Category Archives: Mariology

Dec 8 – one of God’s many noes


-Immaculate Conception, by Giovanni Battista Tiepolo, 1767-1769, oil on canvas, 281 × 155 cm (110.6 × 61 in), in the Museo del Prado, Spain. Please click on the image for greater detail.


-by Tim Staples, Tim was raised a Southern Baptist. Although he fell away from the faith of his childhood, Tim came back to faith in Christ during his late teen years through the witness of Christian televangelists. Soon after, Tim joined the Marine Corps.

During his four-year tour, he became involved in ministry with various Assemblies of God communities. Immediately after his tour of duty, Tim enrolled in Jimmy Swaggart Bible College and became a youth minister in an Assembly of God community. During his final year in the Marines, however, Tim met a Marine who really knew his faith and challenged Tim to study Catholicism from Catholic and historical sources. That encounter sparked a two-year search for the truth. Tim was determined to prove Catholicism wrong, but he ended up studying his way to the last place he thought he would ever end up: the Catholic Church!

“In what is among the most simple and beautiful prayers in the Torah, Moses fervently prays for God to dwell “in the midst of” His people. It is a seemingly praiseworthy request, and yet God’s answer is a firm “no.” God’s refusal was not because of any lack of desire on His part; God’s will was always to dwell in the midst of His people. The problem was Israel’s sins.

The Lord said to Moses . . . Go up to a land flowing with milk and honey; but I will not go among you, lest I consume you in the way, for you are a stiff-necked people (Exod. 33:3).

For the Lord had said to Moses, “Say to the people of Israel, You are a stiff-necked people; if for a moment I should go up among you, I would consume you” (Exod. 33:5).

God says He could have dwelt among them—but He would have destroyed them if He had! And yet in spite of the dire warnings, Moses entreats the Lord anyway, in Exodus 34:9, with this prayer:

If now I have found favor in thy sight, O Lord, let the Lord, I pray thee, go in the midst of us, although it is a stiff-necked people; and pardon our iniquity and our sin, and take us for Thy inheritance.

When I said Moses’ petition would not be granted, that was true, but incomplete. It would be more correct to say it would not be granted in his lifetime, or even in the context of the Mosaic Covenant. Because of the sins of Israel, God would only dwell in the Ark of the Covenant made of wood and gold, in the tabernacle in the wilderness, or later on in the temple. However, the God-inspired longing of Moses’ heart would one day be realized. Multiple prophets subsequent to the time of Moses prophesied God would indeed one day dwell in the midst of his people. But this ancient promise would only find its fulfillment in Jesus Christ… and in His mother.

Let us first consider the prophet Isaiah. In the first eight chapters of the book that bears his name, in good prophetic tradition, Isaiah brings a message of stern warning to Israel (and the surrounding nations) because of their abundant sins. But in later chapters we also see the promise of the coming Messiah. For our purpose we’ll focus on chapters eleven and twelve. You’ll want to take note of how many times the inspired author prophesies of that day, which refers to the coming of the Messiah and the New Covenant.

There shall come forth a shoot from the stump of Jesse, and a branch shall grow out of his roots. And the Spirit of the Lord shall rest upon Him, the spirit of wisdom and understanding, the spirit of counsel and might, the spirit of knowledge and the fear of the Lord . . . In that day the root of Jesse shall stand as an ensign to the peoples. . . In that day the Lord will extend His hand yet a second time to recover the remnant which is left of His people . . . You will say in that day: “I will give thanks to Thee, O Lord, for though You were angry with me, Your anger turned away . . . Shout, and sing for joy, O inhabitant of Zion, for great in your midst is the Holy One of Israel” (11:1-2, 10-11; 12:1,6).

The promise of the Lord dwelling in the midst of Israel was just that—a promise for the future.

And we should further note that in Isaiah and elsewhere, “the inhabitant of Zion” is also referred to as “the daughter of Zion,” or even “the virgin daughter of Zion.” For example, in Isaiah 37:22, Isaiah prophesies against Assyria, who had conquered Israel:

[Assyria] despises you, she scorns you—the virgin daughter of Zion; she wags her head behind you—the daughter of Jerusalem (Isa. 37:22; Cf. Jer. 14:17; Lam. 2:13).

In Zephaniah, we find similar language. The Lord chastises Israel resoundingly for its sins, but then promises through the message of the prophet:

“Therefore wait for Me,” says the Lord, “for the day when I arise as a witness . . . On that day you shall not be put to shame . . .) For they shall pasture and lie down, and none shall make them afraid. Sing aloud, O daughter of Zion; shout, O Israel! Rejoice and exult with all your heart, O daughter of Jerusalem . . . The King of Israel, the Lord, is in your midst (3:8, 11, 13-15).

And finally, after urging Israel to repent of their sins, Zechariah also prophesies: “Sing and rejoice, O daughter of Zion; for lo, I come and I will dwell in the midst of you, says the Lord” (Zech. 2:10).

We now fast-forward to Luke 1:28. When Luke records the greeting of the angel, “Hail, full of grace, the Lord is with you!” There are two keys to understanding this text in relation to Mary as the fulfillment of the ancient “daughter of Zion” prophecies.

  1. The Greek word for hail is kaire, which can also be translated rejoice. In fact, the New King James Version of the Bible translates it as, “Rejoice, highly favored one!” Because this “new name”—kecharitomene—is in the feminine, we could also translate it as “Rejoice, favored woman.”
  2. The angel does not say “the Lord shall be with you;” he says, “The Lord is with you.”

Could this hearken back to the prophetic “daughter of Zion” prophecies of old? There is really no biblical way around it. The ancient prayer of Moses was definitively answered in and through what was likely to have been about a fifteen year-old young woman named Mary, and in a way beyond the wildest imaginings of the ancient prophets. Because of her “yes,” after all of those centuries in waiting, God would finally dwell “in the midst of his virgin Daughter of Zion.”

Indeed, this verse becomes an excellent example of what Scripture scholars refer to as the polyvalent or multi-layered nature of Scripture. The angel’s greeting not only signals that Mary is “full of grace,” but that she is the true “Daughter of Zion.”

So how does this relate to Mary being free from sin? We saw before that it was the sin of Israel that prevented God from dwelling “in the midst of” “the virgin daughter of Zion.” How fitting for the New Covenant Daughter of Zion—in the midst of whom the Lord would dwell bodily—to be free from all sin. The obstacle that kept God from dwelling in the midst of his people had been eliminated through Mary’s Immaculate Conception, and Mary becomes the archetype of the Church—“holy and without blemish” (Eph. 5:27).

On one level, since she was “full of grace” Mary was the fulfillment of the prophecies concerning the Daughter of Zion even before the Incarnation. And yet, there was more to come. Mary’s fullness of grace had prepared the New Covenant Daughter of Zion for something the Old Covenant people of God could never have fathomed. It was grace that made her fit to be a worthy vessel to bear the King of Glory in her body. The fulfillment of God’s promise would not be complete, then, until Mary conceived Jesus in her womb.

