Wednesday, December 07, 2016

Mary, our Advent Model of Faith


Faith is like a ship that carries us through treacherous waters. When storms come to shake our faith, our little ship may bob up and down on the waves that threaten to capsize us. In such times, we can call on Mary, the Star of the Sea, who had an exceptional faith. When St. John Paul II wrote his encyclical on Mary (Mother of the Redeemer), he presented Mary as our model of faith. He said that faith is the key that unlocks the mystery of Mary.
God called her to exercise faith in two moments in particular. The first was when he invited her to be the Mother of his Son. She accepted, not knowing how she would explain this to Joseph. She trusted that God would lead her through any trial that would come. And her greatest moment of faith came on Calvary, when Mary stood at the foot of the cross and saw Jesus die a cruel and bloody death. But even then she did not waver. She trusted that God knew what he was doing, and that good would come from it. She even offered her own sufferings in union with those of Jesus. When the apostles fled and everyone abandoned Jesus, Mary kept the light of her faith burning brightly through the Sabbath day that followed. That is why we especially honor her on Saturdays. And her faith was rewarded when she saw the risen Christ.
St. John Paul explores all this and much more in his Marian encyclical. Pauline Books & Media has published a special edition with commentary by a Marian scholar, Sr. Jean Frisk. The Pope explains Mary’s role in the mystery of Christ and of the Church. This important document is well worth reading anytime, but especially in Advent. Mary goes before us and will help us through whatever difficulties life may throw at us. And when the storms come, we can, as St. Bernard said so beautifully, “Look to the Star! Call on Mary!”

Monday, November 21, 2016

Abortion Can Always Be Forgiven


Update: At the end of the Year of Mercy, Pope Francis has extended indefinitely the special faculties he extended to all priests about forgiving the sin of abortion. What is that all about? (This post was first published before the Year of Mercy began):

After the pope's statement about forgiving abortion, some media reports have made it sound like the Catholic Church doesn't forgive abortion. People are asking,  “Why can abortion only be forgiven during the Year of Mercy?”

Here’s a few facts to help clear up the confusion:

1. Abortion can always be forgiven in the Sacrament of Reconciliation. In fact, the Church makes every effort to encourage people involved in it to find healing and forgiveness. A wonderful example is Project Rachel. It is not the case that abortions will only be forgiven in the Year of Mercy.They can and are forgiven at any time when a person repents and confesses this. (That applies not only to women but also to men who pressure women, pay for, promote, aid and abet, or perform abortions, etc.)

2. Abortion is a sin. Because it is a grave matter and the Church hopes to discourage people from them, canon law says that procuring an abortion also incurs the penalty of automatic excommunication.

3. Forgiving the sin is one thing, and remitting the penalty of excommunication is another. Usually the penalty can only be remitted by the bishop. However, in the United States the bishops have given to all priests the faculty to not only forgive the sin when it is confessed in the Sacrament of Reconciliation, but also to remit the penalty. This is to encourage people to have easier access to forgiveness and healing.

4. Bishops in other countries, however, may have decided to handle it differently. So in brief, the pope is saying that any priest all over the world will be able not only to forgive the sin in confession but also to remit the penalty. While the pope didn’t mention the penalty in his statement, presumably that’s what he meant. Most likely an official text will be issued to clarify the canonical aspects. Pope Francis said:

For this reason too, I have decided, notwithstanding anything to the contrary, to concede to all priests for the Jubilee Year the discretion to absolve of the sin of abortion those who have procured it and who, with contrite heart, seek forgiveness for it. May priests fulfill this great task by expressing words of genuine welcome combined with a reflection that explains the gravity of the sin committed, besides indicating a path of authentic conversion by which to obtain the true and generous forgiveness of the Father who renews all with his presence.
5. Also, the automatic penalty of excommunication for abortion doesn’t apply if:

a) the person did not know about it (that would probably exclude about 99% of all Catholic women who have had abortions from incurring the penalty)

b) the person was under the age of 17

c) the person acted out of force or fear

d) the person had an imperfect use of reason

(See this for more info on canonical penalties)


Bottom line: when you see headlines about what the pope said, realize that the journalist writing the story probably knows very little about the Catholic faith and is not getting it right. The best thing is to go directly to the source (Vatican website) and read what the pope actually said.

Finally,  God is so merciful. Jesus said, "No one who comes to me will I ever reject." (Jn 6) His heart is overflowing with love and mercy, that heart pierced on the cross from which blood and water flowed out, the source of sacramental life in the Church.

Tuesday, November 15, 2016

St Albert the Great



Saint Albert the Great (c. 1193/1206-November 15, 1280)

Feast: November 15

Patron: students, teachers, philosophers, scientists, World Youth Day

Albert was the type of person to whom people would go whenever a question came up. He knew almost everything there was to know in the medieval world. An outstanding philosopher and theologian, he also studied the natural sciences. He painstakingly observed and recorded facts about insects, birds, astronomy, and many other fields.
Born in Germany, Albert entered the recently-founded order of Dominicans. His talents made him an important asset, and he became a professor in Paris and Cologne. At that time the works of Aristotle were getting better known in Europe, and Albert took part in the important movement to use the philosopher’s thought in better understanding Christian doctrine. In this Albert influenced his student, Thomas Aquinas, who went on to develop that field even more. Albert became the provincial of the Dominicans, and was appointed bishop of Regensburg in 1260. But being a bishop didn’t suit him, and he resigned after three years. He returned to scholarly work and preaching, mainly in Germany. In 1931 Pope Pius XI canonized him and named him a Doctor of the Church.


Reflection

Throughout his life Albert thirsted for knowledge of both human and divine things. He knew how to see the natural world in the light of God. Albert also knew himself. He realized that he was not well suited for the pastoral ministry of a bishop, and resigned from that office. All the saints showed a passion for doing the will of God. But sometimes doing the will of God can mean turning down an offer rather than accepting it. How do we know the difference? Only by prayer and careful discernment.

Prayer

Saint Albert the Great, pray for us that we may grow in knowledge of God and of ourselves, so as to serve God in the best way we can.


© 2014 Daughters of Saint Paul

Sunday, October 30, 2016

Jesus, our Divine Master, and the Holy Spirit



Today in the Pauline Family we celebrate the feast of Jesus, our Divine Master, our Way, Truth, and Life. Here is a reflection on how this devotion can only be lived in union with the Holy Spirit.


Toward the end of his life Yves Congar, OP, wrote:  “If I were to draw but one conclusion from the whole of my work on the Holy Spirit, I would express it in these words: no Christology without pneumatology, and no pneumatology without Christology” (Word and Spirit, p. 1).

Our Founder, Blessed James Alberione, gave the Pauline Family a strong devotion to Jesus our Divine Master. Jesus defines himself as our Way, Truth, and Life (John 14:6). Congar’s idea made me realize that I needed to think more about how the Holy Spirit acts in relation to these three aspects of Jesus Master. This is so important because it is only through the Holy Spirit that we can live out our devotion to Jesus Master. But how?


Jesus, our Way


Jesus is our Way to the Father. Jesus came to earth not only to open the way, to show us that way, but also to be that way. He showed us how to live and established the New Law of the Gospel.
But what is that New Law? St Thomas responds to that question by saying, “The New Law is chiefly the grace itself of the Holy Spirit, which is given to those who believe in Christ.”  (Summa, I-II, q. 106, a. 1).

