Category Archives: Liturgy

Dec 31 – Te Deum

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-click on the image for more detail, please.

-The Te Deum window by Christopher Whall, St Mary the Virgin, Ware, Hertfordshire, UK.

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-by Br John Sica, OP

“The Church places the ancient Latin hymn, the Te Deum, at the end of the year as a way of giving solemn thanks to God. The Manual of Indulgences grants an indulgence to the faithful who pray it in a church on the final day of the year as a way of thanking God for all the benefits He has bestowed on them throughout the year (#26, §1, 2°). Yet, this traditional hymn of thanksgiving does not have any explicit mention of giving thanks.

A Catholic who is unfamiliar with the content of the hymn might recognize instead the great 19th-century hymn Holy God, we praise Thy name, which is a paraphrase of the Te Deum. In order to get the sense of the place of the Te Deum in the liturgy, it would be useful to compare it to the Gloria in the Mass. Both are very ancient Latin hymns which praise God for the greatness of His divinity and move on to the praise of His saving works in Jesus Christ. Both are prescribed to be sung on days of an especially festive nature. On Sundays, solemnities, and feast days, the Gloria is sung at Mass, while the Te Deum is sung at the Liturgy of the Hours. We also sing the Te Deum outside the liturgy. The friars often sign it as a song of thanksgiving at a particularly joyous event, like the election of a pope or superior.  So why isn’t there a mention of thanksgiving in the hymn?

When we speak of gratitude, we are usually referring to a specific form of justice. Justice is the virtue that makes us give others what we owe them. Gratitude is what we owe those who are our benefactors, in return for benefits received. By explicitly acknowledging what is good in our lives, we are at the same time constrained to acknowledge these goods as benefits from God. “Every good endowment and every perfect gift is from above,” St. James says, “coming down from the Father of lights” (James 1:17). The Church’s pedagogy in gratitude is meant to train us to go more and more quickly from acknowledging the gift to thanking the giver.

God’s greatness, His glory, His very divinity, however, are not really “benefits” given to us, so it is difficult to see how they would form the basis for thanksgiving. Yet, adoration of God, confession of His glory, and thanks for it seem to merge into one in the Gloria: we give you thanks for your great glory! In harmony with this line from the Gloria, the triumphant joy in confession of the truth of God’s greatness, which the Te Deum displays, might be called instead a sort of proto-thanksgiving. For God’s divinity is the basis of the liberality and mercy of God which lavishes His gifts on us, undeserving as we may be.

As our year ends, the Church encourages us to reflect on the blessings He has bestowed on us over the past year, and to pray and praise Him for it. Beneath the many gifts, the Church is always solicitous that we not forget the Giver, and so encourages us to break forth in praise of Him—thanksgiving for Him being God. “O God, we praise Thee: we acknowledge Thee to be Lord!”

Love, and great thanks to You, Lord Jesus Christ!!!
Matthew

Christian Joy!!!: wimps need not apply…

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I have on the wall in my office the reproduction of a help wanted sign from Boston in 1910. It says, “Help Wanted: Irish need not apply!”

I think the Church and Jesus, the same thing, according to St Joan of Arc, should have signs which say “Christian Joy!: wimps need not apply!”

If it were easy, where would the glory be?

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-by Randy Hain

“Here is something to ponder in the remaining days of Advent. I recently had coffee with a fellow Catholic who gloomily shared his ongoing struggles with overtly living out his faith in the real world and reluctance to discuss his faith with others. He made it clear that going to Mass on Sunday was all he could or should be doing. Unfortunately, this is a very common tale. The conversation became really interesting and a little uncomfortable when we discussed why people become apathetic about their faith, hesitate about converting or leave the Church altogether.

It became obvious to me after a few minutes that how my coffee companion presented his faith to the world and how others view the Catholic Church may be connected.

Why do some of our Catholic brothers and sisters lose their enthusiasm for the Faith? Why do some leave the Church? Why do those curious about the Church have reservations about converting? The unfortunate truth is that many (not all) of us make being Catholic look about as exciting as having a root canal. Each of the groups identified in these questions may be looking for inspiration from people who are truly joyful about Christ and the Church He founded. They want to see us have genuine passion for the Eucharist and the other Sacraments. They would love to see us have prayer lives worth emulating. Does the thought ever occur to us that our actions as well as our words are being observed by others and this places an important burden on our shoulders?

So, let’s ask ourselves: Are we “islands of joy” reflecting the light of Christ to others or have we lost our Catholic identity and become completely assimilated into the surrounding secular culture?

We might be tempted to say that we should not be responsible for helping the faith and spiritual welfare of others, but indeed we are partly responsible. We are here to help ourselves; our families and everyone we know get to Heaven. If we are living up to the world’s expectations and not showing others the light of Christ, the path to Heaven that leads through the Catholic Church will not be attractive to them. They will not see what is so special about being Catholic if those of us who are Catholic fail to live up to our responsibility. On the other hand, if we stay focused on serving Christ, living as faithful Catholics and pursue lives of personal holiness we will make the path to the Church look more appealing. They will want what we have and will seek us out to find the reason for our joy.

We have so much to be truly thankful for in our relationship with Christ and the truth and beauty of our Catholic faith. But, being truly joyful should lead to sharing that joy and the ability to express the truths of our faith in a way that shows the depth of our sincere belief and love to others. Consider this quote from writer Cormac Burke: “A Christian who is not convinced he has the Truth is not convinced he has Christ. Only convinced Christians have any chance of convincing others. Half-convinced Christians won’t even half-convince anybody. They won’t convince at all.”

St. Paul reinforces the call to be joyful, “Rejoice always. Pray constantly. Give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you” (1 Thessalonians 5:16-18). The Apostle makes it sound simple, but why do we struggle to do something that appears to be so easy? We all deal with various forms of adversity. Some of us are unemployed, some are dealing with illness and others are struggling with relationship or financial problems. The current economic crisis, the global attacks on religious liberties and the relentless attacks on the Church by the secular media have made many of us apathetic, gloomy and frightened. These are real obstacles to joy and they must be acknowledged, but should remember to “Rejoice in your hope, be patient in tribulation” (Romans 12:12).

As tough as things may be, Catholics have work to do for Christ. Like the early Christians, we too are called to share the Good News. Do you recall that in the life of St. Paul he was shipwrecked, imprisoned, beaten, starved and stoned? He showed incredible courage and fortitude to share his joy and the message of Christ to the Gentiles despite his suffering. We should follow his example today.

For Catholics, joy in the midst of extreme adversity is our obligation and our duty. Remember that we are not alone. Our faith in Christ and our devotion in the Sacraments that bind us to Him will see us through the tough times and help us share a joy which will not evaporate in the face of tough challenges. Be encouraged by our Lord’s words, “I have told you this so that you might have peace in me. In the world you will have trouble, but take courage, I have conquered the world” (John 16:33).

It is so easy to get lost in our problems and forget to be joyful. It happens to me and just about everyone else I know. But, remember that we are surrounded by people who are watching us. They may be seeking Him and looking for someone, anyone, to show them the way to Christ. They could learn from our good example, be inspired by our joy and be encouraged by our faith journeys if we will only remember that we are called to share the Good News. If we are gloomy, frustrated, inward-focused and critical of the Church we will never be able to help anyone and may put our own salvation at risk.

