Category Archives: Liturgy

Dec 14 – “Thy dear Love can slay”


-by Br Philip Nolan, OP

“There is a story about how St. John of the Cross celebrated Christmas: “On Christmas day . . . St. John of the Cross, while at ease with his brethren at recreation, took the image of the Holy Infant from the Crib and danced round the room, singing all the while: “Mi dulce y tierno Jesús/‘My sweet and tender Jesus,/ If Thy dear love can slay,/ It is today’”. The austere Carmelite mystic of the sixteenth century, known for his spiritual writings and his reform of the Carmelite Order, burst out in song and dance like David before the Ark of the Covenant. God’s presence sometimes makes great men childlike, even giddy.

Saint John of the Cross, however, as his name suggests, knew something of the brutality of life as well. Some of his Carmelite brethren went so far as to imprison him and publicly punish him out of opposition to his reforms. And through the sufferings, St. John held fast to Christ. As he exclaims in Counsels of Light and Love, “Thou wilt not take from me, my God, that which once thou gavest me in Thine only Son Jesus Christ, in Whom Thou gavest me all that I desire; wherefore I shall rejoice that Thou wilt not tarry if I wait for Thee” (71–2). The Incarnation fulfills all our desires—if only we will ponder the manger in wonder. The baby Jesus is God’s perfect gift to us—if only we will wait patiently for His greatness to be manifest in our lives.

In watching and waiting in Advent, we wonder at how small the beginnings of our redemption seem. Even now redemption can seem far from our world: “O sweetest love of God that art so little known” (Counsels, 68). The reign of God burst into the world in the meekest of ways: “How silently, how silently, the wondrous gift is given.” Now we prepare to see the babe in the manger, the silent work of God. We know that the Incarnation happened, that our “redemption is drawing near” -Lk 21:28

In the sure promise of redemption, the austerity and the name of St. John of the Cross begins to make sense. In the quiet of Bethlehem, God prepares for the crowds of Jerusalem. We begin with Him at the manger in Bethlehem and follow Him to the hill of Golgotha. God purifies our worldly desires as we take up the cross and follow Him. What begins in love, remains in love, and ends in love: ‘My sweet and tender Jesus,/ If Thy dear love can slay,/ It is today.'”

Love, and the victory of Love,
Matthew

Dec 7 – Veni Redemptor Gentium – St Ambrose of Milan, (337-397 AD), Father & Doctor of the Church


Veni, Redemptor gentium;
Ostende partum virginis;
Miretur omne saeculum.
Talis decet partus Deo.

Non ex virili semine,
Sed mystico spiramine
Verbum Dei tactum est caro,
Fructusque ventris floruit.

Alvus tumescit virginis.
Claustrum pudoris permanet;
Vexilla virtutum micant,
Versatur in templo Deus.

Procedit e thalamo suo,
Pudoris aulo regia,
Geminae gigans substantiae
Alacris ut currat viam.

Egressus eius a Patre,
Regressus eius ad Patrem ;
Excursus usque ad inferos
Recursus ad sedem Dei.

Aequalis aeterno Patri,
Carnis tropaeo accingere,
Infirma nostri corporis
Virtute firmans perpeti.

Praesepe iam fulget tuum,
Lumenque nox spirat novum,
Quad nulla nox interpolet
Fideque iugi luceat.

Gloria tibi, Domine,
Qui natus es de virgine,
Cum Patre et saneto Spiritu,
In sempiterna saecula.

Come, thou Redeemer of the earth,
Come manifest thy virgin birth:
All lands admire, all times applaud:
Such is the birth that fits our God.

Forth from his chamber goeth he,
That royal home of purity,
A giant in twofold substance one,
Rejoicing now his course to run.

The Virgin’s womb that glory gained,
Its virgin honor is still unstained.
The banners there of virtue glow;
God in his temple dwells below.

From God the Father he proceeds,
To God the Father back he speeds;
Runs out his course to death and hell,
Returns on God’s high throne to dwell.

O Equal to thy Father, thou!
Gird on thy fleshly mantle now;
The weakness of our mortal state
With deathless might invigorate.

Thy cradle here shall glitter bright,
And darkness breathe a newer light,
Where endless faith shall shine serene,
And twilight never intervene.

All laud, eternal Son, to Thee
Whose advent sets Thy people free,
Whom with the Father we adore,
And Holy Ghost, for evermore.


