Saturday, April 23, 2022

Dominica in Albis: conclusion of the Easter octave

The Resurrection, Francesco Buoneri (“Cecco del Caravaggio”), 1619-1620, Art Institute of Chicago.


 From the Sermons of St. Augustine, Bishop of Hippo.

1st Sermon for the Octave of the Passover, being the 157th for the Seasons. 
The Feast of this day is the end of the Paschal solemnity, and therefore it is today that the Newly-Baptized put off their white garments: but, though they lay aside the outward mark of washing in their raiment, the mark of that washing in their souls remaineth to eternity. Now are the days of the Pass-over, that is, of God's Passing-over our iniquity by His pardon and remission; and therefore our first duty is so to sanctify the mirth of these holy days, that our bodily recreation may be taken without defilement to our spiritual cleanness. Let us strive that our relaxation may be sober and our freedom holy, holding ourselves carefully aloof from anything like excess, drunkenness or lechery. Let us try so to keep in our souls their Lenten cleansing, that if our Fasting hath left us aught yet unwon, we may still be able to seek it.

At discourse concerneth all them which are committed unto my spiritual charge; but, nevertheless, since the first happy week of your Sacramental life draweth this day to a close, I address myself in especial to you who are the new olive-plants of holiness round about the Table of the Lord, Ps. cxxvii. 4, to you, who have but a little while been born again of water and the Holy Ghost, John iii. 5, to you, O holy generation 1 Pet. ii. 9to you, O new creation, Gal. vi. 15, to you, the excellency of my dignity, Gen. xlix. 3, and the fruit of my labour, my brethren dearly beloved and longed for, my joy and my crown, all ye who now stand so fast in the Lord. Phil. iv. i. To you I address the words of the Apostle Rom. xiii. 12. Behold! the night is past! the day is come! Cast off therefore the works of darkness, and put on the armour of light. Let us walk honestly, as in the day; not in rioting and drunkenness, not in chambering and wantonness, not in strife and envying: but put ye on the Lord Jesus Christ.

We have, saith Peter, 2 Peter i. 19, a more sure word of Prophecy, whereunto ye do well that ye take heed, as unto a light that shineth in a dark place, until the day dawn, and the day-star arise in your hearts. Let your loins therefore be girded about, and your lights burning in your hands, and ye yourselves like unto men that wait for their lord, when he will return from the wedding. Luke xii. 36. Behold, the days come, whereof the Lord saith, John xvi. 16, 17, 19, A little while, and ye shall not see Me, and again a little while and ye shall see Me. Now is the hour whereof He said 20), Ye shall weep and lament, but the work shall rejoice that is to say, this present life, wherein we walk as strangers and pilgrims, (1 Pet. ii. 11, far away from Him Who is our Home, this present life is very full of trials. But, saith Jesus, but I will see you again, and your heart shall rejoice, and your joy no man taketh from you. 22.

Tuesday, April 5, 2022

Monday of first Passion week: Our Lord hid himself to give us, in whom He dwells, an example

 Continuation of the Holy Gospel according to John

John 7:1-13 
At that time: Jesus walked in Galilee; for he would not walk in Judea, because the Jews sought to kill him. And so on.

Homily by St. Augustine, Bishop of Hippo.
28th Tract on John 
In this chapter of the Gospel, my brethren, our Lord Jesus Christ hath much commended Himself unto our faith, as touching His Manhood. At the same time, His words and works were alway such as to give us to believe that He is both God and Man, yea, that God Who made us, and that Man Who hath sought us, yea, God the Son, Who, as touching His Godhead, is alway with the Father, John i. 18; iii. 13, and, as touching His Manhood, hath been with us in time. Matth. i. 23. For He had not sought the work of His hands unless He had been made His own work. John i. 14. Keep this well in mind, and let your hearts never forget it, namely, that Christ was not made Man so as to cease to be God. He, Who made the Manhood, took It into that Godhead Which is His from everlasting to everlasting.

While therefore He lay hid in the Manhood, we must not think that He had suffered any lessening of power, but that He was giving example to our weakness. When He willed it, He was taken; when He willed it, He was put to death. John x. 18. But, since He was to have members, that is, His faithful people, who would not have that power over their lives which He, our God, had over His, He hid Himself, He concealed Himself, as if it were to escape being put to death, to show what should be done by those His members in whom He should dwell.
 
“If they persecute you in one town, flee to the next …”

Saturday, April 2, 2022

Dominica I Passionis: "Jesus hid Himself"


Continuation of the Holy Gospel according to John

At that time, Jesus said to the crowds of the Jews: "Which of you can convict Me of sin? If I speak the truth, why do you not believe Me? He who is of God hears the words of God. The reason why you do not hear is that you are not of God."