Six Practical Steps to Catholic Joy this Advent

Let me leave you with six simple actions which I try to follow in my desire to be joyful. This is by no means the definitive list and I would love to learn what others are doing, but here is what often works for me:

Surrender to Christ. Every day I recommit to putting Him first in all areas of my life.
Give up my burdens to Jesus in daily prayer. I can’t do it alone and I need His help!
Go to frequent Reconciliation. Unburdening my soul of sin brings me peace and joy.
Be thankful for my blessings. I can gripe about my problems or I can focus on all of the incredible blessings in my life and express my gratitude to the Lord in prayer.
Stay out of the “Catholic Cafeteria Line.” I fully accept the teachings of the Catholic Church and follow the Magisterium. I don’t follow the parts I like and reject those I do not like. I know that what I may not understand will be revealed to me over time if I have faith. (Ed. doing your homework wouldn’t hurt either!)
Start with the end in mind. Are my actions each day serving Him? I hope to hear Jesus say at the end of my life on earth, “Well done, good and faithful servant.” My goal is Heaven and I must live a life that leads me there.

I am not sure where you are on the “joy spectrum,” but please reflect on this post and take it to prayer. Ask yourself if you find it difficult or easy to share your joy. Reflect on the obstacles between you and the fuller, engaging and joyful Catholic life which awaits us all. Remember that Jesus is coming to us next week and our hearts and minds must be prepared. As for me, I personally subscribe to the thinking of Pope Francis in the apostolic exhortation Evangelii Gaudium (The Joy of the Gospel): “An evangelizer must never look like someone who has just come back from a funeral! Let us recover and deepen our enthusiasm, that delightful and comforting joy of evangelizing, even when it is in tears that we must sow.”

Love, (…and as my mother always used to say to her six children through loving, gritted teeth!!! “You’re going to take those swimming lessons, and you’re going to LIKE IT!!“)
Matthew 🙂

What are the “O Antiphons”?

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-Prophet Isaiah by Michelangelo, fresco, Sistine Chapel, 1508~1512

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-by Fr. Roger J. Landry

The “O Antiphons” refer to the seven antiphons that are recited (or chanted) preceding the Magnificat during Vespers of the Liturgy of the Hours. They cover the special period of Advent preparation known as the Octave before Christmas, December 17-23, with December 24 being Christmas Eve and Vespers for that evening being for the Christmas Vigil.

Introduction

On the evening of December 17 the final phase of preparation for Christmas begins with the first of the great “O Antiphons” of Advent. These prayers are seven jewels of liturgical song, one for each day until Christmas Eve. They seem to sum up all our Advent longing for the Savior.

The “O Antiphons” are intoned with special solemnity in monasteries at Vespers, before and after the Magnificat, Mary’s prayer of praise and thanksgiving from the Gospel of Luke (1:46-55), which is sung every evening as the climax of this Hour of the Divine Office.

A vestige of the “Great O’s” can be seen in verses of the familiar Advent hymn, “O Come, O Come Emmanuel”.

The importance of “O Antiphons” is twofold:

Each one highlights a title for the Messiah: O Sapientia (O Wisdom), O Adonai (O Lord), O Radix Jesse (O Root of Jesse), O Clavis David (O Key of David), O Oriens (O Rising Sun), O Rex Gentium (O King of the Nations), and O Emmanuel.
Also, each one refers to the prophecy of Isaiah of the coming of the Messiah.
Let’s now look at each antiphon with just a sample of Isaiah’s related prophecies:

1. Come, Wisdom of our God Most High, guiding creation with power and love: teach us to walk in the paths of knowledge.

(O Sapientia, quae ex ore Altissimi prodisti, attingens a fine usque ad finem, fortiter sauviterque disponens omnia: veni ad docendum nos viam prudentiae.)

O Come, Thou Wisdom from on high, who orderest all things mightily; to us the path of knowledge show, and teach us in the way to go.

O Sapientia: “O Wisdom, O holy Word of God, you govern all creation with your strong yet tender care. Come and show your people the way to salvation.” Isaiah had prophesied, “The spirit of the Lord shall rest upon him: a spirit of wisdom and of understanding, a spirit of counsel and of strength, a spirit of knowledge and fear of the Lord, and his delight shall be the fear of the Lord.” (Is 11:2-3), and “Wonderful is His counsel and great is His wisdom.” (Is 28:29).

Wisdom is here personified, present with God at the beginning of creation. This is a prefigurement of Jesus, the eternal Word of God, the “logos” John described in the opening of his gospel. Wisdom is the foundation of fear of the Lord, of holiness, or right living: it is wisdom whom we bid to come and teach us prudence. The cry “Come” will be repeated again and again, insistent and hope-filled.

Prov. 1:20 Wisdom cries out in the street; in the squares she raises her voice.

1 Cor. 1:30 He is the source of your life in Christ Jesus, who became for us wisdom from God, and righteousness and sanctification and redemption,

Sirach 24:3: “From the mouth of the Most High I came forth, and like mist covered the earth”.

Wisdom 8:1: “She reaches from end to end mightily and governs all things well.”

2. Come, Leader of Ancient Israel, giver of the Law to Moses on Sinai: rescue us with your mighty power!

(O Adonai et Dux domus Israel, qui Moysi in igne flammae rubi apparuisti, et ei in Sina legem dedisti: veni ad redimendum nos in bracchio extento)

O Come, O come, thou Lord of might, who to thy tribes on Sinai’s height, in ancient times didst give the law in cloud and majesty and awe.

O Adonai: “O sacred Lord of ancient Israel, who showed yourself to Moses in the burning bush, who gave him the holy law on Sinai mountain: come, stretch out your mighty hand to set us free.” Isaiah had prophesied, “But He shall judge the poor with justice, and decide aright for the land’s afflicted. He shall strike the ruthless with the rod of his mouth, and with the breath of his lips he shall slay the wicked. Justice shall be the band around his waist, and faithfulness a belt upon his hips.” (Is 11:4-5); and “Indeed the Lord will be there with us, majestic; yes the Lord our judge, the Lord our lawgiver, the Lord our king, he it is who will save us.” (Is 33:22).

“Adonai” is Hebrew for “my Lord”, and was substituted by devout Jews for the name “Yahweh”, out of reverence. With this second antiphon we progress from creation to the familiar story of God manifesting himself by name to Moses and giving his law to Israel as their way of life. We are also reminded of the Israelites’ deliverance from bondage under pharaoh — a foreshadowing of our own redemption from sin. The image of God’s arm outstretched in power to save his chosen people also brings to mind the later scene of Jesus with his arms outstretched for us on the cross.

