Wednesday, December 25, 2019

Nativity of the Lord, Year A

A blessed and holy Christmas to you! The Word was made flesh, he lived among us, and we saw his glory (John 1:14). What a gift God has given to our world. This year we would like to share with you this delightful manuscript illumination of the Nativity scene. If you click on the image to see details, you'll notice Jesus patting the head of the ass. There's so much to meditate on in this charming painting: a hole in the roof allows the golden rays of the star to shine through - divine providence in the midst of poverty! - and an industrious angel helps out this tired family by pouring water in the trough - a lowly, thoughtful task!

Just as there is a wealth of images of the Birth of Our Lord, so understandably there is an abundance of writings on the Nativity. Here's a little jewel on the humility of Christ from Theodotus (d. 446), bishop of Ancyra:
Nativity, Book of Hours, ca. 1420 (British Library)
The Lord of all comes as a slave amidst poverty. The huntsman has no wish to startle his prey. Choosing for birthplace an unknown village in a remote province, he is born of a poor maiden and accepts all that poverty implies, for he hopes by stealth to ensnare and save us.
...Suppose he had been the son of an emperor. They would have said: “How useful it is to be powerful!” Imagine him the son of a senator. It would have been: “Look what can be accomplished by legislation!”
But in fact, what did he do? He chose surroundings that were poor and simple, so ordinary as to be almost unnoticed, so that people would know it was the Godhead alone that had changed the world. This was his reason for choosing his mother from among the poor of a very poor country, and for becoming poor himself.
Let the manger teach you how poor the Lord was: he was laid in it because he had no bed to lie on. This lack of the necessaries of life was a most appropriate prophetic foreshadowing. He was laid in a manger to show that he would be the food even of the inarticulate. The Word of God drew to himself both the rich and the poor, both the eloquent and the slow of speech as he lay in the manger in poverty. Do you not see how his lack of worldly goods was a prophecy and how his poverty, accepted for our sake, showed his accessibility to all?
No one was afraid to approach Christ, overawed by his immense wealth; no one was kept from coming to him by the grandeur of his royal estate. No, he who was offering himself for the salvation of the world came as an ordinary worker. The Word of God in a human body was laid in a manger, so that both the eloquent and the slow of speech would have courage to share in the food of salvation.

Sunday, December 1, 2019

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.

Thursday, May 30, 2019

Ascension, Year C

On this feast of the Ascension of the Lord, we offer you this meditation from a homily by Pope St. Leo the Great:
Ascension, Hours of Alice de Reydon
These days, dearly beloved, between the Resurrection of the Lord and his Ascension provided the opportunity to confirm great mysteries, to reveal great secrets. In these days the Holy Spirit was poured into all the Apostles by the breath of the Lord; and to blessed Peter above all the others, after the keys of the king­dom, the care of the Lord’s sheep is entrusted. Through all this time which went by be­tween the Resurrection of the Lord and his Ascension, the providence of God took thought for this: that they should recognize the Lord Jesus Christ as truly risen, who was truly born, truly suffered, and truly died....
Since the Ascension of Christ is our elevation, and since, where the glory of the Head has preceded its, there hope for the body is also invited, let us exult, dearly beloved, with worthy joy and be glad with a holy thanksgiving. Today we are estab­lished not only as possessors of Paradise, but we have even pen­etrated the heights of the heavens in Christ, prepared more fully for it through the indescribable grace of Christ which we had lost through the ill will of the devil. Those whom the violent enemy threw down from the happiness of our first dwelling, the Son of God has placed, incorporated within him­self, at the right hand of the Father, the Son of God who lives and reigns with God the Father Almighty and with the Holy Spirit forever and ever. Amen.

Saturday, May 18, 2019

5th Sunday of Easter, Year C

“I give you a new commandment," Jesus says in today's Gospel, "love one another.” In his commentary on St. John's Gospel, St. Cyril of Alexandria comments:
Christ Pantokrator (St. Catherine's, 6th c.)
But how, we might ask, could he call this commandment new? ... Do you not see what is new in Christ's love for us? The law commanded people to love their brothers and sisters as they love themselves, but our Lord Jesus Christ loved us more than himself. 
He who was one in nature with God the Father and his equal would not have descended to our lowly estate, nor endured in his flesh such a better death for us, not submitted to the blows given him by his enemies, to the shame, the derision, and all the other sufferings that could not possibly be enumerated; nor, being rich, would he have become poor, had he not loved us far more than himself. 
It was indeed something new for love to go as far as that!

Saturday, April 27, 2019

2d Sunday of Easter, Year C (Divine Mercy Sunday)

On this Sunday in Saint Peter's Square last year, Pope Francis commented on the day's Gospel of Doubting Thomas:
The Incredulity of St. Thomas, Caravaggio (1603)
... In the redeeming contact with the wounds of the Risen One, Thomas showed his own wounds, his own injuries, his own lacerations, his own humiliation; in the print of the nails he found the decisive proof that he was loved, that he was expected, that he was understood. He found himself before the Messiah filled with kindness, mercy, tenderness. This was the Lord he was searching for, he, in the hidden depths of his being, for he had always known He was like this. And how many of us are searching deep in our heart to meet Jesus, just as He is: kind, merciful, tender! For we know, deep down, that He is like this. Having rediscovered personal contact with Christ who is amiable and mercifully patient, Thomas understood the profound significance of his Resurrection and, intimately transformed, he declared his full and total faith in Him exclaiming: “My Lord and my God!” Beautiful, Thomas’ expression is beautiful! 
...Like Thomas we are called to contemplate, in the wounds of the Risen One, Divine Mercy, which overcomes all human limitations and shines on the darkness of evil and of sin.... Jesus Christ is the face of the Father’s mercy. Let us keep our gaze turned to Him, who always seeks us, waits for us, forgives us; so merciful, He is not afraid our our wretchedness. In his wounds He heals us and forgives all of our sins.