Feastival of Santa Rosalia of Palermo 15-July 2018… to all the Sicilians from Palermo who have emigrated…

We must all make an effort and enter into and adopt a more authentic Gospel process of reasoning.  It teaches us that the place in which we have been placed by God’s will is primarily a service to be carried out for the common good of all, for a better, more humane world and for peaceful coexistence. The concept of service to the common good must be able to precede everything else and prevail over a mentality of profit and gain, for which we often selfishly work toward. This impoverishes us, it makes us petty and detaches us from the reality in which we are engulfed thus preventing us from seeing the face of Christ in our brother who is right next to us.

Homily by the Rev. Fr. Dom. Ugo-Maria  of St. Mary’s Hermitage.

My dear Bishops, brothers in the priesthood, Deacons, Religious, brothers and sisters loved by the Lord and always dear to me!

Perched 1,970 feet above the Tyrrhenian Sea and the city of Palermo, the Grotto Sanctuary of Santa Rosalia on Monte Pellegrino is one of Sicily’s two primary Catholic shrines.  I grew up in the shadows of Monte Pellegrino in Palermo, it was visible from my grandmothers balcony window. Our patron Saint (La Santuzza – The Little Saint) Santa Rosalia († 1166), is known by all who originate from Sicily.  Many years ago on the celebration, called the festino, which is still held each year on July 15, and continues into the next day, I made my first and only pilgrimage to the top of the Mount, bare footed, frankly exhausted yet exhilarated by the achievement and the view was stunning.  As a hermit I had a slight tinge of admiration in Santa Rosalia finding a perfect spot for her desert.  On the cave wall she wrote “I, Rosalia, daughter of Sinibald, Lord of Roses, and Quisquina, have taken the resolution to live in this cave for the love of my Lord, Jesus Christ.”

 

l'Acchianata a Santa Rosalia.png
Arial View of the Sanctuary

In the churchyard of the Sanctuary of Mount Pellegrino in Palermo, crowded on that day that I made my pilgrimage there were so many people, the sun was glaring, you could hear the people whispering their prayers or singing during the ascent, these are the faithful who never cease to pray to her and who annually bring her their pure and heartfelt devotions, Santa Rosalia welcomes them with her inner story even today, her life and her fervent and passionate witness is palpable to all.

At the front of the Grotto of Mount Pellegrino, in which Santuzza lived in her hermitage in the last years of her earthly life – as evidenced by the discovery of her relics – she passed away on a morning whilst the celestial light that she had always enjoy so much began to enter her cell: “O God, my God, to thee do I watch at break of day. For thee my soul hath thirsted.” (Psalm 62:2)

Il Santuario della Santuzza
Sanctuary Church of Santa Rosalia.

These days, and especially tonight, the Sanctuary, which is a highly significant place not only for worship but also in the history of the city of Palermo, becomes a destination for the usual pilgrimage that the faithful offer as a sign of their devotion to the Santuzza.  The traditional “acchianata” (climbing up) sees thousands of people who dissolve their promises or implore a grace through the intercession of the saintly virgin hermit.

As a priest and hermit of this beloved portion of God’s people who grew up in Palermo, I too could not but resist to find myself among you in the past, a pilgrim among pilgrims, to share in the joy of this celebration, to raise perfect praises to God and bless Him in the figure of Saint Rosalia, which her infinite goodness wanted to donate to the Church.

Climbing this mountain, and even more arriving at the churchyard which is always so crowded with the faithful, I was impressed by the number of faithful, which bears witness to the affection and devotion that the people of Palermo and from around the world nurture towards this Patron Saint of the city.

Of course all this is positive. It is a devotion that we have a duty to transmit to the next generation, to discover evermore the message that Santa Rosalia communicates to her faithful.

When I ascended, my examination of Jesus turning provocatively toward the crowds flowed from the depths of my heart – and I have heard the repeated echoes – when recalling the prophetic and steadfast figure of St. John the Baptist: “What went you out into the desert to see?” (Cf. Matthew 11:7).  It is a question that i address to you today, gathered together to celebrate Santa Rosalia.  What did you come to see? What moved you to come? Why are you here? What are you asked to contemplate during your ascent on Monte Pellegrino?

Teenage drink drivers
Teenage drink driver.

La Santuzza, my grandmother Concettina used to tell me, freed Palermo from the Peste (Plague).  Today luckily through science this disease is under control with antibiotics and can be cured if diagnosed in time; yet today there is another form of plague, one that is within us, which destroys our dignity; yet she can heal us, if we make a true commitment.  It is an inner pestilence, imposed by a dominant secular culture, where there is no respect for oneself – drug and alcohol abuse to which many young and older people look for an quick fix and false happiness – there is no respect for each other, a lack of loving your neighbour, vandalism, theft much of it brought about by these consumeristic and secular attitudes.   It is as if modern society has become the new Sodom and Gomorrah, yet no one is doing anything to stop it dead in its tracks.