The New Law Christ gave us, the Way to the Father, is the grace of the Holy Spirit. But what about everything written in the Gospels? Isn’t all that part of the New Law too? Yes, but in a secondary way. In fact, St Thomas goes on to make an astounding statement: “Even the letter of the Gospel kills unless the healing grace of faith is present within.” (q. 106, a. 3). What does Thomas mean? How could the letter of the Gospel kill? They’re the words of Jesus!

It comes down to the “healing grace of faith” that is present within us—through the Holy Spirit. By ourselves, on our own strength, we can’t live the Gospel teaching because it is above mere human ability. But we can live it, by the healing grace of faith that the Holy Spirit gives us. We can only follow Jesus Way if we are strengthened by the Holy Spirit.

Jesus, our Truth

As the Word, Jesus is Truth itself. He gave us a most sublime teaching. But to understand it we need the enlightenment that we receive from the Holy Spirit. At the Last Supper Jesus said, “I have much more to say to you, more than you can now bear. But when he, the Spirit of truth, comes, he will guide you into all the truth.” (Jn 16:12-13).

In The Hiding Place, Corrie ten Boom tells a wonderful story about her father. Once when traveling on a train with him, she as a little girl asked him a question about adult matters. Her father asked her to try and lift a heavy case he had. She tried but couldn’t, for it was too heavy for her. He told her that he would be a poor father if he tried to make her carry things too hard for her to bear just then.
The apostles were like Corrie as a child; they couldn’t bear the things Jesus was telling them. Only later, when the Holy Spirit came at Pentecost, did they begin to understand and were filled with light. The Holy Spirit also enlightens us, so that we can begin to understand what Jesus Truth has taught us. We can’t think that we automatically understand it. We don’t. How often have we heard a Gospel passage read that we’ve heard countless times before, but are suddenly struck by a powerful insight? That’s the Holy Spirit who teaches us the truth.


Jesus, our Life

As our Life, Jesus pours grace into us and brings us into a deeper and deeper union with him. But again, this only happens with the grace of the Holy Spirit.
The Eucharist is the source of grace par excellence. In his encyclical Ecclesia de Eucharistia, St John Paul wrote about the connection between the Eucharist and the Holy Spirit:


Through our communion in his body and blood, Christ also grants us his Spirit. Saint Ephrem writes: “He called the bread his living body and he filled it with himself and his Spirit. . . . He who eats it with faith, eats Fire and Spirit. . . . Take and eat this, all of you, and eat with it the Holy Spirit. For it is truly my body and whoever eats it will have eternal life.” The Church implores this divine Gift, the source of every other gift, in the Eucharistic epiclesis. In the Divine Liturgy of Saint John Chrysostom, for example, we find the prayer: “We beseech, implore and beg you: send your Holy Spirit upon us all and upon these gifts... that those who partake of them may be purified in soul, receive the forgiveness of their sins, and share in the Holy Spirit.” And in the Roman Missal the celebrant prays: “grant that we who are nourished by his body and blood may be filled with his Holy Spirit, and become one body, one spirit in Christ.” Thus by the gift of his body and blood Christ increases within us the gift of his Spirit, already poured out in Baptism and bestowed as a “seal” in the sacrament of Confirmation.

Much more could be said about this very rich topic. The above are only indications of how it could be developed. This prayer of Blessed James Alberione sums it up very well: “Jesus, live in us through the outpouring of your Holy Spirit.”
Amen!



Saturday, October 15, 2016

Blaming God: the essence of original sin

 When God spoke to Adam after he had eaten the forbidden fruit, Adam said, "the woman whom you gave me, gave me the fruit...."Adam was blaming God. Yes, he was also blaming Eve, but first he was telling God that it was all his fault. If God had just left well enough alone and never created that pesky woman in the first place, everything would have been just fine.
When Adam had first seen Eve, he was filled with awe and exclaimed, "At last, this one is bone of my bone and flesh of my flesh." But now, after the calamitous fall from grace, Adam no longer saw the woman as a gift, but a liability.

Blaming God. It's so easy to do, and we all do it. This is the essence of original sin, not just the offense they committed but shifting the blame to someone else, especially to God. In the text of Genesis, Adam and Eve never express any real repentance for their sin. They just blame each other and shrug off any responsibility. I wonder: was that the real test? Was the test not just disobeying God's command, but refusing to take responsibility? What if they had truly repented after disobeying God--would that have meant they passed the test?
I don't know. But today when we see so much blame going around--especially in our political culture but all over, really--isn't this what ails our society? The refusal to take responsibility for one's own life?

Wednesday, September 07, 2016

Our Lady of Sorrows



September 15 is the feast of Our Lady of Sorrows, the day after the Exaltation of the Holy Cross. It commemorates Mary's sharing in the passion of Jesus.
In Catholic tradition, seven sorrows are noted to highlight the major times of suffering in Mary's life. The first sorrow is the prophecy of Simeon when Jesus was presented at the Temple for his circumcision. Simeon said to Mary: “This child is destined for the falling and the rising of many in Israel, and to be a sign that will be opposed so that the inner thoughts of many will be revealed—and a sword will pierce your own soul too.” (Lk 2:34-35).

The sword that would pierce Mary's heart was not a physical one, but a sword of anguish. The word Luke uses for sword--rhomphaia--does not mean an ordinary sword but a very large one. It's almost like a javelin thrust through Mary's heart. We can only imagine how she suffered at seeing Jesus being put to death. 

This remarkable passage clearly links Mary with the future sufferings of Jesus. What do Simeon's words mean, "that the thoughts of many hearts may be revealed?" I've often pondered this, which is one of the most enigmatic statements in the Gospel. It must be linked to the previous statement that Jesus will be a sign of contradiction, linked to the falling and rising of  many in Israel. When they come face to face with Jesus and his teaching, people don't stay neutral. They either accept him or they reject him. Jesus made astounding claims that call for a deep commitment if people truly accept him.
Mary's sorrow will have to do not only with the sufferings Jesus endured, but the suffering for those people who reject him. This is a pain that many parents have felt when their own children leave the Church and sometimes fall into a lifestyle far from God. Mary already felt that suffering in her heart, and she can suffers with all those who have it. She has deep compassion for them. 

Prayer
Our Lady of Sorrows, you too participated in the sufferings of Jesus. How did you feel when you saw him on Calvary? I can only imagine how terribly you grieved for him. You also grieved for those who would walk away from Jesus. Pray for us, especially for those who have lost their faith, that they might be restored to it and come to know the fullness of joy in eternal life. Amen.

