Baptism of the Lord


-“Baptism of Christ”, Domenico Tintoretto (son of Jacopo; also known as Domenico Robusti), after 1588

“Christ is bathed in light; let us also be bathed in light. Christ is baptized; let us also go down with Him, and rise with Him.

John is baptizing when Jesus draws near. Perhaps He comes to sanctify his baptizer; certainly He comes to bury sinful humanity in the waters. He comes to sanctify the Jordan for our sake and in readiness for us; He who is spirit and flesh comes to begin a new creation through the Spirit and water.

The Baptist protests; Jesus insists. Then John says: I ought to be baptized by You. He is the lamp in the presence of the Sun, the voice in the presence of the Word, the friend in the presence of the Bridegroom, the greatest of all born of woman in the presence of the firstborn of all creation, the one who leapt in his mother’s womb in the presence of Him Who was adored in the womb, the forerunner and future forerunner in the presence of Him who has already come and is to come again. I ought to be baptized by You: we should also add, and for you, for John is to be baptized in blood, washed clean like Peter, not only by the washing of his feet.


-“The Baptism of Christ”, Jacopo Tintoretto (born Jacopo Comin, father of Domenico; also known as Jacopo Robusti), circa 1580

Jesus rises from the waters; the world rises with Him. The heavens, like Paradise with its flaming sword, closed by Adam for himself and his descendants, are rent open. The Spirit comes to Him as to an equal, bearing witness to his Godhead. A voice bears witness to Him from heaven, His place of origin. The Spirit descends in bodily form like the dove that so long ago announced the ending of the flood and so gives honor to the body that is one with God.

Today let us do honor to Christ’s baptism and celebrate this feast in holiness. Be cleansed entirely and continue to be cleansed. Nothing gives such pleasure to God as the conversion and salvation of men, for whom His every word and every revelation exist. He wants you to become a living force for all mankind, lights shining in the world. You are to be radiant lights as you stand beside Christ, the great light, bathed in the glory of Him Who is the light of heaven. You are to enjoy more and more the pure and dazzling light of the Trinity, as now you have received – though not in its fullness – a ray of its splendor, proceeding from the one God, in Christ Jesus our Lord, to Whom be glory and power for ever and ever. Amen.”

-SECOND READING, OFFICE OF READINGS, LITURGY OF THE HOURS of this day,
FROM A SERMON BY ST. GREGORY OF NAZIANZUS (ST. GREGORY NAZIANZEN), BISHOP
ORATIO 39 IN SANCTA LUMINA, 14-16, 20; PG 36, 350-351, 354, 358-359

Love,
Matthew

1/14/18 – 2nd Sunday in Ordinary time?

——– Forwarded Message ——–
Subject: Re: Jan 14 – 2nd Sunday in Ordinary time?
Date: Mon, 8 Jan 2018 08:56:02 -0600
From: Matthew McCormick <matthew.mccormick11@yahoo.com>
To: Patrick Gorman <Patrick.Gorman@madisondiocese.org>

Ohhhhhh, ROMAN THINKING!!!! Like St Paul’s “Roman Warmup” in ALL of his letters!!!!

Thank you very much. Very helpful. 2k yrs is SO fascinating to try and understand, little by little. It would take several lifetimes to become bored, if ever.

Thanks, again!! Happy New Year!!!

===================================================

On 1/8/18 8:42 AM, Patrick Gorman wrote:

Hi Matthew,

Good question!

The Ordinary Time calendar is quirky! Ordinary Time is counted in weeks rather than Sundays. So, the Sunday on which the Baptism of the Lord is celebrated takes the place of “the first Sunday in Ordinary Time” (even though it would never be called that). When the Baptism is celebrated on a weekday, as it is in the USA this year, there is no first Sunday, but simply a first week in Ordinary Time. Thus, Baptism of the Lord is connected to both Christmas and Ordinary Time. I like to think of it as a doorway from one season to another.

I hope this helps a bit.

Pat Gorman

Director of the Office of Worship

Patrick.Gormanmadisondiocese.org

Patrick Gorman, DMA, has served the Diocese of Madison for 25 years.

[Pat Gorman has spoken and written extensively on numerous liturgical topics in our diocese and throughout the United States. He has written several articles for national publication and has given national presentations for such organizations as the National Association of Pastoral Musicians and the National Catholic Partnership on Disability. He served on the national board of directors for the Federation of Diocesan Liturgical Commissions (FDLC) and he chaired the standing committee for liturgical arts and music.

He moved to Madison for doctoral studies in choral conducting at the University of Wisconsin-Madison and he was awarded the degree of Doctor of Musical Arts in 1994. He also is a graduate of the College of Wooster (Ohio) and the University of Notre Dame. Prior to moving to Madison, he worked as director of music and liturgy at Christ the King Catholic Church in South Bend, Indiana. He has served as a member of the music faculty at both the University of Notre Dame and Edgewood College. He lives in Madison with his wife and two daughters. ]

—–Original Message—–
From: Matthew McCormick [mailto:matthew.mccormick11@yahoo.com]
Sent: Sunday, January 07, 2018 3:32 PM
To: Patrick Gorman
Subject: Jan 14 – 2nd Sunday in Ordinary time?

