Tuesday, August 06, 2019

Transfiguration

He said, write down the vision that you had,
and I wrote what I saw.

I saw the world kissing its own darkness.

It happened thus: I rose to meet the sunrise
and suddenly over the hill a horde appeared
dragging a huge tarpaulin.
They covered unwary land and hapless city
and all sweet water and fields.
And there was no sunrise.

I strained my eyes for a path and there was no path.
I bumped into trees and the bushes hissed at me,
and the long-armed brambles cried in a strident voice:
never through here!
But I struggled on, fumbling my beads of no.

I came to a dark city where nobody knew
that there was darkness.
And strange! though there was no light I still could see
what I did not want to see:
people who moved to the loveless embrace of folly.
They ate her gourmet foods; they drank her wine,
danced to her music that was crazed with rhythm,
were themselves discord though they knew it not,
or if they knew, cared less.

Outside the city wall, I stood in thought,
parried a moment with a frightening urge
to court the darkness;
but I held back, fearing the face of love.

Crossing a field I wandered through a desert
when suddenly behind a rock I found
a little sagebrush where a fire was burning,
shining and dancing. After my first amazed
worship of silence I was loud with praise.

I watched with fear the darkness circling it.
lunging against it, swirling a black cloak
to suffocate the light,
until the shades broke loose and one by one
in terror fled.

The flame burned on, innocent, unimperiled.
There was no darkness that could put it out.

-- Jessica Powers, aka Sister Miriam of the Holy Spirit, OCD

Image above by James B Janknegt, used here without permission or shame.
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Saturday, July 20, 2019

Ten Years After

The Kopechne family has never commented publicly on the incident.

After the Eagle Landed

PHOTO: Neil Armstrong: Eagle Scout, Astronaut, Famous Guy. I met him. Twice.

Fifty years ago today, a man set foot on a celestial body other than this one for the first time, ever. The choice for this honor was made for a reason, and this writer gained some insight into the man on two occasions.

That's right, I met Neil Armstrong, twice.

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It was a Saturday afternoon in January of 1972, at the Emery Theater in downtown Cincinnati, when the Dan Beard Council Eagle Scout Class of 1971 gathered to be recognized en masse. Mom and I were sitting right behind a brother Eagle, the boy who grew up to be local TV news broadcaster Rob Braun. No, he wasn't famous back then, but his dad, Bob Braun, had already cleared a path in the local entertainment industry, as a show host and pop recording artist.

But, I digress.

VIDEO: Rob Braun: Eagle Scout, Local Newscaster, Semi-Famous Guy. I sat behind him. Once.

The keynote speaker was another brother Eagle, in the person of Neil Armstrong, of Troop 14, Wapakoneta, Ohio (one of the last towns in the Midwest where you could make a phone call for a nickel and not yet a dime. But again, I digress). Before it was over, we all got to go up there, get a certificate, and shake his hand, when I said something stupid like "Gee, I'm all shook up." He appeared to be amused.

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We would meet again.

By that time, Armstrong had recently accepted a teaching position in the Department of Aerospace Engineering at the University of Cincinnati. He accepted this offer over that of his own alma mater, Purdue, because UC had a small aerospace department. He was immediately given full professorship, in spite of having only a masters degree from the University of Southern California. The College of Engineering was next door to the very different College of Design, Architecture, and Art, where in 1973, I had begun my first year as a graphic design major. In the spring quarter of 1974, the Design Fundamentals class broke up into small groups for a kite design project, but not before our instructor, Ms Gwen Wagner, invited Professor Armstrong to traverse into yet another world, to give us a crash course in aerodynamics as related to kite flying.

PHOTO: The UC College of Design, Architecture, Art, and Planning. It didn't look this weird back then.

If that sounds hard to believe, Armstrong would have been the first to agree with you. He was undoubtedly chosen as the first to set foot on the moon because, among other reasons, he was as understated a man as you could ever meet. Being world-famous had little effect on his demeanor, but explaining the principles of flight to a group of hippie artist types did manage to overwhelm him a bit. But he kept his head, and took it seriously, as seriously as such an unrealistic scenario could allow while drawing diagrams on a chalkboard.

That was the spring of the big tornado preceded by hailstones as big as baseballs. That was the kite design group where everybody in the group said later that I was completely useless, and in the years that followed, all but the most vehemently dismissive among them had dropped out of the program.

In the years that followed, and much closer to the present, I met two other famous Eagle Scouts, both of whom were nominated for cabinet positions in Washington at the start of 2017, and I was detailed to the Presidential Transition as a photographer. (That's another story for another day.) But the first of them was a man who preferred obscurity, and was chosen for greatness, in spite of it, perhaps because of it.

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VIDEO: Jonathan King appears on the UK's "Top Of The Pops" show in 1965 to sing "Everyone's Gone To The Moon." The show's host needed a haircut more than this guy.

Admit it, you thought I was going to talk about watching the moon walk on television, right? Well, of course I did, like everybody else. A local radio station, WSAI-AM, then at 1360kHz, spent the evening of the landing playing pop songs that mentioned the moon. It felt as if the whole world would never be the same again after one of us stepped beyond it.

And so it goes.
 

Tuesday, July 16, 2019

The Lady in Brown

It was the spring of 1965, when the third- and fourth-graders at St Andrew's School were assembled in the parish church, having received the Sacrament of Confirmation several months before. Each of us was ceremoniously given two small pieces of brown wool with little images on them, connected by two lengths of brown rope, to be hung around the our necks.

It was what Catholics would refer to as an "Enrollment in the Brown Scapular."

Our Lady of Carmel by Pietro Novelli, 1641Today, the western Church celebrates the Feast of Our Lady of Mount Carmel. It is one of the most popular feasts in honor of the Blessed Mother, if only for its association with the Brown Scapular.

In its original form, a "scapular" is a tunic-like garment worn over the habit of male or female members of religious orders. In its more popular form, it is two small pieces of cloth connected by two cords, worn over the neck.

The so-called “Brown Scapular” identified with the Carmelite Order and their traditional brown apparel, originated in the appearance of the Blessed Mother to Saint Simon Stock in 1251. She is said to have told him, upon granting him the Scapular:

“Take, beloved son this scapular of thy order as a badge of my confraternity and for thee and all Carmelites a special sign of grace; whoever dies in this garment, will not suffer everlasting fire. It is the sign of salvation, a safeguard in dangers, a pledge of peace and of the covenant.”

Of course, this does not make the Brown Scapular some sort of magic talisman, which would amount to superstition, and thus objectively sinful in practice. The "Sabbatine Privilege" associated with wearing the Brown Scapular requires that the person: 1) Wear the Brown Scapular continuously, 2) Observe chastity according to one’s state in life (married/single/whatever), 3) Recite daily the Little Office of the Blessed Virgin, OR observe the fasts of the Church together with abstaining from meat on Wednesdays and Saturdays, OR with permission of a priest, say five decades of Our Lady’s Most Holy Rosary OR With permission of a priest, substitute some other good work.