Stabat mater here

Monday, August 15, 2016

Mary’s Assumption and Divine Mercy



Today's Gospel recounts Mary's visit of Elizabeth. Scripture scholars point out that various elements in this text can make us think of Mary Mary as being like the Ark of the Covenant. The Ark was  made of acacia wood (see Ex 25:5), which was so strong it was basically indestructible. It wouldn’t decay. That detail can give us an insight into another aspect of Mary: her Assumption. This dogma of the Church, formally declared by Pope Pius XII, means that at the end of her earthly life Mary was assumed body and soul into heaven. Her body didn’t decay in the grave, but Jesus brought Mary into heaven in a fully human way, her soul united to her body.
The Church has always venerated the tombs of its saints, but there is no tomb of Mary. Interestingly, the Ark of the Covenant disappeared from history. It was lost at a certain point in Israel’s history and has never been found. While this is not a proof of the dogma, still it can hint at Mary’s Assumption.
What is the point of the Assumption? It was part of God’s mercy toward Mary, a gift given to her to bring to fulfillment the role God had asked her to play. Having faithfully followed Jesus on earth, she is already united to him in heavenly glory. This anticipates what we too hope to receive at the final time of fulfillment when Christ comes again in glory. We too will rise with him to new life, and experience what we profess in the Creed: “I believe in the resurrection of the body.”
Death is the great shadow that hangs over us. All of us experience the death of loved ones, and we know that our turn will come in due time. But Jesus has assured us that death is the gateway to new life, and that by his own resurrection he will bring us to eternal life with him. This is the greatest mercy of all, the gift of eternal salvation.
As the Mother of Mercy, Mary is always ready to help us with her loving, tender intercession. She looks at us with love, just as she looked so tenderly at St. Juan Diego and asked him, “Do you need anything else?” Mary’s intercession is honored in the Church’s liturgy by the feast of her queenship celebrated August 22, one week after the Assumption. These two feasts are linked also in the rosary, being the fourth and the fifth glorious mysteries. When Mary was assumed into heaven, she wanted to keep on helping the members of the Church on earth. It’s similar to what St. Thérèse of Lisieux said, that she wanted to spend her heaven doing good on earth.
This intercessory role of Mary and the saints is not separated from Jesus, as if the saints help us apart from him. They pray for us as members of the whole body of Christ, just as we can pray for each other on earth. Once we get to heaven, this continues in an even more intense way. Mary’s intercession for us has a special character, in that it is a maternal mediation. St. John Paul stressed this in his encyclical Mother of the Redeemer. Mary is certainly subordinate to Jesus and everything she does draws its power from him. Still, because she is his mother, she has a unique role given to no one else.
At the wedding in Cana, Jesus worked his first miracle at the request of his mother, Mary. He changed water into wine, and abundantly so. Even though he seemed to rebuff her request, “Woman, what concern is that to you and to me?” (Jn 2:4), he did it anyway. In some mysterious way, even now Jesus is always ready to grant the requests his mother makes of him. What would I like to ask?


Prayer

Mary my mother, I come to you with confidence and trust. I know that you are my spiritual mother and that you are very attentive to the needs of all your children. Please help me in my moment of need, (mention request), and ask Jesus to sustain me with his grace. Pray also for all those in the world who are in situations of special need. Cast your eyes of mercy on them as well.


Monday, July 18, 2016

St Camillus, an unlikely saint



Saint Camillus de Lellis (May 25, 1550 – July 14, 1614)
Patron: of the sick, doctors, nurses, hospitals, health-care workers
Even as a boy Camillus had a rough character. His mother died when he was twelve, and a few years later became a soldier, fighting alongside his father. They had the vices typical of a soldier’s life at that time, especially gambling. After his father died Camillus became a drifter who survived mainly by gambling. Because of a wound on his leg that wouldn’t heal, Camillus started working in a hospital in Rome. But he got into trouble on account of his bad temper and rough ways. He made some attempts to improve and even thought of becoming a friar. While doing manual labor at a Capuchin monastery his better nature started to show and he eventually made a complete conversion of life. Back at the San Giacomo hospital in Rome, he began in earnest to take care of the sick. Camillus also found a good spiritual director in Saint Philip Neri. Camillus was ordained as a priest when he was thirty-four. Against the advice of Saint Philip, he began a congregation to take care of the sick, known as the Clerics Regular, Ministers of the Sick. The work flourished and with great dedication Camillus and his men nursed the poor victims of the plague. They wore a large red cross on their habit.

Reflection

As a young man, Camillus certainly seemed like an unlikely candidate for sainthood. Yet the grace of God can do wonders with those who turn themselves over to God. What about me? What part of my life do I need to turn over to God so as to become holy?
Prayer
Saint Camillus, you like to say, “We want to assist the sick with the same love that a mother has for her only sick child.” Pray for us that we may have the same compassion toward those we are called to serve.

© 2016 Daughters of Saint Paul

Monday, July 11, 2016

St Thomas as a Teacher

Recently I've started to read some of the Scriptural commentaries of Thomas. They're very fascinating. I came across an interesting parallel text between his commentary on the letter to the Hebrews, and q. 36 in the first part of the Summa.

Both works come from his time teaching in Italy from 1265 to 1268. Although the two passages are dealing with different theological questions, when he talks about types of causes he uses the same examples in both of them. Perhaps he was in the habit of using similar examples in his teaching. In this case, the two texts are from about the same time, so it would make sense. Teachers often like to use their favorite comparisons in explaining something. While Thomas did dictate and write, much of his work involved teaching. He was in the classroom all the time, and this developed his theological thought. If we understand him as a teacher, I think we have an important key to his thought. The commentary on Hebrews was given as a lecture and Friar Reginald wrote down the notes.

The two examples involve the bailiff and the king, and the artisan and the hammer. Here are the texts:



From lecture 1, commentary on Hebrews:

“For through Him the Father made the world. But it should be noted that the grammatical object of the preposition ‘by’ or ‘through’ designates the cause of an act: in one way, because it causes a making on the part of the maker. For the making is midway between the maker and the thing made. In this usage the object of ‘by’ can designate the final cause motivating the maker, as an artisan works by gain; or the formal cause, as fire warms by heat; or even the efficient cause, as a bailiff acts through the king. But the Son is not the cause making the Father act through Him in any of these ways any more than He is the cause of His proceeding from the Father. But sometimes the object of ‘by’ designates the cause of the action, taken from the viewpoint of the thing made, as an artisan acts through a hammer; for the hammer is not the cause of the artisan’s action, but it is the cause why an artifact made of iron should proceed from the artisan, i.e., why iron [which the hammer strikes] be worked on by the artisan. This is the way the Son is the cause of things made and the way the Father works through the Son.”


From the Summa, I, q. 36, a. 3

“Whenever one is said to act through another, this preposition "through" points out, in what is covered by it, some cause or principle of that act. But since action is a mean between the agent and the thing done, sometimes that which is covered by the preposition "through" is the cause of the action, as proceeding from the agent; and in that case it is the cause of why the agent acts, whether it be a final cause or a formal cause, whether it be effective or motive. It is a final cause when we say, for instance, that the artisan works through love of gain. It is a formal cause when we say that he works through his art. It is a motive cause when we say that he works through the command of another. Sometimes, however, that which is covered by this preposition "through" is the cause of the action regarded as terminated in the thing done; as, for instance, when we say, the artisan acts through the mallet, for this does not mean that the mallet is the cause why the artisan acts, but that it is the cause why the thing made proceeds from the artisan, and that it has even this effect from the artisan. This is why it is sometimes said that this preposition "through" sometimes denotes direct authority, as when we say, the king works through the bailiff; and sometimes indirect authority, as when we say, the bailiff works through the king.”


Friday, June 03, 2016

What is devotion to the Sacred Heart of Jesus?



Saint Margaret Mary Alacoque is well known as one of the most ardent promoters of devotion to the Sacred Heart. But it did not originate with her. In fact, we could even say it began with Jesus himself when he invited us to rest in his heart. This invitation to find rest in the merciful heart of Jesus has consoled Christians throughout the centuries.