-by Br Raymond LaGrange, OP

Non ex virili semine,

sed mystico spiramine

Verbum Dei factum est caro

fructusque ventris floruit.

Literally, this means: “Not from man’s seed / But by the mystic spirit / The Word of God was made man / And the fruit of the womb sprung forth.” Spiramine, “spirit” also means “breath.” The breath of life once breathed into Adam is now breathed upon Mary. The Holy Spirit creates (On the Mysteries, 2.5). Unlike everyone else, Jesus is conceived by an act of God without bodily contact (On Virginity, II.2.7), just as the world was created without pre-existing matter. The incarnation is a sort of re-creation in the world, so that fallen nature may be redeemed. In the original creation, God made man in His own image. In the fullness of time, He created a body for Himself. This meeting of heaven and earth, God’s complete gift of Himself, happens in the womb of Mary.

The Holy Spirit is also the revealer. Ambrose tells us that the same cloud which led the Hebrews out of Egypt came to rest finally upon the Virgin Mary, in whom He conceived His Son. (On the Mysteries, 3.13) This cloud that led the Hebrews over the Red Sea brought them to rest at Mount Sinai, where the law was revealed to Moses. This law was the fullest revelation of God up to that point in history. This is fulfilled in the Word of God, Who is the New Law, conceived in Mary’s womb. The Holy Spirit reveals God to us in history through Mary.

Mary participates in a very special way in both creation and revelation by agreeing to bear the Son of God. Before Mary conceived the God-man in her womb, however, she beheld Him in prayer. In his work, On Virginity, Ambrose presents her as a model for consecrated virgins:

“She was a virgin not only in body but also in mind…humble in heart, grave in speech, prudent in mind, sparing of words, studious in reading, resting her hope not on uncertain riches, but on the prayer of the poor, intent on work, modest in discourse; wont to seek not man but God as the judge of her thoughts, to injure no one, to have goodwill towards all, to rise up before her elders, not to envy her equals, to avoid boastfulness, to follow reason, to love virtue.” (On Virginity, II.2.7)

Her soul was given entirely to prayer. When the Angel Gabriel came to announce to her the birth of Jesus, he found her alone, with nothing distracting her from her contemplation (On Virginity, II.2.10). Her contemplation continues after she gives birth. As Luke tells us, “Mary kept all these things in her heart.” (Lk 2:19, On Virginity, II.2.13)

We can learn from Mary’s habit of contemplation. We, too, are called to ponder in our hearts the mysteries revealed to us. During this season of Advent, as we prepare to commemorate the coming of the Redeemer of nations, it is opportune to take on small penances and remove distractions from our lives so that we can give ourselves especially over to prayer. But our contemplation must not only look backward. It prepares us for death, and our entry into our heavenly homeland, where together with Mary and Ambrose and all the angels and saints, we will contemplate the Holy Trinity for eternity.”

Love & Advent,
Matthew

Verbum caro factum est et habitavit in nobis – Jn 1:14


Verbum caro factum est et habitavit in nobis.

Et vidimus gloriam eius,
gloriam quasi Unigeniti a Patre,
plenum gratiae et veritatis.

In principio erat Verbum,
et Verbum erat apud Deum,
et Deus erat Verbum.

Et vidimus gloriam eius,
gloriam quasi Unigeniti a Patre,
plenum gratiae et veritatis.

Gloria Patri, et Filio, et Spiritui Sancto.

Et vidimus gloriam eius,
gloriam quasi Unigeniti a Patre,
plenum gratiae et veritatis.

And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us. (John 1:14)

And we have beheld His glory,
glory as of the only Son from the Father,
full of grace and truth. (John 1:14)

In the beginning was the Word,
and the Word was with God,
and the Word was God. (John 1:1)

And we have beheld His glory,
glory as of the only Son from the Father,
full of grace and truth. (John 1:14)

Glory be to the Father and to the Son and to the Holy Spirit.

And we have beheld His glory,
glory as of the only Son from the Father,
full of grace and truth. (John 1:14)

Love, He comes!!!!!!
Matthew

Nov 2 – Holy Souls

-by Rev Gabriel of St Mary Magdalen, OCD, Divine Intimacy, Baronius Press, (c) 1964

Presence of God – Grant, O Lord, eternal rest to the souls of the departed; and may the thought of death spur me on to greater generosity.

