Tuesday, May 19, 2015

Christian Unity


In this week’s leaflet I thought I’d reflect on John 17 which was last Sunday’s Gospel reading.  The reading was pointing out Jesus’ prayer of unity for all believers in Him.  Namely that we all be “one as [Jesus and the Father] are one.” (v.11)

 

Up until this moment of the chapter we see that Jesus is praying for unity of His disciples, ie the apostles, but the context also shows us that Jesus wasn’t praying for them alone, He also prayed “for those who will believe in me through their message” (v.20) Jesus prayed that all Christian believers be one as Jesus and the Father are one.  Did Jesus believe in infant baptism but the Father did not?  They believed in the truths of heavenly things. They believed the same doctrines.  The same truths.  Therefore Jesus prayed that we all believe in the same doctrines as He and the Father believed the same.

 

Was Jesus’ prayer effective?  Did it come true or are we to wait until His return that He may unite all Christian denominations who believe differently now but no longer when He comes back at the end of time?  The answer to this question can be found in the context of these verses where Jesus prays not only for these apostles to remain one, or simply at His return. Jesus plainly speaks of praying for the unity of not only the apostles but also “Those who will believe in [Him] through [the apostles] message.

 

Scripture is also pretty plain that “[t]he prayer of the righteous is powerful and effective.” (James 5:16)  Is anyone more righteous than Jesus?  Jesus is the pinnacle of righteousness and therefore His prayer is very powerful and effective.  Putting these verse together we can see that Jesus prayed for unity of all Christians who believed through the Apostles message.  Now, to the extent that a Christian believes some of what Jesus and the Apostles taught he is a member of His Church though imperfectly.  The more one is in union with His teachings, ie the Truth, the more in union he is with His Body, the Church.

 

We know that Jesus’ prayer of unity is very effective therefore there must be a group of believers that believe in unison all that He and the Apostles taught, and this throughout Christian history.   Where do we find a group of believers whose teachings can be traced back through history from today to 2,000 years ago?  This group can only be found the Catholic Church and Her doctrinal teachings.  The Church not only claim this but have historical documents supporting it.

 

God Bless

Nathan

Tuesday, May 12, 2015

A Jew Finds Jesus

This is an interesting video of a Jewish man who found the Messiah...  it is a neat story!

Whom do you see here:

Who believes our report?
To whom is the arm of Adonai revealed?
For before him he grew up like a young plant,
like a root out of dry ground.
He was not well-formed or especially handsome;
we saw him, but his appearance did not attract us.
People despised and avoided him,
a man of pains, well acquainted with illness.
Like someone from whom people turn their faces,
he was despised; we did not value him.
In fact, it was our diseases he bore,
our pains from which he suffered;
yet we regarded him as punished,
stricken and afflicted by God.
But he was wounded because of our crimes,
crushed because of our sins;
the disciplining that makes us whole fell on him,
and by his bruises* we are healed.
We all, like sheep, went astray;
we turned, each one, to his own way;
yet Adonai laid on him
the guilt of all of us.
Though mistreated, he was submissive —
he did not open his mouth.
Like a lamb led to be slaughtered,
like a sheep silent before its shearers,
he did not open his mouth.
After forcible arrest and sentencing,
he was taken away;
and none of his generation protested
his being cut off from the land of the living
for the crimes of my people,
who deserved the punishment themselves.
He was given a grave among the wicked;
in his death he was with a rich man.
Although he had done no violence
and had said nothing deceptive,
10 yet it pleased Adonai to crush him with illness,
to see if he would present himself as a guilt offering.
If he does, he will see his offspring;
and he will prolong his days;
and at his hand Adonai’s desire
will be accomplished.
11 After this ordeal, he will see satisfaction.
“By his knowing [pain and sacrifice],
my righteous servant makes many righteous;
it is for their sins that he suffers.
12 Therefore I will assign him a share with the great,
he will divide the spoil with the mighty,
for having exposed himself to death
and being counted among the sinners,
while actually bearing the sin of many
and interceding for the offenders.”

This is from the Book of Isaiah, Chapter 53.  There He is, the Messiah in the Jewish Scriptures. 

Tuesday, April 28, 2015

Once Saved, Always Saved


I once was challenged by an email correspondent to show him where is the book / chapter / verse that supports my claim that a believer in full possession of the gift of eternal life can be cut off.

 

Now, before I could answer him though, I needed him to clarify what he meant exactly by the phrase “a believer in full possession of the gift of eternal life”.  This turn of phrase was something new that he introduced and so I needed to make sure I understood exactly what he meant before we could go ahead and debate the truth or falsehood of the doctrine of “Once Saved, Always Saved” (OSAS).

 

And so I asked him a yes or no question.  I asked him that “if one receives the Grace of God and is described as being a member of the Body of Christ, would you call that person 'saved', ie to have full possession of the gift of eternal life?”

 

I’m unsure if my question unnerved him or that he knew where I was going with this but instead of answering with a yes or no he avoids my question altogether and in its place brings other verses that he believes proves his position.

 

Rather than show him that these new verses don’t prove what he thinks they prove, I kept pressing him on answering my question so that we may move on.  My question was rather simple.  From the perspective of my Protestant friend, an individual who he considers to be ‘saved’, is that individual a member of the Body of Christ and therefore in full possession of the gift of eternal life?

 

If he answered no, then I would ask him to clarify exactly what he means by having “full possession of the gift of eternal life.”  But if he answered that yes, when one is a member of the Body of Christ then he is in “full possession of the gift of eternal life”, which I suspect he would have to if he were honest with himself.  Then all I would have to do is bring a verse which shows that even when one is a member of the Body of Christ, i.e. in full possession of the gift of eternal life, can still be cut off from the Body of Christ.