“[Rejoice], full of grace, the Lord is with you! . . . the power of the Most High will overshadow you; therefore the child to be born will be called . . . the Son of God” (Luke 1:28-35).

I suppose an entire volume could be written on the significance of these prophecies. But I will conclude our thoughts here with a section from the Catechism and its succinct teaching on the significance of Mary as Daughter of Zion, in whom God promised He would dwell:

The Holy Spirit prepared Mary by His grace. It was fitting that the mother of Him in Whom “the whole fullness of deity dwells bodily” should herself be “full of grace.” She was, by sheer grace, conceived without sin as the most humble of creatures, the most capable of welcoming the inexpressible gift of the Almighty. It was quite correct for the angel Gabriel to greet her as the “Daughter of Zion”: “Rejoice” (CCC 722).”

Love,
Matthew

Sep 12 – Most Holy Name of Mary 2


-Battle of Vienna, please click on the image for greater detail


-by Steve Weidenkopf

“September 12 is the memorial of the Most Holy Name of Mary, a liturgical celebration that probably gives many Catholics pause. Honoring the Blessed Mother in the liturgy is nothing new or unique in the Church, but many may ask, why this feast on this day?

The answer lies in a pivotal battle fought in the late seventeenth century between the Cross and the Crescent at the “Gateway to Europe.” A little more than a hundred years after the great Christian victory at Lepanto (October 7, 1571) where Don John’s Holy League warriors prayed a rosary the night before their miraculous victory (remembered liturgically as the Memorial of Our Lady of the Rosary), Christendom was once more severely threatened by the Ottoman horde. The Turks had solidified their hold on the Balkans since the time of Lepanto and were gaining strength for an attack on imperial Hapsburg territory.

Ottoman treachery

Holy Roman Emperor Leopold I (r. 1658–1705) pursued a diplomatic policy of appeasement with the Ottomans, because he was more concerned about his belligerent French neighbor, King Louis XIV. Some of Leopold’s advisors believed the once-mighty Ottoman military was weak and ineffective compared to the strong and large standing army of the Sun King.

Leopold entered into a peace treaty with the Ottoman Turks in 1665 but, fearing the Ottomans might break the treaty, the emperor also entered into defense treaties with other European nations; including Poland, to come to his aid should the Turks invade. The treaty with the Ottomans was set to expire in 1684 but, unbeknownst to Leopold, the Ottomans had decided a year earlier to break the treaty and invade Austria.

At a meeting on August 6, 1682, advisors to the Ottoman sultan, Mehmet IV (r. 1648–1687), persuaded him that the time was right to invade Christian territory. The invasion would commence in 1683 with an army of 100,000 men under the command of the grand vizier Kara Mustapha (1634–1683). Although he was a veteran of numerous military campaigns, Kara Mustapha was not beloved by his troops, since he was known to accept large casualties to accomplish the mission. He lived ostentatiously, with thousands of concubines in his harem and numerous slaves and eunuchs to tend to his needs. He also despised Christians and was looking forward to the campaign.

Kara Mustapha was overly confident of victory and believed his army would capture not only Vienna but even Rome, where he bragged he would stable his horses in St. Peter’s basilica. The Ottoman army crossed the frontier in late June 1683, rampaging and pillaging as they marched.

Polish heroes ride out

As soon as news reached Leopold that the Turks were on the move, he reached out to his allies and begged them to come to the aid of Vienna. Jan Sobieski (r. 1676–1696), the King of Poland and a devout Catholic, responded to his treaty obligations and raised a relief army. He left Warsaw with an army of 20,000 men, mostly cavalry, on the way to Cracow, where the rest of his troops were ordered to assemble.

Along the march, Sobieski stopped to pray at the shrine of Our Lady of Czestochowa. Entrusting the success of his military efforts to the intercession of the Blessed Mother, he began his army’s march to Vienna on the Solemnity of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary, August 15, 1683. His forces were buoyed by the knowledge that Pope Innocent XI (r. 1676–1689) had granted the Crusading plenary indulgence to all who fought for the defense and relief of Vienna.

The Ottoman army arrived at the city on July 14 and, as was their tradition and custom, arranged their camp around the city in the shape of a crescent. The Viennese defenders fought bravely for a month, but by the end of August and into early September food was scarce in the city and disease was rampant. It was only a matter of time before the Ottoman’s broke into the city.


-King John III Sobieski of Poland, please click on the image for greater detail

The undoing of the Turks

The allied relief army led by Sobieski arrived near Vienna on September 9. Surprisingly, the Turks had not secured the approaches to the city; in fact, they did not even post sentries to warn Kara Mustapha of the approach of the relief army. It was a foolish and deadly mistake by the grand vizier, who had focused solely on the siege of the city. Sobieski developed his battle plan and prepared to attack the Ottomans using the high ground of the Kahlenberg Mountain on the outskirts of Vienna.

The battle began on September 11, and the fighting was intense. The unseasonal heat of the day exhausted soldiers on both sides so that by midday the fighting stopped temporarily. When it resumed, Sobieski sensed the Ottoman line was weak, and he unleashed his famed Winged Hussars for a cavalry charge that demolished Turkish resistance. Polish troops were first into the city and were greeted with cheers and prayers of thanksgiving by the beleaguered defenders.

Sobieski sent a victory message to Pope Innocent XI, who credited the Christian victory over the Ottomans and the salvation of the city to the intercession of the Blessed Mother. As a result, the pope established the Feast of the Most Holy Name of Mary, first celebrated in Spain in the sixteenth century, as a universal memorial for the Church in thanksgiving for the victory at Vienna.

The Ottoman campaign to capture the gateway to Europe and destroy Christendom was a risky operation. Its success would have ensured Ottoman hegemony over Eastern Europe and opened up the approaches to Western Europe. Its failure would begin the decline and ruin of the Islamic empire. Through the intercession of the Blessed Mother and the military genius of the Polish king Jan Sobieski, Christendom was saved.”

Love,
Matthew

Aug 15 – Let Heaven receive her Queen

Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary completed in 1773 by Charles-Antoine Bridan, Chartres Cathedral.


-by Br Cyril Stola, OP

“Celebrations that commemorate Mary gild the liturgical year. Among others, we remember her Immaculate Conception, her Presentation at the Temple, her fiat at the Annunciation, her Visitation unto Elizabeth, her divine maternity, and, today, her Assumption into heaven. In the Assumption, Mary’s graced life reaches its culmination by ultimate union with the source of grace.

