Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Saints Peter and Paul, Apostles and Martyrs

From a sermon by Saint Augustine
The martyrs had seen what they proclaimed
This day has been consecrated for us by the martyrdom of the blessed apostles Peter and Paul. It is not some obscure martyrs we are talking about. Their sound has gone out into all the earth, and their words to the ends of the world. These martyrs had seen what they proclaimed, they pursued justice by confessing the truth, by dying for the truth.
  The blessed Peter, the first of the Apostles, the ardent lover of Christ, who was found worthy to hear, And I say to you, that you are Peter. He himself, you see, had just said, You are the Christ, the Son of the living God. Christ said to him, And I say to you that you are Peter, and upon this rock I will build my Church. Upon this rock I will build the faith you have just confessed. Upon your words, You are the Christ, the Son of the living God, I will build my Church; because you are Peter. Peter comes from petra, meaning a rock. Peter, “Rocky,” from “rock”; not “rock” from “Rocky.” Peter comes from the word for a rock in exactly the same way as the name Christian comes from Christ.
  Before his passion the Lord Jesus, as you know, chose those disciples of his whom he called apostles. Among these it was only Peter who almost everywhere was given the privilege of representing the whole Church. It was in the person of the whole Church, which he alone represented, that he was privileged to hear, To you will I give the keys of the kingdom of heaven. After all, it is not just one man that received these keys, but the Church in its unity. So this is the reason for Peter’s acknowledged pre-eminence, that he stood for the Church’s universality and unity, when he was told, To you I am entrusting, what has in fact been entrusted to all. To show you that it is the Church which has received the keys of the kingdom of heaven, listen to what the Lord says in another place to all his apostles: Receive the Holy Spirit; and immediately afterwards, Whose sins you forgive, they will be forgiven them; whose sins you retain, they will be retained.
  Quite rightly, too, did the Lord after his resurrection entrust his sheep to Peter to be fed. It is not, you see, that he alone among the disciples was fit to feed the Lord’s sheep; but when Christ speaks to one man, unity is being commended to us. And he first speaks to Peter, because Peter is the first among the apostles. Do not be sad, Apostle. Answer once, answer again, answer a third time. Let confession conquer three times with love, because self-assurance was conquered three times by fear. What you had bound three times must be loosed three times. Loose through love what you had bound through fear. And for all that, the Lord once, and again, and a third time, entrusted his sheep to Peter.

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Saint Irenaeus, Bishop, Martyr

From the treatise Against Heresies by Saint Irenaeus, bishop
Saint Irenaeus

Life in man is the glory of God; 
the life of man is the vision of God
The glory of God gives life; those who see God receive life. For this reason God, who cannot be grasped, comprehended or seen, allows himself to be seen, comprehended and grasped by men, that he may give life to those who see and receive him. It is impossible to live without life, and the actualization of life comes from participation in God, while participation in God is to see God and enjoy his goodness.
  Men will therefore see God if they are to live; through the vision of God they will become immortal and attain to God himself. As I have said, this was shown in symbols by the prophets: God will be seen by men who bear his Spirit and are always waiting for his coming. As Moses said in the Book of Deuteronomy: On that day we shall see, for God will speak to man, and man will live.
  God is the source of all activity throughout creation. He cannot be seen or described in his own nature and in all his greatness by any of his creatures. Yet he is certainly not unknown. Through his Word the whole creation learns that there is one God the Father, who holds all things together and gives them their being. As it is written in the Gospel: No man has ever seen God, except the only-begotten Son, who is in the bosom of the Father; he has revealed him.
  From the beginning the Son is the one who teaches us about the Father; he is with the Father from the beginning. He was to reveal to the human race visions of prophecy, the diversity of spiritual gifts, his own ways of ministry, the glorification of the Father, all in due order and harmony, at the appointed time and for our instruction. where there is order, there is also harmony; where there is harmony, there is also correct timing; where there is correct timing, there is also advantage.
  The Word became the steward of the Father’s grace for the advantage of men, for whose benefit he made such wonderful arrangements. He revealed God to men and presented men to God. He safeguarded the invisibility of the Father to prevent man from treating God with contempt and to set before him a constant goal toward which to make progress. On the other hand, he revealed God to men and made him visible in many ways to prevent man from being totally separated from God and so cease to be. Life in man is the glory of God; the life of man is the vision of God. If the revelation of God through creation gives life to all who live upon the earth, much more does the manifestation of the Father through the Word give life to those who see God.