 

I remember that when I was serving the UN as a young officer and had chance to drive to  Hebron in Palestine a city located in the southern West Bank, 19 miles south of

Palestinian Boy
A boy in Palestine having lost his family, his home.  He has nothing left but his dignity.

Jerusalem and nestled in the Judaean Mountains and when returning to Sicily, I was struck by the enormous waste done everywhere.  It often happened that I’d see a lot of food or bread thrown away in streets, whilst still carrying and remembering the faces of thousands of undernourished and homeless children and people who died of hunger and hardship deep within my heart.  It is something that still haunts me and is forever unforgettable.

 

We know very well that a pilgrimage is not done out of sheer curiosity, nor a habit that is repeated annually by pure impulse of vague religious sentiments. People go on a pilgrimage because they are attracted to Santa Rosalia who chose the Lord as the only Spouse in her life, making Him become the entire reason of her love, full of His joy, the reason for her freedom and from personal and social conditionings. A full freedom with which Santa Rosalia, like the young girl in Solomon’s Song of Songs, runs to meet His love, and embraces Him for the rest of her life.

This is who we came to see! The virgin who gave everything of herself and for this she made her life a shining example of the sanctity of our Creator who from the beginning chose her as a witness by her goodness. The pilgrims have come to see Christ in love, to the point of wanting to be totally his. We have come to see a lionhearted young woman, who defied her time bringing into fulfilment of how much intimacy the Holy Spirit had placed in her heart, this path is traced through listening to the Word and to its deepest desires.

This fundamental choice of God, the place that God occupies in our lives commits us all, according to the duty of our own state.  To us priests, called by the Lord and representing his ministry, and who are called to centralise of our prayers, our faithfulness to our priestly commitments, our unconditional dedication in administering the sacraments, listening to confession and serving our communities loyally.  To you, wives, husbands, a commitment to remain faithful to the love you have promised to each other and the gift of the sacrament you exchanged.  Just as grace sustained Santa Rosalia’s gift of life with fidelity to her husband, we all have to rely on grace as the force which helps us conquer our difficulties and moments of crisis.

But we did not simply come to “catch a glimpse of” the testimony of eight hundred and fifty-two years ago.  Pilgrims do not make a pilgrimage just to be spectators at a feast.  One cannot call themselves an authentic devotees of Santa Rosalia if we allow this experience to pass by without it leaving an indelible mark on our lives, without the Santuzza having pierced a clear message in our way of life and in our times.

Santa Rosalia had lived in the Grotto the idyll of divine love, her own Garden of Eden whilst choosing a hard, rigorous, stringent and unyielding life, comprised of prayer and self-abnegation.  The act of denying her own wishes, of refusing to satisfy her desires, especially from a moral, religious and altruistic motive, bares witness to us of her total surrender to the will of God.  With her we celebrate, not so much the rejection of a comfortable and carefree life that she as a noble woman could have lived, but rather a love so strong, so unique and so boundless for her Lord that she had not been seduce by material things or anyone.  Her life was entirely Christocentric, not in a manner that surrounded her with riches but in absolute poverty, which she lived as a hermit.  This is concomitant of the fact that when loving the One who created everything, and making Him the centre of your life, she would not need anything else at all.  We have been taught this in the Gospel of Matthew when the apostle Peter said to Jesus “Behold we have left all things, and have followed thee: what therefore shall we have?” (Matthew 19:27-28)  Jesus knowing that with God all things are possible replied “Amen, I say to you, that you, who have followed me, in the regeneration, when the Son of man shall sit on the seat of his majesty, you also shall sit on twelve seats judging the twelve tribes of Israel.”  Too often today we expect rewards there and then, being disappointed when our efforts seem to have been ignored by our peers or employers.  I once overheard a young student I was teaching at Oxford say “I’m only doing this charity trip thing because it will look good on my resume for the firm I want to join”.  This disheartened me greatly, it was for her a purely self-seeking motive and not as she had written on her application to help others less fortunate than her and be of use to the community.  Too many of us these days seek rewards for the small things that we do and this is purely egocentric, unchristian and soul destroying.

This is why the example of Santa Rosalia’s austere and unwavering life still calls to us today, because we can all be encouraged to experience more and more the cruciality in which we discover and rediscover, every day, the absolute primacy of God and the beauty of the authentic values ​​of life that He has given us and that He has committed himself to in redeeming us from evil and darkness of this world.