Mr. Gorman, my liturgical calendar shows Jan 14 2018 as the 2nd Sunday in Ordinary time. Ordinary Time begins after Evening Prayer on the Feast of the Baptism of the Lord (January 8, 2018). How can Jan 14 be the 2ND Sunday in Ordinary time, please? Where did the 1ST Sunday in Ordinary time go, please? Thank you.

===================================================

CATHOLIC CHURCH LITURGICAL CALENDAR 2017– 2018

The Season of Advent begins four Sundays before Christmas (December 3, 2017) and ends after the mid‐afternoon prayer on Christmas Eve (December 24, 2017).

The Christmas Season begins with Evening Prayer on Christmas Eve (December 24, 2017) and ends with Evening Prayer on the Feast of the Baptism of the Lord (Monday, January 8, 2018).

Ordinary Time begins after Evening Prayer on the Feast of the Baptism of the Lord (January 8, 2018) until Ash Wednesday (February 14, 2018).

The Season of Lent begins on Ash Wednesday (February 14, 2018) and ends with the Celebration of the Evening Mass of the Lord’s Supper on Holy Thursday (March 29, 2018).

The Paschal Triduum begins on Holy Thursday with the Evening Mass of the Lord’s Supper (March 29, 2018) and ends with Evening Prayer on Easter Sunday (April 1, 2018).

The Easter Season begins on Easter Sunday (April 1, 2018) and ends with Evening Prayer on the Solemnity of Pentecost (May 20, 2018).

Ordinary Time begins after Evening Prayer on the Solemnity of Pentecost (May 20, 2018) and continues until Evening Prayer of the First Sunday of Advent (December 2, 2018).

“Those Catholic Men”…Reflections on Christmas from a convert to Catholicism


-by Mr. Jason Craig

“G.K. Chesterton once said, “There is no more dangerous or disgusting habit than that of celebrating Christmas before it comes… It is the very essence of a festival that it breaks upon one brilliantly and abruptly, that at one moment the great day is not and the next moment the great day is.”

As a convert to The One True Faith from American Consumerism and American Protestantism, I am yearly amazed at the wisdom of the Catholic liturgical calendar.  When entered in to, it purifies and constantly prepares us to meet God by helping us meet God in sacred time and in sacramental reality.  When the spirit of the liturgy is alive, so is the festive heart.  True feast days, after all, are only really still kept by Catholics.  All other attempts at celebrating something come and go as they are “proclaimed” into existence by some so-called authority, only later to morph into a bargaining chips in public school and bank calendars (do we get MLK day off or Presidents Day?).  Along with bargaining chips, of course, they are also bones tossed to various groups, but are forgotten unless candy and card companies see a penny worth picking up – Mother’s Day was a winner in this regard, although I wish national dairy month would be more popular.

Catholics keep feasts because we are by nature festive people.  We have not only reason to celebrate, but the sacramental and mystical connection to the thing itself, meaning we don’t try to conjure up feelings of festivity but reflect reality in the form of festivity, living with open eyes in a good world made and redeemed by a good God.  True festivity, in other words, only belongs to those connected to the Divine.  Holidays “proclaimed” by secular authorities for secular ends will always fail to be truly festive and will slip into meaninglessness that is grotesquely rescued only by consumerism or the brute force of special interest.  As Josef Pieper said, man “can make the celebration, but he cannot make what is to be celebrated, cannot make the festive occasion and the cause for celebration.”  Which is why “we encounter artificial holidays” which ultimately leads a man to hopelessly hope he “is able to bring about his own salvation as well as that of the whole world.”[1]  God saves us from our futile attempts at manufacturing meaning, and those living in the gift of salvation are festive in it.

When speaking of true festivity Pieper is, of course, presuming the living of the True Faith, not like men that keep superficial piety.  “They will preserve all the outward form of religion, although they have long been strangers to its meaning (2 Tim 3:5, Knox).

So, as Chesterton said, we don’t celebrate Christmas before it happens, whipping ourselves into sentimental and consuming frenzies that conjure “Christmas spirit” by brute force and endless ditties, but celebrate it after it “happens” liturgically, at the true Christ-Mass.  Our festivity is a response to a reality we encounter in the Christ-mass.  In fact, to see how serious we take this “moment” when Christmas “happens”, we start the party at the precise moment it becomes liturgically possible – at midnight Mass.  Then (and only then) do we begin both the octave of Christmas, which is the liturgical “time-stop” when we rest for 8 days in the 1 day of Christmas, but then we have the “season” up to Epiphany generally, although the spirit of it has been over the years extended all the way to Candlemas on February 2nd.