Monday, June 27, 2011

Monday of week 13 in ordinary time

From a sermon by Saint Augustine
He is the Lord our God, and we are the people of his pasture
The words we have sung contain our declaration that we are God’s flock: For he is the Lord our God who made us. He is our God, and we are the people of his pasture and the sheep of his hands. Human shepherds did not make the sheep they own; they did not create the sheep they pasture. Our Lord God, however, because he is God and Creator, made for himself the sheep which he has and pastures. No one else created the sheep he pastures, nor does anyone else pasture the sheep he created.
  In this song we have declared that we are his flock, the people of his pasture, and the sheep of his hands. Let us listen therefore to the words he addresses to us as his sheep. Earlier he addressed the shepherds, but now he speaks to the sheep. We listened to those earlier words of his and we – the shepherds – trembled, but you listened without a qualm.
  What is to happen when we hear these words today? Are we in turn to be without a qualm while you tremble? By no means! We are shepherds, and the shepherd listens and trembles not only at what is said to the shepherds but also at what is said to the sheep. If he does listen without a qualm to what is said to his sheep, he is not concerned for them. And further, on that occasion we asked you in your charity to remember two points about us: first, that we are Christians, and second, that we are placed in charge. Because we are placed in charge, we are ranked among the shepherds, if we are good; but because we are Christians, we too are members of the flock with you. Therefore, whether the Lord is addressing the shepherds or the sheep, we must listen to all his words and tremble; our hearts must always remain concerned.
  And so, my brothers, let us listen to the words with which the Lord upbraids the wicked sheep and to the promises he makes to his own flock. You are my sheep, he says. Even in the midst of this life of tears and tribulations, what happiness, what great joy it is to realise that we are God’s flock! To him were spoken the words: You are the shepherd of Israel. Of him it was said: The guardian of Israel will not slumber, nor will he sleep. He keeps watch over us when we are awake; he keeps watch over us when we sleep. A flock belonging to a man feels secure in the care of its human shepherd; how much safer should we feel when our shepherd is God. Not only does he lead us to pasture, but he even created us.
  You are my sheep, says the Lord God. See, I judge between one sheep and another, and between rams and goats. What are goats doing here in the flock of God? In the same pastures, at the same springs, goats – though destined for the left – mingle with those on the right. They are tolerated now, but will be separated later. In this way the patience of the flock develops and becomes like God’s own patience. For it is he who will do the separating, placing some on the left and others on the right.

Sunday, June 26, 2011

13th Sunday in ordinary time

From a homily by Pope Paul VI
We proclaim Christ to the whole world
Not to preach the Gospel would be my undoing, for Christ himself sent me as his apostle and witness. The more remote, the more difficult the assignment, the more my love of God spurs me on. I am bound to proclaim that Jesus is Christ, the Son of the living God. Because of him we come to know the God we cannot see. He is the firstborn of all creation; in him all things find their being. Man’s teacher and redeemer, he was born for us, died for us, and for us he rose from the dead.
  All things, all history converges in Christ. A man of sorrow and hope, he knows us and loves us. As our friend he stays by us throughout our lives; at the end of time he will come to be our judge; but we also know that he will be the complete fulfillment of our lives and our great happiness for all eternity.
  I can never cease to speak of Christ for he is our truth and our light; he is the way, the truth and the life. He is our bread, our source of living water who allays our hunger and satisfies our thirst. He is our shepherd, our leader, our ideal, our comforter and our brother.
  He is like us but more perfectly human, simple, poor, humble, and yet, while burdened with work, he is more patient. He spoke on our behalf; he worked miracles; and he founded a new kingdom: in it the poor are happy; peace is the foundation of a life in common; where the pure of heart and those who mourn are uplifted and comforted; the hungry find justice; sinners are forgiven; and all discover that they are brothers.
  The image I present to you is the image of Jesus Christ. As Christians you share his name; he has already made most of you his own. So once again I repeat his name to you Christians and I proclaim to all men: Jesus Christ is the beginning and the end, the alpha and the omega, Lord of the new universe, the great hidden key to human history and the part we play in it. He is the mediator – the bridge, if you will – between heaven and earth. Above all he is the Son of man, more perfect than any man, being also the Son of God, eternal and infinite. He is the son of Mary his mother on earth, more blessed than any woman. She is also our mother in the spiritual communion of the mystical body.
  Remember: it is Jesus Christ I preach day in and day out. His name I would see echo and re-echo for all time even to the ends of the earth.

