Friday, April 30, 2010

A letter of Pope St Clement I to the Corinthians

There are many paths but one Way

My dear friends, this is the way in which we find our Saviour Jesus Christ, the High Priest of all our offerings, the defender and helper of our infirmity.

By him we look up to the heights of heaven. In his face, exalted and without blemish, we see ourselves reflected. By him the eyes of our hearts are opened. By him our foolish and darkened understanding blossoms up anew towards his marvellous light. By him the Lord has willed that we should taste of immortal knowledge. He is the radiant light of God’s glory. He is now as far above the angels as the title which he has inherited is higher than their own name.

Let us then, men and brethren, with all energy act the part of soldiers, in accordance with his holy commandments.

Think of the soldiers who serve under our generals, and with what order, obedience, and submissiveness they perform the things which are commanded them. Not all are prefects, nor commanders of a thousand, nor of a hundred, nor of fifty, nor the like, but each one in his own rank performs the things commanded by the king and the generals. The great cannot subsist without the small, nor the small without the great. There is a kind of mixture in all things, and thence arises mutual advantage.

Let us take our body for an example. The head is nothing without the feet, and the feet are nothing without the head. The very smallest members of our body are necessary and useful to the whole body. All work harmoniously together and they are under one common rule for the preservation of the whole body.

In Christ Jesus let our whole body be preserved intact. Let every one of us be subject to his neighbour, according to the special gift bestowed upon him.

Let the strong not despise the weak, and let the weak show respect to the strong. Let the rich man provide for the wants of the poor; and let the poor man bless God, because he has given him one by whom his need may be supplied. Let the wise man display his wisdom, not by mere words, but through good deeds. Let the humble not bear testimony to himself, but leave witness to be borne to him by another. Let him that is pure in the flesh not grow proud of it, and boast, knowing that it was another who bestowed on him the gift of continence.

Let us consider, then, brethren, of what matter we were made. Let us consider how we came into this world, as it were out of a sepulchre, and from utter darkness: who and what manner of beings we were. He who made us and fashioned us, having prepared his bountiful gifts for us before we were born, introduced us into his world.

Since, therefore, we receive all these things from him, we ought for everything to give him thanks; to whom be glory for ever and ever. Amen.

Thursday, April 29, 2010

From the dialogue On Divine Providence by Saint Catherine of Siena, virgin and doctor

I tasted and I saw

Eternal God, eternal Trinity, you have made the blood of Christ so precious through his sharing in your divine nature. You are a mystery as deep as the sea; the more I search, the more I find, and the more I find the more I search for you. But I can never be satisfied; what I receive will ever leave me desiring more. When you fill my soul I have an even greater hunger, and I grow more famished for your light. I desire above all to see you, the true light, as you really are.

I have tasted and seen the depth of your mystery and the beauty of your creation with the light of my understanding. I have clothed myself with your likeness and have seen what I shall be. Eternal Father, you have given me a share in your power and the wisdom that Christ claims as his own, and your Holy Spirit has given me the desire to love you. You are my Creator, eternal Trinity, and I am your creature. You have made of me a new creation in the blood of your Son, and I know that you are moved with love at the beauty of your creation, for you have enlightened me.

Eternal Trinity, Godhead, mystery deep as the sea, you could give me no greater gift than the gift of yourself. For you are a fire ever burning and never consumed, which itself consumes all the selfish love that fills my being. Yes, you are a fire that takes away the coldness, illuminates the mind with its light and causes me to know your truth. By this light, reflected as it were in a mirror, I recognise that you are the highest good, one we can neither comprehend nor fathom. And I know that you are beauty and wisdom itself. The food of angels, you gave yourself to man in the fire of your love.

You are the garment which covers our nakedness, and in our hunger you are a satisfying food, for you are sweetness and in you there is no taste of bitterness, O triune God!

St Catherine of Siena (1347 - 1380)

She was born in Siena and, seeking perfection, entered the Third Order of the Dominicans when she was still in her teens. In 1370 she was commanded by a vision to leave her secluded life and enter the public life of the world. She wrote letters to many major public figures and carried on a long correspondence with Pope Gregory XI, urging him to reform the clergy and the administration of the Papal States. She burned with the love of God and her neighbour. As an ambassador she brought peace and harmony between cities She fought hard to defend the liberty and rights of the Popes and did much for the renewal of religious life. She also dictated books full of sound doctrine and spiritual inspiration. She died on 29 April 1380. In 1970 Pope Paul VI declared her a Doctor of the Church.

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

From the treatise on the Trinity by Saint Hilary of Poitiers

The unity of the faithful in God through the incarnation of the Word and the sacrament of the Eucharist

If the Word has truly been made flesh and we in very truth receive the Word made flesh as food from the Lord, are we not bound to believe that he abides in us naturally? Born as a man, he assumed the nature of our flesh so that now it is inseparable from himself, and conjoined the nature of his own flesh to the nature of the eternal Godhead in the sacrament by which his flesh is communicated to us. Accordingly we are all one, because the Father is in Christ and Christ in us. He himself is in us through the flesh and we in him, and because we are united with him, our own being is in God.

He himself testifies that we are in him through the sacrament of the flesh and blood bestowed upon us: In a short time the world will no longer see me; but you will see me, because I live and you will live. On that day you will understand that I am in my Father and you in me and I in you. If he wanted to indicate a mere unity of will, why did He set forth a kind of gradation and sequence in the completion of that unity? It can only be that, since he was in the Father through the nature of Deity, and we on the contrary in him through his birth in the body, he wishes us to believe that he is in us through the mystery of the sacraments. From this we can learn the perfect unity through a Mediator; for we abide in him and he abides in the Father, and while abiding in the Father he abides in us as well – so that we attain unity with the Father. For while Christ is in the Father naturally according to his birth, we too are in Christ naturally, since he abides in us naturally.

He himself has told us how natural this unity is: He who eats my flesh and drinks my blood lives in me and I live in him. No-one can be in Christ unless Christ is in him, because the only flesh which he has taken to himself is the flesh of those who have taken his.

He had earlier revealed to us the sacrament of this perfect unity: As I, who am sent by the living Father, myself draw life from the Father, so whoever eats me will draw life from me. He lives because of the Father, and as he lives because of the Father so we live because of his flesh.

Every comparison is chosen to shape our understanding, so that we may grasp the subject concerned by help of the analogy set before us. To summarise, this is what gives us life: that we have Christ dwelling within our carnal selves through the flesh, and we shall live because of him in the same manner as he lives because of the Father.

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

From a sermon by Saint Peter Chrysologus, bishop

Each one of us is called to be both a sacrifice to God and his priest

I appeal to you by the mercy of God. This appeal is made by Paul, or rather, it is made by God through Paul, because of God’s desire to be loved rather than feared, to be a father rather than a Lord. God appeals to us in his mercy to avoid having to punish us in his severity.