Pope Benedict XV also said you could knock 500 days off Purgatory if you kissed it, devoutly (if you're into that sort of thing).

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Also popular (and arguably more common) is the wearing of the "scapular medal." This is a small medal worn in lieu of the Brown Scapular, although not really a replacement. The minimum requirements, laid down by Pope Saint Pius X in 1910, is that the medal must "show the image of Our Most Holy Redeemer, Jesus Christ, showing His Sacred Heart, and the obverse that of the Most Blessed Virgin Mary." Most of them have a rather common appearance, but yours truly found a remarkably uncommon choice on eBay, and wears it faithfully.

The devotion remains popular today, as a new generation of Catholics discover tradition. One can spot a Catholic "kickin' it old skool" from across a crowded room, bearing the telltale sign around their neck that peers out from underneath the neckline of their clothing. More information about the Brown Scapular, the devotion attached to it, and the ceremony for its reception (which is how yours truly got his as a fourth grader in the spring of 1965) can be found here.

Of course, once you are enrolled, you don't have to enroll again, nor does your Scapular have to be blessed. This writer started wearing his again only recently, and didn't have to do anything once it was worn. (See above.)

Devotion to this title of Our Lady takes other forms in Italian communities throughout North America. Most notable is the annual patronal celebration of Our Lady of Mount Carmel, a 125-year-old parish located in the Williamsburg section of Brooklyn, New York. Every year at this time, a giant tower topped by an image of Saint Paulinus of Nola is carried aloft in procession on a giant platform, accompanied by a brass band. For the boys of the parish who participate in carrying the statue, this event symbolizes a manly rite of passage.

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Meanwhile, elsewhere in the Catholic world, we remember Saint Marie-Madeleine (baptismal name Julie) Postel, born in France in 1756. Entering into religious life under Franciscan rule, she went on to found the Sisters of Christian Schools. During the French Revolution and the subsequent Reign of Terror, not only did she hide fugative priests at the risk of her own life, but was charged with carrying the Holy Eucharist to others in hiding at the direction of her bishop. Such measures have long been common during times of persecution, and was the original intention of Extraordinary Ministers of Holy Communion, as opposed to ... well, you know.
 

Thursday, July 04, 2019

My Red Hat Moment

So the President goes to France, and he sees all those French tanks and various and sundry implements of destruction. Now, our President loves a good parade as much as the next man, and he thinks to himself: "Hey, I'm the Commander-in-Chief. Why can't we put on a dog-and-pony-show like this one back in the good old U S of A???" He's finding out the reason the hard way, as both sides of the controversy -- you know, the one about duplicating Bastille Day on the National Mall tonight -- might be making a mountain out of a molehill.

Yes, there is a possibility in theory of "politicizing" a non-political event. Those who command the military are rightly concerned about what is called "The Hatch Act." That is a statutory law that imposes limits on partisan political activity of those who work for the government. That includes the military. That also includes Presidential appointees while they're in office. And yes, that also includes the President. And it is an unusual expense, even for this occasion.

And given relatively short notice, not to mention a logistical nightmare in the last 48 hours.

But as much as the lamestream media would have you think otherwise, this isn't the first time a sitting President put on a big show on the National Mall on Independence Day. Nor is it the first time a sitting President put on the aforementioned big show while running for re-election. But to listen to them, you'd think it was another routine campaign stop on the taxpayer's dime.

In other words, they think you'll believe anything. Meanwhile, I came across this.

Thomas G West, senior fellow of the Claremont Institute, has noted that the theological significance of The Great Seal has been largely lost because of the common misconception that its symbols are rooted in Freemasonry.

Misonception? Hmmm, put THAT in your red hat and spin it around!
 

Saturday, June 29, 2019

Sometimes you feel like a nut ...

Today, the Christian world celebrates the Feast of Saints Peter and Paul. The Church of Rome reserves this day for ecumenical celebrations with the Eastern Orthodox, as a sign of hope for unity between East and West. In the reformed Roman calendar, it is recognized as a solemnity, and is a holyday of obligation in many countries (if not the United States). The traditional Roman calendar notes it as a double octave of the first class. In both cases, its celebration displaces that of the Sunday of the year.

In other words, it's definitely up there on the food chain. And speaking of food ...

The world of Catholic new media has plenty of meditations on this day. This writer prefers different approach:

At the train station in Naugatuck, Connecticut, candy and ice-cream shop owner Peter Paul Halajian used to meet the commuter trains carrying baskets full of fresh hand-made chocolates. The most popular of his candies was a blend of coconut, fruits, nuts, and chocolate that he called Konabar ...

Eventually Peter Paul merged with Cadbury, which later merged with Hershey. Not only is there a recipe for the Mounds and Almond Joy confections on the internet, but you can also bake a cake out of them, with recipes to be found here and here.

Personally, I can't think of a better way to celebrate this feast than to bake a cake out of something that says "Peter Paul," don't you think?

Or don't you?
 

Friday, June 28, 2019

In Corde Jesu

Today, Catholics of the Western tradition celebrate the Feast of the Sacred Heart.

Outside of devotions to the Blessed Virgin Mary, there is none more popular or more identified with the traditional piety of Catholic life than this feast, occurring on Friday of the week following the Feast of Corpus Christi. It was on that earlier feast when a Novena to the Sacred Heart would begin, culminating in the Mass and Office of today.

“Christ’s open side and the mystery of blood and water were meditated upon, and the Church was beheld issuing from the side of Jesus, as Eve came forth from the side of Adam. It is in the eleventh and twelfth centuries that we find the first unmistakable indications of devotion to the Sacred Heart. Through the wound in the side, the wounded Heart was gradually reached, and the wound in the Heart symbolized the wound of love.” (1917 Catholic Encyclopedia)

There were various monastic communities who took up the devotion since the eleventh century, but the real tip of the biretta has always gone to St Margaret Mary Alacoque (1647-90), a Visitation nun who had a vision. While praying before the Blessed Sacrament, she saw Our Lord with his heart beating openly, and the sight of it all sent her into a spell of ecstasy. “He disclosed to me the marvels of his Love and the inexplicable secrets of his Sacred Heart.” And so it was, with local approval, that the Feast itself was first officially celebrated in Rennes, France. This was followed by papal approval, with official texts for the Mass and Office, in Poland and Portugal. Its popularity spread across Europe. Then in 1856, Pope Pius IX established the Feast of the Sacred Heart as obligatory for the whole Church, to be celebrated on the Friday after the Octave of Corpus Christi. The octave was suppressed during the 1955 calendar reforms of Pope Pius XII, along with most existing octaves*, and yet the novena that precedes this feast is rising in popularity among traditional Catholics in the West.