Saturday, June 25, 2011

Saturday of the 12th week in ordinary time

St Gregory of Nyssa on the Beatitudes
Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God
Bodily health is a good thing, but what is truly blessed is not only to know how to keep one’s health but actually to be healthy. If someone praises health but then goes and eats food that makes him ill, what is the use to him, in his illness, of all his praise of health?
  We need to look at the text we are considering in just the same way. It does not say that it is blessed to know something about the Lord God, but that it is blessed to have God within oneself. Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God.
  I do not think that this is simply intended to promise a direct vision of God if one purifies one’s soul. On the other hand, perhaps the magnificence of this saying is hinting at the same thing that is said more clearly to another audience: The kingdom of God is within you. That is, we are to understand that when we have purged our souls of every illusion and every disordered affection, we will see our own beauty as an image of the divine nature.
  And it seems to me that the Word of God, in these few words, was saying something like this: In you there is a certain desire to contemplate what is truly good. But when you hear that God’s majesty is exalted high above the heavens, that his glory is beyond comprehension, that his beauty is beyond description, that his very nature can neither be perceived nor be understood, do not fall into despair or think you can never have the sight that you desire.
  So if, by love and right living, you wash off the filth that has become stuck to your heart, the divine beauty will shine forth in you. Think of iron, which at one moment is dark and tarnished and the next, once the rust has been scraped off, shines and glistens brightly in the sun. It is the same with the inner core of man, which the Lord calls the heart. It has been in damp and foul places and is covered in patches of rust; but once the rust has been scraped off, it will recover itself and once more resemble its archetype. And so it will be good, since what resembles the good must be good itself.
  Therefore, whoever looks at himself sees in himself what he desires. And whoever is pure in heart is blessed because, seeing his own purity, he sees the archetype reflected in the image. If you see the sun in a mirror then you are not looking directly at the sky, but still you are seeing the sun just as much as someone who looks directly at it. In the same way, the Lord is saying, although you do not have the strength to withstand the direct sight of the great and inaccessible light of God, if you look within yourselves once you have returned to the grace of the image that was placed in you from the beginning, you will find in yourselves all that you seek.
  For to be God is to be pure, to be free from weakness and passion, to be separated from all evil. If these things are all true of you then God is within you. If your thought is kept pure from evil habits, free from passion and weakness, separated from all stain, you are blessed because your vision is sharp and clear. You are able to see what is invisible to those who have not been purified. The eyes of your soul have been cleansed of material filth and through the purity of your heart you have a clear sight of the vision of blessedness. What is that vision? It is purity, sanctity, simplicity, and other reflections of the brightness of the Divine nature. It is the sight of God.
Please keep praying for Father Jeremiah and Sara Donahue.

Friday, June 24, 2011

Thursday- Corpus Christi

St Thomas Aquinas
       O precious and wonderful banquet!
Since it was the will of God’s only-begotten Son that men should share in his divinity, he assumed our nature in order that by becoming man he might make men gods. Moreover, when he took our flesh he dedicated the whole of its substance to our salvation. He offered his body to God the Father on the altar of the cross as a sacrifice for our reconciliation. He shed his blood for our ransom and purification, so that we might be redeemed from our wretched state of bondage and cleansed from all sin. But to ensure that the memory of so great a gift would abide with us for ever, he left his body as food and his blood as drink for the faithful to consume in the form of bread and wine.
  O precious and wonderful banquet, that brings us salvation and contains all sweetness! Could anything be of more intrinsic value? Under the old law it was the flesh of calves and goats that was offered, but here Christ himself, the true God, is set before us as our food. What could be more wonderful than this? No other sacrament has greater healing power; through it sins are purged away, virtues are increased, and the soul is enriched with an abundance of every spiritual gift. It is offered in the Church for the living and the dead, so that what was instituted for the salvation of all may be for the benefit of all. Yet, in the end, no one can fully express the sweetness of this sacrament, in which spiritual delight is tasted at its very source, and in which we renew the memory of that surpassing love for us which Christ revealed in his passion.
  It was to impress the vastness of this love more firmly upon the hearts of the faithful that our Lord instituted this sacrament at the Last Supper. As he was on the point of leaving the world to go to the Father, after celebrating the Passover with his disciples, he left it as a perpetual memorial of his passion. It was the fulfilment of ancient figures and the greatest of all his miracles, while for those who were to experience the sorrow of his departure, it was destined to be a unique and abiding consolation.

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Birthday of St. John the Baptist

From a sermon by Saint Augustine
The voice of one crying in the wilderness
The Church observes the birth of John as in some way sacred; and you will not find any other of the great men of old whose birth we celebrate officially. We celebrate John’s, as we celebrate Christ’s. This point cannot be passed over in silence, and if I may not perhaps be able to explain it in the way that such an important matter deserves, it is still worth thinking about it a little more deeply and fruitfully than usual.
  John is born of an old woman who is barren; Christ is born of a young woman who is a virgin. That John will be born is not believed, and his father is struck dumb; that Christ will be born is believed, and he is conceived by faith.
  I have proposed some matters for inquiry, and listed in advance some things that need to be discussed. I have introduced these points even if we are not up to examining all the twists and turns of such a great mystery, either for lack of capacity or for lack of time. You will be taught much better by the one who speaks in you even when I am not here; the one about whom you think loving thoughts, the one whom you have taken into your hearts and whose temple you have become.
  John, it seems, has been inserted as a kind of boundary between the two Testaments, the Old and the New. That he is somehow or other a boundary is something that the Lord himself indicates when he says, The Law and the prophets were until John. So he represents the old and heralds the new. Because he represents the old, he is born of an elderly couple; because he represents the new, he is revealed as a prophet in his mother’s womb. You will remember that, before he was born, at Mary’s arrival he leapt in his mother’s womb. Already he had been marked out there, designated before he was born; it was already shown whose forerunner he would be, even before he saw him. These are divine matters, and exceed the measure of human frailty. Finally, he is born, he receives a name, and his father’s tongue is loosed.
  Zachary is struck dumb and loses his voice, until John, the Lord’s forerunner, is born and releases his voice for him. What does Zachary’s silence mean, but that prophecy was obscure and, before the proclamation of Christ, somehow concealed and shut up? It is released and opened up by his arrival, it becomes clear when the one who was being prophesied is about to come. The releasing of Zachary’s voice at the birth of John has the same significance as the tearing of the veil of the Temple at the crucifixion of Christ. If John were meant to proclaim himself, he would not be opening Zachary’s mouth. The tongue is released because a voice is being born – for when John was already heralding the Lord, he was asked, Who are you and he replied I am the voice of one crying in the wilderness.
  John is the voice, but the Lord in the beginning was the Word. John is a voice for a time, but Christ is the eternal Word from the beginning.

