Category Archives: Saints

St Jerome on the Book of Joel

-from a commentary on the book of Joel by Saint Jerome, priest, Doctor of the Church (PL 25, 967-968) as found in the Liturgy of the Hours, Office of Readings, Second Reading, 21st Week in Ordinary Time.

“”Return to me with all your heart [Joel 2:12] and show a spirit of repentance with fasting, weeping and mourning [Joel 2:12]; so that while you fast now, later you may be satisfied, while you weep now, later you may laugh, while you mourn now, you may some day enjoy consolation [cf Luke 6:21; Matthew 5:4]. It is customary for those in sorrow or adversity to tear their garments. The gospel records that the high priest did this to exaggerate the charge against our Lord and Savior; and we read that Paul and Barnabas did so when they heard words of blasphemy. I bid you not to tear your garments but rather to rend your hearts [Joel 2:13] which are laden with sin. Like wine skins, unless they have been cut open, they will burst of their own accord. After you have done this, return to the Lord your God, from whom you had been alienated by your sins. Do not despair of his mercy, no matter how great your sins, for great mercy will take away great sins [cf Luke 7:41-47].

For the Lord is gracious and merciful [Joel 2:13] and prefers the conversion of a sinner rather than his death. Patient and generous in his mercy, he does not give in to human impatience but is willing to wait a long time for our repentance. So extraordinary is the Lord’s mercy in the face of evil, that if we do penance for our sins, he regrets his own threat and does not carry out against us the sanctions he had threatened. So by the changing of our attitude, he himself is changed. But in this passage we should interpret “evil” to mean, not the opposite of virtue, but affliction, as we read in another place: Sufficient for the day are its own evils [cf Matthew 6:34]. And, again: If there is evil in the city, God did not create it.

In like manner, given all that we have said above – that God is kind and merciful, patient, generous with his forgiveness, and extraordinary in his mercy toward evil – lest the magnitude of his clemency make us lax and negligent, he adds this word through his prophet: Who knows whether he will not turn and repent and leave behind him a blessing? [Joel 2:14]. In other words, he says: “I exhort you to repentance, because it is my duty, and I know that God is inexhaustibly merciful, as David says: Have mercy on me, God, according to your great mercy, and in the depths of your compassion, blot out all my iniquities [cf Psalm 51:1]. But since we cannot know the depth of the riches and of the wisdom and knowledge of God, I will temper my statement, expressing a wish rather than taking anything for granted, and I will say: Who knows whether he will not turn and repent? [cf Joel 2:14]. Since he says, Who, it must be understood that it is impossible or difficult to know for sure.

To these words the prophet adds: Offerings and libations for the Lord our God [cf Joel 2:14]. What he is saying to us in other words is that, God having blessed us and forgiven us our sins, we will then be able to offer sacrifice to God.”

Love,
Matthew

Feb 2 – Candlemas, Feast of the Presentation of the Lord


-Présentation de Jésus au Temple (the Presentation in the Temple), Sébastien Bourdon, ~1644

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

Presence of God – O Lord, I come to You and beg You, through the intercession of the Blessed Virgin Mary, to purify my soul.

MEDITATION

Today’s Feast, which marks the end of the Christmas season [in the old liturgical calendar], is a feast both of Jesus and of Mary: of Jesus, because He is presented by His Mother in the Temple forty days after His birth, according to the requirements of the law; of Mary, because she submits herself to the rite of purification.

The liturgy celebrates, primarily, the entrance for the first time of the Infant Jesus into the Temple: “Behold the Lord, the Ruler, cometh into His holy Temple: rejoice and be glad, O Sion, and hasten to meet your God” (Roman Breviary). Let us, too, go to meet Him, emulating the holy sentiments of the old Simeon who “came by the Spirit into the Temple” (Gospel: Luke 2:22-32), and filled with joy, received the Divine Child into his arms.

In order to celebrate this event more fittingly, the Church today blesses candles and gives them to us; with burning tapers, we enter the Temple in procession. The lighted candle is a symbol of the Christian life, of the faith and grace which should shine in our soul. It is also the image of Christ, the light of the world, “a light to the revelation of the Gentiles,” according to Simeon’s canticle. The lighted candle reminds us that we must always bear Christ in us, the source of our life, the author of faith and grace. By His grace, Jesus Himself disposes us to go to meet Him with livelier faith and greater love. May our meeting with Him today be particularly intimate and sanctifying!

Jesus is taken to the Temple to be offered to the Father, although, being God, He was not subject to the prescriptions of the Jewish law as were the other firstborn of the Hebrews. He is the Victim who will be immolated for the salvation of the world. His presentation in the Temple is, so to speak, the offertory of His life; the sacrifice will be consummated later, on Calvary. Let us offer ourselves with Jesus.

COLLOQUY

“O Jesus, You went to the Temple to offer Yourself. Who offered You? The Virgin Mary, who has never had, and never will have, an equal. You were offered by Mary who, through the mouth of Wisdom, was called by Your Father the ‘all-beautiful, all-fair.’ To whom were You offered? To God, the infinite Being, sublime in His creation, fruitful in His heritage, unfathomable in His designs, gracious and sweet in His love. What did she offer? She offered You, the eternal Word, substance of the divine essence, Son of the Most High, the Lawgiver of the universe, You, who have been called by so many great and beautiful names: O Key of David, O King of nations, O Emmanuel!

“What do You teach me, O Lord, offering Yourself thus in the Temple? You show me respect for the law by Your willingness to observe it. You teach me adoration, for You offered Yourself to the Father, not as His equal, which You really were, but as man. Here You have given me a model of the respect which I owe to Your law, not only to the Ten Commandments, but also to my Holy Rule and Constitutions. This law is all sweetness and delight for me, but I make it bitter when I do not renounce myself, for then, instead of my bearing it sweetly, the law is obliged to bear me” (St. Mary Magdalen dei Pazzi).

O Jesus, through the hands of Mary, I wish to offer myself today with You to the eternal Father. But You are a pure, holy, and immaculate Host, while I am defiled with misery, and sin. O Mary, my Mother, you were willing to be purified, although you were free from the slightest shadow of imperfection; purify, I beseech you, my poor soul, so that it may be less unworthy to be offered to the Father along with Jesus, who is your Son as well as His. O Virgin most pure, lead me along the way of a serious, and thorough purification; accompany me yourself, so that my weakness will not make me faint because of the roughness of the road.”

Love,
Matthew

Feb 2 – Candlemas, Feast of the Presentation of the Lord – Nunc dimittis & sin’s effect…


-“Simeon’s song of praise”, by Aert de Geider, ~1700-1710, oil on canvas, Height: 94.5 cm (37.2 in). Width: 107.5 cm (42.3 in), Royal Picture Gallery Mauritshuis, The Hague

Nunc dimittis servum tuum, Domine, secundum verbum tuum in pace:
Quia viderunt oculi mei salutare tuum
Quod parasti ante faciem omnium populorum:
Lumen ad revelationem gentium, et gloriam plebis tuae Israel.

Lord, now You may dismiss Your servant. (cf Lk 2:26)
For mine eyes have seen Your salvation,
Which You have prepared before all people;
To be a light to the Gentiles, and the glory of Your people Israel.
-Lk 2:29-32


-by Br Isidore Rice, OP

“We tend to shy away from our sins and weaknesses coming to light. When we hear of someone caught and punished for committing injustice, we might be tempted to think them worse off than those ‘lucky’ evildoers who get off scot-free. Yet, even by the light of his natural reason, Socrates saw through this instinct:

“But in my opinion, Polus, the unjust or doer of unjust actions is miserable in any case,—more miserable, however, if he be not punished and does not meet with retribution, and less miserable if he be punished and meets with retribution at the hands of gods and men.”