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But perhaps the finest explanation of this vision can be found in an episode of The X-Files, a detective series that ran on The Fox Network for nine years, and to this day has a formidable cult following. It is from the series' sixth season and is entitled "Milagro" (6X18), originally airing on April 18, 1999. In the story, there are people murdered with their hearts mysteriously removed by hand. FBI Special Agent Dana Scully (Gillian Anderson) visits a Catholic church, and coming across the image of the Sacred Heart, she runs into this unsavory fellow who explains the story behind the image to her. A piece of the dialogue, from the mysterious writer named Philip Padgett (John Hawkes), describes a vision:

I often come here to look at this painting. It’s called “My Divine Heart” after the miracle of Saint Margaret Mary. Do you know the story ... The revelation of the Sacred Heart? Christ came to Margaret Mary, his heart so inflamed with love that it was no longer able to contain its burning flames of charity. Margaret Mary ... so filled with divine love herself, asked the Lord to take her heart ... and so he did, placing it alongside his until it burned with the flames of his passion. Then he restored it to Margaret Mary, sealing her wound with the touch of his blessed hand.

His account portrays an almost sensuous quality to the Saint's reaction to this vision, in a way that one might rarely hear or read anywhere else. It is a sign that perhaps the influence of Christendom has not entirely faded from the popular culture, not to mention the realm of folk religion, with images created in tattoo parlors.

A common practice in many Catholic homes until the mid-20th century (including mine), was the "Enthronement of the Sacred Heart," in which the family placed the appropriate image of Christ on the wall, and together recited the necessary prayers, pledging the consecration of the family and the home to Him, in return for special graces. Fisheaters has a good explanation of the whole kit and caboodle, just in case it makes a comeback.

It could happen.

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* The suppression of most octaves in the liturgical calendar by Pius XII has recently become a matter of much debate, attributing it to an overzealous agenda within the Liturgical Movement. However, it may have also been the result of conflicts between at least some of those octaves, and commemorations of equal or greater rank occurring at the same time -- but, that's another story.
 

Thursday, June 20, 2019

After the Eagle Landed

PHOTO: Neil Armstrong: Eagle Scout, Astronaut, Famous Guy. I met him. Twice.

Fifty years ago today (minus one month), a man set foot on a celestial body other than this one for the first time, ever. The choice for this honor was made for a reason, and this writer gained some insight into the man on two occasions ...
 

Sing, My Tongue, The Savior's Glory!

A story of the Feast of Corpus Christi

In the tradition of our Mother the Church, the days of the week are venerated, each for a different purpose. An example would be the reservation of Saturday to honor the Blessed Mother. No less worthy of note is the association of Thursday with the Holy Eucharist. For it was on a Thursday night that Our Lord instituted this Great Sacrament, changing the bread and wine into His Sacred Body and Precious Blood, the bloodless foretaste of His bloody Sacrifice on Calvary the following day.

The gift of this Bread of Angels would be cause for great celebration, but for the larger context of the Paschal Triduum, where the suffering and death of Our Lord precedes the Resurrection as the Prophets foretold. And yet the Church would so wish to shed a spotlight on this solitary Gift, that She has enabled events in Her history to set aside this solemn remembrance, on a Thursday immediately after Paschaltide.

Such a remembrance began with a vision.

From her childhood, a young Belgian orphan girl named Juliana (1193-1258) was especially devoted to the Blessed Sacrament. From her home in the convent of Mont Cornillon, near Liege (where she eventually took the veil), she longed for a feast to mark its place in salvation history. This desire was marked in a vision, where she saw Mother Church, under the appearance of a full moon with a dark spot upon Her. It was this blemish that was discerned to be the missing devotion for which she longed. Her appeal was first made to the Bishop of Liege, and onward to one prelate after the next, eventually reaching the Holy Father himself, then Pope Urban IV. The good bishop declared the Thursday immediately following the Easter season as dedicated to the feast in 1246.

As if a vision were not enough, this feast was further inspired by a miracle.

In 1263, a priest on pilgrimage was having his doubts about the Real Presence. But Peter of Prague found reason to set those doubts aside while celebrating Mass in the town of Bolsena, when the Host he consecrated started bleeding. Pope Urban was in Orvieto at the time, and the good Father brought the Host to him. It was reserved in the Cathedral of that city, where it remains today.

The following year, Pope Urban extended the observance of Corpus Christi to the entire Western church.

Urban then turned to a great theologian of his day, no less than Thomas Aquinas, commissioning him to compose the liturgical texts and hymns for the Feast. From the pen of the Angelic Doctor came four of the great hymns we know today, including Pange, lingua, which is also sung at the end of Mass on Holy Thursday. Perhaps his greatest work for this occasion was the sequence hymn Laude, Sion. It is here that the theological precision for which the good Doctor was known, and the sober character that is native to the Roman liturgy, was married to a description of almost Byzantine splendor, bringing forth a poem of love and devotion to the awesome Mystery:

Sub diversis speciebus,
signis tantum, et non rebus,
latent res eximiae.
Caro cibus, sanguis potus:
manet temen Christus totus,
sub utraque specie.


Here beneath these signs are hidden
Priceless things to sense forbidden;
Sign, not things are all we see:
Blood is poured and flesh is broken,
Yet in either wondrous token
Christ entire we know to be.


In the centuries leading to the present day, the most popular aspect of the Feast continues to be the Procession following the Mass, when the Holy Eucharist, reserved in the monstrance, is carried by the priest in formal procession. In many locales, the festivity carries into the main street of the town. Often it is preceded by flower-bearers spreading rose petals upon the ground, along a route that may be decorated with flowers and festive wreaths. This is followed by a complement of acolytes and other sacred ministers, culminating in the celebrant bearing the monstrance, under the protection of a canopy, and flanked on both sides by twin thurifers, who alternate their perfuming of the air surrounding the sacred Host.

The feast is met at its conclusion, by another beginning. On this day, a Novena to the Sacred Heart is traditionally begun, culminating in a feast of its own on Friday of the following week.

Tu, qui cuncta scis et vales,
qui nos pascis hic mortales:
tuus ibi commensales,
coheredes et sodales
fac sanctorum civium.


Thou who all things can and knoweth,
Who on earth such food bestoweth,
Grant us with thy saints, though lowest,
Where the heav'nly feast thou showeth,
Fellow saints and guests to be.

Amen. Alleluia.


PHOTOS: Celebrations of the Feast in Greenville, South Carolina, USA (First Annual Southeastern Eucharistic Congress), in Antigua, Guatemala (Infrogmation), in Poznań, Poland (Radomil), and in Vaduz, Liechtenstein (Joyce Chan).
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Sunday, June 16, 2019

Trinity

Today the Roman Rite, and much of western Christianity, celebrates Trinity Sunday. What began as a local feast in some parts of the Western church in the Middle Ages, was added to the universal Roman calendar by Pope John XXII (1316–1334), and designated as the first Sunday after Pentecost.

Three folds of the cloth,
    yet only one napkin is there,
Three joints in the finger,
    but still only one finger fair,
Three leaves of the shamrock,
    yet no more than one shamrock to wear,
Frost, snowflakes and ice,
    all in water their origin share,
Three Persons in God:
    to one God alone we make our prayer.