 

That verse is in John 15.  Jesus said: “I am the true vine, and my Father is the vine grower.  He takes away every branch in me that does not bear fruit […] I am the vine, you are the branches.  Whoever remains in me and I in him will bear much fruit, because without me you can do nothing.  Anyone who does not remain in me will be thrown out like a branch and wither; people will gather them and throw them into a fire and they will be burned.” (John 15:1-6)

 

Notice that Jesus is talking about those ones who are the branches while He is the vine.  The branches are part of the body of the vine.  These branches, these people therefore are in ‘full possession of the gift of eternal life’ by virtue of being members of the Body of Christ.  These ‘branches’, these ‘saved’ individuals though can still be taken away and burned (v.6).

 

Rest assured that if he ever comes back to start a new subject that I will bring back this exact exchange so that he might finally answer my question.  If he won’t then he will show his true colors to all the others who are reading along of his intentions of not of finding the truth but to avoid all that might confuse him of his current mindset that “Once Saved, Always Saved” must be correct.

 

And that is the reason that I continue in my efforts to evangelize on internet groups.  I don’t put so much time and effort in this to convince those that I’m talking to but for those many who might be reading along that I may not ever know are there.

 

God Bless
Nathan


 

Missed past week’s leaflets?  Questions?  Comments?  Come visit our Blog at www.parishofthepreciousblood.blogspot.com
 Prepared by a St.Denis parishioner

Friday, April 17, 2015

Mercy Sunday Reflections


This past Sunday was Mercy Sunday.  Our priest gave a great homily on the necessity of the Mercy of God through the Sacrament of Confession but also for us, being members of the Body of Christ, our necessity of doing His work.  Works like feeding the hungry, clothing the poor, burying the dead and so on.

 

I was incredibly moved by his homily because when he began speaking on the need of protecting the defenseless I couldn't help but picture a young person in the womb whose heart is being stopped intentionally through abortion.  Who is more defenseless than a baby not yet born?  And what are we doing to defend him or her?  You see, a 6 week-old embryo is just that, a baby.  A young one but a baby nonetheless. 

 

This young one, this person who was conceived into this world only six weeks prior already has a beating heart.  This living organism is growing, therefore is alive.  Its parents are human beings therefore IT is a human being.  A living human being growing in the womb with its own distinct DNA, different from either of its parents.

 

Our call as Christians is to have mercy on those who need it.  This entails us to DO something to those who need our support and protection.  How much have we done to help these defenseless human beings from dying horribly?

 

These babies not only have a beating heart at 6 weeks gestation, they also develop earlobes, fingers, have a brain and can even move their limbs.  These babies even have fingernails by the end of the twelfth week of gestation which is the end of the first trimester when most abortions occur.  

 

Let us not neglect our Christian duty by ignoring this holocaust.  It is indeed a holocaust of massive proportions.  Around 6 million Jews died during those years while there are about 1.5 million abortions A YEAR in this country alone.  That comes to about 55 million dead babies since Roe v. Wade passed in 1973.

 

Let’s stand up and be counted.  Let’s do whatever we can to reduce the number of abortions a year by voting for those who have pro-life stands into office that they may institute pro-life laws.

 

God Bless
Nathan

Thursday, April 09, 2015

Perpetual Virginity of Mary

CA:  What does the other ancient Christian church (Orthodoxy) have to say about this?

THE EVER-VIRGINITY OF THE MOTHER OF GOD


By Fr. John Hainsworth


LAST year for the Feast of the Nativity, I gave a lecture about one of the central claims of the Christian faith: the Virgin Birth of Christ. This was all well until I used in passing the phrase “ever-virgin” with reference to the Lord’s Mother. Someone asked, “Do you actually mean that Mary remained a virgin after Jesus’ birth?” I said yes, that is what the Orthodox Church teaches. The look of surprised bemusement on the audience’s faces said it all. The miracle of the Virgin Birth is one thing, but lifelong abstinence from sexuality? That’s impossible!

The lives of monastics and ascetics around the world and throughout history attest to the fact that of course it is possible. Sexual purity is only one of many challenges set for these spiritual warriors, and for many, perhaps most of them, it is not the greatest. The Orthodox have no difficulty, then, considering the ever-virginity of Mary a nonnegotiable fact and its alternative unthinkable. But why should this necessarily be so? Why insist on the idea that Mary (who was married, after all) did not go on to have a “normal” married life?

A Consistent and Unbroken Tradition


The question could be inverted. Why not believe in her ever-virginity? The Eastern Church has witnessed to the perpetual virginity of the Theotokos steadfastly for two thousand years and shows no sign of tiring. In the West, the idea was largely undisputed until late in the Reformation; even Luther and Calvin accepted the tradition.

Indeed, to suggest (a) that the tradition about her perpetual virginity could have been introduced after apostolic times, (b) that this tradition would have gone little noticed by a Church in the throes of questioning everything about what it believed in the first millennium, (c) that such a novel tradition should be considered inconsequential enough to pass without discussion before it became universally proclaimed, and (d) that such a tradition should have no discernible literary or geographical origin and yet be universally accepted from very early in the Church’s history, is to form a very unlikely hypothesis.

Set Apart to God


To argue against Mary’s perpetual virginity is to suggest something else that is greatly implausible, not to say unthinkable: that neither Mary nor her protector, Joseph, would have deemed it inappropriate to have sexual relations after the birth of God in the flesh. Leaving aside for a moment the complete uniqueness of the Incarnation of the Second Person of the Trinity, recall that it was the practice for devout Jews in the ancient world to refrain from sexual activity following any great manifestation of the Holy Spirit.