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Saint Paulinus of Nola, Bishop // Saints John Fisher, Bishop, and Thomas More, Martyrs

St Aelred's treatise on spiritual friendship
True, perfect, and eternal friendship
That outstanding youth, Jonathan, son of King Saul, made an alliance with David, but it was not in the hope of obtaining the royal crown or winning the kingdom. For the sake of their friendship, he set David above himself as if he had been his master and not his own father’s servant, expelled, hiding in the desert, sentenced to death, destined for execution – he abased himself and raised David up: You will be king, he said, and I will be next below you in rank.
  What an excellent example of true friendship! What a wonder! The king was raging against his servant and stirring up the whole country as if against a pretender to the throne. He accuses priests of treachery and has them killed on the mere suspicion – he has the forests and the valleys searched – he posts armed guards on cliffs and mountains. Everyone swears to punish the object of the king’s anger; but Jonathan, who alone has the right to envy the designated successor to the throne – Jonathan chose to resist his father, keep his friend supplied with news, give him counsel in his adversity. Thinking it better to be a friend than a king: You will be king, he said, and I will be next below you in rank.
  See how the father tried to make the young man envy his friend, how he goaded him with insults, threatened him with dispossession, and warned him of the honors he would lose. But even when Saul had condemned David to death, Jonathan did not fail his friend. “Why should David die? What has he done wrong? What has he done? It was he who took his life in his hands and struck down the Philistine – you rejoiced, then. So why should he die?”
  At these words the king was beside himself with rage and tried to pin Jonathan to the wall with his spear, pouring out new insults and threats. “Son of a wanton and lascivious woman! I know that you love him, to your own shame and the shame of your shameless mother!” Then he poured out on the young man all the venom he had in him. He tried to stir up ambition and envy, bitterness and jealousy in Jonathan’s breast: As long as the son of Jesse lives, your kingdom cannot be established.
  Who would not have been moved to jealousy by these words? Whose love would not have been corrupted, grace diminished, friendship wiped out? But this most loving youth held fast to the oaths of friendship he had sworn, stood up to the threats, endured the insults, and disdained the kingdom for the sake of friendship, careless of the glory he would miss but mindful of the integrity he would keep. You will be king, he said, and I will be next below you in rank.
  Here is a true and perfect friendship, solid and eternal: a friendship that envy does not corrupt, suspicion does not diminish or ambition wipe out. It does not cease even under such a trial; even under such a battering it does not collapse. Assailed with abuse, it stands firm; beaten with insults, it does not bend. Go thou, and do likewise.

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Saint Aloysius Gonzaga, Religious

A letter from St Aloysius Gonzaga to his mother
God's mercies shall be my song for ever
May the comfort and grace of the Holy Spirit be yours for ever, most honoured lady. Your letter found me lingering still in this region of the dead, but now I must rouse myself to make my way on to heaven at last and to praise God for ever in the land of the living; indeed I had hoped that before this time my journey there would have been over. If charity, as Saint Paul says, means to weep with those who weep and rejoice with those who are glad, then, dearest mother, you shall rejoice exceedingly that God in his grace and his love for you is showing me the path to true happiness, and assuring me that I shall never lose him.
Aloysius, a young boy
  The divine goodness, most honoured lady, is a fathomless and shoreless ocean, and I confess that when I plunge my mind into thought of this it is carried away by the immensity and feels quite lost and bewildered there. In return for my short and feeble labours, God is calling me to eternal rest; his voice from heaven invites me to the infinite bliss I have sought so languidly, and promises me this reward for the tears I have so seldom shed.
  Take care above all things, most honoured lady, not to insult God’s boundless loving kindness; you would certainly do this if you mourned as dead one living face to face with God, one whose prayers can bring you in your troubles more powerful aid than they ever could on earth. And our parting will not be for long; we shall see each other again in heaven; we shall be united with our Saviour; there we shall praise him with heart and soul, sing of his mercies for ever, and enjoy eternal happiness. When he takes away what he once lent us, his purpose is to store our treasure elsewhere more safely and bestow on us those very blessings that we ourselves would most choose to have.
  I write all this with the one desire that you and all my family may consider my departure a joy and favour and that you especially may speed with a mother’s blessing my passage across the waters till I reach the shore to which all hopes belong. I write the more willingly because I have no clearer way of expressing the love and respect I owe you as your son.