Socrates is motivated by the conviction that just actions are healthy for the soul while unjust actions sicken it. Whatever suffering just punishment may bring to the body, it is nothing compared to the misery caused by sin festering in the dark corners of one’s soul. Thus, for Socrates, the path forward for an evildoer is clear:

“[If anyone] does wrong, he ought of his own accord to go where he will be immediately punished; he will run to the judge, as he would to the physician, in order that the disease of injustice may not be rendered chronic and become the incurable cancer of the soul.”

All this is true, but it does not seem particularly hopeful. After all, as Socrates says, the “doer of unjust actions is miserable in any case.” For Socrates, the evildoer is still miserable even while his wrongdoing is brought to light and he receives justice.

But we have a greater light, a light which not only brings us to justice, but brings justice into our hearts. We may be tempted to shy away from this light as well, for, as the prophet says, “Who will endure the day of His coming? And who can stand when He appears?” (Malachi 3:2).

And yet, this coming light is none other than Jesus, our savior. The presentation of the baby Jesus, carried in the arms of His mother Mary into the Temple, hardly seems like a day that must be endured. Simeon and Anna did not quail in fear when this light was presented. Rather, under the influence of the Holy Spirit, they drew near and rejoiced. But, as Simeon prophesied:

“Behold, this child is destined

for the fall and rise of many in Israel,

and to be a sign that will be contradicted

and you yourself a sword will pierce

so that the thoughts of many hearts may be revealed” (Lk. 2:34-35).

This same Jesus will soon hang on the cross between two thieves as a sign of contradiction, with Mary, her heart pierced by a sword of sorrow, at His feet. One thief, seeking merely to avoid punishment for his crimes, falls into the greater crime of blasphemy. The other, accepting justice and hoping for mercy, rises with Jesus. And the good thief is not merely brought to the state of lesser misery offered by Socrates. That very day St. Dismas entered paradise to enjoy the vision of God Himself in the light of glory (Lk. 23:43).

May the same Holy Spirit who led Simeon to encounter Jesus in the Temple and St. Dismas to turn to Jesus on the cross lead us to encounter Him in the Sacrament of Confession. Lord Jesus, give us the grace to open our hearts to your light so that you may burn out all evil lurking there. Let us then hear the wonderful words, “may God give you pardon and peace, and I absolve you from your sins,” so that with Simeon, we may rejoice and pray,

“Lord, now you let your servant go in peace; your word has been fulfilled: my own eyes have seen the salvation which you have prepared in the sight of every people: a light to reveal you to the nations and the glory of your people Israel” (Lk. 2:29-32).”

Love, & His peace, which is beyond ALL understanding, His gift He left to us, if only we would avail,
Matthew

Give us this day….


-by Br Barnabas McHenry, OP

“One of the parts of the Mass in which the Church gives her priests autonomy over word choice is the introduction to the Prayers of the Faithful. There are many fine ways to direct the faithful to prayer, but one that I have heard in several places and found particularly striking is, “Let us pray to God for what is needed.”

If we are in the habit of praying, chances are we know in a profound way that we are needy creatures. But can we know what we really need? St. Thomas considers this very concern in his commentary on St. Paul’s Letter to the Romans. He calls prayer of petition nothing other than the expression to God of our desires (desideriorum explicatio). As one Dominican, Giles Emery, puts it, “To know what is necessary to ask, is to know what is necessary to desire.”

St. Thomas thought that we could have a general knowledge of those things to desire and for which to ask by calling to mind the petitions of the Lord’s Prayer. After all, it is a good thing to desire the accomplishment of God’s will, or a worldly good to sustain one’s life (to be given one’s “daily bread”), or to be spared temptations. But the devil is found in the details, as it were. For instance, you may desire to further God’s Kingdom as a missionary in Africa, while his will is actually that you further it as a good father or mother in Altoona. You may believe that a certain temporal good will allow you to be a better Christian, but, as St. Thomas is quick to warn, “many [have] perished on account of riches.” You may wish fervently to avoid some temptation, but perhaps God desires to use this temptation as a “thorn in the flesh” so that, like St. Paul, you may avoid prideful boasting in anything save the Cross of our Lord Jesus Christ (2 Cor. 12:7).

By ourselves, we do not know what we ought to desire in the concrete particularities of life, and so neither do we know for what we should ask God. This is what St. Thomas calls the weakness (infirmitas) of life. Each of us, due to the effects of original sin and our own personal sins and errors, can feel like a vessel on the sea amidst a dense, enveloping fog. We struggle to discern whether we are close to port or off our charted course.

To the Romans, St. Paul gave this assurance: “the Spirit helps us in our weakness; for we do not know how to pray as we ought, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us” (Rom. 8:26). St. Thomas explains that the Holy Spirit cannot intercede for us as if he were an inferior, for he is true God. Rather, “the Holy Spirit makes us pray, insofar as he causes right desires in us.” Like the beacon of a lighthouse to a distressed ship, the Holy Spirit sends forth the charity of God into our hearts in order to dispel the darkness and enable us to see how to pray for what is truly needed here and now.

The Lord’s Prayer teaches us all how to pray to our Heavenly Father in a general way. The Spirit, whom the Father and the Son send into the world as Advocate, desires to teach each of us how to desire and to ask for what is needed in our particular parishes, communities, families, and lives. If we are docile to the Spirit, his gift to us will be the conformity of our desires to the will of God, whereby they become acceptable and efficacious.

Come, Holy Spirit, fill the hearts of your faithful people. Enkindle in us the fire of your divine love. Send forth the divine radiance of your light, for in this way alone can we ask with daring confidence for what we desire, and desire what we truly need, having been made wise and fit to enjoy your heavenly consolations. Amen.”

Love,
Matthew

Prayer To St Michael For Personal Protection

Saint Michael, the Archangel! Glorious Prince, chief and champion of the heavenly hosts; guardian of the souls of men; conqueror of the rebel angels! How beautiful art thou, in thy heaven-made armor. We love thee, dear Prince of Heaven!

We, thy happy clients, yearn to enjoy thy special protection. Obtain for us from God a share of thy sturdy courage; pray that we may have a strong and tender love for our Redeemer and, in every danger or temptation, be invincible against the enemy of our souls. O standard-bearer of our salvation! Be with us in our last moments and when our souls quit this earthly exile, carry them safely to the judgement seat of Christ, and may Our Lord and Master bid thee bear us speedily to the kingdom of eternal bliss. Teach us ever to repeat the sublime cry: “Who is like unto God?”
Amen.

Love,
Matthew

Will the saved rejoice in the sufferings of the damned? – ST., Suppl., Q. 94

SUMMA THEOLOGIAE, SUPPLEMENT

Question 94. The relations of the saints towards the damned

Article 1. Whether the blessed in heaven will see the sufferings of the damned?

Objection 1. It would seem that the blessed in heaven will not see the sufferings of the damned. For the damned are more cut off from the blessed than wayfarers. But the blessed do not see the deeds of wayfarers: wherefore a gloss on Isaiah 63:16, “Abraham hath not known us,” says: “The dead, even the saints, know not what the living, even their own children, are doing” [St. Augustine, De cura pro mortuis xiii, xv]. Much less therefore do they see the sufferings of the damned.

Objection 2. Further, perfection of vision depends on the perfection of the visible object: wherefore the Philosopher says (Ethic. x, 4) that “the most perfect operation of the sense of sight is when the sense is most disposed with reference to the most beautiful of the objects which fall under the sight.” Therefore, on the other hand, any deformity in the visible object redounds to the imperfection of the sight. But there will be no imperfection in the blessed. Therefore they will not see the sufferings of the damned wherein there is extreme deformity.