An early first-century popular rabbinical tradition (first recorded by Philo, 20 BC–AD 50) notes that Moses “separated himself” from his wife Zipporah when he returned from his encounter with God in the burning bush. Another rabbinical tradition, concerning the choosing of the elders of Israel in Numbers 7, relates that after God had worked among them, one man exclaimed, “Woe to the wives of these men!” I cannot imagine that the fellow to the left of him replied, “What do you mean, Joe?” The meaning of the statement would have been immediately apparent.

Whether these stories relate actual events or not, they express the popular piety in Israel at the time of the birth of Christ. That culture understood virginity and abstinence not as a mere rejection of something enjoyable—to what end?—but as something naturally taken up by one whose life has been consecrated by the Lord’s Spirit to be a vessel of salvation to His people. The intervening centuries of social, religious, and philosophical conditioning have made us suspicious of virginity and chastity in a way that no one in the Lord’s time would have been.

Mary became the vessel for the Lord of Glory Himself, and bore in the flesh Him whom heaven and earth cannot contain. Would this not have been grounds to consider her life, including her body, as consecrated to God and God alone? Or it more plausible that she would shrug it all off and get on with keeping house in the usual fashion? Consider that the poetically parallel incident of the Lord’s entry through the east gate of the Temple (in Ezekiel 43—44) prompts the call: “This gate shall be shut; it shall not be opened, and no one shall enter by it, for the Lord God of Israel has entered by it; therefore it shall be shut” (44:2).

And then there is Joseph’s character to consider. Surely his wife’s miraculous conception and birthgiving (confirmed by the angel in dream-visions) and the sight of God incarnate in the face of the child Christ would have been enough to convince him that his marriage was set apart from the norm. Within Mary’s very body had dwelt the second Person of the Trinity. If touching the ark of the covenant had cost Uzzah his life, and if even the scrolls containing the Law, the Psalms, and the Prophets were venerated, certainly Joseph, man of God that he was, would neither have dared nor desired to approach Mary, the chosen of Israel, the throne of God, to request his “conjugal rights”!

The Lord’s “Brothers”


There are several questions based on Scripture that are often raised by those skeptical about the doctrine of ever-virginity. The first of these involves the passages which state explicitly that the Lord had “brothers.” There are nine such passages: Matthew 12:46–47 and 13:55–56; Mark 3:31–32 and 6:3; Luke 8:19–20; John 2:12 and 7:3–5; Acts 1:14; and 1 Corinthians 9:5. The Greek word used in all these passages and generally translated “brother” is adelphos.

The Septuagint—the ancient Greek translation of the Hebrew Scriptures used by the Apostles (abbreviated LXX)—includes specific words for “cousin,” notably adelphinos and anepsios, but they are rarely used. The less specific word adelphos, which can mean “brother,” “cousin,” “kinsman,” “fellow believer,” or “fellow countryman,” is used consistently throughout the LXX, even when cousin or kinsman is clearly the relation described (such as in Genesis 14:14, 16; 29:12; Leviticus 25:49; Jeremiah 32:8, 9, 12; Tobit 7:2; etc.). Lot, for instance, who was the nephew of Abraham (cf. Genesis 11:27–31), is called his brother in Genesis 13:8 and 11:14–16. The point is that the commonly used Greek word for a male relative, adelphos, can be translated “cousin” or “brother” if no specific family relation is indicated.

Is there anywhere a clear statement in the Scriptures establishing Jesus’ brothers as literally the children of Mary? In fact, there is not. Nowhere is Mary explicitly stated to be the mother of Jesus’ brothers. The formula for speaking of the Lord’s family is “His mother and His brothers.” In Mark the possessive,anavtou—”of Him,” is inserted before both “His mother” and “His brothers,” making a clear distinction. In Acts 1:14, the separation is more pronounced: “Mary the mother of Jesus, and His brothers.” Some manuscripts use the conjunctive syn—“along with, in company with,” so that the text reads “Mary the mother of Jesus, along with His brothers.” In any case, Mary is never identified as the mother of Jesus’ brothers (nor they as her children), but only as the Mother of Jesus.

The Meaning of “Until”


Another objection to the idea of Mary’s perpetual virginity is that the Scriptures use the word “until” or “till” in Matthew 1:25: “. . . and [Joseph] did not know her till she had brought forth her firstborn Son.” Whereas in English the word “until” necessarily indicates change after the fact, in the ancient languages of the Bible this is simply not the case. For instance, if we read Deuteronomy 34:6, 2 Samuel 6:23, Psalm 72:7 and 110:1 (as interpreted by Jesus in Matthew 22:42–46), Matthew 11:23 and 28:20, Romans 8:22, and 1 Timothy 4:13, to reference just a few examples, we will see that in none of these passages does the word “until” indicate a necessary change. If it did, then apparently among other things we would be meant to understand that Jesus will at some point stop sitting at the right hand of the Father, and that on some unhappy date in the future He intends to abandon the Church! The use of “until” in Matthew 1:25, then, is purely to indicate that Christ was incarnate of the Holy Spirit and the Virgin Mary, not conceived by Joseph and Mary, since they did not “know” each other “until” the birth. In this context “until” is really synonymous with “before.” If on the contrary it were meant in its full contemporary English sense—that is, if it really meant that Joseph and Mary’s chaste relationship changed after the birth—then the stylistics present another big problem: the reader would have to believe that Matthew was actually inviting contemplation of the couple’s later sexual activity. This is doubtful to say the least.