Consider how different this is from the world’s “celebration” of Christmas, and Protestants as well who, like the malls, “do” Christmas before Christmas.  The local Protestant radio channel where I live starts Christmas music as close to Thanksgiving as possible, singing songs and offering commentary as if it were already Christmas.  It’s awkward.  It hasn’t happened.  Anyone that has had a baby knows that the lead up is preparation, and only after the fact of birth do you live in a way proper to, well, after the fact of birth.  It can feel nice to act like its Christmas before Christmasbut nicety is far from festivity.  Of course the stores love this because each year they can just “extend” the “season” earlier and earlier so as to get us to spend more.  I think with each “extension” backwards it makes it harder to rest in the peace of Christmas afterwards.

This whole charade has the effect of a cheap bottle rocket.  It feels like its going to be big, but it really just shoots into the air with some sparks and noise (this is the “season” before Christmas that is actually Advent), and then it #pops# with some bigger sparks and a bang, but then is over quickly, in a flash, with an air of disappointment.  Before Catholicism December 26th always felt like a metaphysical hangover – like I was supposed to still be excited, but it’s all just sort of over.

Compare this to the truer celebration of Christmas, the reflection of and response to the encounter with Christ.  Prior to the arrival of the King there is a season of preparation and reckoning where one must deal with the fact that his heart is attached to this world and not well prepared for the coming salvation.  Done well this will temper the consumerism that rises so incessantly from early November through Christmas.  Then the day comes and we burst forth into a series of Masses and feasts that draw our minds to the paradox – the sign of contradiction –the King that has arrived to rule in ways man does not understand.  We get the baby Jesus, then St. Stephen’s stoning, Holy Innocents, Thomas Becket, the Epiphany – and more!  It’s a whirlwind of the reality of faith.  Then we are allowed to rest in this through a season, as it slowly recedes from us.

This type of celebration is more like a large wave on a hot day.  You may see it coming and brace for it, desiring its refreshment but knowing it could be more than you’re ready to handle, but then it hits you with the immensity of what it is, and then it slowly recedes back from where it came – the ocean of God’s mercy –drawing you a little closer to the Source each time it hits.  Or so it should.  (My wife said she didn’t like the analogy because she’s scared of waves, but I think a little fear could help us avoid artificiality in Christmastide.)

The bottle rocket just ends.  It’s over when it’s over.  Nothing shows from it, except maybe some paper trash left on the ground, and an occasional burnt finger.  This is the “artificial” festivity Piper warns us of and the “danger” Chesterton mentions.  The wave of Catholic Christmas, however, hits us hard, but then pulls us back to the place it came from.  It’s not easy, but it’s good.  Christmas, celebrated in the proper context of Catholicism, can knock us over.  For a sinner like me, I need that liturgical weight to hit me and draw me in.

Remember, we’re not done yet.  Keep the party going.”

Love, & Merry Christmas, still,
Matthew

Epiphany of the Lord

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

Presence of God – I recognize in You, O little Jesus, the King of heaven and earth; grant that I may adore You with the faith and love of the Magi.

MEDITATION

“He whom the Virgin bore is acknowledged today by the whole world…. Today is the glorious Feast of His Manifestation” (Roman Breviary). Today Jesus shows Himself to the world as God.

The Introit of the Mass brings us at once into this spirit, presenting Jesus to us in the full majesty of His divinity. “Behold the sovereign Lord is come; in His hands He holds the kingdom, the power, and the empire.” The Epistle (Isaiah 60:1-6) breaks forth in a hymn of joy, announcing the vocation of the Gentiles to the faith; they too will acknowledge and adore Jesus as their God: “Arise, be enlightened, O Jerusalem: for thy light is come…. And the Gentiles shall walk in thy light, and kings in the brightness of thy rising…. All they from [Sheba] shall come, bringing gold and frankincense, and showing forth praise to the Lord.” We no longer gaze upon the lowly picture of the shepherds at the manger; passing before us now is the resplendent procession of the Wise Men from the East, representing the pagan nations and all the kings of the earth, who come to pay homage to the Child-God.

Epiphany, or Theophany, means the Manifestation of God; today it is realized in Jesus who manifests Himself as God and Lord of the world. Already a prodigy has revealed His divinity—the extraordinary star which appeared in the East. To the commemoration of this miracle, which holds the primary place in the day’s liturgy, the Church [formerly added] two others [which She now celebrates separately]: the changing of water into wine at the wedding feast of Cana, and the Baptism of Jesus in the Jordan, when a voice from heaven announced, “This is My beloved Son.” The Magnificat Antiphon [still] says, “Three miracles adorn this holy day”—three miracles which should lead us to recognize the Child Jesus as our God and King, and to adore Him with lively faith.”