Many Church writers have spoken about the love of Jesus in reference to his heart.  This devotion developed as the Church meditated on the love of Jesus and gradually came to understand it better. In the Middle Ages, saints like Bernard of Clairvaux and Albert the Great preached and wrote about the heart of Jesus. This text from the Gospel of John in particular gave them much to meditate on:

So the soldiers came and they broke the legs of the first one and then of the other who had been crucified with him, but when they came to Jesus and saw that he had already died they did not break his legs, but, instead, one of the soldiers stabbed him in the side with a spear, and at once blood and water came out. And the one who saw it has borne witness and his witness is true, and he knows that he is speaking the truth so you, too, may believe. For these things happened so the Scripture might be fulfilled, “Not a bone of his shall be broken.” And again another Scripture says, “They shall look on him whom they have pierced” (Jn 19:32–37).

In the blood and water that flowed from the heart of Jesus, Christian writers saw the symbols of Baptism and the Eucharist. The great gift of the sacraments flowed from Jesus’ heart. Saint John Chrysostom wrote, “Since the sacred mysteries derive their origin from thence, when you draw near to the awe-inspiring chalice, so approach as if you were going to drink from Christ’s own side.” In light of all this, it is clear that devotion to the Sacred Heart is deeply rooted in Scripture and Catholic tradition.

It was through Saint Margaret Mary Alacoque (1647–1690), however, that the devotion went viral, so to speak. She was a cloistered nun from the Visitation convent at Paray-le-Monial, France. Jesus appeared to her several times and revealed to her how much he loved her and all people. He spoke of his desire that people would love him in return, and for this purpose, he wanted Margaret Mary to spread devotion to his Sacred Heart.

In the cloister she had little or no contact with the outside world; how was she to do what Jesus asked? The Lord himself gave her the means through a holy Jesuit, Saint Claude de la Colombière, who was her spiritual director. He realized that Margaret Mary’s charity, humility, and obedience reflected true holiness. Convinced that she was telling the truth, he asked her to write an account of her revelations. He himself began to preach about Jesus’ love for us in his Sacred Heart. 

Through Margaret Mary, Jesus requested that we honor his Sacred Heart by fervently receiving Holy Communion, especially on the First Friday of the month, and offering reparation for sins. Jesus also requested that a special feast day be established to honor his Sacred Heart. In 1765 the feast was officially observed in Poland, and in 1856 Pope Pius IX extended it to the universal Church.
Devotion to the Sacred Heart of Jesus is more than merely a devotion; it is the essence of the Gospel: to take on the heart of Jesus and live in his love and bring it to others. As the Catechism of the Catholic Church says:

Jesus knew and loved us each and all during his life, his agony and his Passion, and gave himself up for each one of us: “The Son of God . . . loved me and gave himself for me" (Gal 2:20). He has loved us all with a human heart. For this reason, the Sacred Heart of Jesus, pierced by our sins and for our salvation, (cf. Jn 19:34) “is quite rightly considered the chief sign and symbol of that . . . love with which the divine Redeemer continually loves the eternal Father and all human beings” without exception. (CCC 478, quoting Pope Pius XII, encyclical Haurietis aquas)
From Sacred Heart of Jesus Prayerbook to be published next January,

Copyright © 2016, Daughters of St. Paul

Tuesday, May 31, 2016

Mary, Mercy, and the Ark of the Covenant


The Gospel of Luke gives us the beautiful story of the Visitation, when Mary hastened to help her cousin Elizabeth. What does this have to do with mercy? First of all, Mary is doing a work of mercy in helping her older relative with this unexpected pregnancy. But the text has another theme, a bit hidden, that is also connected with mercy. Luke is hinting that Mary is the new Ark of the Covenant. What does this mean?

First, what was the Ark? It’s first mentioned in the book of Exodus and it represented the presence of God with his people Israel. The Ark was a large wooden box gilded with gold that contained three things: 1) some manna 2) Aaron’s rod, which budded, and 3) the tablets with the Ten Commandments.
Here’s where it gets interesting. The gold-plated cover of the box was called the mercy seat (kapporah in Hebrew; hilasterion in Greek). Later when the Temple was built, the ark was placed in the Holy of Holies, where the high priest would go once a year on the Day of Atonment. He would sprinkle blood on it and make an offering to God to atone for the sins of the people. The idea was that God would have mercy on the people and forgive their sins.

So the Ark of the Covenant had this close connection with mercy. We also find that in the New Testament, Jesus himself is the one who offered the perfect atonement for sins by his sacrificial offering of himself on the cross. The Greek word used for the mercy seat, indicating its role as an atoning sacrifice, is used of Jesus, for example, in Romans 3:25 where Paul says, “whom God put forward as a sacrifice of atonement by his blood, effective through faith.”

In the Visitation, we can see an important connection between the Ark of the Covenant and Mary. How so? First, consider that the Ark represented God’s presence among the people. As she went on her journey, Mary was already carrying Jesus. And since Jesus is God, Mary is the God-bearer. Here she is bringing Jesus, who is mercy itself and the one who will offer the atoning sacrifice for our sins. Mary was like a tabernacle for Jesus.

Luke’s text indicates this, as we can see by comparing it to 2 Samuel 6:1-19, where the Ark of the Covenant was transferred to a new location.

1) Dancing and joy
“David and all the house of Israel were dancing before the lord with all their might….” (v. 5)

“When Elizabeth heard Mary’s greeting, the child leaped in her womb” (Lk 1:39)

2) Humility before God’s presence

David said, “How can the ark of the lord come into my care?” (v. 9)

Elizabeth said, “And why has this happened to me, that the mother of my Lord comes to me?” (Lk 1:43).

3) Three months time span:

“The ark of the lord remained in the house of Obed-edom the Gittite three months” (v. 11)

“Mary remained with her about three months” (Lk 1:56)

4) Blessings from God’s presence in the Ark

“And the lord blessed Obed-edom and all his household” (v. 11)

Elizabeth told Mary, “And blessed is she who believed that there would be a fulfillment of what was spoken to her by the Lord” (Lk 1:45)


What about us?
As baptized Christians we too have the presence of God in us through sanctifying grace and the sacraments, especially Communion. Like Mary, we can bring Christ to others through our words and actions.


Prayer

Mary, you were a tabernacle for Jesus, bringing him to others. Pray for us that like you, we too may recall his presence in us through grace, and always strive to lead others to your Son. Help us realize that everything we do can be a positive witness to the Gospel, so that through our lives others will be brought to Jesus.