Monday, June 20, 2011

Monday of the 12th week in Ordinary time

A treatise on Christian Perfection by St Gregory of Nyssa
     The Christian is another Christ
More than anyone, St Paul understood who Christ is and those requirements needed by the person named after him. Paul spoke of what he himself had accomplished and accurately imitated him in a manner to show the Lord expressed in his own person. By careful imitation Paul became a model so that it is no longer he who is perceived as living and speaking, but Christ who lives in him. Knowing his own blessings, that good man said You seek proof that Christ is speaking in me and, elsewhere, It is no longer I who live but Christ who lives in me.
  Paul’s words show us the significance of Christ’s name, when he said that Christ is the power and wisdom of God. But he also called Christ: peace; the inaccessible light where God dwells; our sanctification and redemption; the great high priest; our Passover and our sacrifice of expiation; the brightness of glory; the very image of God’s substance; the creator of the ages; our spiritual food and drink; the rock and the water; the foundation of faith; the chief cornerstone; the image of the great and invisible God; the head of his body, the Church; the first-born of the new creation and the first-fruits of those who have fallen asleep; the first-born from the dead, the first-born among many brothers; the mediator between God and man; the only-begotten Son crowned with honour and glory; the Lord of glory; the beginning of all things; the King of justice, but not only of justice but also the King of peace and the King of all things, the King whose kingdom is boundless.
  Paul gave all these names to Christ and many others too: so many that they cannot easily be counted. But they are all related, and if you understand the meaning of each of them on its own and put those meanings together then you will come to understand the full meaning of that one word “Christ” and that will show you – as far as the human soul is able to comprehend it – God’s inexpressible greatness.
  The good Lord has granted us the privilege of sharing in this, the greatest, most divine and chief of all names, so that, honoured by the name of Christ, we are called “Christians.” So then we must ensure that in us are seen all the meanings of the name of Christ, so that our title is not false and meaningless but is borne out by our lives.

Sunday, June 19, 2011

Most Holy Trinity

A letter by St Athanasius
Light, radiance and grace are in the Trinity and from the Trinity
It will not be out of place to consider the ancient tradition, teaching and faith of the Catholic Church, which was revealed by the Lord, proclaimed by the apostles and guarded by the fathers. For upon this faith the Church is built, and if anyone were to lapse from it, he would no longer be a Christian either in fact or in name.
  We acknowledge the Trinity, holy and perfect, to consist of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit. In this Trinity there is no intrusion of any alien element or of anything from outside, nor is the Trinity a blend of creative and created being. It is a wholly creative and energizing reality, self-consistent and undivided in its active power, for the Father makes all things through the Word and in the Holy Spirit, and in this way the unity of the holy Trinity is preserved. Accordingly, in the Church, one God is preached, one God who is above all things and through all things and in all things. God is above all things as Father, for he is principle and source; he is through all things through the Word; and he is in all things in the Holy Spirit.
  Writing to the Corinthians about spiritual matters, Paul traces all reality back to one God, the Father, saying: Now there are varieties of gifts, but the same Spirit; and there are varieties of service but the same Lord; and there are varieties of working, but it is the same God who inspires them all in everyone.
  Even the gifts that the Spirit dispenses to individuals are given by the Father through the Word. For all that belongs to the Father belongs also to the Son, and so the graces given by the Son in the Spirit are true gifts of the Father. Similarly, when the Spirit dwells in us, the Word who bestows the Spirit is in us too, and the Father is present in the Word. This is the meaning of the text: My Father and I will come to him and make our home with him. For where the light is, there also is the radiance; and where the radiance is, there too are its power and its resplendent grace.
  This is also Paul’s teaching in his second letter to the Corinthians: The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ and the love of God and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with you all. For grace and the gift of the Trinity are given by the Father through the Son in the Holy Spirit. Just as grace is given from the Father through the Son, so there could be no communication of the gift to us except in the Holy Spirit. But when we share in the Spirit, we possess the love of the Father, the grace of the Son and the fellowship of the Spirit himself.