Exod. 3:1 Moses was keeping the flock of his father-in-law Jethro, the priest of Midian; he led his flock beyond the wilderness, and came to Horeb, the mountain of God. 2 There the angel of the Lord appeared to him in a flame of fire out of a bush; he looked, and the bush was blazing, yet it was not consumed. 3 Then Moses said, “I must turn aside and look at this great sight, and see why the bush is not burned up.” 4 When the Lord saw that he had turned aside to see, God called to him out of the bush, “Moses, Moses!” And he said, “Here I am.” 5 Then he said, “Come no closer! Remove the sandals from your feet, for the place on which you are standing is holy ground.” 6 He said further, “I am the God of your father, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob.” And Moses hid his face, for he was afraid to look at God. 7 Then the Lord said, “I have observed the misery of my people who are in Egypt; I have heard their cry on account of their taskmasters. Indeed, I know their sufferings, 8 and I have come down to deliver them from the Egyptians, and to bring them up out of that land to a good and broad land, a land flowing with milk and honey, to the country of the Canaanites, the Hittites, the Amorites, the Perizzites, the Hivites, and the Jebusites. 9 The cry of the Israelites has now come to me; I have also seen how the Egyptians oppress them. 10 So come, I will send you to Pharaoh to bring my people, the Israelites, out of Egypt.” 11 But Moses said to God, “Who am I that I should go to Pharaoh, and bring the Israelites out of Egypt?” 12 He said, “I will be with you; and this shall be the sign for you that it is I who sent you: when you have brought the people out of Egypt, you shall worship God on this mountain.” 13 But Moses said to God, “If I come to the Israelites and say to them, ‘The God of your ancestors has sent me to you,’ and they ask me, ‘What is his name?’ what shall I say to them?” 14 God said to Moses, “I am Who I Am.” He said further, “Thus you shall say to the Israelites, ‘I Am has sent me to you.’” 15 God also said to Moses, “Thus you shall say to the Israelites, ‘The Lord, the God of your ancestors, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob, has sent me to you’: This is my name forever, and this my title for all generations. 16 Go and assemble the elders of Israel, and say to them, ‘The Lord, the God of your ancestors, the God of Abraham, of Isaac, and of Jacob, has appeared to me, saying: I have given heed to you and to what has been done to you in Egypt. 17 I declare that I will bring you up out of the misery of Egypt, to the land of the Canaanites, the Hittites, the Amorites, the Perizzites, the Hivites, and the Jebusites, a land flowing with milk and honey.’ 18 They will listen to your voice; and you and the elders of Israel shall go to the king of Egypt and say to him, ‘The Lord, the God of the Hebrews, has met with us; let us now go a three days’ journey into the wilderness, so that we may sacrifice to the Lord our God.’ 19 I know, however, that the king of Egypt will not let you go unless compelled by a mighty hand. 20 So I will stretch out my hand and strike Egypt with all my wonders that I will perform in it; after that he will let you go. 21 I will bring this people into such favor with the Egyptians that, when you go, you will not go empty-handed; 22 each woman shall ask her neighbor and any woman living in the neighbor’s house for jewelry of silver and of gold, and clothing, and you shall put them on your sons and on your daughters; and so you shall plunder the Egyptians.”

Exodus 6:6: “Therefore say to the Israelites: I am Yahweh. I will free you from the enforced labor of the Egyptians and will deliver you from their slavery. I will rescue you by my outstretched arm and with mighty acts of judgment”.

Micah 5:2 But you, O Bethlehem of Ephrathah, who are one of the little clans of Judah, from you shall come forth for me one who is to rule in Israel, whose origin is from of old, from ancient days.

Matt. 2:6 ‘And you, Bethlehem, in the land of Judah, are by no means least among the rulers of Judah; for from you shall come a ruler who is to shepherd my people Israel.”

3. Come, Flower of Jesse’s stem, sign of God’s love for all his people: save us without delay.

(O radix Jesse, qui stas in signum populorum, super quem continebunt reges os suum, quem gentes deprecabuntur: veni ad liberandum nos, iam noli tardare).

O Come, thou Rod of Jesse, free thine own from Satan’s tyrany; from depths of hell thy people save, and give them victory o’er the grave.

O Radix Jesse: “O Flower of Jesse’s stem, you have been raised up as a sign for all peoples; kings stand silent in your presence; the nations bow down in worship before you. Come, let nothing keep you from coming to our aid.” Isaiah had prophesied, “But a shoot shall sprout from the stump of Jesse, and from his roots a bud shall blossom.” (Is 11:1), and On that day, the root of Jesse, set up as a signal for the nations, the Gentiles shall seek out, for his dwelling shall be glorious.” (Is 11:10). Remember also that Jesse was the father of King David, and Micah had prophesied that the Messiah would be of the house and lineage of David and be born in David’s city, Bethlehem (Micah 5:1).

Isaiah prophesied a restoration of David’s throne — a new branch budding out of the old root. Christ is the root of Jesse in a two-fold sense: he is the descendant of David, who was the youngest son of Jesse, and he inherited the royal throne. The angel foretold to Mary, “The Lord God will give him the throne of David his father. He will rule over the house of Jacob forever and his reign will be without end” (Luke 1:32-33). Our hearts more and more urgently cry out for God’s reign to extend over all humanity: “Come, save us, and do not delay”.

Isaiah 52:13, 15; 53:2: “See, my servant shall prosper…So shall he startle many nations, because of him kings shall stand speechless. …He grew up like a sapling before him, like a shoot”.

Isaiah 11:10 On that day the root of Jesse shall stand as a signal to the peoples; the nations shall inquire of him, and his dwelling shall be glorious.

Rom. 15:12 and again Isaiah says, “The root of Jesse shall come, the one who rises to rule the Gentiles; in him the Gentiles shall hope.”

Rev. 5:5 Then one of the elders said to me, “Do not weep. See, the Lion of the tribe of Judah, the Root of David, has conquered, so that he can open the scroll and its seven seals.”

4. Come, Key of David, opening the gates of God’s eternal kingdom: free the prisoners of darkness!

(O Clavis David, et sceptrum domus Israel: qui aperis et nemo claudit; claudis et nemo aperit: veni et educ vinctum de domo carceris, sedentem in tenebris et umbra mortis).

O come, thou Key of David, come and open wide our heavenly home; make safe the way that leads on high, and close the path to misery.

O Clavis David: “O Key of David, O royal Power of Israel controlling at your will the gate of Heaven: Come, break down the prison walls of death for those who dwell in darkness and the shadow of death; and lead your captive people into freedom.” Isaiah had prophesied, AI will place the Key of the House of David on His shoulder; when he opens, no one will shut, when he shuts, no one will open.” (Is 22:22), and “His dominion is vast and forever peaceful, from David’s throne, and over His kingdom, which he confirms and sustains by judgment and justice, both now and forever.” (Is 9:6).

The key and scepter are traditional symbols of kingly power and authority. Christ, the anointed one, is the heir of David and possessor of the kingdom. Jesus himself also made use of this symbol, showing the prophetic relationship of the earthly kingdom of David to the kingdom of God. All power and authority was given to him after the resurrection, and he entrusted this power to “bind and to loose” to Peter and the ministers of his church. In the closing petition we look to Jesus to unlock the fetters of sin that keeps us tightly chained. It is he who frees us from our captivity. We recall the deliverance proclaimed by the psalmist of old: “they dwelt in darkness and gloom, bondsmen in want and in chains,…and he led them forth from darkness and gloom and broke their bonds asunder” (Psalm 107: 10, 14).

Isaiah 22:22 I will place on his shoulder the key of the house of David; he shall open, and no one shall shut; he shall shut, and no one shall open.

Isaiah 42:6-7: “I formed you, and set you as a covenant of the people, a light for the nations, to open the eyes of the blind, to bring out prisoners from confinement, and from the dungeon those who live in darkness”.

Rev. 3:7 “And to the angel of the church in Philadelphia write: These are the words of the holy one, the true one, who has the key of David, who opens and no one will shut, who shuts and no one opens:

Matt. 4:16 the people who sat in darkness have seen a great light, and for those who sat in the region and shadow of death light has dawned.”

Luke 1:79 to give light to those who sit in darkness and in the shadow of death, to guide our feet into the way of peace.”

5. Come, Radiant Dawn, splendor of eternal light, sun of justice: shine on those lost in the darkness of death!

(O Oriens, splendor lucis aeternae et sol iustitiae: veni, et illumina sedentes in tenebris et umbra mortis)

O Come, thou Dayspring, come and cheer our spirits by thine advent here; Disperse the gloomy clouds of night and death’s dark shadows put to flight.