Listen to the Lord’s appeal: In me, I want you to see your own body, your members, your heart, your bones, your blood. You may fear what is divine, but why not love what is human? You may run away from me as the Lord, but why not run to me as your father? Perhaps you are filled with shame for causing my bitter passion. Do not be afraid. This cross inflicts a mortal injury, not on me, but on death. These nails no longer pain me, but only deepen your love for me. I do not cry out because of these wounds, but through them I draw you into my heart. My body was stretched on the cross as a symbol, not of how much I suffered, but of my all-embracing love. I count it no less to shed my blood: it is the price I have paid for your ransom. Come, then, return to me and learn to know me as your father, who repays good for evil, love for injury, and boundless charity for piercing wounds.

Listen now to what the Apostle urges us to do. I appeal to you, he says, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice. By this exhortation of his, Paul has raised all men to priestly status.

How marvellous is the priesthood of the Christian, for he is both the victim that is offered on his own behalf, and the priest who makes the offering. He does not need to go beyond himself to seek what he is to immolate to God: with himself and in himself he brings the sacrifice he is to offer God for himself. The victim remains and the priest remains, always one and the same. Immolated, the victim still lives: the priest who immolates cannot kill. Truly it is an amazing sacrifice in which a body is offered without being slain and blood is offered without being shed.

The Apostle says: I appeal to you by the mercy of God to present your bodies as a living sacrifice. Brethren, this sacrifice follows the pattern of Christ’s sacrifice by which he gave his body as a living immolation for the life of the world. He really made his body a living sacrifice, because, though slain, he continues to live. In such a victim death receives its ransom, but the victim remains alive. Death itself suffers the punishment. This is why death for the martyrs is actually a birth, and their end a beginning. Their execution is the door to life, and those who were thought to have been blotted out from the earth shine brilliantly in heaven.

Paul says: I appeal to you by the mercy of God to present your bodies as a sacrifice, living and holy. The prophet said the same thing: Sacrifice and offering you did not desire, but you have prepared a body for me. Each of us is called to be both a sacrifice to God and his priest. Do not forfeit what divine authority confers on you. Put on the garment of holiness, gird yourself with the belt of chastity. Let Christ be your helmet, let the cross on your forehead be your unfailing protection. Your breastplate should be the knowledge of God that he himself has given you. Keep burning continually the sweet smelling incense of prayer. Take up the sword of the Spirit. Let your heart be an altar. Then, with full confidence in God, present your body for sacrifice. God desires not death, but faith; God thirsts not for blood, but for self-surrender; God is appeased not by slaughter, but by the offering of your free will.

Monday, April 26, 2010

St Basil the Great on the Holy Spirit

The Spirit gives life

For this cause the Lord, who gives us our life, gave us the covenant of baptism, containing a type of life and death, for the water fulfils the image of death, and the Spirit gives us the promise of life. Hence it follows that the answer to our question why the water was associated with the Spirit is clear. The reason is because in baptism two ends were proposed: on the one hand, the destroying of the body of sin, that it may never ripen into death; on the other hand, our coming to life in the Spirit, ripening and having our fruit in holiness. Like a tomb, the water receives the body, symbolizing death; while the Spirit pours in the quickening power, renewing our souls from the deadness of sin into their original life. This then is what it is to be born again of water and of the Spirit, the water bringing the necessary death while the Spirit creates life within us.

In three immersions, then, and with three invocations, the great mystery of baptism is performed. Thus the symbol of death is made complete, and by the passing on of the divine knowledge the baptized have their souls enlightened. It follows that if there is any grace in the water, it is not of the nature of the water, but of the presence of the Spirit. For baptism is not the putting away of the filth of the flesh, but the answer of a good conscience towards God. So in training us for the life that follows on the resurrection the Lord sets out all the manner of life required by the Gospel, laying down for us the law of gentleness, of endurance of wrong, of freedom from the defilement that comes of the love of pleasure, and from covetousness – all this so that we can by our own choice achieve all that the life to come of its inherent nature possesses.

Through the Holy Spirit comes our restoration to paradise, our ascension into the kingdom of heaven, our return to the status of adopted sons, our liberty to call God our Father, our being made partakers of the grace of Christ, our being called children of light, our sharing in eternal glory – in a word, our being brought into a state of all fullness of blessing both in this world and in the world to come, of all the good gifts that are in store for us. Through faith we behold the reflection of their grace as though they were already present, but we still have wait for the full enjoyment of them. If such is the promise, what will the perfection be like? If these are the first fruits, what will be the complete fulfilment?

Saturday, April 24, 2010

From a homily on the Gospels by Saint Gregory the Great, pope

Christ the Good Shepherd

I am the good shepherd. I know my own – by which I mean, I love them – and my own know me. In plain words: those who love me are willing to follow me, for anyone who does not love the truth has not yet come to know it.

My dear brethren, you have heard the test we pastors have to undergo. Turn now to consider how these words of our Lord imply a test for yourselves also. Ask yourselves whether you belong to his flock, whether you know him, whether the light of his truth shines in your minds. I assure you that it is not by faith that you will come to know him, but by love; not by mere conviction, but by action. John the evangelist is my authority for this statement. He tells us that anyone who claims to know God without keeping his commandments is a liar.

Consequently, the Lord immediately adds: As the Father knows me and I know the Father; and I lay down my life for my sheep. Clearly he means that laying down his life for his sheep gives evidence of his knowledge of the Father and the Father’s knowledge of him. In other words, by the love with which he dies for his sheep he shows how greatly he loves his Father.

Again he says: My sheep hear my voice, and I know them; they follow me, and I give them eternal life. Shortly before this he had declared: If anyone enters the sheepfold through me he shall be saved; he shall go freely in and out and shall find good pasture. He will enter into a life of faith; from faith he will go out to vision, from belief to contemplation, and will graze in the good pastures of everlasting life.

So our Lord’s sheep will finally reach their grazing ground where all who follow him in simplicity of heart will feed on the green pastures of eternity. These pastures are the spiritual joys of heaven. There the elect look upon the face of God with unclouded vision and feast at the banquet of life for ever more.

Beloved brothers, let us set out for these pastures where we shall keep joyful festival with so many of our fellow citizens. May the thought of their happiness urge us on! Let us stir up our hearts, rekindle our faith, and long eagerly for what heaven has in store for us. To love thus is to be already on our way. No matter what obstacles we encounter, we must not allow them to turn us aside from the joy of that heavenly feast. Anyone who is determined to reach his destination is not deterred by the roughness of the road that leads to it. Nor must we allow the charm of success to seduce us, or we shall be like a foolish traveller who is so distracted by the pleasant meadows through which he is passing that he forgets where he is going

From a commentary on the gospel of John by Saint Cyril of Alexandria

Christ gave his own body for the life of all men

“I am dying for all men,” says the Lord. “I am dying to give them life through myself and to redeem the whole human race through my humanity. In my death, death itself will die and man’s fallen nature will rise again with me. I wanted to be like my brothers in every respect, so I became a man like you, a descendant of Abraham.” Understanding this well Saint Paul says: As the children of a family share the same flesh and blood, he too shared our human nature so that by his death he could destroy the power of the devil, the prince of death. Death itself and the prince of death could be destroyed only by Christ, who is above all, giving himself up as a ransom for all.

