Sunday, December 27, 2015

Feast of the Holy Family, Year C


The Feast of the Holy Family, which honors Jesus, Mary and Joseph, is relatively recent: it was instituted by Pope Leo XIII in 1893 and it commemorates the Holy Family's life at Nazareth. The holiness of their ordinary lives is held up as a model for all Christian families. In his Wednesday audience of December 29, 2011, Pope-emeritus Benedict spoke of the feast:
The house of Nazareth is a school of prayer where we learn to listen, to meditate, to penetrate the deeepest meaning of the manifestation of the Son of God, drawing our example from Mary, Joseph and Jesus.
And in 1964 on the Feast of the Holy Family, Blessed (Pope) Paul XI spoke these beautiful words at Nazareth:
The home of Nazareth is the school where we begin to understand the life of Jesus — the school of the Gospel....
Nativity, Philippe de Champaigne (1602-1674)
First, then, a lesson of silence. May esteem for silence, that admirable and indispensable condition of mind, revive in us, besieged as we are by so many uplifted voices, the general noise and uproar, in our seething and over-sensitised modern life. May the silence of Nazareth teach us recollection, inwardness, the disposition to listen to good inspirations and the teachings of true masters. May it teach us the need for and the value of preparation, of study, of meditation, of personal inner life, of the prayer which God alone sees in secret.
Next, there is a lesson on family life. May Nazareth teach us what family life is, its communion of love, its austere and simple beauty, and its sacred and inviolable character. Let us learn from Nazareth that the formation received at home is gentle and irreplaceable. Let us learn the prime importance of the role of the family in the social order.
May the Holy Family grant peace and unity to all the families of the world! 





Friday, December 25, 2015

Feast of Christmas, Year C

 We wish our friends and all the world a joyful, blessed feast of the Birth of Christ.

Nativity Illumination from a Bible Historiale, central France, 1403-1404. British Library, Harley 4382.

"Today," says St. Augustine,
Truth has sprung up from the earth; Christ is born in the flesh. We must celebrate this day of joy as worthily as we can. It's a day which of its nature impels us to consider also the everlasting day, so we must not fail to turn our minds to that also: with hope that cannot be shaken, we should yearn for gifts that are eternal.
...Let us all together then, perfectly united in mind and heart, celebrate today the birthday of the Lord. Let us celebrate with chaste hearts and holy affections the day on which Truth sprang up from the earth. Does anyone think lightly of this Truth, if it sprang up from the earth? Let him consider that in order that it might come from the earth, it first came down from heaven. He who is this Truth came down in order to raise us up. Let us then learn to be rich in the one who became poor for our sake. Let us accept freedom from the one who for our sake accepted the form of a slave. In the one who for our sake sprang up from the earth, let us in turn take possession of heaven.
May the peace of which the angels sang fill our hearts and all the world!

Sunday, December 20, 2015

4th Sunday of Advent, Year C

The Fourth Sunday of Advent - so close to Christmas! Let us accompany Mary and Joseph in our hearts as they journey to Bethlehem. Let us go forth to greet Christ, as the 12th century Cistercian abbot Guerric of Igny exhorts us:
Our King and Savior is coming; let us run to meet him! "Good news from afar country," in the words of Solomon, "is like cold water to a thirsty soul" and to announce the coming of our Savior and the reconciliation of the world, together with the good things of the life to come, is to bring good news indeed.
"How beautiful are the feet of those who bring good tidings and publish peace!"
Such messengers truly bear a refreshing draught to the soul that thirsts for God; with their news of the Savior’s coming, they joyfully draw and offer us water from the springs of salvation.... Let us too arise with joy and run in spirit to meet our Savior. Hailing him from afar, let us worship him, saying: Come, Lord, "save me and I shall be saved!" Come and "show us your face, and we shall all be saved. We have been waiting for you; be our help in time of trouble." This was how the prophets and saints of old ran to meet the Messiah, filled with immense desire to see with their eyes, if possible, what they already saw in spirit.
We must look forward to the day, so soon to come, on which we celebrate the anniversary of Christ’s birth. Scripture itself insists on the joy which must fill us—a joy which will lift our spirit out of itself in longing for his coming, impatient of delay as it strains forward to see even now what the future holds in store.

Lord, open our hearts to your grace. Through the angel’s message to Mary we have learned to believe in the incarnation of Christ your Son: lead us by his passion and cross to the glory of his resurrection.

Sunday, December 13, 2015

3rd Sunday of Advent, Year C

This Sunday's gospel continues the theme of St. John the Baptist, the voice crying in the desert: "Prepare the way of the Lord, make straight his paths." The people wonder if John himself is the Christ, the long-awaited Messiah. St. Augustine comments:
Since it is difficult to distinguish the voice and the word, John himself was thought to be Christ. The voice was taken to be the Word. But the voice admitted his identity, lest he might displease the Word. I am not the Christ, he said, nor Elijah, nor the prophet. In reply to, Who are you? he said, I am the voice of one crying in the wilderness: Prepare the way of the Lord. The voice of one crying in the wilderness, the voice of one breaking the silence. Prepare the way of the Lord, is as though he said: I cry out to lead him into your heart – but he will not condescend to come where I am leading, unless you prepare the way. 
What does to prepare the way mean, except to pray as you ought, to be humble-minded? Take an example of humility from John himself. He is thought to be the Christ, but he says he is not what people think. He does not use the mistake of others to feed his own pride. Suppose he had said: I am the Christ. How easily would he have been believed, since that was what people were thinking before he spoke! But he did not say it. He acknowledged who he was, distinguished himself from Christ, humbled himself.
 O God, who see how your people faithfully await the feast of the Lord’s Nativity, enable us, we pray, to attain the joys of so great a salvation, and to celebrate them always with solemn worship and glad rejoicing.

Sunday, December 6, 2015

2nd Sunday of Advent, Year C

Today's gospel reading is taken from Luke 3:1-6. It tells of St. John the Baptist proclaiming a baptism of repentance in preparation for the coming of the Messiah. John is the "voice in the wilderness" foretold by Isaiah, the herald who urges us to prepare our hearts for the Savior during this Advent season, as we wait for the Lord's coming.