On the contrary, It is written (Isaiah 66:24): “They shall go out and see the carcasses of the men that have transgressed against Me”; and a gloss says: “The elect will go out by understanding or seeing manifestly, so that they may be urged the more to praise God.”

I answer that, Nothing should be denied the blessed that belongs to the perfection of their beatitude. Now everything is known the more for being compared with its contrary, because when contraries are placed beside one another they become more conspicuous. Wherefore in order that the happiness of the saints may be more delightful to them and that they may render more copious thanks to God for it, they are allowed to see perfectly the sufferings of the damned.

Reply to Objection 1. This gloss speaks of what the departed saints are able to do by nature: for it is not necessary that they should know by natural knowledge all that happens to the living. But the saints in heaven know distinctly all that happens both to wayfarers and to the damned. Hence Gregory says (Moral. xii) that Job’s words (14:21), “‘Whether his children come to honour or dishonour, he shall not understand,’ do not apply to the souls of the saints, because since they possess the glory of God within them, we cannot believe that external things are unknown to them.” [Concerning this Reply, Cf. I:89:8].

Reply to Objection 2. Although the beauty of the thing seen conduces to the perfection of vision, there may be deformity of the thing seen without imperfection of vision: because the images of things whereby the soul knows contraries are not themselves contrary. Wherefore also God Who has most perfect knowledge sees all things, beautiful and deformed.

Article 2. Whether the blessed pity the unhappiness of the damned?
Objection 1. It would seem that the blessed pity the unhappiness of the damned. For pity proceeds from charity [Cf. II-II:30]; and charity will be most perfect in the blessed. Therefore they will most especially pity the sufferings of the damned.

Objection 2. Further, the blessed will never be so far from taking pity as God is. Yet in a sense God compassionates our afflictions, wherefore He is said to be merciful.

On the contrary, Whoever pities another shares somewhat in his unhappiness. But the blessed cannot share in any unhappiness. Therefore they do not pity the afflictions of the damned.

I answer that, Mercy or compassion may be in a person in two ways: first by way of passion, secondly by way of choice. In the blessed there will be no passion in the lower powers except as a result of the reason’s choice. Hence compassion or mercy will not be in them, except by the choice of reason. Now mercy or compassion comes of the reason’s choice when a person wishes another’s evil to be dispelled: wherefore in those things which, in accordance with reason, we do not wish to be dispelled, we have no such compassion. But so long as sinners are in this world they are in such a state that without prejudice to the Divine justice they can be taken away from a state of unhappiness and sin to a state of happiness. Consequently it is possible to have compassion on them both by the choice of the will—in which sense God, the angels and the blessed are said to pity them by desiring their salvation—and by passion, in which way they are pitied by the good men who are in the state of wayfarers. But in the future state it will be impossible for them to be taken away from their unhappiness: and consequently it will not be possible to pity their sufferings according to right reason. Therefore the blessed in glory will have no pity on the damned.

Reply to Objection 1. Charity is the principle of pity when it is possible for us out of charity to wish the cessation of a person’s unhappiness. But the saints cannot desire this for the damned, since it would be contrary to Divine justice. Consequently the argument does not prove.

Reply to Objection 2. God is said to be merciful, in so far as He succors those whom it is befitting to be released from their afflictions in accordance with the order of wisdom and justice: not as though He pitied the damned except perhaps in punishing them less than they deserve.

Article 3. Whether the blessed rejoice in the punishment of the wicked?

Objection 1. It would seem that the blessed do not rejoice in the punishment of the wicked. For rejoicing in another’s evil pertains to hatred. But there will be no hatred in the blessed. Therefore they will not rejoice in the unhappiness of the damned.

Objection 2. Further, the blessed in heaven will be in the highest degree conformed to God. Now God does not rejoice in our afflictions. Therefore neither will the blessed rejoice in the afflictions of the damned.

Objection 3. Further, that which is blameworthy in a wayfarer has no place whatever in a comprehensor. Now it is most reprehensible in a wayfarer to take pleasure in the pains of others, and most praiseworthy to grieve for them. Therefore the blessed nowise rejoice in the punishment of the damned.

On the contrary, It is written (Psalm 57:11): “The just shall rejoice when he shall see the revenge.”

Further, it is written (Isaiah 56:24): “They shall satiate [Douay: ‘They shall be a loathsome sight to all flesh.’] the sight of all flesh.” Now satiety denotes refreshment of the mind. Therefore the blessed will rejoice in the punishment of the wicked.

I answer that, A thing may be a matter of rejoicing in two ways. First directly, when one rejoices in a thing as such: and thus the saints will not rejoice in the punishment of the wicked. Secondly, indirectly, by reason namely of something annexed to it: and in this way the saints will rejoice in the punishment of the wicked, by considering therein the order of Divine justice and their own deliverance, which will fill them with joy. And thus the Divine justice and their own deliverance will be the direct cause of the joy of the blessed: while the punishment of the damned will cause it indirectly.

Reply to Objection 1. To rejoice in another’s evil as such belongs to hatred, but not to rejoice in another’s evil by reason of something annexed to it. Thus a person sometimes rejoices in his own evil as when we rejoice in our own afflictions, as helping us to merit life: “My brethren, count it all joy when you shall fall into divers temptations” (James 1:2).

Reply to Objection 2. Although God rejoices not in punishments as such, He rejoices in them as being ordered by His justice.

Reply to Objection 3. It is not praiseworthy in a wayfarer to rejoice in another’s afflictions as such: yet it is praiseworthy if he rejoice in them as having something annexed. However it is not the same with a wayfarer as with a comprehensor, because in a wayfarer the passions often forestall the judgment of reason, and yet sometimes such passions are praiseworthy, as indicating the good disposition of the mind, as in the case of shame pity and repentance for evil: whereas in a comprehensor there can be no passion but such as follows the judgment of reason.

Love & His mercy,
Matthew

St John the Baptist – St Vincent Ferrer, O.P., (1350-1419), “Angel of the Last Judgment”, Great Catholic Reformer, Patron of Reconciliation

“”I am the voice of one crying out in the wilderness,” (Jn 1:23).

The text proposed is of St. John the Baptist replying to the Jerusalem messengers saying, “I am the voice of one crying out in the wilderness.” In explaining this text and introducing the material to be preached, I take on two short questions.

First why does Holy Mother the Church in this holy time of Advent, in which the whole interest ought to be about Christ, makes such a great mention of St. John the Baptist in today’s gospel, and also on the past Sunday? Are not the two feasts of St. John which the church observes sufficient, namely his birth and his passion?

For this response I find in St. John four excellences greater than other saints. First is his gracious birth, because he already was holy before his birth. Second is his painful passion, because he was decapitated because of the dance of a young girl. Third is his virtuous life because when he was five years old, he immediately left the world and entered the wilderness. Fourth is the fruitful doctrine of announcing and preaching the coming of the Messiah. From these four excellences God has exalted John above all saints saying, “There has not risen among them that are born of women a greater than John the Baptist,” (Mt 11:11), For this reason Holy Mother the Church celebrates feasts of St. John four times. First of his birth. Second of his suffering. Third of his virtuous life. And fourth of his fruitful preaching, and about this we read in today’s gospel. For no other saint is there a feast four times a year, only St. John the Baptist. Of the apostle Peter we have three feasts. Of St. Paul, two, but of St. John, four. And of this feast today he himself says, “I am the voice of one crying out in the wilderness,” (Jn 1:23), namely from the efficacy of preaching and his teaching. The first question is clear.

