Sunday, July 31, 2011

18th Sunday in Ordinary time

From the beginning of a letter attributed to Barnabas
Hope of life is the beginning and end of our faith
Saint Barnabas
Greetings, sons and daughters. In the name of the Lord who loves us, peace be to you.
  Because the Lord has granted you an abundance of blessings, I rejoice immeasurably in your blessed and glorious company.
  You have received abundantly that indwelling grace which is the Spirit’s gift, and for this reason I hope in my own salvation and I give thanks all the more when I see the bountiful fullness of the Lord’s Spirit pouring over you. I have longed so much for you that when I saw you I was overwhelmed.
  I am now convinced and fully aware that I have learned much by speaking with you, for the Lord accompanied me on the road to righteousness, and so I am driven in all ways to love you more than my own life. For surely there is a great store of faith and charity within you because of your hope for life in Christ. Therefore, I have been thinking that if my concern for you inspires me to pass on to you a portion of what I have received, then I will be rewarded for ministering to souls such as yours. Consequently, I am writing you, that you may have perfect knowledge along with your faith.
  The Lord has given us these three basic doctrines: hope for eternal life, the beginning and end of our faith; justice, the beginning and end of righteousness; and love, which bears cheerful and joyous witness to the works of righteousness. Now the Lord has made the past and present known to us through his prophets, and he has given us the ability to taste the fruits of the future beforehand. Thus, when we see prophecies fulfilled in their appointed order, we ought to grow more fully and deeply in awe of him. Let me suggest a few things – not as a teacher, but as one of you – which should bring you joy in the present situation.
  When evil days are upon us and the worker of malice gains power, we must attend to our own souls and seek to know the ways of the Lord. In those times reverential fear and perseverance will sustain our faith, and we will find need of forbearance and self-restraint as well. Provided that we hold fast to these virtues and look to the Lord, then wisdom, understanding, knowledge and insight will make joyous company with them.
  Truly, the Lord has revealed to us through the prophets that he has no need of sacrifice, burnt offerings or oblations. He says in one place: Your endless sacrifices, what are they to me? says the Lord. I have had my fill of holocausts; I do not want the fat of your lambs, nor the blood of your bulls and goats, nor your presence in my sight. Indeed, who has made these demands of you? No more will you trample my courts. Your sacrifices of fine flour are in vain; your incense is loathsome to me; I cannot bear your feasts of the new moon, nor your sabbaths.

Saturday, July 30, 2011

Saturday of week 17 in ordinary time

From a letter to Polycarp by Saint Ignatius of Antioch, bishop and martyr
Let everything be done for God's honor

 
Avoid evil practices: indeed, preach against them. Tell my sisters to love the Lord and be content with their husbands in the flesh and in the spirit, and in the same way bid my brothers in Christ’s name to love their wives as the Lord loves his Church. If anyone can remain chaste in honor of the Savior's flesh, then let him do so without boasting. For if he boasts of it, he is lost; and if he thinks himself for this reason better than the bishop, he is lost. Those who marry should be united with the bishop’s approval, so that the marriage may follow God’s will and not merely the prompting of the flesh. Let everything be done for God’s honor.
  Hear your bishop, that God may hear you. My life is a sacrifice for those who are obedient to the bishop, the presbyters and the deacons; and may it be my lot to share with them in God. Work together in harmony: struggle together, run together, suffer together, rest together, rise together, as stewards, advisers and servants of God. Seek to please him whose soldiers you are and from whom you draw your pay; let none of you prove a deserter. Let your baptism be your armor, your faith your helmet, your charity your spear, your patience your panoply. Let your good works be your deposits, so that you may draw out well-earned savings. So be patient and gentle with one another, as God is with you. May I have joy in you for ever!
  Since I have heard that the church of Antioch in Syria is in peace through your prayers, I too am more tranquil in my reliance upon God. If only I may find my way to God through my passion and at the resurrection prove to be your disciple! My most blessed Polycarp, you should convene a godly council and appoint someone whom you consider dear and especially diligent to be called God’s courier and to have the honor of going into Syria and advancing God’s glory by speaking of your untiring charity. A Christian is not his own master: his time is God’s. This is God’s work, and it will be yours as well when you have performed it. I have trust in the grace of God that you are ready to act generously when it comes to God’s work. Since I knew so well your zeal for truth, I have limited my appeal to these few words.
  I could not write to all the churches because I am sailing at once from Troas to Neapolis, as is required of me. I want you, therefore, as one who knows God’s purpose, to write to the churches of the East and bid them to follow the same procedure. Those who can should send representatives, while the rest should send letters through the messengers you have sent. Thus your community will be honored for a good work of eternal value, as you yourself deserve.
  I wish all of you well for ever in Jesus Christ; through him may you all remain in God’s unity and in his care. Farewell in the Lord!

Friday, July 29, 2011

Saint Martha

From a sermon by Saint Augustine
Blessed are they who deserved to receive Christ in their homes
Our Lord’s words teach us that though we labour among the many distractions of this world, we should have but one goal. For we are but travelers on a journey without as yet a fixed abode; we are on our way, not yet in our native land; we are in a state of longing, not yet of enjoyment. But let us continue on our way, and continue without sloth or respite, so that we may ultimately arrive at our destination.
  Martha and Mary were sisters, related not only by blood but also by religious aspirations. They stayed close to our Lord and both served him harmoniously when he was among them. Martha welcomed him as travelers are welcomed. But in her case, the maidservant received her Lord, the invalid her Savior, the creature her Creator, to serve him bodily food while she was to be fed by the Spirit. For the Lord willed to put on the form of a slave, and under this form to be fed by his own servants, out of condescension and not out of need. For this was indeed condescension, to present himself to be fed; since he was in the flesh he would indeed be hungry and thirsty.
  Thus was the Lord received as a guest who came unto his own and his own received him not; but as many as received him, he gave them the power to become sons of God, adopting those who were servants and making them his brothers, ransoming the captives and making them his co-heirs. No one of you should say: “Blessed are they who have deserved to receive Christ into their homes!” Do not grieve or complain that you were born in a time when you can no longer see God in the flesh. He did not in fact take this privilege from you. As he says: Whatever you have done to the least of my brothers, you did to me.
  But you, Martha, if I may say so, are blessed for your good service, and for your labors you seek the reward of peace. Now you are much occupied in nourishing the body, admittedly a holy one. But when you come to the heavenly homeland will you find a traveler to welcome, someone hungry to feed, or thirsty to whom you may give drink, someone ill whom you could visit, or quarreling whom you could reconcile, or dead whom you could bury?
  No, there will be none of these tasks there. What you will find there is what Mary chose. There we shall not feed others, we ourselves shall be fed. Thus what Mary chose in this life will be realized there in all its fullness; she was gathering fragments from that rich banquet, the Word of God. Do you wish to know what we will have there? The Lord himself tells us when he says of his servants, Amen, I say to you, he will make them recline and passing he will serve them.