MEDITATION

“Holy Church, our good Mother, after having exalted with fitting praise all her children who now rejoice in heaven, strives also to help all those who still suffer in purgatory, and to this end intercedes with all her power before Christ, her Lord and Spouse, in order that as speedily as possible they may join the society of the elect in heaven.” These are the words of the Roman Martyrology.

Yesterday we contemplated the glory of the Church triumphant and implored her intercession. Today we consider the expiatory pains of the Church suffering and solicit for these souls the divine assistance: “Eternal rest grant unto them, O Lord.” This is the dogma of the Communion of Saints put into practice. The Church triumphant intercedes for us, the Church militant; and we, in our turn, hasten to the help of the Church suffering. Death has taken from us those we love; yet, there can be no real separation from those who have died in the kiss of the Lord. The bond of charity continues to unite us, enfolding in one embrace earth, heaven, and purgatory, so that there circulates from one region to another the fraternal assistance which springs from love, which has as its end the triumph of love in the common glory of Paradise.

The liturgy of the day is pervaded with sadness, but it is not the grief of those “who have no hope” (1 Thessalonians 4:12), for it is resplendent with faith in a blessed resurrection, in the eternal felicity which awaits us. The passages chosen for the Gospels of the three Masses for the faithful departed speak to us explicitly of all these consoling truths, and in a most authoritative way, since they repeat to us the very words of Jesus: “This is the will of the Father Who sent Me; that of all that He hath given Me, I should lose nothing, but should raise it up again in the last day” (Gospel for the 2nd Mass: John 6:37-40). Could there be a more consoling assurance?

Jesus presents Himself to us today as the Good Shepherd who does not want to lose even one of His sheep, nor does He spare any pains to lead them all to salvation. As if in response to the sweet promises of Jesus, Holy Mother Church, full of gratitude and enthusiasm, cries out: “For with regard to Thy faithful, O Lord, life is changed, not taken away; and the abode of this earthly sojourn being dissolved, an eternal dwelling is prepared in heaven” (Preface). Rather than an inexorable end, death is, for the Christian, a door opening into eternity, a door which admits the soul into eternal life.

COLLOQUY

“Grant, O Lord, that I may experience a reasonable sorrow at the death of those who are dear to me, shedding tears of resignation over our mortal condition, yet soon restraining them by this consoling thought of the faith: that in dying, the faithful have only withdrawn a little from us to go into a better world.

May I not weep as do the pagans who are without hope. I may have reason to be sad, but in my affliction hope will comfort me. With hope so great, it is not fitting, O my God, that Your temple should be in mourning. You dwell there, You who are our Consoler; and You cannot fail in Your promises” (-St. Augustine).

“O Master and Creator of the universe, Lord of life and death, You give our souls being and fill them with blessings: You carry out and transform everything by the work of Your Word, at the time foreordained and according to the plan of Your Wisdom; receive, today, our deceased brethren and give them eternal rest.

May You welcome us, in our turn, at the moment pleasing to You, after having guided us and left us in the body for as long as You think useful and salutary.

“Made ready in Your fear, without trouble, and without delay, may You receive us on the last day. Grant that we may not leave the things of this world with regret, like those who are too much attached to earth and the flesh; grant that we may advance resolutely and happily toward that blessed and unending life which is in Christ Jesus Our Lord, to whom be glory forever and ever. Amen” (St. Gregory Nazianzen).

Love,
Matthew

Nov 2 – Holy Souls in Purgatory

“The belief that love can reach into the afterlife, that reciprocal giving and receiving is possible, in which our affection for one another continues beyond the limits of death—this has been a fundamental conviction of Christianity throughout the ages and it remains a source of comfort today. Who would not feel the need to convey to their departed loved ones a sign of kindness, a gesture of gratitude or even a request for pardon? Now a further question arises: if “Purgatory” is simply purification through fire in the encounter with the Lord, Judge and Savior, how can a third person intervene, even if he or she is particularly close to the other? When we ask such a question, we should recall that no man is an island, entire of itself. Our lives are involved with one another, through innumerable interactions they are linked together. No one lives alone. No one sins alone. No one is saved alone. The lives of others continually spill over into mine: in what I think, say, do and achieve. And conversely, my life spills over into that of others: for better and for worse. So my prayer for another is not something extraneous to that person, something external, not even after death. In the interconnectedness of Being, my gratitude to the other—my prayer for him—can play a small part in his purification. And for that there is no need to convert earthly time into God’s time: in the communion of souls simple terrestrial time is superseded. It is never too late to touch the heart of another, nor is it ever in vain. In this way we further clarify an important element of the Christian concept of hope. Our hope is always essentially also hope for others; only thus is it truly hope for me, too. As Christians we should never limit ourselves to asking: how can I save myself? We should also ask: what can I do in order that others may be saved and that for them, too, the star of hope may rise? Then I will have done my utmost for my own personal salvation as well.”
Spe Salvi, by Pope Benedict XVI