The Meaning of “Firstborn”


Another objection might be based on the word “firstborn,” prototokos in Greek. The problem again is that the Greek word is not identical in semantic range to the English rendering. The English “firstborn” usually (though, it must be said, not always) implies the existence of subsequent children, but with prototokos there is no such implication. In Hebrews 1:6, for example, the use of prototokos in reference to the Incarnation of the Word of God cannot mean that there is a “second-born” Word of God! Nowhere is the term used to express merely the order of birth; instead in Romans 8:29, Colossians 1:15, 18, Hebrews 11:28 and 12:23, and Revelation 1:5, the title is applied to Jesus as the privileged and legal Heir of the Kingdom, attesting that He is truly “first in all things.” To the contemporary ear, a better translation might indeed be “heir,” which is similarly silent on the subject of other children and carries the same legal and poetic force that is intended by “firstborn.”

“Woman, Behold Thy Son”


Also, consider the moving passage from St. John’s Gospel in which our Lord commits His Mother into the care of St. John as He dies on the Cross. Why would He do so if she had other children to look after her? Jewish custom dictated that the care of a mother would fall to the second born if the firstborn died, and if the widow had no other child she would be left to take care of herself. Since she is without other children, her Son gives her into the care of the beloved disciple. The Women at the Cross and the Identity of the Lord’s Brothers Who exactly are the “brothers of the Lord” if not fellow sons of Mary His mother? (Here, I am gratefully indebted to Fr. Lawrence Farley’s article, “The Women at the Cross.” [publication ref?]) A close study of the women at the Cross in Matthew 27:55, 56 yields a plausible answer. These women were said to be:
(1) Mary Magdalene; 
(2) the mother of the sons of Zebedee;
(3) Mary the Mother of James and Joseph. In the parallel passage in Mark 15:40, 41, the women are said to be:
(1) Mary Magdalene;
(2) Salome;
(3) Mary the mother of James the Less and of Joses.
In John 19:25, the women are listed as:
(1) Mary Magdalene;
(2) Christ’s Mother;
(3) His mother’s sister, Mary wife of Clopas. 
For our purposes we should focus on the woman who is referred to by St. Matthew as “Mary the mother of James and Joseph,” by St. Mark as “Mary the mother of James the Less and of Joses [a variant of Joseph],” and by St. John in his list as “His mother’s sister, Mary wife of Clopas.”

Note that in Matthew the names “James and Joseph” were mentioned before. Indeed, the way Matthew mentions “Mary mother of James and Joseph” in 27:55, 56 presupposes that he has already introduced these “James and Joseph”—as indeed he has. In Matthew 13:55, we read that our Lord’s “brothers” are “James and Joseph and Simon and Judas.” Similarly, in St. Mark’s Gospel, “James and Joses” are mentioned as if we already know who “James and Joses” are, which in fact we do from Mark 6:3, where Christ’s “brothers” are listed as “James and Joses and Judas and Simon.”

It seems beyond reasonable dispute that the Mary at the Cross in St. Matthew and St. Mark is the mother of our Lord’s “brothers,” “James and Joses.” Also, it is inconceivable that Matthew and Mark would refer to the Lord’s Mother at the foot of the Cross as the mother of James and Joseph, but not mention that she is the Mother of Jesus as well!

If it is the case, as the Scriptures suggest, that Mary wife of Clopas is the same as the mother of James and Joseph, we have the following conclusion: the Theotokos had a “sister,” married to Clopas, who was the mother of James and Joseph, our Lord’s “brothers.” Here, the question ought to immediately arise concerning the Theotokos’ relationship to this Mary: What kind of “sister” is she?

Hegisippus, a Jewish Christian historian who, according to Eusebius, “belonged to the first generation after the apostles” and who interviewed many Christians from that apostolic community for his history, relates that Clopas was the brother of St. Joseph, foster-father of Christ (apud. Eusb. Eccl. H. iv:22). If this is so (and Hegisippus is generally acknowledged as fully reliable), then “Mary wife of Clopas” was the Virgin Mary’s “sister” in that she was her sister-in-law.

The puzzle therefore fits together. St. Joseph married the Virgin Theotokos, who gave birth to Christ, her only Child, preserving her virginity and having no other children. St. Joseph’s brother, Clopas, also married a woman named Mary, who had the children James and Joseph (along with Judas and Simon, and daughters also). These children were our Lord’s “brothers” (using the terminology of Israel, which as we have seen made no distinction between brothers and cousins but referred to all as “brothers”).

St. Matthew and St. Mark, focusing on our Lord’s family (Matthew 13:53ff and Mark 6:1ff), naturally refer to Clopas’ wife Mary as “the mother of James and Joseph (Joses).” St. John, on the other hand, focuses on our Lord’s Mother (cf. John 2:1ff) and just as naturally refers to this same woman as “His mother’s sister, Mary wife of Clopas.” But it is apparent that it is one and the same woman being referred to by all. This reconstruction is the best that can be made (though others exist, they all contain serious weaknesses) given both the Scriptural and historical evidence.

Why Mary’s Ever-Virginity Is Important


Some would say that even if it can be proved, Mary’s ever-virginity is not essential to the proclamation of the Gospel, and this is true on a certain level. In its essence, the Orthodox Church proclaims the Gospel of Jesus Christ. This is our message, our reason for being, the very life of our life. Teaching about Mary is really meant for the initiates, those who have already accepted the Gospel and have committed themselves to Christ and to service in His Church.

This is so because what Mary teaches us about the Incarnation of the Word of God requires that we first accept the Incarnation. Once we do, then her virginity not only after birthgiving, but also before—and indeed the character of her entire life—become in themselves a wellspring of teaching about life in Christ and the glory of God. Indeed, she said as much herself. By stating that “all generations shall call me blessed,” Mary was not vainly contemplating her own uniqueness, but proclaiming the wonder that her life was to manifest God’s glorious victory in His Christ for all time.

Mary was not a happenstance vessel of God; rather her role in our salvation was prepared from the beginning of the ages. The entire history of Israel—the patriarchs, the psalms, the prophets, the giving of the commandments—converged in the young woman who would answer the way all Israel should always have answered, and as we all are expected to answer now: “Behold the handmaiden of the Lord.”

