Tuesday, August 31, 2010

From The Imitation of Christ


The Truth of the Lord endures for evertruth of the Lord

You thunder your judgments upon me, O Lord; you shake all my bones with fear and dread, and my soul becomes severely frightened. I am bewildered when I realize that even the heavens are not pure in your sight.

  If you discovered iniquity in the angels and did not spare them, what will become of me? The stars fell from heaven, and I, mere dust, what should I expect? Those whose works seemed praiseworthy fell to the depths, and I have seen those who once were fed with the bread of angels take comfort in the husks of swine.

  There is no holiness where you have withdrawn your hand, O Lord; no profitable wisdom if you cease to rule over it; no helpful strength if you cease to preserve it. If you forsake us, we sink and perish; but if you visit us, we rise up and live again. We are unstable, but you make us firm; we grow cool, but you inflame us.

  All superficial glory has been swallowed up in the depths of your judgment  upon me.

  What is all flesh in your sight? Can the clay be glorified in opposition to its Maker?

  How can anyone be stirred by empty talk if his heart is subject in the truth to God?

  If a man is subject to truth, possession of the whole world cannot swell him with pride; nor will he be swayed by the flattery of his admirers, if he has established all his trust in God.

  For those who do nothing but talk amount to nothing; they fail with their din of words, but ‘the truth of the Lord endures for ever’.

Monday, August 30, 2010

From The Imitation of Christ


I taught my prophets

My son, says the Lord, listen to my words, the most delightful of all words, surpassing all the knowledge of the philosophers and wise men of this world. My words are spirit and life and cannot be comprehended by human senses alone. They are not to be interpreted according to the vain pleasure of the listener, but they must be listened to in silence and received with all humility and great affection.

  And I said: Blessed is the man whom you teach, Lord, and whom you instruct in your law; for him you soften the blow of the evil day, and you do not desert him on the earth.

  The Lord says, I have instructed my prophets from the beginning. Even to the present time I have not stopped speaking to all men, but many are deaf and obstinate in response.

  Many hear the world more easily than they hear God; they follow the desires of the flesh more readily than the pleasure of God. The world promises rewards that are temporal and insignificant, and these are pursued with great longing; I promise rewards that are eternal and unsurpassable, yet the hearts of mortals respond sluggishly.

  Who serves and obeys me in all matters with as much care as the world and its princes are served?

  Blush, then, you lazy, complaining servant, for men are better prepared for the works of death than you are for the works of life. They take more joy in vanity than you in truth.

  Yet they are often deceived in their hope, while my promise deceives no one, and leaves empty-handed no one who confides in me. What I have promised I shall give; what I have said I will fulfil for any man who remains faithful in my love unto the very end. I am the rewarder of all good men, the one who rigorously tests the devoted.

  Write my words in your heart and study them diligently, for they will be absolutely necessary in the time of temptation. Whatever you fail to understand in reading my words will become clear to you on the day of your visitation.

  I visit my elect in a double fashion: that is, with temptation and with consolation. And I read to them two lessons each day: one to rebuke them for their faults; the other to exhort them to increase their virtue.

  He who possesses my words, yet spurns them, earns his own judgement on the last day.

Saturday, August 28, 2010

From The Confessions of Saint Augustine, bishop



O Eternal Truth,augustine true love and beloved eternity…Urged to reflect upon myself, I entered under your guidance the innermost places of my being; but only because you had become my helper was I able to do so. I entered, then, and with the vision of my spirit, such as it was, I saw the incommutable light far above my spiritual ken and transcending my mind: not this common light which every carnal eye can see, nor any light of the same order; but greater, as though this common light were shining much more powerfully, far more brightly, and so extensively as to fill the universe. The light I saw was not the common light at all, but something different, utterly different, from all those things. Nor was it higher than my mind in the sense that oil floats on water or the sky is above the earth; it was exalted because this very light made me, and I was below it because by it I was made. Anyone who knows truth knows this light.

  O eternal Truth, true Love, and beloved Eternity, you are my God, and for you I sigh day and night. As I first began to know you, you lifted me up and showed me that, while that which I might see exists indeed, I was not yet capable of seeing it. Your rays beamed intensely on me, beating back my feeble gaze, and I trembled with love and dread. I knew myself to be far away from you in a region of unlikeness, and I seemed to hear your voice from on high: “I am the food of the mature: grow, then, and you shall eat me. You will not change me into yourself like bodily food; but you will be changed into me”.

  Accordingly I looked for a way to gain the strength I needed to enjoy you, but I did not find it until I embraced the mediator between God and man, the man Christ Jesus, who is also God, supreme over all things and blessed for ever. He called out, proclaiming I am the Way and Truth and the Life, nor had I known him as the food which, though I was not yet strong enough to eat it, he had mingled with our flesh, for the Word became flesh so that your Wisdom, through whom you created all things, might become for us the milk adapted to our infancy.

Late have I loved you, Beauty so ancient and so new, late have I loved you!

  Lo, you were within,

  but I outside, seeking there for you,

  and upon the shapely things you have made

  I rushed headlong – I, misshapen.

  You were with me, but I was not with you.

  They held me back far from you,

  those things which would have no being,

  were they not in you.

  You called, shouted, broke through my deafness;

  you flared, blazed, banished my blindness;

  you lavished your fragrance, I gasped; and now I pant for you;

  I tasted you, and now I hunger and thirst;

  you touched me, and I burned for your peace.

Friday, August 27, 2010

From The Confessions of St. Augustine, bishop


Let us gain eternal wisdom


Because the day when she was to leave this life was drawing near – a day known to you, though we were ignorant of it – she and I happened to be alone, through (as I believe) the mysterious workings of your will. We stood leaning against a window which looked out on a garden within the house where we were staying, at Ostia on the Tiber; for there, far from the crowds, we were recruiting our strength after the long journey, in order to prepare ourselves for our voyage overseas. We were alone, conferring very intimately. Forgetting what lay in the past, and stretching out to what was ahead, we enquired between ourselves, in the light of present truth, into what you are and what the eternal life of the saints would be like, for Eye has not seen nor ear heard nor human heart conceived it. And yet, with the mouth of our hearts wide open we panted thirstily for the celestial streams of your fountain, the fount of life which is with you.

  This was the substance of our talk, though not the exact words. Yet you know, O Lord, how on that very day, amid this talk of ours that seemed to make the world with all its charms grow cheap, she said, “For my part, my son, I no longer find pleasure in anything that this life holds. What I am doing here still, or why I am still here, I do not know, for worldly hope has withered away for me. One thing only there was for which I desired to linger in this life: to see you a Catholic Christian before I died. And my God has granted this to me more lavishly than I could have hoped, letting me see even you spurning earthly happiness to be his servant. What am I still doing here?”

  What I replied I cannot clearly remember, because just about that time – five days later, or not much more – she took to her bed with fever. One day during her illness she lapsed into unconsciousness and for a short time was unaware of her surroundings. We all came running, but she quickly returned to her senses, and, gazing at me and my brother as we stood there, she asked in puzzlement, “Where was I?”