The second question is more subtle. Why does St. John, wishing to promote his teaching, call himself “a voice,” saying: “I am the voice of one crying out …etc.?” Wouldn’t it have been better [to say], “I have a voice”? Response: St. John calls himself a voice for two reasons.

First in excellently demonstrating his office, with respect to the first reason. The proper office of the voice is to manifest and show the purpose of the heart, or the concept of the mind. The Philosopher [Aristotle] says: “Spoken words are signs of the passions which are in the soul, ” (Perihermeneias, 1). Properly speaking there is a great difference between a word and a voice, although commonly speaking they are taken for the same thing, because a word is the concept of the mind before it is expressed by the mouth, but voices are what are brought forth. So logic says, a voice is a sound coming out of the mouth of an animal, properly speaking. Christ is the eternal Word, because he had been hidden in the divine mind: “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God,” (Jn 1:1), hidden and secret. But God the Father sent a voice, John the Baptist, to manifest and show forth the divine Word, as he did when he said, “Behold the Lamb of God,” (Jn 1:29). Behold John says that he is the voice, by showing the difference between the Word and the temporary voice.

As for the second reason. The skill of a preacher is that he preaches with all his members and powers. Not only the mouth of the preacher should preach, but also his life, his morals and reputation. Also the intellect by studying, the memory by contemplating, the heart, hand, gestures, all used continually and skillfully. So a good preacher ought to be a voice in every way. The logicians say that a voice is homogeneous, because each part of the voice is a voice. So every aspect of a diligent preacher ought to be a voice. Jerome: “Everything of a priest ought to be vocal.” On this account St. John, in responding to the messengers sent to him said: “I am the voice,” which is to say whatever is in me, is wholly a voice, because all of it preaches. The theme is clear.

About this voice I find a wonderful prophecy of David, who allegorically prophesying about St. John says:

“The voice of the Lord is upon the waters; the God of majesty has thundered, The Lord is upon many waters. The voice of the Lord is in power; the voice of the Lord in magnificence. The voice of the Lord breaks the cedars: yea, the Lord shall break the cedars of Lebanon. And shall reduce them to pieces, as a calf of Lebanon, and as the beloved son of unicorns. The voice of the Lord divides the flame of fire: The voice of the Lord shakes the desert: and the Lord shall shake the desert of Cades. The voice of the Lord prepares the stags: and he will discover the thick woods: and in his temple all shall speak his glory,” (Ps 28:3-9).

Here John is called a voice seven times because of seven teachings, which St. John was preaching.

The first was the teaching of baptism. [doctrina baptismalis]
Second was the teaching of penance. [doctrina poenitentialis]
The third was authoritative teaching [doctrina magistralis]
The fourth was rebuking teaching [doctrina increpativa]
The fifth was corrective teaching [doctrina correctiva]
The sixth was blaming teaching [doctrina reprehensiva]
The seventh was instructive teaching [doctrina instructiva]

BAPTISMAL TEACHING

First of all, I say that the first teaching of St. John was baptismal. All the evangelists say that when St. John came out of the desert in which he had lived for twenty-five years, as Hugh says, doing severe penance, when at age thirty he came out of the desert, in his exit he began to preach a baptism of repentance around the region of the Jordan. Lk 3: “And he came into all the country about the Jordan, preaching the baptism of penance for the remission of sins,” (v. 3), saying, ” but there has stood one in the midst of you, whom you know not,” (Jn 1:26), but I shall show him to you, therefore you will receive his teaching. The people said to him, “And what ought we to do that we might receive him worthily? He responded to them that they should receive a sign of baptism in water. He baptized them under this form, “I baptize you in the name of the one who is to come.” This baptism of John was a sign of Christ, just as the cross is a sign of the crucified. From this preaching of the baptismal teaching St. John is called the “voice of the Lord upon the waters,” (Ps 28:3) that is, the Jordan. Gloss: He was preaching one baptism, and he was giving another, because he gave the baptism of water, and was preaching the baptism of grace for the remission of sins. About this scripture: “I baptize you in the water unto penance, but he who shall come after me, is mightier than I, whose shoes I am not worthy to bear; he shall baptize you in the Holy Ghost and fire,” (Mt 3:11). Note “fire” [igni] is in the ablative case according to the old grammar. But why does he say “fire” [igni]? Note the error of those who say that some are baptized by fire [igne]. But “of fire” [igni] is said for two reasons. First, in the primitive church in baptism the Holy Spirit descended visibly in the form of fire, and this exposition is more common for showing that the Holy Spirit was given and showed himself exteriorly by the sign of visible fire. A second reason, because just as the world had to be washed and purified through water, namely in the time of Noah, because the peoples were exceedingly heated by lust, and so the water of the flood came, so it shall be purified through fire at the end of the world because of the charity of the multitude had turned cold. This reason is from St. Thomas Aquinas O.P., in IV Sent. So also God ordained two floods for purifying souls, namely the flood of baptismal water to cool the sinful tendencies [fomitem] (Cf. Summa, III, q.27, a.3 ) of original sin. The second flood of the fire of purgatory, because after baptism we cool and become negligent, and are stained by sins, therefore God ordained the fount of purgatory, where the baptized soul is baptized by a good angel, as St. Thomas determines, because the devil has already been conquered by him who is led to purgatory, therefore the conquered ought not to incarcerate the victor. This baptism is hard and terrible. About which the soul can say who ought to be baptized there. “I have a baptism wherewith I am to be baptized: and how am I straitened…,” (Lk 12:50). See why it is said, “The voice of the Lord over the waters.” And because then John baptized Christ, therefore it is added, “the God of majesty has thundered, The Lord is upon many waters,” (Ps 28:3).

PENITENTIAL TEACHING

The second teaching which St. John preached was the teaching of penance, Mt 3: “And in those days John the Baptist came preaching in the desert of Judea. And saying: Do penance: for the kingdom of heaven is at hand,” (Mt 3:1-2). After he had baptized them he gave them a penance saying, “From the fact that you have received my baptism as a sign, therefore lest sins keep you from knowing and receiving the Messiah King, you should do penance. St. Matthew says, ch. 3, that they were confessing their sins generally saying, “I was proud, vain, pompous, etc.” And St. John gave them a penance of a humble prayer. John was teaching his disciples to pray, (cf. Luke 11: 1). Others were confessing generally saying, “Clearly I was greedy, usurious, etc.,” to whom John gave a penance of restitution, lest the dust of avarice cloud their eyes so they could not recognize Christ. Another came and he said, “Father, I am lustful etc.” to whom he gave a penance of abstinence from food and affections [affectionum]. Mark 2: “And the disciples of John … used to fast,” (v. 18). The same for the other sins. See how John was preaching the teaching of penance. Therefore it is said, “The voice of the Lord is in power,” (Ps 28:4), namely indicating penance. Note “the voice of the Lord in power;” he does not say in the sacrament. Note how the holy doctors of theology distinguish the two-fold penance, namely of the sacramental penance, and of virtual penance. [poenitentia virtuali]. Sacramental penance is when a man confesses his sins, and is absolved. Such a penance is called a sacrament. The sacrament of penance has three parts, which are contrition, confession and satisfaction. Virtual penitence does not have parts, just as none of the other sacraments, as St. Thomas says in Summa, III, q. 91, and IV Sent., dist. 16, q. 1, a. 1, ql. 1 & 4. And when John was preaching, this sacrament had not yet been instituted, nor the power of forgiving sins granted to men, therefore John is not called the voice of God in the sacrament. The other is voluntary virtual penance, and virtuous, which is not a sacrament, like fasting, to make a pilgrimage, to discipline oneself and the like. And of this kind it is said, “the voice of God in power, etc.” because St. John enjoined not sacramental penance but virtual, and David agrees saying elsewhere: “Behold he will give to his voice,” namely to St. John, “the voice of power,” (Ps 67:34) he does not say, of the sacrament. Note as St. Thomas, III, q. 85; IV Dist., 14, q. 1, a. 1, because penance as it is a sorrow of the will, with right choice is a virtue or an act of virtue, it is not just an emotion. And penance is a special virtue because it has general matter under a special aspect for its object, namely all sins as fixable [emendibilia] by an act of man, as St. Thomas states III, q. 85, a. 2. And it is a moral virtue, not a theological, and it is a part of justice.