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Thursday of the 17th week in ordinary time

The Catecheses of St Cyril of Jerusalem
The Church, the bride of Christ
The Church is called ‘Catholic’: such is the proper name of the holy Church which is the mother of us all. She is also the bride of our Lord Jesus Christ, the only-begotten Son of God (for it is written in the scripture, ‘Christ loved the Church and gave himself up for her,’ and so on). Moreover she fulfills the type and carries out the pattern of the Jerusalem which is from above, which is free and the mother of us all. Though she was at first childless, she is now the parent of a mighty family.
  After the former Church had been rejected, in the second, that is, the Catholic Church, God has appointed, as Paul says, first apostles, second prophets, third teachers, then workers of miracles, then healers, helpers, administrators, speakers in various kinds of tongues and every type of virtue: I mean wisdom and intelligence, self-control and justice, mercy and humanity, and invincible endurance in persecution.
  However, by the armor of righteousness on the right hand and on the left, through honor and dishonor, first in persecutions and distress she wreathed her sacred martyrs with crowns of endurance interwoven with manifold and varied flowers; now in times of peace, she receives by the grace of God due honor from kings and men of rank, in a word from every sort and kind of person. And though the kings of nations spread round the world have limits to their sovereignty, it is the holy Catholic Church alone which in the whole earth rejoices in unlimited sovereignty; as it is written, God ‘has appointed peace as his boundary.’
  In this holy Catholic Church, formed by its teaching and living as we ought, we shall possess the kingdom of heaven and inherit eternal life. For the sake of this we endure everything, that we may gain that life from the Lord. We have no modest aim, but the gaining of eternal life; that is the object of our striving. For this reason we are taught in the Creed that after ‘And in the resurrection of the flesh’ that is, of the dead, which we have already discussed, we affirm our belief ‘in life everlasting’. This is the object of our efforts as Christians.
  Therefore, the Father is life really and truly. Through the Son he pours forth upon all in the Holy Spirit the gifts of heaven as from a fountain, and in his kindness to us men he has promised truly to each the good gift of eternal life.

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Wednesday of the 17th week in ordinary time

From the Instructions to Catechumens by St Cyril of Jerusalem
Saint Cyril

The Church, the assembly of God's people
 
The Catholic, or universal, Church gets her name from the fact that she is scattered through the whole world from the one end of the earth to the other, and also because she teaches universally and without omission all the doctrines which are to be made known to mankind, whether concerned with visible or invisible things, with heavenly or earthly things. Then again because she teaches one way of worship to all men, nobles or commoners, learned or simple; finally because she universally cures and heals every sort of sin which is committed by soul and body. Moreover there is in her every kind of virtue in words and deeds and spiritual gifts of every sort.
  The Church, that is, the assembly, is designated by this apt term, because it assembles all and brings them together, as the Lord says in Leviticus: Assemble all the congregation at the door of the tent of meeting. Moreover it is worth noting that this word ‘assemble’ is first used in scripture in the place where the Lord appointed Aaron to the high priesthood. And in Deuteronomy God says to Moses: Assemble the people that they may hear my words, that they may learn to fear me. He mentions the Church or assembly again when he speaks of the tables of the law. In them were written all the words which the Lord spoke with you on the mountain, out of the midst of the fire, on the day of the Church or assembly – or to put it more clearly, On the day on which you were called by the Lord and assembled together. The psalmist also says: I will give you thanks, O Lord, in the great Church, in the gathering of the throng I will praise you.
  Earlier the psalmist had sung: Bless the Lord in the Church, bless God, you who are Israel’s sons. The second Church the Saviour built from the Gentiles, our holy Church of the Christians, of which he said to Peter: On this rock I will build my Church, and the powers of death shall not prevail against it.
  After the particular Church of Judea was repudiated, many Churches of Christ are now multiplied throughout the whole world, of which it is written in the psalms: Sing to the Lord a new song, let his praise be in the Church of the saints. Echoing this the prophet said to the Jews: I have no pleasure in you, says the Lord of Hosts and immediately adds, For from the rising of the sun to its setting my name is great among the nations. About the same holy Catholic Church Paul writes to Timothy: That you may know how one ought to live in the household of God, which is the Church of the living God, the pillar and bulwark of the truth.

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Saint Joachim and Saint Ann, Parents of the Blessed Virgin Mary

From a sermon by Saint John Damascene, bishop
By their fruits you will know them
Joachim and Ann
Anne was to be the mother of the Virgin Mother of God, and hence nature did not dare to anticipate the flowering of grace. Thus nature remained sterile, until grace produced its fruit. For she who was to be born had to be a first born daughter, since she would be the mother of the first-born of all creation, in whom all things are held together.
  Joachim and Anne, how blessed a couple! All creation is indebted to you. For at your hands the Creator was offered a gift excelling all other gifts: a chaste mother, who alone was worthy of him.
  And so rejoice, Anne, that you were sterile and have not borne children; break forth into shouts, you who have not given birth. Rejoice, Joachim, because from your daughter a child is born for us, a son is given us, whose name is Messenger of great counsel and universal salvation, mighty God. For this child is God.
  Joachim and Anne, how blessed and spotless a couple! You will be known by the fruit you have borne, as the Lord says: By their fruits you will know them. The conduct of your life pleased God and was worthy of your daughter. For by the chaste and holy life you led together, you have fashioned a jewel of virginity: she who remained a virgin before, during and after giving birth. She alone for all time would maintain her virginity in mind and soul as well as in body.
  Joachim and Anne, how chaste a couple! While safeguarding the chastity prescribed by the law of nature, you achieved with God’s help something which transcends nature in giving the world the Virgin Mother of God as your daughter. While leading a devout and holy life in your human nature, you gave birth to a daughter nobler than the angels, whose queen she now is. Girl of utter beauty and delight, daughter of Adam and mother of God, blessed the loins and blessed the womb from which you come! Blessed the arms that carried you, and blessed your parents’ lips, which you were allowed to cover with chaste kisses, ever maintaining your virginity. Rejoice in God, all the earth. Sing, exult and sing hymns. Raise your voice, raise it and not be afraid.