  We were bewildered with grief, but she looked keenly at us and said, “You are to bury your mother here”. I was silent, holding back my tears, but my brother said something about his hope that she would not die far from home but in her own country, for that would be a happier way. On hearing this she looked anxious and her eyes rebuked him for thinking so; then she turned her gaze from him to me and said, “What silly talk!” Shortly afterwards, addressing us both, she said, “Lay this body anywhere, and take no trouble over it. One thing only do I ask of you, that you remember me at the altar of the Lord wherever you may be”. Having made her meaning clear to us with such words as she could muster, she fell silent, and the pain of the disease grew worse.

Thursday, August 26, 2010

From the Instructions of St Columban


You, God, are everything to us

My brethren, let us follow this call. We are called to the source and fountain of life, by the Life who is not just the fountain of living water but also the fountain of eternal life, the fountain of light, the fountain and source of glory. From this Life comes everything: wisdom, life, eternal light. The Creator of life is the fountain from which life springs; the Creator of light is the fountain of light. So let us leave this world of visible things. Let us leave this world of time and head for the heavens. Like fish seeking water, like wise and rational fish let us seek the fountain of light, the fountain of life, the fountain of living water. Let us swim in, let us drink from the water of the spring welling up into eternal life.

  Merciful God, righteous Lord, grant that I may reach that fountain. There let me join the others who thirst for you, drinking living water from the living stream that flows from the fountain of life. Overwhelmed by its sweetness let me cling close to it and say “How sweet is the spring of living water that never runs dry, the spring that wells up into eternal life!.”

  O Lord, you yourself are that spring, always and for ever to be desired, always and for ever to be drunk from. Christ our Lord, give us this water as the Samarian woman once asked you, so that in us also it can be a spring of living water welling up into eternal life. It is an enormous gift I am asking – everyone knows that – but you, King of glory, have given great gifts in the past and made great promises. Nothing, after all, is greater than you; and yet you have given yourself to us and given yourself for us.

  Therefore we beg you that we should come to full knowledge of the thing that we love; for we pray to be given nothing other than you yourself. You are everything to us, our life, our light, our health and strength, our food, our drink, our God. Jesus, our Jesus, I beg you to fill our hearts with the breath of your Spirit. Pierce our souls with the sword of your love so that each of us can say truthfully in his heart, “Show me the one with whom my soul is in love, for by love I am wounded.”

  Lord, let me bear such wounds in my soul. Blessed is the soul that is wounded by such love and, thus wounded, seeks the fountain and drinks, thirsts even while it drinks: it seeks by loving, and the very wound of love brings it healing. May Jesus Christ, our righteous God and Lord, our true and healing doctor, deign to wound our innermost hearts with that healing wound. With the Father and the Holy Spirit he is one, for ever and for ever. Amen.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

From the Instructions of St Columbanus


Let him who thirsts come to me and drink

Beloved brethren, turn your ears to my words, for there are things that it is necessary for you to hear. I shall be speaking of the waters of God’s fountain: refresh your thirst at that spring but do not entirely quench it. Drink without sating yourselves, for the living spring, the fount and source of life, is calling us: if anyone is thirsty, let him come to me and drink.

  Understand what it is that you are to drink. Let Jeremiah tell you, let the fountain himself tell you: they have abandoned me, the fountain of living water, says the Lord. So you see that the Lord himself, our God Jesus Christ, is the fountain of life; and he calls us to himself so that we may drink from him. Who will drink? Whoever loves; whoever is filled with the word of God; whoever adores enough, whoever desires enough; whoever is on fire with the love of wisdom.

  See the source from which that fountain flows. It comes from the same place that the manna came from in the wilderness – for the same person is both bread and fountain, Christ our Lord and God, for whom we should always hunger. Even if we eat him, the bread, with love, even if we devour him with desire, let us still hunger for him like starving men. So when we drink him, the fountain, let us always drink him with overflowing love, filled with longing and delighting in the gentle taste of his sweetness.

  For the Lord is gentleness and delight. We may eat and drink of him but still we will be hungry and thirst for more; for he is our food and drink that can never be entirely consumed. He can be eaten but there will always be more left. He can be drunk but he can never be drained dry. Our bread is eternal; our fountain lasts for ever, our fountain is sweet. So Isaiah says: come to the water all you who are thirsty; the fountain is for the thirsty, not for the surfeited. He calls the hungry and the thirsty to himself, and they can never drink enough: the more they drink, the more they desire to drink.

The word of God on high is the fountain of Wisdom. So, my brethren, it is right that we should desire it, seek it and love it. In it all the jewels of wisdom and knowledge are hidden, as St Paul says; and God calls anyone who thirsts to drink from that fountain.

  If you are thirsty, drink from the fountain of life; if you are hungry, eat the bread of life. Blessed are they who hunger for that bread and thirst for that fountain; they eat and drink for ever and still they desire to eat and drink. For it is lovely above all things, that which is always eaten and drunk, always hungered and thirsted for. Thus David, king and prophet, was moved to say: taste and see that the Lord is good.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

From a homily on the first letter to the Corinthians by St. John Chrysostom, bishop


(Feast of St. Bartholomew)saint bartholomew

The weakness of God is stronger than men

It was clear through unlearned men that the cross was persuasive, in fact, it persuaded the whole world. Their discourse was not of unimportant matters but of God and true religion, of the Gospel way of life and future judgment, yet it turned plain, uneducated men into philosophers. How the foolishness of God is wiser than men, and his weakness stronger than men!

  In what way is it stronger? It made its way throughout the world and overcame all men; countless men sought to eradicate the very name of the Crucified, but that name flourished and grew ever mightier. Its enemies lost out and perished; the living who waged a war on a dead man proved helpless. Therefore, when a Greek tells me I am dead, he shows only that he is foolish indeed, for I, whom he thinks a fool, turn out to be wiser than those reputed wise. So too, in calling me weak, he but shows that he is weaker still. For the good deeds which tax-collectors and fishermen were able to accomplish by God’s grace, the philosophers, the rulers, the countless multitudes cannot even imagine.

  Paul had this in mind when he said: The weakness of God is stronger than men. That the preaching of these men was indeed divine is brought home to us in the same way. For how otherwise could twelve uneducated men, who lived on lakes and rivers and wastelands, get the idea for such an immense enterprise? How could men who perhaps had never been in a city or a public square think of setting out to do battle with the whole world? That they were fearful, timid men, the evangelist makes clear; he did not reject the fact or try to hide their weaknesses. Indeed he turned these into a proof of the truth. What did he say of them? That when Christ was arrested, the others fled, despite all the miracles they had seen, while he who was leader of the others denied him!

  How then account for the fact that these men, who in Christ’s lifetime did not stand up to the attacks by the Jews, set forth to do battle with the whole world once Christ was dead – if, as you claim, Christ did not rise and speak to them and rouse their courage? Did they perhaps say to themselves: “What is this? He could not save himself but he will protect us? He did not help himself when he was alive, but now that he is dead he will extend a helping hand to us? In his lifetime he brought no nation under his banner, but by uttering his name we will win over the whole world?” Would it not be wholly irrational even to think such thoughts, much less to act upon them?

  It is evident, then, that if they had not seen him risen and had proof of his power, they would not have risked so much.