O Oriens: “O Radiant Dawn, splendor of eternal light, sun of justice: come, shine on those who dwell in darkness and the shadow of death.” Isaiah had prophesied, “The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light; upon those who dwelt in the land of gloom a light has shown.” (Is 9:1).

This title is variously translated “morning star”, “Dayspring”, “rising sun”, “radiant dawn”, “orient”. All beautifully express the idea of light shattering the darkness of night, of sin and death, of sickness and despair, with its brightness bringing healing and warmth to cold hearts. Jesus is indeed the true light, the radiance of his Father’s splendor. The church prays this petition daily in the Benedictus, joining in the words of Zechariah: “He, the Dayspring, shall visit us in his mercy to shine on those who sit in darkness and in the shadow of death” (Luke 1:78-79).

Luke 1:78 By the tender mercy of our God, the dawn from on high will break upon us, 79 to give light to those who sit in darkness and in the shadow of death, to guide our feet into the way of peace.”

Matt. 4:16 the people who sat in darkness have seen a great light, and for those who sat in the region and shadow of death light has dawned.”

Mal. 4:2 But for you who revere my name the sun of righteousness shall rise, with healing in its wings. You shall go out leaping like calves from the stall.

Isaiah 9:1: “The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light. Upon those who dwelt in the land of gloom a light has shone”.

Malachi 3:20: “For you who fear my name, there will arise the sun of justice with its healing rays”.

2 Peter 1:19: “Keep your attention closely fixed on it, as you would on a lamp shining in a dark place, until the first streaks of dawn appear and the morning star rises in your heart.”

6. Come, King of all nations, source of your Church’s unity and faith: save all mankind, your own creation!

(O Rex gentium et desideratus earum, lapisque angularis, qui facis utraque unum,: veni et salva hominem, quem de limo formasti).

O Come, Desire of nations, bind in one the hearts of all mankind; bid thou our sad divisions cease, and by thyself our Prince of Peace.

O Rex Gentium: “O King of all the nations, the only joy of every human heart; O Keystone of the mighty arch of man, come and save the creature you fashioned from the dust.” Isaiah had prophesied, “For a child is born to us, a son is given us; upon his shoulder dominion rests. They name him Wonder-Counselor, God-Hero, Father-Forever, Prince of Peace.” (Is 9:5), and “He shall judge between the nations, and impose terms on many peoples. They shall beat their swords into plowshares and their spears into pruning hooks; one nation shall not raise the sword against another, nor shall they train for war again.” (Is 2:4) .

The earlier antiphons have already alluded to the Messiah coming not only to Israel but to convert the gentile nations and redeem them for his own. Now this sixth antiphon clearly addresses the savior as the king of the gentiles (Jer.10:7) and the Desired One of the nations. The Messiah is the cornerstone on whom our spiritual foundations are laid, but on whom unbelievers stumble (Matt. 21:42). This cornerstone unites and binds Jew and gentile into one, making peace between them. The plea is that God save all humanity, all his creation that he formed from the dust of the earth (Gen.2:7). We yearn for him once again to breathe the breath of his new life into us.

Rev. 15:3 And they sing the song of Moses, the servant of God, and the song of the Lamb: “Great and amazing are your deeds, Lord God the Almighty! Just and true are your ways, King of the nations!

Ps. 118:22 The stone that the builders rejected has become the chief cornerstone.

Isaiah 28:16 therefore thus says the Lord GOD, See, I am laying in Zion a foundation stone, a tested stone, a precious cornerstone, a sure foundation: “One who trusts will not panic.”

Ephesians 2:14: “He it is who is our peace, and who made the two of us one by breaking down the barrier of hostility that kept us apart”.

Matt. 21:42 Jesus said to them, “Have you never read in the scriptures: ‘The stone that the builders rejected has become the cornerstone; this was the Lord’s doing, and it is amazing in our eyes’?

Mark 12:10 Have you not read this scripture: ‘The stone that the builders rejected has become the cornerstone;

Luke 20:17 But he looked at them and said, “What then does this text mean: ‘The stone that the builders rejected has become the cornerstone’?

Acts 4:11 This Jesus is ‘the stone that was rejected by you, the builders; it has become the cornerstone.’

Eph. 2:20 built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets, with Christ Jesus himself as the cornerstone.

1 Pet. 2:6 For it stands in scripture: “See, I am laying in Zion a stone, a cornerstone chosen and precious; and whoever believes in him will not be put to shame.”

7. Come, Emmanuel, God’s presence among us, our King, our Judge: save us, Lord our God!

(O Emmanuel, rex et legisfer noster, espectatio gentium et salvator earum: veni ad salvandum nos, Domine Deus noster).

O Come, O Come, Emmanuel, and ransom captive Israel, that mourns in lonely exile here, until the Son of God appear.

O Emmanuel: “O Emmanuel, king and lawgiver, desire of the nations, Savior of all people, come and set us free, Lord our God.” Isaiah had prophesied, “The Lord himself will give you this sign: the Virgin shall be with child, and bear a son, and shall name him Emmanuel.” (Is 7:14). Remember “Emmanuel” means “God is with us.”

With this last antiphon our expectation finds joy now in the certainty of fulfillment. We call Jesus by one of the most personal and intimate of his titles, Emmanuel, God-with-us. We recall that in his birth from the Virgin Mary God takes on our very flesh and human nature: God coming nearer to us than we could have ever imagined! Yet he is also to be exalted above us as our king, the lawgiver and judge, the one whom we honor and obey. And he is our savior, long-expected by all creation. The final cry rises from us urgent in our need for daily salvation and forgiveness of our sins, and confident that our God will not withhold himself from us.

Isaiah 7:14 Therefore the Lord himself will give you a sign. Look, the young woman is with child and shall bear a son, and shall name him Immanuel.

Isaiah 8:8 it will sweep on into Judah as a flood, and, pouring over, it will reach up to the neck; and its outspread wings will fill the breadth of your land, O Immanuel.

Isaiah 33:22: “Indeed the Lord will be there with us, majestic. Yes, the Lord our judge, the Lord our lawgiver, the Lord our king, he it is who will save us”.

Matt. 1:23 “Look, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and they shall name him Emmanuel,” which means, “God is with us.”

Hag. 2:7 and I will shake all the nations, so that the treasure of all nations shall come, and I will fill this house with splendor, says the Lord of hosts.

Titles and Prayer Requests

O Sapientia — Teach us the way of prudence
O Adonai et Dux — Come to redeem us with arm outstretched
O radix Iesse — Come to free us without delay
O clavis David — Free us from prison of darkness & shadow of death
O oriens — Illumine those sitting in darkness & the shadow of death
O Rex gentium — Save man whom you formed from the dust
O Emmanuel — Come to save us

Conclusion

According to Professor Robert Greenberg of the San Francisco Conservatory of Music, the Benedictine monks arranged these antiphons with a definite purpose. If one starts with the last title and takes the first letter of each one — Emmanuel, Rex, Oriens, Clavis, Radix, Adonai, Sapientia — the Latin words ero cras are formed, meaning, “Tomorrow, I will come.” Therefore, the Lord Jesus, whose coming we have prepared for in Advent and whom we have addressed in these seven Messianic titles, now speaks to us, “Tomorrow, I will come.” So the “O Antiphons” not only bring intensity to our Advent preparation, but bring it to a joyful conclusion.

