Friday, March 29, 2013

Sacramental Church from Christ's side

From the Catecheses by Saint John Chrysostom, bishop
The power of Christ's blood

If we wish to understand the power of Christ’s blood, we should go back to the ancient account of its prefiguration in Egypt. “Sacrifice a lamb without blemish,” commanded Moses, “and sprinkle its blood on your doors.” If we were to ask him what he meant, and how the blood of an irrational beast could possibly save men endowed with reason, his answer would be that the saving power lies not in the blood itself, but in the fact that it is a sign of the Lord’s blood. In those days, when the destroying angel saw the blood on the doors he did not dare to enter, so how much less will the devil approach now when he sees, not that figurative blood on the doors, but the true blood on the lips of believers, the doors of the temple of Christ.
  If you desire further proof of the power of this blood, remember where it came from, how it ran down from the cross, flowing from the Master’s side. The gospel records that when Christ was dead, but still hung on the cross, a soldier came and pierced his side with a lance and immediately there poured out water and blood. Now the water was a symbol of baptism and the blood, of the holy Eucharist. The soldier pierced the Lord’s side, he breached the wall of the sacred temple, and I have found the treasure and made it my own. So also with the lamb: the Jews sacrificed the victim and I have been saved by it.
  “There flowed from his side water and blood.” Beloved, do not pass over this mystery without thought; it has yet another hidden meaning, which I will explain to you. I said that water and blood symbolised baptism and the holy Eucharist. From these two sacraments the Church is born: from baptism, “the cleansing water that gives rebirth and renewal through the Holy Spirit,” and from the holy Eucharist. Since the symbols of baptism and the Eucharist flowed from his side, it was from his side that Christ fashioned the Church, as he had fashioned Eve from the side of Adam. Moses gives a hint of this when he tells the story of the first man and makes him exclaim: “Bone from my bones and flesh from my flesh!” As God then took a rib from Adam’s side to fashion a woman, so Christ has given us blood and water from his side to fashion the Church. God took the rib when Adam was in a deep sleep, and in the same way Christ gave us the blood and the water after his own death.
  Do you understand, then, how Christ has united his bride to himself and what food he gives us all to eat? By one and the same food we are both brought into being and nourished. As a woman nourishes her child with her own blood and milk, so does Christ unceasingly nourish with his own blood those to whom he himself has given life.

Wednesday, January 30, 2013

St. Bernard: Where sin abounded grace has overflowed

From a sermon on the Song of Songs by Saint Bernard, abbot
Where sin abounded grace has overflowed

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

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

St. Bernard on Advent

A sermon by St Bernard
Let the word of the Lord come to us

We know that the coming of the Lord is threefold: the third coming is between the other two and it is not visible in the way they are. At his first coming the Lord was seen on earth and lived among men, who saw him and hated him. At his last coming All flesh shall see the salvation of our God, and They shall look on him whom they have pierced.In the middle, the hidden coming, only the chosen see him, and they see him within themselves; and so their souls are saved. The first coming was in flesh and weakness, the middle coming is in spirit and power, and the final coming will be in glory and majesty.
  This middle coming is like a road that leads from the first coming to the last. At the first, Christ was our redemption; at the last, he will become manifest as our life; but in this middle way he is our rest and our consolation.
  If you think that I am inventing what I am saying about the middle coming, listen to the Lord himself: If anyone loves me, he will keep my words, and the Father will love him, and we shall come to him. Elsewhere I have read: Whoever fears the Lord does good things. – but I think that what was said about whoever loves him was more important: that whoever loves him will keep his words. Where are these words to be kept? In the heart certainly, as the Prophet says I have hidden your sayings in my heart so that I do not sin against you. Keep the word of God in that way: Blessed are those who keep it. Let it penetrate deep into the core of your soul and then flow out again in your feelings and the way you behave; because if you feed your soul well it will grow and rejoice. Do not forget to eat your bread, or your heart will dry up. Remember, and your soul will grow fat and sleek.
  If you keep God’s word like this, there is no doubt that it will keep you, for the Son will come to you with the Father: the great Prophet will come, who will renew Jerusalem, and he is the one who makes all things new. For this is what this coming will do: just as we have been shaped in the earthly image, so will we be shaped in the heavenly image. Just as the old Adam was poured into the whole man and took possession of him, so in turn will our whole humanity be taken over by Christ, who created all things, has redeemed all things, and will glorify all things.

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

9/11/12

Bellow is the brief reflection that I wrote down on 9/11/01:

The tragedy of these days is a sign that God's protective hand has been withdrawn from this country. If we spread death we shall experience death. If as a nation we ignore or deny God as the author of life we have no claim to his protection. We are living the hour of darkness. Christ alone is the true light through whom we can see the Truth.

Saturday, November 19, 2011

“The peace of Christ in the kingdom of Christ'”

A secret, an open secret: these world crises are crises of saints. God wants a handful of men 'of his own' in every human activity. And then... 'pax Christi in regno Christi--the peace of Christ in the kingdom of Christ'. (The Way, 301)

St. Josemaría Escrivá

Force yourself, if necessary, always to forgive those who offend you, from the very first moment. For the greatest injury or offence that you can suffer from them is as nothing compared with what God has pardoned you. (The Way, 452)

A clear mark of the man of God, of the woman of God, is the peace in their souls: they have peace and they give peace to the people they have dealings with. (The Forge, 649)

Get used to replying to those poor ``haters'', when they pelt you with stones, by pelting them with Hail Marys. (The Forge, 650)