Saturday, August 21, 2010

From the apostolic constitution Divino afflatu of Pope Saint Pius X

The song of the Church

pio x

The collection of psalms found in Scripture, composed as it was under divine inspiration, has, from the very beginnings of the Church, shown a wonderful power of fostering devotion among Christians as they offer to God a continuous sacrifice of praise, the harvest of lips blessing his name. Following a custom already established in the Old Law, the psalms have played a conspicuous part in the sacred liturgy itself, and in the divine office. Thus was born what Basil calls the voice of the Church, that singing of psalms, which is the daughter of that hymn of praise (to use the words of our predecessor, Urban VIII) which goes up unceasingly before the throne of God and of the Lamb, and which teaches those especially charged with the duty of divine worship, as Athanasius says, the way to praise God, and the fitting words in which to bless him. Augustine expresses this well when he says: God praised himself so that man might give him fitting praise; because God chose to praise himself man found the way in which to bless God.
  The psalms have also a wonderful power to awaken in our hearts the desire for every virtue. Athanasius says: Though all Scripture, both old and new, is divinely inspired and has its use in teaching, as we read in Scripture itself, yet the Book of Psalms, like a garden enclosing the fruits of all the other books, produces its fruits in song, and in the process of singing brings forth its own special fruits to take their place beside them. In the same place Athanasius rightly adds: The psalms seem to me to be like a mirror, in which the person using them can see himself, and the stirrings of his own heart; he can recite them against the background of his own emotions. Augustine says in his Confessions: How I wept when I heard your hymns and canticles, being deeply moved by the sweet singing of your Church. Those voices flowed into my ears, truth filtered into my heart, and from my heart surged waves of devotion. Tears ran down, and I was happy in my tears.
  Indeed, who could fail to be moved by those many passages in the psalms which set forth so profoundly the infinite majesty of God, his omnipotence, his justice and goodness and clemency, too deep for words, and all the other infinite qualities of his that deserve our praise? Who could fail to be roused to the same emotions by the prayers of thanksgiving to God for blessings received, by the petitions, so humble and confident, for blessings still awaited, by the cries of a soul in sorrow for sin committed? Who would not be fired with love as he looks on the likeness of Christ, the redeemer, here so lovingly foretold? His was the voice Augustine heard in every psalm, the voice of praise, of suffering, of joyful expectation, of present distress.

Friday, August 20, 2010

From a sermon by St. Bernard, abbot



I love because I love, I love that I may love

Love is sufficient of itself, it gives pleasure by itself and because of itself. It is its own merit, its own reward. Love looks for no cause outside itself, no effect beyond itself. Its profit lies in its practice. I love because I love, I love that I may love. Love is a great thing so long as it continually returns to its fountainhead, flows back to its source, always drawing from there the water which constantly replenishes it. Of all the movements, sensations and feelings of the soul, love is the only one in which the creature can respond to the Creator and make some sort of similar return however unequal though it be. For when God loves, all he desires is to be loved in return; the sole purpose of his love is to be loved, in the knowledge that those who love him are made happy by their love of him.

  The Bridegroom’s love, or rather the love which is the Bridegroom, asks in return nothing but faithful love. Let the beloved, then, love in return. Should not a bride love, and above all, Love’s bride? Could it be that Love not be loved?

  Rightly then does she give up all other feelings and give herself wholly to love alone; in giving love back, all she can do is to respond to love. And when she has poured out her whole being in love, what is that in comparison with the unceasing torrent of that original source? Clearly, lover and Love, soul and Word, bride and Bridegroom, creature and Creator do not flow with the same volume; one might as well equate a thirsty man with the fountain.

  What then of the bride’s hope, her aching desire, her passionate love, her confident assurance? Is all this to wilt just because she cannot match stride for stride with her giant, any more than she can vie with honey for sweetness, rival the lamb for gentleness, show herself as white as the lily, burn as bright as the sun, be equal in love with him who is Love? No. It is true that the creature loves less because she is less. But if she loves with her whole being, nothing is lacking where everything is given. To love so ardently then is to share the marriage bond; she cannot love so much and not be totally loved, and it is in the perfect union of two hearts that complete and total marriage consists. Or are we to doubt that the soul is loved by the Word first and with a greater love?

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Baldwin of Canterbury's Treatise on the Angel's Greeting

annunciation one

A flower grew up from the root of Jesse

To the angel’s greeting, with which we greet the blessed Virgin daily with such devotion as is granted us, we are accustomed to add, ‘and blessed is the fruit of thy womb.’ It was Elizabeth who, after she had been greeted by the Virgin, added these words, as though repeating the end of the angel’s salutation, ‘Blessed art thou among women, and blessed is the fruit of thy womb.’ This is the fruit of which Isaiah speaks: ‘In that day the branch of the Lord shall be beautiful and glorious, and the fruit of the land shall be the pride and glory of the survivors of Israel.’ What else is this fruit but the holy one of Israel, himself the seed of Abraham, the Lord’s branch, and the flower growing up from the root of Jesse, the fruit of life which we share?

  Blessed truly in the seed and blessed in the branch, blessed in the flower, blessed in his office, blessed in our thanksgiving and praise, Christ the seed of Abraham was made of the seed of David according to the flesh.

  He alone among men is found perfected in every good, he who has been given the Spirit not by measure, so that he alone can fulfil all justice. His justice is sufficient for all peoples, according to the scriptures: ‘As the earth brings forth its shoot, and a garden makes its seed sprout up, so will the Lord bring forth justice and glory before all peoples.’ This is the shoot of justice which grows by blessing and is adorned by the flower of glory. And of what glory? A glory as sublime as can be imagined — indeed so sublime as cannot be imagined. For the flower grows up from the root of Jesse. To what height? To the highest possible point, since ‘Jesus Christ is in the glory of God the Father.’ His greatness is raised up above the heavens, so that he may be the Lord’s branch in magnificence and glory, and the fruit of the earth on high.

  What fruit is there for us in this fruit? What else but the fruit of blessing from the blessed fruit? From this seed, this shoot, and this flower, proceeds the fruit of blessing; it reaches as far as ourselves: first, as it were the seed, through the grace of forgiveness; then, as in the shoot, through growth in righteousness; lastly, as in the flower, through the hope or the attaining of glory. For he is blessed by God, and in God — that is, so that God may be glorified in him; he is blessed also for us, so that blessed by him we may be glorified in him, since through the promise spoken to Abraham God gave him the blessing of all nations.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

From the homilies of St Bernard on the glories of the Virgin Mother


She was prepared by the Most High and prefigured by the patriarchs

There was only one mode of birth that was worthy of God, and that was to be born of a Virgin. Equally, who could come from a Virgin birth except God himself? The maker of mankind, if he was to be made man and destined to be born of man, would have to choose, to create a mother whom he knew to be worthy of him, who he knew would be pleasing to him.

  It was his will that she should be a virgin, so that he could proceed from an unstained body, stainless, to purify mankind of its stains.

  It was his will that she should be meek and humble of heart, since he was to become the outstanding example of these virtues, so necessary for the health of humanity. He granted childbirth to her, having first inspired her vow of virginity and filled her with the virtue of humility.

  To put it another way, how could the Angel have addressed her as full of grace if any, even a little, of these virtues had been present in her already and not given to her by grace? It was given to her to be made holy. She, who was to conceive and give birth to the Holy of holies, was made holy in body by the gift of virginity and holy in mind by the gift of humility.

  Adorned with the jewels of such virtues and radiant in both mind and body, the royal Virgin’s beauty draws the attention of the citizens of heaven itself, and its King is filled with desire for her and sends his messenger to her from on high.

