Category Archives: Doctors of the Church

Dec 4 – St John Damascene (645-749 AD), Doctor of the Church, Doctor of Christian Art, Doctor of the Assumption

What Aquinas is for the Latin or Western Church, John of Damascus is for the Eastern Church.  Saint John of Damascus was born about the year 680 at Damascus, Syria into a Christian family. His father, Sergius Mansur, was a treasurer at the court of the Caliph. John had also a foster brother, the orphaned child Cosmas (October 14), whom Sergius had taken into his own home. When the children were growing up, Sergius saw that they received a good education. At the Damascus slave market he ransomed the learned monk Cosmas of Calabria from captivity and entrusted to him the teaching of his children. The boys displayed uncommon ability and readily mastered their courses of the secular and spiritual sciences. After the death of his father, John occupied ministerial posts at court and became the city prefect.

In Constantinople at that time, the heresy of Iconoclasm had arisen and quickly spread, supported by the emperor Leo III the Isaurian (717-741). Rising up in defense of the veneration of icons [Iconodoulia], Saint John wrote three treatises entitled, “Against Those who Revile the Holy Icons.” The wise and God-inspired writings of Saint John enraged the emperor. But since the author was not a Byzantine subject, the emperor was unable to lock him up in prison, or to execute him. The emperor then resorted to slander. A forged letter to the emperor was produced, supposedly from John, in which the Damascus official was supposed to have offered his help to Leo in conquering the Syrian capital.

This letter and another hypocritically flattering note were sent to the Saracen Caliph by Leo the Isaurian. The Caliph immediately ordered that Saint John be removed from his post, that his right hand be cut off, and that he be led through the city in chains.

That same evening, they returned the severed hand to Saint John. The saint pressed it to his wrist and prayed to the Most Holy Theotokos to heal him so that he could defend the  Faith and write once again in praise of the Most Pure Virgin and Her Son. After a time, he fell asleep before the icon of the Mother of God. He heard Her voice telling him that he had been healed, and commanding him to toil unceasingly with his restored hand. Upon awakening, he found that his hand had been attached to his arm once more. Only a small red mark around his wrist remained as a sign of the miracle.

Later, in thanksgiving for being healed, Saint John had a silver model of his hand attached to the icon, which became known as “Of the Three Hands.” Some unlearned painters have given the Mother of God three hands instead of depicting the silver model of Saint John’s hand. The Icon “Of the Three Hands” is commemorated on June 28 and July 12.

When he learned of the miracle, which demonstrated John’s innocence, the Caliph asked his forgiveness and wanted to restore him to his former office, but the saint refused. He gave away his riches to the poor, and went to Jerusalem with his stepbrother and fellow-student, Cosmas. There he entered the monastery of Saint Sava the Sanctified as a simple novice.

It was not easy for him to find a spiritual guide, because all the monks were daunted by his great learning and by his former rank. Only one very experienced Elder, who had the skill to foster the spirit of obedience and humility in a student, would consent to do this. The Elder forbade John to do anything at all according to his own will. He also instructed him to offer to God all his labors and supplications as a perfect sacrifice, and to shed tears which would wash away the sins of his former life.

Once, he sent the novice to Damascus to sell baskets made at the monastery, and commanded him to sell them at a certain inflated price, far above their actual value. He undertook the long journey under the searing sun, dressed in rags. No one in the city recognized the former official of Damascus, for his appearance had been changed by prolonged fasting and ascetic labors. However, Saint John was recognized by his former house steward, who bought all the baskets at the asking price, showing compassion on him for his apparent poverty.

One of the monks happened to die, and his brother begged Saint John to compose something consoling for the burial service. Saint John refused for a long time, but out of pity he yielded to the petition of the grief-stricken monk, and wrote his renowned funeral troparia (“What earthly delight,” “All human vanity,” and others). For this disobedience the Elder banished him from his cell. John fell at his feet and asked to be forgiven, but the Elder remained unyielding. All the monks began to plead for him to allow John to return, but he refused. Then one of the monks asked the Elder to impose a penance on John, and to forgive him if he fulfilled it. The Elder said, “If John wishes to be forgiven, let him wash out all the chamber pots in the lavra, and clean the monastery latrines with his bare hands.”

John rejoiced and eagerly ran to accomplish his shameful task. After a certain while, the Elder was commanded in a vision by the All-Pure and Most Holy Theotokos to allow Saint John to write again. When the Patriarch of Jerusalem heard of Saint John, he ordained him priest and made him a preacher at his cathedral. But St John soon returned to the Lavra of Saint Sava, where he spent the rest of his life writing spiritual books and church hymns. He left the monastery only to denounce the iconoclasts at the Constantinople Council of 754. They subjected him to imprisonment and torture, but he endured everything, and through the mercy of God he remained alive. He died in about the year 780, more than 100 years old.

Saint John of Damascus was a theologian and a zealous defender of the Faith. His most important book is the Fount of Knowledge. The third section of this work, “On the Orthodox Faith,” is a summary of Christian doctrine and a refutation of heresy. Since he was known as a hymnographer, we pray to Saint John for help in the study of church singing.

“Even though your most holy and blessed soul was separated from your most happy and immaculate body, according to the usual course of nature, and even though it was carried to a proper burial place, nevertheless it did not remain under the dominion of death, nor was it destroyed by corruption. Indeed, just as her virginity remained intact when she gave birth, so her body, even after death, was preserved from decay and transferred to a better and more divine dwelling place. There it is no longer subject to death but abides for all ages.” -St John Damascene, First Homily on the Dormition (of Mary)

Troparion — Tone 8

Champion of Orthodoxy, teacher of purity and of true worship, / the enlightener of the universe and the adornment of hierarchs: / all-wise father John, your teachings have gleamed with light upon all things. / Intercede before Christ God to save our souls.

Kontakion — Tone 4

Let us sing praises to John, worthy of great honor, / the composer of hymns, the star and teacher of the Church, the defender of her doctrines: / through the might of the Lord’s Cross he overcame heretical error / and as a fervent intercessor before God / he entreats that forgiveness of sins may be granted to all.

Prayer Of St. John Damascene

“Having confidence in you, O Mother of God, I shall be saved. Being under you protection, I shall fear nothing. With your help I shall give battle to my enemies and put them to flight for devotion to you is an arm of Salvation. Amen.”