The socio-economic crisis that the world is facing these days are visible to all of us.  How many of us waver with the effort just to get to the end of the month, coping with the various commitments and finding the means to be able to provide.  How many of us look to the future with desolation over the many social instabilities that look like dark clouds on every skyline.  We are told as children that every cloud has a silver lining, then we grow up and realise that the silver lining  do not exist.  But the promise of our Lord’s future gifts do exist and our deposited in our heavenly bank account awaiting our withdrawal once we have joined him.       

surprisingWhen I looked on the internet for “Global Crisis effecting humanity” the only images that came up in my search were matters concerning the financial industry, corporations, economy, investments.  Have we really sunk so low that we cannot recognise the human global crisis beyond the financial.  Surely human life is more valuable than a bank?  We live in times when the crisis for mankind has become present at many levels, as evidence of a social context in which possessions and merriment seem to prevail over every logic rather than dedicating and donating ones life to service and helping our neighbour. Yes there are many risks. particularly for the next generation and those to follow. They are all connected to the serious possibility of corroding all beauty and the full and authentic sense of life for those things that are non-essential, trite, worthless, even purposeless and fraught with danger.

We see it in the inability to serve the common good, to do one’s duty seriously, determined only by one’s selfishness, self-interests and egocentrism. We all have responsibilities, because each of us has a duty to our neighbour, even the ones we do not like.

I think of those who work in public services or offices. The politicians that have been elected, chosen by the people to serve the common good. You have this responsibility toward everyone and not just yourself.  Just think what a better place we would live in if a politician actually really genuinely cared, was honest to a fault, truthful at all times.  Your responsibility is and always will be to God, the state and those who elected you.  At the same time everyone must also do their duty.  Think of the mothers who provide nurturing care for the family, teach us how to pray, encourage and nurture spiritual growth and development, and are living examples of the meaning of sacrificial, self-giving love which is the genesis and source of an authentic spirituality.  Through the lens of the Blessed Virgin Mary, “we see [in all motherhood] the reflection of a beauty which mirrors the loftiest sentiments of which the human heart is capable: the self-sacrificing totality of love; the strength that is capable of bearing the greatest sorrows; limitless fidelity and tireless devotion to work; the ability to combine penetrating intuition with words of support and encouragement” (Pope John Paul II, Redemptoris Mater, 46).

A father should strive to be to his family everything that is revealing and in reliving on earth the very fatherhood of God, a man is called upon to ensure stability and harmony within the family.  He does this by exercising generous and selfless responsibility for the life conceived in the womb of the mother; by taking a more active role in, and making a more serious commitment to his children’s education and prayer life, a task that he shares equally with his wife; by working in a job that is never the cause of division within the family but promotes and provides for its security and unity; and, most importantly, by being a living witness and example to his children of what it means to live and act as a man of God, showing his children first-hand what it means to have a personal relationship with Jesus Christ and how that relationship is lived-out daily by loving the truth, goodness, and beauty of our Catholic faith.

I think of you the educators, who recognises that the human heart is created with an

Jesus our Teacher
Jesus our Eternal Teacher

innate yearning to seek, find and rest in God in this world and the next and will therefore develop the whole person intellectually, physically emotionally and spiritually.  The educator does this by respecting each child of God, preparing their students as much as possible to attain their immutable destiny.  An exceptional educator at whatever level of schooling they teach at encompasses and frames for other a Catholic perspective of the world structure by reflection, prayer, action, service, teaching and sacramentality.  This is expressed and developed through the physical space, choice of activities, allocation of time, and the kind of relationships that are fostered.  The educator’s tools are the rich moral, artistic, scientific, spiritual and intellectual treasury of the Catholic church (see The Excellent Catholic Teacher).

The Gospel page of the parable of the ten virgins “The Kingdom of heaven will be like ten virgins who took their lamps and went out to meet the bridegroom.  Five of them were foolish and five were wise.  The foolish ones, when taking their lamps, brought no oil with them, but the wise brought flasks of oil with their lamps.”  Jesus is talking about our spiritual preparation and conditioning.  The parable gives us some strong indications of what needs to be in place here and now.  We must not wait to be sure our lamp is lit and that we have plenty of oil.  It almost seems that the lethargy that affects young people today also concerns our civilisation, which has forgotten to live in waiting for our encounter with God.  More and more people lean towards secularism, stopped believing that the Lord is ever present in every moment of our lives and in which we must be watchful to recognise HIs signs, vigilantly listening for His call and be ready for action.

The numbness of our society manifests itself in forgetting the essentials of life and many idolise and to turn to new false god, innumerably propagated by commercial entities who are advocate and sell that false happiness that leaves only a bitter taste and disappointment.  In our youth today there seems to be an increasingly weak sense of personal responsibility, an extremely potent example is the increasing number of traffic accidents due to speeding, the use of drugs and alcohol where alcohol is cheeper than food and encouraged by the “buy one get one free” culture, without the slightest responsibility being taken by those who drive a vehicle carelessly and irresponsibly.