The Angel was sent to the Virgin, it says. A virgin in body and a virgin in mind, a virgin by her own choice, a virgin, as the Apostle describes her, holy in mind and body. Not someone just now found by chance, but chosen from the beginning of time, foreseen and prepared by the Most High, waited upon by the angels, prefigured by the patriarchs, preached by the prophets

Monday, August 16, 2010

The Moral Reflections on Job by Pope St Gregory the Great


Fights without and fears within

The saints are caught up in a turbulent war of troubles, attacked at the same time by force and by persuasion. Patience is their shield against force, and doctrine makes the arrows that they shoot against persuasion.

  See the skill with which they prepare themselves for both fights. The perversity within, they straighten out and teach and correct. The adversity without, they face and endure and suppress. They despise the enemies that come from outside to attack them, they resist them and stop them from subverting others. But to the weak and feeble citizens within they give compassion, afraid that they might otherwise lose the life of righteousness completely.

  Let us look at St Paul, the soldier of God’s army, as he fights both st.paulenemies: as he says, quarrels outside, misgivings inside. He lists the enemies he has to resist: danger from rivers and danger from brigands, danger from my own people and danger from pagans, danger in the towns and danger in the open country, danger at sea and danger from so-called brothers. He lists the weapons he fires against them: I have worked and laboured, often without sleep; I have been hungry and thirsty and often starving; I have been in the cold without clothes.

  In the middle of all these battles the army’s camp must still be patrolled and safeguarded: and, to leave out much more, there is my daily preoccupation: my anxiety for all the churches. You see how bravely he takes the war upon himself and how compassionately he devotes himself to keeping his neighbours safe. First he lists the evils he suffers, then he lists the good things he is giving.

  Let us ponder what a burden it is to endure attacks from outside and at the same time to give protection to the weak inside. From without, he suffers attack: he is beaten, he is chained. From within, he endures fear: the fear that his sufferings might discourage not him, but his disciples. So he writes to them: Let no-one be unsettled by the present troubles: as you know, they are bound to come our way. In the middle of his own sufferings, it was the downfall of others that he feared: if they saw him being beaten because of his faith, they might hold back from professing that faith themselves.

  What an immense love he has within him! He neglects what he himself is suffering and worries only that his disciples might suffer temptation because of it. He thinks nothing of the wounds of his body and he heals the wounds of other people’s hearts.

  This is something characteristic of the righteous. Just because they suffer pain themselves it does not stop them caring for the needs of others. They grieve for themselves and the adversity they face but they still give the needed teaching to others. They are like some great doctor who is struck down by sickness: they endure their own wounds while giving healing medicines to their patients.

Sunday, August 15, 2010

Feast of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary


Please Pray for Sister Barbara Massar,  TOCD and Sister Marie Paz, erem dio. These sisters are making their vows today.

God bless you both



The Apostolic Constitution

of Pope Pius XII on the

Assumption of the Blessed

Virgin Mary


Your body is holy and glorious

In their sermons and speeches on the feast day of the Assumption of the Mother of God, the holy fathers and the great doctors of the church were speaking of something that the faithful already knew and accepted: all they did was to bring it out into the open, to explain its meaning and substance in other terms. Above all, they made it most clear that this feast commemorated not merely the fact that the blessed Virgin Mary did not experience bodily decay, but also her triumph over death and her heavenly glory, following the example of her only Son, Jesus Christ.

  Thus St John Damascene, who is the greatest exponent of this tradition, compares the bodily Assumption of the revered Mother of God with her other gifts and privileges: It was right that she who had kept her virginity unimpaired through the process of giving birth should have kept her body without decay through death. It was right that she who had given her Creator, as a child, a place at her breast should be given a place in the dwelling-place of her God. It was right that the bride espoused by the Father should dwell in the heavenly bridal chamber. It was right that she who had gazed on her Son on the cross, her heart pierced at that moment by the sword of sorrow that she had escaped at his birth, should now gaze on him seated with his Father. It was right that the Mother of God should possess what belongs to her Son and to be honoured by every creature as the God’s Mother and handmaid.

  St Germanus of Constantinople considered that the preservation from decay of the body of the Mother of God, the Virgin Mary, and its elevation to heaven as being not only appropriate to her Motherhood but also to the peculiar sanctity of its virgin state: It is written, that you appear in beauty, and your virginal body is altogether holy, altogether chaste, altogether the dwelling-place of God; from which it follows that it is not in its nature to decay into dust, but that it is transformed, being human, into a glorious and incorruptible life, the same body, living and glorious, unharmed, sharing in perfect life.

  Another very ancient author asserts: Being the most glorious Mother of Christ our saviour and our God, the giver of life and immortality, she is given life by him and shares bodily incorruptibility for all eternity with him who raised her from the grave and drew her up to him in a way that only he can understand.

  All that the holy fathers say refers ultimately to Scripture as a foundation, which gives us the vivid image of the great Mother of God as being closely attached to her divine Son and always sharing his lot.

  It is important to remember that from the second century onwards the holy fathers have been talking of the Virgin Mary as the new Eve for the new Adam: not equal to him, of course, but closely joined with him in the battle against the enemy, which ended in the triumph over sin and death that had been promised even in Paradise. The glorious resurrection of Christ is essential to this victory and its final prize, but the blessed Virgin’s share in that fight must also have ended in the glorification of her body. For as the Apostle says: When this mortal nature has put on immortality, then the scripture will be fulfilled that says “Death is swallowed up in victory”.

  So then, the great Mother of God, so mysteriously united to Jesus Christ from all eternity by the same decree of predestination, immaculately conceived, an intact virgin throughout her divine motherhood, a noble associate of our Redeemer as he defeated sin and its consequences, received, as it were, the final crowning privilege of being preserved from the corruption of the grave and, following her Son in his victory over death, was brought, body and soul, to the highest glory of heaven, to shine as Queen at the right hand of that same Son, the immortal King of Ages.

Saturday, August 14, 2010

Memorial of St. Maximillian Kolbe

A letter of St Maximilian Kolbe


We must sanctify the whole world

I rejoice greatly, dear brother, at the outstanding zeal that drives you to promote the glory of God. It is sad to see how in our times the disease called “indifferentism” is spreading in all its forms, not just among those in the world but also among the members of religious orders. But indeed, since God is worthy of infinite glory, it is our first and most pressing duty to give him such glory as we, in our weakness, can manage – even that we would never, poor exiled creatures that we are, be able to render him such glory as he truly deserves.

  Because God’s glory shines through most brightly in the salvation of the souls that Christ redeemed with his own blood, let it be the chief concern of the apostolic life to bring salvation and an increase in holiness to as many souls as possible. Let me briefly outline the best way to achieve this end – both for the glory of God and for the sanctification of the greatest number. God, who is infinite knowledge and infinite wisdom, knows perfectly what is to be done to give him glory, and in the clearest way possible makes his will known to us through his vice-gerents on Earth.

  It is obedience and obedience alone that shows us God’s will with certainty. Of course our superiors may err, but it cannot happen that we, holding fast to our obedience, should be led into error by this. There is only one exception: if the superior commands something that would obviously involve breaking God’s law, however slightly. In that case the superior could not be acting as a faithful interpreter of God’s will.