-by Br Stephen Ruhl, OP

“Today we pray for the holy souls in purgatory. This idea of the holy souls in purgatory seems an odd notion to contemporary ears. One tends to think of heaven as the place where the holy souls go. Purgatory, one would think, is for unholy souls, an unpleasant place where it would be unfortunate to end up. As with most ideas, this has some truth and some error. Purgatory is not meant to be a pleasant place, but it is not a place for unholy souls. Rather, purgatory is for those souls who are holy, but not quite holy enough.

The souls in purgatory are holy souls. They loved God in this life, and sought to do his will. They did this, however, somewhat imperfectly. These souls in purgatory strove for God during their earthly life, but hit some stumbling blocks along the way. This striving, this desire for God, is what kept them from the perils of hell, but the stumbling blocks they tripped on have kept them from attaining the fullness of joy which awaits them in heaven.

Whereas yesterday’s solemnity of All Saints was a celebration of all the men and women who have gone before us and attained this fullness of joy, today’s commemoration is a day of prayer to keep the purgatorial conveyor belt moving, as it were. The holy souls in purgatory have a desire for God, but because their earthly life has ended, they are no longer capable of performing the deeds which, by God’s grace, merit heaven. Now that their earthly pilgrimage has run its course, they are entirely dependent upon God and the prayers of those who remain on earth.

This is where you and I come in. We pray for these souls, these souls who have no one else to pray for them. We can do penance for them, we can pray for them, and in the process we can grow in holiness ourselves. In doing so, we build bonds of charity with those for whom we pray, nameless though they are. And once they attain the joys of heaven, which they certainly will after their purgation is completed, we can be assured of their intercession for us, as we celebrate them on All Saints Day.

Today we pray for the holy souls in purgatory, that they may attain the joys of heaven and be enrolled among the saints, and, in doing so, may we gain new intercessors in heaven, helping us to grow in holiness ourselves.”

Love,
Matthew

Palm Sunday, 3/31/1146 – St Bernard of Clairvaux, Doctor of the Church, Doctor Mellifluous, preaches the Second Crusade


-“St. Bernard Preaching the Second Crusade in Vezelay”, 1840 (oil on canvas), Signol, Emile (1804-1892)

Now is a time for holiness and saints within the Church. Would that we had a Bernard now to preach a Crusade of Holiness. It has often been the case, when the Church has faced its greatest crises, its greatest saints have arisen.

“Rend your heart and not your garments. Return to the LORD your God, for He is gracious and compassionate, slow to anger and abounding in love, and He relents from sending calamity.” -Joel 2:13

-by Hugh O’Reilly

“Born in 1091, died in 1153, made Abbot of Clairvaux in 1115, St. Bernard exercised strong influence on 12th century Europe. When the Crusader State of Edessa fell in 1144, Pope Eugene III, who himself had been a monk in Clairvaux, called on his spiritual father to preach a Second Crusade to bring succor for the distressed condition of the Holy Land.

Abbot Bernard girded on the sword of the Divine Word and inspired many for the overseas Crusade.

This is one of his most famous speeches, preached at Vezelay, a little city of Burgundy, on Palm Sunday, March 31, 1146. The orator of the Crusade preached on a large tribune on the side of a hill outside the gates of the city. With King Louis VII of France in his royal robes present, St. Bernard first read the letters of the Sovereign Pontiff calling for a Crusade, then made this plea to arms to the large crowd that had gathered there to hear his words:

“How can you not know that we live in a period of chastisement and ruin? The enemy of mankind has caused the breath of corruption to fly over all regions; we behold nothing but unpunished wickedness. Neither the laws of men nor the laws of religion have sufficient power to check the depravity of customs and the triumph of the wicked. The demon of heresy has taken possession of the chair of truth, and God has sent forth His malediction upon His sanctuary.