    The Jews therefore in answer said to Him, "Are we not right in saying that You are a Samaritan, and have a devil?"


    Jesus answered, "I have not a devil, but I honor My Father, and you dishonor Me. Yet, I do not seek y own glory; there is One Who seeks and Who judges. Amen, amen, I say to you, if anyone keep My word, he will never see death."

    The Jews therefore said, Now we know that You have a devil. Abraham is dead, and the prophets, and You say, ‘If anyone keep My word he will never taste death.’ Are You greater than our father Abraham, who is dead? And the prophets are dead. Whom do You make Yourself?

    Jesus answered, "If I glorify Myself, My glory is nothing. It is My Father Who glorifies Me, of Whom you say that He is your God. And you do not know Him, but I know Him. And if I say that I do not know Him, I shall be like you, a liar. But I know Him, and I keep His word. Abraham your father rejoiced that he was to see My day. He saw it and was glad."

    The Jews therefore said to Him, "You are not yet fifty years old, and have You seen Abraham?"

    Jesus said to them, "Amen, amen, I say to you, before Abraham came to be, I am." They therefore took up stones to cast at Him; but Jesus hid Himself, and went out from the temple.    - John 8:46-59.

The Veiled Cross

"With Passion Sunday the Church begins to place greater stress upon the account of Christ's redemptive death. She seeks to fill our minds with thoughts of His sacred passion. I use the words "greater stress" for the memory of our savior‘s death is actually the main object of Christian worship. Does not St. Paul say, "As often as you shall eat this bread and drink the cup, you proclaim the death of the Lord, until He comes again." The holy Sacrifice of the Mass, then, is the solemn proclamation of Christ holy death. As often as we gather for Mass, then, it is to voice our conviction: Christ died for us, the blood of His sacrifice flows even today for our souls, and the flesh of His Sacrifice is this very day our nourishment unto divine life.

I use the words "greater stress" for throughout the whole of Lent the theme of suffering is present, though in a much different manner than that proposed by current piety. It is the battle of Christ with hell, His wrestling with the devil for the souls given him by the Father. That is one of the major veins of thought which run through the entire season.

Recall again Lent's three main phases. The first Sunday -- Christ and the devil;  Christ on the defensive. The third Sunday --  the strong man and the stronger One; Christ on the offensive. Palm Sunday -- Christ victor and king in His sacrificial death. Remember, too, that this battle was not finished 2000 years ago, it continues till the end of time. This Christ, struggling, battling, winning is the mystic Christ in His Body, the Church, and then His members, individual Christians. So, Lent is a "holy crusade" in which we are active participants, not merely pious observers.

This day marks the beginning of Passiontide, a time in which we are to meditate more intensely on Christ's suffering. It is the time of which Christ says: "When the bridegroom shall be taken away from them, then they will fast" (Matt 9,15) What, more specifically, constitutes this commemoration of Christ's sacred passion?

Here I must again remind my readers of the profound difference between the ancient Christian approach and the modern. How does popular piety present Christ's suffering? It proceeds to review Holy Week historically; it pictures with great fidelity the various scenes of the "bitter passion," it dissects all the feelings and thoughts of our suffering Savior, it evokes bitter tears of compassion; it analyzes the virtues displayed by the Lord at every phase of his suffering. Hopw shall imitate Him ... what can I learn from Him? are its most important questions. Finally, it makes suffering the remote for moral amendment: "He died on the cross for me, and I have offended him so deeply."

Now what was the approach of ancient Christian piety is found in the liturgy? It follows an entirely different course. To be sure, it too put Christ's historical sufferings in the place of vantage, but it did not stop there. More important was the purpose and goal of Christ's passion, the historical context took a second place. By His suffering Christ redeemed us and made us children of God. These are they happy truths of Christianity.

Therefore, the liturgy did not see to elicit bitter tears, it could even rejoice. On what apparently is the most tragic day of the whole year, on good Friday, during the veneration of the Cross we are able to lift our voices in jubilant song: "See because of this wood, joy has come into the whole world!" Christians of an earlier age, therefore were not prone to speak of the bitter passion, but of the beata passio, the happy or blessed passion.

The liturgy does not focus attention upon the human side the passion as much as upon it's goal, our salvation. Ancient Christian art was not satisfied with depicting the sufferings of Christ but rather perceived in them the reality of redemption. Whereas since the Middle Ages Jesus has been commonly perceived at the scourging pillar, in His agony, or on the Cross writhing in deathly pain, the ancient Church exalted the Cross as the sign of victory and  redemption, the crux gemmata, the cross set with jewels and made with precious metal, without the figure the Crucified. These two types of crosses may will be regarded as symbols of the two approaches to Christ's sacred passion, the two major types of Christian piety. 