  God himself is the one infinite, wise, holy, and merciful Lord, our Creator and our Father, the beginning and the end, wisdom, power, and love – God is all these. Anything that is apart from God has value only in so far as it is brought back to him, the Founder of all things, the Redeemer of mankind, the final end of all creation. Thus he himself makes his holy will known to us through his vice-gerents on Earth and draws us to himself, and through us – for so he has willed – draws other souls too, and unites them to himself with an ever more perfect love.

  See then, brother, the tremendous honour of the position that God in his kindness has placed us in. Through obedience we transcend our own limitations and align ourselves with God’s will, which, with infinite wisdom and prudence, guides us to do what is best. Moreover, as we become filled with the divine will, which no created thing can resist, so we become stronger than all others.

  This is the path of wisdom and prudence, this is the one way by which we can come to give God the highest glory. After all, if there had been another, better way, Christ would certainly have shown it to us, by word and by example. But in fact sacred Scripture wraps up his entire long life in Nazareth with the words and he was obedient to them and it shows the rest of his life to have been passed in similar obedience – almost as an instruction to us – by showing how he came down to Earth to do the Father’s will.

  Brethren, let us love him above all, our most loving heavenly Father, and let our obedience be a sign of this perfect love, especially when we have to sacrifice our own wills in the process. And as for a book from which to learn how to grow in the love of God, there is no better book than Jesus Christ crucified.

  All this we will achieve more easily through the intercession of the Immaculate Virgin, to whom the most kind God has given the task of dispensing his mercies. There is no doubt that the will of Mary should be the will of God for us. When we dedicate ourselves to him, we become tools in her hands just as she became a tool in his. Let us let her direct us and lead us by the hand. Let us be calm and serene under her guidance: she will foresee all things for us, provide all things, swiftly fulfil our needs both bodily and spiritual, and keep away from us all difficulty and suffering.

Friday, August 13, 2010

St Pacian's sermon on Baptism

resurrection 3

Let us follow a new way of life through the Spirit

The sin of Adam passed on to the whole human race. As St Paul says, Sin entered the world through one man, and through sin death, and thus death has spread through the whole human race. So the righteousness of Christ has to pass on to the whole human race also; and as Adam ruined all his descendants by sin, so must Christ, through righteousness, give life to his entire race. St Paul makes this point, saying As by one man’s disobedience many were made sinners, so by one man’s obedience many will be made righteous. Just as sin reigned and brought death, so grace will reign to bring eternal life through righteousness.

  Someone might object as follows: “The sin of Adam deservedly passed on his posterity, because they were born of him. And are we then born of Christ, that we can be saved through him?” Stop thinking simply in terms of the body: then you will see in what sense Christ is our parent and we are born of him. In these last days Christ took a soul and body from Mary. It is this flesh that he came to save, that he did not abandon to the underworld: he united it with his own spirit and made it his own. This is the marriage of the Lord, united with the flesh of man, a mystery uniting the two — Christ and the Church — in one flesh.

  From this marriage and from the coming of the Spirit of the Lord from above, the Christian people is born. The substance of our souls receives the seed of heaven: we are conceived in the womb of our mother and born of that womb we receive life in Christ. So St Paul says, The first man, Adam, as scripture says, “became a living soul;” but the last Adam has become a life-giving spirit. It is through his priests that Christ sows his seed in the Church. St Paul, again, says: It was I who begot you in Christ Jesus. It is the seed of Christ, that is, the Spirit of God, that produces the new man through the priest’s hands, conceived in the womb of his mother and born in the baptismal font under the auspices of faith.

  We must receive Christ so that he can give us birth, as the Apostle John says: To all who accepted him he gave power to become children of God. But this cannot be brought about except by the sacrament of cleansing and anointing, the sacrament which the bishop administers. Sins are washed away by the cleansing waters of the font; the Holy Spirit is infused by oil of chrism; and we receive both at the bishop’s hands and through his words. Thus the whole man is born again and made new in Christ: so that as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might walk in newness of life. That is, having put behind us the errors of our former life, we should through the Spirit follow a new way of life in Christ

Thursday, August 12, 2010

A treatise on Christian Perfection by St Gregory of Nyssa

(also the memorial of Jane Frances de Chantal foundress of the Visitation Sisters, see below this first reading))

We have Christ, who is our peace and our light

He is our peace, who has made both one. Since Christ is our peace, we shall be living up to the name of Christian if we let Christ be seen in our lives by letting peace reign in our hearts. He has brought hostility to an end, as the apostle said. Therefore, we must not allow it to come back to life in us in any way at all but must proclaim clearly that it is dead indeed. God has destroyed it in a wonderful way for our salvation. We must not, then, allow ourselves to give way to anger or bear grudges, for this would endanger our souls. We must not stir up the very thing that is well and truly dead, calling it back to life by our wickedness.

  But as we bear the name of Christ, who is peace, we too must put an end to all hostility, so that we may profess in our lives what we believe to be true of him. He broke down the dividing wall and brought the two sides together in himself, thus making peace. We too, then, should not only be reconciled with those who attack us from without, we should also bring together the warring factions within us, so that the flesh may no longer be opposed to the spirit and the spirit to the flesh. Then when the mind that is set on the flesh is subject to the divine law, we may be refashioned into one new creature, into a man of peace. When the two have been made one we shall then have peace within ourselves.

  The definition of peace is that there should be harmony between two opposed factions. And so, when the civil war in our nature has been brought to an end and we are at peace within ourselves, we may become peace. Then we shall really be true to the name of Christ that we bear.

  When we consider that Christ is the true light far removed from all falsehood, we realize that our lives too should be lit by the rays of the sun of justice, which shine for our enlightenment. These rays are the virtues by which we cast off the works of darkness and conduct ourselves becomingly as in the light of day. Then, when we refuse to have anything to do with the darkness of wickedness and do everything in the light, we ourselves shall also become light and our works will give light to others, for it is in the nature of light to shine out.

  But if we look upon Christ as our sanctification, then we should keep ourselves free from all that is wicked and impure both in thought and in deed and so prove ourselves worthy to bear his name, for we shall be demonstrating the effect of sanctification not in words but in our actions and in our lives.


St. Jane Frances de Chantal

Jane Frances

Born at Dijon, France, 28 January, 1572; died at the Visitation Convent Moulins, 13 December, 1641.

Her father was president of the Parliament of Burgundy, and leader of the royalist party during the League that brought about the triumph of the cause of Henry IV. In 1592 she married Baron de Chantal, and lived in the feudal castle of Bourbilly. She restored order in the household, which was on the brink of ruin, and brought back prosperity. During her husband's absence at the court, or with the army, when reproached for her extremely sober manner of dressing, her reply was: "The eyes which I must please are a hundred miles from here". She found more than once that God blessed with miracles the care she gave the suffering members of Christ. St. Francis de Sales's eulogy of her characterizes her life at Bourbilly and everywhere else: "In Madame de Chantal I have found the perfect woman, whom Solomon had difficulty in finding in Jerusalem".

Baron de Chantal was accidentally killed by a harquebus while out shooting in 1601. Left a widow at twenty-eight, with four children, the broken-hearted baroness took a vow of chastity. In all her prayers she besought God to send her a guide and God, in a vision, showed her the spiritual director He held in reserve for her. In order to safeguard her children's property, she was obliged to go and live at Monthelon in the home of her father-in-law, who was ruled over by an arrogant and wicked servant. This was real servitude, which she bore patiently and gently for seven years. At last her virtue triumphed over the ill will of the old man and house keeper.

