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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!

Today, for the poor there is a Father,
for the destitute a Treasury,
for hearts grown dark an inblazing of brightness.
Today, for those who weep there comes the Best of Comforters,
for the lonely, there arrives a gentle Guest,
for the worn and weary there is a refreshment so sweet
that even they begin to sing: Alleluia!

Today, for workers there is repose,
for those scorched in the heat of discord, refreshment,
for those brought low by too great a weight of sorrow, solace,
and for those with tears to shed,
a chalice ready to receive them.
Today there is no one who cannot say: Alleluia!

Today, even where there is nothing good
Goodness elects to dwell;
and where there is nothing holy
Holiness makes a tabernacle,
so that the broken, the sad, and the powerless
find their voices to sing: Alleluia!

Today, there is a balm for every wound,
a dew sprinkled over every dryness;
a cleansing water for every stain.
Today, the stubborn heart learns to bend
and the stiff spine learns to bow.
In the twinkling of an eye the frozen are thawed
and icy hearts warmed through and through,
making them declare as never before: Alleluia!

Today there are Seven Gifts
lavishly given for each according to his need:
Wisdom for the foolish,
Understanding for the dull,
Counsel for the hesitant,
Fortitude for the weak,
Piety for the feckless,
and Fear of the Lord for those who have forgotten to adore,
saying humbly: Alleluia

Today for sinners there is forgiveness,
for the stranger a home,
for the hungry a Holy Table,
for the thirsty a river of living water,
and for every mouth the long-awaited Kiss.
Today heaven is poured over the face of the earth,
while the children of men in amazement sing: Alleluia! Alleluia! Alleluia!

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"Mary Magdalene went and said to the disciples, 'I have seen the Lord'; and she told them that He had said these things to her." (John 20:18

Women Apostles

I am thinking, on this eve of the feast of the Divine Mercy, of four women raised up by the Spirit of God in the course of the last century to deliver a message to the Church. Each one prophesied the mystery of the Divine Mercy in her own language, using her own vocabulary, images, and unique feminine sensibility.

Two were French: Thérèse and Yvonne-Aimée; one was Spanish: Josefa Menendez; and one was Polish: Maria Faustina Kowalska. Two were humble laysisters charged with the lowliest tasks in their convents, all the while receiving the secrets of Heaven: Josefa and Faustina. One, Thérèse, was a young Carmelite hidden away in her cloister, and dreaming of doing great deeds for France (like Jeanne d'Arc), for missionaries, and for the salvation of sinners. And one, Yvonne-Aimée, was a heroine of the French resistance during World War II, a spiritual mother to priests, a divinely-inspired risk-taker for love for her Jesus, and a bold and prudent renovator of religious life.

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Our Lord to Sister Josefa Menendez (1890-1923)

"I am He Who forgives thee thy sins, Who wipes out thy offences, and Who sustains thy weakness! The greater is thy nothingness, the more My power upholds thee: I will enrich thee with My gifts, and if thou art faithful I will take sanctuary in thy heart and fly to it when sinners repudiate Me. I will rest in thee, and thou shalt have life in Me."
"If thou art an abyss of wretchedness, I am an abyss of sweetness and of mercy. My Heart is thy refuge, come there to seek all thou has need of; even such things aas I require at thy hands."
"Instead of looking at thy nullity, look at the power of My Heart that upholds thee and have no fear. I am thy strength and shall heal thy wounds."
"What canst thou fear from Me? Never question My love for thee, or the clemency of My Heart. Thy misery draws me to thee . . . without Me what art thou? Never forget that I am all the closer to thee, in proportion to thy lowliness."
"Never grieve overmuch at thy falls --cannot I make a saint of thee? I will seek thee out in thy nothingness to unite Myself to thee, only never refuse Me anything."
"The void and misery in thee are as magnets that attract My love to thee. Yield not to discouragement, for my Mercy is honoured in thy infirmity."

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Saint Faustina Before the Blessed Sacrament

In her quest for Divine Mercy for herself, for poor sinners, for priests, for the dying, and for the whole world, Saint Faustina knew where to go. She was drawn to the tabernacle: the dwelling and fountainhead of Divine Mercy.

O Blessed Host, in whom is contained the infinite price of mercy which will compensate for all our debts, and especially those of poor sinners.
O Blessed Host, in whom is contained the fountain of living water which springs from infinite mercy for us, and especially for poor sinners.
O Blessed Host, in whom is contained the fire of purest love which blazes forth from the bosom of the Eternal Father, as from an abyss of infinite mercy for us, and especially for poor sinners.
O Blessed Host, in whom is contained the medicine for all our infirmities, flowing from infinite mercy, as from a fount, for us and especially for poor sinners.
O Blessed Host, in whom is contained the union between God and us through His infinite mercy for us, and especially for poor sinners.
O Blessed Host, in whom are contained all the sentiments of the most sweet Heart of Jesus toward us, and especially poor sinners.
Saint Faustina's Aspirations to the Most Blessed Sacrament

Surrendering to Mercy

Thérèse was inspired to make her Oblation to Merciful Love on Sunday, June 9, 1895:

"In the evening of this life, I shall appear before You with empty hands, for I do not ask You, Lord, to count my works. All our justice is stained in Your eyes. I wish, then, to be clothed in Your own Justice and to receive from Your Love the eternal possession of Yourself. I want no other Throne, no other Crown but You, my Beloved!
Time is nothing in Your eyes, and a single day is like a thousand years. You can, then, in one instant prepare me to appear before You.
In order to live in one single act of perfect Love, I OFFER MYSELF AS A VICTIM OF HOLOCAUST TO YOUR MERCIFUL LOVE, asking You to consume me incessantly, allowing the waves of infinite tenderness shut up within You to overflow into my soul, and that thus I may become a martyr of Your Love, O my God!
May this martyrdom, after having prepared me to appear before You, finally cause me to die and may my soul take its flight without any delay into the eternal embrace of Your Merciful Love."

To Josefa, Our Lord said, "Believe in My love and in My mercy." Faustina has taught the world to say, "Jesus, I trust in Thee." And Yvonne-Aimée's miraculous little invocation has changed the lives of thousands: "O Jesus, King of Love, I put my trust in Thy merciful goodness."

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No Limitations to Trust in My Mercy

"I feel somehow that the time is at hand when Your Infinite Mercy will come to our aid." Yvonne-Aimée after a Gestapo search during World War II
"Do you know?" Jesus said to me, "that there are souls that don't dare to think of Me as their best Friend and don't realize that My Heart is always waiting to receive them . . . I am pure Love and I find my happiness in knowing them close to Me and giving them My Love in full measure. . . . They should approach Me with humility and respect, but I also want them to think of Me as their Father and feel at ease with Me. Affection and childlike trust are what they need to talk to God and it saddens Me to see them come to Me almost suspiciously, in fear and trembling, when all I want is their love."
"My Mercy is infinite," Jesus said; "all souls can reach My Divine Heart and rise to whatever heights they wish within that Heart. I make no distinction between the innocent and the guilty -- the more they love Me, the dearer they are to Me. No soul will ever find limitations to its trust in My Mercy, for I want that trust to go on growing for ever . . ." Mother Yvonne-Aimée's Diary -- 1922


Saint Lydia Purpuraria

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Sixth Monday of Paschaltide

Acts 16:11-15
John 15:26--16:4

Three Fundamental Values

Saint Luke's account of the conversion of Lydia Purpuraria (the dealer in purple stuffs) is a paradigm of three fundamental monastic values: 1) Lydia listens to the Word with an open heart; 2) she is baptized, 3) she practices hospitality. These three elements come down to us in a somewhat stylized form as lectio divina, a listening to the Word that leads to conversion; as the Opus Dei, the full sacramental and liturgical life; and as sacred Hospitality, the service of Christ in guests who, according to Saint Benedict, are never lacking.

By the River

Saint Luke places Lydia at the center of a tableau rich in details. It is the Sabbath, the day of repose in God, the day of listening to the Word. Paul and his companions go outside the city gates. There is a place of prayer by the river. We are given to understand that this is an "unofficial" place of prayer, not a synagogue. In order to hold a proper synagogal liturgy the presence of at least ten men is required. Luke mentions only the presence of women. This "assembly of women," irregular and marginal in its own way, is the context for Lydia's hearing of the Word. "God's word is not chained" (2 Tim 2:9), and "the Spirit blows wherever it pleases" (Jn 3:8).