COLLOQUY

“O Jesus, I adore You, for You are the Lord my God. “For You, my Lord, are a great God, and a great King above all kings. For in Your hand are all the ends of the earth, and the heights of the mountains are Yours. For the sea is Yours, and You made it; and, Your hands formed the dry land…. We are the people of Your pasture and the sheep of Your hand” [cf Psalm 95]. Yes, O Jesus, I am one of Your lambs, one of Your creatures; and I am happy to acknowledge my nothingness in Your presence, and still happier to adore You, O lovely Infant, as my God and my Redeemer. O that all nations would acknowledge You for what You are, that all might prostrate before You, adoring You as their Lord and God!

O Lord, You can do this. Reveal Your divinity to all mankind, and just as once You drew the Magi from the East to You, now in like manner unite all peoples and all nations around Your manger.

You have shown me that You want my poor cooperation in order to bring about the coming of Your Kingdom. You wish me to pray, suffer, and work for the conversion of those who are near and of those who are far away. You wish that I, too, place before the manger the gifts of the Wise Men: the incense of prayer, the myrrh of mortification and of suffering borne with generosity out of love for You, and finally, the gold of charity, charity which will make my heart wholly and exclusively Yours, charity which will spur me on to work, to spend myself for the conversion of sinners and infidels, and for the greater sanctification of Your elect.

O my loving King, create in me the heart of an apostle. If only I could lay at Your feet today the praise and adoration of everyone on earth!

O my Jesus, while I beg You to reveal Yourself to the world, I also beseech You to reveal Yourself more and more to my poor soul. Let Your star shine for me today, and point out to me the road which leads directly to You! May this day be a real Epiphany for me, a new manifestation to my mind and heart of Your great Majesty. He who knows You more, loves You more, O Lord; and I want to know You solely in order to love You, to give myself to You with ever greater generosity.”

Love & epiphany of Him,
Matthew

Jan 4(7 US) – St Angela of Foligno, TOSF, (1248-1309), Mystic, Mistress/Teacher of Theologians, Patroness of Good Confession & Against Sexual Temptation


-by Br. Maximilian Maria Jaskowak, OP

“The boys in the nave raised their short, scrawny necks above the congregation, gazing ruefully in the direction of the sanctuary. Before the altar, the priest joined his hands and bowed his head, saying: Sanctus, Sanctus, Sanctus Dominus Deus Sabaoth. Pleni sunt caeli et terra gloria tua: Hosanna in excelsis. Benedictus qui venit in nomine Domini: Hosanna in excelsis. The boys’ attention, however, did not follow the sacred action of the aged Friar of Foligno, no matter how pious he seemed.

The others—both Italian villagers and pilgrims—observed the liturgical proceedings of the Friar with due attentiveness, but their concerns, too, were elsewhere. The coarse whisper of the Friar was just loud enough for the people to discern occasional phrases or syllables of the ancient prayers, and those pious few who knelt near the sanctuary strained to hear the hallowed words of the Canon, though they knew little Latin. Their devotion, perhaps true, gave way to their curious anticipation of the miraculous. For one among them was a mystic, who had received divine favors such as visions, locutions, and the stigmata. The Holy Mass had thus become an ongoing manifestation of grace in the person of their celebrated saint.

The priest approached the words of consecration: …benedixit, fregit, deditque discipulis suis, dicens: Accipite, et manducate ex hoc omnes. At this moment, the boys’ parents—and many others—peered through the candlelit cathedral toward the left of the nave with mounting anticipation. Huddled there, cloaked in worn, earthen-colored mantles, were the “tertiaries” of the village, who devoted themselves to works of charity throughout the communities of Foligno and Assisi. Soon enough, their foundress (the mystic) would fall into ecstasy; a most grandiose sight, indeed.

HOC EST ENIM CORPUS MEUM.

The people, surely aware of the miraculous, supersubstantial bread raised high for veneration, nonetheless looked to another place. In the left of the nave, they witnessed another miracle, far less magnificent than what had occurred upon the altar, but no less astonishing and exceptional, especially to the medieval imagination. For God had chosen the Italian Beata, Angela of Foligno, a most unconventional woman, to manifest His glory as a penitent woman and mystic of the late thirteenth century. The people gawked at the extraordinary display of divine intimacy, the Beata, rapt in ecstasy before the Blessed Sacrament. Like the consecrated host, Angela rose in the air—by power unseen, lost in adoration of the Ineffable before them.

It was the feast of St. Felician of Foligno, the patron of the city, but it could have been any other day, after the Beata had embarked on a life of prayer and penance.

Only declared a saint in 2013 by Pope Francis, she has, all the same, received notable attention by historians and theologians alike since her death on January 4, 1309. Called by St. John Paul II the “Teacher of Theologians,” interest in St. Angela of Foligno often focuses on her profound experience of union with God and her equally impressive writings on the divine illuminations she received during prayer. Pope Benedict XVI, in a 2010 general audience concerning her life and writings, said as much:

People are usually fascinated by the consummate experience of union with God that she reached, but perhaps they give too little consideration to her first steps, her conversion and the long journey that led from her starting point, the “great fear of hell,” to her goal, total union with the Trinity. The first part of Angela’s life was certainly not that of a fervent disciple of the Lord.