In his Commentary on St. Luke's Gospel, Origen writes:
We read in the prophet Isaiah: “A voice cries out in the desert: Prepare a way for the Lord. Build him a straight highway.” A way by land? Could the Word of God travel such a road? Is it not rather a way within ourselves that we have to prepare for the Lord? Is it not a straight and level highway in our hearts that we are to make ready? Surely this is the way by which the Word of God enters, a way that exists in the spaciousness of the human body. The human heart is vast, broad, and capacious, if only it is pure.
[I]f what contains so much is not small, let a way be prepared in it for the Lord, a straight highway along which the Word and Wisdom of God may advance. Prepare a way for the Lord by living a good life and guard that way by good works. Let the Word of God move in you unhindered and give you a knowledge of his coming and of his mysteries. To him be glory and power for ever and ever. Amen.

Sunday, November 29, 2015

1st Sunday of Advent, Year C

On this First Sunday of Advent, as we prepare our hearts and lives for the coming of Our Savior, we offer for your meditation this extract from the Advent Sermons of St. Bernard:
It is surely right that you should celebrate our Lord’s coming with all your hearts, and that the greatness of the consolation which his Advent brings us should fill you with joy. Indeed one can only be amazed at the depth of his self-abasement, and stirred up to new fervor by the immensity of his love. But you must not think of his first coming only, when he came to seek and save what was lost; remember that he will come again and take us to himself. It is my desire that you should be constantly meditating upon this twofold advent, continually turning over in your minds of all that he has done for us in the first, and all that he promises to do in the second.
When our Savior comes he will change our lowly bodies into the likeness of his glorious body, provided that our hearts have been changed and made humble as his was. This is why he said: Learn of me, for I am meek and humble of heart. We may note from this text that humility is twofold: that is intellectual humility and a humility of one’s whole disposition and attitude, here called the heart. By the first we recognize that we are nothing; we can learn this much of ourselves from our own weakness. The second enables us to trample the glory of the world under our feet, and this we learn from him who emptied himself, taking the form of a servant. When the people desired to make him a king, he fled from them; but when they wanted to make him undergo the shame and ignominy of the cross, he gave himself up to them of his own free will.

Sunday, November 22, 2015

Solemnity of Christ the King Year B

We wish you every blessing on this feast of Christ the King! Here is part of Pope Francis's homily from last year:
The Gospel teaches what Jesus’ kingdom requires of us: it reminds us that closeness and tenderness are the rule of life for us also, and that on this basis we will be judged. This is the great parable of the final judgement in Matthew 25. The King says: “Come, O blessed of my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world; for I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, I was naked and you clothed me, I was sick and you visited me, I was in prison and you came to me” (25:34-36). The righteous will ask him: when did we do all this? And he will answer them: “Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brethren, you did it to me” (Mt 25:40).
The starting point of salvation is not the confession of the sovereignty of Christ, but rather the imitation of Jesus’ works of mercy through which he brought about his kingdom. The one who accomplishes these works shows that he has welcomed Christ’s sovereignty, because he has opened his heart to God’s charity. In the twilight of life we will be judged on our love for, closeness to and tenderness towards our brothers and sisters. Upon this will depend our entry into, or exclusion from, the kingdom of God: our belonging to the one side or the other. Through his victory, Jesus has opened to us his kingdom. But it is for us to enter into it, beginning with our life now, by being close in concrete ways to our brothers and sisters who ask for bread, clothing, acceptance, solidarity. If we truly love them, we will be willing to share with them what is most precious to us, Jesus himself and his Gospel.

Saturday, November 14, 2015

33rd Sunday of Ordinary Time Year B


Tympanum of Christ seated in glory, Notre  Dame Cathedral

And then shall they see the Son of man coming in clouds with great power and glory. Mark 13:26

Today is the next-to-last Sunday of the liturgical year, before Christ the King. The readings focus on the last days: "Know that he is nigh, even at the doors.... This generation shall not pass away, until all these things are accomplished."

St. Gregory Palamas (1296-1359), a monk of Mount Athos and later Archbishop of Thessaloniki in Greece speaks of the Last Judgement:
All those who hold to true faith in our Lord Jesus Christ and show proof of their faith by good works, guarding themselves from sins or cleansing themselves from their stains by confession and repentance; who practice the virtues opposed to those sins—temperance, chastity, love, almsgiving, justice, and fair dealing—all these, I say, will rise again to hear the king of heaven himself saying to them: "Come, my Father’s blessed ones, inherit the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world."
So will they reign with Christ, receiving as their inheritance that heavenly kingdom which cannot be shaken, living for ever in the ineffable light that knows no evening and is interrupted by no night, having fellowship with all the saints who have lived from the beginning of time, and enjoying delights beyond description in Abraham’s embrace, where all pain has fled away, and all grief and groaning.
Grant us, we pray, O Lord our God, the constant gladness of being devoted to you, for it is full and lasting happiness to serve with constancy the author of all that is good. ~ Collect at Mass

Sunday, November 8, 2015

32nd Sunday of Ordinary Time Year B

Widow's Mite, Sant'Appollinare Nuovo, Ravenna (6th c.)
Today's gospel, from Mark 12:38-44, tells of the poor widow who casts two coins, all she had, into the temple treasury. Jesus, comparing her to the wealthy donors, says "Truly I tell you, this poor widow has put more into the treasury than all the others. They all gave out of their wealth; but she, out of her poverty, put in everything – all she had to live on."

The reading at Vigils this morning is taken from a letter written by a saint who followed this example. St. Paulinus, Bishop of Nola (ca. 354-431 AD) was a wealthy Roman aristocrat who, after his conversion to Christianity, renounced a political career, gave away his property and fortune to the poor. Here's part of his letter:
Call to mind the widow who forgot herself in her concern for the poor, and, thinking only of the life to come, gave away all her means of subsistence, as the judge himself bears witness. Others, he says, have given of their superfluous wealth. But she, possessed of only two small coins and more needy perhaps than many of the poor – though in spiritual riches she surpassed all the wealthy – she thought only of the world to come, and had such a longing for heavenly treasure that she gave away, all at once, whatever she had that was derived from the earth and destined to return there.
Let us then invest with the Lord what he has given us, for we have nothing that does not come from him: we are dependent upon him for our very existence. And we ourselves particularly, who have a special and a greater debt, since God not only created us but purchased us as well – what can we regard as our own when we do not possess even ourselves? ... So let us give back to the Lord the gifts he has given us; let us give to him who receives in the person of every poor man or woman. Let us give gladly, I say, and great joy will be ours when we receive his promised reward.