During Lent, 1604, she visited her father at Dijon, where St. Francis de Sales was preaching at the Sainte Chapelle. She recognized in him the mysterious director who had been shown her, and placed herself under his guidance. Then began an admirable correspondence between the two saints. Unfortunately, the greater number of letters are no longer in existence, as she destroyed them after the death of the holy bishop. When she had assured the future security of children, and when she had provided the education of Celse-Bénigne, her fourteen year old son, whom she left to her father and her brother, the Archbishop of Bourges, she started for Annecy, where God was calling her to found the Congregation of the Visitation. She took her two remaining daughters with her, the elder having recently married the Baron of Thorens, a brother of St. Francis de Sales. Celse-Bénigne, impetuous like those of her race, barred his mother's way by lying across the threshold. Mme de Chantal stopped, overcome: "Can the tears of a child shake her resolution?" said a holy and learned priest, the tutor of Celse-Bénigne. "Oh! no", replied the saint, "but after all I am a mother!" And she stepped over the child's body.

The Congregation of the Visitation was canonically established at Annecy on Trinity Sunday, 6 June, 1610. Its aim was to receive, with a view to their spiritual advancement, young girls and even widows who had not the desire or strength to subject themselves to the austere ascetical practices in force in all the religious orders at that time. St. Francis de Sales was especially desirous of seeing the realization of his cherished method of attaining perfection, which consisted in always keeping one's will united to the Divine will, in taking so to speak one's soul, heart, and longings into one's hands and giving them into God's keeping, and in seeking always to do what is pleasing to Him. "I do always the things that please him" (John 8:29). The two holy founders saw their undertaking prosper. At the time of the death of St. Francis de Sales in 1622, the order already counted thirteen houses; there were eighty-six when St. Jane Frances died; and 164 when she was canonized.

The remainder of the saint's life was spent under the protection of the cloister in the practice of the most admirable virtues. If a gentle kindness, vivified and strengthened by a complete spirit of renunciation, predominates in St. Francis de Sales, it is firmness and great vigour which prevails in St. Jane Frances; she did not like to see her daughters giving way to human weakness. Her trials were continuous and borne bravely, and yet she was exceedingly sensitive. Celse-Bénigne was an incorrigible duellist. She prayed so fervently that he was given the grace to die a Christian death on the battle-field, during the campaign against the Isle of Ré (1627). He left a daughter who became the famous Marquise de Sévigné. To family troubles God added interior crosses which, particularly during the last nine years of her life, kept her in agony of soul from which she was not freed until three months before her death.

Her reputation for sanctity was widespread. Queens, princes, and princesses flocked to the reception-room of the Visitation. Wherever she went to establish foundations, the people gave her ovations. "These people", she would say confused, "do not know me; they are mistaken". Her body is venerated with that of St. Francis de Sales in the church of the Visitation at Annecy. She was beatified in 1751, canonized in 1767, and 21 August was appointed as her feast day.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Memorial of St. Clare

A letter of St Clare to Blessed Agnes of Prague

saint clare

Consider the poverty, humility and charity of Christ

Happy the soul to whom it is given to attain this life with Christ, to cleave with all one’s heart to him whose beauty all the heavenly hosts behold forever, whose love inflames our love, the contemplation of whom is our refreshment, whose graciousness is our delight, whose gentleness fills us to overflowing, whose remembrance makes us glow with happiness, whose fragrance revives the dead, the glorious vision of whom will be the happiness of all the citizens of the heavenly Jerusalem. For he is the brightness of eternal glory, the splendour of eternal light, the mirror without spot.

  Look into that mirror daily, O queen and spouse of Jesus Christ, and ever study therein your countenance, that within and without you may adorn yourself with all manner of virtues, and clothe yourself with the flowers and garments that become the daughter and chaste spouse of the most high King. In that mirror are reflected poverty, holy humility and ineffable charity, as, with the grace of God, you may perceive.

  Gaze first upon the poverty of Jesus, placed in a manger, wrapped in swaddling clothes. What marvellous humility! What astounding poverty! The King of angels, Lord of heaven and earth, is laid in a manger. Consider next the humility, the blessed poverty, the untold labours and burdens which he endured for the redemption of the human race. Then look upon the unutterable charity with which he willed to suffer on the tree of the cross and to die thereon the most shameful kind of death. This mirror, Christ himself, fixed upon the wood of the cross, bade the passers-by consider these things: ‘All you who pass this way look and see if there is any sorrow like my sorrow.’ With one voice and one mind let us answer him as he cries and laments, saying in his own words: ‘I will be mindful and remember and my soul shall languish within me.’ Thus, O queen of the heavenly King, may you ever burn more ardently with the fire of this love.

  Contemplate further the indescribable joys, the wealth and unending honours of the King, and sighing after them with great longing, cry to him: ‘Draw me after you: we shall run to the fragrance of your perfumes, O heavenly bridegroom.’ I will run and faint not until you bring me into the wine cellar, until your left hand be under my head and your right hand happily embrace me and you kiss me with the kiss of your mouth.

  In such contemplation be mindful of your poor little mother and know that I have inscribed your happy memory indelibly on the tablets of my heart, holding you dearer than all others.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

A sermon preached by St Augustine on the feast day of St Laurence

saint lawrence

He administered the sacred chalice of Christ's blood

The Roman Church commends this day to us as the blessed Laurence’s day of triumph, on which he trod down the world as it roared and raged against him; spurned it as it coaxed and wheedled him; and in each case, conquered the devil as he persecuted him. For in that Church, you see, as you have regularly been told, he performed the office of deacon; it was there that he administered the sacred chalice of Christ’s blood; there that he shed his own blood for the name of Christ. The blessed apostle John clearly explained the mystery of the Lord’s supper when he said Just as Christ laid down his life for us, so we too ought to lay down our lives for the brethren. St Laurence understood this, my brethren, and he did it; and he undoubtedly prepared things similar to what he received at that table. He loved Christ in his life, he imitated him in his death.

  And we too, brethren, if we truly love him, let us imitate him. After all, we shall not be able to give a better proof of love than by imitating his example; for Christ suffered for us, leaving us an example, so that we might follow in his footsteps. In this sentence the apostle Peter appears to have seen that Christ suffered only for those who follow in his footsteps, and that Christ’s passion profits none but those who follow in his footsteps. The holy martyrs followed him, to the shedding of their blood, to the similarity of their sufferings. The martyrs followed, but they were not the only ones. It is not the case, I mean to say, that after they crossed, the bridge was cut; or that after they had drunk, the fountain dried up.

  The garden of the Lord, brethren, includes – yes, it truly includes – includes not only the roses of martyrs but also the lilies of virgins, and the ivy of married people, and the violets of widows. There is absolutely no kind of human beings, my dearly beloved, who need to despair of their vocation; Christ suffered for all. It was very truly written about him: who wishes all men to be saved, and to come to the acknowledgement of the truth.

  So let us understand how Christians ought to follow Christ, short of the shedding of blood, short of the danger of suffering death. The Apostle says, speaking of the Lord Christ, Who, though he was in the form of God, did not think it robbery to be equal to God. What incomparable greatness! But he emptied himself, taking the form of a servant, and being made in the likeness of men, and found in condition as a man. What unequalled humility!