Certain events, such as the violent earthquake in 1279, a hurricane, the endless war against Perugia and its harsh consequences, affected the life of Angela who little by little became aware of her sins, until she took a decisive step. In 1285, she called upon St. Francis, who appeared to her in a vision, and asked his advice on making a good general Confession. She then went to Confession with a Friar in San Feliciano.

As we begin this new year of 2018, let us call upon our patron saints with confidence, asking help—as did St. Angela—in living the life of grace. Let us also pray, especially this day, to St. Angela of Foligno, that we, too, may take that decisive step toward our final end: eternal life with God.

St. Angela of Foligno, pray for us.”

Love,
Matthew

Jan 3 – Most Holy Name of Jesus, “Every knee shall bend!” -Phil 2:10

The Irish are particular with the name of Mary, too. Traditionally, no Irish girl-child would be named Mary. However, this custom loosened and variations, in Gaelic, such as Moire’, which means “star of the sea”, meaning, similar to the North Star, by which sailors are ever guided at night, Mary guides to Jesus. Or, Maire’, yet still, Muire’, even today, traditionally reserved ONLY for the Blessed Mother, in Gaelic.

Ave Maris Stella
Dei Mater alma
Atque semper Virgo
Felix coeli porta.

Sumens illud Ave
Gabrielis ore,
Funda nos in pacem,
Mutans Hevae nomen.

Solve vincla reis,
Profer lumen coecis,
Mala nostra pelle,
Bona cuncta posce.

Monstra te esse matrem
Sumat per te presces
Qui pro nobis natus
Tulit esse tuus.

Virgo singularis,
Inter omnes mitis,
Nos culpis solutos,
Mites fac et castos.

Vitam praesta puram
Iter para tutum,
Ut videntes Iesum
Semper collaetemur.

Sit laus Deo Patri,
Summo Christo decus,
Spiritui Sancto,
Tribus honor unus.

Amen.

Hail, o star of the ocean,
God’s own Mother blest,
ever sinless Virgin,
gate of heav’nly rest.

Taking that sweet Ave,
which from Gabriel came,
peace confirm within us,
changing Eve’s name.

Break the sinners’ fetters,
make our blindness day,
Chase all evils from us,
for all blessings pray.

Show thyself a Mother,
may the Word divine
born for us thine Infant
hear our prayers through thine.

Virgin all excelling,
mildest of the mild,
free from guilt preserve us
meek and undefiled.

Keep our life all spotless,
make our way secure
till we find in Jesus,
joy for evermore.

Praise to God the Father,
honor to the Son,
in the Holy Spirit,
be the glory one. Amen.


-by Br Josemaria Guzman-Dominguez, OP

“…Many Anglophone Christians find (the) Latino custom (of naming boy infants Jesus) peculiar and are even discomfited by it. They might ask, “How is it that faithful Christians would name their son with the Name above every other name? Wouldn’t this open the floodgates to pronouncing the Holy Name in vain? And isn’t it too great a burden, too high an expectation, for a small boy to bear the name by which we are to be saved?” These are fair questions. Indeed, we should revere the Lord’s Name, and we should be careful not to misuse it. And certainly, we would not want any ordinary person to be led to think that he needs to save the world, or that all our sins rest on him, or much less that he is the Only-Begotten Son of God!

Does that mean some Latino parents are mistaken in naming their son Jesús? I don’t think so. Look at this sentence again and reflect on it: “When he was baptized, he was named Jesús.”

When we ponder these words, we can see that, in a way, they apply to any Christian. As St. Paul puts it, “through faith you are all children of God in Christ Jesus. For all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ.” Through the grace given in baptism, each Christian is brought into Christ; each receives the Spirit of adoption, becoming a son or daughter of God; each is named Jesús.

In baptism, a soul is transformed into the image of Jesus. Beyond the day of baptism, God calls every Christian to become ever more intensely an image of Jesus, the perfect Image of the Father. But this imitation of Christ is not one that keeps Jesus as a model in the distance. No, it is a most intimate movement of conversion, which if left unimpeded by sin, changes every aspect of one’s being. By grace, a Christian can reach union with Jesus and say with St. Paul, “It is no longer I that lives, but Christ lives in me.”

Why do we desire to be called by the Lord’s name, to be baptized into his mystery? The words of Richard Rolle give some incentives. “The name of Jesus,” he says, “purges your sin and kindles your heart; it clarifies your soul, it removes anger and does away with slowness. It wounds in love and fulfills charity. It chases the devil and puts out dread. It opens heaven, and makes you a contemplative.”