But her purpose in salvation history did not end there. She was not cast aside as an article that is no longer useful. Instead her whole being and life would continue to point us without distraction to her Son. At the wedding of Cana in Galilee we hear her words: “Whatever He says to you, do it” (John 2:5). At her Son’s crucifixion, she stands fast at the foot of the Cross, this time pointing not with words but by her refusal to leave His side even in the face of what seemed an impossible nightmare. As we undertake to imitate this faithfulness in pointing always to God, we will begin to see in the same measure that Mary’s perpetual virginity is in fact her ever-ministry, the ideal example for our own ministry.

It is important to recover the proper veneration of Mary which the apostolic Church has always held, not because Mary is the great exception but, as one Orthodox theologian has said, because she is the great example. This veneration is beautifully expressed in an Orthodox hymn that poetically recounts Gabriel’s first encounter with Mary, who was about to become the Ark of the New Covenant, the throne of God, the flesh which gave flesh to the Word of God:

Awed by the beauty of your virginity
and the exceeding radiance of your purity,
Gabriel stood amazed, and cried to you, O Mother of God: 
“What praise may I offer you 
that is worthy of your beauty?
By what name shall I call you?
I am lost and bewildered,
but I shall greet you as I was commanded:
Hail, O full of grace.”

CA: Original article is no longer online, but it can be accessed through the Internet Archive:


CA:  Bottom line, Orthodoxy is in line and consistent with the Latin Church on this matter.

Sunday, April 05, 2015

Happy Easter!

He Is Risen!

He Is Risen Indeed!

A glorious and holy Easter Sunday to you!

Saturday, April 04, 2015

Holy Saturday

His Cross stands empty in a world grown silent
Through hours of anguish and dread;
In stillness, earth awaits the Resurrection
While Christ goes down to wake the dead.
(Holy Saturday Divine Office Hymn)

Yesterday, as the evening of Sabbath grew near, our Lord was taken from the Cross and hastily placed in the tomb of Joseph of Arimathea.  It's Sabbath now, no one is permitted to do work until it ends, which is at sunset.  The women will wait until Sunday morning now to go back to finish preparing the body properly for burial.

Holy Saturday is time for us to meditate on what transpired the week before.  A week which began in joy and triumph is shattered by betrayal, torture and agonizing death.  It all happened so quickly!  How many of us, today, took time out to pray with our Lord on Holy Thursday?  Did we pause, even for a moment Friday morning as our Lord was being beaten, whipped and dehumanized?  In the hours between noon and 3pm, did we think about Jesus hanging on the Cross?  At 3pm, did we stop and remember the moment He died for our sins?  Were we too busy and distracted to do anything for Holy Week?

Today we sit in silence.  It is our time to reflect upon His Passion.  There has been no consecration of the Eucharist since Thursday.  Last night at a Mass of preconsecrated Host, we escorted any remaining Host out of the sanctuary and off to perhaps a side chapel which for this day, Holy Saturday, will represent His tomb.  Last night all the lights in the church were turned off.  Our churches sit in silent darkness awaiting the Lumen Christi from the "new fire" which is lit from flint at the start of the Easter Vigil - this begins traditionally at about 10:30pm.  Why so late?  Because at the stroke of midnight begins the First Mass of Easter!  All the statues and sacred images which were shrouded in purple on Passion Sunday (two weeks ago) are uncovered as the choir sings out the Alleluia!  Lent will have ended and the great Feast of Easter will have begun.

For now, however, we sit in silence and in prayerful meditation.  Meditating on the week which just passed, the week which literally rocked the whole world nearly 2000 years ago - and continues to rock it to this day.  We have an eager anticipation for Easter Sunday - while remaining mindful of what just happened in the last couple days.

A blessed Holy Saturday to you, and a great and Holy Easter tomorrow (or tonight!) to you as well.

Here we sit in silent mourning, 
Eagerly awaiting for the morning. 
The dawning of our victory,
The greatest Sonrise of history.
S. Windsor 2015

Friday, April 03, 2015

Good Friday

Also called Holy Friday.  The Passion of our Lord began last night, Holy Thursday and reaches its mortal climax earlier this afternoon, at 3pm local time. 

On this day Catholics are to observe both fasting and abstinence from meat.  Why do we do this?  We do it to call into remembrance that which our Lord and Savior went through this past week - Holy Week.  The week begins with Jesus entering Jerusalem triumphantly, being praised and adored by the people of Jerusalem who are waving palms and laying them down as He passes in honor of Him.  Four days later, one of His own Apostles will betray Him, handing him over to the Jewish leaders who seek to have Him put to death.

Betrayal at the Garden

We left last night with Jesus being betrayed, arrested, bound and beaten as He is taken before Caiaphas, the High Priest for judgment.  This is still in the evening of Holy Thursday, actually.  After many witnesses came and gave false testimony, and Caiaphas not finding Him guilty of anything - finally two witnesses come forth and charge that He claimed that He would destroy the Temple and rebuild it in three days.  Jesus remained silent.  Then Caiaphas asked Him if He really was the Christ (Annointed One), the Son of God.  At this point Jesus broke His silence and said "You have said it..." and continue with "Hereafter shall ye see the Son of man sitting on the right hand of power, and coming in the clouds of heaven."  The High Priest tore his vestments and said, "What need of we of more witnesses?!  He has blasphemed!  He deserves to die."