And so, speaking as a spotless victim offering himself for us to God the Father, Christ says in one of the psalms: You desired no sacrifices or offerings, but you have prepared a body for me. You took no pleasure in holocausts or sin offerings. Then I said, “Behold, I am coming.” He was crucified for all, desiring his one death for all to give all of us life in him. It was impossible for him to be conquered by death; nor could he who by his very nature is life be subject to corruption. Yet we know that Christ offered his flesh for the life of the world from his own prayer, Holy Father, protect them, and from his words, For their sake I consecrate myself. By saying that he consecrates himself he means that he offers himself to God as a spotless and sweet-smelling sacrifice. According to the law, anything offered upon the altar was consecrated and considered holy. So Christ gave his own body for the life of all, and makes it the channel through which life flows once more into us. How he does this I will explain to the best of my ability.

When the life-giving Word of God dwelt in human flesh, he changed it into that good thing which is distinctively his, namely, life; and by being wholly united to the flesh in a way beyond our comprehension, he gave it the life-giving power which he has by his very nature. Therefore, the body of Christ gives life to those who receive it. Its presence in mortal men expels death and drives away corruption because it contains within itself in his entirety the Word who totally abolishes corruption.

Friday, April 23, 2010

From a sermon by Saint Ephrem, deacon

The cross of Christ gives life to the human race

Death trampled our Lord underfoot, but he in his turn treated death as a highroad for his own feet. He submitted to it, enduring it willingly, because by this means he would be able to destroy death in spite of itself. Death had its own way when our Lord went out from Jerusalem carrying his cross; but when by a loud cry from that cross he summoned the dead from the underworld, death was powerless to prevent it.

Death slew him by means of the body which he had assumed, but that same body proved to be the weapon with which he conquered death. Concealed beneath the cloak of his manhood, his godhead engaged death in combat; but in slaying our Lord, death itself was slain. It was able to kill natural human life, but was itself killed by the life that is above the nature of man.

Death could not devour our Lord unless he possessed a body, neither could hell swallow him up unless he bore our flesh; and so he came in search of a chariot in which to ride to the underworld. This chariot was the body which he received from the Virgin; in it he invaded death’s fortress, broke open its strong-room and scattered all its treasure.

At length he came upon Eve, the mother of all the living. She was that vineyard whose enclosure her own hands had enabled death to violate, so that she could taste its fruit; thus the mother of all the living became the source of death for every living creature. But in her stead Mary grew up, a new vine in place of the old. Christ, the new life, dwelt within her. When death, with its customary impudence, came foraging for her mortal fruit, it encountered its own destruction in the hidden life that fruit contained. All unsuspecting, it swallowed him up, and in so doing released life itself and set free a multitude of men.

He who was also the carpenter’s glorious son set up his cross above death’s all-consuming jaws, and led the human race into the dwelling place of life. Since a tree had brought about the downfall of mankind, it was upon a tree that mankind crossed over to the realm of life. Bitter was the branch that had once been grafted upon that ancient tree, but sweet the young shoot that has now been grafted in, the shoot in which we are meant to recognise the Lord whom no creature can resist.

We give glory to you, Lord, who raised up your cross to span the jaws of death like a bridge by which souls might pass from the region of the dead to the land of the living. We give glory to you who put on the body of a single mortal man and made it the source of life for every other mortal man. You are incontestably alive. Your murderers sowed your living body in the earth as farmers sow grain, but it sprang up and yielded an abundant harvest of men raised from the dead.

Come then, my brothers and sisters, let us offer our Lord the great and all-embracing sacrifice of our love, pouring out our treasury of hymns and prayers before him who offered his cross in sacrifice to God for the enrichment of us all.

Thursday, April 22, 2010

From the treatise Against Heresies by Saint Irenaeus, bishop

 The Eucharist, pledge of our resurrection

If our flesh is not saved, then the Lord has not redeemed us with his blood, the eucharistic chalice does not make us sharers in his blood, and the bread we break does not make us sharers in his body. There can be no blood without veins, flesh and the rest of the human substance, and this the Word of God actually became: it was with his own blood that he redeemed us. As the Apostle says: In him, through his blood, we have been redeemed, our sins have been forgiven.

We are his members and we are nourished by creatures, which is his gift to us, for it is he who causes the sun to rise and the rain to fall. He declared that the chalice, which comes from his creation, was his blood, and he makes it the nourishment of our blood. He affirmed that the bread, which comes from his creation, was his body, and he makes it the nourishment of our body. When the chalice we mix and the bread we bake receive the word of God, the eucharistic elements become the body and blood of Christ, by which our bodies live and grow. How then can it be said that flesh belonging to the Lord’s own body and nourished by his body and blood is incapable of receiving God’s gift of eternal life? Saint Paul says in his letter to the Ephesians that we are members of his body, of his flesh and bones. He is not speaking of some spiritual and incorporeal kind of man, for spirits do not have flesh and bones. He is speaking of a real human body composed of flesh, sinews and bones, nourished by the chalice of Christ’s blood and receiving growth from the bread which is his body.

The slip of a vine planted in the ground bears fruit at the proper time. The grain of wheat falls into the ground and decays only to be raised up again and multiplied by the Spirit of God who sustains all things. The Wisdom of God places these things at the service of man and when they receive God’s word they become the eucharist, which is the body and blood of Christ. In the same way our bodies, which have been nourished by the eucharist, will be buried in the earth and will decay, but they will rise again at the appointed time, for the Word of God will raise them up to the glory of God the Father. Then the Father will clothe our mortal nature in immortality and freely endow our corruptible nature with incorruptibility, for God’s power is shown most perfectly in weakness.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Further news on Ahmidou Kujabi

I wanted to show you how Ahmidou has progressed with his new leg. Last picture I took, Ahmidou was walking but using his crutches to balance. These new pictures will amaze you. He came to the hermitage last week riding on A bicycle and thengot off the bike and came walking over to me without any help from the crutches. He said, "I have thrown them aside".
God bless you Father Sean and your parishoners at St. Ita's.

Another plea to readers to please go back and take another look at some of the items that are needed at Nazareth. I trust the Lord in all things.  I am only the hands in this work...without your support I can do nothing. I beg for you kind assistance!!!!

From the first apology in defence of the Christians by Saint Justin, martyr

Baptismal regeneration

Through Christ we received new life and we consecrated ourselves to God. I will explain the way in which we did this. Those who believe what we teach is true and who give assurance of their ability to live according to that teaching are taught to ask God’s forgiveness for their sins by prayer and fasting and we pray and fast with them. We then lead them to a place where there is water and they are reborn in the same way as we were reborn; that is to say, they are washed in the water in the name of God, the Father and Lord of the whole universe, of our Saviour Jesus Christ and of the Holy Spirit. This is done because Christ said: Unless you are born again you will not enter the kingdom of heaven, and it is impossible for anyone, having once been born, to re-enter his mother’s womb.