(An ancient Irish prayer)

The Reverend Doctor Daniel Meeter is pastor of Old First Reformed Church in Brooklyn, New York. He writes:

Unlike most Sundays in our calendar, we are not marking any specific Biblical event, but it makes sense to celebrate the Trinity on the Sunday after Pentecost. On Pentecost God exposed God’s self in the Holy Spirit -- God came among us in the third person of God. Fifty days before that, on Easter, God exposed God’s self the Lord Jesus -- God was among us in the second person of God. The Easter season celebrates the mighty acts of God for our salvation as these actions of two persons, so now that the Season is over, we can put God back together!

We continue with what the reformed Roman calendar refers to in English as "ordinary time." This is ostensibly a faithful rendering, if not a literal one, of the Latin "tempus per annum;" literally, "time during the year." There was a time you might have heard the following Sunday referred to incorrectly as "the Umpteenth Sunday of the Year" or the "Umpteenth Sunday of the Church Year," which it is not, but rather, the Umpteenth Sunday of the regular part of the Church year. Thus, "ordinary" refers to that which is part of the regular order (the words "ordinary" and "order" having the same root) of the year.

Personally, this writer would just as soon they referred to Sundays After Epiphany and/or Pentecost, which some Anglican churches still do, even as they have adopted a more contemporary Book of Common Prayer, and a three-year-cycled lectionary.

And so it goes.
 

Sunday, June 09, 2019

Novena: Pentecost

Da virtutis meritum,
da salutis exitum,
da perenne gaudium.
Amen. Alleluia.


Give them virtue's sure reward;
give them thy salvation, Lord;
give them joys that never end.
Amen. Alleluia.


Prayer

Come, O Holy Ghost, fill the hearts of Thy faithful, And enkindle in them the fire of Thy love.

V: Send forth Thy Spirit and they shall be created,

R: And Thou shalt renew the face of the earth.

Oh God, Who didst instruct the hearts of the faithful by the light of the Holy Ghost, grant us in the same Spirit to be truly wise and to ever rejoice in His consolations, through Jesus Christ Our Lord.

Amen.

(Our thanks to Soulpacifica for the lovely images personifying the gifts of the Holy Spirit, which have appeared in this series with her appreciation, for which this writer is grateful. To view this entire series, click here.)
 

Saturday, June 08, 2019

Novena Day 9: The Fruits of the Holy Ghost

Da tuis fidelibus
in te confidentibus
sacrum septenarium.


On the faithful, who adore
and confess thee, evermore
in thy sevenfold gift descend.


Meditation

The gifts of the Holy Ghost perfect the supernatural virtues by enabling us to practice them with greater docility to divine inspiration. As we grow in the knowledge and love of God under the direction of the Holy Ghost, our service becomes more sincere and generous, the practice of virtue more perfect. Such acts of virtue leave the heart filled with joy and consolation and are known as Fruits of the Holy Ghost. These fruits in turn render the practice of virtue more attractive and become a powerful incentive for still greater efforts in the service of God, to serve Whom is to reign.

Prayer

Come, O Divine Spirit, fill my heart with Thy heavenly fruits, Thy charity, joy, peace, patience, benignity, goodness, faith, mildness, and temperance, that I may never weary in the service of God, but by continued faithful submission to Thy inspiration, may merit to be united eternally with Thee in the love of the Father and the Son. Amen.

Our Father ... Hail Mary ... Glory Be ...

(Our thanks to Soulpacifica for the lovely images personifying the gifts of the Holy Spirit, which have until yesterday appeared in this series with her appreciation, for which this writer is grateful. To see the novena as completed to the present, click here.)
 

Friday, June 07, 2019

Novena Day 8: The Gift of Wisdom

Flecte quod est rigidum,
fove quod est frigidum,
rege quod est devium.


Bend the stubborn heart and will;
melt the frozen, warm the chill;
guide the steps that go astray.


Meditation

Embodying all the other gifts, as charity embraces all other virtues, Wisdom is the most perfect of the gifts. Of wisdom it is written “all good things came to me with her, and innumerable riches through her hands.” It is the gift of Wisdom that strengthens our faith, fortifies hope, perfects charity, and promotes the practice of virtue in the highest degree. Wisdom enlightens the mind to discern and relish things divine, in the appreciation of which earthly joys lose their savor, whilst the Cross of Christ yields a divine sweetness according to the words of the Savior: “Take up thy cross and follow Me, for My yoke is sweet, and My burden light.”

Prayer

Come, O Spirit of Wisdom, and reveal to my soul the mysteries of heavenly things, their exceeding greatness, power and beauty. Teach me to love them above and beyond all passing joys and satisfactions of the earth. Help me to attain them and possess them for ever. Amen.

Our Father ... Hail Mary ... Glory Be ...

(Our thanks to Soulpacifica for the lovely images personifying the gifts of the Holy Spirit, which appear in this series with her appreciation, for which this writer is grateful. To see the novena as completed to the present, click here.)
 

Thursday, June 06, 2019

My D-Day Moment

Seventy-five years ago today, thousands of Allied troops landed on the beaches of Normandy, the start of the final great endeavor, to defeat the forces of evil, to reclaim Europe for the sake of her people's freedom, and to make the world a better place, a place of freedom.

So many of them never made it to the shore, gunned down by well-placed if overwhelmed German gun placements. So many more died on the beach, and are buried in the green fields beyond that shore. Some of them survived, and lived to tell the tale of their push across Europe.

I knew one of those men. I heard his stories, in the three years after he offered me a job, the job that brought me to Washington nearly four decades ago. I wrote of him on this day in 2010, by which time the stories I had heard were already compiled into a book that he himself had authored. I read the book, and relived those stories.

We who live in peace can never forget what happened that day, when the world was not at peace. I have reasons of my own to remember, as I shall not see his like again.
 

Novena Day 7: The Gift of Counsel

Lava quod est sordidum,
riga quod est aridum,
sana quod est saucium.


Heal our wounds, our strength renew;
on our dryness pour thy dew;
wash the stains of guilt away.


Meditation

The gift of Counsel endows the soul with supernatural prudence, enabling it to judge promptly and rightly what must be done, especially in difficult circumstances. Counsel applies the principles furnished by Knowledge and Understanding to the innumerable concrete cases that confront us in the course of our daily duty as parents, teachers, public servants and Christian citizens. Counsel is supernatural common sense, a priceless treasure in the quest of salvation. “Above all these things, pray to the Most High, that He may direct thy way in truth.”

Prayer

Come, O Spirit of Counsel, help and guide me in all my ways, that I may always do Thy holy will. Incline my heart to that which is good; turn it away from all that is evil, and direct me by the straight path of Thy commandments to that goal of eternal life for which I long. Amen.

Our Father ... Hail Mary ... Glory Be ...

(Our thanks to Soulpacifica for the lovely images personifying the gifts of the Holy Spirit, which appear in this series with her appreciation, for which this writer is grateful. To see the novena as completed to the present, click here.)
 

Wednesday, June 05, 2019

Novena Day 6: The Gift of Understanding

Sine tuo numine
nihil est in homine,
nihil est innoxium.


Where thou art not, man hath naught,
nothing good in deed or thought,
nothing free from taint of ill.