Good Friday Morning

The Jews, being occupied by the Romans, had no authority to put someone to death, so they took Jesus before Pontius Pilate, the Roman governor.  Pilate could not find anything to convict Jesus to death, so he had Him scourged till He was barely alive and barely recognizable.  Bringing Him back before the Jews, Pilate said "Behold the man!"  The Jewish leaders still wanted nothing less than a death sentence and got the crowds to chant "Crucify Him!  Crucify Him!"  Pilate even tried to dissuade them from killing Jesus and offered to free either Jesus or the notorious criminal, Barabbas.  The Jewish leaders got the crowd to cry out for the release of Barabbas - and to crucify Jesus.  Pilate washes his hands and states, "Do with Him what you will, I will not have the blood of this innocent Man on my hands."  The Jews cried out, "Let His blood be upon us and upon our children." 

The Stations of the Cross by St Alphonsus Liguori

Preparatory Prayer
My Lord Jesus Christ, Thou hast made this journey to die for me with love unutterable, and I have so many times unworthily abandoned Thee; but now I love Thee with my whole heart, and because I love Thee, I repent sincerely for ever having offended Thee. Pardon me, my God, and permit me to accompany Thee on this journey. Thou goest to die for love of me; I wish also, my beloved Redeemer, to die for love of Thee. My Jesus, I will live and die always united to Thee.
The First Station
Jesus is Condemned to Death
V. We adore Thee, O Christ, and we bless Thee.
R. Because by Thy holy Cross, Thou hast redeemed the world.
Consider how Jesus, after having been scourged and crowned with thorns, was unjustly condemned by Pilate to die on the Cross.
My adorable Jesus, it was not Pilate, no, it was my sins that condemned Thee to die. I beseech Thee, by the merits of this sorrowful journey, to assist my soul in its journey towards eternity. I love Thee, my beloved Jesus; I repent with my whole heart for having offended Thee. Never permit me to separate myself from Thee again. Grant that I may love Thee always; and then do with me what Thou wilt.
Our Father, Hail Mary, Glory be to the Father, etc.
Dear Jesus, Thou dost go to die
For very love of me:
Ah! let me bear Thee company;
I wish to die with Thee.
The Second Station
Jesus Carries His Cross
V. We adore Thee, O Christ, and we bless Thee.
R. Because by Thy holy Cross, Thou hast redeemed the world.
Consider how Jesus, in making this journey with the Cross on His shoulders thought of us, and for us offered to His Father the death He was about to undergo.
My most beloved Jesus, I embrace all the tribulations Thou hast destined for me until death. I beseech Thee, by the merits of the pain Thou didst suffer in carrying Thy Cross, to give me the necessary help to carry mine with perfect patience and resignation. I love Thee, Jesus my love; I repent of having offended Thee. Never permit me to separate myself from Thee again. Grant that I may love Thee always; and then do with me what Thou wilt.
Our Father, Hail Mary, Glory be to the Father, etc.
The Third Station
Jesus Falls the First Time
V. We adore Thee, O Christ, and we bless Thee.
R. Because by Thy holy Cross, Thou hast redeemed the world.
Consider this first fall of Jesus under His Cross. His flesh was torn by the scourges, His head crowned with thorns, and He had lost a great quantity of blood. He was so weakened that he could scarcely walk, and yet he had to carry this great load upon His shoulders. The soldiers struck Him rudely, and thus He fell several times in His journey.
My beloved Jesus, it is not the weight of the Cross, but my sins, which have made Thee suffer so much pain. Ah, by the merits of this first fall, deliver me from the misfortune of falling into mortal sin. I love Thee, O my Jesus, with my whole heart; I repent of having offended Thee. Never permit me to separate myself from Thee again. Grant that I may love Thee always; and then do with me what Thou wilt.
Our Father, Hail Mary, Glory be to the Father, etc.
The Fourth Station
Jesus Meets His Sorrowful Mother
V. We adore Thee, O Christ, and we bless Thee.
R. Because by Thy holy Cross, Thou hast redeemed the world.
Consider the meeting of the Son and the Mother, which took place on this journey. Jesus and Mary looked at each other, and their looks became as so many arrows to wound those hearts which loved each other so tenderly.
My most loving Jesus, by the sorrow Thou didst experience in this meeting, grant me the grace of a truly devoted love for Thy most holy Mother. And thou, my Queen, who wast overwhelmed with sorrow, obtain for me by thy intercession a continual and tender remembrance of the Passion of thy Son. I love Thee, Jesus my love; I repent of ever having offended Thee. Never permit me to offend Thee again. Grant that I may love Thee always; and then do with me what Thou wilt.
Our Father, Hail Mary, Glory be to the Father, etc.
The Fifth Station
Simon Helps Jesus to Carry the Cross
V. We adore Thee, O Christ, and we bless Thee.
R. Because by Thy holy Cross, Thou hast redeemed the world.
Consider how the Jews, seeing that at each step Jesus from weakness was on the point of expiring, and fearing that He would die on the way, when they wished Him to die the ignominious death of the Cross, constrained Simon the Cyrenian to carry the Cross behind our Lord.
My most sweet Jesus, I will not refuse the Cross, as the Cyrenian did; I accept it; I embrace it. I accept in particular the death Thou hast destined for me; with all the pains that may accompany it; I unite it to Thy death, I offer it to Thee. Thou hast died for love of me; I will die for love of Thee, and to please Thee. Help me by Thy grace. I love Thee, Jesus my love; I repent of having offended Thee. Never permit me to offend Thee again. Grant that I may love Thee always; and then do with me what Thou wilt.
Our Father, Hail Mary, Glory be to the Father, etc.
The Sixth Station
Veronica Wipes the Face of Jesus
V. We adore Thee, O Christ, and we bless Thee.
R. Because by Thy holy Cross, Thou hast redeemed the world.
Consider how the holy woman named Veronica, seeing Jesus so afflicted, and His face bathed in sweat and blood, presented Him with a towel, with which He wiped His adorable face, leaving on it the impression of His holy countenance.
My most beloved Jesus, Thy face was beautiful before, but in this journey it has lost all its beauty, and wounds and blood have disfigured it. Alas, my soul also was once beautiful, when it received Thy grace in Baptism; but I have disfigured it since by my sins; Thou alone, my Redeemer, canst restore it to its former beauty. Do this by Thy Passion, O Jesus. I repent of having offended Thee. Never permit me to offend Thee again. Grant that I may love Thee always; and then do with me what Thou wilt.
Our Father, Hail Mary, Glory be to the Father, etc.
The Seventh Station
Jesus Falls the Second Time