© 2016, Daughters of Saint Paul

Friday, May 27, 2016

St Thomas and the Feast of Corpus Christi



Besides his great theological work, Thomas was a poet and hymn writer. He wrote his most famous hymns for the feast of Corpus Christi, which was first celebrated in 1246 in the diocese of Liège (Belgium). Under the inspiration of a devout group of women headed by St. Julienne of Mont-Cornillon, the bishop Robert of Torote approved their request to establish a feast in honor of the Body and Blood of Christ. It was a local celebration but soon began to spread. The Dominican Hugh of Saint-Cher approved it for use in Germany, where he was the cardinal-legate.
On August 11, 1264, Pope Urban IV established the feast for the whole Church through the publication of the papal bull Transiturus. Before becoming Pope, Urban had been in Liège and knew St. Julienne, so he was well acquainted with the background of the feast. However, in Italy the impetus for the feast originated with the Eucharistic miracle at Bolsena, a small town near Orvieto. A priest who was traveling through the area and who had been experiencing doubts about the Eucharist celebrated Mass in the town. During Mass the sacred host began to bleed, and the doubting priest reaffirmed his faith. The corporal he used is now venerated in the cathedral in Orvieto. This miracle stirred up popular Eucharistic devotion. Pope Urban asked Thomas to write the texts for the Mass and Office of this feast. This includes some of his most famous hymns that are still sung today and cherished by Catholics, such as the Pange lingua, Tantum ergo, and Panis angelicus. Although for a while some scholars had expressed doubts that Thomas was the author of the liturgical texts, more recent studies have concluded without a doubt that he indeed was (see Jean-Pierre Torrell, St Thomas Aquinas, vol. 1, p. 129-132). The theology of the texts is like Thomas’ autograph.
Although the feast was set for the Thursday following the octave of Pentecost, that first year it was celebrated in Orvieto in the late summer of 1264. Pope Urban died shortly after, on October 2. The implementation of the feast was never fully carried out until 1317 under Pope John XXII (who also canonized Thomas).

Tantum ergo Sacramentum
Veneremur cernui:
Et antiquum documentum
Novo cedat ritui:
Praestet fides supplementum
Sensuum defectui.


Genitori, Genitoque
Laus et jubilatio,
Salus, honor, virtus quoque
Sit et benedictio:
Procedenti ab utroque
Compar sit laudatio. Amen.



Down in adoration falling,
Lo! the sacred Host we hail,
Lo! o'er ancient forms departing
Newer rites of grace prevail;
Faith for all defects supplying,
Where the feeble senses fail.

To the everlasting Father,
And the Son Who reigns on high
With the Holy Spirit proceeding
Forth from each eternally,
Be salvation, honor blessing,
Might and endless majesty. Amen.

Saturday, May 14, 2016

Novena to the Holy Spirit Day Nine: Self-Control

"The fruit of the Spirit is . . . self-control." Gal 5:22

This is the ninth and final fruit of the Spirit that Paul mentions here in Galatians. He is not speaking of self-control only in the sense of a certain kind of asceticism, though we need that too. For Paul, if we open ourselves to the Holy Spirit, the Spirit himself enables us to live holy lives. We need to do our part, definitely, but it is primarily a matter of grace.
And God always gives that grace in abundance if we pray and ask for it. On Sunday when we celebrate Pentecost, pray for the Spirit to come upon you personally just as it happened on the first Pentecost. The apostles were waiting and praying in the upper room as Jesus had told them (see Acts 1:4, 13-14). When the Holy Spirit came upon them with power, they were transformed and spoke about Jesus with renewed boldness and zeal. The Holy Spirit will transform us too.

Come, Holy Spirit, fill our hearts!

In our congregation, today (Saturday May 23) we celebrate the feast of Mary, Queen of the Apostles. Mary was the one most filled with the Holy Spirit. So here is a prayer that brings out that connection.



Mary, Transformer of the Apostles

Mary rejoice for the days you were in the Upper Room
with the Apostles and Disciples of your Son, Jesus.
You were teacher, comforter, and mother to all those
gathered in prayer awaiting the promised Holy Spirit,
the Spirit with the sevenfold gifts,
Love of the Father and of the Son;
Transformer of the Apostles.
Through your intercession and prayer obtain for us
the grace to realize the value of every human person
saved by your Son’s fidelity to the Father
to the point of offering his life on the cross.
May the love of Jesus urge us on for the Gospel.
May we feel in our hearts the needs of the unborn, of children,
of youth, of adults, of the elderly.
Grant that the vastness of Africa, the immensity of Asia,
the promise of America, the hopes of Europe, and Oceania
will attract us to share the message of the Gospel
with every person and in every culture.
May the apostolate of witness, prayer, the press,
films, radio, television, the Internet, social media and all media-technology,
draw many apostles to use these effective means
as ways to announce the Kingdom of God.
Mary, Mother of the Church and our Mother,
Queen of the Apostles, our intercessor, pray for us.

Blessed James Alberione, SSP, adapted



Mary and the Holy Spirit

Unless we see Mary in relation to the Holy Spirit, we will never understand her role in the Church.

“The Spirit changes those in whom he comes to dwell; he so transforms them that they begin to live a completely new kind of life” (St Cyril of Alexandria, Commentary on John).

The Holy Spirit first came upon Mary at her Immaculate Conception, preserving her from original sin and filling her with grace. She was filled with the Spirit all through her life, but at certain moments received a greater outpouring of the Spirit:  at the Annunciation, on Calvary, and on Pentecost. At each of these moments the Holy Spirit changed Mary. In what way and why did it matter?

The Holy Spirit changed Mary by making her holy and by giving her a new mission. The role of the Spirit is not only to make us holy, but also to give us a mission in the Church. As St John Paul put it, “The Holy Spirit is indeed the principal agent of the whole of the Church’s mission” (Mission of the Redeemer, no. 21). With that in mind let’s dig a little deeper into these three moments in Mary’s life.

The Annunciation

The angel Gabriel said to Mary, “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you; therefore the child to be born will be holy; he will be called Son of God” (Lk 1:35). At that moment when Mary gave her consent, she became the Mother of God by becoming the mother of Jesus, who is God. That was a huge change for her, unique in the history of the human race. But that shouldn’t make us feel that Mary is distant from us. The mission she received then was not so much for herself but for us. Her mission was to give us Jesus in the flesh, the incarnate Son of God who came to earth to free us from our sins. The mission of Jesus depended on Mary. Without her, we wouldn’t have him. For many Christians, Mary’s mission stops here. But the Gospel leads us deeper.

On Calvary

“Standing near the cross of Jesus were his mother, and his mother’s sister, Mary the wife of Clopas, and Mary Magdalene. When Jesus saw his mother and the disciple whom he loved standing beside her, he said to his mother, ‘Woman, here is your son.’ Then he said to the disciple, ‘Here is your mother.’ And from that hour the disciple took her into his own home” (Jn 19:25-27) What was going on? Certainly Jesus cared about his mother’s welfare and as a loving son wanted to provide for her. But John’s Gospel has layers of meaning, so there’s more to it.
The beloved disciple is never named in the Gospel. Many think that is because he represents the beloved disciples of every age, that is, all of us. Jesus was telling the disciple not just to take care of his mother, but also to accept her into his life of faith. In telling Mary “Here is your son,” Jesus was giving her many spiritual sons and daughters who would follow Jesus throughout the ages. Mary would help the beloved disciple more than he could help her, because of her spiritual motherhood.
With that gesture, Jesus finished his mission on earth and the Gospel tells us “Then he bowed his head and gave up his spirit” (Jn 19:30). Certainly that means that he died. But again, the text has a deeper meaning. Jesus is handing over the Holy Spirit to the Church, represented there by his mother and the beloved disciple (see I Believe in the Holy Spirit, Yves Congar, p. 52). This will become more definitive after Easter, but John is bringing out a connection between Jesus’ death on the cross and the giving of the Holy Spirit. Mary, receiving the Spirit again, is changed and is given the new mission of being the mother of the beloved disciples and indeed all of us.