“Oh, ye who listen to me, hasten then to appease the anger of Heaven. But no longer implore His goodness by vain complaints; clothe not yourselves in sackcloth, but cover yourselves with your impenetrable bucklers. The din of arms, the dangers, the labors, the fatigues of war are the penances that God now imposes upon you. Hasten then to expiate your sins by victories over the infidels, and let the deliverance of holy places be the reward of your repentance.

“If it were announced to you that the enemy had invaded your cities, your castles, your lands; had ravished your wives and your daughters and profaned your temples – who among you would not fly to arms? Well, then, all these calamities, and calamities still greater, have fallen upon your brethren, upon the family of Jesus Christ, which is yours. Why do you hesitate to repair so many evils; to revenge so many outrages? Will you allow the infidels to contemplate in peace the ravages they have committed on Christian people?

“Remember that their triumph will be a subject for grief to all ages and an eternal opprobrium upon the generation that has endured it. Yes, the living God has charged me to announce to you that He will punish them who shall not have defended Him against His enemies.

“Fly then to arms! Let a holy ire animate you in the fight, and let the Christian world resound with these words of the prophet, ‘Cursed be he who does not stain his sword with blood!’ “If the Lord calls you to the defense of His heritage think not that His hand has lost its power. Could He not send twelve Legions of Angels or breathe one word and all His enemies would crumble away into dust? But God has considered the sons of men, to open for them the road to His mercy. His goodness has caused to dawn for you a day of safety by calling on you to avenge His glory and His name.

“Christian warriors, He Who gave His life for you, today demands yours in return. These are combats worthy of you, combats in which it is glorious to conquer and advantageous to die. Illustrious knights, generous defenders of the Cross, remember the example of your fathers, who conquered Jerusalem, and whose names are inscribed in Heaven. Abandon then the things that perish, to gather unfading palms and conquer a Kingdom that has no end.”

All the barons and knights applauded the eloquence of St. Bernard and were persuaded that he uttered the will of God. Louis VII, deeply moved by the words he had heard, cast himself at the feet of St. Bernard and demanded the Cross. Then, clothed with this sign, he exhorted all those present to follow his example.

The hill upon which this vast multitude was assembled resounded for a long period of time with the cries of Deus vult! Deus vult! (God wills it). Then, many counts and a crowd of barons and knights followed the example of the King. Several Bishops threw themselves at the feet of St. Bernard, taking the oath to fight against the infidels.

The crosses that the Abbot of Clairvaux had brought were not sufficient for the great number who asked for them. He tore his vestments to make more.

To preserve the memory of this day, Pons, abbot of Vèzelay, founded upon the hill where the knights and barons had assembled a Church that he dedicated to the Holy Cross. The tribune upon which St. Bernard had preached the Crusade remained there a long time, the object of the veneration of the faithful.”

Today, a cross marks the spot on the hill in Vèzelay where Bernard preached.

“O praise the Lord, all ye nations: praise Him, all ye people.

For His merciful kindness is great toward us: and the truth of the Lord endureth for ever. Praise ye the Lord.” -Psalm 117

Love,
Matthew

Liturgy, praying with the Church

-by Rev Gabriel of St Mary Magdalen, OCD, Divine Intimacy, Baronius Press, (c) 1964

Presence of God – O Jesus, Head of the Mystical Body, grant that while praying with the Church, I may unite myself to Your prayer.

MEDITATION

A Christian is not isolated. As man, he belongs to the great human family; as one baptized, he is grafted onto Christ and becomes a member of His Mystical Body, the Church. A Christian is, at the same time, a child of God and a child of the Church; it is precisely in the bosom of the Church that he becomes a child of God. Hence his whole spiritual life, even though it has a personal character which tends toward intimate contact with God, ought also to have a social, liturgical character, which shares in the life of the Church. In other words, the spiritual life of a Christian should be framed in that of the Church, his Mother; it should be associated to all that the Church does in union with Christ her Head to extend His sanctifying action in the world.

Just as our spiritual life is born, grows, and develops in the bosom of the Church, so our prayer, which is the highest expression of the spiritual life, should be inserted in the prayer of the Church, that is, in liturgical prayer. Liturgical prayer has a special excellence because it is not the prayer, however sublime and elevated, of individual souls, but is the prayer that the whole Church addresses to God, in union with Jesus, her Spouse and her Head. It is something like a prolongation of Jesus’ prayer; indeed, it is a participation in those supplications which He Himself always offers to the Father. In the glory of heaven and in humble effacement on our altars, He praises Him in the name of all creatures and intercedes with Him for the needs of each one in particular.