For this very reason today, I would like you all to look at Santa Rosalia’s austerity, her strong and decisive choices, to always remain conscious and wait to welcome her Lord in her daily and mystical meetings with him. I would like Santuzza to be the stimulus for all to become more responsible from now on, for all the occasions in our lives and situations in which the Lord has by his will placed us, to be prepared, to be aware, to be responsive and responsible.  A time, which in Christ has become kairos (right, critical, or opportune moment), an occasion for personal sanctification, which is one of the instruments that God’s mercy gives to us to enable us to reach him. It is a benefaction given to us, so much so that none of us can waste a single minute to our lives.  Therefore let us not waste it in that which does not lead us to the truth.

The occasions, the circumstances by which we always judge the positive or negative, depending on whether they correspond to our schemes or not, are in fact opportunities that the Lord offers us so that we can appreciate and love Him in everything.  From this stems or responsibility toward duty, to respond to the task to which we are called for the common good.  I wholeheartedly endorse it because it is worth it!  Doing your duty well is a requisite on account that through it one arrives at the realisation of one’s self, being fully content, which gives a credible witness to one’s encounter with God in the workplace, among our co-workers, often non-believers or like many just indifferent.  Santa Rosalia, adhering to the will of the Lord fulfilled her duty in such an exemplary manner as to be a model for us even today after so many centuries.

We must all make an effort and enter into and adopt a more authentic Gospel process of reasoning.  It teaches us that the place in which we have been placed by God’s will is primarily a service to be carried out for the common good of all, for a better, more humane world and for peaceful coexistence. The concept of service to the common good must be able to precede everything else and prevail over a mentality of profit and gain, for which we often selfishly work toward. This impoverishes us, it makes us petty and detaches us from the reality in which we are engulfed thus preventing us from seeing the face of Christ in our brother who is right next to us.

Everyone is invited to do his part.  However small or large, it is the part that belongs to each member of the Mystical Body of Christ which is the Church.  The essentiality of Santa Rosalia’s austere life shows us the responsibility with which we are called to bring our faith to life, to transfer the beauty of our encounter with Christ into our daily lives whilst walking among men.

And it will be one of the most beautiful pilgrimages ever undertaken. It will be the most significant one you have ever done, because it will enable you to reach the full significance of our existence and to prepare us for our heavenly goal which is the eternal Kingdom in which Santa Rosalia, together with the angels and saints, enjoys the face of God for eternity.  Surely that is what we all seek and desire?

I leave you all with my humble prayers and blessings, and ask for the intercession of Santa Rosalia to help you in your daily service for the common good.  In Jesus and Mary.  Amen

Translation of the Prayer to Santa Rosalia:

Oh admirable Santa Rosalia, who resolved to imitate within herself the most perfect image of Your only good, the Crucified Redeemer, you applied yourself to all the rigors of the most bitter penance in the solitude of a cavern, where you always delighted ‘to extol with vigils and fasts, the scourges which macerated your innocent flesh, a grace to us all the grace to always tame by the exercise of evangelical mortification all our rebellious appetites, and to always pasture our spiritual meditations the most devoted of those Christian truths, which alone can bring us true well-being in this life and eternal bliss in the other.  Pater, Ave and Gloria

The solemn feast of the Most Precious Blood of the Heart of our Lord Jesus Christ. Sunday July 1, 2018.

The Blood of Christ is precious because it is Christ’s own great ransom paid for the redemption of mankind. In this belief, as there was to be no remission of sin without the shedding of blood, the “Incarnate Word” not only offered his life for the salvation of the world, but he offered to give up his life by a bloody death, and to hang bloodless, soulless and dead upon the Cross for the salvation of humanity. Jesus is said to have given his life – his blood – for the sake of all humanity, atoning for every form of human sin. The Precious Blood is a call to repentance and restitution.

Today at St. Mary’s Hermitage, the Hermits of Saint Bruno  commemorate the Most Precious Blood of the Heart of our Lord Jesus Christ.   It is an adoration, a gratitude and love, directed to Him whose heart poured out its life-blood for our redemption.  Whether in its deep cistern, or in its unfailing out-flow, we honour and venerate the price of our freedom and our life. 

What else is the blessed Heart of Jesus but the wonderful cup which transmuted the food of earth, not merely into the nourishment of one body, and the life-stream of one person, but into the quickening support of millions, into the circulation of unity through the entire Church of ages, into the ransom beyond price of all mankind, into the golden flood, which flowing ever from the foot of the Lamb, waters and fertilises heaven and earth, becomes the river of life to one, the stream of grace to the other. 

Paschal lamb
The Sacrificial Lamb.