Sunday, July 24, 2011

FEAST of Saint James, Apostle

From a homily on Matthew by Saint John Chrysostom, bishop
   Sharers in the suffering of Christ
The sons of Zebedee press Christ: Promise that one may sit at your right side and the other at your left. What does he do? He wants to show them that it is not a spiritual gift for which they are asking, and that if they knew what their request involved, they would never dare make it. So he says: You do not know what you are asking, that is, what a great and splendid thing it is and how much beyond the reach even of the heavenly powers. Then he continues: Can you drink the cup which I must drink and be baptized with the baptism which I must undergo? He is saying: “You talk of sharing honors and rewards with me, but I must talk of struggle and toil. Now is not the time for rewards or the time for my glory to be revealed. Earthly life is the time for bloodshed, war and danger.”
  Consider how by his manner of questioning he exhorts and draws them. He does not say: “Can you face being slaughtered? Can you shed your blood?” How does he put his question? Can you drink the cup? Then he makes it attractive by adding: which I must drink, so that the prospect of sharing it with him may make them more eager. He also calls his suffering a baptism, to show that it will effect a great cleansing of the entire world. The disciples answer him: We can! Fervour makes them answer promptly, though they really do not know what they are saying but still think they will receive what they ask for.
  How does Christ reply? You will indeed drink my cup and be baptized with my baptism. He is really prophesying a great blessing for them, since he is telling them: “You will be found worthy of martyrdom; you will suffer what I suffer and end your life with a violent death, thus sharing all with me. But seats at my right and left are not mine to give; they belong to those for whom the Father has prepared them.” Thus, after lifting their minds to higher goals and preparing them to meet and overcome all that will make them desolate, he sets them straight on their request.
  Then the other ten became angry at the two brothers. See how imperfect they all are: the two who tried to get ahead of the other ten, and the ten who were jealous of the two! But, as I said before, show them to me at a later date in their lives, and you will see that all these impulses and feelings have disappeared. Read how John, the very man who here asks for the first place, will always yield to Peter when it comes to preaching and performing miracles in the Acts of the Apostles. James, for his part, was not to live very much longer; for from the beginning he was inspired by great fervor and, setting aside all purely human goals, rose to such splendid heights that he straightway suffered martyrdom.

17th Sunday in Ordinary time

From a homily on the 2nd letter to the Corinthians by Saint John Chrysostom, bishop
I rejoice exceedingly in all my tribulations
Again Paul turns to speak of love, softening the harshness of his rebuke. For after convicting and reproaching them for not loving him as he had loved them, breaking away from his love and attaching themselves to troublemakers, he again takes the edge off the reproach by saying: Open your hearts to us, that is, love us. He asks for a favor which will be no burden to them but will be more profitable to the giver than to the receiver. And he did not use the word “love” but said, more appealingly: Open your hearts to us.
  Who, he said, has cast us out of your minds, thrust us from your hearts? How is it that you feel constraint with us? For, since he has said earlier: You are restricted in your own affection, he now declares himself more openly and says: Open your heart to us, thus once more drawing them to him. For nothing so much wins love as the knowledge that one’s lover desires most of all to be himself loved.
  For I said before, he tells them, that you are in our hearts to die together or live together. This is love at its height, that even though in disfavour, he wishes both to die and to live with them. For you are in our hearts, not just somehow or other, but in the way I have said. It is possible to love and yet to draw back when danger threatens; but my love is not like that.
  I am filled with consolation. What consolation? That which comes from you because you, being changed for the better, have consoled me by what you have done. It is natural for a lover both to complain that he is not loved in return and to fear that he may cause distress by complaining too much. Therefore, he says: I am filled with consolation, I rejoice exceedingly.
  It is as if he said, I was much grieved on your account, but you have made it up for me in full measure and given me comfort; for you have not only removed the cause for any grief but filled me with a richer joy.
  Then he shows the greatness of that joy by saying not only I rejoice exceedingly but also the words which follow: in all my tribulations. So great, he says, was the delight that you gave me that it was not even dimmed by so much tribulation, but overcame by its strength and keenness all those sorrows which had invaded my heart, and took away from me all awareness of them.

Saturday, July 23, 2011

Saturday of the 16th week in Ordinary St. Bridget of Sweden

From a homily on the 2nd letter to the Corinthians by Saint John Chrysostom, bishop
Our heart is enlarged
Our heart is enlarged. For as heat makes things expand, so it is the work of love to expand the heart, for its power is to heat and make fervent. It is this that opened Paul’s lips and enlarged his heart. For I do not love only in words; he means, but my loving heart too is in unison with my words; and so I speak with confidence, without restraint or reserve. There was nothing more capacious than the heart of Paul, for he loved all the faithful with as intimate a love as any lover could have for a loved one, his love not being divided and lessened but remaining whole and entire for each of them. And what marvel is it that his love for the faithful was such, since his heart embraced the unbelievers, too, throughout the whole world?
  So he did not just say, “I love you,” but with greater emphasis: Our mouth is open, our heart is enlarged; we hold you all in it, and not only that, but with room for you to move freely. For those who are loved enter fearlessly into the heart of their lover. And therefore he says: You are not constrained because of us, but you are constrained in your own affections. See how this reproach is tempered with much forbearance, as is the way with those who love much. For he did not say: You do not love me, but you do not love me in the same measure; for he did not want to charge them more harshly.
  Indeed one may see with what a wonderful love for the faithful he is always inflamed, as one finds proof of it in all his writings. To the Romans he says: I desire to see you, and I have often planned to come to you, and if by any means at last I may succeed in reaching you. To the Galatians he says: My little children, with whom I am again in labour; to the Ephesians: For this reason I bend my knees on your behalf; and to the Thessalonians: What is my hope and my crown of glory? Is it not yourselves? For he used to say that he carried them about in his heart and in his chains.
  Again he writes to the Colossians: I want you to know how greatly I strive for you and for all who have not seen my face; and to the Thessalonians: Like a nurse taking care of her children, being desirous of you, we were ready to share with you not only the Gospel but also our own selves. So too he says: You are not restricted by us. And so Paul does not merely say that he loves them but also that they love him, so that in this way he may draw them to him. Indeed, to the Corinthians he bears witness of this love when he says: Titus came, telling us of your longing, your mourning, your zeal for me.
 