Meditation

Understanding, as a gift of the Holy Ghost, helps us to grasp the meaning of the truths of our holy religion. By faith we know them, but by Understanding we learn to appreciate and relish them. It enables us to penetrate the inner meaning of revealed truths and through them to be quickened to newness of life. Our faith ceases to be sterile and inactive, but inspires a mode of life that bears eloquent testimony to the faith that is in us; we begin to “walk worthy of God in all things pleasing, and increasing in the knowledge of God.”

Prayer

Come, O Spirit of Understanding, and enlighten our minds, that we may know and believe all the mysteries of salvation; and may merit at last to see the eternal light in Thy light; and in the light of glory to have a clear vision of Thee and the Father and the Son. Amen.

Our Father ... Hail Mary ... Glory Be ...

(Our thanks to Soulpacifica for the lovely images personifying the gifts of the Holy Spirit, which appear in this series with her appreciation, for which this writer is grateful. To see the novena as completed to the present, click here.)
 

Tuesday, June 04, 2019

Novena Day 5: The Gift of Knowledge

O lux beatissima,
reple cordis intima
tuorum fidelium.


O most blessed Light divine,
shine within these hearts of thine,
and our inmost being fill!


Meditation

The gift of Knowledge enables the soul to evaluate created things at their true worth -- in relation to God. Knowledge unmasks the pretense of creatures, reveals their emptiness, and points out their only true purpose as instruments in the service of God. It shows us the loving care of God even in adversity, and directs us to glorify Him in every circumstance of life. Guided by its light, we put first things first, and prize the friendship of God beyond all else. “Knowledge is a fountain of life to him that possesseth it.”

Prayer

Come, O Blessed Spirit of Knowledge, and grant that I may perceive the will of the Father; show me the nothingness of earthly things, that I may realize their vanity and use them only for Thy glory and my own salvation, looking ever beyond them to Thee, and Thy eternal rewards. Amen.

Our Father ... Hail Mary ... Glory Be ...

(Our thanks to Soulpacifica for the lovely images personifying the gifts of the Holy Spirit, which appear in this series with her appreciation, for which this writer is grateful. To see the novena as completed to the present, click here.)
 

Monday, June 03, 2019

Novena Day 4: The Gift of Fortitude

In labore requies,
in aestu temperies,
in fletu solacium.


In our labor, rest most sweet;
grateful coolness in the heat;
solace in the midst of woe.


Meditation

By the gift of Fortitude, the soul is strengthened against natural fear, and supported to the end in the performance of duty. Fortitude imparts to the will an impulse and energy which move it to undertake without hesitancy the most arduous tasks, to face dangers, to trample under foot human respect, and to endure without complaint the slow martyrdom of even lifelong tribulation. “He that shall persevere unto the end, he shall be saved.”

Prayer

Come, O Blessed Spirit of Fortitude, uphold my soul in times of trouble and adversity, sustain my efforts after holiness, strengthen my weakness, give me courage against all the assaults of my enemies, that I may never be overcome and separated from Thee, my God and greatest Good. Amen.

Our Father ... Hail Mary ... Glory Be ...

(Our thanks to Soulpacifica for the lovely images personifying the gifts of the Holy Spirit, which appear in this series with her appreciation, for which this writer is grateful. To see the novena as completed to the present, click here.)
 

Sunday, June 02, 2019

Novena Day 3: The Gift of Piety

Consolator optime,
dulcis hospes animae,
dulce refrigerium.


Thou, of comforters the best;
thou, the soul's most welcome guest;
sweet refreshment here below.


Meditation

The gift of Piety begets in our hearts a filial affection for God as our most loving Father. It inspires us to love and respect for His sake persons and things consecrated to Him, as well as those who are vested with His authority, His Blessed Mother and the Saints, the Church and its visible Head, our parents and superiors, our country and its rulers. He who is filled with the gift of Piety finds the practice of his religion, not a burdensome duty, but a delightful service. Where there is love, there is no labor.

Prayer

Come, O Blessed Spirit of Piety, possess my heart. Enkindle therein such a love for God, that I may find satisfaction only in His service, and for His sake lovingly submit to all legitimate authority. Amen.

Our Father ... Hail Mary ... Glory Be ...

(Our thanks to Soulpacifica for the lovely images personifying the gifts of the Holy Spirit, which appear in this series with her appreciation, for which this writer is grateful. To see the novena as completed to the present, click here.)
 

Saturday, June 01, 2019

Novena Day 2: The Gift of Fear

Veni pater pauperum,
veni dator munerum,
veni lumen cordium.


Come, thou Father of the poor!
Come, thou Source of all our store!
Come, within our bosoms shine!


Meditation

The gift of Fear fills us with a sovereign respect for God, and makes us dread nothing so much as to offend Him by Sin. It is a fear that arises, not from the thought of hell, but from sentiments of reverence and filial submission to our heavenly Father. It is the fear that is the beginning of wisdom, detaching us from worldly pleasures that could in any way separate us from God. “They that fear the Lord will prepare their hearts, and in His sight will sanctify their souls.”

Prayer

Come, O blessed Spirit of Holy Fear, penetrate my inmost heart, that I may set Thee, my Lord and God, before my face forever; help me to shun all things that can offend Thee, and make me worthy to appear before the pure eyes of Thy Divine Majesty in heaven, where Thou livest and reignest in the unity of the ever Blessed Trinity, God world without end. Amen.

Our Father ... Hail Mary ... Glory Be ...

(Our thanks to Soulpacifica for the lovely images personifying the gifts of the Holy Spirit, which appear in this series with her appreciation, for which this writer is grateful. To see the novena as completed to the present, click here.)
 

Friday, May 31, 2019

Novena Day 1: The Holy Ghost

Veni Sancte Spiritus
et emitte caelitus
lucis tuae radium.


Come, thou Holy Spirit, come,
and from thy celestial home
shed a ray of light divine!


Meditation

Only one thing is important -- eternal salvation. Only one thing, therefore, is to be feared -- sin. Sin is the result of ignorance, weakness, and indifference. The Holy Ghost is the Spirit of Light, of Strength, and of Love. With His sevenfold gifts, He enlightens the mind, strengthens the will, and inflames the heart with love of God. To ensure our salvation, we ought to invoke the Divine Spirit daily, for “The Spirit helpeth our infirmity. We know not what we should pray for as we ought. But the Spirit Himself asketh for us.”

Prayer

Almighty and eternal God, Who hast vouchsafed to regenerate us by water and the Holy Ghost, and hast given us forgiveness of all our sins, vouchsafe to send forth from heaven upon us Thy sevenfold Spirit, the Spirit of Wisdom and Understanding, the Spirit of Counsel and Fortitude, the Spirit of Knowledge and Piety, and fill us with the Spirit of Holy Fear. Amen.

Our Father ... Hail Mary ... Glory Be ...

As a final note for today, we here at man with black hat just found this precious little gem. In this 1999 recording on the Eternal Word Television Network (EWTN), the late great Mother Angelica explains (among other things) these gifts for us, as only she can, before a live studio audience. Her cause for sainthood is in its very early stages, and she is missed by so many here on Earth below, including yours truly.