For what, again, is the adorable Heart of Jesus but the fountain of Paradise, from what source does the river spring that divides into four branches, carrying refreshment, healing, and life to every region, and to every race?  One is a basin of cleansing and regenerating water, washing away all sin and stain; another is a bath that restores or increases strength and vigour to those who have to wrestle and fight for God; the third is a rich flow of consecrating unction like the one that streamed from the head of Aaron; while the last and best is the refreshing torrent of delights, at which saints drink with renewed bliss, and forgiven sinners with strengthening relish. 

All these streams of salvation, however different their immediate action, are nevertheless one in source and substance.  For what is it that washes away our stains but “the blood of Jesus Christ, which cleanses us from every sin?”  How did the oil of unction come by its power to strengthen and to consecrate, but from those first instalments of our deliverance, which flowed upon the root of the olive, trickling from the pores of our prostrate Lord, like an enriching dew that saturates their fruit.  If not direct from the divine Heart, in full warm outpouring, flowing forth the tide of a spiritual cornucopia, water for our purification, unction for our consecration, and the chalice of salvation.  Hence the eucharistic “wine springing forth virgins,” (Zach. 9:17) the sap of the true vine, of which we are the branches, the balsam of soothing and healing virtue which issued, from His body, to the very hem of our Lord’s outer garment, but now rushes out through the open gash, that reaches to the very core of that celestial plant. 

Beloved brothers and sisters in Christ, that which is good, which is holy, whatever is perfect upon earth has come to us from, and through, and by the most precious Blood of our divine Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ.  This, from the beginning, was in several different ways, and more copiously representing to us than anything else in the New Testament; though its excellence is revealed by the contrast in which it stands with its types.  It was to be innocently shed like Abel’s, that it might be shown to plead better and more powerfully than it for mercy, not for vengeance.  It was poured out in sacrifice, that it might be proved vastly superior to the blood of oxen and of goats, which had no power to cleanse the soul. (Hebrews 9:13)  Finally, the paschal lamb, the noblest type of our redemption, by the anointing with its blood of the door posts of the Israelites, warned away the destroying angel, and made Pharaoh relax his grasp on God’s chosen people, and subsequently freed them; only to be a harbinger of how the Lamb that takes away the sins of the world would baffle and defeat the prince of darkness and of eternal death, and force the oppressor of earth and hell to let His own people go free, to offer sacrifice even in this wilderness.

And how was this?  The posts of the gate which alone leads to immortal life, the cross under which all must bend the knee who desire to enter into Paradise, are richly streaked, and more than that, thickly painted with the Blood of “our sacrificed Pasch”, more terrible to His enemies than the brightest flash of Heaven’s lightning.  And so, when we partake of the Divine Mysteries, the edge of our mouths, our lips are dyed with the same rich drops that fell so abundantly on Calvary. 

Precious-Blood-JesusWith what devotion, then, should we not commemorate this shedding of our Saviour’s precious Blood, at the very mention of which the Church makes her ministers bend their knees, in awe and adoration of a mystery so pro found and yet so sweet, so fearful and yet so tender.  As the more deep and terrible is the gulf that opens beneath us, the more we feel drawn towards it, and tempted to plunge into it, so is this abyss of wonderful and unfathomable goodness, awful to contemplate, yet inviting our love to dive into it fearlessly, and taste unsatisfied of its delights. 

To think that God should have taken flesh, the very body of man, with all its inferiority of nature but wonders of construction, purely so that He could die, and that He should have blood to shed, for man’s ransom, salvation, and nourishment; to contemplate by what traumatic and burdensome ways this outpouring should have to be made, by what stripes, lashes, wounds, gashes, piercing and perforation of every part of that three times holy Body, to the tearing in two of its divine Heart; to meditate on the formidable truth that God, the Father who loved Him with an infinite affection, should have been pleased, appeased, soothed and turned to love from just anger by this tremendous atonement, baffles and sets at nought all our estimates, all our reasonings on the eternal and infinite ways of a divine imposition.  Still how bright this depth, how richly illuminated by every tender tone of love! How meekness and gentleness, mercy and forgivingness, impartiality and self-sacrifice, bounty and liberty, affectionateness and familiarity, parental fondness and brotherly caress play through the abyss, as profound and as measureless, and as incomprehensible as itself!  How unsearchable are the ways of God’s love, as much as those of His power! Who has been His counsellor but Himself the infinite goodness urging on the infinite energy of the Divine in all things. 

Yet what multiplies beyond the bounds of a limited conception the immensity of this love is, that it is individual and singular. “the whole to all, no less the whole to each.”  Every drop of blood, so unreservedly poured out on Golgotha, was gathered into one cup, the whole contents of which every soul is allowed to drink and make its own.  The full price was paid for each: the value of each soul is the equivalent of the entire ransom.  The treasure is not divided and paid out in single coins, but the entire sum is lavishly given to each profusely.  Who can penetrate to the depths of this almighty mercy; yet who can restrain themselves to love it and do his utmost to be worthy of it! 

