Sunday, November 29, 2009
By Simon Caldwell
LONDON (UK Catholic Herald) - The Pope is to waive his own rules so he can preside in person over the beatification of Cardinal John Henry Newman during a papal visit to Britain next year, according to sources close to the Vatican.
Pope Benedict XVI will personally take charge of the ceremony to declare the Victorian convert Blessed when he visits England in early September at the invitation of Gordon Brown.
The Pope has previously insisted that all beatifications are carried out by a Vatican official in the diocese in which the candidate died, which in Newman's case is Birmingham.
But because the Pope has such a strong devotion to Cardinal Newman and his theological writings he has decided to break his own rules and beatify the cardinal himself.
Archbishop Vincent Nichols of Westminster refused to either confirm or deny the report: "The details of the Pope's visit are far from clear," he said. "What is clear is that the Holy Father has a great and long-standing devotion to Cardinal Newman and the beatification of Cardinal Newman is due."
Fr Ian Ker, author of the definitive biography of Cardinal Newman, said: "By breaking his own rules Pope Benedict clearly shows he regards Newman as a completely exceptional case, one of the great theologians of the Catholic Church. Many of the popes have been anxious to canonise Newman. They look to him as a man who welcomed modernisation but in fidelity to Church authority and in continuity with the traditions of the Church."
Pope Benedict announced the beatification in July after Vatican theologians ruled that the inexplicable healing of Jack Sullivan, an American with a severe spinal condition, was a miracle brought about by praying for help to Cardinal Newman.
Vatican City, Nov 29, 2009 / 11:26 am (CNA) - On Saturday night, Pope Benedict XVI officiated a celebration in St. Peter's Basilica of first vespers before the first Sunday of the Advent season. His message in the homily was one of 'silence and hope' during the season of Advent.
The Holy Father ushered the Church into the new liturgical year, telling those in attendance at yesterday evening's celebration of first vespers that "Advent invites us to pause in silence to understand a Presence."
In his homily, Pope Benedict, gave a short lesson on the meaning of 'advent' to those early Christians who adopted the word "to explain their relationship with Jesus Christ." He taught that the word adventus would have been understood by them in that time to mean "God is here, he hasn't retired to his world, he hasn't left us alone." He further explained that an additional definition of the word could be " a visit from God."
His Holiness implored that the faithful put aside the activities, amusements, and multiple societal interests that "possess us" and can "sweep us away" to take the time observe silence and seek to understand signs of God that are present in every day life. These signs, he said, illustrate the presence of His love.
The Pontiff explained that "Advent invites and stimulates us to contemplate the Lord present."
It's also a time of expectation and hope, the Pope said. "It is a favorable occasion for our salvation." But, he continued, one has "hoped too little if beyond the profession or social position he has nothing left to hope in"
"Hope signals the path for humanity, and for Christians," he continued, " this is encouraged by a certainty: the Lord is present in our lives."
Through this relationship, he said, when a person's "time is full of sense, and in each instant we perceive something specific and valid, then the joy of the expectation makes the present more precious."
Pope Benedict called the congregation to "live the present intensely" and to "project it towards the future" with the gifts given to each of them. "In this way," he related, "the Christian Advent becomes occasion for a reawakening of the true meaning of expectation in us, returning to the heart of our faith that the mystery of Christ, the much awaited Messiah... "
"And if Jesus is present there no longer exists any time without meaning and empty," said the Holy Father, "if He is present, we can continue to hope even when others can no longer assure us of support, even when the present becomes difficult.""Advent is a time of the presence and the expectation in the eternal," he stated. "Exactly for this reason, it is... the time of joy, an internalized joy, that no suffering can negate. Joy because God is made child."
Saturday, November 14, 2009
When you have extended your hands and taken the body, bow, and put your hands before your face, and worship the living Body whom you hold. Then speak with him in a low voice, and with your gaze resting upon him say to him:
I carry you, living God, who is incarnate in the bread, and I embrace you in my palms, Lord of the worlds whom no world has contained. You have circumscribed yourself in a fiery coal within a fleshly palm–you Lord, who with your palm measured out the dust of the earth. You are holy, God incarnate in my hands in a fiery coal which is a body. See, I hold you, although there is nothing that contains you; a bodily hand embraces you, Lord of natures whom a fleshly womb embraced. Within a womb you became a circumscribed body, and now within a hand you appear to me as a small morsel.
As you have made me worthy to approach you and receive you–and see, my hands embrace you confidently–make me worthy, Lord, to eat you in a holy manner and to taste the food of your body as a taste of your life. Instead of the stomach, the body’s member, may the womb of my intellect and the hand of my mind receive you. May you be conceived in me as you were in the womb of the Virgin. There you appeared as an infant, and your hidden self was revealed to the world as corporeal fruit; may you also appear in me here and be revealed from me in fruits that are spiritual works and just labors pleasing to your will.
And by your food may my desires be killed; and by the drinking of your cup may my passions be quenched. And instead of the members of myg inwardly, and excel outwardly, and run diligently, and to attain to the full stature of an interior human being. May I become a perfect man, mature in the intelligence residing in all my spiritual members, my head being crowned with the crown of perfection of all of my behavior. May I be a royal diadem in your hands, as you promised me, O hidden God whose manifestness I embrace in the perfection of your body. body, may my thoughts receive strength from the nourishment of your body. Like the manifest members of my body, may my hidden thoughts be engaged n exercise and in running and in works according to your living commands and your spiritual laws. From the food of your body and the drinking of your blood may I wax stron
St Philoxenus of Mabbug
Nothing is more frigid than a Christian who does not care about the salvation of others. You cannot plead the excuse of poverty here; the widow who gave her two mites will stand to accuse you. Peter said, “Silver or gold I have none.” Paul was so poor he often went hungry, lacking the necessary food. You cannot allege lack of education or preparation. They were unlearned men. You cannot plead infirmity. Timothy was often laid low by sickness and the Apostle had to counsel him to take a little wine for his stomach. Every one can profit his neighbor if he will do what he can.
Do not say, It is impossible for me to lead others to the faith. If you are a Christian, it is impossible for it not to be so. The natural properties of things cannot be denied. This witnessing to others is part of the very nature of being a Christian. It would be easier for the sun to cease to shine and give forth heat than for a Christian not to send forth light; easier for the light to be darkness than for this to be so.
“We who are disciples of Christ claim that our purpose on earth is to lay up treasures in heaven. But our actions often contradict our words. Many Christians build for themselves fine houses, lay out splendid gardens, construct bathhouses, and buy fields. It is small wonder, then, that many non-believers refuse to believe what we say. “If their eyes are set on mansions in heaven,” they ask, “why are they building mansions on earth? If they put their words into practice, they would give away their riches and live in simple huts.” So these non-believers conclude that we do not sincerely believe in the religion we profess; and as a result they refuse to take this religion seriously. You may say that the words of Christ on these matters are too hard for you to follow; and that while your spirit is willing, your flesh is weak. My answer is that the judgment of the non-believers about you is more accurate than your judgment of yourself. While the non-believers accuse us of hypocrisy, many of us should plead guilty.”
Tuesday, September 29, 2009
The Grace-Giving Infant Jesus of Prague
The charming statue of the Child Jesus, displayed for people to venerate in the church of Our Lady of Victory in the Lesser Town district of Prague, receives visitors from dozens of countries from all over the world every day. Many people who have prayed to God before the statue have had their prayers answered in miraculous and unusual ways. People come here to pray for help, healing, or peace; some come in trust expecting the birth of a child; and many return to give thanks.
The statue is 47 cm high and made out of wood with the surface modelled in coloured wax. It represents a small child, clothed in a long robe below which his bare feet can be seen. His sweet face attracts visitors through its beauty. The right hand of the Infant Jesus is raised in blessing, while his left hand holds a sphere surmounted by a cross – the whole of our universe rests in his hands. His royal insignia express the faith that all Christians have in common – the faith in the divinity of Jesus. In him almighty God himself, ruler over all things, became a human being.
History of the Infant Jesus of Prague
The Infant Jesus of Prague originally came from Spain. The legend tells that the Infant Jesus appeared miraculously to a certain monk, who modelled the statue based on the appearance of the apparition. According to another legend the statue belonged to St. Teresa of Avila, the founder of the Discalced Carmelites, who was aflame with a great love for the Child Jesus. She is said to have given the statue to a friend of hers, whose daughter was setting out to travel to Prague.
When the Duchess Maria Manrique de Lara came to Bohemia to marry a Bohemian nobleman in 1556, she received the statue from her mother as a wedding gift. When her daughter Polyxena of Lobkowicz was widowed, she gave the precious statue to the monastery of the Discalced Carmelites attached to the church of Our Lady of Victory in 1628.
The Carmelites placed the statue in the novitiate chapel, so that the young monks could learn from the virtues of the Child Jesus. At that time the Thirty Years' War was raging through Europe and even the Infant Jesus was not spared when the Saxon army occupied Prague in 1631. It was only after his return to Prague in 1637 that Father Cyril of the Mother of God, originally from Luxemburg, discovered the statue, abandoned in a corner. To his sorrow, however, he found that the Infant Jesus had had both hands broken off. At this moment it seemed to him that the Infant Jesus was saying to him:
"Have mercy on me and I will have mercy on you.
Give me hands and I will give you peace.
The more you honour me, the more I will bless you."
Eventually Father Cyril had new hands made for the Infant Jesus. The gold coin invested in this was returned many times over, as the Child Jesus began to bless the monastery, the local people, and the whole of Prague. Miraculous healings were attributed to him, as was the protection of Prague when it was laid siege to by the Swedes in 1639. In 1651 the statue was carried as a pilgrim round all the churches in Prague and in 1655 it was solemnly crowned by the Bishop of Prague. This event is still remembered today on the anniversary feast-day, falling on the first Sunday in May.
The statue of the Infant Jesus of Prague
Origin, size, material and appearance
According to the sources, the statue of the Infant Jesus of Prague, the original of which is venerated in the church of Our Lady of Victory in the Lesser Town district of Prague, originally came from Spain. It was probably made there in the second half of the 16th century or earlier.