Lydia and Mary of Bethany

Lydia is a professional woman, a merchant dealing in purple dyed fabrics. I imagine her to be smart, capable, a good judge of character. She is already an adorer of God, that is to say, one who adheres to the worship of the God of Israel. Adoration of the one God, the God of Israel, has prepared her heart to receive the seed of the Gospel. Lydia was "all ears" because the Lord had opened her heart to heed what was said by Paul (Ac 16:14). The Word Himself says, "No one can come to Me unless it is granted him by the Father" (Jn 6:65). Reception of the Word of God is itself a gift of God. It is the Lord who opens the ear of the heart to the Word. Luke's portrait of Lydia bears a certain resemblance to his portrait of Mary of Bethany who "sat at the Lord's feet and listened to His teaching" (Lk 10:39).

The Sacramental Finality of the Word

Through ears opened by the Lord, Lydia receives the Word of God into her heart. This is the very substance of lectio divina. For Lydia, it leads to Baptism. The Word is fulfilled in the Mysteries, in the Opus Dei, the work wrought by God for us. Every hearing of the Word has this sacramental finality. The celebration of the Holy Mysteries delivers what the Word proclaims. We experience the same pattern in every Mass: the Word proclaimed, heard, repeated, and prayed sends us to the altar for its actualization in the Mystery of Sacrifice.

The Divine Hospitality

Lectio divina and Opus Dei come to fruition in service and, particularly, in hospitality. Lydia, having experienced the hospitality of God in Word and in Sacrament, witnesses to the Divine Hospitality by extending it. Having opened her heart to the Word, she opens her home to Paul and his companions. This is the very foundation of monastic Hospitality. All of us, guests and sojourners in the house of God, "hospitalized" in His Word, and nourished from the altar of His Sacrifice, are compelled to go and do the same.

Come, Holy Spirit

Lectio divina, Opus Dei, and Hospitality -- each being sacramental in its own way -- imply the secret action of the Paraclete promised by Our Lord in the Gospel. In lectio divina, as in the Opus Dei, and in sacred Hospitality, we witness the presence and action of the same Holy Spirit who, in the Holy Sacrifice will descend today upon the holy oblations and upon ourselves.

Eduxit Dominus populum suum

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Saturday of Pascha
"Sabbatum in Albis Depositis"


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

Commenting on the Introit of the Mass, 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.

Get On With It

Today's Introit is but a single verse from Psalm 104. "The Lord brought forth His people with joy, alleluia: and His chosen ones with gladness, alleluia, alleluia" (Ps 104:43). The psalm refers to the Exodus. This verse, chosen by the Church for us today, is about getting out of Egypt. Father Ray Blake, a parish priest in Brighton, England, had an aunt whose motto was, "Pull yourself together and get on with it." The Church is our Mother, not our aunt, but she is saying something very like what Father Blake's aunt used to say.

Into Life

Easter, or Pascha as the Church calls it in her official liturgical books, is about moving out and moving on. Out of Egypt and into the Promised Land. Out of darkness into light. Out of sin into holiness. Out of decrepitude into vigor. Out of a pitiful self-absorption into fascination with the beauty of holiness that shines on the Face of Christ. Out of death into life.

The Illusion of Coziness

It is a strange thing that, when it comes to getting on with it spiritually, some of us drag our feet. There is something inside us that remains attached to that old life of bondage under Pharaoh in Egypt. We reminisce about the "bad old days" and our imagination twists them into the "good old days" that they never were. There is nothing worthy of nostalgia about living in sin, under sin, or with sin. One of the devil's ploys is to make us feel comfortable in our sins. He likes nothing better than to appeal to our innate desire for feeling cozy, and he creates the illusion of coziness by using our sins. In this way, he suggests that we really need not move forward, that things are fine just as they are, and that those think otherwise are either fanatics or idealists.

Today's Introit says that the Lord brought forth His people with joy, and His chosen ones with gladness. Joy because a new life was opening before them. Gladness because God had taken care of their enemies -- a symbol of the old sins that pursue us -- by sending them headlong into the churning waters of the Red Sea. Joy, because "the strife was o'er, the battle won." Gladness because, as the Exultet puts it, we have been "restored to grace . . . and separated from the vices of the world and the darkness of sinners."

Resistance

What would prevent you from experiencing this joy and gladness? A secret attachment to sin. A hankering after things as the Old Self would have them be. A resistance to the costly change of heart that is the price of new life.

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Homily of Pope Benedict XVI for the Solemnity of Pentecost 2009

Apart from being a magnificent example of mystagogical preaching, the Holy Father's Pentecost homily reveals an exquisite sensitivity to role of the Blessed Virgin Mary in preparing the Church for the descent of the Holy Spirit. Pope Benedict XVI continues to offer us a wealth of Mariological insights masterfully harmonized with the liturgical cycle of feasts and mysteries. The subtitles and italics are my own.

Dear Brothers and Sisters!

The One Center of the Liturgy and of the Christian Life

Every time that we celebrate the Eucharist we experience in faith the mystery that is accomplished on the altar, that is, we participate in the supreme act of love that Christ realized with his death and resurrection. The one center of the liturgy and of Christian life -- the paschal mystery -- then assumes specific "forms," with different meanings and particular gifts of grace, in the different solemnities and feasts.

The Holy Spirit, the True Fire

Among all the solemnities, Pentecost is distinguished by its importance, because in it that which Jesus himself proclaimed as being the purpose of his whole earthly mission is accomplished. In fact, while he was going up to Jerusalem, he declared to his disciples: "I have come to cast fire upon the earth, and how I wish for it to be kindled!" (Luke 12:49). These words find their most obvious realization 50 days after the resurrection, in Pentecost, the ancient Jewish feast that, in the Church, has become the feast of the Holy Spirit par excellence: "There appeared to them parted tongues as of fire ... and all were filled with the Holy Spirit" (Acts 2:3-4). The Holy Spirit, the true fire, was brought to earth by Christ. He did not steal it from the gods -- as Prometheus did according to the Greek myth -- but he became the mediator of the "gift of God," obtaining it for us with the greatest act of love in history: his death on the cross.

Receive the Holy Spirit

God wants to continue to give this "fire" to every human generation, and naturally he is free to do this how and when he wants. He is spirit, and the spirit "blows where he wills" (cf. John 3:8). However, there is an "ordinary way" that God himself has chosen for "casting fire upon the earth": Jesus is this way, the incarnate only begotten Son of God, dead and risen. For his part, Jesus constituted the Church as his mystical body, so that it prolongs his mission in history. "Receive the Holy Spirit" -- the Lord says to the Apostles on the evening of his resurrection, accompanying those words with an expressive gesture: he "breathed" upon them (cf. John 20:22). In this way he showed them that he was transmitting his Spirit to them, the Spirit of the Father and the Son.

The Grace of the Cenacle: Prayer and Concord

Now, dear brothers and sisters, in today's solemnity Scripture tells us how the community must be, how we must be to receive the Holy Spirit. In his account of Pentecost the sacred author says that the disciples "were together in the same place." This "place" is the Cenacle, the "upper room," where Jesus held the Last Supper with his disciples, where he appeared to them after his resurrection; that room that had become the "seat," so to speak, of the nascent Church (cf. Acts 1:13). Nevertheless, the intention in the Acts of the Apostles is more to indicate the interior attitude of the disciples than to insist on a physical place: "They all persevered in concord and prayer" (Acts 1:14). So, the concord of the disciples is the condition for the coming of the Holy Spirit; and prayer is the presupposition of concord.

A Church Less Preoccupied With Activities and More Dedicated to Prayer

This is also true for the Church today, dear brothers and sisters. It is true for us who are gathered together here. If we do not want Pentecost to be reduced to a mere ritual or to a suggestive commemoration, but that it be a real event of salvation, through a humble and silent listening to God's Word we must predispose ourselves to God's gift in religious openness. So that Pentecost renew itself in our time, perhaps there is need -- without taking anything away from God's freedom [to do as he pleases] -- for the Church to be less "preoccupied" with activities and more dedicated to prayer.

Mary Most Holy, the Mother of the Church and Bride of the Holy Spirit

Mary Most Holy, the Mother of the Church and Bride of the Holy Spirit, teaches us this. This year Pentecost occurs on the last day of May, when the Feast of the Visitation is customarily celebrated. This event was also a little "Pentecost," bringing forth joy and praise from the hearts of Elizabeth and Mary -- the one barren and the other a virgin -- who both became mothers by an extraordinary divine intervention (cf. Luke 1:41-45).