Love,
Matthew

Dec 14 – St John of the Cross, OCD, “En Una Noche Oscura…”

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-St. John of the Cross by Francisco de Zurbarán, 1656 [Archdiocesan Museum of Katowice, Poland]

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-by Michael Pakaluk

“En una noche oscura”, “On a dark night.” So begins his most famous poem. What is described, and what the great mystic wants to evoke, does not take place during the day, but at night. And not during any night we might know, but a night from the 16th century.

Yes, people have stopped working and are at rest, sleeping. No one is about. And there is no light from the sun, of course. But there are no human lights either. What few candles and lamps people might own have been extinguished. Since the night is dark, we can presume that not even the moon is shining.

But note this difference between our “dark” and the Spanish oscura, literally “obscured.” Darkness is superficial, a kind of color, but being obscured is a deep condition: the Spanish word makes clear that the darkness of the night comes from the covering-over or obscurity of the sun.

Understood spiritually, this could be someone manically surfing on his phone, plopped in front of the TV, or fervently preoccupied with Christmas shopping. Human light, as Pope Benedict said, is often darkened reality. Mary is out of sight; God is obscured; and his soul is in a state of extreme privation.

Con ansias, en amores inflamada – “With disquietude, though inflamed with love.” Some translators give “yearning” for ansias. But that is too positive. It makes things easy. After all, the word is cognate with our “anxiety.” So consider instead the common core of anxiety and yearning: namely, unsettledness, dread, or restlessness. “Our hearts are restless until they rest in Thee.” The genius of the line, and the genius of him who wrote it, St. Augustine, is to see that, metaphysically, restlessness must be linked with love.

If you are paying attention you see that inflamada is feminine, and thus the author is asking us to consider a woman, alone on this dark night, troubled and yet deeply and romantically stirred by love. And, as she is a woman, she loves for having first been loved. Thus, although all is dark, we still can “see” something, namely, we can see her lover “in” the response of this woman, the beloved.

Spiritually, the woman is the human soul, perhaps the soul of that smart-phone addicted man, who sleeps lightly and wakes at 3 AM with that all too-familiar dread. Yet St. John of the Cross wishes to give him a key to interpreting his soul’s condition then. He can see the action of God in his own restlessness.¡Oh dichosa ventura! – “Oh blessed chance!” This may seem a strange line, an unusual interjection, but, as if to assure us that the meaning is well considered, the author repeats it again, in the very same place of the second stanza (as you can see if you read the whole poem).

To get the flavor, consider our expressions, “What a great stroke of luck!” “To my good fortune!” “By a happy fate!” If you frown upon the Saint for invoking luck, consider: the main English word for what all of us desire most of all is “happiness,” which means, literally, the state of enjoying “hap” or luck. (What “happens” is what accidentally turns out so.)

You can call it grace, if you look at the big picture, of God above looking down at the restless man below, and bestowing gifts according to His Eternal Will. Then there is nothing “lucky” about it, no aspect of “hap.” But from the point of view of the restless man, what comes next seems like the sheerest good luck. It is entirely incidental to his own powers, ideas, and limits. He would not in a million years have blundered upon it himself. Spiritually, the soul is always “surprised by joy,” as another great spiritual guide once put it.

Salí sin ser notada – “I went forth without being noticed.” The sheerest luck is that the soul goes forth. In the dark night, when all is dead, it rises and leaves. But then notice that immediately a task is presented to the soul: it is unnoticed and must want to remain unnoticed. Vanity, preening, recognition, human praise – consolation – it must give all of this up. “The Father who sees in secret will reward in secret.”

Spiritually, it is a miracle, on par with the resurrection, if the media-addicted man turns to God in prayer. Yet not if, for a Christian, but when. And when he does pray, he immediately has his work cut out for him, as in prayer he lives life in a different way, which implies no recognition. No one will click on you or “like” you for your prayer.

But yes, the Saint wants us to consider the boldness and adventure of a woman setting out secretly at night to meet her lover, because the mystery on which the soul embarks in prayer is even greater.

Estando ya mi casa sosegada – “while my house most assuredly was at rest.” This line too gets repeated. It therefore goes with the other line, and if the other line refers to God’s grace, seen from a human point of view, this line must refer to the human contribution, from the point of view of God’s grace.

Spanish casa can mean either the dwelling or the household. Spiritually, to say the dwelling is at rest is to say that the human body plays no part. To say that the household is at rest is to say that the human soul itself is not the origin. Christians and their prayers are born “not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God.” (Jn 1:13, KJV)

At the end of the poem the soul is “lost in oblivion,” and leaves its cares “forgotten among the lilies.” St. John of the Cross, lead us there.”

Love,
Matthew

Why Aquinas? How Aquinas? What Aquinas?

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-“Apotheosis of Saint Thomas Aquinas”, Francisco de Zurbarán, 1631, Museum of Fine Arts, Seville, Spain.

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-by Dr. Randall Smith, PhD, Dr. Smith is the Scanlan Professor of Theology at the University of St. Thomas in Houston, Texas.

“These are the times that try men’s souls. Some days it can seem as though, if it weren’t for bad news, we wouldn’t have any news at all. Brutal acts of terrorism, political correctness run rampant, and a horrible election between perhaps the two worst candidates in America. It’s times such as these when we have to return to the important things – the things that will last and provide a solid foundation on rock, rather than sand. Which is precisely why I’m taking this occasion not to comment on any of our current troubles and write instead about Thomas Aquinas.

I’m sometimes asked, “What should I read by Aquinas?” This question usually comes from a person who has almost no acquaintance with his thought or writing, except perhaps a cursory experience years ago with the so-called “Five Ways,” the five “proofs” for the existence of God. They know that Aquinas is important; some even know that he has been called “the Common Doctor of the Church.” Interested in nourishing their faith, they think: “I should read some Aquinas. But what?”

Like people who decide they should “read the Bible,” and then get a short way into Exodus or Numbers only to regret their decision – “Isn’t there some easier way of doing this?” (There is: go to daily Mass) – so too there are those who decide they should “read some Aquinas,” pick up his great Summa of Theology, and get about three questions in before giving up in despair. “Wow, this stuff is hard.” 🙂 Uh-huh.