Love,
Matthew

The first beatitude & Protestantism

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marcellino-d'ambrosio
-by Dr. Marcellino D’Ambrosio, PhD

“The Beatitudes rank high on the list of all-time favorite Bible passages. But what is “beatitude,” anyway? In the bible, a “blessed” person is someone who has received gifts of the greatest value, gifts that lead to true fulfillment and lasting happiness.

If I were to ask you to name the first beatitude, you’d probably say “blessed be the poor in Spirit.” According to St. Matthew’s gospel you’d be right, but not according to Luke. At the very beginning of his gospel, Luke reveals that the very first beatitude is uttered by a woman filled with the Spirit, speaking of another woman overshadowed by the Spirit. Elizabeth says, “Blessed is she who has believed.” (Luke 1: 45).

Is Marian devotion important in Christian life? This has been a bone of contention between Christians for nearly five hundred years.

Let’s look at the evidence in just the first chapter of Luke. First, the Angel Gabriel honors her with the greeting “Hail, full of grace” (Luke 1:29). Then Elizabeth prophesies “blessed are you among women.” Next the prophet John leaps for joy in his mother’s womb at the sound of Mary’s voice. Then, in her response to Elizabeth, Mary prophesies “all generations will call me blessed” (Luke 1:48).

But it is Elizabeth’s final words to Mary that provide the key to understanding why Mary is to be honored, namely, her faith.

One of the battle-cries of the Protestant Reformation was “Faith Alone!” One key conviction that united the many disparate strands of the Reformation was that it is impossible to earn God’s favor by our good works . . . that rather we receive His love as a pure gift, a grace, through faith.

Now consider Mary. Did she crisscross the Mediterranean planting Churches like Paul? Did she give eloquent sermons like Stephen (Acts 7)? Did she govern the Church like Peter? No. Her claim to fame is that she simply said yes to God. She believed He could do as He said and would do as He said.

But true faith is not just intellectual conviction that God exists or that He can do thus and such. Faith involves entrusting oneself, abandoning oneself to God, willing to submit to His will. That’s why Paul talks about “the obedience of faith” (Romans 16:26). Mary surrendered her plan for her life, and yielded to God’s plan. And she did this not once, but again and again, even when He left her behind to begin His public ministry. And when that ministry led to the horror of Calvary, Mary’s faith stood its ground at the foot of the cross.

So Catholics honor Mary for being the perfect example of the greatest Protestant virtue. Ironic isn’t it? And the deepest meaning of that disputed doctrine, the Immaculate Conception, is that it was the grace of God working mysteriously from the moment of her conception that made possible Mary’s exemplary life of faith. Even her faith is a gift of His grace. It’s all grace, according to Catholic doctrine.

“My soul magnifies the Lord, and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior.” Mary, of course, knew this. That’s why she responded to Elizabeth’s praise with the humble, exuberant prayer known as the Magnificat: She is like the crystal-clear pool that reflects the sun’s rays back to the heavens. So no one needs to fear that honor given her will detract from the majesty of her divine Son. She deflects all the praise given her right back to God, the source of her greatness.

So the answer is that Marian devotion is necessary in Christian life. But what is true devotion to Mary according to the fathers of the Second Vatican Council? Not sentimental piety or gullible preoccupation with every rumored apparition, but rather, imitation of her virtues, particularly her faith (Lumen Gentium 67).”

Magnificat anima mea Dominum,
et exsultavit spiritus meus in Deo salvatore meo,
quia respexit humilitatem ancillae suae.
Ecce enim ex hoc beatam me dicent omnes generationes,
quia fecit mihi magna,
qui potens est,
et sanctum nomen eius,
et misericordia eius in progenies et progenies
timentibus eum.
Fecit potentiam in brachio suo,
dispersit superbos mente cordis sui;
deposuit potentes de sede
et exaltavit humiles;
esurientes implevit bonis
et divites dimisit inanes.
Suscepit Israel puerum suum,
recordatus misericordiae,
sicut locutus est ad patres nostros,
Abraham et semini eius in saecula
Gloria Patri, et Filio, et Spiritui Sancto,
Sicut erat in principio, et nunc, et semper,
et in Saecula saeculorum. Amen.  – Lk 1:45-56.

My soul proclaims the greatness of the Lord,
my spirit rejoices in God my Savior
for he has looked with favor on His lowly servant.
From this day all generations will call me blessed:
the Almighty has done great things for me,
and holy is His Name.
He has mercy on those who fear Him
in every generation.
He has shown the strength of His arm,
He has scattered the proud in their conceit.
He has cast down the mighty from their thrones,
and has lifted up the lowly.
He has filled the hungry with good things,
and the rich He has sent away empty.
He has come to the help of His servant Israel
for He has remembered His promise of mercy,
the promise He made to our fathers,
to Abraham and his children for ever.  Amen. -Lk 1:45-56.

Love,
Matthew

Dec 22 – O Rex Gentium: consoling the garrulous?

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ambrose_arralde
-by Br Ambrose Arralde, OP

What is it that we desire? With today’s O Antiphon, the Church invokes our Savior as “the King of the nations and their desired.” While it is true that the desire for a savior is present in all men, does the savior we meet in Jesus Christ satisfy the expectations and preconceived notions we’ve built up in association with that desire? Popular culture (or, at least, Bonnie Tyler) reveals something of what men naturally desire in a savior, or imagine him to be. We hope for the greatest protector we can conceive of: strong, fast, fresh from the fight, larger than life. We toss and turn for a hero that will come and sweep us off our feet, whisk us away from all our problems and struggles.

With Jesus, what we get is something very different, and in its unexpectedness it is all too often unwelcome. As St. Bernard of Clairvaux puts it, “The infancy of Christ does not console the garrulous.” The same could be said for the rest of the circumstances of Christ’s nativity and earthly life: the humility of Christ’s birth does not console the proud, the poverty of Christ does not console the greedy, the sufferings of Christ do not console the faint-hearted. What at first appears to be less than what we hoped for, however, if instead looked at from a God’s-eye view, is revealed to be more than we could have ever dared to ask for.

In the fullness of time, God could have sent a hero according to the mind of man, but this wasn’t enough for Him. Instead He gave us Himself, a gift too great to be comprehended. Even our wildest dreams are limited, since they stem from limited human reason. But God’s love for us is unlimited, as is the manifestation of that love. Christ did not love us so little that He would merely win for us an undisturbed earthly life, devoid of cares or anxiety. Rather, His incarnation opens up the far greater possibility of the life of grace, by which we are ultimately deified, becoming partakers in the divine nature (CCC 460).

That the greater might not be obscured by the lesser, the heavenly not be hidden by the mundane, Christ spurned all the glory of this passing world. He whom the heavens could not contain chose to dwell in the womb of His lowly handmaid. The King of kings and Lord of lords would not suffer Himself to be made a king by men.(Ed…how foolish, how vain that might have been, Ozymandias. So unlike our great Messiah!) He through Whom all things were made did not show His power by conquering men, but by overcoming the death He allowed them to inflict upon Him. In every way Christ thwarts our earthly desires to open us up to heavenly blessings.

What is it that we desire? If all we want is Bonnie Tyler’s street-wise Hercules, we won’t see very much to be desired in Jesus Christ. But if we allow our natural desire for temporal salvation to open us up to supernatural possibilities, then we will hold out for nothing less than God Himself. It is for this Hero of heroes that we long, as we call out with the whole Church: O King of the nations and their desired, corner stone Who make the two one, come and save man, Whom you formed from the dust.