The Hayden Harmoniemesse

The music and singing that is accompanying our liturgy, also help us to united in prayer, and in this regard I express a lively recognition of the choir of the Cologne cathedral and the Cologne Chamber Orchestra. Joseph Haydn's "Harmoniemesse," the last of the Masses composed by this great musician, and a sublime symphony for the glory of God, was chosen for today's Mass. The Haydn Mass was a fitting choice given that it is the bicentennial of the composer's death. I address a cordial greeting to all those who have come for this.

The Air We Breathe

To indicate the Holy Spirit, the account in the Acts of the Apostles uses two great images, the image of the tempest and the image of fire. Clearly, St. Luke had in mind the theophany of Sinai, recounted in Exodus (19:16-19) and Deuteronomy (4:10-12:36). In the ancient world the tempest was seen as a sign of divine power, in whose presence man felt subjugated and terrified. But I would like to highlight another aspect: the tempest is described as a "strong driving wind," and this brings to mind the air that distinguishes our planet from others and permits us to live on it. What air is for biological life, the Holy Spirit is for the spiritual life; and as there is air pollution, that poisons the environment and living things, there is also pollution of the heart and the spirit, that mortifies and poisons spiritual existence. In the same way that we should not be complacent about the poisons in the air -- and for this reason ecological efforts are a priority today -- we should also not be complacent about that which corrupts the spirit. But instead it seems that our minds and hearts are menaced by many pollutants that circulate in society today -- the images, for example, that make pleasure a spectacle, violence that degrades men and women -- and people seem to habituate themselves to this without any problem. It is said that this is freedom but it is just a failure to recognize all that which pollutes, poisons the soul, above all of the new generations, and ends up limiting freedom itself. The metaphor of the strong driving wind of Pentecost makes one think of how precious it is to breathe clean air, be it physical air without lungs, or spiritual air -- the healthy air of the spirit that is love -- with our heart.

Fire From Heaven

Fire is the other image of the Holy Spirit that we find in the Acts of the Apostles. I compared Jesus with the mythological figure of Prometheus at the beginning of the homily. The figure of Prometheus suggests a characteristic aspect of modern man. Taking control of the energies of the cosmos -- "fire" -- today human beings seem to claim themselves as gods and want to transform the world excluding, putting aside or simply rejecting the Creator of the universe. Man no longer wants to be the image of God but the image of himself; he declares himself autonomous, free, adult. Obviously that reveals an inauthentic relationship with God, the consequence of a false image that has been constructed of him, like the prodigal son in the Gospel parable who thought that he could find himself by distancing himself from the house of his father. In the hands of man in this condition, "fire" and its enormous possibilities become dangerous: they can destroy life and humanity itself, as history unfortunately shows. The tragedies of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, in which atomic energy, used as a weapon, ended up bringing death in unheard of proportions, remain a perennial warning.

With Mary in the Cenacle

We could of course find many examples, less grave and yet just as symptomatic, in the reality of everyday life. Sacred Scripture reveals that the energy that has the ability to move the world is not an anonymous and blind power, but the action of the "spirit of God that broods over the waters" (Genesis 1:2) at the beginning of creation. And Jesus Christ "cast upon the earth" not a native power that was already present but the Holy Spirit, that is, the love of God, who "renews the face of the earth," purifying it of evil and liberating it from the dominion of death (cf. Psalm 103 [104]: 29-30). This pure "fire," essential and personal, the fire of love, descended upon the Apostles, gathered together with Mary in prayer in the Cenacle, to make the Church the extension of Christ's work of renewal.

The Holy Spirit Overcomes Fear

Finally, a last thought also taken from the Acts of the Apostles: the Holy Spirit overcomes fear. We know that the disciples fled to the Cenacle after the Master's arrest and remained there out of fear of suffering the same fate. After Jesus' resurrection this fear did not suddenly disappear. But when the Holy Spirit descended upon them at Pentecost, those men went out without fear and began to proclaim the good news of Christ crucified and risen. They had no fear, because they felt that they were in stronger hands.

His Infinite Love Will Not Abandon Us

Yes, dear brothers and sisters, where the Spirit of God enters, he chases out fear; he makes us know and feel that we are in the hands of an Omnipotence of love: whatever happens, his infinite love will not abandon us. The witness of the martyrs, the courage of the confessors, the intrepid élan of missionaries, the frankness of preachers, the example of all the saints -- some who were even adolescents and children -- demonstrate this. It is also demonstrated by the very existence of the Church, which, despite the limits and faults of men, continues to sail across the ocean of history, driven by the breath of God and animated by his purifying fire. With this faith and this joyous hope we repeat today, through Mary's intercession: "Send forth your Spirit, O Lord, and renew the face of the earth!"

[Zenit Translation by Joseph G. Trabbic]

Domine, tu omnia scis

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Goya's painting of the repentant Apostle Peter fits today's Gospel. Note the keys resting on a rock directly beneath Saint Peter's hands.

Raised Up by the Hand of Christ

Today the Church gives us the Gospel of a saint who fell as low as one can fall, only to be raised up by the hand of the risen Christ. Mysteriously and powerfully, the Holy Ghost is at work in the fallen Saint Peter and in the risen Christ. In Our Lord's encounter with Saint Peter one senses the same communion in the Holy Ghost that binds priest to penitent, and penitent to priest, in the Sacrament of Penance. The Heart of Jesus goes out to the heart of Peter, and the heart of Peter rises to the Heart of Jesus.

In the Responsorial Psalm we heard that, "as the heavens are high above the earth, so great is His abiding mercy toward those who fear Him" (Ps 103:11). The pierced Heart of Jesus draws repentance out of His apostle's heart, broken with compunction. The Heart of Jesus overflows with mercy and forgiveness. The heart of the apostle is burdened with the shame of his betrayal and heavy with sorrow.

Peter's Shame

Peter is ashamed of his weakness, ashamed of having trembled with fear in front of a serving girl who recognized him by his Galilean accent, ashamed of having denied Jesus his Lord, not once but three times. Peter's denial was not a private affair. Everyone knew about it. The other apostles were sickened and embarrassed by it. And yet, the word of the psalm finds here its fulfillment: "As far as the east is from the west, so far does He remove our transgressions from us" (Ps 103:12).

The Choice of Peter

The ways and choices of God are not the ways and choices of men. As chief shepherd of His Church, Jesus did not designate John, the beloved disciple who rested his head upon the Bridegroom's breast at the Mystical Supper, John who stood faithful with Mary, the Mother of Jesus at the foot of His Cross. He chose rather Peter -- insecure, bumbling, fearful Peter. Peter was to be the pillar of the Church's faith, the servant of the Church's unity, the shepherd chosen to nourish the lambs of Christ and care for His sheep.

Another shepherd, Saint Aelred, the gentle abbot of Rievaulx in the twelfth century, prayed:

O Good Shepherd Jesus,
good, gentle, tender Shepherd,
behold a shepherd, poor and pitiful,
a shepherd of Thy sheep indeed,
but weak and clumsy and of little use,
cries out to Thee.
To Thee, I say, Good Shepherd,
this shepherd, who is not good, makes his prayer.
He cries to Thee,
troubled upon his own account,
and troubled for Thy sheep.
(Saint Aelred of Rievaulx, The Pastoral Prayer)

Reparation

In reparation for his triple denial, Jesus invites Peter to make a triple profession of love. "Simon, Son of John, lovest thou me?" (Jn 21:17) With each profession of love comes a responsibility to nourish and care for the lambs of Christ. One cannot profess to love Christ the Head without enfleshing that love in the feeding and care of Christ's members.

Reparation

It is for us today as it was for Peter then. No matter what our weaknesses are, no matter what our betrayals may have been, Jesus invites us to profess our love, to confess our attachment to Him. He invites us to reparation. Reparation is the love offered to the Heart of Jesus to make up for our denials, for our indifference, and for our want of trust in His mercy. Reparation is also the prayer by which we offer ourselves to Him for the healing of all who are fragmented by sin, wounded, and sick of soul. Adoration of the Eucharistic Face of Jesus, close to His Open Heart, remains the privileged expression of our desire to make reparation.

The Great Thanksgiving

Our Lord nourishes us with His Word and with the Sacred Mysteries of His Body and Blood, that we might nourish one another and, out of the grace of compunction, offer a broken world the healing that we ourselves have received. The work of reparation flows out of the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass and returns to it. The Mass is the Great Thanksgiving of those "repaired," that is, made whole, by the love of Christ and the action of the Holy Ghost.