Pentecost

Finally, on Pentecost we find Mary with the disciples gathered in the Upper Room, and “All of them were filled with the Holy Spirit” (Acts 2:4). This new outpouring of the Holy Spirit again brought to Mary a new change and a new mission. This has to do with her role in the Church. Vatican II said of Mary that “the Blessed Virgin is also intimately united with the Church: the Mother of God is a figure of the Church in the matter of faith, charity, and perfect union with Christ” (Lumen Gentium, no. 63).
Mary received a new motherhood in the order of grace (see John Paul, Mother of the Redeemer) by which she leads us to a deeper knowledge and love of her son, Jesus. As disciples, the more we ourselves are filled with the Holy Spirit, the more we will be changed to fulfill the mission God gives us. And the more we welcome Mary into our own lives as disciples, the more effective we will be.


Mary, Queen of Apostles, pray for us!


Friday, May 13, 2016

Novena to the Holy Spirit Day Eight: Gentleness (Fri.)

"The fruit of the Spirit is . . . gentleness" (Gal 5:22)

The word Paul uses for gentleness (prautes) is the same word Matthew uses for the beatitude: Blessed are the meek (or gentle or humble in heart). Jesus spoke of himself in that way, that he is gentle and humble of heart. He invites us to take his yoke on us because he is so gentle he will never "break the bruised reed" (Is 42:3).
Jesus promised he would send us the Spirit. Of course he has already sent the Spirit, but he can do that again and again. As time goes on we can grow in our capacity to receive the Holy Spirit.

Do I turn to Jesus with trust? 

Prayer to the Holy Spirit

Holy Spirit, Lord and Giver of life, you who came down upon the apostles in a mighty wind and with fire, who filled the house where they were and gave them the gift of tongues to proclaim the wonders of God, come down now upon me as well.
Fill me with yourself and make of me a temple wherein you dwell. Open my lips to proclaim your praise, to ask your guidance, and to declare your love.
Holy Light, divine Fire, eternal Might, enlighten my mind to know you, inflame my heart to love and, strengthen my will to seek and find you. Be fore me the living and life giving Breath of God, the very air I breathe, and the only sky in which my spirit soars. Amen.


Below is another version of the Taize chant of the Veni Sancte Spiritus.



Monday, May 02, 2016

St Athanasius



Saint Athanasius (c. 296/98-May 2, 373)


As a young man Athanasius spent some time with Saint Anthony of the Desert to learn the ways of the spiritual life. That formation served him well, for Athanasius became one of the most important defenders of the Christian faith. Bishop Alexander of Alexandria brought Athanasius with him to the Council of Nicea in 325. The Council taught the truth about the divinity of Jesus Christ. The priest Arius had been teaching a false doctrine that Jesus was not fully divine but a sort of created demi-god. Despite the Council’s clear teaching, Arianism spread widely, especially because it was politically supported by the emperors. In 328 Athanasius became the bishop of Alexandria, a position he held until his death. But he had to constantly struggle to uphold the true teaching about Jesus Christ. Four different emperors exiled Athanasius five times, for a total of seventeen years. Despite all the opposition Athanasius never wavered from defending the truth, giving rise to the expression Athanasius contra mundum (Athanasius against the world). He wrote important theological works and also a biography of Saint Anthony, which helped spread Christian monasticism. After his death, the Council of Constantinople in 381 reaffirmed the orthodox teaching about the divinity of Jesus.



Reflection
Athanasius reminds us that it is never easy to be Catholic. He could have caved and compromised the truth about Jesus Christ in order to accommodate the Arians. But he knew that would have destroyed the Christian faith, for if Jesus is not divine he could not have saved us. Our world today is filled with many voices that challenge and sometimes ridicule Christian faith. Like Athanasius, we must resist such errors even while loving those who hold them.

Prayer

Saint Athanasius, pray for us that we may grow in our knowledge and love of Jesus Christ, and always acknowledge him as our Savior.


© 2015, Daughters of Saint Paul

Monday, April 25, 2016

Jesus and the Holy Spirit--how are they connected?



The Dominican theologian Yves Congar spent years studying and writing about the Holy Spirit. He said toward the end of his life: “If I were to draw but one conclusion from the whole of my work on the Holy Spirit, I would express it in these words: no Christology without pneumatology, and no pneumatology without Christology” (Word and Spirit, p. 1).

That got me thinking. What does that mean for me? Our Founder, Blessed James Alberione, developed devotion to Jesus, our Divine Master, who defined himself by saying, “I am the Way, and the Truth, and the Life.” What is the connection between Jesus Master and the Holy Spirit? I hadn’t thought about that very much before!

In praying the chaplet to the Divine Master that Bl. James wrote, I noticed several connections between Jesus and the Holy Spirit. A central one is this short prayer: “Live in us, Jesus, through the outpouring of your Holy Spirit.”

I started to pray that more often during the day. It’s beginning to help me realize more how Jesus acts in us through the Holy Spirit, and vice versa. (Of course the Father is there too, but that’s a separate topic for development.) Jesus communicates grace to us; he is the source of grace. Yet he gives it through the Holy Spirit, and by sending the Spirit to us. In turn, the Holy Spirit configures us to Jesus, first at Baptism and all throughout our lives.

This time before the feast of Pentecost is a good time to turn more to the Holy Spirit in prayer, asking for an outpouring of grace and spiritual gifts.

“Live in us, Jesus, through the outpouring of your Holy Spirit.”

Friday, April 08, 2016

Pope Francis on Marriage

I'm still reading the new document, which is quite long--about 250 pages! Here's a few initial thoughts:

1. Don't get your impressions of it from headlines, which always distort. Read it yourself, otherwise you won't get a balanced view of it.

2. Surprise--the Pope is Catholic and actually upholds all Catholic teachings on marriage and family, including that of contraception, the indissolubility of marriage, and divorce. Reading some news reports would give you the opposite impression.

3. Francis is pastoral and is looking for ways to help people in messy situations to  get some pastoral help. Chapter 8 of the document speaks to that, and that is the part much media coverage will focus on. But remember that it has to be read in light of the whole thing. Catholic teaching on marriage is clear. But it's not always so clear if individual persons actually contracted a valid marriage. That's where the messiness comes in. It strikes me that some of what he says here is rather vague and so perhaps could be distorted. But he is not in any way changing Catholic doctrine on sacramental marriage, which he couldn't do anyway since it comes from Jesus himself.

4. The most beautiful part of it, I think, is the meditation on St Paul's hymn to love in 1 Cor, ch. 13. Whether married or not, all of us could meditate on that very fruitfully.

5. The document has quite a few references to St. Thomas. I noticed that also in Joy of the Gospel. Pope Francis must like St Thomas even though he might not seem that way. For example, this quote:
“Charity by its very nature, has no limit to its increase, for it is a participation in that infinite charity which is the Holy Spirit. . .  Nor on the part of the subject can its limit be fixed, because as charity grows, so too does its capacity for an even greater increase.”

Monday, April 04, 2016

The Annunciation: Mary the Prudent Virgin



When the serpent slithered up to Eve in the Garden of Eden, he asked a question rooted in a lie: “Did God say, ‘You shall not eat from any tree in the garden’?” (Gen 3:1). God had not forbidden them to eat the fruit of any tree, but only from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. Eve’s first mistake was to answer the serpent without stopping to consider where this question was leading. Once she started talking to the devil, he easily persuaded her to sin.
At the Annunciation, on the other hand, Mary paused before responding to the angel’s message. The Gospel tells us: “But she was much perplexed by his words and pondered what sort of greeting this might be” (Lk 1:29). At first she didn’t respond at all. Instead, she waited for more information in order to discern what this message was really all about. She pondered. As she did so, she must have been listening to what the Holy Spirit was saying to her. Once Mary was sure the message was from God, she responded quickly with her “yes.”
The Annunciation has so many beautiful aspects to consider that we might easily overlook this one: Mary is the prudent virgin, the one who with great wisdom knew how to reflect before acting.