Love, all hail the True King!
Matthew

Christmas decorations & our salvation…

Tabernacle1
-tabernacle of the Israelites in Exodus
Tabernacle-Glory
-God “pitching His tent” among His people in Exodus

“When Moses came down from Mount Sinai with the two tablets of the covenant law in his hands, he was not aware that his face was radiant because he had spoken with the LORD. When Aaron and all the Israelites saw Moses, his face was radiant, and they were afraid to come near him.”
-Ex 34:29-30

justinmarybolgerop
-by Br Justin Mary Bolger, OP

“Man seeks to dwell. There’s even a magazine dedicated to it. We want some place to identify as home. And we don’t just want any old four walls and a floor. We want an architecturally pleasing place. And then we want to decorate it: find a color scheme that works for the walls, hang paintings, hang pictures, install some wainscoting, find rugs that really tie the rooms together. Having a home and making it beautiful are natural human instincts.

We decorate our homes to reflect our tastes and style. But we also decorate according to seasons. So, it’s Christmas…almost. We’ve bought (or unpacked) the evergreen, the lights, the manger scene, red ribbons, holly, and probably some good old-fashioned Christmas kitsch as well. And after some work, our homes are prepared – prepared for us, and for the holiday parties and extended family visits.

In Advent we emphasize preparation for the Lord. What does this really mean? We decorate our churches in much the same way we do our homes. We use evergreen, lights, and manger scenes. We do this as preparation for our Lord’s coming on Christmas day. But in addition to providing an aesthetically pleasing experience, this effort to make beautiful living and worship spaces is symbolic. It is there to remind us of something – of Someone.

The Word dwelt among us. Or rather, Christ “pitched his tent,” if we want a more biblically connotative translation of “dwelt.” This reminds us of the “tent of meeting” where God came to meet Moses and the Israelites in the desert. Now when Jesus came he did live somewhere. He had a home, just like us. I’m sure Mary and Joseph, once they settled in Nazareth, spruced up their modest home as well as they could. But a deeper point to the Incarnation, this divine tenting, is that the eternal Word took on human nature. Human nature was the home for God. And this humanity, united to God, was filled with the Holy Spirit. As Benedict XVI writes, “The man Jesus is the dwelling-place of the Word.” Jesus shows us the graced fullness of human life in Himself. He shows us that man is meant to live in this grace.

The “tent of meeting” of the Israelites, our homes, our churches – these are all realities that point to something greater. We prepare our homes and churches to remind us that we ourselves are a dwelling place of the Lord. Jesus did not just come once. He comes again and again to each of us. God indwells in the baptized. We especially receive this coming and its effects through the Eucharist. He is present to us in an unimaginably close way in this indwelling. And God changes and moves us by his grace.(Ed….if only we would realize, if only we would pause and take notice! The reason people, mostly, hate silence is that He is calling to us in that silence, deafeningly!!! Will we hear? Will we obey? He will not force us. He will only invite, usually quietly, softly, gently, lovingly, just like the Lover in Song of Songs. He will not violate our free will, for there is not true love without free will. Or, will we merely try to drown Him out again with drugs, alcohol, pornography, lust, ceaseless entertainment, acquisition and activity? 🙁 )

But we can become forgetful of this presence. We can be distracted from that loving call, proposed by the Church in her different seasons – especially Advent – to prepare ourselves for the Lord (Ed. ..towards Whom we are all racing for judgment.) Christ dwelt among us as man. And He still dwells in us by the power of the Holy Spirit. Paul asks in 1 Corinthians, “Do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you, which you have from God?” This is a good question to ask leading up to Christmas day.

Man seeks to dwell in an earthly home. But God seeks to dwell in man. God came as man so that we could be raised to God. May we prepare our souls for this coming like we prepare our places of living and worship. The lights, the evergreen – these ultimately point to the true light, the ever-new Christ Who comes to us again this Christmas.

You are a home. Prepare the way.”

“And in Him you too are being built together to become a dwelling in which God lives by His Spirit.” -Eph 2:22

“And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Look! God’s dwelling place is now among the people, and He will dwell with them. They will be His people, and God Himself will be with them and be their God.” -Rev 21:3

Love & excitedly waiting for Him, all the days of my life,
Matthew

Dec 18 – Our Lady of the Expectation

our-lady-of-the-new-advent-image3

While no longer celebrated in the Roman calendar, this feast day is a joy, literally, to remember.

Br_Thomas_Davenport_OP
-by Br Thomas Davenport, OP

“One week until Christmas. Decorations are everywhere. Shopping is shifting from hurried to frantic. There are preparations for travel and guests, for parties and feasts. The expectation is palpable.

Even the Church, in her liturgy, has shifted into high gear. The normal flow of Advent, already overflowing with a sense of longing and preparation, was preempted yesterday eight days before Christmas. The gospel readings begin to recount the events immediately preceding the Nativity and the great “O” antiphons place us in the mindset of the Old Testament prophets, using their Messianic imagery to beg the Lord to come. Here too, the expectation is palpable.

Since the seventh century, this day, one week from the feast of the Nativity, has had a particularly heightened link to this anticipation in that it was set aside to honor the Virgin Mary as Our Lady of the Expectation. It has been some time since the feast of the Annunciation (March 25), which celebrates Mary’s “Fiat” and the coming of the Word of God in the flesh, but we have not yet reached Christmas, which rejoices in His birth and first manifestation to the world. This feast of Our Lady of the Expectation takes the opportunity to contemplate the great longing and anticipation of Advent, in which “all creation is groaning in labor pains,” through the eyes of her who, above all creatures, longed to see the face of Christ, and whose expectation truly was palpable in every fiber of her body.

The bond of mother and child is one of the most powerful and significant human experiences. Physically speaking, the new life depends on the mother for every bodily need and the body of the mother reorients itself, recreates itself, to accept this new life and provide for it. Psychologically, the child’s very first sensations and memories are of the safety and security of its mother’s womb. There is the feeling of warmth and confinement as well as the sound of the mother’s heartbeat and voice. And these feelings of safety and comfort persist in a new way after the child is born. The mother, too, is disposed to love her child whose being and welfare are as present to her mind as they are to her body. This maternal love is a supreme natural image of pure and unconditional love, an image of the love of the Creator for His creation.

All of these insights into motherhood in general apply in the most eminent way to Mary and the Word made flesh, made from her flesh and being formed in her womb for nine months. As great as this natural, maternal bond was, the Fathers of the Church considered Mary’s spiritual union with her Son, her discipleship, as even more important. According to St. Augustine, “She kept truth safe in her mind even better than she kept flesh safe in her womb. Christ is truth, Christ is flesh; Christ as truth was in Mary’s mind, Christ as flesh in Mary’s womb; that which is in the mind is greater than what is carried in the womb.” From the moment of the Annunciation, every aspect of Mary’s humanity, body and soul, was suffused with love for her Son and more and more perfectly united to Him. As His Nativity approached, that love overflowed in a calm yet powerful longing, an expectation, to look on the face of her Son, the Word made flesh.

The word of the Gospel does not simply come forth fully formed from the mouth of preachers without any preparation. To truly be fruitful there must be a period of contemplation, of silent preparation during which the Word takes shape in the preacher’s mind and, more importantly, he is drawn ever closer to the Word. This is especially true of the student brother in formation, whose Dominican life has been conceived in the profession of vows, but has not yet been born, has not yet been made manifest to the world in preaching. This period of waiting can sometimes feel simply busy but not productive. In truth, this formation is meant to be a time of inner growth and activity, laying the foundation for a healthy Dominican life, united to and overflowing with the Word.

