Thursday, July 31, 2014

Saint Ignatius Loyola, Priest

From the life of Saint Ignatius from his own words by Luis Gonzalez

Put inward experiences to the test to see if they come from God
Ignatius was passionately fond of reading worldly books of fiction and tales of knight-errant. When he felt he was getting better, he asked for some of these books to pass the time. But no book of that sort could be found in the house; instead they gave him a life of Christ and a collection of the lives of saints written in Spanish.
  By constantly reading these books he began to be attracted to what he found narrated there. Sometimes in the midst of his reading he would reflect on what he had read. Yet at other times he would dwell on many of the things which he had been accustomed to dwell on previously. But at this point our Lord came to his assistance, insuring that these thoughts were followed by others which arose from his current reading.
  While reading the life of Christ our Lord or the lives of the saints, he would reflect and reason with himself: “What if I should do what Saint Francis or Saint Dominic did?” In this way he let his mind dwell on many thoughts; they lasted a while until other things took their place. Then those vain and worldly images would come into his mind and remain a long time. This sequence of thoughts persisted with him for a long time.
  But there was a difference. When Ignatius reflected on worldly thoughts, he felt intense pleasure; but when he gave them up out of weariness, he felt dry and depressed. Yet when he thought of living the rigorous sort of life he knew the saints had lived, he not only experienced pleasure when he actually thought about it, but even after he dismissed these thoughts, he still experienced great joy. Yet he did not pay attention to this, nor did he appreciate it until one day, in a moment of insight, he began to marvel at the difference. Then he understood his experience: thoughts of one kind left him sad, the others full of joy. And this was the first time he applied a process of reasoning to his religious experience. Later on, when he began to formulate his spiritual exercises, he used this experience as an illustration to explain the doctrine he taught his disciples on the discernment of spirits.

Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Saint Peter Chrysologus, Bishop, Doctor

From a sermon by Saint Peter Chrysologus, bishop

Christ is truly present in the Blessed Sacrament. We please and honour God when we kneel to thank Him for allowing us to do His work on earth 

A virgin conceived, bore a son, and yet remained a virgin. This is no common occurrence, but a sign; no reason here, but God’s power, for he is the cause, and not nature. It is a special event, not shared by others; it is divine, not human. Christ’s birth was not necessity, but an expression of omnipotence, a sacrament of piety for the redemption of men. He who made man without generation from pure clay made man again and was born from a pure body. The hand that assumed clay to make our flesh deigned to assume a body for our salvation. That the Creator is in his creature and God is in the flesh brings dignity to man without dishonor to him who made him.
  Why then, man, are you so worthless in your own eyes and yet so precious to God? Why render yourself such dishonor when you are honored by him? Why do you ask how you were created and do not seek to know why you were made? Was not this entire visible universe made for your dwelling? It was for you that the light dispelled the overshadowing gloom; for your sake was the night regulated and the day measured, and for you were the heavens embellished with the varying brilliance of the sun, the moon and the stars. The earth was adorned with flowers, groves and fruit; and the constant marvelous variety of lovely living things was created in the air, the fields, and the seas for you, lest sad solitude destroy the joy of God’s new creation. And the Creator still works to devise things that can add to your glory. He has made you in his image that you might in your person make the invisible Creator present on earth; he has made you his legate, so that the vast empire of the world might have the Lord’s representative. Then in his mercy God assumed what he made in you; he wanted now to be truly manifest in man, just as he had wished to be revealed in man as in an image. Now he would be in reality what he had submitted to be in symbol.
  And so Christ is born that by his birth he might restore our nature. He became a child, was fed, and grew that he might inaugurate the one perfect age to remain for ever as he had created it. He supports man that man might no longer fall. And the creature he had formed of earth he now makes heavenly; and what he had endowed with a human soul he now vivifies to become a heavenly spirit. In this way he fully raised man to God, and left in him neither sin, nor death, nor travail, nor pain, nor anything earthly, with the grace of our Lord Christ Jesus, who lives and reigns with the Father in the unity of the Holy Spirit, now and for ever, for all the ages of eternity. Amen.

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Saint Martha

From a sermon by Saint Augustine

Blessed are they who deserved to receive Christ in their homes
Martha and Mary

Our Lord’s words teach us that though we labor 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 Saviour, 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.