Yes, you probably wouldn’t know it from most of your high school religion classes, but theology can in fact be hard. It can make your head hurt (Ed. it does!) like the hardest bit of chemistry or advanced physics. Thomas’s Summa was meant as a “beginner’s” text. Why so many teachers feel it’s necessary to “dumb down” theology when they would never consider “dumbing down” chemistry, biology, or physics, I’ll never know. But they do, and that’s where many people find themselves.

So let’s say you want some of the wisdom of St. Thomas, but you’re a little intimidated by the Summa. You’re not alone in this. What do you do?

Well, you could start with a good introduction, like G. K. Chesterton’s The Dumb Ox or Ralph McInerny’s delightful First Glance at Thomas Aquinas (A Handbook for Peeping Thomists). Or, if you like listening, you could go to the website of the International Catholic University and get Prof. McInerny’s lively “Introduction to Thomas Aquinas.”

But let’s say you want to get right to reading some Aquinas. This shows a good spirit on your part. Where do you begin? I have a suggestion. A good place to begin for someone who isn’t used to reading medieval disputed questions is to begin with any of Thomas’s “sermon-conferences” on the Apostle’s Creed, the Hail Mary, the Our Father, or the Ten Commandments. All of these were meant for an educated audience of non-specialists. They are not “dumbed down.” Thomas still challenges his listeners to think and think deeply. But they’re less technical than the Summa or Thomas’s commentaries on Aristotle.

Most of these texts have been published separately at one time or another. In fact, I’ll let you in on a little “trade secret.” If you want to find anything by Aquinas in English translation, go to the superb web site kept up by my former classmate, Dr. Thérèse Bonin: Thomas Aquinas in English: A Bibliography. It’s an invaluable resource.

But you can also buy all these treatises together in a volume entitled The Aquinas Catechism: A Simple Explanation of the Catholic Faith by the Church’s Greatest Theologian. Thomas didn’t actually set out to write a single “catechism,” so the title is a bit misleading. But it’s fair enough because the editors have brought together in this one volume Thomas’s commentaries on the Apostle’s Creed, the Ten Commandments, the Hail Mary, and the Our Father – to which they have added at the end some material on the sacraments.

Regarding this material on the sacraments, the reader should exercise some caution. Thomas wasn’t able to finish the Summa before he died at the relatively young age of 49. What was left unfinished at the time of his death, though, was the final section of the Summa on the sacraments. So what his students did – out of their love for their teacher – was “finish it off” with material they found in some of Thomas’s earliest writings: his Commentary on the Sentences of Peter Lombard. A noble gesture, but this would be like “filling in” your teacher’s final book, his magnum opus, the fruit of a lifetime’s learning, with material from his doctoral dissertation. So it’s worth exercising some care.

When the news is bad, or just plain silly, as it is pretty much all the time these days, why not skip it? Listen to McInerny talk about Aquinas instead of listening to the evening news. Read Aquinas on the Apostle’s Creed rather than reading The New York Times. Less fretting over the news, and more reflecting on the Good News.

C.S. Lewis used to say he rarely read the news. If there was anything important that he could do something about, he trusted his friends would tell him. As for the rest, he thought the best response to those things he couldn’t do much about — horrible wars, people dying, government scandals — was to fast and pray. If you truly believe that God is the Lord of History, then often the most practical thing you can do is pray. And now while you’re praying the Hail Mary or the Our Father, you can say to yourself: “Didn’t I read somewhere that Thomas Aquinas wrote commentaries on these prayers?”

Yes you did.”

STA
-the St Thomas Aquinas, OP, statue I keep on my desk, always in sight, for inspiration. Patron saint of students, pray for us!

Love & Thomism,
Matthew

n.b. I have found “The Aquinas Catechism: A Simple Explanation of the Catholic Faith by the Church’s Greatest Theologian”, by St Thomas Aquinas/Ralph McInerny, very accessible. This is a collection of Lenten sermons by the Common Doctor given in 1273, the last year of his life.

Annunciation, the Ark of the Covenant, & Sts Joseph, Jerome, & Bernard of Clairvaux

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-Annunciation, 1655, by Bartolomé Esteban Perez Murillo

Among the early doctors of the Church, Saint Jerome is the staunchest defender of Saint Joseph’s honor and integrity. For he clarifies that Joseph feared to take Mary home as his wife not out of any fear that Our Lady had in any way sinned. Rather, Saint Joseph, the son of David, shared his royal ancestor’s fear of coming into overly close contact with the Tabernacle of the Lord, the Ark of the Covenant, wherein God dwells. “Who am I,” asked King David, “that the Ark of the Lord should come to me?” (2 Sam. 6:9).

“…Uzzah reached out and took hold of the ark of God, because the oxen stumbled. The LORD’s anger burned against Uzzah because of his irreverent act; therefore God struck him down, and he died there beside the ark of God…David was afraid of the LORD that day and said, “How can the ark of the LORD ever come to me?” He was not willing to take the ark of the LORD to be with him in the City of David. Instead, he took it to the house of Obed-Edom the Gittite. The ark of the LORD remained in the house of Obed-Edom the Gittite for three months, and the LORD blessed him and his entire household. Now King David was told, “The LORD has blessed the household of Obed-Edom and everything he has, because of the ark of God.” So David went to bring up the ark of God from the house of Obed-Edom to the City of David with rejoicing…Wearing a linen ephod, David was dancing before the LORD with all his might, while he and all Israel were bringing up the ark of the LORD with shouts and the sound of trumpets.”
-2 Sam 6:6-7, 9-12, 14-15

Joseph, believing fully that Mary had conceived by the power of God’s Spirit, feared to bring her into his home lest he be overcome by the majesty of the divine mystery and overwhelmed by the presence of such sanctity. This is why he chose to honor Mary’s secret, not to expose her mystery. His decision not to bring her into his home was born not out of envy but out of reverential fear. In this view, Saint Jerome is supported by the Mellifluous Doctor, Saint Bernard of Clairvaux.