The statue is 47 cm high and represents Jesus when he was only a few years old. On a 2-cm base there is a figure measuring 45 cm, dressed in a long flowing robe. Parts of the feet are visible beneath the bottom of the robe. The face is very delicately modeled and framed by medium-length curling hair.
The core of the statue is carved out of wood, which is probably covered with linen, and the surface is modeled in coloured wax. The surface of the wax is quite fragile. In order to protect the statue from damage, it's bottom half till the waist is enclosed in a silver case.
Gestures and royal attributes of the statue
The Infant Jesus has his right hand raised in blessing, while the left hand has its palm turned upwards and holds a symbol of rule over the world – the imperial orb surmounted by a cross. There is an opening in the palm of the hand, in which the orb is fixed. In the past, the statue was decorated with small jewels, presented as gifts by the faithful. The most valuable one was a copy of the Order of the Golden Fleece, which is now lost.
The crown which currently adorns the head of the Infant Jesus was made in the years 1810 to 1820. The Infant Jesus also has a second crown dating from 1767. Both crowns were made in the workshops of Prague goldsmiths. The crown is not placed directly on the statue but is fixed independently just above it.
Robes of the Infant Jesus of Prague
Purpose of dressing the statue
The ancient tradition of dressing the grace-giving statue of the Infant Jesus is intended to bring Jesus closer to the faithful as a real human being. It helps us to experience the closeness of Jesus and to express our love and reverence. It is not a case of idolatry, for the statue is not alive and it serves only as a reminder and a means of enabling a spiritual encounter with the living Christ.
The statue itself represents Jesus as a very small child, wearing a simple gown. This statue, sublime in its simplicity, is dressed in a white alb and royal robes to express the thought that is common to all Christians, that this child is a king of the house of David, and, what is more, that Jesus is Son of God and God himself, King of Kings and Lord of Lords.
The Infant Jesus of Prague has been dressed in different clothes from time immemorial, and people know him best in his royal robes. Most of his outfits are gifts of thanksgiving. The wardrobe numbers around a hundred costumes, some of which are incomplete or unusable. Some of the costumes can be seen in the museum, which the public can visit free of charge. The task of changing the Infant Jesus' robes is entrusted to the Carmelite Sisters of the Child Jesus, who help the Discalced Carmelite Fathers to look after this place of pilgrimage.
Colours of the robes
The robes of the Infant Jesus of Prague are changed so that the colour corresponds to the liturgical season, which is governed by the church calendar. Four basic colours are normally used:
* White – festive colour of purity and holiness – for feast days and the Easter and Christmas periods
* Red – colour of blood and fire, royal colour – for Holy Week, Pentecost time and feasts of the Holy Cross
* Violet – solemn colour symbolising repentance – for the Lenten and Advent seasons
* Green – colour of life and hope – for ordinary time (colour used most often)
On the feast of his coronation the Infant Jesus is usually dressed in royal robes with an ermine mantle. On special occasions other colours are used:
* Rose – colour of subdued joy – may be used on the third Sunday of Advent and the fourth Sunday of Lent
* Gold – festive colour – may replace other colours
Blue – sometimes used as a festive colour, especially for feasts of Our Lady
Chaplet to the Child Jesus
This chaplet consists of three "Our Fathers" in honor of the Holy Family, and twelve "Hail Marys" in memory of the twelve childhood years of Jesus Christ. To this chaplet of fifteen beads is attached a medal of the Infant Jesus.
The chaplet can be recited in the following way:
Begin on the medal with the words: "Holy Infant Jesus, bless and protect us!" or with the following invocation: "Divine Infant Jesus, I adore Your Cross,and I accept all the crosses you will be pleased to send me. Adorable Trinity, I offer you for the glory of the Holy Name of God all the adorations of the Sacred Hear of the Holy Infant Jesus."
You may kiss the medal.
Say three times "And the Word was made flesh and dwelt among us" and the prayer "Our Father".
Then twelve times "And the Word was made flesh and dwelt among us" and the prayer "Hail Mary". During each "Hail Mary" it is recommended that you meditate on one of the twelve mysteries of Jesus' childhood:
1. The Incarnation of the Son of God
2. The life in the womb of the Virgin Mary
3. The birth in Bethlehem
4. The adoration by the shepherds
5. The circumcision of the Lord
6. The adoration by the three magi
7. The presentation in the Temple
8. The flight to Egypt
9. The stay in Egypt
10. The return to Nazareth
11. The hidden life in Nazareth
12. The twelve-year-old Jesus in the Temple
At the end, you may add (once or thrice): "Glory be to the Father…" and "Holy Infant Jesus, bless and protect us!"
Monday, September 28, 2009
G. K. Chesterton once wrote of war that if it is, “not a holy war, it is an unholy one: a massacre.” (CW, XXX, P. 307) The horrific realities of war are often not realized until they have been experienced. Until then it is easy to glorify war and get caught up in the patriotism that drives young men to fight. Venerable Don Carlo Gnocchi (pronounced NO-kee) embodies one man who was transformed by his wartime experience.
Don Carlo was an Italian priest who desired to serve as a military chaplain. Before having the honor, he encouraged young men to enlist during World War II. Even though the Italian army was currently controlled by the Fascist regime, he believed that fighting for one's country was a way of defending the weak. He rightly saw war as an opportunity to make better men because war allows men to practice heroic virtue. Eventually he was given a post with the Alpine regiment fighting in Albania. While he was serving on the front lines he witnessed countless young men sacrificing their lives for commanders who did not value life and who were ultimately fighting for an unjust cause.
When Don Carlo returned to his hometown he was dismayed that all the boys he had been teaching had decided to follow his lead and join the military. He had no choice but to re-enlist and serve alongside these young men (now fighting under German command) on the frigid Russian front. 68,000 troops were sent to Russia and only 7,000 returned. Some were lost to the fighting, but most were lost to the extreme cold.
The most difficult task Don Gnocchi had to undertake began after the war ended. He traveled throughout Italy to personally console the families of his fallen friends and give them any letters or belongings that he had been entrusted with. In his journeys he realized that the real war was not over. The real war was being fought in the lives of the victims. With so many men gone, many families were left with no one to care for them. Among the needy were a large number of children who had lost limbs because of land mines placed in the Italian countryside. Without fathers to support them, these children had no futures, and their special needs surpassed the abilities of the orphanages to care for them.
Don Carlo had no money and no plan, but he put his trust in God and began gathering all these children. He started by opening up the rectory to disabled children but he required more help and better facilities to sustain the growth and adequately care for the orphans. It took the support of many generous people and powerful Church leaders to provide the housing, food and medical attention that these poor mutilati needed.
Don Carlo's story is unique because he not only provided for the physical care of the orphans, he championed the Catholic theology of redemptive suffering and taught the children how to live it. When we offer up our suffering for others, we offer it for those we love and for the weakest people in society. Don Carlo showed his children that even the weakest of people can unite their suffering to the suffering of Christ on the cross. When they do this they are participating in the life of Christ and helping Him with His work on earth and in the Church.
The Don Carlo Gnocchi Foundazione for disabled children is well-respected and continues to thrive in Italy today. It has expanded its care to elderly people who are unable take care of themselves and for terminal cancer patients. On January 17th, 2009 a miracle attributed to Venerable Don Carlo Gnocchi was promulgated by Pope Benedict XVI and he will be beatified on October 25th, 2009.
Thursday, August 13, 2009
Although probably not unknown in the early Church, the earliest references to the Dormition and Assumption of the Virgin Mary appear in the 4th (or possibly late 3rd) century in Liber Requiei Mariae (The Book of Mary's Repose), and in the writings of a Bishop Meliton. Some of the Church Fathers believed that the Blessed Virgin Mary (BVM) was assumed while still alive, others that she was assumed after she had died. Both views are permitted under the infallible definition of Pius XII. St. John of Damascus (d. AD 755) relates a tradition where, during the Council of Chalcedon (AD 451), the emperor Marcian and his wife wished to find the body of Mary. He tells how all the apostles had seen her death, but her tomb was empty upon inspection.
Festivals commemorating the death of the Blessed Virgin Mary were common from the 5th century onwards, although the exact dates were never universally fixed. In AD 556 the patriarch of Alexandria, Theodosius, attests to two popular Marian feasts in Egypt: Mary's death (January 16) and Assumption (August 9). Theodosius understood Mary to have died before being assumed, and according to the feast dates in Egypt at the time, she was assumed 206 days after her death. In AD 600, the emperor Mauricius decreed that the Assumption was to be celebrated on August 15. Soon, the Church in Ireland adopted this date, and it was later introduced in Rome. As the cult of Mary grew in the West, there was more pressure for the Catholic Church to define the exact nature of the Assumption. Pope Pius did this in 1950, in terms that are still rather general, and can be accepted by Western Catholics, Eastern Catholics, and Eastern Orthodox.
The Eastern Church teaches that the Virgin Mary died a fully human death before being assumed, and celebrates the feast accordingly. According to various traditions known in the East, St. Thomas was not around when Mary passed away, just as he was absent when Jesus was raised from the dead. Because he was three days late to Mary's funeral, he requested to see Mary's body. However, when her tomb was opened, her body was not found. This is not viewed as a resurrection like her Son's, but as the first fruits of our own bodily resurrection. In one of the most complicated of Christian Hymns (utilizing all 8 tones of the Eastern chanting system) the story of her journeying to heaven is revealed as her funeral procession. The apostles act as her pall-bearers. As she arrives in heaven, she is the first given the task of all the glorified saints, that of praying for us to her Son and our Lord.