Sunday, November 1, 2015

November 1 Solemnity of All Saints, Year B

Today we celebrate the Solemnity of All Saints. This glorious feast has its roots in the early Church, when a martyr's death was commemmorated on the anniversary at the place of martyrdom. By the 4th century, the Church honored all martyrs, known and unknown, on a common feastday. In the early 600s, Pope Boniface IV dedicated the Roman Pantheon (Greek for "All the gods"), which had been a pagan temple, to the Blessed Virgin Mary and all the martyrs. He also established the "Feast of All Martyrs," which by the mid-700s was extended to include all the saints in heaven.

In a homily, St. Bernard spoke movingly about our fellowship with the saints in glory:
Why should our praise and glorification, or even the celebration of this feast day mean anything to the saints? What do they care about earthly honors when their heavenly Father honors them by fulfilling the faithful promise of the Son? What does our commendation mean to them? The saints have no need of honor from us; neither does our devotion add the slightest thing to what is theirs. Clearly, if we venerate their memory, it serves us, not them. But I tell you, when I think of them, I feel myself inflamed by a tremendous yearning.
Calling the saints to mind inspires, or rather arouses in us, above all else, a longing to enjoy their company, so desirable in itself. We long to share in the citizenship of heaven, to dwell with the spirits of the blessed.
Come, brothers, let us at length spur ourselves on. We must rise again with Christ, we must seek the world which is above and set our mind on the things of heaven. Let us long for those who are longing for us, hasten to those who are waiting for us, and ask those who look for our coming to intercede for us. We should not only want to be with the saints, we should also hope to possess their happiness. While we desire to be in their company, we must also earnestly seek to share in their glory. Do not imagine that there is anything harmful in such an ambition as this; there is no danger in setting our hearts on such glory.
On this feast of Alls Saints, and every day, may this "great cloud of witnesses" in heavenly glory intercede for us!

The Forerunners of Christ with Saints & Martyrs (ca. 1423-24), Fra Angelico (National Gallery, London)


Sunday, October 25, 2015

30th Sunday of Ordinary Time, Year B

Blind Man of Bethsaida, from the Armenian ms. Glajor Gospels (ca. 1301-1325) UCLA



















In today's gospel (Mark 10: 46-52), St. Mark recounts Jesus' healing of the blind beggar Bartimaeus. "Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me!" the beggar cries. Rebuked by the crowd, Bartimaeus cries out all the more, "Son of David, have mercy on me!" and Jesus asks him, "What do you want me to do for you?" Rabbi, let me recover my sight," he replies, and when Jesus says to him, "Go your way; your faith has made you well," he recovers his sight.

In his beautiful Exhortation to the Greeks, St. Clement of Alexandria talks about blindness, light and dark, and receiving Christ the Light into our minds and hearts. It's a long passage, but it's so moving we're posting it in its entirety. If you use it for lectio divina this week, we suggest you read a paragraph a day. It's worth it!
The commandment of the Lord shines clearly, enlightening the eyes. Receive Christ, receive power to see, receive your light, “that you may plainly recognise both God and man”. More delightful than gold and precious stones, more desirable than honey and the honeycomb is the Word that has enlightened us. How could he not be desirable, he who illumined minds buried in darkness, and endowed with clear vision “the light-bearing eyes” of the soul?
“Despite the other stars, without the sun the whole world would be plunged in darkness.” So likewise we ourselves, had we not known the Word and been enlightened by him, should have been no better off than plump poultry fattened in the dark, simply reared for death. Let us open ourselves to the light, then, and so to God. Let us open ourselves to the light, and become disciples of the Lord. For he promised his Father: I will make known your name to my brothers and sisters, and praise you where they are assembled.
Sing his praises, then, Lord, and make known to me your Father, who is God. Your words will save me, your song instruct me. Hitherto I have gone astray in my search for God; but now that you light my path, Lord, and I find God through you, and receive the Father from you, I become co-heir with you, since you were not ashamed to own me as your brother.
Let us, then, shake off forgetfulness of truth, shake off the and darkness that dims our eyes, and contemplate the true God, after first raising this song of praise to him: “All hail, O Light!” For upon us buried in darkness, imprisoned in the shadow of death, a heavenly light has shone, a light of a clarity surpassing the sun’s, and of a sweetness exceeding any this earthly life can offer. That light is eternal life, and those who receive it live. Night, on the other hand, is afraid of the light, and melting away in terror gives place to the day of the Lord. Unfailing light has penetrated everywhere, and sunset has turned into dawn. This is the meaning of the new creation; for the Sun of Righteousness, pursuing his course through the universe, visit all alike, in imitation of his Father, who makes his sun rise upon all, and bedews everyone with his truth.
He it is who has changed sunset into dawn and death into life by his crucifixion; he it is who has snatched the human race from perdition and exalted it to the skies. Transplanting what was corruptible to make it incorruptible, transforming earth into heaven, he, God’s gardener, points the way to prosperity, prompt his people to good works, “reminds them how to live” according to the truth, and bestows on us the truly great and divine heritage of the Father, which cannot be taken away from us. He deifies us by his heavenly teaching, instilling his laws into our minds, and writing them on our hearts. What are the laws he prescribes? That all, be they of high estate or low, shall know God. And I will be merciful to them, God says, and I will remember their sin no more.












Sunday, October 18, 2015

29th Sunday in Ordinary Time Year B

In this Sunday's gospel (Mark 10: 35-45), the disciples are again vying for first place. James and John ask Jesus, "Grant to us that we may sit, one on your right hand and one on your left hand, in your glory." Our Lord responds in part, "Whosoever would be great among you shall be your minister, and whosoever would be first among you, shall be servant of all. For the Son of Man also came not to be ministered unto, but to minister, and to give his life as a ransom for many."