An explanation of how repentant sinners are to be freed from their sins is given through the prophet Isaiah in the words: Wash yourselves and be clean. Remove the evil from your souls; learn to do what is right. Be just to the orphan, vindicate the widow. Come, let us reason together, says the Lord. If your sins are like scarlet, I will make them white as wool; if they are like crimson, I will make them white as snow. But if you do not heed me, you shall be devoured by the sword. The mouth of the Lord has spoken.

The apostles taught us the reason for this ceremony of ours. Our first birth took place without our knowledge or consent because our parents came together, and we grew up in the midst of wickedness. So if we were not to remain children of necessity and ignorance, we needed a new birth of which we ourselves would be conscious, and which would be the result of our own free choice. We needed, too, to have our sins forgiven. This is why the name of God, the Father and Lord of the whole universe, is pronounced in the water over anyone who chooses to be born again and who has repented of his sins. The person who leads the candidate for baptism to the font calls upon God by this name alone, for God so far surpasses our powers of description that no one can really give a name to him. Anyone who dares to say that he can must be hopelessly insane.
This baptism is called “illumination” because of the mental enlightenment that is experienced by those who learn these things. The person receiving this enlightenment is also baptised in the name of Jesus Christ, who was crucified under Pontius Pilate, and in the name of the Holy Spirit, who through the prophets foretold everything concerning Jesus.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

From a sermon by Saint Augustine

Let us sing to the Lord a song of love

Sing to the Lord a new song; his praise is in the assembly of the saints. We are urged to sing a new song to the Lord, as new men who have learned a new song. A song is a thing of joy; more profoundly, it is a thing of love. Anyone, therefore, who has learned to love the new life has learned to sing a new song, and the new song reminds us of our new life. The new man, the new song, the new covenant, all belong to the one kingdom of God, and so the new man will sing a new song and will belong to the new covenant.

There is not one who does not love something, but the question is, what to love. The psalms do not tell us not to love, but to choose the object of our love. But how can we choose unless we are first chosen? We cannot love unless someone has loved us first. Listen to the apostle John: We love him, because he first loved us. The source of man’s love for God can only be found in the fact that God loved him first. He has given us himself as the object of our love, and he has also given us its source. What this source is you may learn more clearly from the apostle Paul who tells us: The love of God has been poured into our hearts. This love is not something we generate ourselves; it comes to us through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us.

Since we have such an assurance, then, let us love God with the love he has given us. As John tells us more fully: God is love, and whoever dwells in love dwells in God, and God in him. It is not enough to say: Love is from God. Which of us would dare to pronounce the words of Scripture: God is love? He alone could say it who knew what it was to have God dwelling within him. God offers us a short route to the possession of himself. He cries out: Love me and you will have me for you would be unable to love me if you did not possess me already.

My dear brothers and sons, fruit of the true faith and holy seed of heaven, all you who have been born again in Christ and whose life is from above, listen to me; or rather, listen to the Holy Spirit saying through me: Sing to the Lord a new song. Look, you tell me, I am singing. Yes indeed, you are singing; you are singing clearly, I can hear you. But make sure that your life does not contradict your words. Sing with your voices, your hearts, your lips and your lives: Sing to the Lord a new song.

Now it is your unquestioned desire to sing of him whom you love, but you ask me how to sing his praises. You have heard the words: Sing to the Lord a new song, and you wish to know what praises to sing. The answer is: His praise is in the assembly of the saints; it is in the singers themselves. If you desire to praise him, then live what you express. Live good lives, and you yourselves will be his praise.

Monday, April 19, 2010

From the commentary on the first letter of Peter by Saint Bede the Venerable, priest

A chosen race, a royal priesthood 

You are a chosen race, a royal priesthood. This praise was given long ago by Moses to the ancient people of God, and now the apostle Peter rightly gives it to the Gentiles, since they have come to believe in Christ who, as the cornerstone, has brought the nations together in the salvation that belonged to Israel.

Peter calls them a chosen race because of their faith, to distinguish them from those who by refusing to accept the living stone have themselves been rejected. They are a royal priesthood because they are united to the body of Christ, the supreme king and true priest. As sovereign he grants them his kingdom, and as high priest he washes away their sins by the offering of his blood. Peter says they are a royal priesthood; they must always remember to hope for an everlasting kingdom and to offer to God the sacrifice of a blameless life.

They are also called a consecrated nation, a people claimed by God as his own, in accordance with the apostle Paul’s explanation of the prophet’s teaching: My righteous man lives by faith; but if he draws back, I will take no pleasure in him. But we, he says, are not the sort of people who draw back and are lost; ,we are those who remain faithful until we are saved. In the Acts of the Apostles we read: The Holy Spirit has made you overseers, to care for the Church of God which he bought with his own blood. Thus, through the blood of our Redeemer, we have become a people claimed by God as his own, as in ancient times the people of Israel were ransomed from Egypt by the blood of a lamb.

In the next verse, Peter also makes a veiled allusion to the ancient story, and explains that this story is to be spiritually fulfilled by the new people of God, so that, he says, they may declare his wonderful deeds. Those who were freed by Moses from slavery in Egypt sang a song of triumph to the Lord after they had crossed the Red Sea and Pharaoh’s army had been overwhelmed; in the same way, now that our sins have been washed away in baptism, we too should express fitting gratitude for the gifts of heaven. The Egyptians who oppressed the people of God, and who can also stand for darkness or trials, are an apt symbol of the sins that once oppressed us but have now been destroyed in baptism.

The deliverance of the children of Israel and their journey to the long-promised land correspond with the mystery of our redemption: we are making our way toward the light of our heavenly home with the grace of Christ leading us and showing us the way. The light of his grace was also symbolised by the cloud and the pillar of fire, which protected the Israelites from darkness throughout their journey, and brought them by a wonderful path to their promised homeland.

Sunday, April 18, 2010

From the first apology in defence of the Christians by Saint Justin, martyr

The celebration of the Eucharist

No one may share the Eucharist with us unless he believes that what we teach is true, unless he is washed in the regenerating waters of baptism for the remission of his sins, and unless he lives in accordance with the principles given us by Christ.

We do not consume the eucharistic bread and wine as if it were ordinary food and drink, for we have been taught that as Jesus Christ our Saviour became a man of flesh and blood by the power of the Word of God, so also the food that our flesh and blood assimilates for its nourishment becomes the flesh and blood of the incarnate Jesus by the power of his own words contained in the prayer of thanksgiving.

