Category Archives: Liturgy

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

Easter Sermon on the Sacraments – St Augustine of Hippo (354-430 AD)

Empty tomb with three crosses on a hill side.

“You are yourselves what you receive.”

“I haven’t forgotten my promise. I had promised those of you who have just been baptized a sermon to explain the sacrament of the Lord’s table, which you can see right now, and which you shared in last night. You ought to know what you have received, what you are about to receive, what you ought to receive every day.

That bread which you can see on the altar, sanctified by the word of God, is the body of Christ. That cup, or rather what the cup contains, sanctified by the word of God, is the blood of Christ. It was by means of these things that the Lord Christ wished to present us with His body and blood, which He shed for our sake for the forgiveness of sins.

If you receive them well, you are yourselves what you receive. You see, the apostle says, We, being many, are one loaf, one body. (1 Cor 10:17) That’s how he explained the sacrament of the Lord’s table; one loaf, one body, is what we all are, many though we be.

In this loaf of bread, you are given clearly to understand how much you should love unity. I mean, was that loaf made from one grain? Weren’t there many grains of wheat? But before they came into the loaf they were all separate; they were joined together by means of water after a certain amount of pounding and crushing. Unless wheat is ground, after all, and moistened with water, it can’t possibly get into this shape, which is called bread.

In the same way, you too were being ground and pounded, as it were, by the humiliation of fasting and the sacrament of exorcism. Then came baptism, and you were, in a manner of speaking, moistened with water in order to be shaped into bread. But it’s not yet bread without fire to bake it. So what does fire represent? That’s the chrism, the anointing. Oil, the fire-feeder, you see, is the sacrament of the Holy Spirit.

Notice it, when the Acts of the Apostles are read; the reading of that book begins now, you see. Today begins the book that is called the Acts of the Apostles. Anybody who wishes to make progress has the means of doing so.

When you assemble in church, put aside silly stories and concentrate on the scriptures. We here are your books. So pay attention, and see how the Holy Spirit is going to come at Pentecost. And this is how He will come; He will show Himself in tongues of fire.

You see, He breathes into us the charity, which should set us on fire for God, and have us think lightly of the world, and burn up our straw, and purge and refine our hearts like gold. So the Holy Spirit comes, fire after water, and you are baked into the bread, which is the body of Christ. And that’s how unity is signified.

Now you have the sacraments in the order they occur. First, after the prayer, you are urged to lift up your hearts; that’s only right for the members of Christ. After all, if you have become members of Christ, where is your head? Members have a head. If the head hadn’t gone ahead before, the members would never follow.

Where has our head gone? What did you give back in the creed? On the third day He rose again from the dead, He ascended into heaven, He is seated at the right hand of the Father. So our head is in heaven. That’s why, after the words Lift up your hearts, you reply, We have lifted them up to the Lord.

And you mustn’t attribute it to your own powers, your own merits, your own efforts, this lifting up of your hearts to the Lord, because it’s God’s gift that you should have your heart up above.

That’s why the bishop, or the presbyter who’s offering, goes on to say, when the people have answered We have lifted them up to the Lord, why he goes on to say, Let us give thanks to the Lord our God, because we have lifted up our hearts. Let us give thanks, because unless He had enabled us to lift them up, we would still have our hearts down here on earth. And you signify your agreement by saying, It is right and just to give thanks to the one who caused us to lift up our hearts to our head.

Then, after the consecration of the sacrifice of God, because He wanted us to be ourselves His sacrifice, which is indicated by where that sacrifice was first put, that is the sign of the thing that we are; why, then after the consecration is accomplished, we say the Lord’s prayer, which you have received and given back.

After that comes the greeting, Peace be with you, and Christians kiss one another with a holy kiss. It’s a sign of peace; what is indicated by the lips should happen in the conscience; that is, just as your lips approach the lips of your brothers or sisters, so your heart should not be withdrawn from theirs.

So they are great sacraments and signs, really serious and important sacraments. Do you want to know how their seriousness is impressed on us? The apostle says, Whoever eats the body of Christ or drinks the blood of the Lord unworthily is guilty of the body and blood of the Lord. (1 Cor 11:27)

What is receiving unworthily? Receiving with contempt, receiving with derision. Don’t let yourselves think that what you can see is of no account. What you can see passes away, but the invisible reality signified does not pass away, but remains.

Look, it’s received, it’s eaten, it’s consumed. Is the body of Christ consumed, is the Church of Christ consumed, are the members of Christ consumed? Perish the thought! Here they are being purified, there they will be crowned with the victor’s laurels.

So what is signified will remain eternally, although the thing that signifies it seems to pass away.

So receive the sacrament in such a way that you think about yourselves, that you retain unity in your hearts, that you always fix your hearts up above. Don’t let your hope be placed on earth, but in heaven. Let your faith be firm in God, let it be acceptable to God.

Because what you don’t see now, but believe, you are going to see there, where you will have joy, without end.”