In this life, only some of us, perhaps oddly, will actually be called Jesús. However, the fact that there are such men can remind us of our common Christian vocation. If by grace we live the life of Jesus, in the end our true name will be known. We will all be named Jesús because we will be perfectly one with him. For “we shall see his face, and his name shall be on our foreheads. And night shall be no more; we will need no light of lamp or sun, for the Lord God will be our light, and we shall reign for ever and ever” (Rev 22:4-5).”

Love,
Matthew

Dec 28 – Feast of the Holy Innocents, Martyrs, “They cannot speak, yet they bear witness to Christ”


-detail of Une Scene du Massacre des Innocents (A Scene of the Massacre of the Innocents), Jean-Baptiste Marie Pierre (1714-1789), undated

[Feast of the Holy Innocents, also called Childermas, or Innocents’ Day, festival celebrated in the Christian churches in the West on December 28 and in the Eastern churches on December 29 and commemorating the massacre of the children by King Herod in his attempt to kill the infant Jesus (Matthew 2:16–18). These children were regarded by the early church as the first martyrs, but it is uncertain when the day was first kept as a saint’s day. At first it may have been celebrated with Epiphany, but by the 5th century it was kept as a separate festival. In Rome it was a day of fasting and mourning.

It was one of a series of days known as the Feast of Fools, and the last day of authority for boy bishops. Parents temporarily abdicated authority. In convents and monasteries the youngest nun and monk were allowed to act as abbess and abbot for the day. These customs, which mocked religion, were condemned by the Council of Basel (1431).

In medieval England the children were reminded of the mournfulness of the day by being whipped in bed in the morning; this custom survived into the 17th century.

The day is still observed as a feast day and, in Roman Catholic countries, as a day of merrymaking for children.]


-partially restored and enhanced St Quodvultdeus mosaic portrait (San Gennaro catacombs, Naples), Unknown artist, 5th century

-from a sermon by Saint Quodvultdeus, bishop (Sermo 2 de Symbolo: PL 40, 655) and spiritual student or “directee”, friend, and correspondent of St. Augustine, Second Reading, Office of Readings, Liturgy of the Hours for December 28th, Feast of the Holy Innocents, Martyrs.

“A tiny child is born, Who is a great king. Wise men are led to Him from afar [Matthew 2:1]. They come to adore One Who lies in a manger and yet reigns in heaven and on earth. When they tell of One Who is born a king, Herod is disturbed [cf Matthew 2:3]. To save his kingdom he resolves to kill Him, though if he would have faith in the Child, he himself would reign in peace in this life and for ever in the life to come.

Why are you afraid, Herod, when you hear of the birth of a king? He does not come to drive you out, but to conquer the devil. But because you do not understand this you are disturbed and in a rage, and to destroy one child Whom you seek, you show your cruelty in the death of so many children.

You are not restrained by the love of weeping mothers or fathers mourning the deaths of their sons, nor by the cries and sobs of the children. You destroy those who are tiny in body because fear is destroying your heart. You imagine that if you accomplish your desire you can prolong your own life, though you are seeking to kill Life Himself.

Yet your throne is threatened by the source of grace – so small, yet so great – Who is lying in the manger. He is using you, all unaware of it, to work out His own purposes freeing souls from captivity to the devil. He has taken up the sons of the enemy into the ranks of God’s adopted children.

The children die for Christ, though they do not know it. The parents mourn for the death of martyrs. The Child makes of those as yet unable to speak fit witnesses to Himself. See the kind of kingdom that is His, coming as He did in order to be this kind of king. See how the deliverer is already working deliverance, the savior already working salvation.

But you, Herod, do not know this and are disturbed and furious. While you vent your fury against the child, you are already paying Him homage, and do not know it.

How great a gift of grace is here! To what merits of their own do the children owe this kind of victory? They cannot speak, yet they bear witness to Christ. They cannot use their limbs to engage in battle, yet already they bear off the palm of victory.

Love,
Matthew

sacrifice & sensuality

It is important to recall, in comparison, in terms of vocabulary, English is like a pint glass, Hebrew is like a shot glass, a more ancient language logically more limited, and Greek is like a pitcher, or so I have been told.

“Sacrifice and sensuality are both expressions of spousal love.

John Paul pointed out that for Plato, eros “represents the inner power that draws man toward all that is good, true, and beautiful.” 128 Therefore, eros is not the problem…In the relationship between men and women, true eros draws one to the value of the other in the fullness of his or her masculinity and femininity as a person, not just to the sexual value of the body. This balanced idea of eros leaves room for ethos (the innermost values of the person). John Paul explained, “In the erotic sphere, ‘eros’ and ‘ethos’ do not diverge, are not opposed to each other, but are called to meet in the human heart and to bear fruit in this meeting.” 129 Not only is it possible to unite what is erotic to what is ethical, it is necessary. Within marriage, ethos and eros meet. 130