Love,
Matthew

Mar 18 – St Cyril of Jerusalem, (313-386 AD), Bishop, Confessor, Doctor of the Church, Patron of Faithfulness to the Church

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“God is loving to man, and loving in no small measure. For say not, I have committed fornication and adultery: I have done dreadful things, and not once only, but often: will He forgive? Will He grant pardon? Hear what the Psalmist says: How great is the multitude of Your goodness, O Lord! (Ps 31:19)

Your accumulated offenses surpass not the multitude of God’s mercies: your wounds surpass not the great Physician’s skill. Only give yourself up in faith: tell the Physician your ailment: say thou also, like David: I said, I will confess me my sin unto the Lord: and the same shall be done in your case, which he says immediately: And you forgave the wickedness of my heart”

St. Cyril of Jerusalem, Catechetical Lecture 2.6

On March 18, the Roman Catholic Church honors St. Cyril of Jerusalem, a fourth-century bishop and Doctor of the Church whose writings are still regarded as masterful expressions of Christian faith.

St. Cyril is also remembered for his exhaustive Biblical knowledge, and his endurance in the face of misunderstanding and opposition. Eastern Catholics and Eastern Orthodox Christians, who likewise celebrate him as a saint on March 18, also remember him on May 7 – the date of a miraculous apparition said to have occurred soon after his consecration as a bishop.

What we know of Cyril’s life is gathered from information concerning him from his younger contemporaries, Epiphanius, Jerome, and Rufinus, as well as from the fifth-century historians, Socrates, Sozomen and Theodoret.

Cyril was most likely born in Jerusalem around the year 315, shortly after the legalization of Christianity throughout the Roman Empire.

Although that legalization put a stop to many of the persecutions that threatened the Church for two centuries, it indirectly gave rise to a number of internal controversies – both in regard to theology, and the jurisdiction of bishops – in which Cyril would find himself involved.

Cyril received an excellent education in classical Greek literature as well as the Bible. He was ordained to the priesthood by Bishop Maximus of Jerusalem, and succeeded him as bishop in 348.

During his early years as a bishop, most likely around 350, he delivered a series of lectures to new initiates of the Catholic Church. Twenty-four of the lectures have survived and are studied today. In a 2007 general audience, Pope Benedict XVI praised the saint for providing an “integral” form of Christian instruction, “involving body, soul, and spirit.” St. Cyril’s teaching, the Pope said, “remains emblematic for the catechetical formation of Christians today.

In 351, three years after Cyril became the Bishop of Jerusalem, a large cross-shaped light appeared for several hours in the sky over the city – an event that many interpreted as a sign of the Church’s triumph over heresy. It could also, however, be understood as a sign of the suffering the new bishop would undergo in leading his flock.

Unlike many other Eastern bishops and priests of the fourth century, Cyril did not allow his classical learning to lead him away from believing in the full humanity and divinity of Christ.

However, the man who consecrated Cyril as a bishop, Archbishop Acacius of Caesarea, was an ally of the Arians – who claimed that Jesus was a creature and not God. Because of his connection to the archbishop, Cyril himself was unjustly suspected of heresy by many of his brother bishops.

But he also found himself at odds with Archbishop Acacius, who claimed to have jurisdiction over the birthplace of the Church. Altogether, these disputes led to Cyril being exiled from Jerusalem three times in the course of 20 years. Cyril first took refuge with Silvanus, Bishop of Taraus. He appeared at the Council of Seleucia in 359, in which the semi-Arian party was triumphant. Acacius was deposed and St. Cyril seems to have returned to his see. But the emperor was displeased at the turn of events, and, in 360, Cyril and other moderates were again driven out, and only returned at the accession of Julian in 361. In 367, a decree of Valens banished all the bishops who had been restored by Julian, and Cyril remained in exile until the death of the persecutor in 378. In 380, St. Gregory of Nyssa came to Jerusalem on the recommendation of a council held at Antioch in the preceding year. He found the Faith in accord with the truth and expressed admiration of his pastoral efforst, but the city was a prey to parties and corrupt in morals.

In 381, St. Cyril participated in the Second Ecumenical Council, which condemned two different forms of Arianism and added statements about the Holy Spirit to the Nicene Creed of 325. St. Cyril of Jerusalem died in 387, and was named a Doctor of the Church by Pope Leo XIII in 1883.

“Make your fold with the sheep; flee from the wolves: depart not from the Church,” Cyril admonished catechumens surrounded by heresy. These were prophetic words for Cyril was to be hounded by enemies and heretics for most of his life, and although they could exile him from his diocese he never left his beloved Church.

Cyril’s life began a few years before Arianism (the heresy that Jesus was not divine or one in being with the Father) and he lived to see its suppression and condemnation at the end of his life. In between he was the victim of many of the power struggles that took place.

We know little about Cyril’s early life. Historians estimate he was born about 315 and that he was brought up in Jerusalem. He speaks about the appearance of the sites of the Nativity and Holy Sepulchre before they were “improved” by human hands as if he were a witness. All we know of his family were that his parents were probably Christians and he seemed to care for them a great deal. He exhorted catechumens to honor parents “for however much we may repay them, yet we can never be to them what they as parents have been to us.” We know he also had a sister and a nephew, Gelasius, who became a bishop and a saint.

He speaks as one who belonged to a group called the Solitaries. These were men who lived in their own houses in the cities but practiced a life of complete chastity, ascetism, and service.

After being ordained a deacon and then a priest, his bishop Saint Maximus respected him enough to put him in charge of the instruction of catechumens. We still have these catechetical lectures of Cyril’s that were written down by someone in the congregation. When speaking of so many mysteries, Cyril anticipated the question, “But some one will say, If the Divine substance is incomprehensible, why then do you discourse of these things? So then, because I cannot drink up all the river, am I not even to take in moderation what is expedient for me? Because with eyes so constituted as mine I cannot take in all the sun, am I not even to look upon it enough to satisfy my wants? Or again, because I have entered into a great garden, and cannot eat all the supply of fruits, would you have me go away altogether hungry?.. I am attempting now to glorify the Lord, but not to describe him, knowing nevertheless that I shall fall short of glorifying God worthily, yet deeming it a work of piety even to attempt it at all.”

