Side.

The Lex Orandi

Catholic culture is shaped by the Sacred Liturgy: not only by the calendar of the Church, but also by the Proper of the Mass. I have long argued that the Proper of the Mass is a constitutive element of the Lex orandi — not just the text of the Proper, but also the melodic vesture of the Gregorian chant that clothes it and expresses its meaning.

Termites in the House

The option of selecting an alius cantus aptus (another suitable chant) has, in no small measure, contributed to the dismantling of the Roman Liturgy. The Proper of the Mass is not a decorative element, added onto the fundamental structure of the liturgy as a kind of embellishment; it is, rather, a supporting beam of the whole edifice. Move it, and the whole structure is weakened and, with time, will collapse. Is that not what we have seen over the past forty-five years? The alius cantus aptus has, in most places, replaced the Proper of the Mass, and liturgical termites have infested the whole structure.

Recover the Propers

To my mind, one of the most urgent tasks of The Reform of the Reform is the suppression of the provision for an alius cantus aptus, and the restoration of the traditional texts of the Proper of the Mass, taking care, at the same time, that the texts given in the Missale Romanum correspond to those in the Graduale Romanum. The replacement, in the Missale Romanum of 1970, of the venerable sung texts of the Graduale Romanum with texts destined to be read, was an innovation without precedent, and a mistake with far reaching and deleterious consequences for the Roman Rite.

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In how many places will the Mass of Beata Maria in Resurrectione Domini be celebrated tomorrow? The proper texts of the Mass are found in the Collectio Missarum de Beata Maria Virgine or in the English translation of it, entitled Collection of Masses of the Blessed Virgin Mary.

Here is the oration I composed to conclude the General Intercessions, and my own translation of the splendid Preface of this Mass. The painting of the Risen Jesus appearing to His Blessed Mother is by Giovanni Francesco Guercino (1599-1666).

Collect at the General Intercessions

Almighty and ever-living God,
who, during the great and silent sabbath
when your Son slept in the tomb,
looked upon the flame of faith and hope
that burned, for the sake of the whole Church,
in the Immaculate Heart of the Virgin Mary,
grant us, we beseech you,
so to follow her in faith and in hope in this life
as to share her joy eternally in heaven.
Through Christ our Lord.

Preface

Truly it is right and just, our duty and our salvation,
always and everywhere to give you thanks,
Lord, holy Father, almighty and eternal God.

At the resurrection of your Christ
you filled the blessed Virgin with joy beyond all telling
and wonderfully extolled her faith.
In the strength of that faith
she waited for that Day of Light and of Life
when the night of death would be ended,
the whole world would exult,
and the Church at her dawn would tremble with joy
in seeing again her deathless Lord.

Through him the choirs of Angels adore your majesty,
as in eternity they rejoice before your face.
Let our voices, we pray you, be joined to theirs,
in this their joyful hymn:


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Pope Benedict XVI Calls the Face of Christ the Supreme Revelation of the Mercy of God

The Holy Father's message at the Regina Caeli today, presents the Vultus Christi, the Face of Christ, as the Face of Mercy. Here is my translation of the Italian text:

Dear brothers and sisters,

During the Jubilee of the Year 2000, the beloved Servant of God John Paul II established that in the whole Church the Sunday After Easter, besides being the Sunday In Albis, should also be named the Sunday of Divine Mercy. This he did in concomitance with the canonization of Faustina Kowalska, the humble Polish Sister, and zealous messenger of the Merciful Jesus, who was born in 1905 and died in 1938.

Mercy is, in reality, the central nucleus of the Gospel message, and the very name of God, the face with which He revealed Himself in the Old Covenant, and fully in Jesus Christ, the incarnation of creating and redeeming Love. This merciful love also illumines the face of the Church, and manifests itself by means of the sacraments, in particular that of Reconciliation, and also by the works of charity, both communitarian and individual.

All that the Church says and does manifests the mercy that God nurtures for man. When the Church must recall a truth that is misunderstood, or a good that has been betrayed, she is compelled to do so by merciful love, so that men may have life, and have it in abundance (cf. Jn 10:10). From Divine Mercy, which pacifies hearts, springs authentic peace in the world, peace among peoples, and among different cultures and religions.

Like Sister Faustina, John Paul II made himself, in his turn, the apostle of Divine Mercy. The evening of that unforgettable Saturday, April 2nd, 2005, when he closed his eyes upon this world, was really the vigil of the Second Sunday of Easter, and many notice the singular coincidence, that brought together in itself the Marian dimension — the First Saturday of the month — and the dimension of Divine Mercy.

In fact, his long and multiform pontificate has herein its central nucleus: all his mission in the service of the truth concerning God and man and peace in the world, is summed up in this proclamation, as he himself said it in Cracow in 2002, when he inaugurated the great Shrine of Divine Mercy. "Apart from the mercy of God, there is no other source of hope for human beings."