Protestants have generally rejected the Assumption of Mary theologically and devotionally, probably because it is not explicitly biblical. Many Reformation denominations (like Anglicanism and Lutheranism) have set aside August 15th as a day commemorating the Blessed Virgin Mary, although without the explicit context of the Assumption. However, the Assumption of Mary is an ancient belief certainly fitting the honor of the one chosen to bear the Son of God. This dogma is solidly within the biblical tradition of holy and unique individuals being taken bodily to heaven (like Elijah and Enoch). She who is "Mother of the Lord," "full of grace," and whom "all generations shall call blessed" is certainly worthy of this honor. Church Father John of Damascus describes the importance of celebrating the Assumption quite well:
Let us then also keep the solemn [Assumption] feast today to honour the joyful departure of God's Mother...Thus, recognizing God's Mother in this Virgin, we celebrate her falling asleep, not proclaiming her as God - far be from us these heathen fables - since we are announcing her death, but recognizing her as the Mother of the Incarnate God...Let us honour her in nocturnal vigil; let us delight in her purity of soul and body, for she next to God surpasses all in purity...Let us show our love for her by compassion and kindness towards the poor...Let our souls rejoice in the Ark of God...With Gabriel, the great archangel, let us exclaim, "Hail, full of grace, the Lord is with thee. Hail, inexhaustible ocean of grace. Hail, sole refuge in grief. Hail, cure of hearts. Hail, through whom death is expelled and life is installed" (Sermon II: On the Assumption).
Prayer From the Festal Menaion
(tone 1) "By the royal command of God,
the divinely inspired apostles are caught up
from over all the world into the clouds on high.
(tone 5) Reaching thy immaculate body,
the source of Life, they salute it with mighty honour.
(tone 2) The highest powers of heaven
stood by with their own Master.
(tone 6) Seized with dread
they accompany thy inviolate body that had held God,
and they went on high before thee, crying, unseen,
to the hierarchies above:
'Lo, the Queen of all, the Maid of God, is nigh.'
(tone 3) Open wide the gates and receive above the world
the Mother of the everlasting Light.
(tone 7) For through her the salvation of all mankind has come.
We have not the strength to look upon her,
and are unable to render honours worthy of her,
(tone 4) for her excellence is past all understanding.
(tone 8) Therefore, O most pure Theotokos,
who livest forever with Thy Son, the King Who brings life,
pray without ceasing that thy newborn people
be guarded on every side and saved from all adverse assault:
for we are under thy protection,
(tone 1) and we bless thee in beauty and light unto all ages."
From the Vespers of the Dormition
The Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary – August 15
Adapted from The Liturgical Year by Abbot Gueranger
Ancient Coptic Rite Icon of the Assumption “Today the Virgin Mary ascended to Heaven; rejoice, for She reigns with Christ forever.” The Church will close Her chants on this glorious day with this sweet antiphon, which resumes the object of the Feast and the spirit in which it should be celebrated.
No other solemnity breathes, like this one, at once triumph and peace; none better answers to the enthusiasm of the many and the serenity of souls consummated in love. Assuredly that was as great a triumph when Our Lord, rising by His own power from the tomb, cast Hell into dismay; but to our souls, so abruptly drawn from the abyss of sorrows on Golgotha, the suddenness of the victory caused a sort of stupor to mingle with the joy of that greatest of days. In presence of the prostrate angels, the hesitating apostles, the women seized with fear and trembling, one felt that the divine isolation of the Conqueror of death was perceptible even to His most intimate friends, and kept them, like Magdalene, at a distance.
Mary’s death, however, leaves no impression but peace; that death had no other cause than love. Being a mere creature, She could not deliver Herself from that claim of the old enemy; but leaving Her tomb filled with flowers; She mounts up to Heaven, flowing with delights, leaning upon Her Beloved (Cant. 8: 5). Amid the acclamations of the daughters of Sion, who will henceforth never cease to call Her Blessed, She ascends surrounded by choirs of heavenly spirits joyfully praising the Son of God. Never more will shadows veil, as they did on earth, the glory of the most beautiful daughter of Eve. Beyond the immovable Thrones, beyond the dazzling Cherubim, beyond the flaming Seraphim, onward She passes, delighting the heavenly city with Her sweet perfumes. She stays not till She reaches the very confines of the Divinity; close to the throne of honor where Her Son, the King of ages, reigns in justice and in power; there She is proclaimed Queen, there She will reign for evermore in mercy and in goodness.
Among the feasts of saints, this is the solemnity of solemnities. “Let the mind of man,” says St. Peter Damian, “be occupied in declaring Her magnificence; let his speech reflect Her majesty. May the Sovereign of the world deign to accept the goodwill of our lips, to aid our insufficiency, to illumine with her own light the sublimity of this day.”
It is no new thing, then, that Mary’s triumph fills the hearts of Christians with enthusiasm. If certain ancient calendars give to this Feast the title of Dormition of the Blessed Virgin Mary, we cannot thence conclude that in those times the Feast had no other object than Mary’s holy death; the Greeks, from whom we have the expression, have always included in the solemnity the glorious triumph that followed Her death.
At Rome the Assumption or Dormition of the Holy Mother of God appears in the 7th century to have already been celebrated for an indefinite length of time; nor does it seem to have had any other day than August 15. According to Nicephorus Callistus, the same date was assigned to it for Constantinople by the Emperor Mauritius at the end of the 6th century. The historian notes, at the same time, the origin of several other solemnities, while of the Dormition alone, he does not say that it was established by Mauritius on such a day; hence learned authors have concluded that the Feast itself already existed before the imperial decree was issued, which was thus only intended to put an end to its being celebrated on various days.
At that very time, far away from Byzantium, the Merovingian Franks celebrated the glorification of Our Lady on January 18. However the choice of this day may be accounted for, it is remarkable that the Copts on the borders of the Nile announce on January 28, the repose of the Virgin Mary, Mother of God, and the Assumption of Her body into Heaven; they, however, repeat the announcement on August 21, and two weeks earlier they, like the Greeks, begin their Lent in honor of the Mother of God.
Some authors think that the Assumption has been kept from apostolic times; but the primitive liturgical documents are silent about it. The hesitation as to the date of its celebration, and the liberty so long allowed with regard to it, seem to point to the spontaneous initiative of divers Churches, owing to some fact attracting attention to the mystery or throwing some light upon it. Of this nature we may reckon the account everywhere spread abroad about the year 451, in which Juvenal of Jerusalem related to the Empress St. Pulcheria and her husband Marcian the history of the tomb which the Apostles had prepared for Our Lady at the foot of Mount Olivet, and which was found empty of its precious deposit. The following words of St. Andrew of Crete in the 7th century show how the solemnity of the Assumption gained ground in consequence of such circumstances. The Saint was born at Damascus, became a monk at Jerusalem, was afterwards Deacon at Constantinople, and lastly Bishop of the celebrated island from which he takes his name; no one then could speak for the East with better authority. “The present solemnity,” he says, “is full of mystery, having for its object to celebrate the day whereon the Mother of God fell asleep; this solemnity is too elevated for any discourse to reach; by some this mystery has not always been celebrated, but now all love and honor it. Silence long preceded speech, but now love divulges the secret. The gift of God must be manifested, not buried; we must show it forth, not as recently discovered, but as having recovered its splendor. Some of those who lived before us knew it but imperfectly; that is no reason for always keeping silence about it; it has not become altogether obscured; let us proclaim it and keep a feast. Today let the inhabitants of Heaven and earth be united, let the joy of Angels and men be one, let every tongue exult and sing Hail to the Mother of God.”
In 1870 an earnest desire was expressed to have the doctrine of Mary’s Assumption defined as a dogma of faith; however, due to the Italian civil war, the Vatican Council was suspended too soon to complete our Lady’s crown. This was accomplished in 1950, by His Holiness, Pope Pius XII.
Sunday, August 9, 2009
Sermon by St John Vianney
In speaking to you today, my dear brethren, of the dreadful state of the lukewarm soul, my purpose is not to paint for you a terrifying and despairing picture of the soul which is living in mortal sin without even having the wish to escape from this condition. That poor unfortunate creature can but look forward to the wrath of God in the next life. Alas! These sinners hear me; they know well of whom I am speaking at this very moment.... We will go no further, for all that I would wish to say would serve only to harden them more.
In speaking to you, my brethren, of the lukewarm soul, I do not wish, either, to speak of those who make neither their Easter duty nor their annual Confession. They know very well that in spite of all their prayers and their other good works they will be lost. Let us leave them in their blindness, since they want to remain that way....
Nor do I understand, brethren, by the lukewarm soul, that soul who would like to be worldly without ceasing to be a child of God. You will see such a one at one moment prostrate before God, his Saviour and his Master, and the next moment similarly prostrate before the world, his idol.
Poor blind creature, who gives one hand to God and the other to the world, so that he can call both to his aid, and promise his heart to each in turn! He loves God, or rather, he would like to love Him, but he would also like to please the world. Then, weary of wanting to give his allegiance to both, he ends by giving it to the world alone. This is an extraordinary life and one which offers so strange a spectacle that it is hard to persuade oneself that it could be the life of one and the same person. I am going to show you this so clearly that perhaps many among you will be hurt by it. But that will matter little to me, for I am always going to tell you what I ought to tell you, and then you will do what you wish about it....
I would say further, my brethren, that whoever wants to please both the world and God leads one of the most unhappy of lives. You shall see how. Here is someone who gives himself up to the pleasures of the world or develops some evil habit.
How great is his fear when he comes to fulfil his religious duties; that is, when he says his prayers, when he goes to Confession, or wants to go to Holy Communion! He does not want to be seen by those with whom he has been dancing and passing nights at the cabarets, where he has been giving himself over to many kinds of licentiousness. Has he come to the stage when he is going to deceive his confessor by hiding the worst of his actions and thus obtain permission to go to Holy Communion, or rather, to commit a sacrilege? He would prefer to go to Holy Communion before or after Mass, that is to say, when there is no one present. Yet he is quite happy to be seen by the good people who know nothing about his evil life and among whom he would like to arouse good opinions about himself. In front of devout people he talks about religion. When he is with those who have no religion, he will talk only about the pleasures of the world. He would blush to fulfil his religious practices in front of his companions or those boys and girls who share his evil ways....