From:The Church's Year of Grace 

Crux gemmata Source: Wikipedia


Sunday, March 20, 2022

Dominica III in Quadragesima: "And when He had cast out the devil..."

 



From the Holy Gospel according to Luke
Luke 11:14-28
At that time, Jesus was casting out a devil, and the same was dumb: and when he had cast out the devil, the dumb spoke: and the multitudes were in admiration at it. And so on.

Homily by the Venerable Bede, Priest 
at Jarrow.
Bk. iv, 48 on Luke xi
We read in Matthew xii. 22 that the devil, by which this poor creature was possessed, was not only dumb, but also blind; and that, when he was healed by the Lord, he saw as well as spake. Three miracles, therefore, were performed on this one man; the blind saw, the dumb spake, and the possessed was delivered. This mighty work was then indeed wrought carnally, but it is still wrought spiritually in the conversion of believers, when the devil is cast out of them, so that their eyes see the light of faith, and the lips, that before were dumb, are opened that their mouth may show forth the praise of God. But some of them said: He casteth out devils through Beelzebub, the chief of the devils. These some were not of the multitude, but liars among the Pharisees and Scribes, as we are told by the other Evangelist.

While the multitude, who were less instructed, wondered ever at the works of the Lord, the Pharisees and Scribes, on the other hand, denied the facts when they could, and when they were not able, twisted them by an evil interpretation, and asserted that the works of God were the works of an unclean spirit. And others, tempting Him, sought of Him a sign from heaven. They would have had Christ either to call down fire from heaven like Elias, 4 Kings i. 10, or, like Samuel, 1 Kings vii. 10, to have made thunder roll, and lightning flash, and rain fall at midsummer. And yet and if he had so done, they had been still able to explain away these signs also, as being the natural result of some unusual, though, till that moment, unremarked state of the atmosphere. O thou, who stubbornly deniest that which thine eye seeth, thine hand holdeth, and thy sense perceiveth, what wilt thou say to a sign from heaven? In good sooth, thou wilt say that the magicians in Egypt also wrought diverse signs from heaven. Ex. vii., viii.

But He, knowing their thoughts, said unto them: Every kingdom divided against itself is brought to desolation, and an house divided against an house falleth. He answered not their words, but their thoughts; as though He would compel them to believe in the power of Him Who seeth the secrets of the heart. But if every kingdom divided against itself is brought to desolation, then have not the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost a divided kingdom, since His is a kingdom that, without all contradiction, shall never be brought to desolation by any shock, but abideth unchanged and unchangeable for ever. If Satan also be divided against himself, how shall his kingdom stand? Because ye say that I cast out devils by Beelzebub. In saying this, He sought to draw from their own mouth a confession that they had chosen for themselves to be part of that devil's kingdom, which, if it be divided against itself, cannot stand.

Wednesday, March 9, 2022

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Lent Ember Wednesday: Christ is the true Solomon, the Prince of Peace

 Continuation of the Holy Gospel according to Matthew

Matt 12:38-50 
In that time, some of the scribes and Pharisees answered him, saying: Master, we would see a sign from thee. Who answering said to them: An evil and adulterous generation seeketh a sign. And so on.

Homily by St. Ambrose, Bishop of Milan.
7th Bk. on Luke, ch. xii 
After the condemnation of the Jewish people, the mystery of the Church is plainly declared in the figures of the repentant Ninevites, and of the Queen of the South. Like that Queen, the Church cometh from the uttermost parts of the earth, to hear the wisdom of the true Solomon, the Prince of Peace. A Queen she is, and a Queen of one indivisible realm, wrought into one body out of all nations, however diverse and distant.

And thus cometh that great mystery of Christ and the Church, a mystery more excellent now in the fulness of truth, than in the ancient type. For there they had in Solomon only a type of that which Christ is now in His own Person. And the Church is of two classes, whereof the one knoweth not how to sin, and the other sinneth no more. To wash away sin is the work of repentance, to eschew it that of wisdom.

Lastly, the sign of the Prophet Jonas, as it was a figure of the Lord's sufferings, was also a witness to the gravity of those sins which the Jews committed. At the same time, we see in these words of the Lord a declaration at once of His power, and of His love; for, by turning our eyes on the Ninevites, He showeth us a way of escape, while He setteth before us the horror of what will otherwise be our punishment. Even the Jews need not cease to hope for pardon, if only they would repent.