Given c.411-415

Love, & Easter Joy, forever and ever,
Matthew

On the Resurrection of the Lord – Sermon by Pope St Leo the Great (400-461 AD)

*Leo the Great, Sermon LXXI. Sermons in P. Schaff & H. Wace (Editors.), C. L. Feltoe (Translator) Leo the Great, Gregory the Great (Vol. 12a, pp. 181–184), (New York: Christian Literature Company, 1895).
**Ostensibly preached on Good Friday.

WE MUST ALL BE PARTAKERS IN CHRIST’S RESURRECTION LIFE

“In my last sermon,** dearly-beloved, not inappropriately, as I think, we explained to you our participation in the cross of Christ, whereby the life of believers contains in itself the mystery of Easter, and thus what is honored at the feast is celebrated by our practice. And how useful this is you yourselves have proved, and by your devotion have learned, how greatly benefited souls and bodies are by longer fasts, more frequent prayers, and more liberal alms. For there can be hardly any one who has not profited by this exercise, and who has not stored up in the recesses of his conscience something over which he may rightly rejoice. But these advantages must be retained with persistent care, lest our efforts fall away into idleness, and the devil’s malice steal what GOD’S grace gave. Since, therefore, by our forty days’ observance we have wished to bring about this effect, that we should feel something of the Cross at the time of the LORD’S Passion, we must strive to be found partakers also of Christ’s Resurrection, and “pass from death unto life” [John 5:24], while we are in this body. For when a man is changed by some process from one thing into another, not to be what he was is to him an ending, and to be what he was not is a beginning. But the question is, to what a man either dies or lives: because there is a death, which is the cause of living, and there is a life, which is the cause of dying. And nowhere else but in this transitory world are both sought after, so that upon the character of our temporal actions depend the differences of the eternal retributions. We must die, therefore, to the devil and live to GOD: we must perish to iniquity that we may rise to righteousness. Let the old sink, that the new may rise; and since, as says the Truth, “no one can serve two masters” [Matthew 6:24], let not him be Lord who has caused the overthrow of those that stood, but Him Who has raised the fallen to victory.

GOD DID NOT LEAVE HIS SOUL IN HELL, NOR SUFFER HIS FLESH TO SEE CORRUPTION

Accordingly, since the Apostle says, “the first man is of the earth earthy, the second man is from heaven heavenly. As is the earthy, such also are they that are earthy; and as is the heavenly, such also are they that are heavenly. As we have borne the image of the earthy, so let us also bear the image of Him Who is from heaven” [1 Corinthians 15:47-49], we must greatly rejoice over this change, whereby we are translated from earthly degradation to heavenly dignity through His unspeakable mercy, Who descended into our estate that He might promote us to His, by assuming not only the substance but also the conditions of sinful nature, and by allowing the impassibility of Godhead to be affected by all the miseries which are the lot of mortal manhood. And hence that the disturbed minds of the disciples might not be racked by prolonged grief, He with such wondrous speed shortened the three days’ delay which He had announced, that by joining the last part of the first and the first part of the third day to the whole of the second, He cut off a considerable portion of the period, and yet did not lessen the number of days. The Saviour’s Resurrection therefore did not long keep His soul in Hades, nor His flesh in the tomb; and so speedy was the quickening of His uncorrupted flesh that it bore a closer resemblance to slumber than to death, seeing that the Godhead, Which quitted not either part of the Human Nature which He had assumed, reunited by Its power that which Its power had separated.

CHRIST’S MANIFESTATIONS AFTER THE RESURRECTION SHOWED THAT HIS PERSON WAS ESSENTIALLY THE SAME AS BEFORE

And then there followed many proofs, whereon the authority of the Faith to be preached through the whole world might be based. And although the rolling away of the stone, the empty tomb, the arrangement of the linen cloths, and the angels who narrated the whole deed by themselves fully built up the truth of the LORD’S Resurrection, yet did He often appear plainly to the eyes both of the women and of the Apostles, not only talking with them, but also remaining and eating with them, and allowing Himself to be handled by the eager and curious hands of those whom doubt assailed. For to this end He entered when the doors were closed upon the disciples, and gave them the Holy Spirit by breathing on them, and after giving them the light of understanding opened the secrets of the Holy Scriptures, and again Himself showed them the wound in the side, the prints of the nails, and all the marks of His most recent Passion, whereby it might be acknowledged that in Him the properties of the Divine and Human Nature remained undivided, and we might in such sort know that the Word was not what the flesh is, as to confess GOD’S only Son to be both Word and Flesh.