  Christ humbled himself: you have something, Christian, to latch on to. Christ became obedient. Why do you behave proudly? After running the course of these humiliations and laying death low, Christ ascended into heaven: let us follow him there. Let us listen to the Apostle telling us, If you have risen with Christ, savour the things that are above us, seated at God’s right hand.

Monday, August 9, 2010

From a treatise On the Incarnation of the Lord by Theodoret of Cyr, bishop


I will heal their wounds

Of his own free will Jesus ran to meet those sufferings that were foretold in the Scriptures concerning him. He had forewarned his disciples about them several times; he had rebuked Peter for being reluctant to accept the announcement of his passion, and he had made it clear that it was by means of his suffering that the world’s salvation was to be accomplished. This was why he stepped forward and presented himself to those who came in search of him, saying: I am the one you are looking for. For the same reason he made no reply when he was accused, and refused to hide when he could have done so; although in the past he had slipped away on more than one occasion when they had tried to apprehend him.

  Jesus also wept over Jerusalem because by her unwillingness to believe she was bent on her own ruin, and upon the temple, once so renowned, he passed sentence of utter destruction. Patiently he put up with being struck in the face by a man who was doubly a slave, in body and in spirit. He allowed himself to be slapped, spat upon, insulted, tortured, scourged and finally crucified. He accepted two robbers as his companions in punishment, on his right and on his left. He endured being reckoned with murderers and criminals. He drank the vinegar and the bitter gall yielded by the unfaithful vineyard of Israel. He submitted to crowning with thorns instead of with vine twigs and grapes; he was ridiculed with the purple cloak, holes were dug in his hands and his feet, and at last he was carried to the grave.

  All this he endured in working out our salvation. For since those who were enslaved to sin were liable to the penalties of sin, he himself, exempt from sin though he was and walking in the path of perfect righteousness, underwent the punishment of sinners. By his cross he blotted out the decree of the ancient curse: for, as Paul says: Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law by becoming a curse for us; for it is written: “Cursed be everyone who hangs on a tree.” And by his crown of thorns he put an end to that punishment meted out to Adam, who after his sin had heard the sentence: Cursed is the ground because of you; thorns and thistles shall it bring forth for you.


  In tasting the gall Jesus took on himself the bitterness and toil of man’s mortal, painful life. By drinking the vinegar he made his own the degradation men had suffered, and in the same act gave us the grace to better our condition. By the purple robe he signified his kingship, by the reed he hinted at the weakness and rottenness of the devil’s power. By taking the slap in the face, and thus suffering the violence, corrections and blows that were due to us, he proclaimed our freedom.

  His side was pierced as Adam’s was; yet there came forth not a woman who, being beguiled, was to be the death-bearer, but a fountain of life that regenerates the world by its two streams: the one to renew us in the baptismal font and clothe us with the garment of immortality, the other to feed us, the reborn, at the table of God, just as babes are nourished with milk.

Saturday, August 7, 2010

Irenaeus, Against the Heresies


I desire mercy and not


mercy 3

God did not seek sacrifices and holocausts, but faith, and obedience, and righteousness, for the sake of their salvation. As God said, teaching his will through Hosea the prophet, What I want is love, not sacrifice; knowledge of God, not holocausts. Our Lord taught the same, saying If you had understood the meaning of the words: What I want is mercy, not sacrifice, you would not have condemned the blameless. Thus he bore witness to the truth of the prophets’ teachings while convicting the people of culpable folly.

  Giving directions to His disciples to offer to God the first-fruits of his own creation — not offering them as if God needed them but so that they themselves should not be sterile or ungrateful — he took a created thing, bread, gave thanks, and saidmercy 2 This is my body. And as for the cup, which is part of the same creation as us, he proclaimed it to be his blood and taught that it was the new offering of the new covenant. The Church received this from the Apostles and offers it to God throughout the world, to the God who gives us food, the first-fruits of his gifts under the new covenant. Malachi, one of the twelve prophets, foretold this as follows: I am not pleased with you, says the Lord of Hosts; from your hands I find no offerings acceptable. But from farthest east to farthest west my name is honoured among the nations and everywhere a sacrifice of incense is offered to my name, and a pure offering too, since my name is honoured among the nations, says the Lord of Hosts. Thus he clearly indicated that the people of old (the Jews) would cease to make offerings to God, but that in every place a sacrifice would be offered, and a pure sacrifice at that; and his name would glorified among the nations.


  What other name is there which is glorified among the Gentiles than that of our Lord, by whom the Father is glorified, and man also? Because it is the name of his own Son, who was made man by him, he calls it his own. Just as a king, if he himself paints a portrait of his son, is right in calling this portrait his own, both because it is because it is a portrait of his son and because he himself painted it, so also the Father professes the name of Jesus Christ, glorified in the Church throughout the world, to be his own, both because it is that of his Son, and because he himself wrote it and gave it for the salvation of mankind.

  The prophet’s words are doubly appropriate, both because the Son’s name belongs properly to the Father, and because the Church everywhere makes her offering to almighty God through Jesus Christ: In every place incense is offered to my name, and a pure sacrifice. For as John says in the Apocalypse, incense is the prayer of the saints.

Friday, August 6, 2010

From a sermon on the transfiguration of the Lord by Anastasius of Sinai, bishop


It is good for us to be here


Upon Mount Tabor, Jesus revealed to his disciples a heavenly mystery. While living among them he had spoken of the kingdom and of his second coming in glory, but to banish from their hearts any possible doubt concerning the kingdom and to confirm their faith in what lay in the future by its prefiguration in the present, he gave them on Mount Tabor a wonderful vision of his glory, a foreshadowing of the kingdom of heaven. It was as if he said to them: “As time goes by you may be in danger of losing your faith. To save you from this I tell you now that some standing here listening to me will not taste death until they have seen the Son of Man coming in the glory of his Father. “ Moreover, in order to assure us that Christ could command such power when he wished, the evangelist continues: Six days later, Jesus took with him Peter, James and John, and led them up a high mountain where they were alone. There, before their eyes, he was transfigured. His face shone like the sun, and his clothes became as white as light. Then the disciples saw Moses and Elijah appear, and they were talking to Jesus. 

  These are the divine wonders we celebrate today; this is the saving revelation given us upon the mountain; this is the festival of Christ that has drawn us here. Let us listen, then, to the sacred voice of God so compellingly calling us from on high, from the summit of the mountain, so that with the Lord’s chosen disciples we may penetrate the deep meaning of these holy mysteries, so far beyond our capacity to express. Jesus goes before us to show us the way, both up the mountain and into heaven, and – I speak boldly – it is for us now to follow him with all speed, yearning for the heavenly vision that will give us a share in his radiance, renew our spiritual nature and transform us into his own likeness, making us for ever sharers in his Godhead and raising us to heights as yet undreamed of.

  Let us run with confidence and joy to enter into the cloud like Moses and Elijah, or like James and John. Let us be caught up like Peter to behold the divine vision and to be transfigured by that glorious transfiguration. Let us retire from the world, stand aloof from the earth, rise above the body, detach ourselves from creatures and turn to the creator, to whom Peter in ecstasy exclaimed: Lord, it is good for us to be here.