AUTHORITATIVE TEACHING

The third teaching is authoritative, because just as a good master for diverse children has diverse lessons, so St. John for the diverse conciliations of men gave diverse instructions. St. Luke says in ch. 3 that various kinds of people were coming to him, interrogating him and saying, “Master, what ought we to do? ” He replied: “He that has two coats, let him give to him one who has none; and he that has meat, let him do in like manner,” (Lk 3:11), Two tunics: one is necessary, the other is superfluous, which rots, and the poor die of cold. How many poor women there are who because of the lack of a shawl are not able to go to mass, and you rich cling to your surplus clothing etc. Same for meat etc.

Next the publicans came saying to him, “Master, what shall we do?” (Lk 3:12), The Gloss says at this place that publican is here taken for someone who has public office, because either he is a bailiff or a lawyer or a witness etc. To whom John replied, ” Do nothing more than that which is appointed you,” (v.13) If they were leaders he was saying,” Remember what you are obliged to do by the oath which you took when you received your office, namely that you should do justice and correct the people and notorious sins, and should regard in all things the common good. Therefore so do; beware of anything else.

Third the soldiers and guards [scutiferi] came to him saying, “And what shall we do? And he said to them: Do violence to no man; neither calumniate any man; and be content with your pay,” (v. 14). Behold the rules and teaching for the soldiers. Note, “Do violence to no man.” It is said against those who are quick draw their dagger or sword in their hand to threaten beggars [pauperes] and the wretched who cannot defend themselves. Also “neither calumniate” your subjects demanding from them monies and their goods in many ways, and they deceive the ordinary folks by saying that they are gracious in demanding, since they nevertheless include those in the castle or in the church as long as they shall give, and they too are bound to restitution. Also “and be content with your pay,” as salary, of the return you receive for the defense of the people. Don’t pursue superfluities, or vanities, but reckon what you have and as much as you can spend, and from your goods give for your soul a fourth or at least a fifth part out of love of God. You should never give it all to your belly, to mules and to armed ruffians etc. See why he says, “The voice of the Lord in magnificence,” (v. 4), namely of giving counsel and a manner of living to each, “His work is praise and magnificence,” namely St. John, “and his justice continues for ever and ever.” (Ps 110:3).

REBUKING TEACHING

The fourth teaching is rebuking [increpativa], by denouncing vices and sins, saying, “You brood of vipers, who has showed you to flee from the wrath to come? Bring forth therefore fruit worthy of penance,” (Mt 3:7-8). Note “brood of vipers;” the Gloss says here that vipers draw venom from the womb of their mother and are naturally poisonous. Such is the condition of the Jews, so John calls them a brood of vipers, saying, “You brood of vipers, who has showed you to flee from the wrath to come?” as if to say, no one. ” Bring forth therefore fruit worthy of penance,” that is you should do penance measured against the quality and quantity of your sins. Note how the Jews are deceived just as now many Christians are deceived saying,” Has not God promised to Abraham and to his offspring his blessing? (Gen 22). But God was saying this because of the Messiah, the son of Abraham according to the flesh. Therefore Christ said to the Jews: “If you be the children of Abraham, do the works of Abraham,” (Jn 8:39). Many Christians of wicked life are victims of this blindness and error, who do no penance for their sins, and when thy are rebuked they reply, “He that believes and is baptized, shall be saved,” (Mk 16:16). Do you want to know how stupid this is? The Lord is preparing a wedding banquet which he has proclaimed through the whole earth. “Whoever has been faithful to me and shall have clean hands, shall dine with me.” There is told the story of the peasant etc. Same for the Lord and our king Jesus Christ, on behalf of whom it has been proclaimed. “He who believes etc.” If then a man at the moment of death, believes, and has clean hands, he goes to the banquet. He is OK. Otherwise, there remains the pitchfork of hell, because these words, “He who believes and is baptized,” does not refer to the past time, but to the conjoined future. You have believed and have been purified in baptism. But since then you have been dirtied etc. It is necessary therefore that when the man goes to the banquet he believe and have clean hands. Therefore Isaiah said: “Wash yourselves, be clean,” (Is 1:16). Put down that vain confidence. From this rebuking teaching St. John is said to be the “The voice of the Lord breaking the cedars,” (Ps 28:5), that is, the proud.

CORRECTIVE TEACHING

The fifth teaching was corrective in correcting and refraining the envy of his disciples. The disciples of John, out of zeal for their master, envied Christ, because when Christ began to preach and baptize he was drawing people to himself and they were leaving John. No wonder. About this the disciples of John said, “Rabbi, he that was with you beyond the Jordan, to whom you gave testimony, behold he baptizes, and all men come to him,” (Jn 3:26). Behold the flame of the fire of envy which John quenched by his corrective teaching saying, “This my joy therefore is fulfilled. He must increase, but I must decrease. He who comes from above, is above all,” (Jn 3:29-31). From this St. John is said to be, “The voice of the Lord dividing the flame of fire,” (Ps 28:7). O and how this voice would be necessary among us that it might extinguish the flame of the fire of envy which burns too much in the world, not only of envy of temporal goods, but also of a certain envy which is a sin against the Holy Spirit, namely the envy of fraternal grace. For example, if some religious wishes to keep the rules etc., immediately the others, envying, murmur and impugn him calling him a hypocrite and singular etc. And so the flame of the fire of envy burns brighter. Not so if he is a ruffian [ribaldus]. He is even praised saying, “O how welcome is that brother, etc.” Also if he has the grace of devotion or of preaching or such. Same for clergy, laity and women. Note for this, the cry of the prophet: “To thee, O Lord, will I cry: because fire has devoured the beautiful places of the wilderness, and the flame has burnt all the trees of the country,” (Joel 1:19). Note that “wilderness” signifies religious life because of the harshness of life in which religious ought to live, but the fire of envy devours all. Trees of religion are the worldly whom already the flames of envy have ignited.

BLAMING TEACHING

The sixth teaching is blaming, by blaming and convicting King Herod of concubinage. He had a wife, but because she was not as fair [alba], or beautiful, or bejeweled and made up [composita] as he wished, nevertheless she was the daughter of a king, and, despised. So Herod took on a mistress. Seeing this, John the Baptist came to him and reprehending him said: “[Herod,] it is not lawful for you to have your brother’s wife,” (Mk 6:18). From this St. John is called: “The voice of the Lord shaking the desert,” (Ps 28:8).

INSTRUCTIVE TEACHING

The seventh teaching is instructive, like a good father when he doesn’t know how or is unable to instruct his sons, he sends them to a master that they be prepared by him. So St. John did for his disciples whom he was not able to instruct so that they might believe in the true Messiah, Jesus Christ. For this reason, when he had been imprisoned and near death he sent them to Christ as to a teacher that they might be instructed by him in the truth. Matthew 11: “Now when John had heard in prison the works of Christ: sending two of his disciples he said to him: Are you he who is to come, or should we look for another?” (vv. 2-3). From this St. John is called, “The voice of the Lord preparing the stags,” (Ps 28:9).