When Maximus died, Cyril was consecrated as bishop of Jerusalem. Because he was supported by the Arian bishop of Caesarea, Acacius, the orthodox criticized the appointment and the Arians thought they had a friend. Both factions were wrong, but Cyril wound up in the middle.

When a famine hit Jerusalem, the poor turned to Cyril for help. Cyril, seeing the poor starving to death and having no money, sold some of the goods of the churches. This was something that other saints including Ambrose and Augustine had done and it probably saved many lives. There were rumors, however, that some of the vestments wound up as clothing for actors.

Actually, the initial cause of the falling out between Acacius and Cyril was territory not beliefs. As bishop of Caesarea, Acacia had authority over all the bishops of Palestine. Cyril argued that his authority did not include Jerusalem because Jerusalem was an “apostolic see” — one of the original sees set up by the apostles. When Cyril did not appear at councils that Acacius called, Acacius accused him of selling church goods to raise money and had him banished.

Cyril stayed in Tarsus while waiting for an appeal. Constantius called a council where the appeal was supposed to take place. The council consisted of orthodox, Arians, and semi-Arian bishops. When Acacius and his faction saw that Cyril and other exiled orthodox bishops were attending, they demanded that the persecuted bishops leave. Acacius walked out when the demand was not met. The other bishops prevailed on Cyril and the others to give in to this point because they didn’t want Acacius to have reason to deny the validity of the council. Acacius returned but left again for good when his creed was rejected — and refused to come back even to give testimony against his enemy Cyril. The result of the council was the Acacius and the other Arian bishops were condemned. There’s no final judgment on Cyril’s case but it was probably thrown out when Acacius refused to testify and Cyril returned to Jerusalem.

This was not the end of Cyril’s troubles because Acacius carried his story to the emperor — embellishing it with details that it was a gift of the emperor’s that was sold to a dancer who died wearing the robe. This brought about a new synod run by Acacius who now had him banished again on the basis of what some bishops of Tarsus had done while Cyril was there.

This exile lasted until Julian became emperor and recalled all exiled bishops, orthodox or Arian. Some said this was to exacerbate tension in the Church and increase his imperial power. So Cyril returned to Jerusalem. When Acacius died, each faction nominated their own replacement for Caesarea. Cyril appointed his nephew Gelasius — which may seem like nepotism, except that all orthodox sources spoke of Gelasius’ holiness. A year later both Cyril and Gelasius were driven out of Palestine again as the new emperor’s consul reversed Julian’s ruling.

Eleven years later, Cyril was allowed to go back to find a Jerusalem destroyed by heresy and strife. He was never able to put things completely right. He did attend the Council at Constantinople in 381 where the Nicene Creed and orthodoxy triumphed and Arianism was finally condemned. Cyril received justice at the same Council who cleared him of all previous rumors and commended him for fighting “a good fight in various places against the Arians.”

Cyril had eight years of peace in Jerusalem before he died in 386, at about seventy years old.”

St Cyril of Jerusalem, faithful always to Holy Mother Church, help us too, always remain ever faithful to her!!! Ora pro nobis!!!

Love,
Matthew

Easter – Pope St Leo the Great

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–Saint Leo Magnus by Francisco Herrera the Younger, in the Prado Museum, Madrid

I. The Cross is not only the mystery of salvation, but an example to follow

The whole of the Easter mystery, dearly-beloved, has been brought before us in the Gospel narrative, and the ears of the mind have been so reached through the ear of flesh that none of you can fail to have a picture of the events: for the text of the Divinely-inspired story has clearly shown the treachery of the LORD Jesus Christ’s betrayal, the judgment by which He was condemned, the barbarity of His crucifixion, and glory of His resurrection.

But a sermon is still required of us, that the priests’ exhortation may be added to the solemn reading of Holy Writ, as I am sure you are with pious expectation demanding of us as your accustomed due. Because, therefore, there is no place for ignorance in faithful ears, the seed of the Word, which consists of the preaching of the Gospel, ought to grow in the soil of your heart, so that, when choking thorns and thistles have been removed, the plants of holy thoughts and the buds of right desires may spring up freely into fruit. For the cross of Christ, which was set up for the salvation of mortals, is both a mystery and an example: a sacrament whereby the Divine power takes effect, an example whereby man’s devotion is excited: for to those who are rescued from the prisoner’s yoke, Redemption further procures the power of following the way of the cross by imitation. For if the world’s wisdom so prides itself in its error that everyone follows the opinions and habits and whole manner of life of him whom he has chosen as his leader, how shall we share in the name of Christ, save by being inseparably united to Him, Who is, as He Himself asserted, “the Way, the Truth, and the Life” [John 14:6] – the Way that is of holy living, the Truth of Divine doctrine, and the Life of eternal happiness?

II. Christ took our nature upon Him for our salvation

For when the whole body of mankind had fallen in our first parents, the merciful GOD purposed so to succour, through His only-begotten Jesus Christ, His creatures made after His image, that the restoration of our nature should not be effected apart from it, and that our new estate should be an advance upon our original position. Happy, if we had not fallen from that which GOD made us; but happier, if we remain that which He has re-made us. It was much to have received form from Christ; it is more to have a substance in Christ. For we were taken up into its own proper self by that Nature (which condescended to those limitations which loving-kindness dictated and which yet incurred no sort of change).

We were taken up by that Nature, which destroyed not what was His in what was ours, nor what was ours in what was His; which made the person of the Godhead and of the Manhood so one in Itself that by coordination of weakness and power, the flesh could not be rendered inviolable through the Godhead, nor the Godhead passible through the flesh.

We were taken up by that Nature, which did not break off the Branch from the common stock of our race, and yet excluded all taint of the sin which has passed upon all men. That is to say, weakness and mortality, which were not sin, but the penalty of sin, were undergone by the Redeemer of the World in the way of punishment, that they might be reckoned as the price of redemption. What therefore in all of us is the heritage of condemnation, is in Christ “the mystery of godliness.”

For being free from debt, He gave Himself up to that most cruel creditor, and suffered the hands of Jews to be the devil’s agents in torturing His spotless flesh. Which flesh He willed to be subject to death, even up to His (speedy) resurrection, to this end, that believers in Him might find neither persecution intolerable, nor death terrible, by the remembrance that there was no more doubt about their sharing His glory than there was about His sharing their nature.