Monday, July 28, 2014

Monday of the 17th week in ordinary time

A sermon of St Caesarius of Arles

On divine and human mercy
Blessed are the merciful, for they shall receive mercy. ‘Mercy’ is a beautiful word: more beautiful still is the thing itself. All men wish to receive it, but the worst thing is that not all of them behave in a way that deserves it. Although everyone wishes to be shown mercy only a few wish to show it.
  O man, how can you have the effrontery to ask for what you refuse to give to others? You must show mercy in this world if you want to receive mercy in heaven. So, my dearest brethren, since we all desire mercy, let us make ourselves mercy’s slaves in this world so that she can give us our freedom in the world to come. For there is mercy in heaven and we come to it through earthly mercies. As Scripture says: Lord, your mercy is in heaven.
  So there is earthly and heavenly mercy: that is, human and divine. What is human mercy? Exactly this: to have care for the sufferings of the poor. What is divine mercy? Without doubt, to grant forgiveness of sins. Whatever human mercy gives away on the journey, divine mercy pays back when we arrive at last in our native land. For it is God who feels cold and hunger, in the person of the poor. As he himself has said: As much as you have done for the least of these, you have done it for me. What God deigns to give on heaven, he yearns to receive on earth.
  What sort of people are we if we want to receive, when God offers, but when God asks, we refuse to give? For when a poor man hungers, it is Christ who suffers want, as he himself has said: I was hungry and you gave me no food. Do not despise the misery of the poor if you want a sure hope of forgiveness for your sins. Christ is hungry now, brethren, in all the poor. He consents to suffer hunger and thirst – and whatever he receives on earth he will give back in heaven.
  I ask you, brethren: when you come to church, what do you want? what are you looking for? Is it anything other than mercy? Then give earthly mercy and you will receive the heavenly kind. The poor man asks of you, and you ask of God: the poor man for food, you for eternal life. Give to the beggar what you want to deserve from Christ. Hear Christ saying Give and it will be given to you. I do not know how you can have the effrontery to want to receive what you do not want to give. And so, when you come to church, give, whatever you can afford as alms for the poor.

Sunday, July 27, 2014

Sunday of the 17th week 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 disfavor, 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 26, 2014

Saint Joachim and Saint Anne, parents of the Blessed Virgin Mary

From a sermon by Saint John Damascene, bishop

By their fruits you will know them
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.

Friday, July 25, 2014

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! Fervor 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 fervour and, setting aside all purely human goals, rose to such splendid heights that he straightway suffered martyrdom.

Thursday, July 24, 2014

Saint Charbel Makhlouf, Priest

From the Explanations of the Psalms by St Ambrose, bishop
The light of your face has shone upon us
Saint Charbel Makhlouf
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 recognise 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 23, 2014

Saint Bridget of Sweden, Religious

From the prayers attributed to Saint Bridget

A prayer to Christ our saviour
Saint Bridget of Sweden
Blessed are you, my Lord Jesus Christ. You foretold your death and at the Last Supper you marvelously 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.
  Honor 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 cruelest 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.
  Honor 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 honor 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.

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Mary Magdalen

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.

Saturday, July 19, 2014

Saturday of the 15th week of ordinary time

From the treatise On the Mysteries by Saint Ambrose, bishop

The sacrament that you receive is effected by the words of Christ
We see that grace can accomplish more than nature, yet so far we have been considering instances of what grace can do through a prophet’s blessing. If the blessing of a human being had power even to change nature, what do we say of God’s action in the consecration itself, in which the very words of the Lord and Saviour are effective? If the words of Elijah had power even to bring down fire from heaven, will not the words of Christ have power to change the natures of the elements? You have read that in the creation of the whole world he spoke and they came to be; he commanded and they were created. If Christ could by speaking create out of nothing what did not yet exist, can we say that his words are unable to change existing things into something they previously were not? It is no lesser feat to create new natures for things than to change their existing natures.
  What need is there for argumentation? Let us take what happened in the case of Christ himself and construct the truth of this mystery from the mystery of the incarnation. Did the birth of the Lord Jesus from Mary come about in the course of nature? If we look at nature we regularly find that conception results from the union of man and woman. It is clear then that the conception by the Virgin was above and beyond the course of nature. And this body that we make present is the body born of the Virgin. Why do you expect to find in this case that nature takes its ordinary course in regard to the body of Christ when the Lord himself was born of the Virgin in a manner above and beyond the order of nature? This is indeed the true flesh of Christ, which was crucified and buried. This is then in truth the sacrament of his flesh.
  The Lord Jesus himself declares: This is my body. Before the blessing contained in these words a different thing is named; after the consecration a body is indicated. He himself speaks of his blood. Before the consecration something else is spoken of; after the consecration blood is designated. And you say: “Amen,” that is: “It is true.” What the mouth utters, let the mind within acknowledge; what the word says, let the heart ratify.
  So the Church, in response to grace so great, exhorts her children, exhorts her neighbors, to hasten to these mysteries: Neighbors, she says, come and eat; brethren, drink and be filled. In another passage the Holy Spirit has made clear to you what you are to eat, what you are to drink. Taste, the prophet says, and see that the Lord is good; blessed is the man who puts his trust in him. Christ is in that sacrament, for it is the body of Christ. It is therefore not bodily food but spiritual. Thus the Apostle too says, speaking of its symbol: Our fathers ate spiritual food and drank spiritual drink. For the body of God is spiritual; the body of Christ is that of a divine spirit, for Christ is a spirit. We read: The spirit before our face is Christ the Lord. And in the letter of Saint Peter we have this: Christ died for you. Finally, it is this food that gives strength to our hearts, this drink which gives joy to the heart of man, as the prophet has written.