Saturday, June 18, 2011

Saturday of week 11 in ordinary time

St Cyprian's treatise on the Lord's Prayer
We must not pray in words only, but with deeds.
Why should we be surprised, beloved brethren, that this is the nature of the prayer that God taught, seeing that he condensed all our prayer into one saving sentence of his teaching? This had already been foretold by the prophet Isaiah, who, filled with the Holy Spirit, spoke of the majesty and loving kindness of God: completing and shortening his word in righteousness, because God will make a shortened word in the whole earth. For when the word of God, that is, our Lord Jesus Christ, came to all of us, bringing together the learned and the unlearned, and gave the precepts of salvation to those of every age and sex, he made a compendium of his precepts, so that his pupils’ memories should not be burdened by the heavenly teaching but might quickly learn what was necessary for a simple faith.
  Thus, when he taught what eternal life was, he wrapped up the sacrament of life in an all-embracing and divine brevity, saying: This is eternal life, to know you, the one true God, and Jesus Christ, whom you have sent. And also, when he had to gather from the law and the prophets the first and greatest commandments, he said: 

Hear, O Israel: the Lord your God is one God, and you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your mind, and with all your strength. This is the first commandment; and the second is like it: you shall love your neighbour as yourself. On these two commandments hang all the law and all the prophets. And again: Whatever good you wish men to do to you, do it to them: for this is the law and the prophets.
  It was not only in words that God taught us to pray, but in actions as well, for he himself prayed frequently and imploringly, showing us his example so that we should follow it, as it is written: But he himself went off to a solitary place and prayed; or, He went out onto the mountain to pray, and continued all night praying to God.
  The Lord prayed and beseeched not for himself – for what reason has the guiltless one to pray for himself? – but for our sins, as he made clear when he said to Peter, See, Satan wants to sift you as if you were wheat: but I have prayed for you so that your faith should not fail. Later, too, he beseeches the Father for all people, saying: I do not pray for these alone, but also for those who will believe in me through their words: may they all be one. As you, Father, are in me, and I in you, so may they also be one in us. God’s mercy and desire for our salvation are so great that he is not content to redeem us with his blood, but also prays for us over and over again. And now you should see what it was he was praying for: that just as the Father and the Son are one, so too we should be part of that same unity.

Friday, June 17, 2011

Friday of the 11th week in ordinary time

St Cyprian's treatise on the Lord's Prayer
As God's children, let us remain in the peace of God.
Christ has clearly added a law here, binding us to a definite condition, that we should ask for our debts to be forgiven us only as much as we ourselves forgive our debtors, knowing that we cannot obtain what we seek in respect of our own sins unless we ourselves have acted in exactly the same way to those who have sinned against us. This is why he says in another place: By whatever standard you measure, by that standard will you too be measured. And the servant who had all his debt forgiven him by his master but would not forgive his fellow-servant was cast into prison: because he would not forgive his fellow-servant, he lost the indulgence that his master had granted him.
  And Christ makes this point even more strongly in his teaching: When you stand up to pray, he says, if you have anything against anyone, forgive it, so that your Father who is in heaven may forgive your sins. But if you do not forgive, nor will your Father in heaven forgive you. On the day of judgement there are no possible excuses: you will be judged according to your own sentence, and whatever you have inflicted, that is what you will suffer.
  For God commands us to be peacemakers, and to agree, and to be of one mind in his house. What he has made us by the second birth he wishes us to continue during our infancy, that we who have begun to be children of God may abide in his peace, and that having one spirit we should also have one heart and one mind. Thus God does not accept the sacrifice of one who is in disagreement but commands him to go back from the altar and first be reconciled with his brother, so that God may be placated by the prayers of a peacemaker. Our peace and concord are the greatest possible sacrifice to God – a people united in the unity of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.
Cain and Abel
  Not even when Abel and Cain were making the first sacrifice – not even then did God pay attention to their gifts. He looked into their hearts, and the gift that was acceptable was the one offered by the one who was acceptable in his heart. Abel, peaceable and righteous in sacrificing in innocence to God, taught the rest of us that when we bring our gift to the altar we should come, like him, with the fear of God, with a heart free of deceit, with the law of righteousness, with the peace of concord. He sacrificed in such a way, and so he was worthy to become, afterwards, himself a sacrifice to God: he who bore witness through the first martyrdom, who initiated the Lord’s passion by the glory of his blood, had both the Lord’s righteousness and the Lord’s peace. Such are those who are crowned by the Lord at the end; such are those who will sit and judge with him on the day of judgement.
  But he who quarrels and stirs up discord, he who is not at peace with his brethren – the Apostle and holy Scripture together testify that even if he meets death for the sake of Christ’s name, he will still be held guilty of fraternal dissension, for it is written, whoever hates his brother is a murderer, and the murderer cannot attain the kingdom of heaven or abide with God. No-one can be with Christ who preferred to imitate Judas rather than Christ.

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Thursday of the 11th week in ordinary time