The papal title "Servant of the Servants of God" is derived from this text. Pope Gregory the Great, pope from 590-604 AD, was the first to use this designation frequently. His successor Pope Francis, made these remarks about Christ's humility in a homily to the poor and prison inmates in the Cathedral of Cagliari:
Love is free. Charity, love is life choice, it is a way of being, a way of life, it is a path of humilty and of solidarity. There is no other way for this love: to be humble and in solidarity with others....this is the way, humility and solidarity. Why? ... It was JesusHe said it! And we want to take this path. Christ's humility is not moralism or a feeling. Christ's humility was realit is the choice of being small, of staying with the lowliest and with the marginalized, staying among all of us sinners. Be careful, this is not an ideology! It is a way of being and a way of life that comes from love and from God's heart.


Sunday, October 11, 2015

28th Sunday in Ordinary Time Year B

In today's reading from Mark 10: 17-30, the rich young man asks Jesus, "Good teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?" and Jesus answers: “Why do you ask me about what is good? There is only one who is good. If you wish to enter into life, keep the commandments.”

In his encyclical Veritatis Splendor, St. John Paul says about this gospel:
Before answering the question, Jesus wishes the young man to have a clear idea of why he asked his question. The ‘Good Teacher’ points out to him – and to all of us – that the answer to the question, “What good must I do to have eternal life?” can only be found by turning one’s mind and heart to the ‘One’ who is good: “No one is good but God alone.” Only God can answer the question about what is good, because he is the Good itself. 
To ask about the good, in fact, ultimately means to turn towards God, the fullness of goodness. Jesus shows that the young man’s question is really a religious question, and that the goodness that attracts and at the same time obliges man has its source in God, and indeed is God himself. God alone is worthy of being loved “with all one’s heart, and with all one’s soul, and with all one's mind.” He is the source of man’s happiness. Jesus brings the question about morally good action back to its religious foundations, to the acknowledgment of God, who alone is goodness, fullness of life, the final end of human activity, and perfect happiness.
Christ and the Rich Young Man, by Heinrich Hoffman (Riverside Church)


Sunday, October 4, 2015

27th Sunday in Ordinary Time Year B

In the beginning of today's gospel reading, taken from Mark 10: 2-16, Jesus is questioned by the Pharisees about divorce. “Is it lawful for a man to divorce his wife?” In part of his his response, he quotes from Genesis 2:24, "For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh."

This image of marriage is a symbol of Christ and the Church. Jacob Serugh, a Syriac poet-theologian who died in 521 AD comments on this image in a vivid homily:
Wives are not united to their husbands as closely as the Church is to the Son of God. What husband but our Lord ever died for his wife, and what bride ever chose a crucified man as her husband? Who ever gave his blood as a gift to his wife except the One who died on the cross and sealed the marriage bond with his wounds? Who was ever seen lying dead at his own wedding banquet with his wife at his side seeking to console herself by embracing him? At what other celebration, at what other feast is the bridegroom’s body distributed to the guests in the form of bread?
Death separates wives from their husbands, but in this case it is death that unites the bride to her beloved. He died on the cross, bequeathed his body to his glorious spouse, and now every day she receives and consumes it at his table. She consumes it under the form of bread, and under the form of the wine that she drinks, so that the whole world may know that they are no longer two but one.
May Christ the Bridegroom, who gave his life so that we might have life, unite us ever more closely to himself!

Icon of Christ, the Bridegroom and Mary, the Bride Church, from Sacro Speco

Sunday, September 27, 2015

26th Sunday in Ordinary Time Year B

In today's reading, taken from chapter 9 of the Gospel of St. Mark, Jesus tells his disciples, "Anyone who gives you a cup of water to drink because you belong to Christ, amen, I say to you, will surely not lose his reward."

A cup of water! What a simple, easy thing to give. And yet our Lord says that it will not go unrewarded. Pseudo-Chrysostom, an early Church writer says about this:
Every man must care for others, no one is too poor. Even the gift of a cup of cold water will obtain a reward; for it is not the value of the gift, but the dignity of those who receive it, and the feelings of the giver, which makes a work worthy of reward.
Mother Teresa of Calcutta said, "Don't look for big things, just do small things with great love....The smaller the thing, the greater must be our love." May God help us in our daily lives to find our eternal reward through such simple acts of love!

Jesus and the Samaritan Woman at the Well,
Wall painting from the Church of St, Mary, Ethiopia (13th c.)

Sunday, September 20, 2015

25th Sunday in Ordinary Time Year B

In today's Gospel, from Mark 9:30-37, the disciples are arguing about who among them is the greatest. It's pretty encouraging that even those closest to Jesus during his lifetime, those whom he taught, had their priorities upside down! Jesus responds by telling them, "Anyone who wants to be first must be the very last, and the servant of all."

Here's a commentary on this passage by St. Theophylact (1050-1107 AD), bishop of Ohrid in Bulgaria:

He came to Capernaum, and after the entering the house he questioned the disciples: “What were you arguing about on the way?” Now the disciples still saw things from a very human point of view, and they had been quarrelling amongst themselves about which of them was the greatest and the most esteemed by Christ. Yet the Lord did not restrain their desire for pre-eminent honor; indeed he wishes us to aspire to the most exalted rank. He does not however wish us to seize the first place, but rather to win the highest honor by humility.

He stood a child among them because he wants us to become childlike. A child has no desire for honor; it is not jealous, and it does not remember injuries. And he said: “If you become like that, you will receive a great reward, and if, moreover, for my sake, you honor others who are like that, you will receive the kingdom of heaven; for you will be receiving me, and in receiving me you receive the one who sent me.

You see then what great things humility, together with simplicity and guilelessness, can accomplish. It causes both the Son and the Father to dwell in us, and with them of course comes the Holy Spirit also.

Jesus washing Peter's feet by Ford Maddox Brown, detail (1852-6)




Sunday, September 13, 2015

24th Sunday of Ordinary Time, Year B

In today's Gospel, Our Lord tells his disciples that "Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me. For whoever wants to save their life will lose it, but whoever loses their life for me and for the gospel will save it." Here is part St. Caesarius of Arles' beautiful commentary on this Gospel:

Vincenzo Catena
Christ bearing the Cross (c. 1520/30)
"As well as telling us to renounce ourselves, our Lord and Savior said that we must take up our cross and follow him. What does it mean to take up one’s cross? Bearing every annoyance patiently. That is following Christ. When someone begins to follow his way of life and his commandments, that person will meet resistance on every side. He or she will be opposed, mocked, even persecuted, and this not only by unbelievers but also by people who to all appearances belong to the body of Christ, though they are really excluded from it by their wickedness; people who, being Christians only in name, never stop persecuting true Christians.