If Adam and Eve had not sinned, the separation of the body and soul at death and the subsequent corruption of the body would be foreign to man. God freed Mary from the stain of that original sin at her conception, thus restoring to her our lost purity. Nonetheless, he did not wish merely to restore us to Eden; he desired to bring us to a higher glory. By his life, death, and resurrection, Jesus opened the gates of heaven for us, and at the end of time he will restore our bodies in a new creation. Mary gave Jesus his human nature, and he in turn repaid her a hundred-fold by bringing her into heaven to share in his bodily resurrection now. In the words of the preface of today’s Mass, the Assumption is “the beginning and image of your Church’s coming to perfection and a sign of sure hope and comfort to your pilgrim people.” It is a foretaste of what is to come to us, and the choirs of angels surely rejoiced exceedingly when their queen entered her home in heaven.

Mary, having borne Christ in her womb and having pondered him in her heart, heard the word of God and kept it during her earthly life. Her perfect obedience to the divine will and the fact that she became the mother of God made Mary the highest of all women, “the glory of Jerusalem, the joy of Israel, the fairest honor of our race.” (Benedictus Antiphon, Memorial of the Blessed Virgin on Saturday) Through her Assumption, she received the capacity to do the Lord’s will at an even higher level.

By this awe-inspiring gift, Mary now shares Christ’s love for us and can hear the supplication of all. She who traveled to assist her kinswoman Elizabeth during her pregnancy now assists each of us. She who turned the gaze of her son to a newlywed’s lack of wine in Cana now turns his gaze to every family who turns to her. She who stood by the cross of her son now consoles us in our suffering. Today we thank God that he gave us such a mother and placed her in such an exalted place. Mary, queen assumed into heaven, pray for us.”

Love,
Matthew

Myth: Virgin Mary belief from pagan stories

“One stone thrown by the “Christians stole their teachings from paganism” crowd features the Blessed Virgin Mary.

They claim Catholic beliefs about Mary are founded on ancient pagan myths. These attacks usually center on her virginity, the conception and birth of Jesus, and whether the titles “Mother of God” and “Queen of Heaven” have pagan origins. There is even an outlandish claim by the mythicist D.M. Murdock that “the Virgin Mary is, like Jesus Christ, a mythical character, founded upon older goddesses”[emphasis in the original].”

Atheists are not the only ones who attack Marian teachings. Fundamentalist Jack Chick, in his tract “Why Is Mary Crying?” declares that Mary was substituted by the Catholic Church for pagan goddesses. Chick’s tract portrays her standing before God the Father, crying, telling him she is a sinner, and bemoaning Catholics’ “worshipping” her by bowing to her statue.

Chick alleges that Catholic Marian teachings are the work of Satan, who wants to confuse Christians by inducing them to worship a “counterfeit virgin.” So when the Catholic Church was created in the year 300 (according to Chick), under the influence of the Evil One, it created the cult of the Virgin to more easily convert the masses, who were used to worshipping pagan goddesses such as Diana, Aphrodite, Venus, and Isis. This is just one of Chick’s many bizarre theories about the Church.

The supposed similarities between ancient pagan myths and the Christian belief that Jesus was conceived and born of the Virgin Mary are greatly exaggerated.

In pagan myths, miraculous conceptions and births always involve mythical gods, not historical persons like Jesus, and their births are either through a sexual encounter or some type of miraculous creation not involving a virgin mother. One oft-cited example of a pagan myth with supposed similarities to the Virgin Birth is that of the Roman god Mithras, who was born not of a virgin, but out of rock. A second example is the Indian god Krishna, who was, as it were, telepathically transmitted from the mind of the god Vasudeva into the womb of the goddess Devaki.

On the surface this appears similar to Jesus’ conception and birth until the full story is revealed that Devaki and Vasudeva had seven previous children!

The early Church recognized the Blessed Mother’s unique role in salvation history, as is evidenced by the writings of the early Church Fathers, who clearly believed in Mary’s virginity, her role as the mother of God, and her exalted status as Queen of Heaven. In the fifth century, however, Nestorius, the patriarch of Constantinople, questioned those beliefs. An eloquent preacher, on Christmas Day in 428 AD Nestorius gave a homily questioning whether Mary was the mother of God:

They ask whether Mary may be called God-bearer. But has God, then, a mother? . . . Mary did not bear God . . . the creature did not bear the Creator, but the man, who is the instrument of the Godhead. He who was formed in the womb of Mary was not God himself, but God assumed him.

For Nestorius, Mary was the Christotokos (Christ-bearer), the one who bore the “fleshy garment” of Christ, not Theotokos (God-bearer, or Mother of God).

St. Cyril of Alexandria (375-444 AD) took great offense at Nestorius’s teachings and wrote a letter exhorting him to teach the orthodox belief that Mary is the mother of God. When Nestorius refused to turn from his heresy, Cyril wrote letters to the emperor as well as to Pope St. Celestine I (r. 422-432 AD), who confirmed that Nestorius’s teachings were heretical.

In a letter to his monks, Cyril succinctly captured the essence of Nestorius’s heresy and its far-reaching effects if embraced: “I am astonished that the question should ever have been raised as to whether the Holy Virgin should be called the mother of God, for it really amounts to asking, is her son God, or is he not?”

Eventually, at the ecumenical council at Ephesus in 431, Nestorius’s heresy was condemned and he was deposed and excommunicated. The title Mother of God is not borrowed from pagan myth but rather reflects the reality of who Mary’s son is and what the Church has taught about both of them from the beginning.

Those who try to link Marian teachings to pagan myths also look to her title as Queen of Heaven for proof. Protestant critics in particular point to the episode in the book of Jeremiah (Jer. 44:1-17) wherein the prophet warned the Jews living in Egypt to turn from their idolatrous ways. The Jews did not listen, and said they would continue to burn incense to the “queen of heaven,” usually identified as the Assyrian-Babylonian fertility goddess, Ishtar.

These Protestant critics contend that Catholics are like those Jews of old, worshipping a pagan deity by using the same title in reference to Mary. But the use of a title in one setting does not imply acceptance of that title’s connotation in another setting. Queen of Heaven applied to Mary is not rooted in pagan goddesses but in the Davidic kingdom. In that kingdom, the queen was the king’s mother, not his wife (primarily because the Jewish kings were polygamous).

So the title refers to Mary’s royal dignity as mother of the King of Kings. Pope Pius XII taught in his encyclical on Mary as Queen of Heaven that the title was used from the “earliest ages” of the Church, and is deserved by virtue of her share in Jesus’s salvific mission (her Fiat ushers in the Kingdom of God); her role in the economy of salvation (as intercessor and Mediatrix); and her share in Jesus’s royalty (as the Queen Mother of the king).