  It is indeed good to be here, as you have said, Peter. It is good to be with Jesus and to remain here for ever. What greater happiness or higher honour could we have than to be with God, to be made like him and to live in his light?

  Therefore, since each of us possesses God in his heart and is being transformed into his divine image, we also should cry out with joy: It is good for us to be here – here where all things shine with divine radiance, where there is joy and gladness and exultation; where there is nothing in our hearts but peace, serenity and stillness; where God is seen. For here, in our hearts, Christ takes up his abode together with the Father, saying as he enters: Today salvation has come to this house. With Christ, our hearts receive all the wealth of his eternal blessings, and there where they are stored up for us in him, we see reflected as in a mirror both the first fruits and the whole of the world to come.

Thursday, August 5, 2010

Baldwin of Canterbury: treatise 10


Love is as strong as death

Death is strong: it has the power to deprive us of the gift of life. Love is strong: it has the power to restore us to the exercise of a better life.

  Death is strong, strong enough to despoil us of this body of ours. Love is strong, strong enough to rob death of its spoils and restore them to us.

  Death is strong; for no man can resist it. Love is strong; for it can triumph over death, can blunt its sting, counter its onslaught and overturn its victory. A time will come when death will be trampled underfoot; when it will be said: death where is your sting ‘Death, where is your sting? Death, where is your attack?’

  ‘Love is strong as death,’ since Christ’s love is the death of death. For this reason he says: ‘Death, I shall be your death; hell, I shall grip you fast.’ The love, too, with which Christ is loved by us is itself strong as death, since it is a kind of death, being the extinction of our old life, the abolition of vice, and the putting aside of dead works.

  This love of ours for Christ is a sort of return, though not equal to his love for us; and it is a copy, a likeness of his. For he first loved us, and by the example of love that he sets before us, he has become a seal by which we are moulded to his image — putting off the likeness of the earthly and bearing that of the heavenly, loving him as we are loved. In this he leaves us an example, that we may follow in his footsteps.

  That is why he says:set me as a seal ‘Set me as a seal on your heart.’ As though to say: Love me, as I love you; have me in your mind, in your memory, in your desire; in your sighing, your groaning, your weeping. Remember, man, in what state I fashioned you, how far I preferred you before the rest of creatures, the dignity with which I ennobled you; how I crowned you with glory and honour, made you a little less than the angels, and subjected all things under your feet. Remember not only the great things I did for you, but what harsh indignities I bore on your behalf; and see if you are not acting wickedly against me, if you do not love me. For who loves you as I love you? Who created you, if not I? Who redeemed you, if not I?

  Lord, take away from me the heart of stone, a heart shrunken and uncircumcised — take it away and give me a new heart, a heart of flesh, a clean heart. You cleanse our heart and love the heart that is clean — possess my heart and dwell in it, both holding it and filling it. You surpass what is highest in me, and yet are within my inmost self! Pattern of beauty and seal of holiness, mould my heart in your likeness: mould my heart under your mercy, God of my heart and God my portion for ever. Amen.

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

A Catechism on prayer, by St John Mary Vianney

john vianney

The noble task of man, to pray and to love

Consider, children, a Christian’s treasure is not on earth, it is in heaven. Well then, our thoughts should turn to where our treasure is.

  Man has a noble task: that of prayer and love. To pray and to love, that is the happiness of man on earth.

  Prayer is nothing else than union with God. When the heart is pure and united with God it is consoled and filled with sweetness; it is dazzled by a marvellous light. In this intimate union God and the soul are like two pieces of wax moulded into one; they cannot any more be separated. It is a very wonderful thing, this union of God with his insignificant creature, a happiness passing all understanding.

  We had deserved to be left incapable of praying; but God in his goodness has permitted us to speak to him. Our prayer is an incense that is delightful to God.

  My children, your hearts are small, but prayer enlarges them and renders them capable of loving God. Prayer is a foretaste of heaven, an overflowing of heaven. It never leaves us without sweetness; it is like honey, it descends into the soul and sweetens everything. In a prayer well made, troubles vanish like snow under the rays of the sun.

  Prayer makes time seem to pass quickly, and so pleasantly that one fails to notice how long it is. When I was parish priest of Bresse, once almost all my colleagues were ill, and as I made long journeys I used to pray to God, and, I assure you, the time did not seem long to me. There are those who lose themselves in prayer, like a fish in water, because they are absorbed in God. There is no division in their hearts. How I love those noble souls! Saint Francis of Assisi and Saint Colette saw our Lord and spoke to him as we speak to one another.

  As for ourselves, how often do we come to church without thinking what we are going to do or for what we are going to ask.

  And yet, when we go to call upon someone, we have no difficulty in remembering why it was we came. Some appear as if they were about to say to God: ‘I am just going to say a couple of words, so I can get away quickly.’ I often think that when we come to adore our Lord we should get all we ask if we asked for it with a lively faith and a pure heart.

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

The "Epistle of Barnabas"


The new creation

stony hearts

The Lord took on the burden of delivering up his flesh to corruption for this reason, that by his sprinkled blood we should receive the remission of sins and be made holy. For the scripture concerning him relates partly to Israel, partly to us, and it speaks thus: He was wounded for our transgressions and bruised for our iniquities, by his stripes we were healed. He was brought as a sheep to the slaughter, and as a lamb dumb before its shearer. Therefore we ought to give great thanks to the Lord that he has given us knowledge of the past, and wisdom for the present, and that we are not wholly without understanding for the future. Scripture also says, Not unjustly are the nets spread out for the birds. This means that if a man has a knowledge of the way of righteousness, but turns aside into the way of darkness, he deserves to perish.

stony hearts1

  Moreover, my brethren, if the Lord endured to suffer for our life, though he is the Lord of all the world, the one to whom God said before the foundation of the world, Let us make man in our image and likeness, how, then, did he endure to suffer at the hand of man? Learn: – The Prophets, who received grace and inspiration from him, made prophecies concerning him. He had to take on human flesh if he was to destroy death and make known the Resurrection from the dead; and so he took on this burden, to fulfill the promise made to the patriarchs, to prepare the new people for himself, and to show while he was on earth that he himself will raise the dead and judge the risen. Furthermore, by teaching Israel and working miracles he made known his message and showed his superabundant love.

  By the remission of sins he re-made us in a completely different mould, giving us the souls of children, as though he were creating us afresh. It is about us that (as Scripture tells us) God speaks to his Son: Let us make man after our image and likeness, and let them rule the beasts of the earth, and the birds of heaven, and the fishes of the sea. Seeing the beauty of his creation, he adds Increase and multiply and fill the earth. He was speaking to his Son but I will show you that he speaks to us as well. In the last days he made a second creation; and the Lord says, See, I make the last things as the first. This is what the prophet was talking about when he proclaimed, Enter into a land flowing with milk and honey, and rule over it. See then, we have been created afresh, as he says again through another prophet, Behold, I will take the stony hearts out of the people (that is those people who were already being foreseen by the Spirit) and put hearts of flesh into them. He says this because he was going to appear in the flesh himself and dwell among us. So, my brethren, the habitation of our hearts is a shrine consecrated to the Lord. Moreover the Lord says I will proclaim you in the assembly of my brethren, I will sing hymns to you in the midst of the assembled people of God. We, then, are the people he has brought into the good land.