While the festivities of Christmas last only a short time, the love that Mary had for her Son, which overflowed in such expectation, did not end at His birth but continued to grow and deepen in new ways. In these last days of Advent, may we unite ourselves to Our Heavenly Mother and ask her to teach us the patience and docility needed to bear Christ in our hearts, trusting that the Word will bear fruit in our lives.”

Sister Maria Philomena, MICM
-by Sister Maria Philomena, MICM

“In Spain, this feast day is Nuestra Senora de la O: Our Lady of the O, the “O” coming from the expression of longing said in the office of the Mozarabic Liturgy. In the Latin Rite, today’s feast comes in the middle of the “O” Antiphons (where we get the words for the hymn Veni, Veni, Emmanuel — in English O Come, O Come Emmanuel).

All this reminded me of a poem combining these ideas that I discovered some years ago when I was doing research for an English Literature class. I found it in the book, I Sing of a Maiden – The Mary Book of Verse, edited by Sister M. Therese of the Congregation of the Sisters of the Divine Savior, Macmillan, 1947. Since the book is out of print, I feel justified in sharing the following with you.

Lady of O
-by James J. Galvin

By the seven stars of her halo
By her seven swords of woe
Oh Holy Spirit anneal my pen
To utter sweet words for the ears of men
In praise of Our Lady of O.

With seven O’s we salute Thee
Each evening as Christmas comes;
We hail thee adazzle with sunset gold
Repeating prophecies new and old
Like salvoes of guns and drums.

O Woman, the Word in Thy keeping
Thy secret from God most High,
Shall soon be whispered over the earth
And men shall listen and leap for mirth
Like stars in the Christmas sky.

O Lady, lone tent in the battle
Where our Leader awaits His time;
Though the day grow darker and Satan scorn
The tide of battle shall veer at morn
When He sallies forth to the cheer of horn
And trumpet and timbrel-chime.

O Stalk on the brink of blossom,
Shooting green through the frosty mire;
The peoples pray for thy Spring to come
And the mighty ones of the earth go dumb
For the Flower of the World’s Desire.

O Tower of Grace untrespassed
Since Eden by God’s decree;
At thine ivory spire and jasper gate
The pining kindred of Adam wait
For the turning of Christ the Key.

O Damsel more welcome than morning
To a world gone blind since the fall;
The stars go pale at Thy sandals’ sound
And skylines glimmer, and men peer round
For a virgin in simplest homespun gowned
With the Sunrise under her shawl.

O milk-and-honey-run Mountain
Whence the crystal Cornerstone
Shall issue unsullied by tool or hand
The Stone that shall fasten each race and land
Together like flesh and bone.

O City ashine on the hill-tops
The nations uplift their eyes
From rainy island and sunken sea
And the ends of the earth they throng to Thee
To dwell in thy Christ-lit skies.

By the seven stars of Thy halo
By Thy seven swords of woe
Forgive us, O Lady, these phrases worn
In praise of Thy season with God unborn
O ineffable Lady of O.”

Love & full of joyous expectation,
Matthew

Who can satisfy God’s Infinite Justice? Who can save us? – only God.

holy_t1

‘Let the nations be glad and exult, for you rule the world with justice.’ Ps 66:2

“What will become of me who have so many faults with which to reproach myself? But where sin abounds, Grace also abounds (Rom 5:20). And as Your mercy, O God, is eternal, I shall sing Your goodness forever, Your goodness, Your justice, not mine. I have only hours because You are my justice. Should I fear that it will not be enough for both of us? But, Your justice is infinite and remains forever and it will cover both of us with its immensity. In me it will cover the multitude of my sins, while in You, O Lord, it will only conceal the treasures of Your goodness which await me in the wounds of Christ. Here I shall find Your infinite sweetness, hidden, it is true, and only for those who are willing to surrender themselves.” St Bernard of Clairvaux, Doctor of the Church

‘The judgement of God is hope, both because it is justice and because it is grace. If it were merely grace, making all earthly things cease to matter, God would still owe us an answer to the question about justice—the crucial question that we ask of history and of God. If it were merely justice, in the end it could bring only fear to us all. The incarnation of God in Christ has so closely linked the two together—judgement and grace—that justice is firmly established: we all work out our salvation “with fear and trembling” (Phil 2:12). Nevertheless grace allows us all to hope, and to go trustfully to meet the Judge whom we know as our “advocate”, or parakletos (cf. 1 Jn 2:1).’ (Spe salvi 47)

augustine_marogi
-by Br Augustine Marogi, OP

“We can tell a great deal about someone by learning about his or her family tree. Names of ancestry can reveal many things about a person, such as ethnicity, language, history, and perhaps even his or her geographical location. For today’s Gospel reading, the Church gives us Christ’s genealogy, His human family tree. Some Church Fathers have noted that St. Matthew’s genealogy proves the Messiah’s Davidic royal ancestry, which was an important feature of the Christ who was to restore the Davidic Kingdom to the Jews. Others have appealed to Christ’s genealogy to refute the heretical claims of those who tampered with the Saviour’s human or divine nature. Genealogies for the modern audience can be a tedious endeavour, one to which the natural response is a mixture of exacerbation and dutiful compliance.

For a voracious reader of the Scriptures, however, entire narratives unfold when certain biblical names are mentioned in Christ’s genealogy, and usually these narratives reveal a horrific aspect of our human condition. Among the names that stand out are those whose conduct is notably condemnable. Here are some examples:
Judah and Tamar both appear in Christ’s genealogy. Tamar was married to Judah’s firstborn, Er, who was so “wicked” that the “Lord slew him” (Gen 38:7). Judah’s second son, being obliged to marry his deceased brother’s wife (according to the practice of levirate marriage), refused to fulfil his duty of begetting children from her. Instead, he engaged in a contraceptive conjugal act, and as a result the Lord “slew him” as well (Gen 38:10). Judah had a third son, who should have married Tamar. But seeing that both of his older sons had died as a result of their marriage to Tamar, Judah sent her to her father’s house to live as a widow, while making the excuse that his youngest son, Shelah, was a minor. Even though Shelah had reached the age of maturity, he declined to marry Tamar. In the end, Tamar resorted to dressing up like a prostitute to lure her father-in-law, Judah. She bore twins and named them Perez and Zerah. Perez is a great grandfather (many times removed) of Our Lord.

Other sundry characters are in Christ’s family tree. Solomon’s mother was Bathsheba, the wife of Uriah the Hittite, whom David killed after having committed adultery with his wife. Rahab was a “harlot” (Jos 2:1), and Ahaz was the king of Judah who “burned his son as an offering” to Molech (2 Kgs 16:3), “shut up the doors to the house of the Lord” (2 Chron 28:24), “built” an “altar” in Jerusalem for the gods of Damascus, and “threw the blood of his peace offerings” on his idolatrous altar (2 Kgs 16:11,13). David, Solomon, the wife of Uriah (Bathsheba), Rahab and King Ahaz all appear in Christ’s genealogy.

How do we reconcile this deplorable succession of Christ’s human lineage with the holiness, purity, and majesty of His Divine Person?