The Real Story: The Church’s Marian teachings are rooted in Scripture and Tradition; they do not derive from pagan myths. Pagan stories of virgin births, and goddesses referred to as queens or mothers of a god, are not proof that Catholic beliefs about Mary were copied. The Church recognized Mary as the mother of God from its beginnings and when Nestorius questioned that belief in the fifth century it was condemned at the Council of Ephesus in 431. And Catholics do not worship Mary, as many Protestants believe, but she holds a unique place in salvation history, as her “yes” (…fiat mihi secundum verbum tuum. -Lk 1:38) to the Incarnation was essential to God becoming man.”

n.b. Editor: it is important to mention, in pagan myths, there is no consent, rather rapine/deception/disguise. Only in the Annunciation does the Divine God, ask.  Free will is respected. It’s about relationships.

St. Irenaeus of Lyons

The Virgin Mary, being obedient to his word, received from an angel the glad tidings that she would bear God [Against Heresies, 5:19:1 (c. a.d. 189)].

St. Gregory Thaumaturgus

For Luke, in the inspired Gospel narratives, delivers a testimony not to Joseph only, but also to Mary the Mother of God, and gives this account with reference to the very family and house of David [Four Homilies 1 (c. a.d. 256)].

It is our duty to present to God, like sacrifices, all the festivals and hymnal celebrations; and first of all, the Annunciation to the holy Mother of God, that is, the salutation made to her by the angel, ‘‘Hail, thou that art highly favored!’’

St. Methodius of Philippi

While [Simeon] was thus exultant, and rejoicing with exceeding great and holy joy, what had before been spoken of in a figure by the prophet Isaiah, the holy Mother of God now manifestly fulfilled [Oration on Simeon and Anna 7 (c. a.d. 300)].

Hail to you forever, you Virgin Mother of God, our unceasing joy, for unto you do I again return… Hail, you fount of the Son’s love for man…Therefore we pray you, the most excellent among women, who boast in the confidence of your maternal honors, unceasingly to keep us in remembrance. O Holy Mother of God, remember us, I say, who make our boast in you, and who in august hymns celebrate your memory, which will ever live, and never fade away.

St. Peter of Alexandria

[ T]hey came to the church of the most blessed Mother of God, and Ever-Virgin Mary, which, as we began to say, he had constructed in the western quarter, in a suburb, for a cemetery of the martyrs [The Genuine Acts of Peter of Alexandria (a.d. 305)].

St. Cyril of Jerusalem

The Father bears witness from heaven to his Son. The Holy Spirit bears witness, coming down in the form of a dove. The archangel Gabriel bears witness, bringing the good tidings to Mary. The Virgin Mother of God bears witness [Catechetical Lectures 10:19 (c. a.d. 350)].

St. Athanasius of Alexandria

The Word begotten of the Father from on high, inexpressibly, inexplicably, incomprehensibly, and eternally, is he that is born in time here below of the Virgin Mary, the Mother of God [Incarnation of the Word 8 (c. a.d. 365)].

Love,
Matthew

Mary & the Rosary lead Non-denominational pastor: Part 4 of 4


-by Anne Barber, Anne was born in Haddonfield, NJ. From age seven, she began traveling the world with her parents, as her father’s jobs with the US government took them to live in Germany, Iran, and Brazil. Later, she received a BS from San Diego State University with a double major: Zoology and Spanish, and received her Juris Doctorate from the University of Miami School of Law. She still holds an active law license in Florida. The same year she entered law school, Anne completed her studies for ordination through the Evangelical Church Alliance. She began leading mission trips to Cuba twice a year for 8 years beginning in 2003, completing a total of 16 trips. In 2004, Anne was one of the founders of My Father’s House, a nondenominational church in Ellenton, FL, and pastored for 12 years. During this time, she was a regular contributor to the clergy column, Faith & Values, in the Bradenton Herald. Her journey into the Catholic Church began in 2016.

Disappointing News

I completed my RCIA classes. I had finally procured a new pastor for My Father’s House. But when the Easter Vigil was a week away, I was still waiting for an annulment of the marriage to my first husband, whom I had divorced 40 years prior. I received on Monday the call saying that it was granted, and I fully expected to enter the church that Saturday night. However, Father Jim (who was serving in his first pastorate), didn’t quite know what to do with me, since he was waiting for the bishop’s instruction. There was an unresolved question of whether, as the former pastor of an Evangelical church, I needed to completely disassociate myself from that congregation — whose church building is located on the small farm where I live. Since no answer was forthcoming, I was sorely disappointed not to be permitted to enter the Catholic Church at the 2017 Easter Vigil.

It was then that I contacted the Coming Home Network, asking for assistance. Jim Anderson, a pastoral care coordinator, reviewed my situation and said he believed that, as long as the congregation knew I was no longer the pastor, and I refrained from participating in the communion there, he knew of no rule against a former pastor continuing to attend his or her prior church, especially if the ex-pastor’s spouse still attended there. I then wrote a letter to the bishop, stating my cause, and asking him to please allow Father Jim to bring me into the Church. But there was no response.

Time passed, and I grew despondent, feeling rejected and crushed. Never had I wanted anything more in my life, and I felt the blessing was torn from me at the last minute. I stopped attending Mass. After two months, I contacted Jim Anderson again, and he suggested that I see another priest for a second opinion.

Finally I am Catholic!

At the end of August, I met with Father Bernie at Holy Cross Catholic parish in Palmetto, FL. He was a seasoned priest and agreed with Jim Anderson’s assessment. He was happy to baptize me (as I had no certificates, photos, or other first-hand proof of my baptism as a baby), and on October 6, 2017, at the Mass of Our Lady of the Rosary, I was baptized into the Catholic Church and received the Eucharist for the first time. I was content to wait for the 2018 Easter Vigil to be confirmed. I regard both events as the two most important days of my life. Unfortunately, my husband, by now quite upset that I continued to be serious about entering the Catholic Church, refused to be present at either event.

I spent a year at Holy Cross, where I joined the Legion of Mary and played the flute at the Saturday Mass. Additionally, since the first statue I painted had turned out beautifully, I continued to paint concrete statues of Mary, and gave them away to different people in both parishes. (To date, I have painted 13 statues of Mary and eight statues of different saints.)

On October 6, 2018, again on the day of Our Lady of the Rosary, I returned to my initial Catholic parish, St. Frances Cabrini in Parrish, FL, and the first priest I had ever met, Father Jim. That is where I currently attend.

My journey is ongoing, and not without heartache, family upheaval, and occasionally wavering faith. But my Catholic family continually upholds me in prayer. Some of my sisters in the Legion of Mary have been my strongest lifeline in the face of unexpected and emotionally painful trials, which threatened to derail me from following my new Catholic Faith.

But there is absolutely no turning back. When Jesus calls — or sends Mary to bring someone to where He wants that person to be — truly, how can we refuse to go?