This is so true that one day someone asked me to allow him to go to Holy Communion in the sacristy so that no one would see him. Is it possible, my brethren, that one could think upon such horrible behaviour without shuddering?
But we shall proceed further and you will see the embarrassment of these poor people who want to follow the world without -- outwardly at any rate -- leaving God. Here is Easter approaching. They must go to Confession. It is not, of course, that they want to go or that they feel any urge or need to receive the Sacrament of Penance. They would be only too pleased if Easter came around about once every thirty years. But their parents still retain the exterior practice of religion. They will be happy if their children go to the altar, and they keep urging them, then, to go to Confession. In this, of course, they make a mistake. If only they would just pray for them and not torment them into committing sacrileges. So to rid themselves of the importunity of their parents, to keep up appearances, these people will get together to find out who is the best confessor to try for absolution for the first or second time
"Look," says one, "my parents keep nagging at me because I haven't been to Confession. Where shall we go?" "It is of no use going to our parish priest; he is too scrupulous. He would not allow us to make our Easter duty. We will have to try to find So-and-So. He let this one and that one go through, and they are worse than we are. We have done no more harm than they have."
Another will say: "I assure you that if it were not for my parents I would not make my Easter duty at all. Our catechism says that to make a good Confession we must give up sin and the occasions of sin, and we are doing neither the one nor the other. I tell you sincerely that I am really embarrassed every time Easter comes around. I will be glad when the time comes for me to settle down and to cease gallivanting. I will make a confession then of my whole life, to put right the ones I am making now. Without that I would not die happy."
"Well," another will say to him, "when that time comes you ought to go to the priest who has been hearing your confessions up to the present. He will know you best." "Indeed no! I will go to the one who would not give me absolution, because he would not want to see me damned either."
"My word, aren't you good! That means nothing at all. They all have the same power."
"That is a good thing to remember when we are doing what we ought to do. But when we are in sin, we think otherwise.
One day I went to see a girl who was pretty careless. She told me that she was not going back to Confession to the priests who were so easy and who, in making it seem as if they wanted to save you, pushed you into Hell."
That is how many of these poor blind people behave. I "Father," they will say to the priest, "I am going to Confession to you because our parish priest is too exacting. He wants to make us promise things which we cannot hold to. He would have us all saints, and that is not possible in the world. He would want us never to go to dances, nor to frequent cabarets or amusements. If someone has a bad habit, he will not give Absolution until the habit has been given up completely. If we had to do all that we should never make our Easter duty at all. My parents, who are very religious, are always after me to make my Easter duty. I will do all I can. But no one can say that he will never return to these amusements, since he never knows when he is going to encounter them."
"Ah!" says the confessor, quite deceived by this sincere sounding talk, "I think your parish priest is perhaps a little exacting. Make your act of contrition, and I will give you Absolution. Try to be good now."
That is to say: Bow your head; you are going to trample in the adorable Blood of Jesus Christ; you are going to sell your God like Judas sold Him to His executioners, and tomorrow you will go to Holy Communion, where you will proceed to crucify Him. What horror! What abomination! Go on, vile Judas, go to the holy table, go and give death to your God and your Saviour! Let your conscience cry out, only try to stifle its remorse as much as you can.... But I am going too far, my brethren. Let us leave these poor blind creatures in their gloom.
I think, brethren, that you would like to know what is the state of the lukewarm soul. Well, this is it. A lukewarm soul is not yet quite dead in the eyes of God because the faith, the hope, and the charity which are its spiritual life are not altogether extinct. But it is a faith without zeal, a hope without resolution, a charity without ardour....
Nothing touches this soul: it hears the word of God, yes, that is true; but often it just bores it. Its possessor hears it with difficulty, more or less by habit, like someone who thinks that he knows enough about it and does enough of what he should.
Any prayers which are a bit long are distasteful to him. This soul is so full of whatever it has just been doing or what it is going to do next, its boredom is so great, that this poor unfortunate thing is almost in agony. It is still alive, but it is not capable of doing anything to gain Heaven....
For the last twenty years this soul has been filled with good intentions without doing anything at all to correct its habits.
It is like someone who is envious of anyone who is on top of the world but who would not deign to lift a foot to try to get there himself. It would not, however, wish to renounce eternal blessings for those of the world. Yet it does not wish either to leave the world or to go to Heaven, and if it can just manage to pass its time without crosses or difficulties, it would never ask to leave this world at all. If you hear someone with such a soul say that life is long and pretty miserable, that is only when everything is not going in accordance with his desires. If God, in order to force such a soul to detach itself from temporal things, sends it any cross or suffering, it is fretful and grieving and abandons itself to grumbles and complaints and often even to a kind of despair. It seems as if it does not want to see that God has sent it these trials for its good, to detach it from this world and to draw it towards Himself. What has it done to deserve these trials? In this state a person thinks in his own mind that there are many others more blameworthy than himself who have not to submit to such trials.
In prosperous times the lukewarm soul does not go so far as to forget God, but neither does it forget itself. It knows very well how to boast about all the means it has employed to achieve its prosperity. It is quite convinced that many others would not have achieved the same success. It loves to repeat that and to hear it repeated, and every time it hears it, it is with fresh pleasure. The individual with the lukewarm soul assumes a gracious air when associating with those who flatter him. But towards those who have not paid him the respect which he believes he has deserved or who have not been grateful for his kindnesses, he maintains an air of frigid indifference and seems to indicate to them that they are ungrateful creatures who do not deserve to receive the good which he has done them....
If I wanted to paint you an exact picture, my brethren, of the state of a soul which lives in tepidity, I should tell you that it is like a tortoise or a snail. It moves only by dragging itself along the ground, and one can see it getting from place to place with great difficulty. The love of God, which it feels deep down in itself, is like a tiny spark of fire hidden under a heap of ashes.
The lukewarm soul comes to the point of being completely indifferent to its own loss. It has nothing left but a love without tenderness, without action, and without energy which sustains it with difficulty in all that is essential for salvation. But for all other means of Grace, it looks upon them as nothing or almost nothing. Alas, my brethren, this poor soul in its tepidity is like someone between two bouts of sleep. It would like to act, but its will has become so softened that it lacks either the force or the courage to accomplish its wishes.
It is true that a Christian who lives in tepidity still regularly -- in appearance at least -- fulfils his duties. He will indeed get down on his knees every morning to say his prayers. He will go to the Sacraments every year at Easter and even several times during the course of the twelve months. But in all of this there will be such a distaste, so much slackness and so much indifference, so little preparation, so little change in his way of life, that it is easy to see that he is only fulfilling his duties from habit and routine .... because this is a feast and he is in the habit of carrying them out at such a time. His Confessions and his Communions are not sacrilegious, if you like, but they are Confessions and Communions which bear no fruit -- which, far from making him more perfect and more pleasing to God, only make him more unworthy. As for his prayers, God alone knows what -- without, of course, any preparation -- he makes of these.
In the morning it is not God who occupies his thoughts, nor the salvation of his poor soul; he is quite taken up with thoughts of work. His mind is so wrapped up in the things of earth that the thought of God has no place in it. He is thinking about what he is going to be doing during the day, where he will be sending his children and his various employees, in what way he will expedite his own work. To say his prayers, he gets down on his knees, undoubtedly, but he does not know what he wants to ask God, nor what he needs, nor even before whom he is kneeling. His careless demeanour shows this very clearly. It is a poor man indeed who, however miserable he is, wants nothing at all and loves his poverty. It is surely a desperately sick person who scorns doctors and remedies and clings to his infirmities.
You can see that this lukewarm soul has no difficulty, on the slightest pretext, in talking during the course of his prayers.
For no reason at all he will abandon them, partly at least, thinking that he will finish them in another moment. Does he want to offer his day to God, to say his Grace? He does all that, but often without thinking of the one who is addressed. He will not even stop working. If the possessor of the lukewarm soul is a man, he will turn his cap or his hat around in his hands as if to see whether it is good or bad, as though he had some idea of selling it. If it is a woman, she will say her prayers while slicing bread into her soup, or putting wood on the fire, or calling out to her children or maid. If you like, such distractions during prayer are not exactly deliberate. People would rather not have them, but because it is necessary to go to so much trouble and expend so much energy to get rid of them, they let them alone and allow them to come as they will.
The lukewarm Christian may not perhaps work on Sunday at tasks which seem to be forbidden to anyone who has even the slightest shred of religion, but doing some sewing, arranging something in the house, driving sheep to the fields during the times for Masses, on the pretext that there is not enough food to give them -- all these things will be done without the slightest scruple, and such people will prefer to allow their souls and the souls of their employees to perish rather than endanger their animals. A man will busy himself getting out his tools and his carts and harrows and so on, for the next day; he will fill in a hole or fence a gap; he will cut various lengths of cords and ropes; he will carry out the churns and set them in order. What do you think about all this, my brethren? Is it not, alas, the simple truth? ....
A lukewarm soul will go to Confession regularly, and even quite frequently. But what kind of Confessions are they? No preparation, no desire to correct faults, or, at the least, a desire so feeble and so small that the slightest difficulty will put a stop to it altogether. The Confessions of such a person are merely repetitions of old ones, which would be a happy state of affairs indeed if there were nothing to add to them. Twenty years ago he was accusing himself of the same things he confesses today, and if he goes to Confession for the next twenty years, he will say the same things. A lukewarm soul will not, if you like, commit the big sins. But some slander or back-biting, a lie, a feeling of hatred, of dislike, of jealousy, a slight touch of deceit or double-dealing -- these count for nothing with it. If it is a woman and you do not pay her all the respect which she considers her due, she will, under the guise of pretending that God has been offended, make sure that you realise it; she could say more than that, of course, since it is she herself who has been offended. It is true that such a woman would not stop going to the Sacraments, but her dispositions are worthy of compassion.
On the day when she wants to receive her God, she spends part of the morning thinking of temporal matters. If it is a man, he will be thinking about his deals and his sales. If it is a married woman, she will be thinking about her household and her children. If it is a young girl, her thoughts will be on her clothes.