Friday, July 18, 2014

Friday of the 15th week in ordinary time

From the treatise On the Mysteries by Saint Ambrose, bishop

To the newly baptized on the Eucharist
Fresh from the waters and resplendent in these garments, God’s holy people hasten to the altar of Christ, saying: I will go in to the altar of God, to God who gives joy to my youth. They have sloughed off the old skin of error, their youth renewed like an eagle’s, and they make haste to approach that heavenly banquet. They come and, seeing the sacred altar prepared, cry out: You have prepared a table in my sight. David puts these words into their mouths: The Lord is my shepherd and nothing will be lacking to me. He has set me down there in a place of pasture. He has brought me beside refreshing water. Further on, we read: For though I should walk in the midst of the shadow of death, I shall not be afraid of evils, for you are with me. Your rod and your staff have given me comfort. You have prepared in my sight a table against those who afflict me. You have made my head rich in oil, and your cup, which exhilarates, how excellent it is.
  It is wonderful that God rained manna on our fathers and they were fed with daily food from heaven. And so it is written: Man ate the bread of angels. Yet those who ate that bread all died in the desert. But the food that you receive, that living bread which came down from heaven, supplies the very substance of eternal life, and whoever will eat it will never die, for it is the body of Christ.
  Consider now which is the more excellent: the bread of angels or the flesh of Christ, which is indeed the body that gives life. The first was manna from heaven, the second is above the heavens. One was of heaven, the other is of the Lord of the heavens; one subject to corruption if it was kept till the morrow, the other free from all corruption, for if anyone tastes of it with reverence he will be incapable of corruption. For our fathers, water flowed from the rock; for you, blood flows from Christ. Water satisfied their thirst for a time; blood cleanses you for ever. The Jew drinks and still thirsts, but when you drink you will be incapable of thirst. What happened in symbol is now fulfilled in reality.
  If what you marvel at is a shadow, how great is the reality whose very shadow you marvel at. Listen to this, which shows that what happened in the time of our fathers was but a shadow. They drank, it is written, from the rock that followed them, and the rock was Christ. All this took place as a symbol for us. You know now what is more excellent: light is preferable to its shadow, reality to its symbol, the body of the Giver to the manna he gave from heaven.