If you want to follow Christ, then, take up his cross without delay. Endure injuries, do not be overcome by them. If we would fulfil the Lord’s command: If anyone wants to be my disciple, let him take up his cross and follow me, we must strive with God’s help to do as the Apostle says: As long as we have food and clothing, let this content us.  Otherwise, if we seek more material goods than we need and desire to become rich, we may fall prey to temptation. The devil may trick us into wanting the many useless and harmful things that plunge people into ruin and destruction. May we be free from this temptation to the protection of our Lord, lives and reigns with the Father and the Holy Spirit for ever and ever. Amen."

Sunday, September 6, 2015

23rd Sunday of Ordinary Time, Year B

In this Sunday's Gospel, Jesus has just healed the man born deaf and mute. The crowd says of Jesus, “He has done all things well. He has made the deaf hear and the dumb speak.” St. Lawrence of Brindisi, the 16th century Capuchin and Doctor of the Church, comments:

Christ healing a Deaf-Mute, Bibliothèque national de France, 14th c.

"He has done all things well." The law says that all God did was good; the gospel says he has done all things well. Doing a good deed is not quite the same as doing it well. Many do good deeds but fail to do them well. The deeds of hypocrites, for example, are good, but they are done in the wrong spirit, with a perverse and defective intention.

Everything God does, however, is not only good but is also done well. "The Lord is just in all his ways and holy in all his deeds." With wisdom you have done them all: that is to say, most wisely and well. So "he has done all things well," they say.

Now if God has done all his good works and done them well for our sake, knowing that we take pleasure in goodness, why I ask do we not endeavor to make all our works good and to do them well, knowing that such works are pleasing to God?

So even in this present life we shall be happy, this world will be an earthly paradise for us; with the Hebrews we shall feast on heavenly manna in the desert of this life, if only we follow Christ’s example by striving to do everything well, so that "he has done all things well" may be said of each one of us.

Sunday, August 30, 2015

22nd Sunday of Ordinary Time, Year B

Faith, Hope and Charity,
by Karp Zolotaryov (1685)
Todays gospel reading is taken from chapter seven of Mark. The Pharisees have just asked Jesus, “Why don’t your disciples live according to the tradition of the elders instead of eating their food with defiled hands?” Jesus replies, “Isaiah was right when he prophesied about you hypocrites; as it is written: ‘These people honor me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me. They worship me in vain; their teachings are merely human rules. You have let go of the commands of God and are holding on to human traditions.”

St. Irenaeus, the second century bishop and Father of the Church, wrote about this: “That [love of God] is the first and greatest commandment, the second being love of our neighbor, the Lord taught by saying that the whole of the law and the prophets depend on these two commandments. He himself brought no greater commandment than this but he renewed this same commandment by bidding his disciples love God with their whole heart, and their neighbour as themselves.

Paul also says that love is the fulfilment of the law. When all other charisms fail, faith, hope, and love remain, but the greatest of all is love. Knowledge is of no avail without the love of God, nor is understanding of mysteries, faith, or prophecy. Without love all are vain and profitless. Love on the other hand perfects a person, and one who loves God is perfect both in this world and the next, for we shall never stop loving God – the longer we gaze upon him the more our love for him will grow.”

Sunday, August 23, 2015

21st Sunday of Ordinary Time, Year B

This week's Sunday Gospel reading is from John 6: 60-69. After Jesus has fed the crowd of five thousand he tells them that he is the Bread of Life: “I am the living bread that came down from heaven. Whoever eats this bread will live forever. This bread is my flesh, which I will give for the life of the world.” After that, many of his disciples left him. He turns and asks the twelve apostles, “Will you also leave me?” Peter responds, “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life.”

St. Cyril, Bishop of Alexandria from 412-444 A.D, comments on this passage: To whom shall we go? Peter asks. In other words, “Who else will instruct us the way you do?” Or, “To whom shall we go to find anything better?” You have the words of eternal life; not hard words, as those other disciples say, but words that will bring us to the loftiest goal, unceasing, endless life removed from all corruption. These words surely make quite obvious to us the necessity for sitting at the feet of Christ, taking him as our one and only teacher, and giving him our constant and undivided attention. He must be our guide who knows well how to lead us to everlasting life. Thus, thus shall we ascend to the divine court of heaven, and entering the church of the first born, delight in blessings passing all human understanding.

Jesus and St. Peter, Miraculous Draught of Fishes, detail from a tapestry by Raphael

Sunday, August 16, 2015

20th Sunday of Ordinary Time, The Canaanite Woman

From a homily by St. John Chrysostom:

The Canaanite woman whose daughter was tormented by a devil came to Christ begging his help. Most urgently she cried out: Lord, have pity on me. My daughter is grievously tormented by a devil. Notice that the woman was a foreigner, a gentile, a person from outside the Jewish community. What was she then but a dog, unworthy to obtain her request? It is not fair, said the Lord, to take the children’s bread and give it to the dogs. Nevertheless, by perseverance she became worthy; for Christ not only admitted her to the same noble rank as the children, dog though she was, but he also sent her away with high praise, saying: Woman, you have great faith. Let it be as you desire. Now when Christ says: You have great faith, you need seek no further proof of the woman’s greatness of soul. You see that an unworthy woman became worthy by perseverance.
Jesus exorcising the Canaanite Woman's daughter,
from the Tr√®s Riches Heures du Duc de Berry, 15th c.

Now would you like proof that we shall gain more by praying ourselves than by asking others to pray for us? The woman cried out and the disciples went to Christ and said: Give her what she wants – she is shouting after us. And he said to them: I was sent only to the lost sheep of the house of Israel. But when the woman herself, still crying out, came to him and said: That is true, sir, and yet the dogs eat what falls from their master’s table, then he granted her request, saying: Let it be as you desire.

Have you understood? When the disciples entreated him the Lord put them off, but when the woman herself cried out begging for this favour he granted it. And at the beginning when she first made her request, he did not answer, but after she had come to him once, twice, and a third time, he gave her what she desired. By this he was teaching us that he had withheld the gift not to drive her away, but to make that woman’s patience an example for all of us.