Saint Bridget of Sweden, Religious


From the prayers attributed to Saint Bridget
A prayer to Christ our saviour
Blessed are you, my Lord Jesus Christ. You foretold your death and at the Last Supper you marvellously consecrated bread which became your precious body. And then you gave it to your apostles out of love as a memorial of your most holy passion. By washing their feet with your holy hands, you gave them a supreme example of your deep humility.
  Honour be to you, my Lord Jesus Christ. Fearing your passion and death, you poured forth blood from your innocent body like sweat, and still you accomplished our redemption as you desired and gave us the clearest proof of your love for all men.
  Blessed may you be, my Lord Jesus Christ. After you had been led to Caiaphas, you, the judge of all men, humbly allowed yourself to be handed over to the judgement of Pilate.
  Glory be to you, my Lord Jesus Christ, for the mockery you endured when you stood clothed in purple and wearing a crown of sharp thorns. With utmost endurance you allowed vicious men to spit upon your glorious face, blindfold you and beat your cheek and neck with cruellest blows.
  Praise be to you, my Lord Jesus Christ: For with the greatest patience you allowed yourself like an innocent lamb to be bound to a pillar and mercilessly scourged, and then to be brought, covered with blood, before the judgement seat of Pilate to be gazed upon by all.
  Honour be to you, my Lord Jesus Christ. For after your glorious body was covered with blood, you were condemned to death on the cross, you endured the pain of carrying the cross on your sacred shoulders, and you were led with curses to the place where you were to suffer. Then stripped of your garments, you allowed yourself to be nailed to the wood of the cross.
  Everlasting honour be to you, Lord Jesus Christ. You allowed your most holy mother to suffer so much, even though she had never sinned nor ever even consented to the smallest sin. Humbly you looked down upon her with your gentle loving eyes, and to comfort her you entrusted her to the faithful care of your disciple.
  Eternal blessing be yours, my Lord Jesus Christ, because in your last agony you held out to all sinners the hope of pardon, when in your mercy you promised the glory of paradise to the penitent thief.
  Eternal praise be to you, my Lord Jesus Christ, for the time you endured on the cross the greatest torments and sufferings for us sinners. The sharp pain of your wounds fiercely penetrated even to your blessed soul and cruelly pierced your most sacred heart till finally you sent forth your spirit in peace, bowed your head, and humbly commended yourself into the hands of God your Father, and your whole body remained cold in death.
  Blessed may you be, my Lord Jesus Christ. You redeemed our souls with your precious blood and most holy death, and in your mercy you led them from exile back to eternal life.
  Blessed may you be, my Lord Jesus Christ. For our salvation you allowed your side and heart to be pierced with a lance; and from that side water and your precious blood flowed out abundantly for our redemption.
  Glory be to you, my Lord Jesus Christ. You allowed your blessed body to be taken down from the cross by your friends and laid in the arms of your most sorrowing mother, and you let her wrap your body in a shroud and bury it in a tomb to be guarded by soldiers.
  Unending honour be to you, my Lord Jesus Christ. On the third day you rose from the dead and appeared to those you had chosen. And after forty days you ascended into heaven before the eyes of many witnesses, and there in heaven you gathered together in glory those you love, whom you had freed from hell.
  Rejoicing and eternal praise be to you, my Lord Jesus Christ, who sent the Holy Spirit into the hearts of your disciples and increased the boundless love of God in their spirits.
  Blessed are you and praiseworthy and glorious for ever, my Lord Jesus. You sit upon your throne in your kingdom of heaven, in the glory of your divinity, living in the most holy body you took from a virgin’s flesh. So will you appear on that last day to judge the souls of all the living and the dead; you who live and reign with the Father and the Holy Spirit for ever and ever. Amen.

Friday, July 22, 2011

Mary Magdalen, Apostle to the Apostles

From a homily on the Gospels by Gregory the Great, pope
She longed for Christ, though she thought he had been taken away
When Mary Magdalene came to the tomb and did not find the Lord’s body, she thought it had been taken away and so informed the disciples. After they came and saw the tomb, they too believed what Mary had told them. The text then says: The disciples went back home, and it adds: but Mary wept and remained standing outside the tomb.
  We should reflect on Mary’s attitude and the great love she felt for Christ; for though the disciples had left the tomb, she remained. She was still seeking the one she had not found, and while she sought she wept; burning with the fire of love, she longed for him who she thought had been taken away. And so it happened that the woman who stayed behind to seek Christ was the only one to see him. For perseverance is essential to any good deed, as the voice of truth tells us: Whoever perseveres to the end will be saved.
  At first she sought but did not find, but when she persevered it happened that she found what she was looking for. When our desires are not satisfied, they grow stronger, and becoming stronger they take hold of their object. Holy desires likewise grow with anticipation, and if they do not grow they are not really desires. Anyone who succeeds in attaining the truth has burned with such a great love. As David says: My soul has thirsted for the living God; when shall I come and appear before the face of God? And so also in the Song of Songs the Church says: I was wounded by love; and again: My soul is melted with love.
  Woman, why are you weeping? Whom do you seek? She is asked why she is sorrowing so that her desire might be strengthened; for when she mentions whom she is seeking, her love is kindled all the more ardently.
  Jesus says to her: Mary. Jesus is not recognised when he calls her “woman”; so he calls her by name, as though he were saying: Recognise me as I recognise you; for I do not know you as I know others; I know you as yourself. And so Mary, once addressed by name, recognises who is speaking. She immediately calls him rabboni, that is to say, teacher, because the one whom she sought outwardly was the one who inwardly taught her to keep on searching.

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Thursday of the 16th week in ordinary time

From the Explanations of the Psalms by St Ambrose, bishop
The light of your face has shone upon us
Why do you turn your face away? We think that God has turned his face away from us when we find ourselves suffering, so that shadows overwhelm our feelings and stop our eyes from seeing the brilliance of the truth. All the same, if God touches our intellect and chooses to become present to our minds then we will be certain that nothing can lead us into darkness.
  A man’s face shines out more than the rest of his body and it is by the face that we perceive strangers and recognize our friends. How much more, then, is the face of God able to bring illumination to whoever he looks at!
  The apostle Paul has something important to say about this, as about so many other things. He is a true interpreter of Christ for us, bringing him to our understanding through well-chosen words and images. He says: It is the same God that said, ‘Let there be light shining out of darkness’, who has shone in our minds to radiate the light of the knowledge of God’s glory, the glory on the face of Christ. We have heard where Christ shines in us: he is the eternal brilliant illumination of souls, whom the Father sent into the world so that his face should shine on us and permit us to contemplate eternal and heavenly truths – we who had been plunged in earthly darkness.
  What shall I say about Christ, when even the apostle Peter said to the man who had been lame from birth Look upon us? The cripple looked at Peter and found light by the grace of faith: unless he had faithfully believed he could not have received healing.
  When there was so much glory to be seen among the Apostles, Zachaeus, hearing that the Lord Jesus was passing by, climbed a tree because he was small and weak and could not see the Lord through the crowd. He saw Christ and he found light. He saw Christ and instead of robbing others of their goods he began to give away his own.
  Why do you turn your face away? Let us read it thus: even if you do turn your face away from us, Lord, its light is still imprinted upon us. We hold it in our hearts and our innermost feelings are transformed by its light.
  For if you truly turn your face away, Lord, no-one can survive.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Wednesday of the 16th week in ordinary time

From the Imitation of Christ
The kingdom of God is the peace and joy of the Spirit
Turn to the Lord with your whole heart and leave behind this wretched world. Then your soul shall find rest. For the kingdom of God is the peace and joy of the Holy Spirit. If you prepare within your heart a fitting dwelling place, Christ will come to you and console you.
  His glory and beauty are within you, and he delights in dwelling there. The Lord frequently visits the heart of man. There he shares with man pleasant conversations; welcome consolation, abundant peace and a wonderful intimacy.
  So come, faithful soul. Prepare your heart for your spouse to dwell within you. For he says: If anyone loves me, he will keep my word and we shall come to him and make our dwelling within him.
  Make room for Christ. When you possess Christ you are a rich man, for he is sufficient for you. He himself, shall provide for you and faithfully administer all your cares. You will not have to place your hope in men. Put all your trust in God; let him be both your fear and your love. He will respond on your behalf and will do whatever is in your best interest.
  You have here no lasting city. For wherever you find yourself, you will always be a pilgrim from another city. Until you are united intimately with Christ, you will never find your true rest.
  Let your thoughts be with the Most High and direct your prayers continually to Christ. If you do not know how to contemplate the glory of heaven, take comfort in the passion of Christ, and dwell willingly in his sacred wounds. Endure with Christ, suffer for him, if you wish to reign with him.
  Once you have entered completely into the depths of Jesus, and have a taste of his powerful love, then you will not care about your own convenience or inconvenience. Rather you will rejoice all the more in insults and injuries, for the love of Jesus makes a man scorn his own needs.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Tuesday of the 16th week in ordinary time