Follow Me

In the end we are left with Our Lord's enigmatic and prophetic command to Saint Peter, "Follow Me" (Jn 21:19). Implicit in this command is the gift of the Divine Paraclete, for apart from the Holy Spirit there can be no sequela Christi, no following of Christ. At the close of the Holy Sacrifice, Our Lord says "Follow me" to each of us; the Holy Mysteries are viaticum, food for the journey, and sustenance for the passage out of ourselves into the mystery of Christ. "Follow Me," He says, "follow Me into the unknown. Follow Me into the unfamiliar. Follow Me into the uncharted. Follow Me into the unforeseen.

"Fear not, for I have redeemed thee, and called thee by thy name: thou art Mine. When thou shalt pass through the waters, I will be with thee, and the rivers shall not cover thee: when thou shalt walk in the fire, thou shalt not be burnt, and the flames shall not burn in thee: For I am the Lord thy God, the Holy One of Israel, thy Saviour" (Is 43:2-4).

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Sixth Sunday of Paschaltide B

John 15:9-17
1 John 4:7-10
Acts 10:25-26. 34-35.

Photo of a window in the chapel of All Saints Convent, Oxford, by Fra Lawrence, O.P.

When Love Awakens Love

Love alone can awaken love. Love is always a resurrection, a springing from death to life, a passage from solitude to communion, a calling forth from the chill darkness of the tomb into a pure and wonderful light. The Father's love for us was revealed when He sent into the world His only-begotten Son (Jn 3:17) so that we could have life through Him. This is the love that is life-giving: not our love for God, but God's love for us revealed in the friendship of Christ (1 Jn 4:10). "I have called you friends," He says (Jn 15:15).

Catholic Love

We have heard so many times that God loves us that we are in danger of being lullabyed into a religion of comfortable sentimentality, one that, as Father Aidan Kavanagh would say, "tucks us in with feather puffs." Institutionalized Christianity is all too easily subverted by the socially acceptable gospel of niceness, by a religion that finds the saccharine verses in greeting cards interchangeable with the hard, bracing words of the Gospel. A Catholicism that makes few demands on us, that offers a cheap consolation, and leaves us relatively untouched, unmoved, and undisturbed, is no Catholicism at all, certainly not the Catholicism of the apostles, the martyrs, and the mystics.

With Riven Heart

It is easy to forget that the revelation of God's infinite love for us is something which burns, which pierces, which wounds, which sets us all ablaze. I am reminded of the words of a Franciscan poet of the thirteenth century:

Before I knew its power, I asked in prayer
For love of Christ, believing it was sweet;
I thought to breathe a calm and tranquil air,
On peaceful heights where tempests never beat.
Torment I find instead of sweetness there.
My heart is riven by the dreadful heat;
Of these strange things to treat
All words are vain;
By bliss I am slain,
And yet I live and move.

(Jacopone da Todi, Lauda 90)

This searing experience of Divine Love has nothing in common with the complacent, insipid sort of piety that so many confuse with authentic Christianity. This experience of the friendship of Christ is wounding; it has nothing in common with a friendship content with vague sentiments and the occasional nod to a conventional piety.

As the Father Has Loved Me

Today's Gospel is a passionate declaration of love on the part of God. It comes from the mouth of Jesus, the Father's Eternal Word, the Friend and Lover of our souls. Like a flame, it leaps out of the blazing furnace of His Heart. "As the Father has loved me, so I have loved you" (Jn 15:9).

How does the Father love the Son? The Father loves the Son infinitely, immeasurably, eternally, ineffably, from before the creation of the world unto the ages of ages. The Son is pure response to that love, equally perfect, equally eternal. So intense, so immense, so alive is the ebb and flow of love between the Father and the Son that it is their Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit is the Love with which God the Father loves the Son. The Holy Spirit is the Love with which God the Son loves the Father. The Holy Spirit is the embrace of the Father and the Son, the Kiss of the Mouth of God.

The Holy Spirit

Today, Our Divine Lord says to us, "As the Father has loved me so I have loved you" (Jn 15:9). Christ's love for us brings us -- created and finite human beings -- into the circle of God's Trinitarian life, not as mere spectators, but as participants. Christ loves us with the same burning, boundless, love with which He Himself is loved by the Father. The seal of that love is the Holy Spirit. Jesus says to us, "Abide in my love" (Jn 15:9 ), which means, "Abide in my Holy Spirit." The Holy Spirit is the seal of our friendship with Christ. "I have called you friends" (Jn 15:15), and that you may grasp this, I give you my Holy Spirit, the Kiss of My Mouth.

A Love Stretched and Broadened

The words of Jesus, "As the Father has loved me, so I have loved you" (Jn 15:9) are completed by these other words, "Love one another as I have loved you" (Jn 15:12). Christ loves us with all the wideness of His mercy; He loves us with a love that cannot be measured. We, for our part, love selectively and cautiously. We have set ideas about who is lovable, and who is not; we have our own private criteria for determining who is worthy of our love, and who is not. We love narrowly, not widely. We exclude certain categories of people. We are reluctant to invest love in people too different from ourselves. Different race, different background, different religion. Different tastes, different culture, different appearance, different values, different politics. The lists could go on and on.

In today's lesson from the Acts of the Apostles, we see Saint Peter's capacity for love stretched and broadened by circumstances, and by the Holy Spirit. Peter's change of heart takes place in three steps. In verse 28, Peter says, "God has shown me that I should not call any man common or unclean" (Ac 10:28). In verse 35, he stretches a little more: "Truly, I perceive that God shows no partiality . . . . In every nation anyone who fears Him and does what is right is acceptable to Him" (Ac 10:35). Finally, in verse 47, his change of heart is complete: "These people, he says, have received the Holy Spirit just as we have" (Ac 10: 47). Peter begins to love people different from himself. Peter begins to love as Christ loves.

By the Holy Spirit

How can we, narrow-hearted sinners, wounded by life's hurts--selfish, impatient, and limited -- how can we ever hope to love each other as Christ loves us? The point is, of course, that it is impossible. The realization that the Christian life is impossible is precisely what begins to make it possible. We cannot love one another as Christ has loved us, except by the Holy Spirit.

The Holy Spirit is not the optional Person of the Most Holy Trinity. Christ was conceived in the Virgin Mary's womb by the power of the Holy Spirit. Christians are brought to birth in the bath of regeneration by the power of the Holy Spirit. Bread and wine become the Body and Blood of Christ by the power of the Holy Spirit. Christians are made, not by dint of their own efforts to love, but by "God's love poured forth into our hearts through the Holy Spirit which has been given to us" (Rom 5:5). The Holy Spirit is Christ's first gift to those who believe. The Holy Spirit is fire, consuming our sins, cauterizing our wounds, purifying us of the selfishness, narrow-mindedness, and fear that thwart our best attempts to love as Christ loves.

Seven Gifts

The Holy Spirit dilates the hearts' capacity for love. The Holy Spirit makes it possible for us to correspond to the friendship of Christ and to love as Christ loves by gracing us with His seven gifts. Tradition identifies them as wisdom, understanding, counsel, fortitude, knowledge, piety and fear of the Lord. These gifts of the Holy Spirit make us capable of a bold love, an inventive love, a wise love, a sacrificial love. Thus what was impossible becomes possible. This is what we see and admire in the lives of the saints.

Twelve Fruits

When we begin to rely on the Holy Spirit's gifts more than on ourselves, fruits of the Holy Spirit begin to blossom, to develop, and to mature. The tradition of the Church, based on Saint Paul (Gal 5:22-23), lists twelve of them: "charity, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, generosity, gentleness, faithfulness, modesty, self-control, and chastity (CCC, 1832).

Fruitful Friendship

By the gifts and fruits of the Holy Spirit, we are able to do what Jesus commands us. Without them, the Christian life is impossible. And if, with the help of the Holy Spirit, we do what Christ commands us, then we become more than the servants of Christ (Jn 15:15), we become, according to the desire of His Heart, His friends (Jn 15:15), His intimates, those with whom He is pleased to share everything He has heard from His Father (Jn 15:15), the secrets of His mercy, of His wisdom, of His love.