(Our thanks to Soulpacifica for the lovely images personifying the gifts of the Holy Spirit, which are to appear in this series with her appreciation, for which this writer is grateful. To see the novena as completed to the present, click here.)
 

Thursday, May 30, 2019

Novena: Prelude

Men of Galilee, why are you standing there looking at the sky? This Jesus who is to be taken up from you into heaven had to re-schedule his departure to the following Sunday in order to accomodate the busy schedules of the faithful. Now, get back to work.

(Acts 1:11, dynamic equivalent translation)


Today the Church, both in the East and the West, celebrates the Feast of the Ascension of Our Lord. It is when Christ ascended into Heaven forty days after He rose from the dead.

Then again ...

In most provinces of the United States, and in some countries throughout the world, the Feast has been moved to the following Sunday. We could just leave well enough alone, and transfer the obligation itself to the Sunday within the octave of the Feast (traditionally known as an "external solemnity"), but the Western church got rid of many of its octaves in the mid-1950s, and a few more since then. You'd have to explain to people what an octave is, and that is such a pain. So unless you attend the Traditional Mass or an Eastern Rite Divine Liturgy today, in which case the aforementioned silliness does not apply, today will be remembered as just another Easter weekday.

If only they put the right spin on it, in which case it would go something like this:

“Most biblical scholars agree that Jesus ascended into Heaven forty-three days after He rose from the dead, not forty days as previously believed. The number of forty was arrived at by the end of the third century, to make it easier for the early Christians to count the days after Easter on their fingers and toes and double the total. But we’re so much more sophisticated now, and we can use calculators to count that high, or have our smartphones remind us.”

Whether or not we would fall for that, moving a Feast Day to a Sunday because we're all too damn lazy to go to Mass on a weekday (or a weeknight) makes about as much sense.

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But suppose that sacred time actually mattered, in which case it would go something like this:

The Church was born on the Jewish feast of the Pentecost. After the ascension of Christ into heaven, a group which, according to tradition, numbered about 120, remained sequestered in the Upper Room for nine days, awaiting the inspiration of the Holy Spirit.

They returned to Jerusalem from the mount called Olivet, which is near Jerusalem, a sabbath day's journey away; and when they had entered, they went up to the upper room, where they were staying, Peter and John and James and Andrew, Philip and Thomas, Bartholomew and Matthew, James the son of Alphaeus and Simon the Zealot and Judas the son of James. All these with one accord devoted themselves to prayer, together with the women and Mary the mother of Jesus, and with his brothers. (Acts 1:12-14)

Thus the birth of our Holy Mother the Church was preceded by a novena.

From the Latin word "novem," meaning "nine," a novena is a prayer that is repeated for nine days, after which, according to pious belief, special graces are obtained. Fisheaters elaborates on the devotion, and gives a complete listing of popular novenas for any and all occasions.

The novena to Saint Jude may be the most popular, as he is the patron saint of hopeless causes. Many a Catholic has found a holy card or slip of paper in the pew with the prayer written on it, left by a pious soul whose intention was granted. One of them was the late entertainer Danny Thomas, whose devotion to the saint moved him to establish the children's hospital that bears the saint's name.

In 1897, Pope Leo XIII mandated a codified edition of the first novena, in his decree Divinum Illud Munus:

"Wherefore, We decree and command that throughout the whole Catholic Church, this year and in every subsequent year, a Novena shall take place before Whit-Sunday [Pentecost], in all parish churches, and also, if the local Ordinaries think fit, in other churches and oratories."

And so, we here at man with black hat will present this special edition of the Mother Of All Novenas, that which is devoted to the Gifts of the Holy Spirit, over the next nine days. Stay tuned...
 

Sunday, May 05, 2019

On Being “Pastoral”

The gospel account of Christ as the "good shepherd" is proclaimed in the Traditional Roman Mass on the Second Sunday After Easter, which occurs today this year. Most Catholics of the Roman Rite who celebrate the "ordinary form" of the Mass will hear it next Sunday, where it occurs on the Fourth Sunday of (or Third Sunday After) Easter. Don't ask me why.

At that time, Jesus said to his disciples: "I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep. He who is a hireling and not a shepherd, whose own the sheep are not, sees the wolf coming and leaves the sheep and flees; and the wolf snatches them and scatters them. He flees because he is a hireling and cares nothing for the sheep. I am the good shepherd; I know my own and my own know me, as the Father knows me and I know the Father; and I lay down my life for the sheep. And I have other sheep, that are not of this fold; I must bring them also, and they will heed my voice. So there shall be one flock, one shepherd. For this reason the Father loves me, because I lay down my life, that I may take it again. No one takes it from me, but I lay it down of my own accord. I have power to lay it down, and I have power to take it again; this charge I have received from my Father." (John 10:11-18)

We use the term “pastor” for our parish priest. The term itself is derived from the Latin word for "shepherd." Most Catholics use the term "pastoral" to describe the priest's degree of accommodation. To give an example: “Father Billy Bob takes a pastoral approach with couples wanting to marry, which is why they can live together before exchanging vows, and let their conscience (unguided, we are led to believe) determine whether to use birth control.”

But does that reflect what the word means?

The French writer François-Marie Arouet de Voltaire, himself no friend of Mother Church, nonetheless attached some significance to an objective idea of Truth: “If you would converse with me, you must first define your terms.” Radical progressives do not understand this, and so use words to mean whatever they want.

For example, if there being only two genders does not satisfy one's requirements (that would be "male" and "female"), then one is compelled to appease the socially enlightened, by dismissing the limitations of biology and adding more "genders" to the list, which is confusing in a society where not everybody is sufficiently acclimated to progressive lines of thought. If we are to explain ourselves to one another, short of drawing a picture for someone, words are all we have, and their meaning must stand on its own. If we understand the word "pastor" by its original, objective meaning, to be "pastoral" is to act in the manner of a shepherd. What does a good shepherd do that a bad one does not?

Let's see that quotation again, the part given emphasis above.

“The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep. He who is a hireling and not a shepherd, whose own the sheep are not, sees the wolf coming and leaves the sheep and flees; and the wolf snatches them and scatters them. He flees because he is a hireling and cares nothing for the sheep.”

So then, a good shepherd risks his life to save his sheep from harm, while a bad shepherd leaves them to fend for themselves in the face of harm.

What kind of harm do we mean? Obviously, spiritual harm. An engaged couple is not being done any favors, if Father Billy Bob winks at their living arrangement. Marriage is what we call a "sacrament of the living," which means it must be entered into while in a state of grace, or we defile it. If all Father wants is to be a nice guy, he will be like the mercenary and leave Dick and Jane to their own devices. But if his goal is to keep them from spiritual harm, he will beg to differ.

To be honest, some priests can be real jerks about this. Many of them know this, and are afraid to be perceived that way. Why do they have to be? A 2014 article in Homiletic and Pastoral Review discusses how to help couples who cohabitate before marriage. While the author has good intentions, he doesn't go far enough, and actually falls short of a genuine remedy, which makes it harder for the parish priest not to come off as a jerk.