BUT THOUGH IT IS THE SAME, IT IS ALSO GLORIFIED

The Apostle of the Gentiles, Paul, dearly-beloved, does not disagree with this belief, when he says, “even though we have known Christ after the flesh, yet now we know Him so no more” [2 Corinthians 5:16]. For the LORD’S Resurrection was not the ending, but the changing of the flesh, and His substance was not destroyed by His increase of power. The quality altered, but the nature did not cease to exist: the body was made impassible, which it had been possible to crucify: it was made incorruptible, though it had been possible to wound it. And properly is Christ’s flesh said not to be known in that state in which it had been known, because nothing remained passible in it, nothing weak, so that it was both the same in essence and not the same in glory. But what wonder if St. Paul maintains this about Christ’s body, when he says of all spiritual Christians, “wherefore henceforth we know no one after the flesh” [2 Corinthians 5:16]. Henceforth, he says, we begin to experience the resurrection in Christ, since the time when in Him, Who died for all, all our hopes were guaranteed to us. We do not hesitate in diffidence, we are not under the suspense of uncertainty, but having received an earnest of the promise, we now with the eye of faith see the things which will be, and rejoicing in the uplifting of our nature, we already possess what we believe.

BEING SAVED BY HOPE, WE MUST NOT FULFILL THE LUSTS OF THE FLESH

Let us not then be taken up with the appearances of temporal matters, neither let our contemplations be diverted from heavenly to earthly things. Things which as yet have for the most part not come to pass must be reckoned as accomplished: and the mind intent on what is permanent must fix its desires there, where what is offered is eternal. For although “by hope we were saved” [cf Romans 8:24], and still bear about with us a flesh that is corruptible and mortal, yet we are rightly said not to be in the flesh, if the fleshly affections do not dominate us, and are justified in ceasing to be named after that, the will of which we do not follow. And so, when the Apostle says, “make not provision for the flesh in the lusts thereof” [cf Romans 13:14], we understand that those things are not forbidden us, which conduce to health and which human weakness demands, but because we may not satisfy all our desires nor indulge in all that the flesh lusts after, we recognize that we are warned to exercise such self-restraint as not to permit what is excessive nor refuse what is necessary to the flesh, which is placed under the mind’s control. And hence the same Apostle says in another place, “For no one ever hated his own flesh, but nourished and cherished it” [cf Ephesians 5:29]; in so far, of course, as it must be nourished and cherished not in vices and luxury, but with a view to its proper functions, so that nature may recover herself and maintain due order, the lower parts not prevailing wrongfully and debasingly over the higher, nor the higher yielding to the lower, lest if vices overpower the mind, slavery ensues where there should be supremacy.

OUR GODLY RESOLUTIONS MUST CONTINUE ALL THE YEAR ROUND, NOT BE CONFINED TO EASTER ONLY

Let GOD’S people then recognize that they are a new creation in Christ, and with all vigilance understand by Whom they have been adopted and Whom they have adopted. Let not the things, which have been made new, return to their ancient instability; and let not him who has “put his hand to the plough” [Luke 9:62] forsake his work, but rather attend to that which he sows than look back to that which he has left behind. Let no one fall back into that from which he has risen, but, even though from bodily weakness he still languishes under certain maladies, let him urgently desire to be healed and raised up. For this is the path of health through imitation of the Resurrection begun in Christ, whereby, notwithstanding the many accidents and falls to which in this slippery life the traveller is liable, his feet may be guided from the quagmire on to solid ground, for, as it is written, “the steps of a man are directed by the LORD, and He will delight in his way. When the just man falls he shall not be overthrown, because the LORD will stretch out His hand” [cf Psalm 37:23-24]. These thoughts, dearly-beloved, must be kept in mind not only for the Easter festival, but also for the sanctification of the whole life, and to this our present exercise ought to be directed, that what has delighted the souls of the faithful by the experience of a short observance may pass into a habit and remain unalterably, and if any fault creep in, it may be destroyed by speedy repentance. And because the cure of old-standing diseases is slow and difficult, remedies should be applied early, when the wounds are fresh, so that rising ever anew from all downfalls, we may deserve to attain to the incorruptible Resurrection of our glorified flesh in Christ Jesus our LORD, Who lives and reigns with the Father and the Holy Ghost for ever and ever. Amen.”

Love, and Easter Joy, forever and ever,
Matthew

We are an Easter people…

“Alleluia! He is risen! Easter is the most joyful celebration we as Christians can celebrate. God has conquered sin and death through His resurrection. Let us continue to live in the strength of this saving grace.

We do not pretend that life is all beauty. We are aware of darkness and sin, of poverty and pain. But we know Jesus has conquered sin and passed through His own pain to the glory of the Resurrection. And we live in the light of His Paschal Mystery—the mystery of his Death and Resurrection.

We are an Easter People and Alleluia is our song!’ We are not looking for a shallow joy but rather a joy that comes from faith, that grows through unselfish love, that respects the fundamental duty of love of neighbor, without which it would be unbecoming to speak of Joy.’ We realize that joy is demanding; it demands unselfishness; it demands a readiness to say with Mary: ‘Be it done unto me according to thy word’.” -Pope St. John Paul II

Love & Easter joy, forever,
Matthew