Jesus commissions us to go and bear fruit, fruit that will abide (Jn 15:16). The fruit we bear manifests the presence of the Holy Spirit in our lives and in the Church. The fruits of the Holy Spirit are dependent upon the Spirit's seven gifts. The seven gifts themselves are grafted onto the virtues of faith, hope and charity, the theological virtues infused by the Holy Spirit at Baptism and Confirmation. The same Holy Spirit is given us afresh in every Eucharist, overshadowing altar and assembly, descending to gather us into the circle of Trinitarian love, and into its earthly manifestation, the communion of the Church.

Toward Pentecost

The liturgy begins to prepare us for Pentecost, inviting us to make ready our hearts for the breath of the risen Christ who says "Receive the Holy Spirit" (Jn 20:22). Prepare then for the "rush of a mighty wind" (Ac 2:2) and for "tongues as of fire" (Ac 2:3). Already, the liturgy invites us to lift our faces heavenward that we might receive anew the Kiss of the Mouth of God. Why not pray in the words of the Song of Songs, "O that you would kiss me with the kiss of your mouth" (Ct 1:2)?

And the Inexhaustible Chalice

In just a few moments, we will approach the Inexhaustible Chalice, if not by a movement of the feet, then by a movement of the heart by the vehemence of a holy desire that God will honour. He will not send the hungry away empty. The friendship of Christ is not paralyzed by the dullness of our bureaucracies and the impersonal strictures of a system that, at times, seems distant, faceless, and even heartless. Nothing can separate us from the friendship of Christ; nothing can come between those to whom He says, "I have called you friends" (Jn 15:15) and the love revealed on His Face and in His pierced Heart. Receive the Eucharistic infusion of the Holy Spirit, if not in eating and drinking the Holy Mysteries, then by desiring them with a great desire. He who says, "I have called you friends" (Jn 15:15), wants nothing but that "His joy may be in you, and that your joy may be full" (cf. Jn 15:11).

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Fifth Monday of Paschaltide

Acts 14:5-18
John 14:21-26

And I Will Love Him

I am 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).

We Will Make Our Home With Him

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.

The Heart of Jesus

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."

The Virgin Mother and the Virgin Disciple

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).

Lovers of the Sacred Heart

I am thinking of Saint Bernard, Saint Gertrude, Saint Mechthilde, Saint Lutgarde, and Saint Bonaventure. I am thinking of Saint Margaret Mary, of Saint Claude la Colombière, of Blessed Marie de Jésus Deluil-Martiny, of Sister Josefa Menendez, of Father Mateo Crawley-Boevey, Father Jean du Coeur de Jésus d'Elbée, and of so many others. 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).

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Christ's Gift to Us

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, Gift of the Heart of the Son

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.

Saint Athanasius

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Here are some "jottings in the margin of the Missal" as Dom Marmion would call them: just a few random thoughts on the Propers of today's Mass. I don't treat of the Gregorian melodies that clothe the Introit, Offertory, and Communion with a particularly penetrating grace; one has to sing them or hear them sung in order to experience them in all their richness.

Looking at today's Mass

Introit
In the midst of the Church
the Lord opened his mouth,
and He filled him with the spirit of wisdom and understanding;
He clothed him with a robe of glory, alleluia (cf. Sir 15:5).

Wisdom and Understanding

In the midst of His Church, Our Lord Jesus Christ raised up Saint Athanasius, and opened his mouth. He filled Athanasius with the Spirit, that is the Divine Breath of wisdom and understanding. Wisdom is the gift of the Holy Spirit by which a soul tastes God and the things that are God's; understanding is the gift of the Holy Spirit by which one enters into the plan of God, rejoicing in His providence, in His mercy, and in the truth of all that He has revealed and promised. The robe of grace, given in Baptism, becomes for all the saints a robe of glory.

Collect
Almighty and ever-living God,
Who raised up the blessed bishop Athanasius
as the wonderful champion of the divinity of Your Son,
mercifully grant that we,
rejoicing in his doctrine and protection,
may grow ceaselessly in the knowledge and love of You.
Through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son,
who lives and reigns with you in the unity of the Holy Spirit,
God, forever and ever.

Saint Athanasius holds the title, "Father of Orthodoxy." The Collect calls him "the wonderful champion of the divinity of your Son." A champion he was: unafraid of engaging in battle, intransigent and stalwart when it came to the defense of catholic truth.

The Strength of the Saints

Offertory Antiphon
I have found David my servant,
with my holy oil I have anointed him;
my hand shall help him,
and my arm shall make him strong, alleluia (Ps 88:21-22).

The Offertory Antiphon applies to Saint Athanasius the prophecy concerning David: "My hand shall help him, and my arms shall make him strong" (Ps 88:22). Athanasius needed the hand of God and the might of his arms; he suffered no less than five periods of exile, almost sixteen years in all, for his uncompromising support of the Nicene Orthodox doctrine of the Trinity.

The Splendour of the Faith

Prayer Over the Oblations
Look, O Lord,
upon the offerings that we set before you
in commemoration of Saint Athanasius,
that his witness to the truth
may be for the salvation of those
who profess untainted the faith he taught.
Through Christ our Lord.

In the Prayer Over the Oblations we will ask that Saint Athanasius' witness to the truth may be "for the salvation of those who profess untainted the faith he taught." The untainted faith of the saints is not old, dusty, and boring; it is a splendid thing, a living reality. "Its flashes are flashes of fire, a most vehement flame" (Ct 8:6).

The liturgy offers two Communion Antiphons for today's Mass. The first, given in the Roman Missal, has to be heard in the mouth of Athanasius:

Communion Antiphon in the Roman Missal
No other foundation can any one lay than that which is laid,
which is Jesus Christ, alleluia. (1 Cor 3:11)

The Church wants us to hear this at the very moment we approach the mysteries of Christ's Body and Blood. The foundation of the Church, the foundation of the doctrine that nourishes life is given whole, entire, unchanging and ever new in the mystery of the Eucharist: "Jesus Christ, the same yesterday and today and forever" (Heb 13:8).

Listening in the Night

Communion Antiphon in the Graduale Romanum
That which I tell you in the dark, speak in the light, says the Lord;
and that which you hear in the ear,
preach upon the housetops, alleluia (Mt 10:27).

The Communion Antiphon given in the Roman Gradual has the Lord Jesus Himself speak to us, saying, "That which I tell you in the dark, speak in the light, and that which you hear in the ear, preach upon the housetops, alleluia" (Mt 10:27). The darkness here is the obscurity of faith, the prayer in the night by which God comes closer to us than He does in what we take for light. The secrets whispered in the ear are those of the Holy Spirit, secrets that only the listening heart can hear. It is of this that Jesus speaks in today's Gospel: "When the Counselor comes, whom I shall send to you from the Father, even the Spirit of truth, Who proceeds from the Father, He will bear witness to me" (Jn 15:26). Saint Athanasius, receiving the witness of the Holy Spirit concerning Christ, was compelled to preach it from the housetops and, even today, his voice resounds in the Church.

Quickened and Protected

Postcommunion
Grant, we beseech you, almighty God,
that we who, together with Saint Athanasius,
steadfastly confess the divinity of Your Only-Begotten Son,
may ever be enlivened and protected by this sacrament.
Through Christ our Lord.

In the Postcommunion Prayer we ask that, "we who steadfastly confess the divinity of your only-begotten Son, may ever be enlivened and protected by this sacrament." Note the two parts to the petition: we ask both to be enlivened (or quickened) and to be protected. This is why we go to the altar today: for an infusion of divine vitality, and for the divine protection without which the life we bear in ourselves, as in earthen vessels, is fragile and at every moment threatened.

Saint Anthony of Egypt

Saint Athanasius gave us, we must not forget, the Life of the Father of Monks in East and West, Saint Anthony of Egypt. Nothing better illustrates the principle of the Postcommunion Prayer at work. Anthony was a man fully alive in Christ. He was, at the same time, thrust into fierce spiritual combat where his only recourse was the protection of Our Lord Jesus Christ. Anthony's triumph was the triumph of Christ in him. Saint Athanasius wants us to understand this above all else. That same triumph of Christ over sin, the flesh, and the devil, the glorious triumph of Christ over death, is given us in the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass.

By His Wounds Holy and Glorious

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Third Sunday of Paschaltide

Acts 3:13-15.17-19
Psalm 4:2.4.7.9.
1 John 2:1-5
Luke 24:35-48

Today's image shows the tabernacle door of the Church of Saint Anna, Andogno, Tavodio, Italy. Notice the little keyhole on the bottom of the right side.