 

As a consequence, my brothers and sisters in Christ, when we put before you the claims of little ones — little by age or by being of little significance — we are accustomed to lay our principal stress on this one motive, that their souls have been thought worthy of His precious life-blood, by Jesus Christ, their and our Redeemer. When especially we call on you to exercise the highest act of spiritual charity, to save their souls rather than sustain their bodies, the plea comes home with tenfold urgency.  Will you not agree and assist to the utmost in saving the souls which He so dearly secured, and loved beyond His own precious life? July Month-of-the-Precious-Blood

To this appeal no one can say, no: it is impossible.  Similarly, then, especially, is our pleading the day that you hear these words.  It is only by multiplying the means of religious education that thousands of your poor children can be ensured that salvation which Jesus Christ purchased for them.  The society to which you are asked to contribute has this for its sole and universal object.  It seeks, like the charity of our Lord and Saviour, to embrace all and each, to extend its beneficial effects throughout the whole country, and to reach the smallest and most neglected child with individual assistance. 

God will reward you, and give you of His abundance, through the redemption which is by Christ Jesus.  Amen. 

Continue reading “The solemn feast of the Most Precious Blood of the Heart of our Lord Jesus Christ. Sunday July 1, 2018.”

Homily for the feast of the Holy Apostles Peter and Paul – 29th June 2018

Herod Philip and Herod Agrippa: the cult of a decadent Empire and the birth of the kingdom of Christ!

(Acts 12:1-11, 1 Timothy 6:4-18, Matthew 16:13-16)

The Edist of Milan
The Edict of Milan

The Church of Rome has finally raised its head so that it could breathe again, after the Christians endured the great persecutions from Diocletian; under Constantine and Licinius, who signed the Edict of Milan in 313 AD proclaiming religious toleration of the Christians in the Roman Empire.

It wonderfully describes the people, the times and feasts.  The celebration of the “Sol Invictus” becomes irreversibly that of Christmas; that of the perhaps legendary founders of the “Eternal City” becomes the feast of the holy apostles Peter and Paul! After Benedict XVI, we realize the need and urgency for the ‘re-Christianisation’ of the new evangelisation and evangelisation itself.

The neo-paganism, which has vaguely recovered since the 1960s, is very similar to that of decadent Rome: immorality, orgies, cruelty, aberrations, stupidity, and – excuse the expression, a “slovenly” loss of North, loss of identity and pride all at the same time, even pride in the practice of bad habits, the defeat of the family, doubts about marriage, confusion for children… Cicero exclaimed, “O tempora o mores!”, “Oh the times! Oh the customs!” the sentence is an exclamation critical of present-day attitudes and trends.

This Roman corruption spreads to Palestine, that poor “promised land” it no longer seems to be so promising! On the throne of Jerusalem, mortified as vassals of the “Eternal City”, reigning and governing with an iron fist is the Edomite and converted Jew, the puppet king of the Romans, Herod the Great, a paranoid megalomaniac murderous infanticide. His sons and successors, vassal rulers, masters and at the same time subdued, follow his “good” example!  Herod Antipas passes “by a whim the head of John the Baptist”, he is beheaded to please a dancing girl! Herod Philip (the Tetrarch) II, one of the few virtuosos of that dynasty, takes the wife of his brother or step-brother: just see what Flavius  Josephus wrote on the subject! Herod Agrippa I, as cynical as his grandfather, arrests, just to please the Jews, an “insignificant” almost illiterate fisherman named Shimon (Simon), son of Jonah (John), nicknamed Cephas-Peter (Shemayon Keppa) by one who was “enlightened” shortly after the crucifixion of Jesus of Nazareth!

Back in Rome, the new “sovereign pontiffNero Claudius Caesar Augustus Germanicus, Oh hoorah! A matricidal, fratricidal pyromaniac, this time! Has just dismissed his tutor Lucius Annaeus Seneca, the Spanish sage, who willingly listens to his second wife, obviously a “God-fearing” woman who sympathises with the Jews (with an exception to circumcision!) And can not even look at paintings of the Nazarene’s disciples.

Acts 12: 1-11: Saint Peter thrown into prison

Here we follow the readings, in contrast to the chronological order. The little son of Herod the Great understands that he will become more popular among the high priests, the scribes and the Pharisees, if he massacres the Nazarenes.  He limits himself to executing their “leader“only.  Alas the angel of the Lord, as he has done in the past during the Exodus, frees him.  The apostle cannot believe their own eyes!