Holy Mary is the Queen of peace, and thus the Church invokes her. So when your soul or your family are troubled, or things go wrong at work, in society or between nations, cry out to her without ceasing. Call to her by this title: Regina pacis, ora pro nobis - Queen of peace, pray for us." Have you at least tried it when you have lost your calm? You will be surprised at its immediate effect. (Furrow, 874)

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

The Magnificat

A commentary on Luke by the Venerable Bede
The Magnificat
And Mary said: My soul proclaims the greatness of the Lord, my spirit rejoices in God my Saviour.
The Lord has exalted me by a gift so great, so unheard of, that language is useless to describe it; and the depths of love in my heart can scarcely grasp it. I offer then all the powers of my soul in praise and thanksgiving. As I contemplate his greatness, which knows no limits, I joyfully surrender my whole life, my senses, my judgement, for my spirit rejoices in the eternal Godhead of that Jesus, that Saviour, whom I have conceived in this world of time.
The Almighty has done great things for me, and holy is his name.
Mary looks back to the beginning of her song, where she said: My soul proclaims the greatness of the Lord. Only that soul for whom the Lord in his love does great things can proclaim his greatness with fitting praise and encourage those who share her desire and purpose, saying: Join with me in proclaiming the greatness of the Lord; let us extol his name together.
Those who know the Lord, yet refuse to proclaim his greatness and sanctify his name to the limit of their power, will be considered the least in the kingdom of heaven. His name is called holy because in the sublimity of his unique power he surpasses every creature and is far removed from all that he has made.
He has come to the help of his servant Israel for he has remembered his promise of mercy.
In a beautiful phrase Mary calls Israel the servant of the Lord. The Lord came to his aid to save him. Israel is an obedient and humble servant, in the words of Hosea: Israel was a servant, and I loved him.
Those who refuse to be humble cannot be saved. They cannot say with the prophet: See, God comes to my aid; the Lord is the helper of my soul. But anyone who makes himself humble like a little child is greater in the kingdom of heaven.
The promise he made to our fathers, to Abraham and his children for ever.
This does not refer to the physical descendants of Abraham, but to his spiritual children. These are his descendants, sprung not from the flesh only, but who, whether circumcised or not, have followed him in faith. Circumcised as he was, Abraham believed, and this was credited to him as an act of righteousness.
The coming of the Saviour was promised to Abraham and to his descendants for ever. These are the children of promise, to whom it is said: If you belong to Christ, then you are descendants of Abraham, heirs in accordance with the promise.
But it is right that before the birth of the Lord or of John, their mothers should utter prophecies; for just as sin began with a woman, so too does redemption. Through the deceit of one woman, grace perished; the prophecies of two women announce its return to life.

Monday, August 17, 2009

Why I am on Twitter

Many people have asked me why I use Twitter, so I decided to write up this blog post. The reason is somewhat related to the title of my blog "voiceintheareapogaus."

A year or more ago some of my former students from the Heights (a school in Washington, DC) "friended" me on Facebook. I rarely used it but from time to time I accepted requests or invited someone else to join. I even put up a few pictures. One day I decided to look to see if another former student of mine -whom I had been in contact with from time to time- from the late sixties was on Facebook. He was and I decided to send an email to him through Facebook. Lo and behold he answered. The answer came via Twitter. In his reply he mentioned that he and his brother whom I also knew) used Twitter for these kinds of messages. So I decided to sign up for Twitter to keep in touch with them. (TweetDeck tells me that this was in February) The first was @jamesoreilly and the second @timoreilly. The latter is well known in internet circles. I didn't really know much about Twitter or what it could be useful for.
When I signed up I listed Tim and James as people to follow and on the set up page I looked through the list of people to follow and decided to pick the founders of Twitter (@jack; @ev; @biz and a few other similar types. I still follow them and have learned a lot from their tweets, even if they don't even know I am following them.

My first followers were internet marketing types some of whom I still "follow" such as @charlesyeo and @mariaandros. Twitter is a cool tool for this kind of business enterprise and I wish them well. In the meantime I have picked up a few more of these "followers" with an odd assortment of others whom I am not sure why they bother to follow me. A significant portion of my small "followers" are "Catholic" related types. I hope they profit from my Tweets; some indicate that they do and a few RT me, which is appreciated.

When I began I had no idea what I wanted to accomplish or say in 140 character "tweets." It was Charles Yeo who suggested that I use my tweets to preach. In fact I set for myself the goal of sending out a daily tweet "homily" in 140 characters or less. (I try to base them on the daily mass readings from the Catholic liturgy or something related to this.) Shortly after I began, one of my followers spoke appreciatively of my homilitweets and I adopted that word as my hash tag. Thus far I don't think I have missed a day without a "homilitweet" (even without the #, since it eats up characters.) I am not sure who reads them, although occasionally a "follower" will RT or make a comment. They also go to my "friends" on Facebook. The daily homilitweets are the principle "voice crying in the wilderness" of this blog. I wish that they reached more of the vast audience of those who are wrapped up in the cares of this world for whom they might serve as a whisper of the spirit, but that is not up to me. I do not desire to become a "popular" spiritual figure on Twitter.
In addition to the daily homilitweet I occasionally put up opinions of a religious nature, trying to avoid any label other than "Catholic." Often I RT someone else's news or opinion piece. This strikes me as one of the best uses of this kind of service. I have also experimented with voice tweets and pics, as well as occasional links to homilies recorded at Mass. I am still learning.
My basic objective is still to make God present in the world of internet communication and to reveal his loving face in Jesus Christ with the prayer that some will be moved by the Spirit to be attentive to his inspirations.