III. The presence of the risen and ascended LORD is still with us

And so, dearly-beloved, if we unhesitatingly believe with the heart what we profess with the mouth, in Christ we are crucified, we are dead, we are buried; on the very third day, too, we are raised. Hence the Apostle says,

“If ye have risen with Christ, seek those things which are above, where Christ is, sitting on GOD’S right hand: set your affections on things above, not on things on the earth. For ye are dead, and your life is hid with Christ in GOD. For when Christ, your life, shall have appeared, then shall ye also appear with Him in glory.” [Colossians 3:1-4]

But that the hearts of the faithful may know that they have that whereby to spurn the lusts of the world and be lifted to the wisdom that is above, the LORD promises us His presence, saying, “Lo! I am with you all the days, even [until] the end of the age” [Matthew 28:20]. For not in vain had the Holy Ghost said by Isaiah: “Behold! a virgin shall conceive and shall bear a Son, and they shall call His name Emmanuel, which is, being interpreted, GOD with us” [Isaiah 7:14]. Jesus, therefore, fulfills the proper meaning of His name, and in ascending into the heavens does not forsake His adopted brethren, though “He sitteth at the right hand of the Father,” yet dwells in the whole body, and Himself from above strengthens them for patient waiting while He summons them upwards to His glory.

IV. We must have the same mind as was in Christ Jesus

We must not, therefore, indulge in folly amid vain pursuits, nor give way to fear in the midst of adversities. On the one side, no doubt, we are flattered by deceits, and on the other weighed down by troubles; but because “the earth is full of the mercy of the LORD” [Psalm 33:5], Christ’s victory is assuredly ours, that what He says may be fulfilled, “Fear not, for I have overcome the world” [John 16:33]. Whether, then, we fight against the ambition of the world, or against the lusts of the flesh, or against the darts of heresy, let us arm ourselves always with the LORD’S Cross. For our Paschal feast will never end, if we abstain from the leaven of the old wickedness [cf 1 Corinthians 5:8] (in the sincerity of truth). For amid all the changes of this life, which is full of various afflictions, we ought to remember the Apostle’s exhortation; whereby he instructs us, saying,

“Let this mind be in you which was also in Christ Jesus: Who being in the form of GOD counted it not robbery to be equal with GOD, but emptied Himself, taking the form of a bondservant, being made in the likeness of men and found in fashion as a man. Wherefore GOD also exalted Him, and gave Him a name which is above every name, that in the name of Jesus every knee should bow of things in heaven, of things on earth, and of things below, and that every tongue should confess that the LORD Jesus Christ is in the glory of GOD the Father.” [Philippians 2:5-11]

If, he says, you understand “the mystery of great godliness,” and remember what the Only-begotten Son of GOD did for the salvation of mankind, “have that mind in you which was also in Christ Jesus,” Whose humility is not to be scorned by any of the rich, not to be thought shame of by any of the high-born. For no human happiness whatever can reach so great a height as to reckon it a source of shame to himself that GOD, abiding in the form of GOD, thought it not unworthy of Himself to take the form of a slave.

V. Only he who holds the truth of the Incarnation can keep Easter properly

Imitate what He wrought: love what He loved, and finding in you the Grace of GOD, love in Him your nature in return, since as He was not dispossessed of riches in poverty, lessened not glory in humility, lost not eternity in death, so do ye, too, treading in His footsteps, despise earthly things that ye may gain heavenly: for the taking up of the cross means the slaying of lusts, the killing of vices, the turning away from vanity, and the renunciation of all error. For, though the LORD’S Passover can be kept by no immodest, self-indulgent, proud, or miserly person, yet none are held so far aloof from this festival as heretics, and especially those who have wrong views on the Incarnation of the Word, either disparaging what belongs to the Godhead nor treating what is of the flesh as unreal.

For the Son of GOD is true GOD, having from the Father all that the Father is, with no beginning in time, subject to no sort of change, undivided from the One GOD, not different from the Almighty, the eternal Only-begotten of the eternal Father; so that the faithful intellect believing in the Father and the Son and the Holy Ghost in the same essence of the one Godhead, neither divides the Unity by suggesting degrees of dignity, nor confounds the Trinity by merging the Persons in one.

But it is not enough to know the Son of GOD in the Father’s nature only, unless we acknowledge Him in what is ours without withdrawal of what is His own. For that self-emptying, which He underwent for man’s restoration, was the dispensation of compassion, not the loss of power. For, though by the eternal purpose of GOD there was “no other name under heaven given to men whereby they must be saved” [Acts 4:12], the Invisible made His substance visible, the Intemporal temporal, the Impassible passible: not that power might sink into weakness, but that weakness might pass into indestructible power.

VI. A mystical application of the term “Passover” is given

For which reason the very feast which by us is named Pascha, among the Hebrews is called Phase, that is Pass-over [cf Exodus 12:11], as the evangelist attests, saying, “Before the feast of Pascha, Jesus knowing that His hour was come that He should pass out of this world unto the Father” [John 13:1]. But what was the nature in which He thus passed out unless it was ours, since the Father was in the Son and the Son in the Father inseparably? But because the Word and the Flesh is one Person, the Assumed is not separated from the Assuming nature, and the honour of being promoted is spoken of as accruing to Him that promotes, as the Apostle says in a passage we have already quoted, “Wherefore also GOD exalted Him and gave Him a name which is above every name.” Where the exaltation of His assumed Manhood is no doubt spoken of, so that He in Whose sufferings the Godhead remains indivisible is likewise coeternal in the glory of the Godhead. And to share in this unspeakable gift the LORD Himself was preparing a blessed “passing over” for His faithful ones, when on the very threshold of His Passion he interceded not only for His Apostles and disciples but also for the whole Church, saying, “But not for these only I pray, but for those also who shall believe on Me through their word, that they all may be one, as Thou also, Father, art in Me, and I in Thee, that they also may be one in us” [John 17:20-21].