“The sacred liturgy is the public worship given to the Father by our Redeemer as Head of the Church; and it is the worship which the society of the faithful render to their Head and through Him, to the eternal Father” (-Venerable Pope Pius XII, Encyclical Mediator Dei).

Whenever we feel the poverty of our own prayer, let us offer to God the great prayer of Jesus and the Church, associating ourselves spiritually.

COLLOQUY

“O my God, how discouraged should I be by reason of my weakness and nothingness, if to praise, reverence, and glorify You, I did not have Jesus Christ, my only Good, Who does this so perfectly! To Him I entrust my weakness, and I rejoice that He is all and I am nothing…. Yes, O Jesus, in You I possess everything; You are my Head and I am really one of Your members. You pray, adore, humble Yourself, and give thanks in me and for me, and I do the same in You, for the member is all one with the Head. Your holy, magnanimous life absorbs mine, which is so vile and mean” (cf. Bl. M. Thérèse Soubiran).

O Jesus, seated at the right hand of the Father, and interceding continually for us, deign to absorb into Your great prayer my very poor one.

“O Jesus, grant that I may adore the Father ‘in spirit and in truth,’ and in order that I may do so, permit me to adore Him by You and in union with You; for You are the great Adorer in spirit and in truth.” (cf. Blessed Elisabeth of the Trinity First Retreat: Heaven in Earth, 9).

You alone are the real adorer, whose prayer and adoration are perfectly worthy of the infinite Majesty. You alone are the perfect praise of the Most Holy Trinity; You wish to associate with this praise the Church, Your Spouse and my Mother. You wish to associate me with it also, Your member and a child of the Church. Grant that by participating in the prayer of the Church, I may likewise participate in Your prayer. Do not look upon the poverty of my personal prayer, but see it united with the sublime, unceasing prayer of Your Spouse; see it joined to the perpetual chorus of praise and petition which Your priests, the souls consecrated to You, and all Your elect, are continually sending up to Your throne. Grant that my voice may not be discordant in this magnificent chorus. Help me then to pray with a real spirit of piety and with an attentive, devout soul, so that my heart will always accompany the movement of my lips, and my interior sentiments vivify every action, every chant, and every word.”

Love,
Matthew

Are alternate theories to the Resurrection plausible?

The Bible says that if Jesus did not rise from the dead then the Christian faith is worthless (1 Cor. 15:17). However, if Jesus did rise from the dead then we know Jesus can keep His promise to give everyone who follows Him eternal life (1 John 2:25).

But how can we know that Jesus really rose from the dead and that the Bible’s description of this miracle wasn’t just a story someone made up?

One way is by showing that the Resurrection is the only explanation for the events surrounding Jesus’ death, events that almost everyone, including skeptics, agrees are historical.

As we examine some of the various theories put forward to explain these facts, you will see that only one theory explains 1) Jesus’ death by Crucifixion; 2) his empty tomb; 3) the post-Crucifixion appearances to the disciples; and 4) the disciples’ willingness to die for their faith: the theory that Jesus actually rose from the dead.

The Swoon Theory

One way to explain these facts would be to posit that Jesus never really died. Maybe he just passed out on the cross and woke up in a tomb. Jesus then met up with the disciples who mistakenly thought he’d risen from the dead. But even if Jesus somehow survived the Crucifixion, the apostles would never have thought he’d miraculously risen from the dead. Upon seeing his bloody, mutilated body, they would have thought Jesus had cheated death, not beaten it, and quickly gotten him medical treatment.

The Trash Theory

How do we know Jesus wasn’t just thrown into an anonymous grave and was forgotten until the disciples imagined they saw him alive again?

Deuteronomy 21:22-23 prohibited the Jewish people from leaving a criminal hanging on a tree, so Jesus would have to have been buried immediately after he died on the cross.

The Gospels say Joseph of Arimathea, a member of the council that condemned Jesus to death, buried him (though John 3:1-2 tells us Joseph was a disciple of Jesus, but in secret, out of fear of the other Jewish leaders). If the Gospel writers had invented the story of Jesus being buried in a tomb, they would have given their leader an honorable burial at the hands of his friends and family.

This means we have good historical evidence that after the Crucifixion Jesus’ body was placed in an identifiable tomb and simply didn’t vanish in a common graveyard.