If it is a boy, he will be dreaming about passing pleasures and so on. The lukewarm soul shuts God up in an obscure and ugly kind of prison. Its possessor does not crucify Him, but God can find little joy or consolation in his heart. All his dispositions proclaim that his poor soul is struggling for the breath of life.
After having received Holy Communion, this person will hardly give another thought to God in all the days to follow. His manner of life tells us that he did not know the greatness of the happiness which had been his.
A lukewarm Christian thinks very little upon the state of his poor soul and almost never lets his mind run over the past. If the thought of making any effort to be better crosses his mind at all, he believes that once he has confessed his sins, he ought to be perfectly happy and at peace. He assists at Holy Mass very much as he would at any ordinary activity. He does not think at all seriously of what he is doing and finds no trouble in chatting about all sorts of things while on the way there. Possibly he will not give a single thought to the fact that he is about to participate in the greatest of all the gifts that God, all-powerful as He is, could give us. He does give some thought to the needs of his own soul, yes, but a very small and feeble amount of thought indeed. Frequently he will even present himself before the presence of God without having any idea of what he is going to ask of Him. He has few scruples in cutting out, on the least pretext, the Asperges and the prayers before Mass. During the course of the service, he does not want to go to sleep, of course, and he is even afraid that someone might see him, but he does not do himself any violence all the same. He does not want, of course, to have distractions during prayer or during the Holy Mass, yet when he should put up some little fight against them, he suffers them very patiently, considering the fact that he does not like them. Fast days are reduced to practically nothing, either by advancing the time of the main meal or, under the pretext that Heaven was never taken by famine, by making the collation so abundant that it amounts to a full meal. When he performs good or beneficial actions, his intentions are often very mixed -- sometimes it is to please someone, sometimes it is out of compassion, and sometimes it is just to please the world. With such people everything that is not a really serious sin is good enough. They like doing good, being faithful, but they wish that it did not cost them anything or, at least, that it cost very little. They would like to visit the sick, indeed, but it would be more convenient if the sick would come to them. They have something to give away in alms, they know quite well that a certain person has need of help, but they wait until she comes to ask them instead of anticipating her, which would make the kindness so very much more meritorious. We will even say, my brethren, that the person who leads a lukewarm life does not fail to do plenty of good works, to frequent the Sacraments, to assist regularly at all church services, but in all of this one sees only a weak, languishing faith, hope which the slightest trial will upset, a love of God and of neighbour which is without warmth or pleasure. Everything that such a person does is not entirely lost, but it is very nearly so.
See, before God, my brethren, on what side you are. On the side of the sinners, who have abandoned everything and plunge themselves into sin without remorse? On the side of the just souls, who seek but God alone? Or are you of the number of these slack, tepid, and indifferent souls such as we have just been depicting for you? Down which road are you travelling?
Who can dare assure himself that he is neither a great sinner nor a tepid soul but that he is one of the elect? Alas, my brethren, how many seem to be good Christians in the eyes of the world who are really tepid souls in the eyes of God, Who knows our inmost hearts....
Let us ask God with all our hearts, if we are in this state, to give us the grace to get out of it, so that we may take the route that all the saints have taken and arrive at the happiness that they are enjoying. That is what I desire for you....
Tuesday, June 9, 2009
The declaration was made by Thrissur Archbishop Mar Andrews Thazhath at St Mary's Forane Church in Chelakkara near Thrissur on Tuesday morning.
Father Francis Aloor, spokesman for the Archdiocese, said the Pope's 'bull' (document from Vatican) was read out by the Senior Vicar General Father Raphael Thattil during a high con-celebrated mass led by Thazhath, Archbishop Emeritus, Mar Jacob Thoomkuzhy amid a large gathering of faithful and laymen.
Declaration of a faithful as 'Servant of God' is the first step for canonisation under the Roman Catholic Church.
Other steps towards the sainthood, are declarations of Venerable, Blessed and Canonisation, Aloor said.
Following order of 'No-objection' in this regard, the work of the Tribunal for the canonisation of Thachuparambil would be initiated by the Postulator Father Paul Pulicken, he said.
Born in 1894 at Chalakudy, Thachuparambil had served about three decades since 1930 in Chelakkara, an extremely backward forest area.
He had made immense contribution for the overall development of Chelakkara, serving all sections of the society irrespective of caste, creed, colour and religion.
Thachuparambil has established a school, Balabhavan for orphans and a church in the 1930s. He died on June 9, 1963.
Washington D.C., Jun 9, 2009 / 01:18 am (CNA).- The U.S. bishops’ conference has set up a website to help mark the Year for Priests by providing prayers and other resources.
Pope Benedict XVI designated the Year to begin on the Feast of the Sacred Heart of Jesus, June 19. His announcement also designated St. John Vianney, the patron saint of parish priests, as the Universal Patron of All Priests. According to a press release from the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, the Secretariat for Clergy, Consecrated Life and Vocations has set up a website in service of the year’s theme.
“Please pray for our priests that they might always be faithful to their sacred calling,” the site says.
The site includes Pope Benedict’s message for the Year of Priests and the announcement of the celebration’s plenary indulgence in English and Spanish. It also provides prayers for both priests and laity in PDF format so that they may be downloaded and printed for diocesan and parochial use.
The Secretariat plans to provide monthly articles by prominent Catholic women who will write about their “faith and trust” in the priesthood.
Other activities for the Year of Priests include a gathering of priests in Rome as well as a retreat on the national level. Information on the retreat will also be provided through the website, which is located at http://www.usccb.org/yearforpriests/index.shtml
Curé of Ars, born at Dardilly, near Lyons, France, on 8 May, 1786; died at Ars, 4 August, 1859; son of Matthieu Vianney and Marie Beluze.
In 1806, the curé at Ecully, M. Balley, opened a school for ecclesiastical students, and Jean-Marie was sent to him. Though he was of average intelligence and his masters never seem to have doubted his vocation, his knowledge was extremely limited, being confined to a little arithmetic, history, and geography, and he found learning, especially the study of Latin, excessively difficult. One of his fellow-students, Matthias Loras, afterwards first Bishop of Dubuque, assisted him with his Latin lessons.
But now another obstacle presented itself. Young Vianney was drawn in the conscription, the war with Spain and the urgent need of recruits having caused Napoleon to withdraw the exemption enjoyed by the ecclesiastical students in the diocese of his uncle, Cardinal Fesch. Matthieu Vianney tried unsuccessfully to procure a substitute, so his son was obliged to go. His regiment soon received marching orders. The morning of departure, Jean-Baptiste went to church to pray, and on his return to the barracks found that his comrades had already left. He was threatened with arrest, but the recruiting captainbelieved his story and sent him after the troops. At nightfall he met a young man who volunteered to guide him to his fellow-soldiers, but led him to Noes, where somedeserters had gathered. The mayor persuaded him to remain there, under an assumed name, as schoolmaster. After fourteen months, he was able to communicate with his family. His father was vexed to know that he was a deserter and ordered him to surrender but the matter was settled by his younger brother offering to serve in his stead and being accepted.
Jean-Baptiste now resumed his studies at Ecully. In 1812, he was sent to the seminary at Verrieres; he was so deficient in Latin as to be obliged to follow the philosophy course in French. He failed to pass the examinations for entrance to the seminary proper, but on re-examination three months later succeeded. On 13 August, 1815, he was ordained priest by Mgr. Simon, Bishop of Grenoble. His difficulties in making the preparatory studies seem to have been due to a lack of mental suppleness in dealing with theory as distinct from practice -- a lack accounted for by the meagreness of his early schooling, the advanced age at which he began to study, the fact that he was not of more than averageintelligence, and that he was far advanced in spiritual science and in the practice of virtue long before he came to study it in the abstract. He was sent to Ecully as assistant to M. Balley, who had first recognized and encouraged his vocation, who urged him to persevere when the obstacles in his way seemed insurmountable, who interceded with the examiners when he failed to pass for the higher seminary, and who was his model as well as his preceptor and patron. In 1818, after the death of M. Balley, M. Vianney was made parish priest of Ars, a village not very far from Lyons. It was in the exercise of the functions of the parish priest in this remote French hamlet that as the "curé d'Ars" he became known throughout France and the Christian world. A few years after he went to Ars, he founded a sort of orphanage for destitute girls. It was called "The Providence" and was the model of similar institutions established later all over France. M. Vianney himself instructed the children of "The Providence" in the catechism, and these catechetical instructions came to be so popular that at last they were given every day in the church to large crowds. "The Providence" was the favourite work of the "curé d'Ars", but, although it was successful, it was closed in 1847, because the holy curé thought that he was not justified in maintaining it in the face of the opposition of many good people. Its closing was a very heavy trial to him.
But the chief labour of the Curé d'Ars was the direction of souls. He had not been long at Ars when people began coming to him from other parishes, then from distant places, then from all parts of France, and finally from other countries. As early as 1835, his bishop forbade him to attend the annual retreats of the diocesan clergy because of "the souls awaiting him yonder". During the last ten years of his life, he spent from sixteen to eighteen hours a day in the confessional. His advice was sought by bishops, priests, religious, young men and women in doubt as to their vocation, sinners, persons in all sorts of difficulties and the sick. In 1855, the number of pilgrims had reached twenty thousand a year. The most distinguished persons visited Ars for the purpose of seeing the holy curé and hearing his daily instruction. The Venerable Father Colin was ordained deacon at the same time, and was his life-long friend, while Mother Marie de la Providence founded the Helpers of the Holy Souls on his advice and with his constant encouragement. His direction was characterized by common sense, remarkable insight, and supernatural knowledge. He would sometimes divine sins withheld in an imperfect confession. His instructions were simple in language, full of imagery drawn from daily life and country scenes, but breathing faith and that love of God which was his life principle and which he infused into his audience as much by his manner and appearance as by his words, for, at the last, his voice was almost inaudible.