Although people tend to view ethics as prohibitions and commandments, it is important to unveil the deeper values that these norms protect and assure. 131 The Pope explained: “It is necessary continually to rediscover the spousal meaning of the body and the true dignity of the gift in what is “erotic.” This is the task of the human spirit, and it is by its nature an ethical task. If one does not assume this task, the very attraction of the senses and the passion of the body can stop at mere concupiscence, deprived of all ethical value, and man, male and female, does not experience that fullness of “eros,” which implies the upward impulse of the human spirit toward what is true, good, and beautiful, so that what is “erotic” also becomes true, good, and beautiful.” 132

Jesus did not come merely to redeem the souls of the lost, but to reclaim our humanity— body and soul— with all that makes us human, including our sexual desires. Therefore, the transformation of eros is an integral part of Christian life. 133 Again, this is not about dampening desire. Rather, John Paul explained that putting these principles into practice makes expressions of affection “spiritually more intense and thus enriches them.” 134

Therefore, not only are eros and agape not rivals, they rely upon each other to reach their perfection. In the words of John Paul, “Agape brings eros to fulfillment while purifying it.” 135 Or, as one Orthodox theologian explained, “Without agape, eros remains stunted, partial— finally it collapses and isn’t even eros; the fire goes out and all that remains is the original concern with the self. Such eros has never risen above self-love.” 136 Because it is rooted in self-love, unchastity is “the total defeat of eros.” 137 It is a weak and incomplete form of desire. On the other hand, “Chastity is eros in its holy form.” 138

The Catechism echoes this, saying that purity “lets us perceive the human body— ours and our neighbor’s— as a . . . manifestation of divine beauty.” 139

-Evert, Jason. Theology of the Body In One Hour (Kindle Locations 712-714,716-750). Totus Tuus Press. Kindle Edition.

Love (Only one word in English, but you know what I mean.),
Matthew

128 TOB 47: 2.
129 TOB 47: 5.
130 Cf. TOB 101: 3.
131 Cf. TOB 47: 6.
132 TOB 48: 1.
133 Cf. TOB 47: 5.
134 TOB 128: 3.
135 TOB 113: 5.
136 Patitsas, “Chastity and Empathy,” 10.
137 Ibid., 42.
138 Ibid., 7.
139 Catechism of the Catholic Church 2519.

Lust

“But I tell you that anyone who looks at a woman lustfully has already committed adultery with her in his heart.” -Mt 5:28

“Jesus is obsessed with the heart because whoever wins the heart (love or lust, God or the devil) wins the mind, the eyes, the body, and the soul . . . for eternity. Actions flow from the heart and one’s destiny is forged through one’s actions. Jesus is obsessed with the heart because that is where we know and live the spousal meaning of the body. What’s at stake is the meaning of life: living in God’s image and likeness. 108

The human heart has become “a battlefield between love and concupiscence.” 109 The more concupiscence dominates the heart, the less we experience the spousal meaning of the body and the less sensitive we become to the other as a gift. 110 We begin to see others as objects to be used instead of persons to be loved, and we lose sight of the fact that others are created for their own sake, not for ours. 111

The way one person looks upon another matters, because the look expresses what is in the heart. We reveal by our looks who we are. 112 In his letter on the dignity and vocation of women, John Paul stated: “Each man must look within himself to see whether she who was entrusted to him as a sister in humanity, as a spouse, has not become in his heart an object of adultery.” 113

The Pope acknowledged that Christ’s words on adultery in the heart are severe, and they require us to assess our interior acts, motives, and impulses. 114 He explained, “The inner man is called by Christ to reach a more mature and complete evaluation that allows him to distinguish and judge the various movements of his own heart. One should add that this task can be carried out and that it is truly worthy of man.” 115

Although Christ’s words about adultery in the heart are demanding, they are not a condemnation but a calling. His words are not only a task but a gift. By restating Christ’s words, the Pope was reminding the Church in the midst of our brokenness, addictions, and weakened wills, that our call to love runs deeper than our urge to use. No matter how weighed down our hearts might be under the burden of sin, an echo of Eden remains within them.

John Paul pointed out that the awareness of our sinfulness is a necessary point of departure in historical man, and a condition for aspiring to virtue, purity of heart, and perfection. 116 A general sense of our shortcomings will not suffice. As John Paul noted, Christ “shows how deep down it is necessary to go, how the innermost recesses of the human heart must be thoroughly revealed, so that this heart might become a place in which the law is ‘fulfilled.’” 117

By fulfilled, the Pope did not mean obeyed flawlessly for the sake of conforming to external religious rules. Rather, love is the fulfillment of the law. When one rediscovers the spousal meaning of the body, one can express this through the “interior freedom of the gift.” 118

If the deepest motives of our heart are ruled by the lack of love, which is sin, we are not free to love or to make a gift of ourselves. Moral laws will seem to be nothing more than external constraints that limit our freedom. But when we become aware that the internal constraints of sin are what limit our freedom to love, we will desire to battle against them and experience true liberation. Although this will require us to be demanding toward our heart and our body, true love is not afraid of sacrifice. 119

-Evert, Jason. Theology of the Body In One Hour (Kindle Locations 624-665). Totus Tuus Press. Kindle Edition.