St Ignatius of Antioch's letter to the Magnesians
You have Jesus Christ within you
Let us not fail to be moved by his goodness, for if he were ever to imitate the way we behave ourselves, we would be truly lost. Now that we are his disciples let us learn to lead Christian lives. Whoever does not take the name of Christian does not belong to God. Put aside the old worn-out leaven which has grown old and sour, and turn to the new leaven, which is Jesus Christ. Be preserved by the salt of Christ so that you do not decay; for it is by your odor that you will be judged. It is monstrous to talk of Jesus Christ and to practice Judaism. For Christianity did not base its faith on Judaism, but Judaism on Christianity, and every tongue believing on God was brought together in it.
  Now I say this, beloved, not because I know that there are any of you that are thus, but because I wish to warn you, though I am less than you, not to fall into the snare of vain doctrine. Be convinced of the birth and passion and resurrection which took place at the time of the procuratorship of Pontius Pilate; for these things were truly and certainly done by Jesus Christ, our hope, from which God grant that none of you be turned aside.
  My desire is to enjoy every happiness in you, if only I can be found worthy. Even though I am in chains and you are not, I am still unfit to be compared to you. I know that you are free from pride, for you have Jesus Christ in yourselves. Even when I praise you, you are not proud but embarrassed. As Scripture says, The righteous man is his own accuser.
  Do your utmost to stand firm in the precepts of the Lord and the Apostles, so that you may prosper in all that you do in the flesh and in the spirit, in faith and love, in the Son and the Father and the Spirit, at the beginning and at the end, together with your revered bishop and with your clergy (that beautifully woven spiritual crown) and with the godly deacons. Be subject to the bishop and to one another, even as Jesus Christ was subject to the Father, and the Apostles were subject to Christ and to the Father, so that there may be complete unity of both flesh and spirit.
  I have kept my exhortation brief because I know how God fills you. Remember me in your prayers, so that I may win through to God, and remember the Church in Syria, of which I am not worthy to be called a member. For I need your united prayers and love in God so that the Church in Syria may draw refreshment from the dew of your Church.
  I am writing this from Smyrna and the Ephesians here send you their greeting. They, like you, are here for the glory of God and have in all things given me comfort, as has Polycarp, the bishop of the Smyrnaeans. The other Churches also greet you in honor of Jesus Christ.
  Farewell. See that there is a godly unity among you and an unhesitating spirit; for this is Jesus Christ.

Monday, July 18, 2011

Monday of the 16th week in ordinary time

St Ignatius of Antioch's letter to the Magnesians
United in one prayer and one hope, in joy and holiness
Since I have met the persons I have just mentioned and seeing and embracing them I have seen and embraced your whole congregation, I exhort you — be zealous to do all things in harmony with God, with the bishop presiding in the place of God, and the presbyters in the place of the Council of the Apostles, and the deacons, who are most dear to me, entrusted with the service of Jesus Christ, who was from eternity with the Father and was made manifest at the end of time. Be all in conformity with God, and respect one another, and let no man judge his neighbor according to the flesh, but in everything love one another in Jesus Christ. Let there be nothing in you which can divide you, but be united with the bishop and with those who preside over you as an example and lesson of immortality.
  Just as the Lord was united to the Father and did nothing without him, neither by himself nor through the Apostles, so you also must do nothing without the bishop and the presbyters. Do not attempt to make anything appear right for you by yourselves, but let there be in common one prayer, one supplication, one mind, one hope in love, in the joy which is without fault, the joy that is Jesus Christ, than whom there is nothing better. Hasten all to come together as to one temple of God, as to one altar, to one Jesus Christ, who came from the one Father, and is with one Father, and returned to one Father.
  Do not let yourselves be seduced by foreign teachings or by old and worthless fables. If we continue to live according to Jewish law then we are simply showing that we have not received grace. Look at their holy prophets: their lives were filled with Jesus Christ and inspired by his grace to teach doubters that there is one God, and for this they were persecuted. That one God manifested himself through Jesus Christ his son, who is his Word proceeding from silence and in all respects was well-pleasing to the One who sent him.
  You see how the followers of the ancient customs have come to a new hope. They no longer rule their lives by the Sabbath but by the Lord’s Day, which is our day also, the day on which also our life sprang up through him and his death. Though some deny it, it is by this mystery that we received faith, and for this reason also we suffer, that we may be found to be true disciples of Jesus Christ our only teacher. If all this is true, how can we possibly not give him a place in our lives, since even the prophets were his disciples in the Spirit and looked forward to him as their teacher? They waited for him in righteousness, and when he came he raised them from the dead.

Sunday, July 17, 2011

16th Sunday in Ordinary time

From the beginning of a letter to the Magnesians by Saint Ignatius of Antioch, bishop and martyr


We should be Christians in deed, as well as in name
Ignatius, also called Theophorus, to the church at Magnesia on the Maeander, a church blessed with the grace of God the Father in Christ Jesus, our Savior, in whom I salute you. I send you every good wish in God the Father and in Jesus Christ.
  I was delighted to hear of your love of God, so well-ordered and devout, and so I decided to address you in the faith of Jesus Christ. Honored as I am with a name of the greatest splendor, though I am still in chains I sing with the praises of the churches, and pray that they be united with the flesh and the spirit of Jesus Christ, who is our eternal life; a union in faith and love, to which nothing must be preferred; and above all a union with Jesus and the Father, for if in him we endure all the power of the prince of this world, and escape unharmed, we shall make our way to God.
  I have had the honor of seeing you in the person of Damas your bishop, a man of God, and in the persons of your worthy presbyters, Bassus and Apollonius, and my fellow-servant, the deacon Zotion; may I continue to take delight in him for he is obedient to the bishop as to the grace of God, and to the presbyters as to the law of Jesus Christ.
  Now it hardly becomes you to presume on your bishop’s youth, but rather, having regard to the power of God the Father, to show him every mark of respect. This, I understand, is what your holy presbyters do, not taking advantage of his youthful condition but deferring to him with the prudence which comes from God, or rather not to him but to the Father of Jesus Christ, to the bishop of all. So then, for the honor of him who loves us, it is proper to obey without hypocrisy; for a man does not so much deceive the bishop he can see as try to deceive the bishop he cannot see. In such a case he has to reckon not with a man, but with God who knows the secrets of the heart.
  We should then really live as Christians and not merely have the name; for many invoke the bishop’s name but do everything apart from him. Such men, I think, do not have a good conscience, for they do not assemble lawfully as commanded.
  All things have an end, and two things, life and death, are side by side set before us, and each man will go to his own place. Just as there are two coinages, one of God and the other of the world, each with its own image, so unbelievers bear the image of this world, and those who have faith with love bear the image of God the Father through Jesus Christ. Unless we are ready through his power to die in the likeness of his passion, his life is not in us.