St Cyprian's treatise on the Lord's Prayer
After the support of bread, we ask for the forgiveness of sins
As the prayer continues, we ask Give us this day our daily bread. This can be understood both spiritually and literally, because either way of understanding is rich in divine usefulness to our salvation. For Christ is the bread of life, and this bread does not belong to anyone at all, but to us. And so, just as we say Our Father, because he is the father of those who understand and believe, so also we call it our bread, because Christ is the bread of us who come into contact with his body.
  We ask that this bread should be given to us daily, that we who are in Christ and daily receive the Eucharist as the food of salvation may not be prevented, by the interposition of some heinous sin, from partaking of the heavenly bread and be separated from Christ’s body, for as he says: I am the bread of life which came down from heaven. If anyone eats of my bread, he will live for ever; and the bread I shall give is my flesh, for the life of the world.
  So when he says that whoever eats of his bread will live for ever; and as it is clear that those are indeed living who partake of his body and, having the right of communion, receive the Eucharist, so, on the other hand, we must fear and pray lest anyone should be kept at a distance from salvation who, being withheld from communion, remains separate from Christ’s body. For he has given us this warning: Unless you eat the flesh of the Son of man and drink his blood, you will have no life in you. And therefore we ask that our bread – that is, Christ – may be given to us daily, so that we who live in Christ may not depart from his sanctification and his body.
  After this we entreat for our sins, saying Forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors. After the supply of food, pardon of sin is also asked for.
  How necessary, how provident, how salutary are we reminded that we are sinners, since we have to beg for forgiveness, and while we ask for God’s pardon, we are reminded of our own consciousness of guilt! Just in case anyone should think himself innocent and, by thus exalting himself, should more utterly perish, he is taught and instructed that he sins every day, since he is commanded to pray daily for forgiveness.
  This is what John warns us in his epistle: If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us; but if we confess our sins, the Lord is faithful and just and will forgive us. In his epistle he combines two things, both that we ought to beg for mercy because of our sins and that we will receive forgiveness when we ask for it. This is why he says that the Lord is faithful to forgive sins, keeping faith with what he promised; because he who taught us to pray for our debts and sins has promised that his fatherly mercy and pardon will follow.

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Wednesday of the 11th week in ordinary time

St Cyprian's treatise on the Lord's Prayer
Thy kingdom come
The prayer continues: Thy kingdom come. We ask that the kingdom of God may appear to us, just as we ask that his name may be sanctified in us. For when does God not reign, or when does his kingdom begin, for it always has been and never ceases to be? We are praying that our kingdom, which has been promised to us by God, may come, the kingdom that was acquired by the blood and passion of Christ; and that we who started off as his subjects in this world may hereafter reign with Christ when he reigns, as he himself promised when he said: Come, you whom my Father has blessed, take up the kingdom which has been prepared for you from the beginning of the world.
Come, you blessed of my Father
  But it may be, dearest brethren, that Christ himself is the kingdom of God, for whose coming we daily ask. For since he himself is our resurrection, since in him we rise again, so also the kingdom of God may be understood to be himself, since it is in him that we shall reign. We do well to ask for the coming of the kingdom of God – that is, the heavenly kingdom – for there is also an earthly kingdom, and he who has already renounced this world is greater than any of its honours or powers.
  We add: Thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven. This is not that God should do what he wills, but so that we may be able to do what God wills. For who could resist God in such a way as to prevent him doing what he wills? But since the devil hinders us from obeying, by thought and by deed, God’s will in all things, we pray and ask that God’s will may be done in us. For this to happen, we need God’s good will – that is, his help and protection, since no-one is strong in and of himself but is kept safe by the grace and mercy of God. Moreover, the Lord, showing the weakness of the humanity which he bore, said Father, if it is possible, let this cup pass from me, and showing his disciples an example, that they should do not their own will but God’s, he went on to say nevertheless, let it not be my will, but yours.
  But it is the will of God that Christ both did and taught. Humility in dealings with others; steadfastness in faith; modesty in words; justice in deeds; mercifulness in works; discipline in morals. To be unable to do a wrong, and to be able to bear a wrong when it is done; to keep peace with the brethren; to love God with all one’s heart; to love God because he is a Father but fear him because he is God; to prefer nothing whatever to Christ because he preferred nothing to us; to adhere inseparably to his love; to stand faithfully and bravely by his cross; when there is any conflict over his name and honour, to exhibit in discourse that steadfastness in which we proclaim him; in torture, to show that confidence in which we unite; in death, that patience in which we are crowned – this is what it means to want to be co-heirs with Christ, this is what it means to do what God commands, this is what it is to fulfil the will of the Father.

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Tuesday of week 11 in ordinary time