The apostles, in their recollections, which are called gospels, handed down to us what Jesus commanded them to do. They tell us that he took bread, gave thanks and said: Do this in memory of me. This is my body. In the same way he took the cup, he gave thanks and said: This is my blood. The Lord gave this command to them alone. Ever since then we have constantly reminded one another of these things. The rich among us help the poor and we are always united. For all that we receive we praise the Creator of the universe through his Son Jesus Christ and through the Holy Spirit.

On Sunday we have a common assembly of all our members, whether they live in the city or the outlying districts. The recollections of the apostles or the writings of the prophets are read, as long as there is time. When the reader has finished, the president of the assembly speaks to us; he urges everyone to imitate the examples of virtue we have heard in the readings. Then we all stand up together and pray.

On the conclusion of our prayer, bread and wine and water are brought forward. The president offers prayers and gives thanks to the best of his ability, and the people give assent by saying, “Amen.” The eucharist is distributed, everyone present communicates, and the deacons take it to those who are absent.

The wealthy, if they wish, may make a contribution, and they themselves decide the amount. The collection is placed in the custody of the president, who uses it to help the orphans and widows and all who for any reason are in distress, whether because they are sick, in prison, or away from home. In a word, he takes care of all who are in need.

We hold our common assembly on Sunday because it is the first day of the week, the day on which God put darkness and chaos to flight and created the world, and because on that same day our saviour Jesus Christ rose from the dead. For he was crucified on Friday and on Sunday he appeared to his apostles and disciples and taught them the things that we have passed on for your consideration.

Saturday, April 17, 2010

The medical cupboard is almost bare

and I am again begging for your charity. We are almost into the rainy season (another month away) which is a very busy medical time at Nazareth Hermitage. Folks are planting and there are always accidents with Machete's, sharp short hoes or from kicks from donkeys. More and more allergies show up and, of course Malaria.

I am in immediate need of:
Anti Malarials
Antibiotic cream
"deep Heat" cream
orasol gel for toothaches
Paper Tape
Fabric Bandages
Roller Gauze
Steri strips
allergy eye drops
non stick pads
4X4 Gauze pads
2x2 Gauze pads
Childrens bandaids
Childrens Tylenol
Several good tweezers for removing thorns and slivers from under fingernails

There are other supplies listed on my wish list on that will give you ideas as to what type of medical supplies/instruments that could be used here.
Most of these supplies are not available here or of poor quality. If you prefer not shop for them, I would be grateful for check or cash donations and they can be sent to Mr. Robert Shrigley, 8 Poco Lane, Santa Fe, NM, 87505. I can then order on line or purchase drugs which are available locally.
Bob will immediately put any funds sent into my US account with Bank of America. You can also send money directly to me via Western Union. If you wish to send supplies or medicines you can send them to Bob Shrigley aas well. Just send me a note if you wish to send western union and I will be happy to give you the details for sending.
The most important things right now are Antimalarials and Antibiotics. Those must be purchased here so you cash donation would be a real blessing.
If you want further information pr have any questions, please write to me at

Your help will offer the sick poor in Tanje much relief.  May God speak to your heart about helping the sick poor. Please pass this request along to your family and friends.

In His Divine Mercy,

brother dismas Mary

From the constitution on the Sacred Liturgy of the Second Vatican Council

God's plan of salvation

In his desire that all men should be saved and come to the knowledge of the truth, God spoke in former times to our forefathers through the prophets, on many occasions and in different ways. Then, in the fullness of time he sent his Son, the Word made man, anointed by the Holy Spirit, to bring good news to the poor, to heal the broken-hearted as the physician of body and spirit and the mediator between God and men. In the unity of the person of the Word, his human nature was the instrument of our salvation. Thus in Christ there has come to be the perfect atonement that reconciles us with God, and we have been given the power to offer the fullness of divine worship.

This work of man’s redemption and God’s perfect glory was foreshadowed by God’s mighty deeds among the people of the Old Covenant. It was brought to fulfilment by Christ the Lord, especially through the paschal mystery of his blessed passion, resurrection from the dead and ascension in glory: by dying he destroyed our death, and by rising again he restored our life. From his side, as he lay asleep on the cross, was born that wonderful sacrament which is the Church in its entirety.

As Christ was sent by the Father, so in his turn he sent the apostles, filled with the Holy Spirit. They were sent to preach the Gospel to every creature, proclaiming that we had been set free from the power of Satan and from death by the death and resurrection of God’s Son, and brought into the kingdom of the Father. They were sent also to bring into effect this saving work that they proclaimed, by means of the sacrifice and sacraments that are the pivot of the whole life of the liturgy.

So, by baptism men are brought within the paschal mystery. Dead with Christ, buried with Christ, risen with Christ, they receive the Spirit that makes them God’s adopted children, crying out: Abba, Father; and so they become the true adorers that the Father seeks.

In the same way, whenever they eat the supper of the Lord they proclaim his death until he comes. So, on the very day of Pentecost, on which the Church was manifested to the world, those who received the word of Peter were baptised. They remained steadfast in the teaching of the apostles and in the communion of the breaking of bread, praising God and enjoying the favour of all the people.

From that time onward the Church has never failed to come together to celebrate the paschal mystery, by reading what was written about him in every part of Scripture, by celebrating the Eucharist in which the victory and triumph of his death are shown forth, and also by giving thanks to God for the inexpressible gift he has given in Christ Jesus, to the praise of God’s glory.

Friday, April 16, 2010

From a sermon by Saint Theodore the Studite

The precious and life-giving cross of Christ

How precious the gift of the cross, how splendid to contemplate! In the cross there is no mingling of good and evil, as in the tree of paradise: it is wholly beautiful to behold and good to taste. The fruit of this tree is not death but life, not darkness but light. This tree does not cast us out of paradise, but opens the way for our return.

This was the tree on which Christ, like a king on a chariot, destroyed the devil, the Lord of death, and freed the human race from his tyranny. This was the tree upon which the Lord, like a brave warrior wounded in his hands, feet and side, healed the wounds of sin that the evil serpent had inflicted on our nature. A tree once caused our death, but now a tree brings life. Once deceived by a tree, we have now repelled the cunning serpent by a tree. What an astonishing transformation! That death should become life, that decay should become immortality, that shame should become glory! Well might the holy Apostle exclaim: Far be it from me to glory except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, by which the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world! The supreme wisdom that flowered on the cross has shown the folly of worldly wisdom’s pride. The knowledge of all good, which is the fruit of the cross, has cut away the shoots of wickedness.

The wonders accomplished through this tree were foreshadowed clearly even by the mere types and figures that existed in the past. Meditate on these, if you are eager to learn. Was it not the wood of a tree that enabled Noah, at God’s command, to escape the destruction of the flood together with his sons, his wife, his sons’ wives and every kind of animal? And surely the rod of Moses prefigured the cross when it changed water into blood, swallowed up the false serpents of Pharaoh’s magicians, divided the sea at one stroke and then restored the waters to their normal course, drowning the enemy and saving God’s own people? Aaron’s rod, which blossomed in one day in proof of his true priesthood, was another figure of the cross, and did not Abraham foreshadow the cross when he bound his son Isaac and placed him on the pile of wood?