The Incendiary Gospel

"Lord Jesus, open the Scriptures to us. When Thou speakest, make our hearts burn with love" (cf. Lk 24:32). Who but the Word can open the Word to us? In His light we see light; only in the light of the Paschal Candle -- that is, of the Risen Christ -- does the light of the Scriptures become apparent. The breath of Christ fills the words of the Holy Gospel with spirit and life (Jn 6:63). The liturgic Gospel -- the Gospel proclaimed in the midst of the Church and making Christ present -- fills the heart with fire. "Behold," He says through the prophet Jeremiah, "I am making my words in your mouth a fire, and this people wood, and the fire shall devour them, says the Lord, the God of hosts" (Jer 5:14). The disciples at Emmaus said, "Did not our hearts burn within us while He talked to us on the road, while He opened to us the Scriptures?" (Lk 24:32). The proclamation of the Holy Gospel is always incendiary: a devouring fire in the heart of the Church.

The five new saints whose canonization was celebrated in Rome this morning: Bernard Tolomei (1272--1348), Nuno de Santa Maria of Portugal (1360-1431), Caterina Volpicelli (1839-1894), Gertrude Comensoli (1847-1903), Saint Arcangelo Tadini (1846-1912) were men and women set ablaze with the Divine Fire of the Gospel. Two of them touch me in a special way: Saint Bernard Tolomei for his renewal of Benedictine life, and Saint Gertrude Comensoli for her charism of Eucharistic adoration.

The Gift of Peace

In today's Gospel Our Lord offers us two gifts, and He expresses two desires. The first gift is peace. "Jesus Himself stood among them and said to them, 'Peace be upon you!'" (Lk 24: 36). We ask for this peace in every Mass before Holy Communion: "O Lord Jesus Christ, who said to Thy apostles: I leave you peace, my peace I give you, look not on my sins, but on the faith of Thy Church and graciously grant her peace and unity in accordance with Thy will." This is the peace that comes over a troubled heart when the words of sacramental absolution are pronounced. The peace that Christ offers is His very own: a peace that flows out of His life of communion with the Father in the Holy Spirit. Christ's peace carries us upward; it flows back towards its origin and source in the bosom of the Father. In the Second Reading Saint John said: "We have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the Righteous" (1 Jn 2:1). Every advocate seeks to win peace for those whom he represents. Peace, then, is the first gift of the Risen Christ.

The Holy and Glorious Wounds of Christ

After this first gift, Our Lord expresses His desire: "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.

Rest in Wounds of the Saviour

Listen to Saint Bernard: "Where shall the weak find a safe rest or a secure refuge except in the wounds of the Saviour. I have sinned most grievously but I am not confounded because I will call to mind the wounds of my Saviour. For He was wounded for our sins. What sin can be so much 'unto death' as that it cannot be 'loosed' by the death of Christ? Therefore no disease however desperate, shall have power to drive me to despair, if only I keep in mind so powerful and effective a remedy."

Christ Our Priest

The wounds of Christ are not only our healing; they are the glorification of the Father as well, and this, throughout all eternity. Our Eternal High Priest 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 to Sister Marie-Marthe Chambon, Visitandine (1841-1907)
My daughter, recognize the world's treasury. . . the world does not want to recognize it. If anyone is in need, let him come with faith and confidence, let him draw constantly from the treasury of My Passion. Here is all that is need to pay one's debts.
One must not be afraid to display My Wounds to souls. My Wounds are the simple and easy way that leads to heaven. In the contemplation of My Wounds one finds everything for oneself and for others.
My daughter, where are saints made if not within My Wounds? The fruits of holiness come forth from My Wounds. Just as gold purified in the crucible becomes more beautiful, so too must you put your soul and the souls of your sisters in My Sacred Wounds; there they will be made perfect like gold in the furnace.
The sinner who will say the following prayer: Eternal Father, I offer Thee the Wounds of Our Lord to heal the wounds of our souls, will obtain his conversion.

This then is the first desire that Our Lord expresses today: 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).

Touch Me

A second desire follows the first one: "Handle me," He says. Jesus wants us to touch Him eucharistically. It is not enough for Him that we should gaze upon His wounds, Our Lord would have us touch Him so as to sanctify our flesh by contact with His saving flesh. The most human of all desires is the desire to be touched. The newborn child seeks to be touched, so too in extreme old age one seeks comfort and healing in the touch of another. In the risen Christ, this most human of all desires -- the desire to be touched -- has become the most divine of all desires. "Handle me," says Jesus.

How are we to respond to this desire of the risen Christ? First, know that so often we open the book of the Scriptures, so often as we kiss the sacred page so full of His presence and open our hearts to His message, spiritually we touch Him, allowing Him inwardly to touch us by His words. Second, so often as we open our mouths to receive His Sacred Body and Precious Blood, we respond to His desire. "Touch me," He says, and so that we might really touch Him, day after day until His coming in glory, He said: "Take this, all of you and eat it: this is My Body, and take this, all of you, and drink from it: this is the cup of My Blood."

Third, what is true of the Eucharistic Body of Christ is equally true of His Mystical Body. So often as we stretch out our hands in compassion, in the act of giving, in reverent tenderness, in chaste affection, in humble service of the least among us, we touch the Body of Christ. We respond to his desire: "Touch me!" "I tell you solemnly, in so far as you did this to one of the least of these brothers of Mine, you did it to Me" (Mt 25:40). The Body of Christ, bruised and buffeted, disfigured and bloodied, waits to be touched in His members; the glorious and glorifying Body of Christ waits to be touched, taken and eaten in the Eucharist.

Peering Through the Trellis

And finally, a second gift: "He opened their minds to understand the scriptures" (Lk 24: 45). The words of the Scriptures form a kind of trellis, a lattice work behind which we discern the adorable Face of Jesus Christ radiant with the glory of the Father. "See where he stands behind our wall. . . he peers through the lattice" (Ct 2:9) says the bride in the Song of Songs. Scripture is the mysterious face of Christ turned towards all who seek Him. The Church is fascinated, magnetized, polarized by the Face of Jesus Christ shining in the Scriptures. Week after week, even day after day, in the liturgy we celebrate, in the psalms we sing, we learn to discover the Face behind the words. . . and the Heart beneath the Face, and this very discovery is His paschal gift to us. Do we not pray in today's Responsorial Psalm: "Lift up the light of Thy countenance upon us, O Lord" (Ps 4:6b).

Two Desires and Two Gifts

Two desires and two gifts. Have we opened our hearts to receive Our Lord's gift of peace? Have we risked encountering Him in the Law of Moses, the Prophets and the Psalms? Do we use the eyes of faith to gaze upon His wounds holy and glorious? Our hands, are they stretched forth to touch Him and to be touched by Him in the sacred mysteries of His Body and Blood and in the suffering members of His Mystical Body ? May this paschal celebration of two gifts and two desires enable us to say with Saint Augustine: "I tasted Thee and I feel but hunger and thirst for Thee. Thou didst touch me, and I am set on fire to attain the peace which is Thine" (Confessions X, xxvii).


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The stained-glass window depicts King Athelstan the Glorious.

Acts 4: 23-31

"And when they heard it, they lifted their voices together to God and said,

God Is Addressed
Sovereign Lord, who didst make the heaven and the earth and the sea and everything in them, who by the mouth of our father David, thy servant, didst say by the Holy Spirit,
The Psalm Quoted: Meditatio
`Why did the Gentiles rage,and the peoples imagine vain things? The kings of the earth set themselves in array, and the rulers were gathered together, against the Lord and against his Anointed' --
Historical Fulfillment of David's Prophecy
for truly in this city there were gathered together against thy holy servant Jesus, whom thou didst anoint, both Herod and Pontius Pilate, with the Gentiles and the peoples of Israel, to do whatever thy hand and thy plan had predestined to take place.
The Petition: Oratio
And now, Lord, look upon their threats, and grant to thy servants to speak thy word with all boldness, while thou stretchest out thy hand to heal, and signs and wonders are performed through the name of thy holy servant Jesus.
God's Response: An Outpouring of the Holy Spirit
And when they had prayed, the place in which they were gathered together was shaken; and they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and spoke the word of God with boldness."

Praying Out of a Psalm

Today's First Reading at Holy Mass gave us the earliest example of an Oration or Collect based on a psalm. Already in the first centuries of the Church, authorized by the teaching of Our Lord Himself in Luke 24:44-45, the faithful began to recognize Christ and His Mysteries in the psalms they were accustomed to chant. A Trinitarian doxology (Gloria Patri) came to be appended to each psalm, and before long the psalms were enriched with refrains or framed with antiphons.