During the course of History, the See of Rome has passed from stupor to amazement and wonder, enchanted by the miracles of divine grace! This gives rise to a profusion of converts and so to speak “christianises” an entire Empire that has finally reached the depths of the abyss!  From the simple Aramaic-speaking fishermen, some of the Roman citizens, including some of Jewish origin, share their discovery of Christ and the Gospel! In a few years, the apostles can already write in his adoptive language and writes “The brethren who are with me, salute you. All the saints salute you; especially they that are of Caesar’s household” (Phil 4:22).

At the level of the Roman Church and the Curia, however, over the centuries, the “chains” and the dust have accumulated!  A sort of “prison” of corruption, a mafia and nepotistic favouritism has formally taken root and becomes the norm!  The Holy Spirit decides to send one of his little angels, of Italian-Argentine extraction, to sweep away the dust and cobwebs, smash the mafia, and get the Vatican out of their imperialist ivory tower.  But something that is not quite palpable is still amiss.  Albeit, The Risen One is still alive. And He continues to watch over his Church!

St. Paul at the end of the scroll (1 Timothy 4:9)

The former Pharisee, armed with an almost murderous zeal, against the pagans and against “this kind of heretical Nazarene“, polytheists or rather we should say, blasphemer who substituted God with Jesus, is Saul of Tarsus, militarily conquered by the Risen one who has defeated him!  He realises that it is just “terrible to fall into the hands of the living God“, mysteriously and irresistibly identified with one Jesus of Nazareth! All his hostility falls away! All his objections seem to disappear.  Even today, Judaism and Islam hold the same objections toward the Trinity, the Incarnation and the divinity of Christ! Just this morning, a young Muslim expressed his bewilderment towards the concept of Redemption through the crucifixion!

St. Paul proceeds to respond and defend, “with gentleness and dignity“, “in truth and charity“, at least in two ways: through “logic” (cf. Romans 12:1) according to the triumph of the Crucified whom defeats and crowns (1 Corinthians 1:17); and through his own personal experience in the “life in Christ” indescribable happiness and the”true Way of the Cross“, the unquestionable reality of the of the Master’s Resurrection  (1 Corinthians 15), the incomparable sublimity of His teachings and the reflections upon His extraordinary guidance!

“You are the Christ, the Son of the living God”

At the Golan Heights, a few steps away from the Greek temple of Pan, the fictitious god of nature and music, who apparently loved beauty (which, would seem to have been  tragically and irremediably lacking) in the city built by Herod Philip in honour of the Emperor, Simon of John of Bethsaida proclaims Jesus Christ, Lord and King! Although normally, Simone, who is not distinguished for either his excessive silence or pathological shyness, for once it’s not him that speaks, it’s not his intelligence nor his “comprehension” that inspired this statement!  They are no longer “flesh and blood“, nor human calculations!  And “our Father who is in heaven“!  At Caesarea Philippi, the Fisherman arrives, thank’s be to God, to take the big fish of transcendent Truths of his teacher and friend, Jesus!

Conclusion

Peter and Paul follow the Nazarene, from Palestine to Rome! Both pass through Cesarea marittima, the administrative capital of the Empire. Both face and opposition from Judaism, from paganism, and from the “human” passions that reject the cross and find only hostility and vacuous virtues! Martyrdom will unite them! May their martyrdom, μαρτυριαtestimony nourish our faith, from Jerusalem to Rome, and “until the end of the earth!”  Amen!

 

 

This article was originally written by Fr. Madros on the 28th June 2014 of the Latin Patriarchate of Jerusalem.  I found his version fun to read in Italian and have therefore translated edited and embellished a little so that I could shared it with our English speakers.

Homily on the solemnity of the Nativity of St. John the Baptist

25630701The angel had brought this announcement to Zechariah: “13 But the angel said to him: Fear not, Zachary, for thy prayer is heard; and thy wife Elizabeth shall bear thee a son, and thou shalt call his name John:14 And thou shalt have joy and gladness, and many shall rejoice in his nativity.” (Luke 1:13-14).

Among the many who rejoiced at this birth are the citizens of Florence who chose St. John the Baptist as the Patron Saint of the city. Since ancient times the Baptistery of San Giovanni, “my beautiful San Giovanni” as Dante Alighieri calls it (Inf. XIX, 17), is ideal in the centre of the city, the custody of its highest values of faith and civilisation, a bond that connects the different generations to each other.

The solemnity that we celebrated on Sunday the 24th of June 2018, (I was a day late posting this article) revives in us the memory of the extraordinary gifts that have made the history of the city of Florence so glorious and incomparable and moves us to thank God for so many gifts.

The Gospel account we have heard of the birth focuses on the name to be given to the child. “John is his name”, his father Zachariah peremptorily writes on the tablet.  John means “Yahweh is gracious, shows his benevolence”. 

Trusting fully in the intercession of their Patron Saint; the Florentines invoke God’s blessing so that they may continue their historical journey in full fidelity to their singular religious and civil vocation.