Saturday, July 16, 2011

Our Lady of Mount Carmel

From a sermon by Saint Leo the Great, pope
Mary conceived in her soul before she conceived in her body
A royal virgin of the house of David is chosen. She is to bear a holy child, one who is both God and man. She is to conceive him in her soul before she conceives him in her body. In the face of so unheard of an event she is to know no fear through ignorance of the divine plan; the angel tells her what is to be accomplished in her by the Holy Spirit. She believes that there will be no loss of virginity, she who is soon to be the mother of God. Why should she lose heart at this new form of conceiving when she has been promised that it will be effected through the power of the Most High? She believes, and her faith is confirmed by the witness of a previous wonder: against all expectation Elizabeth is made fruitful. God has enabled a barren woman to be with child; he must be believed when he makes the same promise to a virgin.
  The Son of God who was in the beginning with God, through whom all things were made, without whom nothing was made, became man to free him from eternal death. He stooped down to take up our lowliness without loss to his own glory. He remained what he was; he took up what he was not. He wanted to join the very nature of a servant to that nature in which he is equal to God the Father. He wanted to unite both natures in an alliance so wonderful that the glory of the greater would not annihilate the lesser, nor the taking up of the lower diminish the greatness of the higher.
  What belongs to each nature is preserved intact and meets the other in one person: lowliness is taken up by greatness, weakness by power, mortality by eternity. To pay the debt of our human condition, a nature incapable of suffering is united to a nature capable of suffering, and true God and true man are forged into the unity that is the Lord. This was done to make possible the kind of remedy that fitted our human need: one and the same mediator between God and men able to die because of one nature, able to rise again because of the other. It was fitting, therefore, that the birth which brings salvation brought no corruption to virginal integrity; the bringing forth of Truth was at the same time the safeguarding of virginity.
  Dearly beloved, this kind of birth was fitting for Christ, the power and the wisdom of God: a birth in which he was one with us in our human nature but far above us in his divinity. If he were not true God, he would not be able to bring us healing, if he were not true man, he would not be able to give us an example.
  And so at the birth of our Lord, the angels sing in joy: Glory to God in the highest, and they proclaim peace to his people on earth as they see the heavenly Jerusalem being built from all the nations of the world. If the angels on high are so exultant at this marvelous work of God’s goodness, what joy should it not bring to the lowly hearts of men?

Friday, July 15, 2011

Saint Bonaventure, Franciscan Friar, Bishop and Doctor

From the Journey of the Mind to God by St. Bonaventure
Mystical wisdom is revealed by the Holy Spirit
Saint Bonaventure
Christ is both the way and the door. Christ is the staircase and the vehicle, like the throne of mercy over the Ark of the Covenant, and the mystery hidden from the ages. A man should turn his full attention to this throne of mercy, and should gaze at him hanging on the cross, full of faith, hope and charity, devoted, full of wonder and joy, marked by gratitude, and open to praise and jubilation. Then such a man will make with Christ a pasch, that is, a passing-over. Through the branches of the cross he will pass over the Red Sea, leaving Egypt and entering the desert. There he will taste the hidden manna, and rest with Christ in the sepulcher, as if he were dead to things outside. He will experience, as much as is possible for one who is still living, what was promised to the thief who hung beside Christ: Today you will be with me in paradise.
  For this passover to be perfect, we must suspend all the operations of the mind and we must transform the peak of our affections, directing them to God alone. This is a sacred mystical experience. It cannot be comprehended by anyone unless he surrenders himself to it; nor can he surrender himself to it unless he longs for it; nor can he long for it unless the Holy Spirit, whom Christ sent into the world, should come and inflame his innermost soul. Hence the Apostle says that this mystical wisdom is revealed by the Holy Spirit.
  If you ask how such things can occur, seek the answer in God’s grace, not in doctrine; in the longing of the will, not in the understanding; in the sighs of prayer, not in research; seek the bridegroom not the teacher; God and not man; darkness not daylight; and look not to the light but rather to the raging fire that carries the soul to God with intense fervor and glowing love. The fire is God, and the furnace is in Jerusalem, fired by Christ in the ardor of his loving passion. Only he understood this who said: My soul chose hanging and my bones death. Anyone who cherishes this kind of death can see God, for it is certainly true that: No man can look upon me and live.
  Let us die, then, and enter into the darkness, silencing our anxieties, our passions and all the fantasies of our imagination. Let us pass over with the crucified Christ from this world to the Father, so that, when the Father has shown himself to us, we can say with Philip: It is enough. We may hear with Paul: My grace is sufficient for you; and we can rejoice with David, saying: My flesh and my heart fail me, but God is the strength of my heart and my heritage for ever. Blessed be the Lord for ever, and let all the people say: Amen. Amen!

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Saint Camillus of Lellis, Priest , St. Kateri Tekakwitha, virgin (Thursday of the 15th week in ordinary time)

St. Kateri Tekakwitha
'Lily of the Mohawks'

(Born 1656, probably Ossernenon, New Netherland — died April 17, 1680, Caughnawaga, Que.) First North American Indian considered for canonization. The daughter of an Algonquin Christian mother and a non-Christian Mohawk father, she was born in what is now Auriesville, N.Y., U.S., and was partially blinded by smallpox as a child. She was deeply impressed by the lives and words of three Jesuit missionaries she met at age 11, and at 20 she was baptized. Harassed and threatened with torture in her home village, she fled 200 mi (320 km) to a Christian Indian mission near Montreal, where she became known as the "Lily of the Mohawks" for her kindness, faith, and heroic suffering before her early death. She was beatified in 1980.



From a Life of St Camillus
Serving the Lord in his brethren
 
Saint Camillus
Let me start with holy charity, the root of all the virtues and the gift most characteristic of Camillus. He was so fired by this virtue, both towards God and towards his neighbors, especially the sick, that just to see them was enough to melt his tender heart and to make him forget every pleasure, every earthly delight and attachment. Indeed, even when ministering to just one sick man, he seemed to burn himself up and wear himself out with the utmost devotion and compassion. Gladly would he have taken upon himself all their sickness and sufferings to alleviate their pain or take away their weakness.
  So vividly did he picture and honor the person of Christ in them that often when distributing food to them he thought of them as his ‘Christs’, and would beg of them grace and the remission of sins. Hence he was as reverent before them as if he were really and truly in the presence of his Lord. Of nothing would he speak more frequently or fervently than of holy charity. He longed that it should take root in the heart of every man.
  To fire his brethren in religion with this fundamental virtue, he would impress on them these sweet words of Jesus Christ: ‘I was sick and you visited me.’ Indeed, so often did he repeat these words, he seemed to have them engraved on his heart.
  Camillus’ charity was so great and wide-ranging that he took to his kind and loving heart not only the sick and the dying but also all other poor and wretched people. His heart was so full of devotion for the needy that he used to say: ‘If ever there were no poor to be found on the face of the earth, people would have to search them out and even pluck them from below the earth in order to do good to them and show them mercy!’
Responsory

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Wednesday of the 15th week in ordinary time