V. We adore Thee, O Christ, and we bless Thee.
R. Because by Thy holy Cross, Thou hast redeemed the world.
Consider the second fall of Jesus under the Cross—a fall which renews the pain of all the wounds of the head and members of our afflicted Lord.
My most gentle Jesus, how many times Thou hast pardoned me, and how many times have I fallen again, and begun again to offend Thee! Oh, by the merits of this new fall, give me the necessary help to persevere in Thy grace until death. Grant that in all temptations which assail me I may always commend myself to Thee. I love Thee, Jesus my love; I repent of having offended Thee. Never permit me to offend Thee again. Grant that I may love Thee always; and then do with me what Thou wilt.
Our Father, Hail Mary, Glory be to the Father, etc.
The Eighth Station
The Women of Jerusalem Weep over Jesus
V. We adore Thee, O Christ, and we bless Thee.
R. Because by Thy holy Cross, Thou hast redeemed the world.
Consider how those women wept with compassion at seeing Jesus in such a pitiable state, streaming with blood, as He walked along. But Jesus said to them: Weep not for Me, but for your children.
My Jesus, laden with sorrows, I weep for the offences I have committed against Thee, because of the pains they have deserved, and still more because of the displeasure they have caused Thee, who hast loved me so much. It is Thy love, more than the fear of hell, which causes me to weep for my sins. My Jesus, I love Thee more than myself; I repent of having offended Thee. Never permit me to offend Thee again. Grant that I may love Thee always; and then do with me what Thou wilt.
Our Father, Hail Mary, Glory be to the Father, etc.
The Ninth Station
Jesus Falls the Third Time
V. We adore Thee, O Christ, and we bless Thee.
R. Because by Thy holy Cross, Thou hast redeemed the world.
Consider the third fall of Jesus Christ. His weakness was extreme, and the cruelty of His executioners was excessive, who tried to hasten His steps when He had scarcely strength to move.
Ah, my outraged Jesus, by the merits of the weakness Thou didst suffer in going to Calvary, give me strength sufficient to conquer all human respect, and all my wicked passions, which have led me to despise Thy friendship. I love Thee, Jesus my love, with my whole heart; I repent of having offended Thee. Never permit me to offend Thee again. Grant that I may love Thee always; and then do with me what Thou wilt.
Our Father, Hail Mary, Glory be to the Father, etc.
The Tenth Station
Jesus is Stripped of His Garments
V. We adore Thee, O Christ, and we bless Thee.
R. Because by Thy holy Cross, Thou hast redeemed the world.
Consider the violence with which the executioners stripped Jesus. His inner garments adhered to His torn flesh, and they dragged them off so roughly that the skin came with them. Compassionate your Savior thus cruelly treated, and say to Him:
My innocent Jesus, by the merits of the torment Thou hast felt, help me to strip myself of all affection to things of earth, in order that I may place all my love in Thee, who art so worthy of my love. I love Thee, O Jesus, with my whole heart; I repent of having offended Thee. Never permit me to offend Thee again. Grant that I may love Thee always; and then do with me what Thou wilt.
Our Father, Hail Mary, Glory be to the Father, etc.
The Eleventh Station - (It's now about noon, local time on Good Friday)
Jesus is Nailed to the Cross
V. We adore Thee, O Christ, and we bless Thee.
R. Because by Thy holy Cross, Thou hast redeemed the world.
Consider how Jesus, after being thrown on the Cross extended His hands, and offered to His Eternal Father the sacrifice of His death for our salvation. These barbarians fastened Him with nails, and then, raising the Cross, allowed Him to die with anguish on this infamous gibbet.
My Jesus! loaded with contempt, nail my heart to Thy feet, that it may ever remain there, to love Thee, and never quit Thee again. I love Thee more than myself; I repent of having offended Thee. Never permit me to offend Thee again. Grant that I may love Thee always; and then do with me what Thou wilt.
Our Father, Hail Mary, Glory be to the Father, etc.
The Twelfth Station
Jesus is Raised upon the Cross, and Dies
V. We adore Thee, O Christ, and we bless Thee.
R. Because by Thy holy Cross, Thou hast redeemed the world.
Consider how thy Jesus, after three hours’ Agony on the Cross, consumed at length with anguish, abandons Himself to the weight of His body, bows His head, and dies.
O my dying Jesus, I kiss devoutly the Cross on which Thou didst die for love of me. I have merited by my sins to die a miserable death; but Thy death is my hope. Ah, by the merits of Thy death, give me grace to die, embracing Thy feet, and burning with love for Thee. I yield my soul into Thy hands. I love Thee with my whole heart; I repent of ever having offended Thee. Never permit me to offend Thee again. Grant that I may love Thee always; and then do with me what Thou wilt.
Our Father, Hail Mary, Glory be to the Father, etc.
The Thirteenth Station - (It is now about 3:00pm, Good Friday)
Jesus is Taken Down from the Cross
V. We adore Thee, O Christ, and we bless Thee.
R. Because by Thy holy Cross, Thou hast redeemed the world.
Consider how, after the death of our Lord, two of His disciples, Joseph and Nicodemus, took Him down from the Cross, and placed Him in the arms of His afflicted Mother, who received Him with unutterable tenderness, and pressed Him to her bosom.
O Mother of sorrow, for the love of this Son, accept me for thy servant, and pray to Him for me. And Thou, my Redeemer, since Thou hast died for me, permit me to love Thee; for I wish but Thee, and nothing more. I love Thee, my Jesus, and I repent of ever having offended Thee. Never permit me to offend Thee again. Grant that I may love Thee always; and then do with me what Thou wilt.
Our Father, Hail Mary, Glory be to the Father, etc.
The Fourteenth Station - (The sun is setting, the Sabbath is beginning, there is no time for the full preparation of the body, this will have to wait until the sun is rising after Sabbath is over, Sunday morning).
Jesus is Laid in the Sepulchre
V. We adore Thee, O Christ, and we bless Thee.
R. Because by Thy holy Cross, Thou hast redeemed the world.
Consider how the disciples carried the body of Jesus to bury it, accompanied by His holy Mother, who arranged it in the sepulchre with her own hands. They then closed the tomb, and all withdrew.
Oh, my buried Jesus, I kiss the stone that encloses Thee. But Thou didst rise again the third day. I beseech Thee, by Thy resurrection, make me rise glorious with Thee at the last day, to be always united with Thee in heaven, to praise Thee and love Thee forever. I love Thee, and I repent of ever having offended Thee. Never permit me to offend Thee again. Grant that I may love Thee always; and then do with me what Thou wilt.
Our Father, Hail Mary, Glory be to the Father, etc.

