Sunday, August 16, 2015

20th Sunday of Ordinary Time, Year A

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├Ęs 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, Year B

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, Year B

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, Year B

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, Year B

“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


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.

Sunday, July 5, 2015

14th Sunday of Ordinary Time, Year B

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, Year B

The beautiful Gospel for today (Mark 5:21-43) tells of the story Jesus raising the daughter of Jairus: "Little girl, I say to you, arise!" How comforting these words are!

When Jesus had crossed again in the boat
to the other side,
a large crowd gathered around him, and he stayed close to the sea.
One of the synagogue officials, named Jairus, came forward.
Seeing him he fell at his feet and pleaded earnestly with him, saying,
"My daughter is at the point of death.
Please, come lay your hands on her
that she may get well and live."
He went off with him,
and a large crowd followed him and pressed upon him.

There was a woman afflicted with hemorrhages for twelve years.
She had suffered greatly at the hands of many doctors
and had spent all that she had.
Yet she was not helped but only grew worse.
She had heard about Jesus and came up behind him in the crowd
and touched his cloak.
She said, "If I but touch his clothes, I shall be cured."
Immediately her flow of blood dried up.
She felt in her body that she was healed of her affliction.
Jesus, aware at once that power had gone out from him,
turned around in the crowd and asked, "Who has touched my clothes?"
But his disciples said to Jesus,
"You see how the crowd is pressing upon you,
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, April 26, 2015

4th Sunday of Easter, Good Shepherd Gospel, Year B

Statue of the Good Shepherd,  3rd c. AD, Vatican's Pio Cristiano Museum
From a sermon by St. Peter Chrysologus:
We are his people and the sheep of his pasture. In many passages we are told of the joy with which the Shepherd will come from heaven to recall his wandering sheep to life-giving pastures—sheep who have grown weak and sick through feeding on noxious weeds. Enter his gates, says the psalmist, giving thanks. Praise is the only way to enter the gates of faith. Let us enter his courts to the accompaniment of song, declaring his greatness, praising and blessing his holy name. It is through that name that we are saved, it is at the sound of that name that all in heaven and on earth and beneath the earth shall bend the knee, and every creature confess his love for the Lord his God.

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

The Annunciation of the Lord

Receive, O Virgin Mary, the word
which the Lord has made know to you by the message of the angel:
You will conceive and give birth to a son, both God and man,
and you will be called blessed among women.
A virgin, you will indeed bear a son;
ever chaste and holy, you will be the mother of our Savior.

Responsory from the Office of Vigils

Fra Angelico, The Annunciation (Convent of San Marco, Florence)