Love,
Matthew

108 Cf. TOB 49: 5.
109 TOB 32: 3.
110 Cf. TOB 32: 3.
111 Cf. TOB 32: 5.
112 Cf. TOB 39: 4
113 Mulieris Dignitatem, 14.
114 Cf. TOB 48: 3.
115 TOB 48: 4.
116 Cf. TOB 49: 7.
117 TOB 43: 5.
118 TOB 43: 6.
119 Cf. TOB 43: 5.

Modesty as Guardian of Love

“When the concept of “modesty” is mentioned in today’s culture— particularly on secular college campuses— any hope of rational dialogue is drowned out by accusations that those who promote modesty are “slut shaming” and advocating “rape culture” by failing to be “body positive.” There is anaphylactic reaction to the word, as if modesty required a woman’s rights to be rolled back to the Middle Ages. But John Paul displayed a sensitive understanding of why the term often ignites such a volatile reaction.

Throughout history, people have blamed the body— particularly of the woman— as the cause of lust. The woman is seen as the seductress, the occasion of sin. But in John Paul’s mind, lust is a problem of the heart, not the body. Blaming the body for lust is a loophole to avoid the true issue: our hearts. 104

If every woman clothed herself from head to toe, lust would remain. Put differently, a thief does not become a philanthropist when jewels are locked away. The cause of theft is not the jewels in the window of the store but the greed in the heart of the robber.

Consider why police sometimes place “bait cars” in high-crime areas. They leave the keys in the ignition of a vacant and unlocked car and put valuable items inside to draw attention to it. People who feel no need to steal walk past the vehicle without difficulty. But those who are inclined to commit larceny often seize upon the opportunity and end up in jail . . . only to blame the police for “setting them up.”

It is the same with the body. Only a mistaken idea of modesty transfers the evil of lust to its object. In human sexuality, the object of desire isn’t evil. In fact, the Pope pointed out that “victory must go hand in hand with an effort to discover the authentic value of the object.” 105 This is one reason why it is so counterproductive to shift the blame of lust to the body; by doing so, a person robs the body of its simple and pure meaning. 106

The body isn’t the problem. If anything, it’s the answer! In fact, one Orthodox scholar noted, “Beauty is the only thing that can make the eye chaste.” 107 After all, virtue can only be gained by love of the good, not by merely warding off evil. What’s needed is not for the body to be permanently veiled, but for its meaning to be unveiled, so that the glory of God can be seen in the body. What’s needed is the transformation of the deepest movements within the human heart.

This is not to say that people ought to wear whatever they wish, without regard for the weakness of others. In fact, modesty plays an essential role in transforming the hearts of those who are inclined toward lust. This is because modesty is an invitation to contemplation. It is a reminder that a person’s body is not public property, nor is it the best thing a person has to offer the world. Rather, the body is an invitation to love. But this spousal meaning of the body needs to be protected from concupiscence, and that is the purpose of modesty.

This isn’t merely a woman’s job. In fact, modesty isn’t the exclusive duty of females any more than lust is the exclusive problem of males. It is the heart of the human person— male and female— that is in need of redemption.”

-Evert, Jason. Theology of the Body In One Hour (Kindle Locations 590-620). Totus Tuus Press. Kindle Edition.

Love,
Matthew

104 Cf. TOB 44: 6.
105 TOB 45: 5.
106 Cf. TOB 31: 1.
107 Dr. Timothy Patitsas, “Chastity and Empathy: Eros, Agape, and the Mystery of the Twofold Anointing,” Road to Emmaus 1, no. 60 (Winter 2015), 7.

Summa Catechetica, "Neque enim quaero intelligere ut credam, sed credo ut intelligam." – St Anselm, "Let your religion be less of a theory, and more of a love affair." -G.K. Chesterton, "I want a laity, not arrogant, not rash in speech, not disputatious, but men and women who know their religion, who enter into it, who know just where they stand, who know what they hold and what they do not, and who know their creed so well that they can give an account of it."- Bl John Henry Newman, "Encounter, not confrontation; attraction, not promotion; dialogue, not debate." -cf Pope Francis, "To convert someone, go and take them by the hand and guide them." -St Thomas Aquinas, OP. 1 saint ruins ALL the cynicism in Hell & on Earth. “When we pray we talk to God; when we read God talks to us…All spiritual growth comes from reading and reflection.” -St Isidore of Seville, “Also in some meditations today I earnestly asked our Lord to watch over my compositions that they might do me no harm through the enmity or imprudence of any man or my own; that He would have them as His own and employ or not employ them as He should see fit. And this I believe is heard.” -GM Hopkins, SJ