This question begs itself. The reader cannot help but make the comparison between Christ’s sinlessness and humanity’s wickedness. On one hand, there is degenerate, contemptible, and shameful humanity, which is screaming for a saviour and begging for someone to rescue it from its brokenness. On the other hand, there is God in His infinite perfection and holiness. God and humanity were separated through a great chasm called original sin, and a mediator was necessary to bridge the two together again. When we read about the deplorable condition of humanity, which manifests itself in Christ’s genealogy, we are looking at a mirror image of ourselves, and while we were originally made in God’s image, sin entered the world and disfigured that image in us. A quick look at the list of names in Christ’s genealogy will reveal that no human being, despite how holy he or she may be, can satisfy God’s infinite justice and restore the human image of God to its former beauty. Thus, God chose to become man. He “became human to make humans divine.”

The way to reconcile the two opposites, God’s holiness and human misery, was through the Incarnation, Passion, and Resurrection of Christ. God’s holiness united itself to the weakness of human flesh. When God’s love in Jesus Christ encountered man’s hatred, Christ’s human flesh was subjected to an instrument of torture and death: the Cross. That vile object was an image of our fallenness, while He who was nailed to it was the Incarnation of God’s love. Overcoming the enmity between God and men, glorified in the Resurrection, Christ establishes a new family tree, one born from Him, one with many children in the Church: Christ’s family of sinners becomes a family of saints.”

Love, and on my knees weeping, begging for His mercy, always,
Matthew

We don’t know why God loves us.

god-loves-me

timothydanaher
-by Br Timothy Danaher, OP

Thomas Aquinas asks a fascinating question: What happened in your soul when it had its first thought? How did you first react when you looked out at life? He answers: With desire.

Technically, he says in his own language, “The first movement of the will is love.” For him, love has two parts: it begins in desire, which leads the mind to search the world, search our experience for something to match that desire; second, love ends in rest, in finally finding the thing we most desired from the beginning and being united to it. A fascinating idea, really, that since the very first moment of our life, we haven’t been happy by ourselves. We immediately began looking for something else to make us whole.

In this life, however, we struggle to ever reach that end, that rest. We remain stuck at the beginning, wrestling with desire. If our life had a soundtrack, it would be U2 playing “Desire”, on repeat, with us searching and sighing always for something more…

Early on, we think we can get beyond desire and be at rest. A boy may grow up dreaming of the perfect girl, of living married life “happily ever after.” Then he actually gets married, and happy though he may be, desire remains. Desire for something he can’t quite name, or understand, churns inside of him. “Even after the most thrilling experience… when you are quiet and alone, you perceive deep down a small voice saying, ‘Is that all there is?’ Nothing is enough: not praise, not success, not youth, not love. You are a thirst,” writes Thomas Dubay.

Desire is a central theme of the season of Advent. As the People of God, we again fix our attention on the coming of Christ, the “Desired of Every Nation,” into our world and into our lives. Still, it would be too easy to say, “Desire placed in material things or human relationships will disappoint us, but in Christ we find our rest.”

Did not He himself say, “Come to me… and I will give you rest?” Is He not the one thing our souls have been desiring, the one thing we’ve always been looking for since our first moments? Only God can fill that God-shaped hole in us, and He so happens to be Emmanuel, God-with-us. Then why are we still not satisfied?
Once again, we can reference another U2 song, “I Still Haven’t Found What I’m Looking For”. If we’ve found God, and we’re still not satisfied, it must be something about us, then, and not Him.

There is another song written by my Uncle Mark (whom I’ve written about in a previous blog post). He works as a lawyer in Pittsburgh but writes music as a passion and a way of processing. The song is simply called “Desire.”

Talking to him about it, he explained:

‘I’ve always had a desire to make sense of everything. But life has a way of beating you down, and there’s an instinct to not fight to make sense anymore. The tide’s coming, and you go with it and make the best of it. This life is so contingent… But through that, there’s still a desire you can’t shake. You can’t dismiss the greater purpose. If we’re supposed to just ‘get along,’ why does this continue?’

Christ doesn’t take away our desire. He actually gives us a new desire, a thirst for God, not always easy to reconcile with our busy, contingent lives, filled with so much desire for other things. God, it so happens, is very different from us, and it takes a long time (and some very elaborate strategies on His part) for us to acquire a real taste for Him. Sometimes He blesses us, other times He lets our mortal dreams and mortal expectations crumble, like castles built in the sand. He does it all so we might learn to desire Him, which might seem selfish of Him, but after all, He’s God. He’s different. And He alone is worthy of our whole hearts.

So I, a Christian, sit here in this mortal life, still trying to make sense of things, still trying to love an eternal God. “We do not know how to pray as we ought,” how to love as we ought, and yet “the Spirit itself intercedes with inexpressible groanings” (Rom 8:26).

When pondering these things, there are two questions I love to ask, which I hope to take up again this Advent.

The first: Is Christ enough for me? If He doesn’t seem to be, I must beg Him to be. “Be enough for me, Jesus. You are what I seek. You are my life.”

And the second: Why does God love us? No theologian can help us here. We don’t know why God loves us. We only know that He loves us.

“For to you is born this day… a Savior, who is Christ the Lord” (Lk 2:11). Some questions are not asked to receive an answer, but only as a way to express our wonder at being loved.

He is the pearl of great price that has been placed in our hands, in our lives. But we need to be constantly reminded of this, bombarded as we are by a million other thoughts and emotions, we who are always tempted to believe that those other things are more real than Christ is. So God speaks to us this Advent, and in all times of our life, in the words of the song: “Why are you so sad? Don’t you know what’s in your hand?”

Love, and just accepting that He loves me, and you. He does. Otherwise, why are we here? Random accident? How terrible, pointless, and nihilist an answer is THAT.
Matthew

Be vigilant!!!

be-pure-be-vigilant-and-behave

-by Aquinas, etc.

“Advent is a unique season of the ecclesial year and one that is uniquely misunderstood. It is not solely about the coming of the Lord as the Son of Mary, a baby in the manger. It is also about the coming of the Lord in judgment at world’s end. This is why it is a penitential season. And it is also why the first Gospel reading of Advent includes this from the book of Luke.

Be vigilant at all times and pray that you have the strength to escape the tribulations that are imminent and to stand before the Son of Man. (Luke 21:36)

Be vigilant and pray, says the Lord Jesus. Why? So that we may have strength. Strength for what? Strength to escape “the tribulations that are imminent” and also to stand before the Son of Man. That is rather alarming. Please note that Jesus is not talking to just anyone here; He is telling this to His disciples, including the Apostles. Why should they of all people need to pray for strength to stand before Him?

This does not mean that He considered them to be unbelievers (Judas excepted of course). In fact I suspect that there are at least a few people who would confirm that strength is just exactly what one needs when he stands before God.

Woe is me, I am doomed! For I am a man of unclean lips, living among a people of unclean lips, and my eyes have seen the King, the Lord of hosts! (Isaiah 6:5)

And:

We will certainly die, for we have seen God. (Judges 13:22)

And:

Now, why should we die? For this great fire will consume us. If we hear the voice of the Lord, our God, any more, we shall die. (Deuteronomy 5:25)

Do not the Lord’s words of warning sound very much in keeping with what Isaiah, Manoah, and all Israel thought when they were in God’s presence? “It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God” (Hebrews 10:31. So it makes sense, it seems to me, for this to be a penitential season. We are preparing to meet our God at His coming! Yes, there will be joy for His people but God is an infinitely awesome God. Who can have the heart to stand in the presence of such a great God? I think this is why Jesus tells us to pray that we may have strength to stand before Him. Advent is not only about Christmas. The Day of the Lord is both great and terrible (Malachi 3:23).

But who can endure the day of his coming?
Who can stand firm when He appears? (Malachi 3:2)

Love, striving, through His grace, to be vigilant & strong! He comes!!!
Matthew