VII. Only true believers can keep the Easter Festival

In this union they can have no share who deny that in the Son of GOD, Himself true GOD, man’s nature abides, assailing the health-giving mystery and shutting themselves out from the Easter festival. For, as they dissent from the Gospel and gainsay the creed, they cannot keep it with us, because although they dare to take to themselves the Christian name, yet they are repelled by every creature who has Christ for his Head: for you rightly exult and devoutly rejoice in this sacred season as those who, admitting no falsehood into the Truth, have no doubt about Christ’s Birth according to the flesh, His Passion and Death, and the Resurrection of His body: inasmuch as without any separation of the Godhead you acknowledge a Christ, Who was truly born of a Virgin’s womb, truly hung on the wood of the cross, truly laid in an earthly tomb, truly raised in glory, truly set on the right hand of the Father’s majesty; “whence also,” as the Apostle says, “we look for a Saviour our LORD Jesus Christ. Who shall refashion the body of our humility to become conformed to the body of His glory” [Philippians 3:20, 21]. Who liveth and reigneth, with the Father and the Holy Spirit, one God forever and ever. Amen.

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*Leo the Great. (1895). Sermons. In P. Schaff & H. Wace (Eds.), C. L. Feltoe (Trans.), Leo the Great, Gregory the Great (Vol. 12a, pp. 184–186). New York: Christian Literature Company.

Love & Happy Easter!!!,
Matthew

Easter – Death, where is your sting? Grave, where is your victory? -St John Chrysostom

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“Let all Pious men and all lovers of God rejoice in the splendor of this feast; let the wise servants blissfully enter into the joy of their Lord; let those who have borne the burden of Lent now receive their pay, and those who have toiled since the first hour, let them now receive their due reward; let any who came after the third hour be grateful to join in the feast, and those who may have come after the sixth, let them not be afraid of being too late, for the Lord is gracious and He receives the last even as the first. He gives rest to him who comes on the eleventh hour as well as to him who has toiled since the first: yes, He has pity on the last and He serves the first; He rewards the one and is generous to the other; He repays the deed and praises the effort.

Come you all: enter into the joy of your Lord. You the first and you the last, receive alike your reward; you rich and you poor, dance together; you sober and you weaklings, celebrate the day; you who have kept the fast and you who have not, rejoice today. The table is richly loaded: enjoy its royal banquet. The calf is a fatted one: let no one go away hungry. All of you enjoy the banquet of faith; all of you receive the riches of His goodness.

Let no one grieve over his poverty, for the universal kingdom has been revealed; let no one weep over his sins, for pardon has shone from the grave; let no one fear death, for the death of our Savior has set us free: He has destroyed it by enduring it, He has despoiled Hades by going down into its kingdom, He has angered it by allowing it to taste of His flesh.

When Isaiah foresaw all this, he cried out: “O Hades, you have been angered by encountering Him in the nether world.” Hades is angered because it is frustrated, it is angered because it has been mocked, it is angered because it has been destroyed, it is angered because it has been reduced to naught, it is angered because it is now captive. It seized a body, and lo! it discovered God; it seized earth, and, behold! it encountered heaven; it seized the visible, and was overcome by the invisible.

O death, where is your sting? O Hades, where is your victory? Christ is risen and life is freed, Christ is risen and the tomb is emptied of the dead: for Christ, being risen from the dead, has become the Leader and Reviver of those who had fallen asleep. To Him be glory and power for ever and ever. Amen.” -Paschal Homily of St. John Chrysostom, Doctor of the Church, Doctor of Preachers

Love,
Matthew

Sheep Among Wolves – St Thomas Aquinas, OP, Doctor of the Church

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-Flock of sheep surprised by the storm (1839 ), Eugene Verboeckhoven, Brussels, Royal Museums of Fine Arts of Belgium.

“‘Thomas! Thomas!’ two snickering friars called, rousing their brother who was bent over his books. ‘Look out the window—there are pigs flying about in the sky!’ Thomas rose at once and bounced to the window incredulously. The friars laughed. Putting the finishing touch on the jest, the saint responded, ‘I would rather believe that pigs can fly than believe that my brethren could lie.’
—Sean Fitzpatrick, “Thomas Aquinas’s Secret To Sainthood”

“Behold, I am sending you like sheep in the midst of wolves; so be shrewd as serpents and simple as doves.”
—Matthew 10:16

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-by Erin Cain

“Thomas Aquinas was a most impressive man by all accounts. He is remembered primarily for his intellectual prowess and extensive writings, but one of his greatest qualities was in fact his incredible humility. Even in the midst of theological debate, when others would disagree with him, he was never known to say an unkind word to anyone and was gracious even toward his enemies. He never let pride take root within him, and as a consequence he was sometimes mocked for his innocence and naïveté. The quote above describes an instance where other friars, in a mean-spirited sort of way, tricked him so that they could laugh at his gullibility. Weaker men might have responded in anger, or by despairing in themselves and believing the mockery of others. But Thomas was grounded in the word of God, and therefore he was not inclined to turn to anger or resentment but rather appeal to a sense of brotherhood. God gave Thomas the strength to turn the other cheek, and in his own goodness and innocence he modeled a Christlike attitude toward others.

This lesson can be hard to remember when we find ourselves in situations like the one Thomas was in. What happens when we put our trust in others, when we see them as brothers and sisters in Christ—and they let us down? What happens when they respond to our generosity with greed, to our meekness with arrogance, to our mercy with guile?

While it is difficult and humbling to find that someone else has broken our trust, we cannot let it keep us from trusting anyone again. We can be smart in our interactions with others and we can separate ourselves from people who we know to be negative influences on us, but we don’t need to be hard-hearted, and we cannot dwell on how we have been wronged. If we find ourselves becoming cynical or jaded, we need to turn to Christ for healing, remember that only He can truly read our hearts and those of others, and reclaim a sense of joy. And if we find ourselves discouraged, we must not despair: for even Christ Himself put His trust in a man who ultimately betrayed Him. It is not our fault if others choose to take advantage of us in our kindness. The God of Justice oversees all that we keep hidden, and it is not for us to settle the score.

These experiences can make us smarter in dealing with future situations, but they should not scare us away from being charitable, from assuming the best of others and giving them the benefit of the doubt. Ultimately, we are called to follow the will of God, to love our neighbor, and to make ourselves humble—trusting that whatever the consequences in this life, we are doing what is right. Often, when we show kindness and empathy towards others even in difficult situations, we soften their own hearts. We cannot allow the negative actions of a few to sour us toward everyone—instead, we must embrace the radiant joy of Christ in all circumstances and spread it to all those we meet. Gradually, we will learn to be as shrewd as serpents, but we must take care to maintain the innocence and sincerity of a dove—and we can always remember to pray to the ever-humble St. Thomas Aquinas to guide us along the way.”