Peter began to say to him, “We have given up everything and followed you.” Jesus said, “Amen, I say to you, there is no one who has given up house or brothers or sisters or mother or father or children or lands for my sake and for the sake of the gospel who will not receive a hundred times more now in this present age: houses and brothers and sisters and mothers and children and lands, with persecutions, and eternal life in the age to come. But many that are first will be last and the last will be first.” – Mark 10:29-31 NAB

Love,
Matthew

Mary & the Rosary lead Non-denominational pastor: Part 3 of 4


-by Anne Barber, Anne was born in Haddonfield, NJ. From age seven, she began traveling the world with her parents, as her father’s jobs with the US government took them to live in Germany, Iran, and Brazil. Later, she received a BS from San Diego State University with a double major: Zoology and Spanish, and received her Juris Doctorate from the University of Miami School of Law. She still holds an active law license in Florida. The same year she entered law school, Anne completed her studies for ordination through the Evangelical Church Alliance. She began leading mission trips to Cuba twice a year for 8 years beginning in 2003, completing a total of 16 trips. In 2004, Anne was one of the founders of My Father’s House, a nondenominational church in Ellenton, FL, and pastored for 12 years. During this time, she was a regular contributor to the clergy column, Faith & Values, in the Bradenton Herald. Her journey into the Catholic Church began in 2016.

The Honeymoon’s Over!

“On Christmas day 2016, after the morning service, our worship leader pulled me aside to let me know that he was very unhappy with the new statue of Mary. I already had angel statues surrounding the chapel, but Mary was just too much for him.

He asked, “What kind of church are we?” “We’re non-denominational evangelical,” I replied. “But are we Catholic now? If I thought this was a Catholic church, I never would have come here. I’ll give you two weeks’ notice to find another music leader if we leave.” Wow! I never saw this coming.

His wife was waiting in their car, and I went to speak to her. She was fuming. I’d never seen her angry before. Through the open car window, she went into a full-on rant: “I was Catholic for many years, but I never prayed the Rosary! Then I got saved and took off all my jewelry, and I’m free! I’m free!” (She was yelling now.) “That’s why I don’t let any of my children wear jewelry!”

“You’re not free,” I replied, “You’re in Pentecostal legalism.” The meaning was completely lost on her, but her husband smiled and nodded. What shocked me most was that this lady was one of the parents who had provided permission to give her children rosaries. And she had asked me for an NAB Bible for herself when I handed them out to the youth. Now, suddenly, rosaries were evil and the statue of Mary a forbidden idol.

After they drove off, I went into the house, called my prior worship leader, and he was available and happy to come back and take over. The following Sunday was New Year’s day 2017, and our prior worship leader was leading the music. And just like that, five people who had been with the church for nine years (the parents and three kids) were gone. My youth leader was devastated, as she was very attached to all of the children.

Shortly after that confrontation, I spoke with another long-term faithful parishioner on the pathway by the Mary statue. “So, do you like the Mary statue,” I asked. “No, Pastor Anne, I don’t,” she replied emphatically. “But that was my two-month art project,” I smiled. “Why don’t you like it?”

“I was Catholic as a child, and even wanted to become a nun. But my priest said I should go to college.” “But what happened to you that caused you to leave the Catholic Church?” I asked. “It’s a long story,” she said. But I never got to hear it; within months, she, her husband and their three children left the church. Between these two families, a fifth of our tiny congregation was gone — over my beautiful Mary statue.

Several people suggested I move it, or hide it on Sunday morning under a bag. But I reasoned, “It’s in front of the house, not the chapel. If the parishioners use the walkway that goes directly to the chapel, they wouldn’t even see her.” Yet the suggestions continued, and the youth leader (also an ex-Catholic) admonished that I should have submitted the rosaries, NAB Bibles and statue of Mary to the church council for a vote before implementing them.

Finally I asked Father Jim to come and bless the Mary statue so the negativity would stop. And it eventually did. After pretty much all the congregation left.”

Love,
Matthew

Mary & the Rosary lead Non-denominational pastor: Part 2 of 4


-by Anne Barber, Anne was born in Haddonfield, NJ. From age seven, she began traveling the world with her parents, as her father’s jobs with the US government took them to live in Germany, Iran, and Brazil. Later, she received a BS from San Diego State University with a double major: Zoology and Spanish, and received her Juris Doctorate from the University of Miami School of Law. She still holds an active law license in Florida. The same year she entered law school, Anne completed her studies for ordination through the Evangelical Church Alliance. She began leading mission trips to Cuba twice a year for 8 years beginning in 2003, completing a total of 16 trips. In 2004, Anne was one of the founders of My Father’s House, a nondenominational church in Ellenton, FL, and pastored for 12 years. During this time, she was a regular contributor to the clergy column, Faith & Values, in the Bradenton Herald. Her journey into the Catholic Church began in 2016.

The Honeymoon

For the next eight and a half months, I attended two morning Masses each week, followed by my RCIA classes, as well as the Saturday afternoon Mass. I joined the parish, received my own envelopes, and began contributing weekly.

I read the Catechism of the Catholic Church in the first month of my journey, then numerous books on Mary, the Fathers of the Church, and testimonies of other Protestants who had found the truth of the Catholic Church — all this while still pastoring my little flock at My Father’s House. I had asked the Lord early on, “Do you want me to leave my church?” to which He replied, “I don’t want you to leave, I want you to lead.”

So I began teaching many of the principles I was learning in RCIA to my church, even transcribing some of the homilies (sermons) that I heard on EWTN and preaching them to my congregation. At St. Frances’ thrift store, I purchased rosaries, and with their parents’ permission, gave them out to the youth group in My Father’s House. The church pew Bibles were replaced with NAB Catholic Bibles, and each child was presented with an NAB Youth Bible to keep. I now wore a crucifix around my neck, together with a hidden Miraculous Medal of Mary. I wrote my last article as the Rev. Anne Barber for the Bradenton Herald, published on September 17, 2016, entitled “Protestants Should Try Reading Missing Old Testament Books.”

Meantime, at the Catholic church, I experienced profound joy, love, and the same wonder and excitement I had experienced when I met Christ for the first time 40 years prior. Now I was meeting Him anew through Mary. What happiness I felt! No one on the outside could discourage me. The more I attended Mass, and the more people I met, at some point I lost my fear of being recognized as a local pastor, and just let myself become a member of the St. Frances congregation. Within months I knew 25 people by their names.

Then, in November of 2016, tragedy struck at St. Frances, with the accidental death of Father David. I had been in his office the Thursday before, then attended his last Mass on the Saturday prior to his death. We had talked for an hour, during which I shared with him my experience of Mary. He agreed to come and preach at My Father’s House in January of 2017. I felt a real kinship with this elderly priest.