The miracles recorded by his biographers are of three classes:
* first, the obtaining of money for his charities and food for his orphans;
* secondly, supernatural knowledge of the past and future;
* thirdly, healing the sick, especially children.
The greatest miracle of all was his life. He practised mortification from his early youth. and for forty years his food and sleep were insufficient, humanly speaking, to sustain life. And yet he laboured incessantly, with unfailing humility, gentleness, patience, and cheerfulness, until he was more than seventy-three years old.
On 3 October, 1874 Jean-Baptiste-Marie Vianney was proclaimed Venerable by Pius IX and on 8 January, 1905, he was enrolled among the Blessed. Pope Pius X proposed him as a model to the parochial clergy.
Pope Benedict XVI has declared a “Year for Priests” beginning with the Solemnity of the Sacred Heart of Jesus on June 19, 2009. The year will conclude in Rome with an international gathering of priests with the Holy Father on June 19, 2010.
With the announcement of this Year for Priests, the Pope has declared St. John Vianney the Universal Patron of Priests on the occasion of the 150th anniversary of the death of the Curé d’Ars.
On this website you will find a number of resources to aid your parish’s celebration of the year for priests. There is also information regarding events for priests that will occur throughout the Year for Priests.
Please pray for our priests that they might always be faithful to their sacred calling.
Address of His Holiness Benedict XVI
Announcing the Year for PriestsYour Eminences,
Venerable Brothers in the Episcopate and in the Priesthood,
I am glad to be able to welcome you at a special Audience on the eve of my departure for Africa, where I am going to present the Instrumentum Laboris of the Second Special Assembly of the Synod for Africa that will be held here in Rome next October. I thank Cardinal Cláudio Hummes for the kind words with which he has interpreted the sentiments you share and I thank you for the beautiful letter you wrote to me. With him, I greet you all, Superiors, Officials and Members of the Congregation, with gratitude for all the work you do at the service of such an important sector of the Church's life.
The theme you have chosen for this Plenary Assembly "The missionary identity of the priest in the Church as an intrinsic dimension of the exercise of the tria munera" suggests some reflections on the work of these days and the abundant fruit that it will certainly yield. If the whole Church is missionary and if every Christian, by virtue of Baptism and Confirmation quasi ex officio (cf. Catechism of the Catholic Church, n. 1305), receives the mandate to profess the faith publicly, the ministerial priesthood, also from this viewpoint, is ontologically distinct, and not only by rank, from the baptismal priesthood that is also known as the "common priesthood". In fact, the apostolic mandate "Go into all the world and preach the Gospel to the whole of creation" (Mk 16: 15) is constitutive of the ministerial priesthood. This mandate is not, as we know, a mere duty entrusted to collaborators; its roots are deeper and must be sought further back in time.
The missionary dimension of the priesthood is born from the priest's sacramental configuration to Christ. As a consequence it brings with it a heartfelt and total adherence to what the ecclesial tradition has identified as apostolica vivendi forma. This consists in participation in a "new life", spiritually speaking, in that "new way of life" which the Lord Jesus inaugurated and which the Apostles made their own. Through the imposition of the Bishop's hands and the consecratory prayer of the Church, the candidates become new men, they become "presbyters". In this light it is clear that the tria munera are first a gift and only consequently an office, first a participation in a life, and hence a potestas. Of course, the great ecclesial tradition has rightly separated sacramental efficacy from the concrete existential situation of the individual priest and so the legitimate expectations of the faithful are appropriately safeguarded. However, this correct doctrinal explanation takes nothing from the necessary, indeed indispensable, aspiration to moral perfection that must dwell in every authentically priestly heart.
Precisely to encourage priests in this striving for spiritual perfection on which, above all, the effectiveness of their ministry depends, I have decided to establish a special "Year for Priests" that will begin on 19 June and last until 19 June 2010. In fact, it is the 150th anniversary of the death of the Holy Curé d'Ars, John Mary Vianney, a true example of a pastor at the service of Christ's flock. It will be the task of your Congregation, in agreement with the diocesan Ordinaries and with the superiors of religious institutes to promote and to coordinate the various spiritual and pastoral initiatives that seem useful for making the importance of the priest's role and mission in the Church and in contemporary society ever more clearly perceived.
The priest's mission, as the theme of the Plenary Assembly emphasizes, is carried out "in the Church". This ecclesial communal, hierarchical and doctrinal dimension is absolutely indispensable to every authentic mission and, alone guarantees its spiritual effectiveness. The four aspects mentioned must always be recognized as intimately connected: the mission is "ecclesial" because no one proclaims himself in the first person, but within and through his own humanity every priest must be well aware that he is bringing to the world Another, God himself. God is the only treasure which ultimately people desire to find in a priest. The mission is "communional" because it is carried out in a unity and communion that only secondly has also important aspects of social visibility. Moreover, these derive essentially from that divine intimacy in which the priest is called to be expert, so that he may be able to lead the souls entrusted to him humbly and trustingly to the same encounter with the Lord. Lastly, the "hierarchical" and "doctrinal" dimensions suggest reaffirming the importance of the ecclesiastical discipline (the term has a connection with "disciple") and doctrinal training and not only theological, initial and continuing formation.
Awareness of the radical social changes that have occurred in recent decades must motivate the best ecclesial forces to supervise the formation of candidates for the ministry. In particular, it must foster the constant concern of Pastors for their principal collaborators, both by cultivating truly fatherly human relations and by taking an interest in their continuing formation, especially from the doctrinal and spiritual viewpoints. The mission is rooted in a special way in a good formation, developed in communion with uninterrupted ecclesial Tradition, without breaks or temptations of irregularity. In this sense, it is important to encourage in priests, especially in the young generations, a correct reception of the texts of the Second Ecumenical Vatican Council, interpreted in the light of the Church's entire fund of doctrine. It seems urgent to recover that awareness that has always been at the heart of the Church's mission, which impels priests to be present, identifiable and recognizable both for their judgement of faith, for their personal virtues as well as for the habit, in the contexts of culture and of charity.
As Church and as priests, we proclaim Jesus of Nazareth Lord and Christ, Crucified and Risen, Sovereign of time and of history, in the glad certainty that this truth coincides with the deepest expectations of the human heart. In the mystery of the Incarnation of the Word, that is, of the fact that God became man like us, lies both the content and the method of Christian proclamation. The true dynamic centre of the mission is here: in Jesus Christ, precisely. The centrality of Christ brings with it the correct appreciation of the ministerial priesthood, without which there would be neither the Eucharist, nor even the mission nor the Church herself. In this regard it is necessary to be alert to ensure that the "new structures" or pastoral organizations are not planned on the basis of an erroneous interpretation of the proper promotion of the laity for a time in which one would have "to do without" the ordained ministry, because in that case the presuppositions for a further dilution of the ministerial priesthood would be laid and possible presumed "solutions" might come dramatically to coincide with the real causes of contemporary problems linked to the ministry.
I am certain that in these days the work of the Plenary Assembly, under the protection of the Mater Ecclesiae, will be able to examine these brief ideas that I permit myself to submit to the attention of the Cardinals, Archbishops and Bishops, while I invoke upon you all an abundance of heavenly gifts, as a pledge of which I impart a special, affectionate Apostolic Blessing to you and to all your loved ones.Address of His Holiness Benedict XVI
to the Members of the Congregation for the Clergy
on the Occasion of their Plenary Assembly
Monday, 16 March 2009
Please Pray for Priests
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.
Saint John Vianney, pray for us.
A Priest’s Prayer
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.
O Mary, Queen of priests, pray for us.
Saint John Vianney, pray for us.
Friday, May 22, 2009
The story of Our Lord's Ascension and His foretelling of the Pentecost to come is recounted most fully by Luke in in Acts 1:1-11:
The former treatise I made, O Theophilus, of all things which Jesus began to do and to teach, Until the day on which, giving commandments by the Holy Ghost to the apostles whom he had chosen, he was taken up. To whom also he shewed himself alive after his passion, by many proofs, for forty days appearing to them, and speaking of the kingdom of God. And eating together with them, he commanded them, that they should not depart from Jerusalem, but should wait for the promise of the Father, which you have heard (saith he) by my mouth. For John indeed baptized with water, but you shall be baptized with the Holy Ghost, not many days hence.
They therefore who were come together, asked him, saying: Lord, wilt thou at this time restore again the kingdom to Israel? But he said to them: It is not for you to know the times or moments, which the Father hath put in his own power: But you shall receive the power of the Holy Ghost coming upon you, and you shall be witnesses unto me in Jerusalem, and in all Judea, and Samaria, and even to the uttermost part of the earth. And when he had said these things, while they looked on, he was raised up: and a cloud received him out of their sight. And while they were beholding him going up to heaven, behold two men stood by them in white garments. Who also said: Ye men of Galilee, why stand you looking up to heaven? This Jesus who is taken up from you into heaven, shall so come, as you have seen him going into heaven. Then they returned to Jerusalem...
He ascended to be glorified with the Father, to sit at the Father's right hand, to rule as King of Kings, to send us the Holy Ghost, and, as Hebrews 1:1-2 says, to be our High Priest Who
is set on the right hand of the throne of majesty in the heavens, A minister of the holies, and of the true tabernacle, which the Lord hath pitched, and not man.
And He ascended to prepare a place for us. St. John recounts in the first 3 verses of the fourteenth chapter of his Gospel that after the Last Supper, Our Lord told His disciples:
Let not your heart be troubled. You believe in God, believe also in me. In my Father's house there are many mansions. If not, I would have told you: because I go to prepare a place for you. And if I shall go, and prepare a place for you, I will come again, and will take you to myself; that where I am, you also may be.
Glorious promise to those who believe and obey! And there is something else most splendid about the Ascension: Christ foretold it, and in such a way as to teach the Apostles of the miraculous nature of the Eucharist. In John 6:56-58, we read:
For My Flesh is meat indeed: and My Blood is drink indeed. He that eateth My Flesh, and drinketh My Blood, abideth in Me, and I in him. As the living Father hath sent Me, and I live by the Father; so he that eateth Me, the same also shall live by Me.