Prayer to Jesus Christ Crucified

Behold, O kind and most sweet Jesus, I cast myself upon my knees in Your sight, and with the most fervent desire of my soul, I pray and beg You to impress upon my heart lively sentiments of faith, hope and charity, with true repentance for my sins, and a firm desire of amendment, while with deep affection and grief of soul I ponder within myself and mentally contemplate Your five precious Wounds, having before my eyes that which David spoke in prophecy; "They have pierced My hands and My feet; I can count all my bones."

Thursday, April 02, 2015

Holy Thursday

What is the Triduum?  It is the culmination of the Passion of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.  It begins with Holy Thursday with the foot washing of the Apostles as they prepare for the celebration of Passover - which will become the Christian Pascha, the Eucharist - the first celebration of the Catholic Mass/Divine Liturgy.  Both Eastern and Latin traditions trace the roots of their Eucharist to THIS night nearly 2000 years ago. The Triduum is the three days of the Passion, Holy Thursday, Good Friday and Holy Saturday.

How is tonight different from other nights?

This is the question the Jews have asked in celebrating Passover for nearly four thousand years!  Whereas Abraham is the Father of the Jews - Moses is the Father of Judaism.  Passover celebrates the exodus of the Jews from Egypt, specifically - the Tenth Plague which Pharoah brought upon the Egyptians because of his hardened heart - but this Tenth Plague took the first born from everyone in Egypt who did not paint their door sills with the blood of a sacrificed lamb.  On this night God sent the Angel of Death over the land and for those whose doorposts were marked with the blood, the angel "passed over" but to every household which did not have their doorposts so identified, the angel went in and took the life breath from the firstborn of each household - including Pharoah's own son.  Pharoah was so grieved, he finally relented and told Moses to take his people and whatever spoils they could carry with them and get out of Egypt.

So, tonight they eat quickly and pack everything they can, and all the spoils of Egypt they can, and make a hasty exit.  They don't sit for a "normal meal" for "tonight we are like royalty and we recline to the left in the manner of kings and queens."  Though they reclined like kings and queens, they were also dressed for a trip, for they were leaving Egypt in the morning - for the rest of their lives. This is why they use unleavened bread, for there was no time to let the bread rise.  It had to be prepared and eaten quickly.

"You shall tell your child on that day, saying, 'It is because of what the LORD did for me when I came out of Egypt.'" (Exodus 13:8)

The Footwashing

This is not part of the Jewish practice - but is an important part of the Catholic tradition.  Jesus, the Leader and Chief Shepherd, humbles Himself and takes a basin of water and a towel and washes the feet of the Apostles who have reclined for the Passover celebration.  Peter at first refuses, but after Jesus explains this is necessary - he over-responds and asks that Jesus not only wash his feet, but bathe him completely.  The feet are enough, Peter!

The Four Cups

It is not certain when the use of the Four Cups began, but certainly it was before Jesus was celebrating the Passover on this Holy Thursday night.  The use of the Four Cups is taught in the ancient writings of Judaism, (Pesahim 10:1).  The Cup being taken on Holy Thursday is the Third Cup - the Cup of Redemption or the Cup of Blessing.  The irony of the Catholic tradition began by Christ here - He gets up and goes off into the night before the Fourth Cup!  The Fourth Cup, the "Cup of Hope," therefore, in the Catholic tradition is that cup which Jesus prayed about at Gethsemane - and pray that this cup be removed from Him, unless it be the Will of the Father that He endures this cup.  This cup therefore is our Hope for salvation - it is the Sacrifice of Calvary.

Holy Thursday

It begins with Jesus washing the feet of the Apostles and ends in the Garden of Gethsemane where Judas betrays Jesus with a kiss.  Jesus is arrested and by this time tomorrow - He will be dead and buried.  As we go into Good Friday, let us be mindful of what Jesus was enduring in these last hours of His natural human life.

(Passover this year actually begins at sundown on Holy Saturday, 15 Nissan).

A Jewish explanation of the Passover Seder:  http://www.jewfaq.org/seder.htm

Wikipedia:  http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Passover_Seder

The Fourth Cup, transcript of Dr. Scott Hahn's talk on the Passover of Holy Thursday: http://zuserver2.star.ucl.ac.uk/~vgg/rc/aplgtc/hahn/m4/4cp.html