Now that we have learned these lessons, let us not despair even if we are guilty of sin and unworthy of any favour. We know that we can make ourselves worthy by perseverance.

Sunday, August 9, 2015

19th Sunday of Ordinary Time

From a Sermon by Eutychius of Constantinople:

I have greatly longed to eat this passover with you before I suffer. The Lord’s eating of the passover before he suffered was clearly symbolic and sacramental, because but for the passion it would not have been called the passover. He immolated himself sacramentally when, after supper, he took bread into his own hands, gave thanks, held it up and broke it, mingling himself with the sacred element. In the same way he also mixed the cup containing fruit of the vine; he gave thanks, showed it to God the Father, and said: Take, eat; and, Take, drink. This is my body, and This is my blood.

Everyone receives the Lord’s sacred body and precious blood in their entirety, even though each receives only a portion, for the mingling enables them to be shared among all without division. A seal imparts its complete image to everything it is impressed upon, yet remains a single seal. It is not diminished by use, nor is it altered in any way no matter how many impressions are made. The sound produced by the human voice goes out on to the air, yet remains a single sound. Carried on the air, it reaches the ears of all in full strength. No one hears more or less of it than anyone else. The same complete and undiminished sound comes to all its hearers, however numinous they may be; and yet it is a physical phenomenon, for sound is nothing but the vibration of air.

No one, then, after the sacramental sacrifice and the holy resurrection, should have any doubt regarding the incorruptible, immortal, holy, and life-giving body and blood of the Lord. Once infused into the sacred elements through the liturgical rites, they communicate their own properties no less than do the aforementioned examples. They are wholly present in every part, for then the Lord’s body dwells corporally, that is to say, substantially, all the fullness of the divine nature of the Word of God. The breaking of this precious bread signifies his sacrificial death, and so he spoke of the passover as something to be longed for because it was to bring us salvation, immortality, and perfect knowledge. 

Sunday, August 2, 2015

18th Sunday in Ordinary Time

From a commentary on St. John's Gospel by St. Theophylact

Our Lord refers to himself as the true bread not because the manna was something illusory, but because it was only a type and a shadow, and not the reality it signified.

5th c. mosaic,Church of the Multiplication of the Loaves and Fish, Tabgha, Israel.
This bread, being the Son of the living Father, is life by its very nature, and accordingly gives life to all. Just as earthly bread sustains the fragile substance of the flesh and prevents it from falling into decay, so Christ quickens the soul through the power of the Spirit, and also preserves even the body for immortality. Through Christ resurrection from the dead and bodily immortality have been gratuitously bestowed upon the human race.

Jesus said to the people: “I am the bread of life. Whoever comes to me shall never hunger, and whoever believes in me shall never thirst.” He did not say “the bread of bodily nourishment” but “the bread of life”. For when everything had been reduced to a condition of spiritual death, the Lord gave us life through himself, who is bread because, as we believe, the leaven in the dough of our humanity was baked through and through by the fire of his divinity. He is the bread not of this ordinary life, but of a very different kind of life which death will never cut short.

Whoever believes in this bread will never hunger, will never be famished for want of hearing the word of God; nor will such a person be parched by spiritual thirst few lack of the waters of baptism and the consecration imparted by the Spirit. The unbaptized, deprived of the refreshment afforded by the sacred water, suffer thirst and great aridity. The baptized, on the other hand, being possessed of the Spirit, enjoy its continual consolation.

Sunday, July 26, 2015

17th Sunday of Ordinary Time, Christ feeds 5,000

From a homily on St. John's Gospel by St. Augustine

The miracles wrought by our Lord Jesus Christ are truly divine works, which lead the human mind through visible things to perception of the Godhead. God is not the kind of being that can be seen with the eyes, and small account is taken of the miracles than which he rules the entire universe and governs all creation because they recur so regularly. Scarcely anyone bothers to consider God’s marvellous, his amazing artistry in every tiny seed. And so certain works are excluded from the ordinary course of nature, works which God in his mercy has reserved for himself, so as to perform them at appropriate times. People who hold cheap what they see every day are dumbfounded at the sight of extraordinary works even though they are no more wonderful than the others.

Miracle of the Loaves and Fishes
French late 12th-early 13th c., Victoria & Albert Museum
Governing the entire universe is a greater miracle than feeding five thousand people with five loaves of bread, yet no one marvels at it. People marvel at the feeding of five thousand not because this miracle is greater, but because it is out of the ordinary.

Who is even now providing nourishment for the whole world if not the God who creates a field of wheat from a few seeds? Christ did what God does. Just as God multiplies a few seeds into a whole field of wheat, so Christ multiplied the five loaves in his hands. For there was power in the hands of Christ. Those five loaves were like seeds, not because they were cast on the earth but because they were multiplied by the one who made the earth.

This miracle was performed for the multitude to see; it was recorded for us to hear. Faith does for us what sight did for them. We behold with the mind what are our eyes cannot see; and we are preferred to then because of us it was said: Blessed are those who have not seen and yet believe.


Sunday, July 19, 2015

16th Sunday of Ordinary Time

“Thus when Jesus landed he saw a large crowd He took pity on them because they were like sheep without a shepherd: and he began to teach them many things.”

From a commentary on Mark’s Gospel by St. Bede the Venerable:

Matthew relates more fully how he took pity on them. He says: “And he took pity on them and cured their sick.” This is what it means really to take pity on the poor, and on those who have no one to guide them: to open the way of truth to them by teaching, to heal their physical infirmities, and to make them want to praise the divine generosity by feeding them when they are hungry as Jesus did according to the following verses.

Jesus tested the crowd’s faith, and having done so he gave it a fitting reward. He sought out a lonely place to see if they would take the trouble to follow him.

For their part, they showed how concerned they were for their salvation by the effort they made in going along the deserted road not on donkeys or in carts of various kinds, but on foot.

In return Jesus welcomed those weary, ignorant, sick, and hungry people, instructing, healing, and feeding them as a kindly savior and physician, and so letting them know how pleased he is by believers’ devotion to him.

Christ as the Good Shepherd, Mausoleum of Galla Placidia, Italy, AD 425


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Friday, July 17, 2015

"Like the deer that yearns for running streams." Psalm 41 (42)

One of the screens was down in our cloister and a fawn leapt through! We found it when we came over to Lauds.