His message then, like that of Saint Faustina, leads back to the Face of Christ, the supreme revelation of the Mercy of God. Constantly to contemplate that Face: this is the heritage which he left us, and which we, with joy, receive and make our own.


Pope Benedict XVI
Divine Mercy Sunday
March 30, 2008

In Laetitia

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Saturday of Pascha

The Lord brought forth His people with joy, alleluia:
and His chosen ones with gladness, alleluia, alleluia.
V. Give glory to the lord, and call upon His name:
declare His deeds among the gentiles (Ps 104:43, 1).

One Who Comes to Meet Us

Some of you may be wondering why I chose, during this Easter Octave, to preach each day on the Introit of the Mass. The simple answer is this: one of you asked me to do it. A Sister suggested that it would be a good thing if I meditated on the Introit texts with you. And so I did. But there is another reason. Listen to what Father Maurice Zundel says:

“The Introit greets us at the entrance of the Mass. It is like a triumphal arch at the head of a Roman road, a porch through which we approach the Mystery, a hand outstretched to a crying child, a beloved companion in the sorrow of exile. The Liturgy is not a formula. It is One who comes to meet us.” (The Splendour of the Liturgy)

Toward the Heavenly Sanctuary

The Church gives us eight Introits for the Octave of Easter: one for each day. Each one is a mystic portal opening onto a particular facet of the Mystery and pointing us toward the heavenly sanctuary where, beyond the veil, Christ the Priest stands in glory before the Father.

In Spe, Alleluia

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Friday of Pascha

“The Lord led forth his people in hope, alleluia:
and the sea overwhelmed their enemies,
alleluia, alleluia, alleluia” (Ps 77: 53).

The Day Which the Lord Hath Made

We have arrived at the sixth day of the One Day that is Pascha, “the day which the Lord hath made” (Ps 117:24). We are also at the sixth in a series of eight magnificent Introits. Each of these expresses and, at the same time, impresses on the soul, a particular aspect of the Pasch of the Lord made present and communicated to us in the sacraments. In today’s Introit the Church sings, “The Lord led forth his people in hope, alleluia: and the sea overwhelmed their enemies, alleluia, alleluia, alleluia” (Ps 77:53).

What the Lord Did

The wonders of the Exodus fulfilled in the Passion, Death, and Resurrection of Our Lord, and renewed for us in the sacraments, are God’s doing, not ours. Recall the very last line of Psalm 21, the mysterious prophecy of the Passion and Resurrection intoned by Jesus from the Cross: “Generations to come shall speak of the Lord, and declare his righteousness to a people yet to be born: This is what the Lord did” (Ps 21:31) — Haec fecit Dominus.

Brought Out in Hope

Whereas the Hebrew Psalter reads, “He brought them out safely” (Ps 77:53), the Septuagint and the Vulgate, the Psalter used by the Church, has for today’s Introit, “He brought them out in hope.” Saint Albert the Great says that, “hope is the chariot whereon God brings His elect to Himself.” Nothing carries the soul forward as much as the exercise of the virtue of hope. The virtue of hope is not about hoping for this or that thing. It is not about saying, “I hope for good weather tomorrow,” or “I hope that I have enough milk for tea this afternoon.”

Sapientia aperuit os mutum

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Thursday of Pascha

Your victorious hand, O Lord,
have they magnified, with one accord, alleluia:
for wisdom has opened the mouth of the dumb,
and made the tongues of infants vocal with praise,
alleuia, alleluia (Wis 10:21-22).

Praise of Wisdom

Today’s Introit, the fifth of eight given us by the Church during this week of glory, is drawn from the 10th chapter of the book of Wisdom. The passage that is sung in the Introit is best understood by placing it in its context: a praise of the wonders wrought by Holy Wisdom during the Exodus.

“She . . . led them out on their miraculous journey, affording them shelter by day and starry radiance by night. She made a passage for them through the Red Sea, brought them safely through those leagues of water, and churned up the bodies of their drowned enemy from those unfathomed depths. So, enriched by the spoils of the godless, they extolled, O Lord, thy holy name, proclaimed with one voice thy sovereign power; Wisdom opened the dumb mouths, and made the lips of infants vocal with praise” (Wis 10:17-21).

The Mysteries of Initiation

Who is Holy Wisdom? As we know from the Great O Antiphon of December 17th, Wisdom, Sapientia, designates none other than Our Lord Jesus Christ, the Word of the Father. The Church confesses that Christ led out the catechumens on their miraculous journey into the font of Holy Baptism, and out of the font to the altar of His Sacrifice. The neophytes are characterized, above all, by the praise of Christ that comes to flower on their lips in the celebration of the Eucharist.

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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