In a city like Washington, where many couples do not have the support of family within their locality, one party or the other would be hard pressed to break a lease on a rented apartment, just to satisfy what could be dismissed as a procedural requirement. This is one of the casualties of our uprootedness, where we lack any sense of a familial home, and a parish is less a spiritual home than it is the setting for a personality cult (a problem made worse by the wave of closings and mergers of otherwise viable parishes to replenish the bishop's legal slush fund, to say nothing of "Mass facing the people" -- but that's another story). If we were who we pretended to be, none of the more vulnerable among us would be left to the wolves. Can one party or the other in an impending marriage rent a room for a few lousy months from an "empty nester," a couple whose children are gone, but who are known by the pastor to be of good character, and can even serve as mentors?

It is at times like this, where all the yakkity-yak about "ministering" to people is put to the test, and is one of many reasons why we fail.

Our conclusion, then, is that to be "pastoral" has less to do with appeasement and keeping the peace, and more to do with protecting others from danger, to the point of giving one's life. And yet, it also means that no man charged with knowing his sheep can really stand alone.

After all, even a good shepherd needs a well-bred pair of Border Collies to help keep the flock together, don't you think?

Or don't you?
 

Sunday, April 28, 2019

Where Have You Gone, Quasimodo?

Today is known on the Christian calendar by at least six names.

In the traditional Missale Romanum, it is referred to as “Dominica in albis octava Paschae” -- Sunday in White Within the Paschal Octave, when the robes of the neophytes were removed eight days after their initiation into the Sacraments during the Paschal Vigil. It is also known as “The Octave Day of Easter” or more colloquially as “Low Sunday.” It has also been popularly known as “Quasimodo Sunday” (my personal favorite, hence the title), after the first words of the Entrance Antiphon, or Introit: “Quasi modo geniti infantes, alleluia ...” (“Like newborn infants, alleluia ...”)

In the churches of the East, it is known as “Thomas Sunday” as the same gospel is read as in the West, that of our Lord showing himself to the doubting apostle Thomas.

Since 2000, by decree of the late Pope Saint John Paul II, it is also known in the universal Roman calendar as Divine Mercy Sunday, "the culmination of the novena to the Divine Mercy of Jesus, a devotion given to St Faustina (Mary Faustina Kowalska) and is based upon an entry in her diary stating that anyone who participates in the Mass and receives the sacraments of Confession and the Eucharist on this day is assured by Jesus of full remission of their sins." (from Wikipedia)

(I thought Confession did that already, and not just on one time of the year. This is what I get for using Wikipedia for an explanation.)

This brings up an issue which has concerned traditional Catholics in recent years, one that is presented in a 2010 issue of New Oxford Review by Robert Allard: "Is Divine Mercy Sunday Liturgically Correct?"

It is interesting to note that in the Tridentine Latin Mass, the extraordinary form of the Roman Rite, the epistle reading, 1 John 5:4-10, includes the mention of the blood and water as portrayed in the Divine Mercy image, not just once but three times each. This is important to note because the Feast of Mercy was established for the entire Church universal, not just for the ordinary form of the Mass.

There's also that part about Our Lord breathing on the apostles, giving them the power of the Holy Spirit to forgive sins. There's a bit of mercy for the rest of us right there. Not to mention that this devotion is mandated in its timing, on the basis of a private revelation, which in and of itself is not binding on the faithful.

Such commemorations must harmonize with the liturgical season if they are to edify the faithful. This requires sufficient deference to the history of salvation as played out during the year, beginning with the incarnation, and continuing with the life, passion, death, and resurrection of our Lord, followed by his ascension into Glory, and the establishment of His Church on Earth through the work of the Holy Spirit.

That said, there is an aspect of this devotion that may appear problematic, one that has less to do with the Feast itself, than with the novena which precedes it, one that begins on Holy Thursday, and extends throughout the Octave of Easter.

Q. My pastor will allow us to pray the Divine Mercy Novena, but not on Good Friday or Holy Saturday. He says it interferes with the Holy Triduum, which are the holiest days of the year.

A. The Paschal Triduum (Holy Thursday, Good Friday, and Holy Saturday) ushers in Easter Sunday and constitutes the most holy period of the Church year. The Divine Mercy Novena does not supersede the Triduum, but extends the Solemn General Intercessions of the Good Friday observance of Our Lord's Passion and Death throughout the whole octave of Easter, building up to the day of thanksgiving for Our Lord's Divine Mercy.

This response contradicts itself. It claims that the timing of the Novena doesn't "supersede" the Triduum, and then goes on to ignore its culmination. That makes no sense. Superseding is exactly what it does.

For nearly two millennia, the Easter season, including the Octave, has been devoted to the celebration of the Resurrection of Our Lord Jesus Christ. Under the 1983 Code of Canon Law, the traditional requirement to abstain from meat does not apply on the Friday of this octave (which is why yours truly had a Rueben sandwich for lunch today), such is the magnitude of the occasion. The Fathers of the Church have told us, we have commemorated the fast, therefore let us celebrate the feast. Yet the novena is devoted to chanting thus: “For the sake of His sorrowful Passion, have mercy on us and on the whole world.”

Granted, at every Mass offered on any given day, we remember the passion, death, and resurrection of Christ -- the whole nine yards. But that comparison ends in the context of the liturgical seasons, the purpose of which is to shed a spotlight on a particular aspect of salvation history at the liturgical year progresses. There is sufficient reason to doubt that the emphasis made by this novena, given its timing, sheds that spotlight appropriately, even if we reduce it to a mere devotion (as opposed to the official prayer of the Church through her liturgical life).

If we read the history of the development of this Feast that is the Sunday within the Octave of Easter, if we understand what the readings and the orations are trying to tell us, we might consider the possibility that Our Lord was telling Sister Faustina something of Himself, which He has been trying to say to His Bride, our Mother the Church, all along. At the same time, She has long admonished us to be prudent with respect to the messages of private revelations. (See the Catechism of the Catholic Church, 65-67).

While accepting the judgment of the Apostolic See in this matter of the Sunday commemoration itself, we may wish to re-examine this devotion in relation to the whole of the liturgical year. Even if the novena is not a liturgical act in the official sense, its use in parishes during the octave of the Resurrection misses the big picture.

“We have commemorated the fast, therefore let us celebrate the feast.”

... for eight days, if not forty, and if you don't mind.

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To learn more about the devotion to the Divine Mercy, visit the website of the Apostles of Divine Mercy at DivineMercySunday.com, or that of the Marians of the Immaculate Conception at TheDivineMercy.org. For a guide to praying the Chaplet of the Divine Mercy, go to the appropriate page at EWTN.com.
 

Sunday, April 21, 2019

Christus resurrexit! Sicut dixit, Alleluia!

It was on an Easter Sunday,
    and all in the morning,
Our Savior arose,
    and our heavenly King.
The sun and the moon,
    they both did rise
        with him,
And sweet Jesus
    we’ll call him by name.