The Hallucination Theory

Most historians agree the disciples thought they saw the risen Jesus. The story of Jesus appearing to them was not a legend that developed centuries later but was recorded by the apostle Paul (1 Cor. 15:3-7). It is almost universally recognized among historians that Paul existed, we have the letters he wrote, and Paul knew the people who claimed to have seen the risen Jesus (Gal. 1:18-19). But could those experiences have just been hallucinations brought on by the terrible grief these men endured after Jesus was executed?

First, it is individuals, not groups, who almost always experience hallucinations. Multiple biblical authors confirm that groups of Jesus’ disciples claimed to see him after his death (Luke 24:36-49, 1 Cor. 15:5-6). As psychologist Gary Collins writes, “By their very nature only one person can see a given hallucination at a time. They certainly aren’t something which can be seen by a group of people.”

Second, the theory that Jesus’ depressed disciples hallucinated his Resurrection doesn’t explain why enemies of the Church came to believe in the Resurrection. The most famous example would be St. Paul, who was a Jewish leader who persecuted the Church until an encounter with the risen Christ moved him to join the “Jewish heresy” he had been persecuting. The best explanation for such a sudden conversion is that Paul had a real encounter with the risen Christ.

The Empty Tomb

We’ve already seen that it is historically certain Jesus was buried in a locatable tomb. The Gospels tell us that on the Sunday after the Resurrection a group of women discovered the tomb was empty. But why should we believe Jesus’ tomb was empty and that the authors of the Gospels didn’t make this up?

First, the disciples preached the empty tomb in the city of Jerusalem. If the tomb were not empty, enemies of the early Church could easily have taken the body out of the tomb and proven Jesus did not rise from the dead.

Second, the earliest enemies of the Church agreed that Jesus’ tomb was empty. Matthew’s Gospel says the Jewish leaders of his day (about forty to fifty years after the Crucifixion) believed Jesus’ body was stolen from the tomb (Matt. 28:11-15). The second-century Christian writer St. Justin Martyr also says that the Jews of his time believed Jesus’ body was stolen.

Finally, the Gospels include the testimony of women discovering the tomb. In Jesus’ time a woman’s testimony was considered to be as reliable as that of a child or a criminal. If the Gospel authors had invented the story about Jesus’ tomb being found empty, they would have used trustworthy characters like Peter or John. The embarrassing detail about women discovering the empty tomb was included in the story simply because that’s what really happened.

The Fraud Theory

Is it possible the disciples stole Jesus’ body and then told people their Messiah had risen from the dead? It’s not impossible, but this theory seems extremely unlikely.

Moreover, fraud is normally committed for personal gain; the only thing the disciples had to gain from their fraud was persecution and death. Since people don’t knowingly die for a lie, we can be confident Jesus’ disciples really believed in the Resurrection they preached to others.

There is no chance they were all deceived or that they all chose to die painful deaths in order to deceive others. What’s more likely is that Jesus’ Resurrection really happened and gave them the courage to share this good news in the face of persecution. They knew that even if they were to die through Christ they would live forever. We too can have eternal life if we trust in God’s promises and choose to be baptized into the Resurrection of Jesus Christ (Rom. 6:3-5).

Why We Believe: The Resurrection

Even skeptics admit that Jesus was crucified, buried, his tomb was found empty, his disciples saw him after his death, and they were willing to die for that truth.
Other explanations, like hallucination or fraud, only explain some of these facts. The most plausible explanation for all these facts is that Jesus really did rise from the dead.