Collects on the Psalms

In both East and West, it was not uncommon to rise, or kneel, or prostrate, and pray in silence at the end of a psalm. The priest officiating would then gather up (colligere) the silent supplications of the faithful, and express them in an Oration or Collect recited in the name of all. Egeria, writing in about 415 A.D., Cassian, writing in about 420 A.D., and the 6th century Rule of the Master, all attest to the existence of this custom both in urban churches and in monastic assemblies.

The custom of inserting Collects into the psalmody of the Divine Office did not survive the test of time. It seems to have disappeared quite early in the East, and Saint Benedict, so careful to note the details of monastic psalmody in the West, makes no mention of Collects on the psalms.

Even while Collects on the psalms fell out of public liturgical use, they continued to be popular through the Middle Ages in personal devotions. Thus, one finds them in various Psalters for personal use and Books of Hours.

The Orations at the Paschal Vigil

The only place where Collects on the psalms survive in the actual liturgical practice of the Roman Rite is in the orations that, at the Paschal Vigil, conclude each of the Tracts or Responsorial Psalms that follow the readings. The Collect, of course, follows the repetition of the antiphon (or refrain) and never comes between the psalm and the repetition of the antiphon.

A Stupid Editorial Mistake

Some forty years ago the editors of the American edition of the Liturgia Horarum included Collects on the psalms in their books. The editors in question appear to have had no experience whatsoever of the choral celebration of the Divine Office. Consequently, with a total disregard for the musical and theological function of the antiphon -- to indicate the mode of the psalmody, and to serve as a Christological and ecclesiological key to it -- they wrongly inserted the "Psalm Prayers" between the doxology and the repetition of the antiphon. Musically, this is a disaster.

Doing It Right

I would argue that the last thing one needs in liturgical prayer is more wordiness, and the "Psalm Prayers" often give the impression of adding words for the sake of pious bulk. If, however, one judges the inclusion of Collects on the psalms of some pastoral benefit in the public celebration of the Liturgy of the Hours, one should model the practice after what is done at the Paschal Vigil:

1) After the final repetition of the antiphon, all rise.
2) The celebrant sings, "Let us pray."
3) After a pause, he sings the Collect, taking care to conclude it using the shorter ending: "Through Christ our Lord," or "Who live and reign forever and ever."
4) The people respond "Amen."

Here is the psalm Collect given for the same Psalm 2 in the prayerbook of Athelstan, King of England from 924 to 939:

O Lord, we beseech Thee,
break the chains of our sins;
so that, bound to the yoke of Thy service,
we may be able to serve Thee in fear and reverence.
Through Christ our Lord.

And here is a Collect I composed to conclude today's General Intercessions:

Almighty and ever-living God
who on Sion your holy mountain
established your Christ as King,
mercifully grant that we may spurn
the insurrection of sinful passions,
so as to stand with humble confidence on the last day
before the Judge of all,
the Lord of clemency,
the Prince of Peace,
who is Lord forever and ever.

Divine Mercy

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Soul in need of mercy,
whoever and wherever you may be,
know that all the riches of the Divine Mercy
are, for you, contained and offered
in the Most Holy Sacrament of the Altar.

Go before the tabernacle,
or seek out the monstrance displaying the Body of Christ,
--a feast for your eyes--
and there adore the mystery of the Divine Mercy.

Open yourself wide,
become all capacity,
so as to receive within yourself
the mighty torrent of Mercy destined for you and, through you,
for those whose sorrows and weaknesses
you have chosen or have been given to bear.

Adore the Blood and Water that, even now,
gush from the Sacred Side
with a freshness and a purity that never grows old.
Adore the Gift of the Holy Spirit
and desire to receive Him anew today
as the Soul of your soul,
that is, the very Life of your life.

The Fountainhead of Divine Mercy
is hidden in the Sacrament of the Altar.
"He will surely be gracious to you at the sound of your cry;
when He hears it, He will answer you.
And though the Lord give you the bread of affliction,
yet your Teacher will not hide Himself any more,
but your eyes shall see your Teacher." (Isaiah 30:19-20)

Close to the Eucharistic Fountainhead,
you will find Mary, the Mater Misericordiae.
She never tires of communicating to souls
the abundance of Divine Mercy.
So close is she to the Source,
that it is as if she and the Source were one:
all that flows out of the Source passes through her,
and it is within her power to direct the flow of Divine Mercy
toward whomsoever she pleases.
Her Son so trusts her maternal Heart
that He has has entrusted all to her,
allowing her freely to dispense His Mercy to souls.

Soul devoted to the Divine Mercy,
adore Him Who is present as Mercy
in the Sacrament of the Altar.
Divine Mercy enters the world through the Most Holy Sacrament,
for therein in is the Heart of Jesus, the wellspring of His Mercy,
and His pierced Side, the mouth of Divine Mercy,
the opening out of which Divine Mercy enters the universe
and streams into souls
to purify, sanctify, and glorify them.

Soul surfeited with miseries,
if you would experience the Divine Mercy,
draw near to the Eucharistic Presence of the Pierced One;
remain in the light of His Eucharistic Face;
hold yourself still and full of expectation before His Open Side.
There, you will never be disappointed in your hope.
For with Him is Mercy and copious redemption,
and He will forgive you all your sins.
Every tabernacle that shelters His adorable Body and Blood
makes available to you, and to all,
the Fountainhead of the inexhaustible Mercy of God.

Venite, benedicti Patris mei

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Wednesday of Pascha

Come, you blessed of my Father,
receive the kingdom, alleluia
prepared for you
since the foundation of the world, alleluia, alleluia, alleluia (cf. Mt 25:34)

The Voice of Christ

In today's Introit, the fourth one of the ongoing Paschal solemnity, we hear the voice of none other than Our Lord Jesus Christ Himself. Today's text is extraordinary in that it is one of the very few Introits drawn from the Gospels. It comes from Chapter 25 of Saint Matthew. The context is that of the Last Judgment. The words are those of Christ the King, of the Son of Man coming in His glory, and all the angels with him. He is seated upon the throne of His glory. All the nations are gathered in His presence.

Come to Me

How are we to understand this Introit today? Our Lord is addressing the newly-baptized. His first word to them is, "Come." Venite, benedicti Patris mei. Where else do we hear this same word, Venite, in the mouth of Jesus? In Matthew 11:28: "Come to me, all you that labour and are burdened; I will give you rest." I see Our Lord pronouncing this word with His arms spread wide in a gesture of welcome. The hands nailed to the wood of the Cross shine with His glorious wounds. His Holy Face is radiant. A torrent of light flows from His Open Side. When He says, "Come," who can resist His invitation?

Every Spiritual Blessing

Our Lord calls the newly-baptized benedicti Patris mei, blessed of my Father. Is not this what Saint Paul develops in the first chapter of his Epistle to the Ephesians? "Blessed be that God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us, in Christ, with every spiritual blessing, higher than heaven itself" (Eph 1:3). There is no greater blessing than incorporation into the Body of Christ that is the Church. The children of the Church, the Bride of Christ, are nourished from the altar of His Sacrifice with the mysteries of His Body and Blood. It is in the Eucharist that we are blessed, here and now, with every spiritual blessing, higher than heaven itself.

Here is a photo of the little Oratory of the Cenacle where I offer Holy Mass, sing the Divine Office, and make my daily adoration.

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Sacrament of the Kingdom

To receive the Body and Blood of Christ in Holy Communion is to receive "the kingdom prepared for you since the foundation of the world" (Mt 25:34). The Most Holy Eucharist is a foretaste of heaven. It is already the "Wedding Banquet of the Lamb" (Ap 19:9). The Orthodox theologian, Father Alexander Schmemann, calls the Eucharist, "the ascent of the Church to the heavenly altar." The kingdom prepared for us since the foundation of the world is offered to us sacramentally in the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass. The Mass is the Church assumed into heaven, and heaven filling the Church.

Since the Foundation of the World

The little phrase, "prepared for you since the foundation of the world" (Mt 25:34) tells us that creation itself, from the very beginning, was ordered to the Eucharist. Every created thing has a Eucharistic finality; every created thing is ordered to the priesthood of Christ. The Sacrament of the Eucharist recapitulates the purpose of God, the design of His Love, in creating man and in redeeming him. Only the Mass makes sense of history. Only the Mass gives meaning to all things.