From the treatise On the Mysteries by Saint Ambrose, bishop
Water does not sanctify without the Holy Spirit
You were told before not to believe only what you saw. This was to prevent you from saying: Is this the great mystery that eye has not seen nor ear heard nor man’s heart conceived? I see the water I used to see every day; does this water in which I have often bathed without being sanctified really have the power to sanctify me? Learn from this that water does not sanctify without the Holy Spirit.
  You have read that the three witnesses in baptism – the water, the blood and the Spirit – are one. This means that if you take away one of these the sacrament is not conferred. What is water without the cross of Christ? Only an ordinary element without sacramental effect. Again, without water there is no sacrament of rebirth: Unless a man is born again of water and the Spirit he cannot enter into the kingdom of God. The catechumen believes in the cross of the Lord with which he too is signed, but unless he is baptised in the name of the Father, and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit he cannot receive the forgiveness of sins or the gift of spiritual grace.
Jesus and Nicodemus
  The Syrian Naaman bathed seven times under the old law, but you were baptised in the name of the Trinity. You proclaimed your faith in the Father – recall what you did – and the Son and the Spirit. Mark the sequence of events. In proclaiming this faith you died to the world, you rose again to God, and, as though buried to sin, you were reborn to eternal life. Believe, then, that the water is not without effect.
  The paralytic at the pool was waiting for someone. Who was this if not the Lord Jesus, born of a virgin? At his coming it is not a question of a shadow healing an individual, but Truth himself healing the universe. He is the one whose coming was expected, the one of whom God the Father spoke when he said to John the Baptist: He on whom you see the Spirit coming down from heaven and resting, this is the one who baptises in the Holy Spirit. He is the one witnessed to by John: I saw the Spirit coming down from heaven as a dove and resting on him. Why did the Spirit come down as a dove if not to let you see and understand that the dove sent out by holy Noah from the ark was a figure of this dove? In this way you were to recognise a type of this sacrament.
  Is there any room left for doubt? The Father speaks clearly in the Gospel: This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased; the Son too, above whom the Holy Spirit showed himself in the form of a dove; and also the Holy Spirit, who came down as a dove. David too speaks clearly: The voice of the Lord is above the waters; the God of glory has thundered; the Lord is above the many waters. Again, Scripture bears witness for you that fire came down from heaven in answer to Gideon’s prayers, and that when Elijah prayed, God sent fire which consumed the sacrifice.
  Do not consider the merits of individuals but the office of the priests. If you do not look at merits, consider the merits of Peter and also of Paul in the same way you consider the merits of Elijah; they have handed on to us this sacrament which they received from the Lord Jesus. Visible fire was sent upon them to give them faith; in us who believe an invisible fire is at work. That visible fire was a sign, our invisible fire is for our instruction. Believe then that the Lord Jesus is present when he is invoked by the prayers of the priests. He said: Where two or three are gathered, there I am also. How much more does he give his loving presence where the Church is, where the sacraments are!
  You went down into the water. Remember what you said: I believe in the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit. Not: I believe in a greater, a lesser and a least. You are committed by this spoken understanding of yours to believe the same of the Son as of the Father, and the same of the Holy Spirit as of the Son, with this one exception: you proclaim that you must believe in the cross of the Lord Jesus alone.

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Tuesday of the 15th week in ordinary time

From the treatise "On the Mysteries" by St Ambrose, bishop
The many prefigurations of baptism in Scripture
 
Listen to the Apostle’s teaching: For all our fathers were under the cloud, and all passed through the sea, and were all baptized into Moses in the cloud and in the sea. Moreover, Moses himself sings in triumph You sent your Spirit and the sea covered them. As you see, holy baptism was prefigured even then at the crossing of the sea, where the Egyptians perished but the Hebrews escaped. What else, after all, are we daily taught about baptism? That with the immersion in water, guilt is swallowed up and error done away with, but that virtue and innocence remain unharmed?
  You hear that our fathers were under the cloud, a kindly cloud which cooled the heat of carnal passions. That kindly cloud overshadows those whom the Holy Spirit visits. Finally it came upon the Virgin Mary, and the Power of the Most High overshadowed her, when she conceived Redemption for the race of men. The miracle worked by Moses was a prefiguration of this miracle. But then – if the Spirit was in the figure, how can he not be present in the reality? As Scripture says, The law was given by Moses, but grace and truth came by Jesus Christ.
  Marah was a spring of unendurably bitter water: Moses threw wood into it and it became sweet. For you see: water without the preaching of the Cross of the Lord is of no use for future salvation, but, after it has been consecrated by the mystery of the wood of the saving Cross, it is made suitable for the use of the spiritual cleansing and of the cup of salvation. So as Moses (that is, the prophet) threw wood into that fountain, so the priest utters over this font the proclamation of the Lord’s cross, and the water is made sweet for the purpose of grace.
  You must not trust, then, wholly to your bodily eyes. What is not seen is in reality seen more clearly; for what we see with our eyes is temporal whereas what is eternal (and invisible to the eye) is discerned by the mind and spirit.
  There is a final lesson to be learned from the book of the Kings which we have just been reading. Naaman was a Syrian, and suffered from leprosy, and there was no-one who could cleanse him. Then a maiden from among the captives said that there was a prophet in Israel, who could cleanse him from the defilement of the leprosy. And it is said that, having taken silver and gold, Naaman went to the king of Israel. And the king, when he heard why Naaman had come, tore his garments, saying that this was an attempt to put him in the wrong, since healing leprosy was not in the power of kings. Elisha, however, sent word to the king that he should send the Syrian to him, so that he might know there was a God in Israel. And when he had come, he told him to dip himself seven times in the river Jordan.
  Naaman doubted until the time when he was cleansed; but you are cleansed by now, and so you should not have doubts.

Monday, July 11, 2011

St. Benedict, Abbot

From the Rule of Benedict, abbot
Put Christ before everything
Whenever you begin any good work you should first of all make a most pressing appeal to Christ our Lord to bring it to perfection; that he, who has honored us by counting us among his children, may never be grieved by our evil deeds. For we must always serve him with the good things he has given us in such a way that he may never – as an angry father disinherits his sons or even like a master who inspires fear – grow impatient with our sins and consign us to everlasting punishment, like wicked servants who would not follow him to glory.
  So we should at long last rouse ourselves, prompted by the words of Scripture: Now is the time for us to rise from sleep. Our eyes should be open to the God-given light, and we should listen in wonderment to the message of the divine voice as it daily cries out: Today, if you shall hear his voice, harden not your hearts; and again: If anyone has ears to hear, let him listen to what the Spirit is saying to the churches. And what does the Spirit say? Come my sons, listen to me; I will teach you the fear of the Lord. Hurry, while you have the light of life, so that death’s darkness may not overtake you.
  And the Lord as he seeks the one who will do his work among the throng of people to whom he makes that appeal, says again: Which of you wants to live to the full; who loves long life and the enjoyment of prosperity? And, if when you hear this you say, I do, God says to you: If you desire true and everlasting life, keep your tongue from evil and your lips from deceit; turn away from evil and do good; seek peace and pursue it. And when you have done these things my eyes will be upon you and my ears will be attentive to your prayers; and before you call upon my name I shall say to you: Behold, I am here. What could be more delightful, dearest brothers, than the voice of our Lord’s invitation to us? In his loving kindness he reveals to us the way of life.
  And so, girded with faith and the performance of good works, let us follow in his paths by the guidance of the Gospel; then we shall deserve to see him who has called us into his kingdom. If we wish to attain a dwelling-place in his kingdom we shall not reach it unless we hasten there by our good deeds.
  Just as there exists an evil fervor, a bitter spirit, which divides us from God and leads us to hell, so there is a good fervor which sets us apart from evil inclinations and leads us toward God and eternal life. Monks should put this fervor into practice with an overflowing love: that is, they should surpass each other in mutual esteem, accept their weaknesses, either of body or of behavior, with the utmost patience; and vie with each other in acceding to requests. No one should follow what he considers to be good for himself, but rather what seems good for another. They should display brotherly love in a chaste manner; fear God in a spirit of love; revere their abbot with a genuine and submissive affection. Let them put Christ before all else; and may he lead us all to everlasting life.