By the cross death was slain and Adam was restored to life. The cross is the glory of all the apostles, the crown of the martyrs, the sanctification of the saints. By the cross we put on Christ and cast aside our former self. By the cross we, the sheep of Christ, have been gathered into one flock, destined for the sheepfolds of heaven.


Today is the commemeration of Saint Benedict Joseph Labre. He is one of the honored saints of Nazareth Hermitage. I first heard of Saint Benedict Joseph Labre immediately after the Lord called me to live the eremitic life. His life was a life of poverty and renunciation and I was moved when I saw that his life was so similar to St. Francis of Asissi.
Few people have ever heard of Saint Benedict Joseph which is the reason I am posting this biography today. God bless you.

Our Saviour's prophetic words, "For the poor you have always with you" ( xiv. 7), have often been forcibly brought home to each succeeding generation by scenes and incidents, many of them not wanting the element of the dramatic. The poor, as the chief of the material treasures of the Church—a similitude which so enraged the Prefect of pagan Rome under Valerian against St. Lawrence—is one of these, and all through the ages the work of aiding and consoling the needy, has been regarded as one of the noblest of the deeds of mercy, as it is, doubtless, one of the most picturesque. The presence of poor people in such numbers in Catholic Churches has long been remarked, and, indeed, their permanent absence would make many of the better-off section of the congregation think that there was something wrong. Their presence is a constant reminder of the divine prophecy referred to, and also of that second statement from the same holy source: "The poor have the Gospel preached unto them" ( xi. 5). It is most fitting, therefore, that this never-ending evidence of our poor mendicant brethren, as such, should be represented among the canonized Saints of the Church. Of course, all the Saints practiced poverty in spirit, but in St. Benedict Joseph Labre, whom we are now about to consider, we have a concrete representative of the poor who traditionally crowd the entrances of the churches, and upon whom the alms of the charitable are bestowed.
Like so many of those who have been raised to the altar in the last two centuries, St. Benedict Joseph was French. He was born at Amettes near Boulogne, 26th March, 1748, being the eldest of fifteen children of Jean Baptist Labre, a small shopkeeper, and his wife, Anne Grandsire.
Young Benedict Joseph, like the rest of his brothers and sisters, probably received the rudiments of his education partly at home and partly at the parish school, one of the thousands of excellent parochial schools which made the France of Pre-Revolution days perhaps the best instructed country in the world. As a boy, Benedict Joseph, though very amiable, was already remarkable for seriousness of character. He practiced to an eminent degree those habits of self-restraint, which ascetical writers term "mortification "—that constant repression of the lower man which is the almost certain presage of a life of distinguished sanctity. Joined to this was a great horror of all that was positively wrong or whatever led up to it. As all this pointed to a probable religious vocation, young Labre was sent at the age of twelve to commence classical study under his paternal uncle, the Abbe Francis Joseph Labre, who was Cure, or parish priest of Erin. It has been represented in some quarters that Benedict Joseph was little better than a devout dolt, who was simply incapable of acquiring higher instruction. This is entirely incorrect. The future pilgrim-saint was both a diligent and intelligent student, and his Latin reading, after the elements of the grammar were mastered, embraced the well-known "Historia Sacra" and the usual "Excerpta" from the various classical authors read, then as now, in schools. To this was added a course of history, the ancient portion, no doubt, from Rollin's famous work which, in the original or translations, taught the annals of Greece and Rome to half the world; including Frederick the Great. But though no dunce, Benedict Joseph was no lover of mere learning as such. A close reader all his life of the , he had even at this early stage learned thoroughly the meaning of such passages as, "Woe to them who inquire of men after; many curious things; and are little curious of the way to serve Me!" (Bk. iii., ch. 43). His yearning for solitude, ardent love of austerity, and habitual union with God, made the hours spent in the acquisition of purely secular knowledge appear a sheer waste of both time and opportunity. Joined to this desire for austere personal holiness, was also an abounding charity for his neighbour's spiritual and temporal welfare. He assisted his uncle, as far as he was competent to do so, in the work of the parish, teaching the children their Catechism, reading to the sick and diffusing throughout the peasant families of the place that "atmosphere" of the Faith which is so powerful a preservative of religion. The people loved and venerated the holy youth, and the Princess de Croy—member of one of the most illustrious families of Pre-Revolution France—used to style him, "Mon petit Cure." Young Labre's zeal was conspicuously shown during the plague that devastated Erin and district, and when his uncle, the Abbe Labre, died, a martyr of charity during the infection, the nephew went to live with another uncle, the Abbe Vincent. This holy priest, whose life resembled that of the St. Cure d'Ars in the succeeding century, was a man after Benedict Joseph's own heart. The pair shared a miserable living-room and the roughest fare, giving all that was best in the matter of food and drink to the poor. Meanwhile, our Saint was reaching man's estate, and it was necessary for him to decide upon some vocation, either the cloister or the secular priesthood. His own predilection had been the severe Order of La Trappe, but in deference to the wishes of his parents, who feared that such a rigorous rule would prove too hard for their somewhat delicate son, he chose the Carthusians, but without success. He then applied to the Trappists at Neuville, and was told to study logic and plain chant before seeking for admission. This he did with but small progress, but in spite of this, was, after the prescribed period, accepted as a novice together with a friend. Benedict Joseph performed all the obligations of his new "life" with the greatest exactitude, but the growth of scruples and the increasing manifestation of a certain want of fitness for regular religious life, convinced his superiors that he had no vocation, and be left the monastery where he was already regarded as "a saint," though of a different type of sanctity from that laid down by the rule of La Trappe.
It is just at this period of Benedict Joseph Labre's extraordinary career, that those who aspire to write his biography, however brief and imperfect, find themselves confronted by the greatest difficulties in the matter of accounting for the almost unique phenomenon afforded by his subsequent life. Here was a young man of astonishing holiness, having no suitability for secular pursuits of any sort, yet not adapted, apparently, for either the priesthood, or any of the religious orders. "The Spirit," however, "breatheth where He will" ( iii. 8), and, doubtless, even before be got his kindly demission from La Trappe, Labre's choice was irrevocably made. The race of "vagrom men" is not habitually regarded over here with general favour, though, be it remembered, it is the so-called Reformation that has chiefly impressed the traditional dark stigma on the wandering class. The poor and unfortunate, so ruthlessly cast into abject wretchedness by the loss of the ever-friendly Abbeys and Priories, were naturally viewed by the greedy, upstart robbers of the monastic lands as a constant reminder of their own villainy, and of the awful social misery it had entailed. Hence, the genial laws of the whipping-post, fetters and branding irons of Edward VI's time, and the only few degrees milder enactments of later reigns. But over a large part of the Continent, at least, until the time of the Revolution, the needy wayfarer was generally considered as a representative of "God's poor," to be helped and comforted as dear Oliver Goldsmith found in his romantic, penniless journeyings through France and Italy, 1754-56. So Benedict Joseph's resolution was to become a " tramp," not as a means of lazy, aimless wandering and low self-indulgence, but to travel on foot from shrine to shrine as a pilgrim of eternity, edifying the devout by his piety, and shaming the selfish and luxurious by his constant and wonderful humility and mortifications. For some eight years (1770-1778?) this extraordinary rover in the cause of religion, traversed most of South-west Europe. His first visits were to Loretto and Rome, and he made it his custom to visit "beautiful Rome;" as he called the Eternal City, every year. It was at the Church of St. Romuald at Fabriano that Benedict Joseph returned to the doubtless, astonished Sacristan half the dole given him, with the words: 'It is too much! Poor people ought to live by the alms they procure daily!" This was his invariable rule, and when some charitable gift exceeded, as he thought, what was necessary for his own slender wants, he always gave the greater part of it to someone whom he considered worse off than himself. In such estimation did this wholly remarkable pilgrim come to be held that the people of the various towns and localities periodically visited by him, looked for his return as a much expected annual event. At Bari, the townsfolk rose up against a graceless fellow who insulted "their pilgrim," and at Compostella, equal respect was shown to the "pelegrino santo." Labre did not fail to visit "Paray-le-Monial," already famous as the cradle of the more modern devotion to the Sacred Heart, and the Chapel where St. Margaret Mary had received her consoling visions and messages, soon ranked in his regard with Loretto, Assisi, and other sacred shrines. It was probably while journeying on one occasion to Paray that St. Benedict Joseph was entertained at a farmhouse near Lyons, by a certain worthy farmer, Matthieu Vianney, and Marie Baluze, his wife, and in the room of the house where the holy wanderer passed the night, the future St. Cute d'Ars was born, 8th May, 1786, some three years after Benedict Joseph had passed to his reward.