In his Saturday homily, two days after that conversation, Father David spoke of Christ being crucified between two thieves. He walked back and forth across the sanctuary (altar area) as he spoke, and as I watched him intently, I saw a pink-rimmed aura appear all around him. As he walked, the aura remained with him. The last words of his homily were, “Today you shall be with Me in paradise!” And he gestured broadly to the large crucifix on the wall behind him. When Father David consecrated the Eucharist, I remarked to Georgia, seated next to me, that I felt there was something extremely holy about him that afternoon. When he held up the host, still surrounded by a pink aura, I wished I could take a photograph so that I could try painting it later. Four days after that Mass, our beloved Father David died in a freak accident.

I attended his viewing, the vigil, the funeral, and the interment of his ashes. This was now my church, my priest, my sorrowing church family, and I cried with the rest of them. The funeral was unlike any I had ever attended: The Knights of Columbus led the casket down the aisle, and every priest in the diocese who could come was dressed in white, standing in the sanctuary. The bishop looked entirely regal, walking down the center aisle with his crosier (shepherd’s staff) in hand. The shared testimonies from the priests and family members brought both laughter and tears. Finally, it was time to go forward for the Eucharist. I was in the line for the Bishop and was thrilled to receive his blessing.

The memory of that funeral stayed with me for weeks. I had never experienced anything like it. There really is nothing quite like the beauty and kindred spirit of the Catholic family. I truly felt that I belonged. I was eagerly looking forward to the evening of the Saturday before Easter, when new converts are received into the Church, and I too could experience my Savior in the Eucharist.

Meanwhile, back at My Father’s House, I was busily trying to put things in order so that I could step back from the pulpit. With the church located in a chapel on our farm, it wasn’t easy to find a replacement who would be content to preach in a semi-hidden location down a semi-paved road. Additionally, I was bringing a new perspective to my sermons that I knew the next pastor probably wouldn’t bring.

Around this same time, I bought a concrete statue of Mary as a Christmas present for my friend Gloria, bemoaning the fact that I couldn’t have one for myself, as my congregation probably wouldn’t tolerate it. But at the statue store that day I encountered a four-foot stone statue of Mary, Our Lady of Grace, at a greatly reduced price. My husband encouraged me to go ahead and get her. After she was delivered, I put her in the back of the carport so I could paint her without anyone seeing her. I had never painted on concrete before, and it was quite a challenge. But after two months, she was perfect: the snake was an awesome rattlesnake with a nasty green eye, and Mary was painted in gold, brown, and white, with a crown of 12 stars on her head and a rosary in her hand.

Even my husband liked the statue and built a concrete platform to install her in the garden area in front of our home, just to the left of the chapel. In December, three of us struggled to move the 500 pound Mary statue to her new home. I put a solar light in front to illuminate her at night. I was so pleased with how she looked. But my happiness was short-lived.”

Love,
Matthew

Mary & the Rosary lead Non-denominational pastor: Part 1 of 4


-for greater detail, please click on the image


-by Anne Barber, Anne was born in Haddonfield, NJ. From age seven, she began traveling the world with her parents, as her father’s jobs with the US government took them to live in Germany, Iran, and Brazil. Later, she received a BS from San Diego State University with a double major: Zoology and Spanish, and received her Juris Doctorate from the University of Miami School of Law. She still holds an active law license in Florida. The same year she entered law school, Anne completed her studies for ordination through the Evangelical Church Alliance. She began leading mission trips to Cuba twice a year for 8 years beginning in 2003, completing a total of 16 trips. In 2004, Anne was one of the founders of My Father’s House, a nondenominational church in Ellenton, FL, and pastored for 12 years. During this time, she was a regular contributor to the clergy column, Faith & Values, in the Bradenton Herald. Her journey into the Catholic Church began in 2016.

How It Began

In early August 2016, my life suddenly changed — irrevocably and forever. It began on the night I picked up a rosary and a “How to Pray the Rosary” pamphlet, sat in the candlelight on my front porch, and prayed it for the first time. From the first prayer, tears began to roll down my cheeks. As I stumbled over — then embraced — the sentence, “Holy Mary, Mother of God,” I felt a distinct motherly presence next to me. Unseen, yet comforting, consoling, inviting. I remember saying, “Mary, if you’re there, I could sure use a mother.” And a response came, “I chose you.”

Since 2004, I had pastored My Father’s House, an Evangelical church in Ellenton, and later Parrish, Florida. I am also an attorney and a licensed member of the Florida Bar. I had never given Catholicism even a passing thought. But I had a number of rosaries in my house, thanks to my dear friend, Gloria Martinez, who had worked for me for 10 years. Gloria was a devoted Catholic woman who truly lived her faith. Over the years, she obligingly provided me with rosaries. First I asked her for a red rosary to hang in my red car. Then a blue one to hang on a blue stained glass mirror. Then rosaries for friends who saw mine and wanted one. Of course, they were only for decoration, since I absolutely did not believe Mary was anything more than Jesus’ earthly mother.

Like most evangelicals, I believed Mary was a virgin when she conceived Jesus through the Holy Spirit. But I also believed Mary had at least seven other children with Joseph after Jesus was born (Matthew 13:55–56). I felt the title “Mother of God” bordered on blasphemy.

Now, sitting on my porch, speaking to the warm presence I felt near me, I was immediately able to put all my prior concepts about Mary aside. They simply didn’t matter any more. What mattered was that she had apparently entered my life, and I decided to let her show me who she was.

I had discovered the EWTN Catholic television network, and had begun watching the programs. Soon I ordered a painting from their Catalogue, one of Mary holding the infant Jesus and a lamb in her arms, entitled Innocence. I also ordered two books by Mother Angelica. I put the painting on my bedroom wall, where any parishioners entering my home would not see it.

One night, as I sat on the bed, reading one of Mother Angelica’s books, I looked up at the painting, and it seemed as if I saw one of Mary’s hands move. I kept watching, and it did move! So did her head, as she bent down toward the baby. Then her mouth opened as if she were speaking to the child. (However, I heard no sounds.) Following this, it seemed His head turned up to look at her. Finally, she appeared to sway back and forth as if rocking the baby and the lamb, with her dress clearly blowing in the wind!

What?! I was so startled that I took off my glasses and put them on again. Surely this was some sort of optical illusion. But no, the painting began to move again. Now I was frightened! Was there something evil about this painting? Was this woman about to step out of the painting into my bedroom? Was God displeased that I had been talking to Mary? That I had hung the painting? I prayed to God that it would stop moving. It sort of did, but I felt there was still an entity in my room, and it scared me.

The next day, I tried to contact Gloria, to ask her about it, but I couldn’t get in touch with her. That night, the painting moved again. This time, the lamb also opened its mouth, as if it were bleating, and the baby’s face turned red, as if he had been awakened and was about to cry. The third night, too, the painting moved as if it were a living scene, and rays of light shone out from the painting into the room. Absolutely shocking!