The Power of the Pause

In pausing first before speaking, Mary gave herself some time to consider what this was all about. It was quite a remarkable circumstance, having an angel appear to her. No wonder she was taken aback and greatly troubled by it.
We can surmise that in that brief moment, Mary took a little time to pray. She must have asked God to give her the light to know what to say and how to respond.
Her first response was to listen more. The angel continued his explanation and his request. Then Mary asked a question: “How can this be, since I know not man?” (Lk 1:34) The angel explained that the power of the Holy Spirit would come upon her to bring about this miraculous event.
Then Mary said, “Behold the handmaid of the Lord; may it be done unto me as you have said” (Lk 1:38)

Though the visit of the angel was unexpected, Mary was prepared. She continually lived in union with God, so much so that her will was always perfectly aligned with God’s will.

So what lesson can we draw from this for our own lives?

1. Live in a spirit of continual prayer, always attuned to God.

2. When something happens that might disturb us, first pause. Take some time to pray and reflect. Don’t just react. Ask the Holy Spirit for guidance. At times it is useful to ask counsel from a wise person.

3. Then in peace make your decision as best you can according to the light God is giving you.

Note: this concerns decisions that are about things where we have legitimate options to choose one or the other, for example, to take this job or that, to move to one place or another, etc. Discernment is never about sin, because sin must always be rejected.

O Mary, Virgin most prudent, pray for us!

Sunday, March 27, 2016

The Easter Candle and the Cross

Fr Hugo Rahner was an expert in patristics (he was the brother of Karl Rahner). In his book Greek Myths and Christian Mystery, Fr . Hugo explains the meaning of the Easter candle in a very beautiful way. The symbolism has to do with the cross, the baptismal water, and the Church.

He cites many quotations from the Fathers, for example:
“What is water without the cross of Christ?” Ambrose asks his newly baptized, and answers, “an ordinary element.”
A post-Augustinian sermon: “Through the sign of the cross you are conceived in the womb of your holy mother, the Church.” Rahner says, “It is only by the procreative power of the cross that the church is fructified.”
He explains that ultimately the symbolism is based on Paul’s Letter to the Romans, with its relation of baptism to the cross. “Baptism is 'the mystery of the wood in the water.’” (P. Lundberg)

The main point is that the mystery of the Lord’s baptism is closely related to the mystery of the cross. Rahner says, “In this baptism of Christ there was symbolically enacted all that became reality upon the cross, all that in the mystery of baptism passes back its effects from that cross to man.” St Ignatius of Antioch voiced the same idea in saying, “Jesus Christ was born and was baptized, so that he might sanctify the water by his passion.”

Rahner points out that Christian artists began to depict the cross in the river Jordan. There was also a cross put up in the river itself. In Eastern liturgies a wooden cross is dipped in the water during the consecration of the baptismal water, intended to signify the same thing as the cross in the river.

He continues, “This cross symbolizes the fact that the baptismal water has through the death of Christ been made a bestower of life—it is the tree of life.” Then he mentions another important element, that the wooden cross is also a giver of light. The same fire bursts forth from it that was associated with Jesus’ baptism:
The cross is also a bringer of light, and when men seek to express this mystery in explicit liturgical form, they do so by lowering a burning candle into the baptismal font as a sign that, by the power of the cross, the water is a source of the lux perpetua, the everlasting life of light. In a word the cross is both the tree of life and the light bringer and both symbols represent Christ himself who “by his Passion sanctified the water” by giving to it the doxa, the glory which he had won upon the cross, the power of the Holy Ghost.


Rahner mentions an inscription found on a baptismal font at St. Paul’s Basilica in Rome:
A tree bears fruit. I am a tree but I bear light.
Christ is risen. Such is the gift that I bring.


So according to Rahner, the Easter candle is a symbol of the cross of Christ. We can see this also from the five grains of incense that are put into the candle in the shape of the cross. And the candle represents not only the cross, but the light that comes from the cross. 

Fire, light, water--all these symbols come together at the Easter vigil in a very beautiful way. That is why from now until Pentecost the Easter candle will continue to burn during every celebration of Mass.
The Candle and the Cross

Fr Hugo Rahner was an expert in patristics. In his book Greek Myths and Christian Mystery, he explains the meaning of the Easter candle in a very beautiful way. The symbolism has to do with the cross, the baptismal water, and the Church.

He cites many quotations from the Fathers, for example:
“What is water without the cross of Christ?” Ambrose asks his newly baptized, and answers, “an ordinary element.”
A post-Augustinian sermon: “Through the sign of the cross you are conceived in the womb of your holy mother, the Church.” Rahner says, “It is only by the procreative power of the cross that the church is fructified.”
He explains that ultimately the symbolism is based on Paul’s Letter to the Romans, with its relation of baptism to the cross. “Baptism is “the mystery of the wood in the water.’” (P. Lundberg)

The main point is that the mystery of the Lord’s baptism is closely related to the mystery of the cross. Rahner says, “In this baptism of Christ there was symbolically enacted all that became reality upon the cross, all that in the mystery of baptism passes back its effects from that cross to man.” St Ignatius of Antioch voiced the same idea in saying, “Jesus Christ was born and was baptized, so that he might sanctify the water by his passion.”

Rahner points out that Christian artists began to depict the cross in the river Jordan. There was also a cross put up in the river itself. In Eastern liturgies a wooden cross is dipped in the water during the consecration of the baptismal water, intended to signify the same thing as the cross in the river.

He continues, “This cross symbolizes the fact that the baptismal water has through the death of Christ been made a bestower of life—it is the tree of life.” Then he mentions another important element, that the wooden cross is also a giver of light. The same fire bursts forth from it that was associated with Jesus’ baptism:

The cross is also a bringer of light, and when men seek to express this mystery in explicit liturgical form, they do so by lowering a burning candle into the baptismal font as a sign that, by the power of the cross, the water is a source of the lux perpetua, the everlasting life of light. In a word the cross is both the tree of life and the light bringer and both symbols represent Christ himself who “by his Passion sanctified the water” by giving to it the doxa, the glory which he had won upon the cross, the power of the Holy Ghost.


Rahner mentions an inscription found on a baptismal font at St. Paul’s Basilica in Rome:
A tree bears fruit. I am a tree but I bear light.
Christ is risen. Such is the gift that I bring.


So according to Rahner, the Easter candle is a symbol of the cross of Christ. We can see this also from the five grains of incense that are put into the candle in the shape of the cross. And the candle represents not only the cross, but the light that comes from the cross. - See more at: http://thomasfortoday.blogspot.com/2010/11/wood-in-water-what-does-easter-candle.html#sthash.iJSILlWd.dpuf
The Candle and the Cross

Fr Hugo Rahner was an expert in patristics. In his book Greek Myths and Christian Mystery, he explains the meaning of the Easter candle in a very beautiful way. The symbolism has to do with the cross, the baptismal water, and the Church.