St Cyprian's treatise on the Lord's Prayer
Hallowed be thy name
How great is the Lord’s indulgence! How kindly he bends down to us, how he overflows with goodness towards us! For he wishes us to pray in the sight of God in such a way as to call God Father and to call ourselves sons of God, just as Christ is the Son of God. No-one would have dared to claim such a name in prayer, unless he himself had given us permission to pray this. And so, beloved brethren, we should know and remember that when we call God our Father, we must behave as children of God, so that whatever pleasure we take in having God for our Father, he may take the same pleasure in us.
  Let us behave like temples of God, so that it may be clear that God dwells in us. Let our doings not fall away from the Spirit, but let us, who have begun to be heavenly and spiritual, consider and do nothing but heavenly and spiritual things. As the Lord God himself has said: Those who honour me, I will honour them; but those who despise me will be despised. And the blessed apostle has also said in his letters: You are not your own property: you have been bought at a great price. Glorify God and carry him in your bodies.
  After this we say Hallowed be thy name. This is not because we want God to be made holy by our prayers: what we are asking God is that his name should be hallowed within us. After all, how can anything be needed to sanctify God, who himself is the source of sanctity? But because he says be holy, as I am holy, we ask and beg of him that we, who have been sanctified in baptism, may continue in that which we have begun to be. And this we pray daily, for our need is for daily sanctification so that we who daily fall away may wash away our crimes by continual sanctification.
  As for the nature of the sanctification that comes to us from God, the Apostle tells us when he says: They will not inherit the kingdom of God, who fornicate, or worship idols, or commit adultery; catamites or sodomites, thieves, cheats, drunkards, slanderers or extortioners. You were like this once, but you were washed, you were justified, you were made holy in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and in the Spirit of our God. He says that we are sanctified in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God. We pray that this sanctification may remain with us; and because our Lord and Judge warns the man who was healed and given life by him not to sin again, lest something worse happen to him, we make this prayer without ceasing, we beg for it day and night, that the sanctification and life that comes from God may be preserved by his protection.

Monday, June 13, 2011

Saint Anthony of Padua, Priest and Doctor

A sermon by St Antony of Padua
     Actions speak louder than words
The man who is filled with the Holy Spirit speaks in different languages. These different languages are different ways of witnessing to Christ, such as humility, poverty, patience and obedience; we speak in those languages when we reveal in ourselves these virtues to others. Actions speak louder than words; let your words teach and your actions speak. We are full of words but empty of actions, and therefore are cursed by the Lord, since he himself cursed the fig tree when he found no fruit but only leaves. Gregory says: “A law is laid upon the preacher to practice what he preaches.” It is useless for a man to flaunt his knowledge of the law if he undermines its teaching by his actions.
  But the apostles spoke as the Spirit gave them the gift of speech. Happy the man whose words issue from the Holy Spirit and not from himself! For some men speak as their own character dictates, but steal the words of others and present them as their own and claim the credit for them. The Lord refers to such men and others like them in Jeremiah: So, then, I have a quarrel with the prophets that steal my words from each other. I have a quarrel with the prophets, says the Lord, who have only to move their tongues to utter oracles. I have a quarrel with the prophets who make prophecies out of lying dreams, who recount them and lead my people astray with their lies and their pretensions. I certainly never sent them or commissioned them, and they serve no good purpose for this people, says the Lord.
  We should speak, then, as the Holy Spirit gives us the gift of speech. Our humble and sincere request to the Spirit for ourselves should be that we may bring the day of Pentecost to fulfillment, insofar as he infuses us with his grace, by using our bodily senses in a perfect manner and by keeping the commandments. Likewise we shall request that we may be filled with a keen sense of sorrow and with fiery tongues for confessing the faith, so that our deserved reward may be to stand in the blazing splendor of the saints and to look upon the triune God.

Sunday, June 12, 2011


A treatise "Against the Heresies" by St Irenaeus
       The sending of the Holy Spirit
When the Lord told his disciples to go and teach all nations and baptize them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, he conferred on them the power of giving men new life in God.
  He had promised through the prophets that in these last days he would pour out his Spirit on his servants and handmaids, and that they would prophesy. So when the Son of God became the Son of Man, the Spirit also descended upon him, becoming accustomed in this way to dwelling with the human race, to living in men and to inhabiting God’s creation. The Spirit accomplished the Father’s will in men who had grown old in sin, and gave them new life in Christ.
  Luke says that the Spirit came down on the disciples at Pentecost, after the Lord’s ascension, with power to open the gates of life to all nations and to make known to them the new covenant. So it was that men of every language joined in singing one song of praise to God, and scattered tribes, restored to unity by the Spirit, were offered to the Father as the first-fruits of all the nations.
  This was why the Lord had promised to send the Advocate: he was to prepare us as an offering to God. Like dry flour, which cannot become one lump of dough, one loaf of bread, without moisture, we who are many could not become one in Christ Jesus without the water that comes down from heaven. And like parched ground, which yields no harvest unless it receives moisture, we who were once like a waterless tree could never have lived and borne fruit without this abundant rainfall from above. Through the baptism that liberates us from change and decay we have become one in body; through the Spirit we have become one in soul.
  The Spirit of wisdom and understanding, the Spirit of counsel and strength, the Spirit of knowledge and the fear of God came down upon the Lord, and the Lord in turn gave this Spirit to his Church, sending the Advocate from heaven into all the world into which, according to his own words, the devil too had been cast down like lightning.
  If we are not to be scorched and made unfruitful, we need the dew of God. Since we have our accuser, we need an advocate as well. And so the Lord in his pity for man, who had fallen into the hands of brigands, having himself bound up his wounds and left for his care two coins bearing the royal image, entrusted him to the Holy Spirit. Now, through the Spirit, the image and inscription of the Father and the Son have been given to us, and it is our duty to use the coin committed to our charge and make it yield a rich profit for the Lord.