I decided, then and there, that I either needed a psychiatrist or a priest! The following day, I visited a local Catholic church, St. Frances Xavier Cabrini in Parrish, FL. My husband, Bob, and I had been there before to visit their thrift store. Afterwards, on one or two occasions, we entered the empty sanctuary to see the artwork and statuary. I’d even given a donation to light a candle for prayer requests. 

On the day after the third evening of seeing the painting of Mary come alive, Bob accompanied me to St. Frances’ thrift store, and I asked one of the workers how I could learn more about the Catholic Church. The thrift store lady kindly informed me that RCIA classes were beginning the following week, and if I was interested, I should visit the office. She explained these were classes for adults inquiring about the Roman Catholic Faith, and that taking the classes did not mean I had to become Catholic.

We went to the church office. Bob is a retired Lutheran Pastor, now pastoring a Community Church part time. He loves to “talk shop” with other clergy, and asked to see the priest. The retired priest in residence, Father David, graciously made time for him, and the two of them went to a conference room. I spoke with the secretary, meanwhile, asking her about the RCIA classes. She immediately recognized me from my photo in the Bradenton Herald, for which I wrote an occasional article for the Pastors’ “Faith Matters” section. “You want to know about the classes for yourself?” she asked incredulously.

Next, I spoke with the woman in charge of parish education, and cried when I related my experience with the Rosary. When I told her of the moving picture of Mary, she didn’t react adversely, but explained what an “apparition of Mary” was. It was if I were being propelled quickly in this new direction. I didn’t know it then, but Mary had taken me firmly by the hand and was leading me step by step to her Son in the Eucharist.

I was assigned a wonderful RCIA teacher, Georgia, who agreed to teach me privately, so as to not expose me to folk in the community who might know who I was. (“To prevent scandal,” she said.) My husband was nonplussed, having decided I was going through some sort of “phase” that would pass. He even agreed to attend a morning Mass or two with me.

Georgia suggested she attend daily Mass twice a week with me, to answer any questions, and afterwards, we could meet for class. The second Mass Bob and I attended was on a Tuesday. For the Eucharist, Georgia explained that I could go forward, cross my arms when I got to the priest, and receive a blessing. I happily did so. After Father spoke the blessing over me, I felt like an anointing had been poured on me. I could physically feel a warm, weighty substance on the top of my head. When I got back to my seat, I said to Georgia, “I felt something. I can’t move.” She replied, “God is pouring out His graces on you.” I knew right then that there had to be something profoundly different about the Catholic Communion and began intensely desiring to receive Our Lord in the Eucharist.

The Mass ended with a novena to the Virgin Mary. Bob could barely tolerate listening to it and later reiterated the Protestant view on what he termed “Catholic heresies.” I didn’t care. Something had happened to me, and I wasn’t going to fight it. I knew that God was sending me in this direction and that I would become Catholic. Not because of the Church’s great theology, or because the Fathers of the Church were convincing, or because I had thoroughly analyzed my experiences in light of scientific evidence, or because I understood anything intellectually. Simply put, I had met Mary. She had made herself known to me, crept into my heart, and I was already prepared to follow her anywhere she led me.”

Love,
Matthew

Mary, Queen of Priests

 

Composed for the World Day of Prayer for Priests, 2008 and the feast of Mary, Queen of Apostles, the Saturday after Ascension. It is a prayer of reparation and hope in the face of discouragement.

At God’s word: “Behold thy Son”
Had new motherhood begun,
Caught in the love of Three in One:
O Queen of priests and mother!

Unto His will thine did bow,
And broached love thenceforth allow,
With singing heart and silent vow:
O valiant maid and mother!

Pure Heart! Hide thy priests therein,
Thieve back hearts that bleed in sin,
And vanquished souls in solace win:
Fair virgin spouse and mother!

With thy grace their hearts endow,
And steel them in courage now
To love Love as thou knowest how,
O Queen of priests and mother.

Why say prayers for priests? Because, as St. John Vianney, the patron saint of priests, once said “After God, the priest is everything.” He also once referred to the priest “the steward of the good God, the distributor of His wealth”, and the priesthood as “the love of the heart of Jesus.”

As Father John Hardon, S.J., once said, “praying and offering God sacrifices for the priesthood are indispensably important,” because “there is no Catholic Church without the priesthood.”

“Mary is in a special manner Queen and Mother of priests.
Because of their resemblance to her divine Son,
Our Lady sees Jesus in each one of them.
She loves them not only as members of the mystical body,
but on account of the priestly character imprinted on their souls,
and for the sacred mysteries which they celebrate in persona Christi.”
-Bl Columba Marmion, OSB

“Inasmuch as priests can be called, by a very special title, sons of the Virgin Mary, they will never cease to love her with an ardent piety, invoke her with perfect confidence, and frequently implore her strong protection.”
-Pope Pius XII

O Mary,
Mother of Jesus Christ and Mother of Priests, [Mater Iesu Christi et Mater sacerdotum]
accept this title which we bestow
on you
to celebrate your motherhood
and to contemplate with you the priesthood
of your Son and of your sons,
O holy Mother of God.

O Mother of Christ,
to the Messiah-Priest you gave a body of flesh
through the anointing of the Holy Spirit
for the salvation of the poor and
the contrite of heart;
guard priests in your heart and in the Church,
O Mother of the Saviour.

O Mother of Faith,
you accompanied to the Temple the Son of Man,
the fulfilment of the promises given to the fathers;
give to the Father for His glory
the priests of Your Son,
O Ark of the Covenant.

O Mother of the Church,
in the midst of the disciples in the upper room
you prayed to the Spirit
for the new people and their shepherds;
obtain for the Order of Presbyters
a full measure of gifts,
O Queen of the Apostles.

O Mother of Jesus Christ,
you were with Him at the beginning
of His life and mission,
you sought the Master among the crowd,
you stood beside Him when He was lifted up from the earth
consumed as the one eternal sacrifice,
and you had John, your son, near at hand;
accept from the beginning those who have been called,
protect their growth,
in their life ministry accompany your sons,
O Mother of Priests.
Amen.
-Pope St John Paul II

Marian Prayer of Priests

O Mary, Mother of Jesus Christ, crucified and risen,
Mother of the Church, a priestly people (1 Pet 2,9),
Mother of priests, ministers of your Son:
accept the humble offering of myself,
so that in my pastoral mission
the infinite mercy of Eternal High Priest may be proclaimed:
O “Mother of Mercy”.
You who shared the “priestly obedience” (Heb 10, 5-7; Lk 1, 38), of your Son,
and who prepared for Him a worthy receptacle
by the anointing of the Holy Spirit,
keep my priestly life in the ineffable mystery
of your divine maternity,
“Holy Mother of God”.