Sunday, July 10, 2011

15th Sunday in ordinary time

From the beginning of the treatise On the Mysteries by Saint Ambrose, bishop
Catechesis on the rites preceding baptism
We gave a daily instruction on right conduct when the readings were taken from the history of the patriarchs or the maxims of Proverbs. These readings were intended to instruct and train you, so that you might grow accustomed to the ways of our forefathers, entering into their paths and walking in their footsteps, in obedience to God’s commands.
  Now the season reminds us that we must speak of the mysteries, setting forth the meaning of the sacraments. If we had thought fit to teach these things to those not yet initiated through baptism, we should be considered traitors rather than teachers. Then, too, the light of the mysteries is of itself more effective where people do not know what to expect than where some instruction has been given beforehand.
  Open then your ears. Enjoy the fragrance of eternal life, breathed on you by means of the sacraments. We explained this to you as we celebrated the mystery of “the opening” when we said: Effetha, that is, be opened. Everyone who was to come for the grace of baptism had to understand what he was to be asked, and must remember what he was to answer. This mystery was celebrated by Christ when he healed the man who was deaf and dumb, in the Gospel which we proclaimed to you.
  After this, the holy of holies was opened up for you; you entered into the sacred place of regeneration. Recall what you were asked; remember what you answered. You renounced the devil and his works, the world and its dissipation and sensuality. Your words are recorded, not on a monument to the dead but in the book of the living.
  There you saw the levite, you saw the priest, you saw the high priest. Do not consider their outward form but the grace given by their ministries. You spoke in the presence of angels, as it is written: The lips of a priest guard knowledge, and men seek the law from his mouth, for he is the angel of the Lord almighty. There is no room for deception, no room for denial. He is an angel whose message is the kingdom of Christ and eternal life. You must judge him, not by his appearance but by his office. Remember what he handed on to you, weigh up his value, and so acknowledge his standing.
  You entered to confront your enemy, for you intended to renounce him to his face. You turned toward the east, for one who renounces the devil turns toward Christ and fixes his gaze directly on him.

Saturday, July 9, 2011

Saturday of the 14th week in ordinary time

From a discourse of St Augustine on the Psalms
The true Solomon is our Lord 
Jesus Christ
Because Solomon had built a temple to the Lord – a prototype and an image of the future Church, the Lord’s body, which is why the Gospel says Destroy this temple and in three days I will raise it up – because the Solomon of history had built that temple, our Lord Jesus Christ, the true Solomon, built a temple for himself. The name ‘Solomon’ means ‘Bringer of Peace’, and our Lord, the true Solomon, is the true bringer of peace, which is why the Apostle says He is our peace, who has made both into one. He is the true bringer of peace, who has taken two walls coming from different directions and joined them through himself, becoming the cornerstone that unites them: the believers who come from the people of the circumcision and the believers who come from the uncircumcised. He has made one Church from the two peoples, he has become their cornerstone and their peacemaker.
  So because the historical Solomon, son of David and Bathsheba, king of Israel, was prefiguring this peacemaker when he built the Temple, Scripture takes care that you should not think that he himself was the peacemaker. Scripture shows you another Solomon, by beginning a psalm with the words, Unless the Lord builds the house, those who build it labor in vain. So the Lord builds the house, the Lord Jesus Christ builds a house for himself. Many labour to build it, but if he is not the architect, in vain have its builders labored.
  Who are they who work at building it? They are everyone in the Church who preaches the word of God or administers the sacraments of God. We all rush around, we all labor, we all build; and before us, others rushed, labored, built; but unless the Lord builds the house, those who build it labor in vain. For this reason, when they saw some of the people fall, the Apostles, and Paul himself, said: You and your special days and months and seasons and years! You make me feel I have wasted my time with you. Because he knew that he had been built up by the Lord from within, he wept over these others because he had worked among them to no avail.
  We speak in public, but he builds inside. How well do you listen? We can tell. What do you think of it? He alone knows, who sees your thoughts. It is he who builds, he who gives advice, he who instils fear, he who opens the understanding, he who directs your perceptions and leads you to faith; and yet we too work, as labourers in the harvest.

Friday, July 8, 2011

Friday of the 14th week in ordinary time

From a letter to the Corinthians by Saint Clement, pope
We are blessed if we fulfill the commands of the Lord in the harmony of love

The Lords commands
Beloved, see what a marvelous thing love is; its perfection is beyond our expression. Who can truly love save those to whom God grants it? We ought to beg and beseech him in his mercy that our love may be genuine, unmarred by any too human inclination. From Adam down to the present time all generations have passed away; but those who were perfected in love by God’s grace have a place among the saints who will be revealed when the kingdom of Christ comes to us. As it is written: Enter your chambers for a little while, until my wrath and anger pass away; and I shall remember a good day and raise you from your graves. We are blessed, beloved, if we fulfill the commands of the Lord in harmonious, loving union, so that through love our sins may be forgiven. For it is written: Blessed are those whose transgressions are forgiven, whose sins are covered. Blessed is the man to whom the Lord imputes not iniquity, and in whose mouth there is no deceit. This is the blessing that has been given to those who have been chosen by God through our Lord Jesus Christ, to whom be glory for ever. Amen.
  We should pray then that we may be granted forgiveness for our sins and for whatever we may have done when led astray by our adversary’s servants. And for those who were the leaders of the schism and the sedition, they too should look to the common hope. For those who live in pious fear and in love are willing to endure torment rather than have their neighbor suffer; and they more willingly suffer their own condemnation than the loss of that harmony that has been so nobly and righteously handed down to us. For it is better for a man to confess his sins than to harden his heart.
  Who then among you is generous, who is compassionate, who is filled with love? He should speak out as follows: If I have been the cause of sedition, conflict and schisms, then I shall depart; I shall go away wherever you wish, and I shall do what the community wants, if only the flock of Christ live in peace with the presbyters who are set over them. Whoever acts thus would win great glory for himself in Christ, and he would be received everywhere, for the earth is the Lord’s and the fullness thereof. Thus have they acted in the past and will continue to act in the future who live without regret as citizens in the city of God.