Thursday, July 17, 2014

Thursday of the 15th week in ordinary time

From the treatise On the Mysteries by Saint Ambrose, bishop

Instruction on the post-baptismal rites
After this, you went up to the priest. Consider what followed. Was it not what David spoke of when he said: Like oil on the head, running down on the beard, the beard of Aaron? This is the oil spoken of also by Solomon: Your name is oil poured out, so that the maidens loved you and attracted you. How many souls, reborn today, have loved you, Lord Jesus, and have said: Draw us after you; we shall make haste to follow you, in the fragrance of your garments, to breathe the fragrance of resurrection.
  Understand why this is done: Because the eyes of the wise man are in his head. The oil flows down on the beard, that is, on the grace of youth; it flows on Aaron’s beard, in order to make you a chosen race, a race of priests, bought at a great price. We are all anointed with spiritual grace to share in God’s kingdom and in priesthood.
  Then you received white garments as a sign that you had cast off the clothing of sin and put on the chaste covering of innocence, as the psalmist prophesied: You will sprinkle me with hyssop and I shall be cleansed, you will wash me and I shall be made whiter than snow. One who is baptized is seen to be made clean in terms of the law and of the Gospel. In terms of the law, because Moses used a bunch of hyssop to sprinkle the blood of the lamb; in terms of the Gospel, because Christ’s garments were white as snow when in the Gospel he revealed the glory of his resurrection. The sinner who is forgiven is made whiter than snow. The Lord promised the same through Isaiah: If your sins are as scarlet, I will make them white as snow.
  Wearing the garments given her in the rebirth by water, the Church says, in the words of the Song of Songs: I am black but beautiful, daughters of Jerusalem. Black because of the frailty of humanity, beautiful through grace; black because she is made up of sinners, beautiful through the sacrament of faith. When they see these garments the daughters of Jerusalem cry out in wonder: Who is this who comes up, all in white? She was black, how is she suddenly made white?
  When Christ sees his Church clothed in white – for her sake he himself had put on filthy clothing, as you may read in the prophecy of Zechariah – when he sees the soul washed clean by the waters of rebirth, he cries out: How beautiful you are, my beloved, how beautiful you are; your eyes are like the eyes of a dove, for it was in the likeness of a dove that the Holy Spirit came down from heaven.
  Remember, then, that you received a spiritual seal, the spirit of wisdom and understanding, the spirit of knowledge and reverence, the spirit of holy fear. Keep safe what you received. God the Father sealed you, Christ the Lord strengthened you and sent the Spirit into your hearts as the pledge of what is to come, as you learned in the reading from the Apostle.

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Our Lady of Mount Carmel

From a sermon by Saint Leo the Great, pope

Mary conceived in her soul 
she conceived in her body
Flos Carmeli (Flower of Carmel)
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 marvellous work of God’s goodness, what joy should it not bring to the lowly hearts of men?

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Saint Bonaventure, Bishop, Doctor

From the Journey of the Mind to God by St. Bonaventure

Mystical wisdom is revealed by the Holy Spirit
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!

Monday, July 14, 2014

Saint Camillus of Lellis, Priest

From a Life of St Camillus
Serving the Lord in his brethren
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 neighbours, 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 honour 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!’

Wednesday, July 9, 2014

Saint Augustine Zhao Rong and his Companions, Martyrs

From the ancient document entitled "The Teaching of the Twelve Apostles"

The Eucharist
Saint Augustine Zhao Rong and his Companions, Martyrs
Celebrate the Eucharist as follows: Say over the cup: “we give you thanks, Father, for the holy vine of David, your servant, which you made known to us through Jesus your servant. To you be glory for ever.”
  Over the broken bread say: “we give you thanks, Father, for the life and the knowledge which you have revealed to us through Jesus your servant. To you be glory for ever. As this broken bread scattered on the mountains was gathered and became one, so too, may your Church be gathered together from the ends of the earth into your kingdom. For glory and power are yours through Jesus Christ for ever.”
  Do not let anyone eat or drink of your Eucharist except those who have been baptized in the name of the Lord. For the statement of the Lord applies here also: Do not give to dogs what is holy.
  When you finish the meal, offer thanks in this manner: “We thank you, holy Father, for your name which you enshrined in our hearts. We thank you for the knowledge and faith and immortality which you revealed to us through your servant Jesus. To you be glory for ever. Almighty ruler, you created all things for the sake of your name; you gave men food and drink to enjoy so that they might give you thanks. Now you have favored us through Jesus your servant with spiritual food and drink as well as with eternal life. Above all we thank you because you are mighty. To you be glory for ever.
  “Remember, Lord, your Church and deliver her from all evil. Perfect her in your love; and, once she has been sanctified, gather her together from the four winds into the kingdom which you have prepared for her. For power and glory are yours for ever.
  “May grace come and this world pass away! Hosanna to the God of David. If anyone is holy, let him come. If anyone is not, let him repent. Maranatha. Amen.”
  On the Lord’s day, when you have been gathered together, break bread and celebrate the Eucharist. But first confess your sins so that your offering may be pure. If anyone has a quarrel with his neighbor, that person should not join you until he has been reconciled. Your sacrifice must not be defiled. In this regard, the Lord has said: In every place and time offer me a pure sacrifice. I am a great king, says the Lord, and my name is great among the nations.