Note that good Christians are called “stags” because of the great leap which they take from earth to heaven, therefore David, in the person of Christ says: “Who has made my feet like the feet of harts: and who sets me upon high places,” (Ps 17:34). The feet by which we leap to Paradise, are true belief and obedience. The right foot is true belief [vera credentia]. The left, obedience. But some err by leaping, who believe they can ascend into heaven and descend into hell, but they have a broken right or left foot or both, because they neither have faith nor a good life. Those who doubt in faith have a broken right foot, therefore they are not able to leap into heaven. Those with a broken left foot, are those who have true belief, but do not have obedience nor good life. However the disciples of John, only limped on their right foot, because they did not believe, but not on their left, because they were living well. Therefore John sent them to Christ that he might cure them. To whom, having been cured, Christ said, “They who were limping, etc.,” now follow. After he said, “The voice of the Lord prepares the stags: and he will discover the thick woods,” namely Jesus Christ by his miracles which he did which John’s disciples saw, “and in his temple all shall speak his glory,” (Ps 28:9). Behold why St. John the Baptist said to the messengers, “I am the voice of one crying out in the wilderness,” (Jn 1:23).”

Love,
Matthew

Holy Name of Jesus – St Bernard of Clairvaux (1090-1153), Doctor of the Church, Doctor Mellifluus, Doctor of Mercy

-by St Bernard of Clairvaux

“Wisdom is a kindly spirit, and easy of access to those who call upon Him. Quite often He anticipates their request and says: “Here I am.” Listen now to what, because of your prayers, He has revealed to me about the subject we postponed yesterday; be ready to gather the ripe fruit of your intercession. I put before you a name that is rightly compared to oil, how rightly I shall explain. You encounter many names for the Bridegroom scattered through the pages of Scripture, but all these I sum up for you in two. I think you will find none that does not express either the gift of His love or the power of His majesty. The Holy Spirit tells us this through the mouth of one of His friends: ‘Two things I have heard: it is for God to be strong, for you, Lord, to be merciful.” With reference to His majesty we read: “Holy and terrible is His name;” with reference to His love: “Of all the names in the world given to men, this is the only one by which we can be saved.” Further examples make it clearer still.

Jeremiah says: ‘This is the name by which He will be called: ‘the Lord our righteous one’ ” – a name suggesting power; but when Isaiah says: “His name will be called Emmanuel,” he indicates His love. He himself said: ‘You call me Master and Lord.” The first title implies love, the second majesty. Love’s business is to educate the mind as well as to provide the body’s food. Isaiah also said: “His name shall be called Wonderful, Counselor, God, the Mighty One, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.” The first, third and fourth signify majesty, the others love. Whom of these therefore is poured out? In some mysterious way the name of majesty and power is transfused into that of love and mercy, an amalgam that is abundantly poured out in the person of our Savior Jesus Christ. The name “God” liquefies and dissolves into the title “God with us,” that is, into “Emmanuel.” He who is ‘Wonderful” becomes “Counselor”; “God” and “the Mighty One” become the “Everlasting Father” and the “Prince of Peace.” “The Lord our righteous one” becomes the “gracious and merciful Lord.” This process is not new: in ancient times “Abram” became Abraham and Sarai became “Sara”; and we are reminded that in these events the mystery of the incarnation of salvation was pre-figured and celebrated.

So I ask where now is that warning cry: “I am the Lord, I am the Lord,” that resounded with recurring terror in the ears of the people of old. The prayer with which I am familiar, that begins with the sweet name of Father, gives me confidence of obtaining the petitions with which it continues. Servants are called friends in this new way, and the resurrection is proclaimed not to mere disciples but to brothers.

Run then, O pagans, salvation is at hand, that name is poured out which saves all who invoke it. “The God of the angels calls Himself the God of men. He poured out oil on Jacob and it fell on Israel. Say to your brothers: “Give us some of your oil. If they refuse, ask the Lord of the oil to give it to you. Say to Him: ‘Take away our reproach.” See that no envious tongue insults your beloved, whom it has pleased you to call from the ends of the earth with a compassion all the greater for her unworthiness. Is it fitting, I ask, that a wicked servant should shut out the invited guests of the master of the house? You have said: “I am the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac and the God of Jacob.” Of no more than these? Pour out, continue to pour; open your hand still wider and satisfy the desire of everything that lives.

Let them come from the east and the west and take their places with Abraham and Isaac and Jacob in the kingdom of heaven. Let them come, let the tribes come up, the tribes of the Lord, to praise his name according to his command to Israel. Let them come and take their place, let them feast and be filled with gladness, let the banqueters sing as one man the resounding song of exultation and praise: ‘Your name is oil poured out.” One thing I know: if we find that the porters are Andrew and Philip, we shall not be repulsed when we ask for oil, when we desire to see Jesus. Philip will at once tell Andrew, and Andrew and Philip will tell Jesus. And what will Jesus say? Precisely because he is Jesus he will tell them: “Unless a wheat-grain falls into the ground and dies, it remains only a single grain; but if it dies, it yields a rich harvest.”” Let the grain die therefore, and let the harvest of the pagans spring to fruition. It is necessary for Christ to suffer and to rise from the dead, and that penance and forgiveness of sin should be preached in his name, not alone in Judea but even among all nations, because from the sole name of Christ thousands upon thousands of believers are called Christians, whose hearts all re-echo: ‘Your name is oil poured out.”

I recognize new the name hinted at by Isaiah: “My servants are to be given a new name. Whoever is blessed on earth in that name will be blessed by the Lord, Amen.” O blessed name, oil poured out without limit! From heaven it pours down on Judea and from there over all the earth, so that round the whole world the Church proclaims: ‘Your name is oil poured out.” And what an outpouring! It not only bathes the heavens and the earth, it even bedews the underworld, so that all beings in the heavens, on earth and in the underworld should bend the knee in the name of Jesus, and that every tongue should acclaim: ‘Your name is oil poured out.” Take the name Christ, take the name Jesus; both were infused into the angels, both were poured out upon men, even upon men who rotted like animals in their own dung. Thus you became a savior both of men and beasts, so countless are your mercies, O God. Hew precious your name, and yet how cheap! Cheap, but the instrument of salvation. If it were not cheap it would not have been poured out for me; if it lacked saving power it would not have won me. Made a sharer in the name, I share too in its inheritance. For I am a Christian, Christ’s own brother. If I am what I say, I am the heir of God, co-heir with Christ. And what wonder if the name of the Bridegroom is poured out, since he himself is poured out? For he emptied himself to assume the condition of a slave.

Did he not even say: “I am poured out like water”? The fullness of the divine life was poured out and lived on earth in bodily form, that all of us who live in this body doomed to death may receive from that fullness, and being filled with its life-giving odor say: ‘Your name is oil poured out.” Such is what is meant by the outpouring of the name, such its manner, such its extent.

How shall we explain the world-wide light of faith, swift and flaming in its progress, except by the preaching of Jesus’ name? Is it not by the light of this name that God has called us into his wonderful light, that irradiates our darkness and empowers us to see the light? To such as we Paul says: ‘You were darkness once, but now you are light in the Lord.” This is the name that Paul was commanded to present before kings and pagans and the people of Israel; a name that illumined his native land as he carried it with him like a torch, preaching on all his journeys that the night is almost over, it will be daylight soon – let us give up all the things we prefer to do under cover of the dark; let us arm ourselves and appear in the light. Let us live decently as people do in the day-time. To every eye he was a lamp on its lamp-stand; to every place he brought the good news of Jesus, and him crucified.