Friday, July 10, 2015

Solemnity of St. Benedict


We wish you all a blessed Feast of our Holy Father St. Benedict!

From a Brief by Blessed Paul VI

Saint Benedict has the reputation of being the messenger of peace, the maker of unity, the master of civilization, and especially the herald of Christianity and the author of monasticism in the West. When darkness seemed to be spreading over Europe after the fall of the Roman empire, he brought the light of dawn to shine upon this continent. For with the cross, the book, and the plough, Christian civilization was carried, principally through him and his sons, to the peoples who lived in those lands which stretch from the Mediterranean to Scandinavia, and from Ireland to the plains of Poland.

St Benedict healing a leper.
Fresco fragment from the lower church of San Crisogono, Rome
With the cross, that is, with the law of Christ, he strengthened and developed the institutions of private and social life. Through the “Work of God,” that is, through the careful and assiduous conduct of prayer, he taught that divine worship was of the greatest importance in the social order. And so he sealed that spiritual unity of Europe in which the various nations of different ethnic origins and languages felt themselves to be united into the one people of God. And so this unity, learnt from so great a master, which the sons of Saint Benedict so faithfully strove to achieve, became the principal element in that period of history called the middle ages. All men of good will in our times must strive to recover that unity, which, as Saint Augustine says, is “the form of all beauty,” and which alas has been lost in the vicissitudes of history.

With the book, that is, with the culture of the mind, this venerable patriarch from whom so many monasteries have drawn their name and their spirit spread his doctrine through the old classics of literature and the liberal arts, preserved and passed on to posterity by them with so much care.

And lastly, with the plough, that is, through agriculture, he changed the waste and desert lands into orchards and delightful gardens; and joining work with prayer in the spirit of those words ora et labora, he restored the dignity of human labor.

Not without reason, then, did Pope Pius XII call Saint Benedict the “Father of Europe,” for he inspired the peoples of this continent with the love of order upon which their social life depends. We pray he may look upon Europe, and by his prayer achieve even greater things in years to come.

Sunday, July 5, 2015

14th Sunday of Ordinary Time, Christ preaches in Nazareth

From a conference by St. Symeon the New Theologian

Many people never stop saying – I have heard them myself – “If only we had lived in the days of the apostles, and been counted worthy to gaze upon Christ as they did, we should have become holy like them.” Such people do not realise that the Christ who spoke then and the Christ who speaks now throughout the whole world is one and the same. If he were not the same then and now, God in every respect, in his operations as in the sacraments, how would it be seen that the Father is always in the Son and the Son in the Father, according to the words Christ spoke through the Spirit: My Father is still working and so am I?

But no doubt someone will say that merely to hear his words now and to be taught about him and his kingdom is not the same thing as to have seen him then in the body. And I answer that indeed the position now is not the same as it was then, but our situation now, in the present day, is very much better. It leads us more easily to a deeper faith and conviction than seeing and hearing him in the flesh would have done.

Christ preaching in the synagogue at Nazareth
14th c. fresco- from the Visoki Decani Monastery-Kosovo
Then even those of lowliest condition held him in contempt. They said: Is this not the son of Mary, and of Joseph the carpenter? Now kings and rulers worship him as Son of the true God, and himself true God, and he has glorified and continues to glorify those who worship him in spirit and in truth.... Then he was thought to be mortal and corruptible like the rest of humankind. He was no different in appearance from other men. The formless and invisible God, without change or alteration, assumed a human form and showed himself to be a normal human being. He ate, he drank, he slept, he sweated, and he grew weary. He did everything other people do, except that he did not sin.

Sunday, June 28, 2015

13th Sunday of Ordinary Time, Gospel of Christ raising the daughter of Jairus


From a Sermon by St. Peter Chrysologus:

Every gospel reading, Beloved, is most helpful both from our present life and for the attainment of the life to come. Today’s reading, however, sums up the whole of our hope, banishing all grounds for despair.

My daughter has just died. Do come. What he means is that the warmth of life still remains, there are still indications that her soul has not departed, her spirit is still in this world, the head of the house still has a daughter, the underworld is still unaware of her death. Come quickly and hold back the departing soul!

Christ raises the daughter of Jairus, Yelena Cherkasova
In his ignorance the man assumed that Christ would not be able to raise his daughter unless he actually laid his hand on her.  So when Christ reached the house and saw the mourners lamenting as though the girl were dead, he declared that she was not dead but sleeping, in order to move their understanding minds to faith and convince them that one can rise from death more easily than from sleep.

The girl is not dead, he told them, but asleep. And indeed, for God death is nothing but sleep, since he can raise the dead to life more quickly than we can rouse a sleeper. He can restore life-giving warmth to limbs grown cold in death sooner than we can impart vigour to bodies sunk in slumber. Listen to the Apostle: In an instant, in the twinkling of an eye, the dead will rise. He used an image because it was impossible to express the speed of the resurrection in words. How could he explain its swiftness verbally when divine power outstrips the very notion of swiftness? How could time enter the picture when an eternal gift is given outside of time? Time implies generation, but eternity excludes time.

Sunday, June 21, 2015

12th Sunday in Ordinary Time

From a Sermon by St. Augustine, on the Gospel of Christ calming the storm at sea:

With the Lord’s help I want to speak to about today’s reading from the holy gospel, and to urge you in his name not to let your faith lie dormant in your hearts when you are buffeted by the winds and waves of this world. The Lord Christ’s power is by no means dead, nor is it asleep. Do you think the Almighty was overcome by sleep in the boat against his will? If you do, then Christ is asleep in your hearts. If he were indeed keeping watch within you, then your faith too would be vigilant. The Apostle, remember, speaks of Christ dwelling in your hearts through faith.