The Canticle of the Three Young Men

This is why the Church enjoins the priest to say daily, as part of his thanksgiving after Mass, the Canticle of the Three Young Men, the Benedicite. Blessed Abbot Marmion remained faithful to this all his life. In Christ, the Life of the Soul, he writes, "The Church, the Bride of Christ, who knows better than anyone the secrets of her Divine Bridegroom, makes the priest sing in the sanctuary of his soul where the Word dwells, the inward canticle of thanksgiving. The soul leads all creation to the feet of its God and its Lord, that He may receive homage from every creature."

The Bread of Angels

The Eucharistic motif of today's Introit becomes explicit in the Offertory Antiphon. (This is why I said yesterday that the Proper of the Mass is an integral whole.) As the priest goes to the altar today, the Church sings, "The Lord opened the doors of heaven and rained manna on them for food; he gave them the bread of heaven, man ate the bread of angels, alleluia" (Ps 77:23-25). The priest goes to the altar precisely for this: that the Lord might open before him, for the sake of all those who stand behind him, the doors of heaven. The true Manna, the Bread of Heaven, the Bread of Angels, descends from heaven to become the food of mortal wayfarers.

Year of the Eucharist and Year of the Priest

One final thought: when the Servant of God Pope John Paul II announced the Year of the Eucharist in 2004, he placed it under the sign of today's Gospel of Emmaus. He asked the whole Church to take up the prayer of the disciples on the road: Mane nobiscum, Domine (Lk 24:29) -- "Abide with us, Lord."

The Year of the Eucharist was more than a passing observance; it was a grace of conversion in the strictest sense of the word: a turning toward the Eucharistic Face of Jesus, a rekindling of the fire that burned in the hearts of the disciples of Emmaus. The Year of the Eucharist was a beginning, not an end. The Year of the Priest announced by Pope Benedict XVI on March 16, 2009 is, I think, intrinsically related to the Year of the Eucharist. It represents an opportunity to enter more deeply into the adoration of the Eucharistic Face of Christ for the sake of a holier priesthood, of a priesthood purified and renewed.

Examination of Conscience

We would do well today, five years after the Year of the Eucharist, to make an examination of conscience based on Pope John Paul II's Apostolic Letter, Mane Nobiscum, Domine.

-- Are we conscious of the Eucharistic finality of all we think, say, and do?
-- Have we grown in the grace of Eucharistic amazement?
-- Has the tabernacle become for us, to use Pope John Paul's expression, "a kind of magnetic pole attracting an ever greater number of souls"?
-- What have we done to respond individually and corporately to the call to Eucharistic adoration?
-- What have we done with the unique grace offered us five years ago?
-- How has it changed us?

We will be held accountable for the Year of the Eucharist, just as we will be held accountable for the Year of the Priest that will open on June 19th, solemnity of the Sacred Heart of Jesus. These are moments of grace for the universal Church. "Much will be asked of the man to whom much has been given; more will be expected of him, because he was entrusted with more" (Lk 12:48). "Listen, you that have ears, to the message the Spirit has for the churches" (Ap 2:7).

Spatium laetissimum

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Monday of Pascha

I first preached this homily in 1996. It may yet be useful to those of you who are beginning to discover the four steps of that mystic dance to the altar that we call lectio divina.

Haec Dies

Great and glorious Pascha is eight days and it is one day. Every day this week, we shall repeat the chant of Haec dies: "This is the day (always today, not yesterday) the Lord has made; let us rejoice and be glad therein" (Ps 117:24). We have entered into the Church's spatium laetissimum, into the holy Pentecost, the fifty-day pledge and foretaste of her eternal gladness in the heavenly Jerusalem.

Life of Christ and Life of His Church

Have you noticed that we begin today the reading of the Acts of the Apostles? Have you asked yourself why? It is because the life the risen Jesus and the life of His Bride, the Church, are one and the same life: a doxological life facing the Father in the fire of the Holy Spirit. The Acts of the Apostles recount the life of the Church; the life of the Church is the life of the risen Jesus extended to his members in the sacramenta paschalia, the sacraments of initiation.

The life of the risen Jesus flows through His members. He is the living vine, we, nourished by the sacred mysteries of His Body and Blood, are the fruit-bearing branches. We read the Acts of the Apostles beginning today to proclaim it for all to hear: the life of the Church is the life of the risen Christ, a life hidden in God. "Your life is His with Christ in God," says St. Paul. "When Christ who is our life appears, then you--Bride of Christ, Body of Christ--will appear with him in glory" (Col 3:4).

Holy Preaching and Lectio Divina

One of the first manifestations of Christ living in the Church by the power of the Holy Spirit is the charism of holy preaching. Where the Word is proclaimed, the risen Christ is really and truly present. In today's First Reading, Saint Peter begins to use one of Our Lord's most precious Paschal gifts to the Church: the intelligence of sacred Scripture. Appearing to the apostles, after His Resurrection, the Lord Jesus said to them: "O foolish men, and slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have spoken! (Which prophets? Those whom we read at the great Paschal Vigil, but above all, the holy prophet David, the psalmist of Christ.) And beginning with Moses (just as we did at the Vigil with our readings from Genesis and Exodus) and all the prophets (just as we did at the Vigil with Isaiah, Baruch and Ezekiel), He interpreted to them in all the scriptures the things concerning Himself" (Lk 24:25-27). This is the principle of lectio divina: all of scripture concerns Christ, allows us to hear His voice, to contemplate His face, to penetrate the secrets of His heart.

And Our Lord said to His apostles: "These are My words which I spoke to you, while I was still with you, that everything written about Me in the law of Moses and the prophets and the psalms must be fulfilled. Then He opened their minds to understand the scriptures" (Lk 24:44-45). This is the gift of the risen Jesus to the apostles; in today's First Reading we see and hear Saint Peter putting the gift to use.

Psalm 15

Peter, who in the Passion account on Good Friday trembled in the presence of a servant girl, trembles now with the awesome power of the Holy Spirit. And in the light of the Holy Spirit, he unveils to his hearers the mystery of Christ in David's Psalm 15. "For David says concerning him (concerning Jesus Christ), 'I saw the Lord always before me, for he is at my right hand that I may not be shaken (the relationship of the Lord Jesus and the Eternal Father); therefore my heart was glad, and my tongue rejoiced (the Heart of Jesus: gladness in the presence of the Father!); moreover my flesh will dwell in hope (the flesh of God woven by the Holy Spirit in Mary's virgin womb, nourished at her breast, crucified and laid in the tomb). For thou wilt not abandon my soul to Hades (the descent into hell commemorated on Holy Saturday), nor let thy Holy One see corruption (Quoniam tu solus sanctus, we sang in the Gloria). Thou hast made known to me the ways of life (Resurrection!); thou wilt make me full of gladness with thy presence (with thy presence, Father!)." Peter opens his Psalter and discovers Christ! Here, Peter exercising the charism of holy preaching, gives his hearers a Pentecostal initiation into the practice of lectio divina.

Meditatio

But there is still more. There is another way of drawing near to Jesus. Lectio leads to meditatio. The holy women of the Gospel with their paschal dance in three movements teach us this. Meditatio is the movement from the text on the sacred page to the adorable person of Jesus. In lectio, Jesus comes up to us (in His Word) and greets us. The divine initiative always precedes the human response. Then the women, came up to Jesus. This is our meditatio: the movement towards the risen Jesus who, in His word, draws near to us first.

Oratio

Secondly, the holy women take hold of the feet of Our Lord. How do we take hold of the pierced feet of the Lord Jesus? By grasping them firmly in oratio. Oratio is clinging to the feet of Jesus. Where are His feet? In the sacred text. Those words that leap off the page and present them to your lips to be kissed represent the feet of Jesus. Hold them firmly, do not let them go.

Contemplatio

Thirdly, the holy women adore Him. This means that they are completely liquified by the love that pours out of the wounds in His feet. The heart liquified by love becomes pure adoration. This is contemplatio. This is what the holy women teach us, preaching to us by means of their Paschal dance in three movements.

The Hour Has Come

The steps of the mystic dance lead us to the altar. There, time gives place to eternity; there, the risen and ascended Christ glorifies the Father in us, having gathered us to Himself in the unity of the Holy Spirit. "Father, the hour has come; glorify Thy Son that the Son may glorify Thee" (Jn 17:1). This is the life of the risen and ascended Christ--the glory of the Father--this is the life of the Church. Taste it in His Body given for you. Drink deeply of it from the precious chalice of his Blood.

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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