Grant me strength in the dark hours of this life,
support me in the exertions of my ministry,
entrust me to Jesus,
so that, in communion with you,
I may fulfil the ministry with fidelity and love,
O Mother of the Eternal Priest
“Queen of Apostles and Help of Priests”.

Make me faithful to the flock
entrusted to me by the Good Shepherd,
You silently accompanied Jesus
on his mission to proclaim
the Gospel to the poor.

May I always guide it
with patience, sweetness
firmness and love,
caring for the sick,
the weak, the poor and sinners,
O “Mother, Help of the Christian People”.

I consecrate and entrust myself to you, Mary,
who shared in the work of redemption
at the Cross of your Son,
you who “are inseparably linked to the work of salvation”.

Grant that in the exercise of my ministry
I may always be aware of the “stupendous and penetrating dimension of your maternal presence”
in every moment of my life,
in prayer, and action,
in joy and sorrow, in weariness and in rest,
O “Mother of Trust”.

Grant, Holy Mother, than in the celebration of the Mass,
source and center of the priestly ministry,
that I may live my closeness to Jesus
in your maternal closeness to Him,
so that as “we celebrate the Holy Mass you will be present with us”
and introduce us to the redemptive mystery of your divine Son’s offering
“O Mediatrix of all grace flowing from this sacrifice to the Church and to all the faithful”
O “Mother of Our Savior”.

O Mary: I earnestly desire to place my person
and my desire for holiness
under your maternal protection and inspiration
so that you may bring me to that “conformation with Christ, Head and Shepherd”
which is necessary for the ministry of every parish priest.

Make me aware
that “you are always close to priests”
in your mission of servant
of the One Mediator, Jesus Christ:
O “Mother of Priests”
“Benefactress and Mediatrix”
of all graces.

Amen.

Loving Father,
I praise you, I love you, I adore you.
Send your Holy Spirit to enlighten my mind
to the truth of your Son, Jesus, Priest and
Victim.
Through the same Spirit guide my heart to his
Sacred Heart,
to renew in me a priestly passion
that I, too, might lay down my life upon the
altar.
May your Spirit wash away my impurities
and free me from all my transgressions in the
Cup of Salvation,
Let only your will be done in me.
May the Blessed Mother of your dearly beloved
Son,
wrap her mantle around me and protect me
from all evil.
May she guide me to do whatever He tells me.
May she teach me to have the heart of St.
Joseph, her spouse,
to protect and care for my bride.
And may her pierced heart inspire me to
embrace as my own your children
who suffer at the foot of the cross.
I humbly cry to her: please be my consoling
mother,
and help me to be a better son.
Lord, make me a holy priest,
inflamed with the fire of your love, seeking
nothing
but your greater glory and the salvation of
souls.
I humbly bless and thank you, my Father,
through the Spirit, in Christ Jesus, your Son and
my brother.
Amen.
O Mary, Queen of priests, pray for us.
Saint John Vianney, pray for us.

Dear Lord,
We pray that the Blessed Mother wrap
her mantle around your priests
and through her intercession
strengthen them for their ministry.
We pray that Mary will guide your
priests to follow her own words,
“Do whatever He tells you” (Jn 2:5).
May your priests have the heart of St.
Joseph,
Mary’s most chaste spouse.
May the Blessed Mother’s own pierced
heart inspire them to embrace
all who suffer at the foot of the cross.
May your priests be holy, filled with
the fire of your love
seeking nothing but your greater
glory and the salvation of souls.

Amen.

Saint John Vianney, pray for us.

Love for our ordained, even the cranky, less than perfect ones, 🙂
Matthew

Aug 15 – Sermon on the Assumption by St John Damascene (675-749 AD), Doctor of the Church & the Assumption


-Assumption of the Virgin, oil on canvas, Height: 237 cm (93.3 in); Width: 169 cm (66.5 in), by Juan Martín Cabezalero, 1660, Prado National Museum, Spain. Please click on the image for greater detail.

-by St John Damascene

“Thy blessed soul is naturally parted from thy blissful and undefiled body, and the body is delivered to the grave, yet it does not endure in death, nor is it the prey of corruption. The body of her, whose virginity remained unspotted in childbirth, was preserved in its incorruption and was taken to a better, diviner place, where death is not, but eternal life. …Therefore I will not call thy sacred transformation death, but rest or going home, and it is more truly a going home … thou dwellest in a happier state.

Angels with archangels bear thee up. Impure spirits trembled at thy departure. The air raises a hymn of praise at thy passage, and the atmosphere is purified. Heaven rejoices thy soul with joy. The heavenly powers greet thee with sacred canticles and with joyous praise saying:

‘Who is this most pure creature ascending, shining as the dawn, beautiful as the moon, conspicuous as the sun? [cf Revelation 12, Song of Songs 6:10] How sweet and beautiful thou art, the lily of the field, the rose among thorns [cf Song of Songs 1:16, 2:1,2]; therefore the young maidens loved thee [cf Song of Songs 1:3]. We are drawn after the odor of thy ointments [cf Song of Songs 1:3-4]. The King introduced thee into His chamber [cf Song of Songs 2:4]. There Powers protect thee, Principalities praise thee, Thrones proclaim thee, Cherubim are hushed in joy, and Seraphim magnify the true Mother by nature and by grace of their very Lord. Thou wert not taken into heaven as Elias [Elijah] was, nor didst thou penetrate to the third heaven with Paul, but thou didst reach the royal throne itself of thy Son, seeing it with thine own eyes, standing by it in joy and unspeakable familiarity. O gladness of angels and of all heavenly powers, sweetness of patriarchs and of the just, perpetual exultation of prophets, rejoicing the world…refreshment of the weary, comfort of the sorrowful…health of the sick, harbour of the storm-tossed, lasting strength of mourners, and perpetual succour of all who invoke thee…’

We, too, approach thee today, O Queen; and again, I say, O Queen, O Virgin Mother of God, staying our souls with our trust in thee, as with a strong anchor. Lifting up mind, soul, and body, and all ourselves to thee, rejoicing in psalms and hymns and spiritual canticles, we reach through thee One who is beyond our reach on account of His Majesty. If, as the divine Word made flesh taught us, honor shown to servants is honor shown to our…Lord, how can honor shown to thee, His Mother, be slighted? How is it not most desirable?…those who think of Thee should recall the memory of Thy most precious gift as the cause of our lasting joy. How it fills us with gladness! How the mind that dwells on this holy treasury of Thy grace enriches itself.

Watch over us, O Queen, the dwelling-place of our Lord. Lead and govern all our ways as thou wilt…Lead us into the calm harbor of the divine will. Make us worthy of future happiness through the sweet and face-to-face vision of the Word made flesh through thee. With Him, glory, praise, power, and majesty be to the Father and to the holy and life-giving Spirit, now and forever. Amen.”

Love,
Matthew