From the Monastery of Agios Nikolaos Philanthropinon,
Ioannina, Greece, ca. 1531
When you have to listen to abuse, that means you are being buffeted by the wind; when your anger is roused, you are being tossed by the waves. So when the winds blow and the waves mount high, the boat is in danger, your heart is imperiled, your heart is taking a battering. On hearing yourself insulted, you long to retaliate; but the joy of revenge brings with it another kind of misfortune – shipwreck. Why is this? Because Christ is asleep in you. What do I mean? I mean you have forgotten his presence. Rouse him, then; remember him, let him keep watch within you, pay heed to him. Now what was your desire? You wanted to get your own back. You have forgotten that when Christ was being crucified he said: Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do. Christ, the sleeper in your heart, had no desire for vengeance in his. Rouse him, then, call him to mind. (To remember him is to recall his words; to remember him as to recall his commands.) Then, when he is awake within you, you will ask yourself, “Whatever kind of wretch am I to be thirsting for revenge? Who am I to threaten another? Suppose I were to die before I am avenged! Suppose I were to take leave of my body breathing out threats, inflamed with rage and thirsting for that vengeance which Christ himself never sought; would he not refuse to receive me? He who said, Give and it shall be given you; forgive and you will be forgiven, would indeed declined to acknowledge me. So I will curb my anger and restore peace to my heart.”

Friday, June 12, 2015

Feast of the Sacred Heart


Sacred Heart, by Charles Bosseron Chambers (1882-1964)
From a Sermon by St. Augustine:

Here you all are now, ready to come to the sacred font where you will be washed clean in baptism and made new by being born again in the saving waters. When you come up from the font, you will be without sin. All the things that burden you from your past will be blotted out. Your sins will be like the Egyptians who pursued the Israelites – they pursued them only as far as the Red Sea. Now what does “as far as the Red Sea” mean? As far as the baptismal font, which has been consecrated by the cross and the blood of Christ. It is called the Red Sea because of its ruddy hue. And do you not see the stain of blood upon those who belong to Christ? Look with the eyes of faith. When you see the cross, visualize the blood also. When you see the body hanging on the cross, contemplate the blood streaming from it. Christ’s side was pierced with a lance, and our ransom poured out. This is the reason why baptism, that is to say the water into which you are dipped, is signed by the cross of Christ; it is as if you were crossing over the Red Sea. Your sins are your enemies; they pursue you, but only as far as the sea.

When you enter the font you escape from them. They are wiped out, just as the Egyptians were engulfed by the waves while the Israelites escaped dry-shod. What does the Scripture say? Not one of them remained. Whether your sins are many or few, great or small, not the least one of them remains.

Sunday, June 7, 2015

Feast of Corpus Christi

Manuscript illumination, ca. 1320
From Pope Francis' homily on the Feast of Corpus Christi, 2015:

In the Last Supper, Jesus gives His Body and his Blood by means of the bread and the wine, to leave us the memorial of His sacrifice of infinite love. With this viaticum full to overflowing with grace, the disciples have everything they need for their long journey through history, to extend the kingdom of God to everyone. Light and strength will be for them the gift that Jesus made of Himself, sacrificing Himself voluntarily on the Cross. This Bread of Life has come down to us! The Church is in unending awe before this reality – an awe that endlessly nourishes contemplation, adoration, memory. This is seen in a beautiful text of today’s Liturgy, the Responsory of the second reading of the Office of Readings, which says: “See in this bread the body of Christ which hung upon the cross, and in this cup the blood which flowed from His side. Take His body, then, and eat it; take His blood and drink it, and you will become His members. The body of Christ is the bond which unites you to him: eat it, or you will have no part in him. The blood is the price he paid for your redemption: drink it, lest you despair of your sinfulness.”

We ask ourselves what it means today, to be torn from Him, to despair – as cowards – of our sinfulness?

We are torn from Him when we are not obedient to the Word of the Lord, when we do not live brotherhood between us, when we race to occupy the first places, when we do not find the courage to witness to charity, when we are unable to offer hope. The Eucharist allows us to be not torn from Him, for it is the bond of communion, is the fulfillment of the Covenant, a living sign of the love of Christ who humbled and annihilated Himself for us, that we might remain united. By participating in the Eucharist and by feeding on it, we are inserted into a way that does not admit divisions. The Christ present in our midst, in the signs of bread and wine, requires that the power of love exceed every laceration, and at the same time that it become communion with the poor, support for the weak, fraternal attention to those who are struggling to carry the weight of everyday life.

Sunday, May 31, 2015

Trinity Sunday


Even the gifts that the Spirit dispenses to individuals are given by the Father through the Word. For all that belongs to the Father belongs also to the Son, and so the graces given by the Son in the Spirit are true gifts of the Father. Similarly, when the Spirit dwells in us, the Word who bestows the Spirit is in us too, and the Father is present in the Word. This is the meaning of the text: My Father and I will come to him and make our home with him. For where the light is, there also is the radiance; and where the radiance is, there too are its power and its resplendent grace.

From the First Letter to Serapion by St. Athanasius


Book miniature of Rublev's Trinity (Unknown painter)

Saturday, May 23, 2015

Pentecost Sunday


The beautiful thirteenth century sequence, Veni Sancte Spiritu, is sung at Mass on Pentecost Sunday, but it's a wonderful prayer for any day of the year. Here's an English translation.

From the Hours of John of Berry, c. 1405/10 (British Library)
Come, Holy Spirit,
send forth the heavenly
radiance of your light.

Come, father of the poor,
come, giver of gifts,
come, light of the heart. 

Greatest comforter,
sweet guest of the soul,
sweet consolation.

In labor, rest,
in heat, temperance,
in tears, solace.

O most blessed light,
fill the inmost heart
of your faithful.

Without your grace,
there is nothing in us,
nothing that is not harmful.

Cleanse that which is unclean,
water that which is dry,
heal that which is wounded.

Bend that which is inflexible,
fire that which is chilled,
correct what goes astray.

Give to your faithful,
those who trust in you,
the sevenfold gifts.

Grant the reward of virtue,
grant the deliverance of salvation,
grant eternal joy.

Thursday, May 14, 2015

Feast of the Ascension

As he was about to ascend, he spoke the last words he was to utter on earth. At the moment of going up to heaven, the head commended to our care the members he was leaving on earth, and so departed. No longer will you find Christ speaking on earth; in the future he will speak from heaven. Why will he speak from heaven? Because his members are being trampled underfoot on earth. He spoke to Saul the persecutor from above, saying: ‘Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting me? I have ascended to heaven, but I still remain on the earth. Here at the Father’s right hand I sit, but there I still hunger and thirst and am without shelter’.
From a homily by St. Augustine

Ascension of Christ, from the Drogo Sacramentary, ca. 850.