Immediately after hearing these words, some of His disciples are scandalized -- some even to the point of walking away from Him. Jesus then said to them that they would know His words are true when they will see an obvious miracle with their own eyes -- His Ascension. Verses 62-63:62
But Jesus, knowing in himself, that his disciples murmured at this, said to them: Doth this scandalize you? If then you shall see the Son of man ascend up where he was before?
As to the place of His Ascension, the Golden Legend, written in A.D. 1275 by Jacobus de Voragine, Archbishop of Genoa, has this to say:
As to the first he ascended from the mount of Olives by Bethany; the which mountain, by another relation, is said the mountain of three lights. For by night on the side of the west it is lighted of the fire that burneth in the Temple, which never is put out ne quenched. On the morning it is light of the orient, for she hath first the rays of the sun before it shineth in the city, and also it hath great abundance of oil that nourisheth the light, and therefore it is said the hill of three lights.
Unto this hill Jesu Christ commanded his disciples that they should go. For on the day of his Ascension he appeared two times, one time to eleven disciples that ate in the hall where they had supped with him. All the apostles and the disciples and also the women, abode in that part of Jerusalem which is called Mello, in the mountain of Sion, where David had made his palace. And there was the great hall arrayed and ordained for to sup, whereas Jesu Christ commanded that they should make ready for to eat the Paschal Lamb, and in this place the eleven apostles abode, and the other disciples, and the women abode in divers mansions there about.
And when they had eaten in this hall, our Lord appeared to them and reproved them of their incredulity. And when he had eaten with them, and had commanded them that they should go to the Mount of Olivet on the side by Bethany, he appeared again to them, and answered to them of the demands that they made to him indiscreetly, and with his hands lifted he blessed them; and anon before them he ascended unto heaven.
Of the place of this ascension saith Sulpicius, Bishop of Jerusalem, and it is in the Gloss. For there was edified a church in the place where were made the signs of his ascension. Never sith [afterwards] might be set there any pavement, it could not be laid ne set but anon it issued out, and the stones of the marble sprang into the visages of them that set it. And that is a sign that they be stones on which Christ passed upon, which lie in the powder and dust, and abide for a token and sign certain.
The footprints said to be His are now enclosed in a shrine called the Chapel of the Ascension near the top of the mountain (picture above). The original building was destroyed by the Persians in A.D. 614, but was rebuilt by Crusaders. The Moslems took control of the building in the 13th century and transformed it into a mosque, walling in the arches, and adding a dome.
As to customs, it is traditional to eat some sort of bird on this day, in honor of Christ Who "flew" to Heaven. If you live in a hilly or mountainous area, climbing the hills in commemoration of Jesus and the Apostles' climbing the Mt. of Olives, whence Jesus ascended to Heaven, is customary. Putting the two together, a picnic that includes some sort of bird and eaten on a hill or mountain would be a perfect way to spend the day.
In some parts of Italy (Tuscany, for ex.) there is the interesting custom of catching crickets on this day. Families will have a picnic while the children look for crickets, which are said to bring blessings (as they are seen to do in the East, too) -- especially if they still sing when taken home in little cricket cages. Back in the day, a man would adorn his beloved's doors with flowers on this Feast, and give her a cricket cage, too. I have no idea as to how crickets came to be associ
ated with the Ascension, but the Feast is also known in parts of Italy as "La Festa del Grillo" ("the Feast of the Cricket"). Now this custom usually takes place on the Sunday after Ascension Day, and caged crickets are sold so that children can release them -- but crickets can be kept as singing pets, too!
Something else wonderful happens in Italy on the Feast of the Ascension and the days following: in Venice, there is a clock tower in the Piazza San Marco. This marvelous clock, made in A.D. 1499 (and recently restored) indicates not
only the minutes and hours, but the days, months, Zodiacal signs, and phases of the Moon as well. At the top of the tower are two large figures known as the Moors ("Mori"), who signal the hour by striking a large bell. Underneath them is a large, golden lion -- the symbol of St. Mark, patron of Venice. Underneath this is a niche which holds a figure of Our Lady and her Son. Twice a year -- on the Feast of the Epiphany and during the festivities surrounding the Ascension (known as "la Festa della Sensa" in Venice) -- doors on either side of Our Lady open up, and out come the three Magi, led by an angel. The angel and Kings make their way around Our Lady and Jesus, the angel regaling them with his trumpet, and the Kings bowing and removing their crowns. 1
Also on this day, a very old civic ritual is re-enacted in this city. The Ascension had always been an important Feast to the Venetians: in A.D. 1000, the Doge left on this Feast Day to aid the Dalmatians who were being threatened by the Slavs. This led to Venetian security and became celebrated annually with a blessing of the sea. Then, in A.D. 1177, the Doge helped bring about a peace between Barbarossa and the Papal States. Pope Alexander III was so grateful for the Doge's service that he sent a blessed ring as a sign of the sovereignty that the Doge and his successors will have perpetually over the sea. The blessing of the sea turned into a "marriage with the sea," and since that time, the Doge of Venice would board an ornate, gilded boat (the Bucintoro, or Bucentaur) and be rowed to the lagoon in front of the church of San Nicolo del Lido, accompanied by clergy and government types, a
nd with a procession of other decorated boats following behind. There, the Doge would throw a ring into the waters while saying the words "Desponsamus te mare, in signum veri perpetuique dominii," which mean, "We marry you, oh sea, as a symbol of perpetual dominion." Now the mayor throws the ring, thereby uniting that beautiful city with the sea... (See paintings of the Clock Tower and the voyage of the Doge on the bucintoro, painted by Francesco Guardi.)
Sermons by Pope Leo the Great (ca. 395-461)
The events recorded as happening after the Resurrection were intended to convince its truth. Since the blessed and glorious Resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ, whereby the Divine power in three days raised the true Temple of God, which the wickedness of the Jews had overthrown, the sacred forty days, dearly-beloved are to-day ended, which by most holy appointment were devoted to our most profitable instruction, so that, during the period that the Lord thus protracted the lingering of His bodily presence, our faith in the Resurrection might be fortified by needful proofs.
For Christ's Death had much disturbed the disciples' hearts, and a kind of torpor of distrust had crept over their grief-laden minds at His torture on the cross, at His giving up the ghost, at His lifeless body's burial. For, when the holy women, as the Gospel-story has revealed, brought word of tile stone rolled away from the tomb, the sepulchre emptied of the body, and the angels bearing witness to the living Lord, their words seemed like ravings to the Apostles and other disciples. Which doubtfulness, the result of human weakness, the Spirit of Truth would most assuredly not have permitted to exist in His own preacher's breasts, had not their trembling anxiety and careful hesitation laid the foundations of our faith. It was our perplexities and our dangers that were provided for in the Apostles: it was ourselves who in these men were taught how to meet the cavillings of the ungodly and the arguments of earthly wisdom. We are instructed by their lookings, we are taught by their hearings, we are convinced by their handlings. Let us give thanks to the Divine management and the holy Fathers' necessary slowness of belief. Others doubted, that we might not doubt.
And therefore they are in the highest degree instructive. Those days, therefore, dearly-beloved, which intervened between the Lord's Resurrection and Ascension did not pass by in uneventful leisure, but great mysteries were ratified in them, deep truths revealed. In them the fear of awful death was removed, and the immortality not only of the soul but also of the flesh established. In them, through the Lord's breathing upon them, the Holy Ghost is poured upon all the Apostles, and to the blessed Apostle Peter beyond the rest the care of the Lord's flock is entrusted, in addition to the keys of the kingdom. Then it was that the Lord joined the two disciples as a companion on the way, and, to the sweeping away of all the clouds of our uncertainty, upbraided them with the slowness of their timorous hearts. Their enlightened hearts catch the flame of faith, and lukewarm as they have been, are made to burn while the Lord unfolds the Scriptures. In the breaking of bread also their eyes are opened as they eat with Him: how far more blessed is the opening of their eyes, to whom the glorification of their nature is revealed than that of our first parents, on whom fell the disastrous consequences of their transgression.
The prove the Resurrection of the flesh. And in the course of these and other miracles, when the disciples were harassed by bewildering thoughts, and the Lord had appeared in their midst and said, "Peace be unto you," that what was passing through their hearts might not be their fixed opinion (for they thought they saw a spirit not flesh), He refutes their thoughts so discordant with the Truth, offers to the doubters' eyes the marks of the cross that remained in His hands and feet, and invites them to handle Him with careful scrutiny, because the traces of the nails and spear had been retained to heal the wounds of unbelieving hearts, so that not with wavering faith, but with most stedfast knowledge they might comprehend that the Nature which had been lain in the sepulchre was to sit on God the Father's throne.
Christ's Ascension has given us greater privileges and joys than the devil had taken from us. Accordingly, dearly-beloved, throughout this time which elapsed between the Lord's Resurrection and Ascension, God's Providence had this in view, to teach and impress upon both the eyes and hearts of His own people that the Lord Jesus Christ might be acknowledged to have as truly risen, as He was truly born, suffered, and died. And hence the most blessed Apostles and all the disciples, who had been both bewildered at His death on the cross and backward in believing His Resurrection, were so strengthened by the clearness of the truth that when the Lord entered the heights of heaven, not only were they affected with no sadness, but were even filled with great joy. And truly great and unspeakable was their cause for joy, when in the sight of the holy multitude, above the dignity of all heavenly creatures, the Nature of mankind went up, to pass above the angels' ranks and to rise beyond the archangels' heights, and to have Its uplifting limited by no elevation until, received to sit with the Eternal Father, It should be associated on the throne with His glory, to Whose Nature It was united in the Son. Since then Christ's Ascension is our uplifting, and the hope of the Body is raised, whither the glory of the Head has gone before, let us exult, dearly-beloved, with worthy joy and delight in the loyal paying of thanks. For today not only are we confirmed as possessors of paradise, but have also in Christ penetrated the heights of heaven, and have gained still greater things through Christ's unspeakable grace than we had lost through the devil's malice. For us, whom our virulent enemy had driven out from the bliss of our first abode, the Son of God has made members of Himself and placed at the right hand of the Father, with Whom He lives and reigns in the unity of the Holy Spirit, God for ever and ever. Amen.