What a splendor radiated from that light, dazzling the eyes of the crowd, when Peter uttered the name that strengthened the feet and ankles of the cripple, and gave light to many eyes that were spiritually blind! Did not the words shoot like a flame when he said: “In the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, arise and walk”? But the name of Jesus is more than light, it is also food. Do you not feel increase of strength as often as you remember it? What other name can so enrich the man who meditates? What can equal its power to refresh the harassed senses, to buttress the virtues, to add vigor to good and upright habits, to foster chaste affections? The food of the mind is dry if it is not dipped in that oil; it is tasteless if not seasoned by that salt. Write what you will, I shall not relish it unless it tells of Jesus. Talk or argue about what you will, I shall not relish it if you exclude the name of Jesus. Jesus to me is honey in the mouth, music in the ear, a song in the heart.

Again, it is a medicine. Does one of us feel sad? Let the name of Jesus come into his heart, from there let it spring to his mouth, so that shining like the dawn it may dispel all darkness and make a cloudless sky. Does someone fall into sin? Does his despair even urge him to suicide? Let him but invoke this life-giving name and his will to live will be at once renewed. The hardness of heart that is our common experience, the apathy bred of indolence, bitterness of mind, repugnance for the things of the spirit – have they ever failed to yield in presence of that saving name? The tears damned up by the barrier of our pride – how have they not burst forth again with sweeter abundance at the thought of Jesus’ name?

And where is the man, who, terrified and trembling before impending peril, has not been suddenly filled with courage and rid of fear by calling on the strength of that name? Wnere is the man who, tossed on the rolling seas of doubt, dti not quickly find certitude by recourse to the clarity of Jesus’ name? Was ever a man so discouraged, so beaten down by afflictions, to whom the sound of this name did not bring new resolve? In short, for all the ills and disorders to which flesh is heir, this name is medicine, fair proof we have no less than his own promise: “Call upon me in the day of trouble; I will deliver you, and you shall glorify me.” Nothing so curbs the onset of anger, so allays the upsurge of pride.

It cures the wound of envy, controls unbridled extravagance and quenches the flame of lust; it cools the thirst of covetousness and banishes the itch of unclean desire. For when I name Jesus I set before me a man who is meek and humble of heart, kind, prudent, chaste, merciful, flawlessly upright and holy in the eyes of all; and this same man is the all-powerful God whose way of life heals me, whose support is my strength. All these re-echo for me at the hearing of Jesus’ name. Because he is man I strive to imitate him; because of his divine power I lean upon him. The examples of his human life I gather like medicinal herbs; with the aid of his power I blend them, and the result is a compound like no pharmacist can produce.

Hidden as in a vase, in this name of Jesus, you, my soul, possess a salutary remedy against which no spiritual illness will be proof. Carry it always close to your heart, always in your hand, and so ensure that all your affections, all your actions, are directed to Jesus. You are even invited to do this: “Set me as a seal,” he says, “upon your heart, as a seal upon your arm.” Here is a theme we shall treat of again. For the moment you have this ready medicine for heart and hand. The name of Jesus furnishes the power to correct your evil actions; to supply what is wanting to imperfect ones; in this name your affections find a guard against corruption, or if corrupted, a power that will make them whole again.

Judea too has had her Jesus – Messiahs in whose empty names she glories: fair they give neither light nor food nor medicine. Hence the Synagogue is in the darkness still, enduring the pangs of hunger and disease, and she will neither be healed nor have her fill until she discovers that my Jesus rules over Jacob to the ends of the earth, until she comes back in the evening, hungering like a dog and prowling about the city. True, they were sent on in advance, like the staff preceding the Prophet to where the child lay dead, but they could not see a meaning in their own names because no meaning was there.

The staff was laid upon the corpse but produced neither voice nor movement since it was a mere staff. Then he who sent the staff came down and quickly saved his people from their sins, proving that men spoke truly of him when they said: ‘Who is this man that he even forgives sins?” He is no other than the one who says: “I am the salvation of my people.” Now the Word is heard, now it is experienced, and it is clear that, unlike the others, he bears no empty name. As men feel the infusion of spiritual health they refuse to conceal their good fortune. The inward experience finds outward expression. Stricken with remorse I speak out his praise, and praise is a sign of life: “For from the dead, as from one who does not exist, praise has ceased.” But see! I am conscious, I am alive! I am perfectly restored, my resurrection is complete.

What else is the death of the body than to be deprived of life and feeling? Sin; which is the death of the soul, took from me the feeling of compunction, hushed my prayers of praise; I was dead. Then he who forgives sin came down, restored my senses again and said: “I am your deliverer.” Why wonder that death should yield when he who is life comes down? “For a man believes with his heart and so is justified, and he confesses with his lips and so is saved.” The child who was dead is now yawning, he yawns seven times as if to say: “Seven times daily I praise you, Lord.” Take note of this number seven. It is not a meaningless number, it bears a sacred significance. But because you are by now sated, we should do well to hold this theme over for another sermon, and come with whetted appetites to a table newly laden, to which we are invited by the Church’s Spouse, our Lord, Jesus Christ, who is God over all, blessed for ever. Amen. ”

Love,
Matthew

Epiphany – Pope St Leo the Great, (400-461 AD), Doctor of the Church

“After celebrating but lately the day on which immaculate virginity brought forth the Saviour of mankind, the venerable feast of the Epiphany, dearly beloved, gives us continuance of joy, that the force of our exultation and the fervour of our faith may not grow cool, in the midst of neighbouring and kindred mysteries. For it concerns all men’s salvation, that the infancy of the Mediator between God and men was already manifested to the whole world, while He was still detained in the tiny town.

For although He had chosen the Israelitish nation, and one family out of that nation, from whom to assume the nature of all mankind, yet He was unwilling that the early days of His birth should be concealed within the narrow limits of His mother’s home: but desired to be soon recognized by all, seeing that He deigned to be born for all. To three wise men, therefore, appeared a star of new splendour in the region of the East, which, being brighter and fairer than the other stars, might easily attract the eyes and minds of those that looked on it, so that at once that might be observed not to be meaningless, which had so unusual an appearance. He therefore who gave the sign, gave to the beholders understanding of it, and caused inquiry to be made about that, of which He had thus caused understanding, and after inquiry made, offered Himself to be found.

These three men follow the leading of the light above, and with steadfast gaze obeying the indications of the guiding splendour, are led to the recognition of the Truth by the brilliance of Grace, for they supposed that a king’s birth was notified in a human sense , and that it must be sought in a royal city. Yet He who had taken a slave’s form, and had come not to judge, but to be judged, chose Bethlehem for His nativity, Jerusalem for His passion. But Herod, hearing that a prince of the Jews was born, suspected a successor, and was in great terror: and to compass the death of the Author of Salvation, pledged himself to a false homage. How happy had he been, if he had imitated the wise men’s faith, and turned to a pious use what he designed for deceit.

What blind wickedness of foolish jealousy, to think you can overthrow the Divine plan by your frenzy. The Lord of the world, who offers an eternal Kingdom, seeks not a temporal. Why do you attempt to change the unchangeable order of things ordained, and to forestall others in their crime? The death of Christ belongs not to your time. The Gospel must be first set on foot, the Kingdom of God first preached, healings first given to the sick, wondrous acts first performed. Why do you wish yourself to have the blame of what will belong to another’s work, and why without being able to effect your wicked design, do you bring on yourself alone the charge of wishing the evil?