But if the Saint had his earthly consolation in the shape of much kindness and respect, he had, of course, his trials. The life he had chosen with its constant exposure to the elements, its hunger and thirst and weariness, was all a form of the "cross" to be daily reckoned with, and to these were added occasionally the sufferings arising from men. At Moulins, in France, he was imprisoned for a while under suspicion of a share in a robbery that had occurred in the district, and then his half-ragged and generally odd appearance often exposed him to both ridicule and even ill-usage. He usually wore what had once been a Trappist's habit, but which, in time, became a mere "thing of shreds and patches," and to this was added an old cloak and girdle. A rosary around his neck, and a wallet containing a few necessaries and some books, such as the and the , completed the bizarre outfit of this strange-looking traveller. His Chinese-like features, tall emaciated frame, and long delicate hands, were remarkable. But jibe and jeer, or even praise were lost on one who lived in a continual union with God, and whose haunting fear seems to have been that he might not be included among the "fewness of the elect."1
About 1778, Benedict Joseph went to live permanently in Rome, then under the beneficent rule of the large-hearted and splendid-looking Pius VI. The Romans, while praising the museums and admiring the superb collections of medals and antiquities therein-all owing to the antiquarian zeal and public spirit of the Pope-were grumbling much at the increase of taxation, owing to the cost of these and also the draining of a large part of the Pontine Marshes, then in progress. "Money, the Dead, and Cardinals" are proverbially objects of affection or admiration with the Italians. Touch any of these and a social sirocco is almost certain to arise. But Benedict Joseph took little account of the then simmering discontent in the Alma Urbs, which "every intelligent foreigner" found so full of contradictions—magnificent churches, stately plazzos, tortuous streets, gay colours, and squalid rags. Benedict Joseph, however, must have found himself quite at home among the scores of beggars, whom artists thought so "Salvator Rosa "-like, and whom economists rated as so incurably idle. Most visitors to Rome during the eighteenth century were also puzzled at the paradox presented by the great dislike of the fashionable classes for , even choice scents such as attar of roses and lavender-water, and their apparent indifference to the sickening stenches from open sewers, which, not infrequently, disturbed the Rousseau-like reveries of northern sentimentalists amidst the classic and ecclesiastic grandeurs and memories of the then Garden City!2 These shocks to the olfactory nerves of the Quality, however, were used by our Saint as an additional form of penance, so completely dead was he by this time to every kind of personal gratification. He was assiduous in visiting the churches, and never missed any of the great functions and feasts. During the Holy Week of 1779, he might have noticed in the Church of Sancta Maria in Trastevere, an elderly, but distinguished-looking, personage dressed in black, with the "George" and Ribbon of the Garter, deep in devotion before the Madonna de Strada. The attendant , or the whisperings of the migratory congregation, would have informed him that it was —none other than the titular Charles III of Great Britain and Ireland, but whom his own "subjects" styled In the course of the last years of his life in Rome, Benedict Joseph lodged in various humble abodes, now in a cellar near the Quirinal, then by the ruins of the Colosseum—where Gibbon heard the distant chanting of the Friars while musing on the glory that was Rome's and finally and permanently, as an inmate of the Saint Martin's Night Shelter. Though "sleeping out" is a very different experience in Italy from what it is in our cold, variable climate, no doubt, even the most ascetic of us likes to think that this weary, worn sojourner among many men and cities found a more or less homelike shelter at last. It was fitting, however, that one whose whole life almost was spent in visiting shrines and churches should have been seized with his last illness in the Church of Santa Maria in Monte while hearing Mass there on the Wednesday of Holy Week, 1783. He was removed to the house of a butcher, named Francesco Zaccarelli, who had been very kind to the wonderful Frenchman, and in the abode of this obscure tradesman, in the Via dei Serpenti, the soul of Benedict Joseph Labre passed to its reward. The marvellous career of the celebrated pilgrim was already familiar to all Romans, and on Holy Thursday vast crowds attended the remains of the deceased, as arrayed in the habit of the Carmelite Confraternity of St. Martino, these were conducted to the Church of the Madonna de Monte, there to lie in almost regal state. Cardinals, princes, bishops, priests, religious and lay persons of every rank thronged the Church to gaze upon "II Santo," and implore his intercession. On the eve of Holy Saturday, the body, enclosed in two coffins, was interred beneath the high altar. At the requiem that day, Latin eulogies of the wonderful mendicant were pronounced by Fr. Mariani and a certain Doctor del Pino. The title Venerable was conferred on Benedict Joseph by Pius VI, 18th February 1794, and probably nothing but the French invasion of Rome and the long revolutionary and Napoleonic Wars prevented his speedy beatification. That was pronounced by Pius IX, who had a great devotion to the holy wanderer, on the 20th May, 1860. It was reserved for Leo XIII, who represented so much that was great and striking in Catholic erudition and philosophy, and who ever showed himself the true champion and friend of the proletariat, to pronounce the Canonization of this humble soul, whose surprising love of God had found so unique and curious an expression. This crowning event in the history of the Saint took place, 8th December, 1881, on the Feast of the Immaculate Conception of Our Lady, whose devout client he had been during the years of prayer and pilgrimage that were only to end with entry into the true home of all the just.
[ of St. Benedict Joseph Labre began to appear very shortly after his death. That by Marconi, his confessor, published in 1785, records some 136 miracles alleged to have been wrought through the Saint's intercession. Most of these relate to bodily cures. An English edition of this biography is said to have materially helped in the conversion of the Rev. John Thayer (1755-1815, the holy, but somewhat erratic, American missionary priest. There is a good sketch of the Saint by the Rev. Arthur Little, S.J., in the Series (Dublin, 1921). Many curious but, no doubt, authentic details are also given in a very hostile account of St. Benedict Joseph, contained in the anti-clerical work, vol. ii., by Fanny MacLaughlin. (London: Elliot Stock, 1885.).]
The short bgraphy above is taken from the ETWN files)