The mystery of our salvation, dearly-beloved, which the Creator of the universe valued at the price of His blood, has now been carried out under conditions of humiliation from the day of His bodily birth to the end of His Passion. And although even in "the form of a slave" many signs of Divinity have beamed out, yet the events of all that period served particularly to show the reality of His assumed Manhood.
But after the Passion, when the chains of death were broken, which had exposed its own strength by attacking Him, Who was ignorant of sin, weakness was turned into power, mortality into eternity, contumely into glory, which the Lord Jesus Christ showed by many clear proofs in the sight of many, until He carried even into heaven the triumphant victory which He had won over the dead. As therefore at the Easter commemoration, the Lord's Resurrection was the cause of our rejoicing; so the subject of our present gladness is His Ascension, as we commemorate and duly venerate that day on which the Nature of our humility in Christ was raised above all the host of heaven, over all the ranks of angels, beyond the height of all powers, to sit with God the Father. On which Providential order of events we are founded and built up, that God's Grace might become more wondrous, when, notwithstanding the removal from men's sight of what was rightly felt to command their awe, faith did not fail, hope did not waver, love did not grow cold. For it is the strength of great minds and the light of firmly-faithful souls, unhesitatingly to believe what is not seen with the bodily sight, and there to fix one's affections whither you cannot direct your gaze. And whence should this Godliness spring up in our hearts, or how should a man be justified by faith, if our salvation rested on those things only which lie beneath our eyes? Hence our Lord said to him who seemed to doubt of Christ's Resurrection, until he had tested by sight and touch the traces of His Passion in His very Flesh, "because thou hast seen Me, thou hast believed: blessed are, they who have not seen and yet have believed."
In order, therefore, dearly-beloved, that we may be capable of this blessedness, when all things were fulfilled which concerned the Gospel preaching and the mysteries of the New Testament, our Lord Jesus Christ, on the fortieth day after the Resurrection in the presence of the disciples, was raised into heaven, and terminated His presence with us in the body, to abide on the Father's right hand until the times Divinely fore-ordained for multiplying the sons of the Church are accomplished, and He comes to judge the living and the dead in the same flesh in which He ascended. And so that which till then was visible of our Redeemer was changed into a sacramental presence, and that faith might be more excellent and stronger, sight gave way to doctrine, the authority of which was to be accepted by believing hearts enlightened with rays from above.
This Faith, increased by the Lord's Ascension and established by the gift of the Holy Ghost, was not terrified by bonds, imprisonments, banishments, hunger, fire, attacks by wild beasts, refined torments of cruel persecutors. For this Faith throughout the world not only men, but even women, not only beardless boys, but even tender maids, fought to the shedding of their blood. This Faith cast out spirits, drove off sicknesses, raised the dead: and through it the blessed Apostles themselves also, who after being confirmed by so many miracles and instructed by so many discourses, had yet been panic-stricken by the horrors of the Lord's Passion and had not accepted the truth of His resurrection without hesitation, made such progress after the Lord's Ascension that everything which had previously filled them with fear was turned into joy. For they had lifted the whole contemplation of their mind to the Godhead of Him that sat at the Father's right hand, and were no longer hindered by the barrier of corporeal sight from directing their minds' gaze to That Which had never quitted the Father's side in descending to earth, and had not forsaken the disciples in ascending to heaven.
The Son of Man and Son of God, therefore, dearly-beloved, then attained a more excellent and holier fame, when He betook Himself back to the glory of the Father's Majesty, and in an ineffable manner began to be nearer to the Father in respect of His Godhead, after having become farther away in respect of His manhood. A better instructed faith then began to draw closer to a conception of the Son's equality with the Father without the necessity of handling the corporeal substance in Christ, whereby He is less than the Father, since, while the Nature of the glorified Body still remained the faith of believers was called upon to touch not with the hand of flesh, but with the spiritual understanding the Only-begotten, Who was equal with the Father. Hence comes that which the Lord said after His Resurrection, when Mary Magdalene, representing the Church, hastened to approach and touch Him: "Touch Me not, for I have not yet ascended to My Father:" that is, I would not have you come to Me as to a human body, nor yet recognize Me by fleshly perceptions: I put thee off for higher things, I prepare greater things for thee: when I have ascended to My Father, then thou shall handle Me more perfectly and truly, for thou shall grasp what thou canst not touch and believe what thou canst not see. But when the disciples eyes followed the ascending Lord to heaven with upward gaze of earnest wonder, two angels stood by them in raiment shining with wondrous brightness, who also said, "Ye men of Galilee, why stand ye gazing into heaven? This Jesus Who was taken up from you into heaven shall so come as ye saw Him going into heaven." By which words all the sons of the Church were taught to believe that Jesus Christ will come visibly in the same Flesh wherewith He ascended, and not to doubt that all things are subjected to Him on Whom the ministry of angels had waited from the first beginning of His Birth. For, as an angel announced to the blessed Virgin that Christ should be conceived by the Holy Ghost, so the voice of heavenly beings sang of His being born of the Virgin also to the shepherds. As messengers from above were the first to attest His having risen from the dead, so the service of angels was employed to foretell His coming in very Flesh to judge the world, that we might understand what great powers will come with Him as Judge, when such great ones ministered to Him even in being judged.
And so, dearly-beloved, let us rejoice with spiritual joy, and let us with gladness pay God worthy thanks and raise our hearts' eyes unimpeded to those heights where Christ is. Minds that have heard the call to be uplifted must not be pressed down by earthly affections, they that are fore-ordained to things eternal must not be taken up with the things that perish; they that have entered on the way of Truth must not be entangled in treacherous snares, and the faithful must so take their course through these temporal things as to remember that they are sojourning in the vale of this world, in which, even though they meet with some attractions, they must not sinfully embrace them, but bravely pass through them. For to this devotion the blessed Apostle Peter arouses us, and entreating us with that loving eagerness which he conceived for feeding Christ's sheep by the threefold profession of love for the Lord, says, "dearly-beloved, I beseech you, as strangers and pilgrims, abstain from fleshly lusts which war against the soul." But for whom do fleshly pleasures wage war, if not for the devil, whose delight it is to fetter souls that strive after things above, with the enticements of corruptible good things, and to draw them away from those abodes from which he himself has been banished? Against his plots every believer must keep careful watch that he may crush his foe on the side whence the attack is made. And there is no more powerful weapon, dearly-beloved, against the devil's wiles than kindly mercy and bounteous charity, by which every sin is either escaped or vanquished. But this lofty power is not attained until that which is opposed to it be overthrown. And what so hostile to mercy and works of charity as avarice from the root of which spring all evils? And unless it be destroyed by lack of nourishment, there must needs grow in the ground of that heart in which this evil weed has taken root, the thorns and briars of vices rather than any seed of true goodness. Let us then, dearly-beloved, resist this pestilential evil and "follow after charity," without which no virtue can flourish, that by this path of love whereby Christ came down to us, we too may mount up to Him, to Whom with God the Father and the Holy Spirit is honour and glory for ever and ever. Amen.
1 The twice-a-year appearances of the Magi -- again, on the Epiphany and during the days surrounding the Ascension -- total fifteen days in all. This clock can be seen briefly but very up-close in action in SUMMERTIME on in a 1955 film directed by David Lean and starring Katharine Hepburn and Rossano Brazzi. The movie is not believable (the leading man's character seems way too creepily "oily" for Hepburn's character to fall for, and so quickly, too), has some unintentionally funny dialogue (listen for the atrocious bit about ravioli), and has an immoral message (centering approvingly on an adulterous affair), but -- oh, the scenery!
TROPARION (TONE 4)
You ascended in glory, O Christ our God, and gladdened Your Disciples by the promise of the Holy Spirit. Through Your blessing they were confirmed in their belief that You are the Son of God, the Redeemer of the world.
The Ascension of Christ
by St. Augustine of Hippo
This reading, used in the Roman Liturgy's office of readings for the Solemn Feast (Solemnity) of the Ascension, is taken from a homily by St. Augustine (Sermo de Ascensione Domini, Mai 98, 1-2, PLS 2, 494-495). The Ascension is the second glorious mystery of the Rosary.
Today our Lord Jesus Christ ascended into heaven; let our hearts ascend with him. Listen to the words of the Apostle: If you have risen with Christ, set your hearts on the things that are above where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God; seek the things that are above, not the things that are on earth. For just as he remained with us even after his ascension, so we too are already in heaven with him, even though what is promised us has not yet been fulfilled in our bodies.
Christ is now exalted above the heavens, but he still suffers on earth all the pain that we, the members of his body, have to bear. He showed this when he cried out from above: Saul, Saul, why do you persecute me? and when he said: I was hungry and you gave me food.
Why do we on earth not strive to find rest with him in heaven even now, through the faith, hope and love that unites us to him? While in heaven he is also with us; and we while on earth are with him. He is here with us by his divinity, his power and his love. We cannot be in heaven, as he is on earth, by divinity, but in him, we can be there by love.
He did not leave heaven when he came down to us; nor did he withdraw from us when he went up again into heaven. The fact that he was in heaven even while he was on earth is borne out by his own statement: No one has ever ascended into heaven except the one who descended from heaven, the Son of Man, who is in heaven.
These words are explained by our oneness with Christ, for he is our head and we are his body. No one ascended into heaven except Christ because we also are Christ: he is the Son of Man by his union with us, and we by our union with him are the sons of God. So the Apostle says: Just as the human body, which has many members, is a unity, because all the different members make one body, so is it also with Christ. He too has many members, but one body.
Out of compassion for us he descended from heaven, and although he ascended alone, we also ascend, because we are in him by grace. Thus, no one but Christ descended and no one but Christ ascended; not because there is no distinction between the head and the body, but because the body as a unity cannot be separated from the head.