You gain nothing and carriest out nothing by this intriguing. He that was born voluntarily shall die of His own free will. The Wise men, therefore, fulfil their desire, and come to the child, the Lord Jesus Christ, the same star going before them. They adore the Word in flesh, the Wisdom in infancy, the Power in weakness, the Lord of majesty in the reality of man: and by their gifts make open acknowledgment of what they believe in their hearts, that they may show forth the mystery of their faith and understanding. The incense they offer to God, the myrrh to Man, the gold to the King, consciously paying honour to the Divine and human Nature in union: because while each substance had its own properties, there was no difference in the power of either.

And when the wise men had returned to their own land, and Jesus had been carried into Egypt at the Divine suggestion, Herod’s madness blazes out into fruitless schemes. He orders all the little ones in Bethlehem to be slain, and since he knows not which infant to fear, extends a general sentence against the age he suspects. But that which the wicked king removes from the world, Christ admits to heaven: and on those for whom He had not yet spent His redeeming blood, He already bestows the dignity of martyrdom. Lift your faithful hearts then, dearly-beloved, to the gracious blaze of eternal light, and in adoration of the mysteries dispensed for man’s salvation give your diligent heed to the things which have been wrought on your behalf.

Love the purity of a chaste life, because Christ is the Son of a virgin. “Abstain from fleshly lusts which war against the soul [1 Peter 2:11],” as the blessed Apostle, present in his words as we read, exhorts us, “In malice be ye children [1 Corinthians 14:20],” because the Lord of glory conformed Himself to the infancy of mortals. Follow after humility which the Son of God deigned to teach His disciples. Put on the power of patience, in which you may be able to gain your souls; seeing that He who is the Redemption of all, is also the Strength of all. “Set your minds on the things which are above, not on the things which are on the earth [Colossians 3:2].” Walk firmly along the path of truth and life: let not earthly things hinder you for whom are prepared heavenly things through our Lord Jesus Christ, who with the Father and the Holy Ghost lives and reigns for ever and ever. Amen.”

Love,
Matthew

Epiphany – St Vincent Ferrer, O.P., (1350-1419), “Angel of the Last Judgment”, Great Catholic Reformer, Patron of Reconciliation

“Today’s feast is commonly called Epiphany or Appearance, which is the same. Because the Virgin Birth which had been hidden and secret, today was manifest to the nations. So the churchmen say and call this feast Epiphany, from “epi” which is “above” and “phanos” which is “appearance,” because the star appeared over the nations. In order that God should wish to give us sentiments of sweetness of this feast in our souls, let us salute the Virgin Mary, etc.

“And falling down they adored him.” The assigned reading reveals to us in a few words the great and perfect reverence which the three kings of the east offered today to our Lord Jesus Christ, “falling down, etc.” Not only did they uncover their heads, nor were they content to bend their knees, but they folded their hands and arms, and even their whole body. “And falling down they adored him,” (Mt 2:11).

Now to give us a reason for this adoration – for reason begets understanding, and authority confirms belief – I find in sacred scripture that for true, devout and perfect adoration two things are required: a reverent attitude of the interior mind, and a humble gesture of the outward body. As for the first, when man thinks of the infinite and incomprehensible majesty of God and his transcendent power, there comes a reverent trembling interiorly in the soul, and from this there follows exteriorly a humility in the body, joining the hands, genuflecting, or prostrating oneself in prayer to God. Divine adoration consists in these two.

To understand this reason, it must be understood that God created man in his substantial being different than other creatures. Man is a composite, substantially with respect to the soul, and materially with respect to the body. Not so the angels, who are only spiritual substances, nor the animals which are material substances. Because of this man is similar to the angels and animals, because he has both.

So God wishes to be worshipped by both: from the soul thinking of the majesty of God, and from the body through humble gestures. Just like a landowner who leases his field and vineyard for a certain assessment of use. He requires an accounting from both, otherwise he takes back to himself the whole commission. So God is with us. He gives us the vine, the soul which makes the heart drunk with the love of God, and the field of the body that it might bear the fruit of repentance and mercy. So from both he would have a reckoning of devout adoration. Of the angels he asks only spiritual adoration, reverential movements of the mind. Of the animals he asks only a reverential posture of the body, like the ox and ass when they adored Christ in the manger, because they could only bend their knees, but interiorly they had no thoughts. But from us God wishes both, namely the reverent motion of the mind, and bodily actions.

Christ said, “But the hour comes, and is now, when the true adorers shall adore the Father in spirit and in truth. For the Father also seeks such to adore him. God is a spirit; and they who adore him, must adore him in spirit and in truth,” (Jn 4:23-24). Note, “the hour comes,” the time of the law of grace, “when the true adorers shall adore the Father in spirit” with respect to the soul, “and in truth” with respect to the body, because that is truth, when the body conforms and corresponds to the mind. And he gives a reason, saying, “God is a Spirit,” and so it is necessary to “adore him in spirit and in truth.”

Think of the miracle found in John 9, of the man born blind, given sight by Christ, to whom he says: “‘Do you believe in the Son of God?’ He answered, and said: ‘Who is he, Lord, that I may believe in him?’ And Jesus said to him: ‘You have both seen him; and it is he who is talking with you.’ And he said: ‘I believe, Lord. And falling down, he adored him,'” (Jn 9:35-38). See the reverential interior movement in the soul and the external bodily gesture, because “falling down he adored him.”

The three kings acted thus when they saw the infant Jesus. Instantly there entered into their souls a movement of reverential fear from the presence of divine majesty. And so, “prostrating themselves they adored him.”

These three holy kings aptly prepared themselves. We need to know what God promised Abraham and the holy patriarchs, that he would send his son, born into this world of a virgin, true God and true man. About this he gave clear prophecies, not only to the Jews in Judea, but also to diverse parts of the world, as a sign that he would come not only to save the Jews, as they falsely believe, but also all those believing in him and obeying him.

Chrysostom repeats the opinion that there was the image of a child in that star, with a cross on his forehead. Some say that the Magi wanted to adore the star. But Augustine says that the angel of the Lord told them that they should not adore the star, but that they should make their way to adore the newly born Creator.

Then the kings took counsel how they should travel, how they should prepare, and what they should bring to offer to him, saying, “He is a great king and powerful. We should offer him gold. And he is God and creator, because the stars serve him, so we shall offer him incense. And in this sign of the cross it is revealed that he is to die on a cross, and so we shall offer him bitter myrrh.” [Ecclesiast.] The Magi seeing the star, consulted each other. “This is the sign of a great king. Let us go and inquire of him and offer him gifts, gold, frankincense and myrrh.”

I believe, therefore, although it is not written, that the holy kings symbolized in their gifts what they believed about Christ. I believe that also [it was expressed] in their clothing, because the king who brought the gold, was clothed in a gold shirt, and the one who brought the incense, in a purple tunic, and the one with the myrrh, in a red scarf.

St. Thomas says (III Pars, q. 36, a. 7), repeating the opinions of others, that the essence of this star most probably was of a new creation, not in the heaven, but in the atmosphere, which moved according to divine will. Augustine believed namely that it was not of the heavenly stars, because he says in his book Contra Faustum Bk, 2, “Besides, this star was not one of those which from the beginning of the world continue in the course ordained by the Creator. Along with the new birth from the Virgin appeared a new star.” Chrysostom believes this too.

From the example of the kings we ought to offer the gold of our conversion. Such a person can say with David, “I have loved your commandments above gold and topaz,” which is a precious stone, “therefore was I directed to all your commandments: I have hated all wicked ways,” (Ps 118:127-128).

Second, the frankincense of devout prayer, saying, “Let my prayer be directed as incense [in your sight],” (Ps 140:2).

Third we should offer the myrrh of voluntary penance. And such a one can say, “You shall … make me to live. Behold in peace is my bitterness most bitter: but you best delivered my soul that it should not perish,” (Is 38:16-17).”

Love,
Matthew