Love & Easter joy,
Matthew

Sinning boldly without fear of God

“There is good reason to be astonished that men should sin so boldly in the sight of Heaven and earth and show so little fear of the most high God. Yet it is a much greater cause of astonishment that while we multiply our iniquities beyond the sands of the sea and have so great a need for God to be kind and indulgent, we are nevertheless so demanding ourselves. Such indignity and such injustice! We want God to suffer everything from us, and we are not able to suffer anything from anyone. We exaggerate beyond measure the faults committed against us; worms that we are, we take the slightest pressure exerted on us to be an enormous attack. Meanwhile, we count as nothing what we undertake proudly against the sovereign majesty of God and the rights of his empire! Blind and wretched mortals: will we always be so sensitive and delicate? Will we never open our eyes to the truth? Will we never understand that the one who does injury to us is always much more to be pitied than are we who receive the injury? . . . Since those who do evil to us are unhealthy in mind, why do we embitter them by our cruel vengeance? Why do we not rather seek to bring them back to reason by our patience and mildness? Yet we are far removed from these charitable dispositions. Far from making the effort at self-command that would enable us to endure an injury, we think that we are lowering ourselves if we do not take pride in being delicate in points of honor. We even think well of ourselves for our extreme sensitivity. And we carry our resentment beyond all measure . . . All of this must stop . . . We must take care of what we say and bridle our malicious anger and unruly tongues. For there is a God in Heaven who has told us that he will demand a reckoning of our ‘careless words’ (Matt. 12:36): what recompense shall he exact for those which are harmful and malicious? We ought, therefore, to revere his eyes and his presence. Let us ponder the fact that he will judge us as we have judged our neighbor.”  — Bishop Jacques-Benigne Bossuet, Meditations for Lent, p. 49-51

Love & repentance,
Matthew

“Woman, why are you crying? Whom do you seek?” -Jn 20:15


-Christ Appearing to Mary Magdalene, Charles de La Fosse, between 1680 and 1685

-by Rev Gabriel of St Mary Magdalen, OCD, Divine Intimacy, Baronius Press, (c) 1964

Presence of God – O Lord, may I always seek You alone, and seeking You, may I have the grace to find You.

MEDITATION

In the Masses of Easter week, the Gospels recount the various apparitions of the risen Jesus; the first, and one of the most moving, is that to Mary Magdalen (John 20:11-18). In this episode Mary appears with her characteristic trait, that of a soul completely possessed by the love of God. When she reaches the sepulcher, she has scarcely seen “the stone rolled away,” before she is seized with one only anxiety: “They have taken away my Lord.” Who could have taken Him? Where could they have put Him? She repeats these questions to everyone she meets, supposing that they are filled with a like apprehension. She tells it to Peter and John who come running to see for themselves; she tells it to the Angels, and she tells it even to Jesus. The other women, finding the sepulcher open, go in to find out what has happened, but Magdalen runs off quickly to bring the news to the Apostles. Then she returns. What will she do near that empty tomb? She does not know, but love has impelled her to return, and it keeps her at the place where the body of the Master had been, the body that she wants to find at any cost.

She sees the Angels, but she does not marvel or become frightened like the other women; she is so possessed by her grief that there is no room in her soul for other emotions. When the Angels ask her: “Woman, why weepest thou?” she has only one answer: “Because they have taken away my Lord, and I know not where they have laid Him.” Later, Jesus asks her the same question and Mary, absorbed in her same thoughts, does not even recognize Him, but “thinking that it was the gardener,” she says to Him: “Sir, if thou hast taken Him hence, tell me where thou hast laid Him, and I will take Him away.” The thought of finding Jesus so occupies her mind that she does not even feel the need of giving His name; it seems to her that everyone must be thinking of Him, that everyone would understand immediately—as though everyone were in the same state of mind as she.

When love of God and desire for Him have taken full possession of a soul, there is no longer room in it for other loves, other desires, other preoccupations. All its movements are directed to God, and through all things the soul does nothing but seek God alone.

COLLOQUY

“O Lord Jesus Christ, how good, blissful and desirable it is to feel the violence of Your love! Ah! enlighten my heart every day with the rays of this love, dissipate the darkness of my mind, illuminate the secret places in my heart, strengthen and inflame my intellect, and rejoice and fortify my soul! Oh! how tender is Your mercy, how great and sweet Your love, O Lord Jesus Christ. You lavish Your love to be enjoyed by those who love none but You, and who think of nothing but You! Loving us first, You invite us to love You; You delight us and draw us, so great is the power of Your love. Nothing invites us, nothing delights and attracts us more than this kind attention of love; the heart, which at first was torpid, feels itself inflamed; and the heart that is fervent, when it knows it is loved and has been loved by You, it becomes still more ardent.

O most loving Lord Jesus Christ, although You have loved me inexpressibly, I, a wicked sinner, enclosing in my bosom a heart of stone and iron, have not recognized Your burning love; and even though I desired Your affection, I did not want to love You. Deign, then, to come to my aid, O most merciful Lord Jesus Christ, and by the violence of Your most sweet love, force my rebellious soul to love You, so that I may serve You in peace and attain the unending life of love.” (Ven. R. Giordano).

Love & Easter joy,
Matthew