“I would rather suffer the occasional infidelity than surrender my faith in humanity.” -Thomas Jefferson

Love,
Matthew

Doctor Communis!!!! Doctor Angelicus!!!! Ora pro nobis!!!!

“Labor while it is yet day.” -St Ambrose, (340-397 AD), Doctor & Father of the Church

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“Give thanks, Brethren, to the Divine Mercy which has brought you safely halfway through the season of Lent. For this favor they give praise to God, thankfully and with devotion, who in these days have striven to live in the manner which they were instructed at the beginning of Lent; that is, those who, coming with eagerness to the Church, have sought with sighs and tears, in daily fasting and alms deeds, to obtain the forgiveness of their sins.

They, however, who have neglected this duty, that is to say, those who have not fasted daily, or given alms, or those who were indifferent or unmoved in prayer, they have no reason to rejoice, but rather, unhappy that they are, for mourning. Yet let them not mourn as if they had no hope; for He Who could give back sight to the blind from birth (cf. Jn 9), can likewise change those who now are lukewarm and indifferent into souls fervent and zealous in His service, if with their whole heart they desire to be converted unto Him. Let such persons acknowledge their own blindness of heart, and let them draw near to the Divine Physician that they may be restored to sight.

Would that you might seek the medicine of the soul when you have sinned, as you seek that of the body when you are ill in the flesh. Who now in this so great assembly were he condemned, not to be put to death, but to be deprived of his sight only, would not give all he possessed to escape the danger? And if you so fear the death of the flesh, what do you not fear more than the death of the spirit, especially since the pains of death, that is, of the body, are but of an hour, whilst the death of the soul, that is, its punishment and its grieving, has no end? And if you love the eyes of your body, that you soon will lose in death, why do you not love those eyes of the soul by which you may see your Lord and your God forever?

Labor therefore, Beloved Children in the Lord, labor while it is yet day; for as Christ Our Lord says, The night cometh, when no man can work (Jn 9:4) Daytime is this present life; night is death, and the time that follows death. If after this life there is no more freedom to work, as the Truth tells us, why then does every man not labor while he yet lives in this world?

Be fearful, Brethren, of this death, of which the Savior says: The night cometh, when no man can work. All those who now work evil are without fear of this death, and because of this, when they depart from this life they shall encounter everlasting death. Labor while yet ye live, and particularly in these days; fasting from delicate fare, withholding yourselves at all time from evil works. For those that abstain from food, but do not withhold themselves from wickedness, are like to the devil, who while he eats not, yet never ceases from evildoing. And lastly, you must know that what you deny yourself in fasting, you must give to heaven in the poor.

Fulfill in work, Brethren, the lesson of this day . . . lest there come upon you the chastisement of the Jews. For they said to the blind man: Be thou his disciple (Jn 9:28). What does being a disciple of Christ mean if not to be an imitator of His compassion, and a follower of His truth and humility? But they said this meaning to curse the man. Instead it is a truly great blessing, to which may you also attain, by His grace Who liveth and reigneth unto ages of ages. Amen.”

St. Ambrose, Sermon on Lent

Love,
Matthew

“We are saved by those we despise.” -Pope St Gregory the Great

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-by Dr. C. Colt Anderson, PhD

Saint Gregory the Great taught that God uses the people we despise to save us. This does not necessarily mean people that we hate, but people we think little of or that we see as impure. Those who we see as steeped in sin today often surpass us in holiness tomorrow. His example of such a person was St. Paul, who participated in the brutal murder of St. Stephen before becoming the Apostle to the Gentiles. In the Forty Gospel Homilies, Gregory preached that God places these people in the Church so that we are forced to recognize our own imperfection. They highlight the contrast between the richness of God’s mercy and the littleness of our own judgments.

Humble Christians, who have a sense of their imperfection, are able to be sympathetic to the struggles of sinners. Humility breaks through the walls of the self and allows the Christian to love others. For Gregory, love always involves an extension or gift of self to another, which is not really possible for people who feel self-satisfied and self-sufficient. This type of love, which he called the bond of charity, can only be learned in a community and can only be achieved through humility.

The bond of charity is central to Gregory’s spirituality and his understanding of the Church. He believed Christ’s perfect and solid uprightness (soliditas standi) is not given to His followers through the grace of redemption; instead, Christians are justified through the firmness of love (soliditas caritatis) found in the Church. Since God only accepts the humble and contrite heart, and since God rejects the proud, the effort to extend ourselves to those we despise is an integral part of the process of sanctification. In fact, the Church purifies us by demanding this extension of patience, love, and mercy to those we despise.

This dynamic is also why there are so many irritating people in the Church. We need people who are irritating, offensive, and even wicked, in order to exercise patience, mercy, and forgiveness. The Church brings us all together so that we can learn to be like God. It is a mixed community: good fish and bad fish, sheep and goats, wheat and tares. If I am irritating you, I might be serving as an opportunity to grow in holiness. You’re welcome.

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The fact that God frequently moves the people we may see as sinful to great holiness also inspires hope. It shows us that we should not ever give up on anyone. If your son or daughter, aunt or uncle, mother or father, friend or spouse has fallen away and seems steeped in sin, realize that they may yet excel in holiness.

Because we are saved by those we despise, we must welcome people to our communion and avoid attitudes and actions that discourage them from entering or returning to our community, which is what Pope Francis has been emphasizing. The challenge, of course, is to stop despising anyone, which I must confess I have not quite mastered.

If you are comfortable with despising people and wish to exclude the impure, you may have fallen into the sin of Donatism, a heresy that seeks a pure Church on Earth. The new Donatism is growing increasingly evident.

Lord, save & protect us, help us love one another, especially when that is most inconceivable. We shall receive mercy from You in proportion as we offer it to those we despise. Help us love one another, for our own sake. Be merciful to us, Lord, for we have done what is evil in Your sight.

Love,
Matthew