He cites many quotations from the Fathers, for example:
“What is water without the cross of Christ?” Ambrose asks his newly baptized, and answers, “an ordinary element.”
A post-Augustinian sermon: “Through the sign of the cross you are conceived in the womb of your holy mother, the Church.” Rahner says, “It is only by the procreative power of the cross that the church is fructified.”
He explains that ultimately the symbolism is based on Paul’s Letter to the Romans, with its relation of baptism to the cross. “Baptism is “the mystery of the wood in the water.’” (P. Lundberg)

The main point is that the mystery of the Lord’s baptism is closely related to the mystery of the cross. Rahner says, “In this baptism of Christ there was symbolically enacted all that became reality upon the cross, all that in the mystery of baptism passes back its effects from that cross to man.” St Ignatius of Antioch voiced the same idea in saying, “Jesus Christ was born and was baptized, so that he might sanctify the water by his passion.”

Rahner points out that Christian artists began to depict the cross in the river Jordan. There was also a cross put up in the river itself. In Eastern liturgies a wooden cross is dipped in the water during the consecration of the baptismal water, intended to signify the same thing as the cross in the river.

He continues, “This cross symbolizes the fact that the baptismal water has through the death of Christ been made a bestower of life—it is the tree of life.” Then he mentions another important element, that the wooden cross is also a giver of light. The same fire bursts forth from it that was associated with Jesus’ baptism:

The cross is also a bringer of light, and when men seek to express this mystery in explicit liturgical form, they do so by lowering a burning candle into the baptismal font as a sign that, by the power of the cross, the water is a source of the lux perpetua, the everlasting life of light. In a word the cross is both the tree of life and the light bringer and both symbols represent Christ himself who “by his Passion sanctified the water” by giving to it the doxa, the glory which he had won upon the cross, the power of the Holy Ghost.


Rahner mentions an inscription found on a baptismal font at St. Paul’s Basilica in Rome:
A tree bears fruit. I am a tree but I bear light.
Christ is risen. Such is the gift that I bring.


So according to Rahner, the Easter candle is a symbol of the cross of Christ. We can see this also from the five grains of incense that are put into the candle in the shape of the cross. And the candle represents not only the cross, but the light that comes from the cross. - See more at: http://thomasfortoday.blogspot.com/2010/11/wood-in-water-what-does-easter-candle.html#sthash.iJSILlWd.dpuf
The Candle and the Cross

Fr Hugo Rahner was an expert in patristics. In his book Greek Myths and Christian Mystery, he explains the meaning of the Easter candle in a very beautiful way. The symbolism has to do with the cross, the baptismal water, and the Church.

He cites many quotations from the Fathers, for example:
“What is water without the cross of Christ?” Ambrose asks his newly baptized, and answers, “an ordinary element.”
A post-Augustinian sermon: “Through the sign of the cross you are conceived in the womb of your holy mother, the Church.” Rahner says, “It is only by the procreative power of the cross that the church is fructified.”
He explains that ultimately the symbolism is based on Paul’s Letter to the Romans, with its relation of baptism to the cross. “Baptism is “the mystery of the wood in the water.’” (P. Lundberg)

The main point is that the mystery of the Lord’s baptism is closely related to the mystery of the cross. Rahner says, “In this baptism of Christ there was symbolically enacted all that became reality upon the cross, all that in the mystery of baptism passes back its effects from that cross to man.” St Ignatius of Antioch voiced the same idea in saying, “Jesus Christ was born and was baptized, so that he might sanctify the water by his passion.”

Rahner points out that Christian artists began to depict the cross in the river Jordan. There was also a cross put up in the river itself. In Eastern liturgies a wooden cross is dipped in the water during the consecration of the baptismal water, intended to signify the same thing as the cross in the river.

He continues, “This cross symbolizes the fact that the baptismal water has through the death of Christ been made a bestower of life—it is the tree of life.” Then he mentions another important element, that the wooden cross is also a giver of light. The same fire bursts forth from it that was associated with Jesus’ baptism:

The cross is also a bringer of light, and when men seek to express this mystery in explicit liturgical form, they do so by lowering a burning candle into the baptismal font as a sign that, by the power of the cross, the water is a source of the lux perpetua, the everlasting life of light. In a word the cross is both the tree of life and the light bringer and both symbols represent Christ himself who “by his Passion sanctified the water” by giving to it the doxa, the glory which he had won upon the cross, the power of the Holy Ghost.


Rahner mentions an inscription found on a baptismal font at St. Paul’s Basilica in Rome:
A tree bears fruit. I am a tree but I bear light.
Christ is risen. Such is the gift that I bring.


So according to Rahner, the Easter candle is a symbol of the cross of Christ. We can see this also from the five grains of incense that are put into the candle in the shape of the cross. And the candle represents not only the cross, but the light that comes from the cross. - See more at: http://thomasfortoday.blogspot.com/2010/11/wood-in-water-what-does-easter-candle.html#sthash.iJSILlWd.dpuf
The Candle and the Cross

Fr Hugo Rahner was an expert in patristics. In his book Greek Myths and Christian Mystery, he explains the meaning of the Easter candle in a very beautiful way. The symbolism has to do with the cross, the baptismal water, and the Church.

He cites many quotations from the Fathers, for example:
“What is water without the cross of Christ?” Ambrose asks his newly baptized, and answers, “an ordinary element.”
A post-Augustinian sermon: “Through the sign of the cross you are conceived in the womb of your holy mother, the Church.” Rahner says, “It is only by the procreative power of the cross that the church is fructified.”
He explains that ultimately the symbolism is based on Paul’s Letter to the Romans, with its relation of baptism to the cross. “Baptism is “the mystery of the wood in the water.’” (P. Lundberg)

The main point is that the mystery of the Lord’s baptism is closely related to the mystery of the cross. Rahner says, “In this baptism of Christ there was symbolically enacted all that became reality upon the cross, all that in the mystery of baptism passes back its effects from that cross to man.” St Ignatius of Antioch voiced the same idea in saying, “Jesus Christ was born and was baptized, so that he might sanctify the water by his passion.”

Rahner points out that Christian artists began to depict the cross in the river Jordan. There was also a cross put up in the river itself. In Eastern liturgies a wooden cross is dipped in the water during the consecration of the baptismal water, intended to signify the same thing as the cross in the river.

He continues, “This cross symbolizes the fact that the baptismal water has through the death of Christ been made a bestower of life—it is the tree of life.” Then he mentions another important element, that the wooden cross is also a giver of light. The same fire bursts forth from it that was associated with Jesus’ baptism:

The cross is also a bringer of light, and when men seek to express this mystery in explicit liturgical form, they do so by lowering a burning candle into the baptismal font as a sign that, by the power of the cross, the water is a source of the lux perpetua, the everlasting life of light. In a word the cross is both the tree of life and the light bringer and both symbols represent Christ himself who “by his Passion sanctified the water” by giving to it the doxa, the glory which he had won upon the cross, the power of the Holy Ghost.


Rahner mentions an inscription found on a baptismal font at St. Paul’s Basilica in Rome:
A tree bears fruit. I am a tree but I bear light.
Christ is risen. Such is the gift that I bring.


So according to Rahner, the Easter candle is a symbol of the cross of Christ. We can see this also from the five grains of incense that are put into the candle in the shape of the cross. And the candle represents not only the cross, but the light that comes from the cross. - See more at: http://thomasfortoday.blogspot.com/2010/11/wood-in-water-what-does-easter-candle.html#sthash.iJSILlWd.dpuf

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