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An Easter Homily of Saint John Chrysostom

Is there anyone who is a devout lover of God? Let them enjoy this beautiful bright festival! Is there anyone who is a grateful servant? Let them rejoice and enter into the joy of their Lord!

Are there any weary with fasting? Let them now receive their wages! If any have toiled from the first hour, let them receive their due reward; If any have come after the third hour, let him with gratitude join in the Feast! And he that arrived after the sixth hour, let him not doubt; for he too shall sustain no loss. And if any delayed until the ninth hour, let him not hesitate; but let him come too. And he who arrived only at the eleventh hour, let him not be afraid by reason of his delay.

For the Lord is gracious and receives the last even as the first. He gives rest to him that comes at the eleventh hour, as well as to him that toiled from the first. To this one He gives, and upon another He bestows. He accepts the works as He greets the endeavor. The deed He honors and the intention He commends.

Let us all enter into the joy of the Lord! First and last alike receive your reward; rich and poor, rejoice together! Sober and slothful, celebrate the day!

You that have kept the fast, and you that have not, rejoice today for the Table is richly laden! Feast royally on it, the calf is a fatted one. Let no one go away hungry. Partake, all, of the cup of faith. Enjoy all the riches of His goodness!

Let no one grieve at his poverty, for the universal kingdom has been revealed. Let no one mourn that he has fallen again and again; for forgiveness has risen from the grave. Let no one fear death, for the Death of our Savior has set us free. He has destroyed it by enduring it.

He destroyed Hades when He descended into it. He put it into an uproar even as it tasted of His flesh. Isaias foretold this when he said, "You, O Hell, have been troubled by encountering Him below."

Hell was in an uproar because it was done away with.
It was in an uproar because it is mocked.
It was in an uproar, for it is destroyed.
It is in an uproar, for it is annihilated.
It is in an uproar, for it is now made captive.
Hell took a body, and discovered God.
It took earth, and encountered Heaven.
It took what it saw, and was overcome by what it did not see.
O death, where is thy sting?
O Hades, where is thy victory?

Christ is Risen, and you, O death, are annihilated!
Christ is Risen, and the evil ones are cast down!
Christ is Risen, and the angels rejoice!
Christ is Risen, and life is liberated!
Christ is Risen, and the tomb is emptied of its dead; for Christ having risen from the dead, is become the first-fruits of those who have fallen asleep.

To Him be Glory and Power forever and ever. Amen!
 

Saturday, April 20, 2019

Awake, O Sleeper!

Something strange is happening -- there is a silence on earth today, a great silence and stillness. The whole earth keeps silence because the King is asleep. The earth trembled and is still because God has fallen asleep in the flesh and he has raised up all who have slept ever since the world began. God has died in the flesh and Hell trembles with fear. He has gone to search for our first parent, as for a lost sheep. Greatly desiring to visit those who live in darkness and in the shadow of death, he has gone to free from sorrow the captives Adam and Eve, He who is both God and the Son of Eve. The Lord approached them bearing the Cross, the weapon that had won him the victory.

At the sight of him Adam, the first man he had created, struck his breast in terror and cried out to everyone, “My Lord be with you all.” Christ answered him: “And with your spirit.” He took him by the hand and raised him up, saying:

“Awake, O sleeper, and rise from the dead, and Christ will give you light.

“I am your God, who for your sake have become your son. Out of love for you and your descendants I now by my own authority command all who are held in bondage to come forth, all who are in darkness to be enlightened, all who are sleeping to arise. I order you, O sleeper, to awake. I did not create you to be held a prisoner in Hell. Rise from the dead, for I am the life of the dead. Rise up, work of my hands, you who were created in my image. Rise, let us leave this place, for you are in Me and I in you; together we form one person and cannot be separated.

“For your sake I, your God, became your son; I, the Lord, took the form of a slave; I, Whose home is above the heavens, descended to the earth and beneath the earth. For your sake, for the sake of man, I became like a man without help, free among the dead. For the sake of you, who left a garden, I was betrayed to the Jews in a garden, and I was crucified in a garden.

“See on My Face the spittle I received in order to restore to you the life I once breathed into you. See there the marks of the blows I received in order to refashion your warped nature in my image. On My back see the marks of the scourging I endured to remove the burden of sin that weighs upon your back. See My hands, nailed firmly to a tree, for you who once wickedly stretched out your hand to a tree.

“I slept on the Cross and a sword pierced My side for you who slept in Paradise and brought forth Eve from your side. My side has healed the pain in yours. My sleep will rouse you from your sleep in Hell. The sword that pierced Me has sheathed the sword that was turned against you.

“Rise, let us leave this place. The enemy led you out of the earthly Paradise. I will not restore you to that Paradise, but will enthrone you in heaven. I forbade you the tree that was only a symbol of life, but see, I who am life itself am now one with you. I appointed cherubim to guard you as slaves are guarded, but now I make them worship you as God. The throne formed by cherubim awaits you, its bearers swift and eager. The Bridal Chamber is adorned, the banquet is ready, the eternal dwelling places are prepared, the treasure houses of all good things lie open. The Kingdom of Heaven has been prepared for you from all eternity.”


From a homily of St Epiphanius of Cyprus
 

Friday, April 19, 2019

Good Friday

It was on a good Friday,
    and all in the morning,
They crucified our Savior,
    and our heavenly King.
And was not this
    a woeful thing
And sweet Jesus,
    we’ll call him by name.


From "the third hour" until "the sixth hour." From sext to none. From noon until three in the afternoon. Scripture tells us that our Lord was dying on the cross at this time, culminating in the words “Consummatum Est” (“It is finished”).

When we were kids, growing up in Ohio, we would either go to church for Stations of the Cross or some related devotion, or if we were at home, Mom would turn the radio off, and we were told to be quieter than usual. Thus did we mark the consummation of the ultimate act of sacrificial Love, that of the Bridegroom with His bride.

PHOTO: Gail Deibler Finke

Elsewhere in Cincinnati, a venerable custom of more than a century and a half still takes place on this day.

In December 1860, a Catholic church was completed on a bluff atop Mount Adams, overlooking the central city from the east, and dedicated to the Virgin Mary. Since the hill was too steep for a horse-and-buggy, there were a series of wooden steps built as well, leading from St Gregory Street near the river, all the way to the church entrance. The following spring saw the start of the War Between The States, and Immaculata Church became the site of devout Catholics praying the rosary for peace while climbing the steps to its entrance.

Even today, the tradition continues, as every year on Good Friday (a day when it invariably rains), an estimated ten thousand pilgrims climb the 85 steps -- the wooden ones having since been replaced by concrete -- leading to the entrance. The procession begins at midnight, with the parish priest's blessing of the steps, and continues for twenty-four hours.

The Passionist Historical Archives elaborates on the legacy of “St Mary’s of the Steps”, as does the parish website.

Finally, our meditation for Good Friday is an instrumental photo montage with the imagery of the cross by Terri Rogers.

And finally, for what it's worth, the New York Stock exchange closes on this day. Even in the heart of Mammon, some things are still sacred, don't you think?

Or don't you?