Thursday, April 15, 2010

From a sermon by Saint Gaudentius of Brescia, bishop

The inheritance of the new Covenant

The heavenly sacrifice, instituted by Christ, is the most gracious legacy of his new covenant. On the night he was delivered up to be crucified he left us this gift as a pledge of his abiding presence.

This sacrifice is our sustenance on life’s journey; by it we are nourished and supported along the road of life until we depart from this world and make our way to the Lord. For this reason he addressed these words to us: Unless you eat my flesh and drink my blood, you will not have life in you.

It was the Lord’s will that his gifts should remain with us, and that we who have been redeemed by his precious blood should constantly be sanctified according to the pattern of his own passion. And so he commanded those faithful disciples of his whom he made the first priests of his Church to enact these mysteries of eternal life continuously. All priests throughout the churches of the world must celebrate these mysteries until Christ comes again from heaven. Therefore let us all, priests and people alike, be faithful to this everlasting memorial of our redemption. Daily it is before our eyes as a representation of the passion of Christ. We hold it in our hands, we receive it in our mouths, and we accept it in our hearts.

It is appropriate that we should receive the body of Christ in the form of bread, because, as there are many grains of wheat in the flour from which bread is made by mixing it with water and baking it with fire, so also we know that many members make up the one body of Christ which is brought to maturity by the fire of the Holy Spirit. Christ was born of the Holy Spirit, and since it was fitting that he should fulfil all justice, he entered into the waters of baptism to sanctify them. When he left the Jordan he was filled with the Holy Spirit who had descended upon him in the form of a dove. As the evangelist tells us: Jesus, full of the Holy Spirit, returned from the Jordan.

Similarly, the wine of Christ’s blood, drawn from the many grapes of the vineyard that he had planted, is extracted in the wine-press of the cross. When men receive it with believing hearts, like capacious wineskins, it ferments within them by its own power.

And so, now that you have escaped from the power of Egypt and of Pharaoh, who is the devil, join with us, all of you, in receiving this sacrifice of the saving passover with the eagerness of dedicated hearts. Then in our inmost being we shall be wholly sanctified by the very Lord Jesus Christ whom we believe to be present in his sacraments, and whose boundless power abides for ever.

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

From a sermon by Saint Leo the Great, pope

Christ lives in his Church

My dear brethren, there is no doubt that the Son of God took our human nature into so close a union with himself that one and the same Christ is present, not only in the firstborn of all creation, but in all his saints as well. The head cannot be separated from the members, nor the members from the head. Not in this life, it is true, but only in eternity will God be all in all, yet even now he dwells, whole and undivided, in his temple the Church. Such was his promise to us when he said: See, I am with you always, even to the end of the world.

And so all that the Son of God did and taught for the world’s reconciliation is not for us simply a matter of past history. Here and now we experience his power at work among us. Born of a virgin mother by the action of the Holy Spirit, Christ keeps his Church spotless and makes her fruitful by the inspiration of the same Spirit. In baptismal regeneration she brings forth children for God beyond all numbering. These are the sons of whom it is written: They are born not of blood, nor of the desire of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God.

In Christ Abraham’s posterity is blessed, because in him the whole world receives the adoption of sons, and in him the patriarch becomes the father of all nations through the birth, not from human stock but by faith, of the descendants that were promised to him. From every nation on earth, without exception, Christ forms a single flock of those he has sanctified, daily fulfilling the promise he once made: I have other sheep, not of this fold, whom it is also ordained that I shall lead; and there shall be one flock and one shepherd.

Although it was primarily to Peter that he said: Feed my sheep, yet the one Lord guides all the pastors in the discharge of their office and leads to rich and fertile pastures all those who come to the rock. There is no counting the sheep who are nourished with his abundant love, and who are prepared to lay down their lives for the sake of the good shepherd who died for them.

But it is not only the martyrs who share in his passion by their glorious courage; the same is true, by faith, of all who are reborn through baptism. That is why we are to celebrate the Lord’s paschal sacrifice with the unleavened bread of sincerity and truth. The leaven of our former malice is thrown out, and a new creature is filled and inebriated with the Lord himself. For the effect of our sharing in the body and blood of Christ is to change us into what we receive. As we have died with him, and have been buried and raised to life with him, so we bear him within us, both in body and in spirit, in everything we do.

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

From a book addressed to Monimus by Saint Fulgentius of Ruspe, bishop

The sacrament of unity and love

The spiritual building up of the body of Christ is achieved through love. As Saint Peter says: Like living stones you are built into a spiritual house, to be a holy priesthood, offering spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ. And there can be no more effective way to pray for this spiritual growth than for the Church, itself Christ’s body, to make the offering of his body and blood in the sacramental form of bread and wine. For the cup we drink is a participation in the blood of Christ, and the bread we break is a participation in the body of Christ. Because there is one loaf, we who are many are one body, since we all share the same bread. And so we pray that, by the same grace which made the Church Christ’s body, all its members may remain firm in the unity of that body through the enduring bond of love.

We are right to pray that this may be brought about in us through the gift of the one Spirit of the Father and the Son. The holy Trinity, the one true God, is of its nature unity, equality and love, and by one divine activity sanctifies its adopted sons. That is why Scripture says that God’s love has been poured into our hearts by the Holy Spirit he has given us. The Holy Spirit, who is the one Spirit of the Father and the Son, produces in those to whom he gives the grace of divine adoption the same effect as he produced among those whom the Acts of the Apostles describes as having received the Holy Spirit. We are told that the company of those who believed were of one heart and soul, because the one Spirit of the Father and the Son, who with the Father and the Son is one God, had created a single heart and soul in all those who believed.

This is why Saint Paul in his exhortation to the Ephesians says that this spiritual unity in the bond of peace must be carefully preserved. I, therefore, a prisoner for the Lord, he writes, beg you to lead a life worthy of your calling, with all humility and meekness and with patience, bearing with one another in love, eager to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. There is one body and one Spirit.

God makes the Church itself a sacrifice pleasing in his sight by preserving within it the love which his Holy Spirit has poured out. Thus the grace of that spiritual love is always available to us, enabling us continually to offer ourselves to God as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to him for ever.