In this perspective of joy and hope I address my homily to our Archbishop, the Most Reverend  Alistair Bate, his auxiliaries, our diocesan clergy and the religious of our diocese and to all my readers who presently read my blog, also to the people who are called John, Giovanni, Jehanne, Jeanne, Joan and other derivatives in their many variations, with special affection I want to assure them of my, our brothers priests, the religious and St. Mary’s Hermitage’s spiritual closeness to all of you.

Celebrating the nativity of St. John the Baptist means rediscovering our reasons for joy and hope, but also allows us to question and take active responsibility of his teachings and the person he was, with the aim of guiding us personally in our daily lives.

In the I reading, from the book of Isaiah, we have heard: “Give ear, ye islands, and hearken, ye people from afar. The Lord hath called me from the womb, from the bowels of my mother he hath been mindful of my name.” (Isaiah 49:1). In other words: God thought of me before I was born, He loved me, He gave me a personal identity and a mission to fulfil.

Science highlights that the embryo is programmed to contain future development with all its fundamental characteristics. It is an undertaking of nature. But before that it is an undertaking of God and of his creative love. “The Lord hath called me from the womb, from the bowels of my mother he hath been mindful of my name from the womb of my mother he pronounced my name.”  Therefore our relationship with God is constitutive of the human person.

Science further proves that the embryo, immediately after conception, is a new life, distinct from that of the mother, a life that will develop without interruption unless we get involved. Nothing suggests that the embryo is not already an individual of the human species and therefore it has a dignity of a person. It therefore deserves respect and protection from the very first moment.

Abortion, whether surgical or pharmacological, violates the first of the fundamental rights of the person, which is that of life. The Church does not fail to remind us of it, faithful to the teachings received from the apostle Paul: “ Preach the word: be instant in season, out of season: reprove, entreat, rebuke in all patience and doctrine. For there shall be a time, when they will not endure sound doctrine; but, according to their own desires, they will heap to themselves teachers, having itching ears: And will indeed turn away their hearing from the truth, but will be turned unto fables.” (2 Timothy 4:2-4).

The widespread tendency to justify and trivialise abortion can not but worry a Christian conscience. Everyone is called to commit himself, according to his possibilities, to create more favourable conditions for the reception of nascent life. Moreover, for those who do not want to cooperate in the suppression of it, the right to conscientious objection must be claimed and firmly defended.  I must add that just because a government makes laws in favour of abortion does NOT make it morally right nor pleasing to a God.

In the second reading, from the Acts of the Apostles, we heard a part of the discourse given by the Apostle Paul to Antioch of Pisidia during his first missionary journey. “ 23 Of this man’s seed God according to his promise, hath raised up to Israel a Saviour, Jesus: 24 John first preaching, before his coming, the baptism of penance to all the people of Israel.” (Acts 13:23-24).

John has preached a baptism of penance, that is of (μετάνοια) metanoia, of changing ones mind, of conversion.  In the Gospel we find some features of this preaching.  To the crowds John said: “He that hath two coats, let him give to him that hath none; and he that hath meat, let him do in like manner.” To the publicans he said: “Do nothing more than that which is appointed you.”  To the Roman soldiers: “Do violence to no man; neither calumniate any man; and be content with your pay.” (Luke 3:11 & 3:13-14).

John therefore did not ask to change profession, not even to publicans and soldiers, but to practice justice and solidarity.

What does this mean for us today? What sort of conversion would John ask of us?

Surely he would warn us against the temptations of maddening consumerism. He would exhort us to a sober style of personal and family life, in order to generously share our goods with those in need and the poor.

With regard to the occurrences of migration, which is constantly in the news or being talked about for the last few years, he would ask us to adopt an attitude that is able to reconcile as much as possible the generous reception of a people in need within the confines of legality and public order.

More generally, he would stimulate us to engage in cultural, economic and political efforts to reduce the gap between rich and poor countries.  Obviously in the dynamic economy of today, it is no longer simply a matter of redistributing wealth, (but it could be a start) but of helping to produce it, promoting education and the acquisition of new work skills, fostering democratic growth, directing international finance to create job opportunities, opening markets to products from underprivileged and poor countries.

Practicing justice and solidarity in our relationships between people and between nations: that is a summary of the conversion desired by St. John the Baptist. But conversion is not just these. The Gospel tells another significant point in the preachings of St. John the Baptist, the one that cost him his life.

To Herod Antipas, who had repudiated his first wife Phasaelis and whilst she was still alive took as wife Horodias who was married to his brother Philip, John boldly addressed them with stern reproach, he made sure he was heard by the people and by Herod and Herodias: “It is not lawful for thee to have thy brother’s wife.” (Mark 6:18).

John therefore defends marriage and the family.  Consider the relationship between two people of social importance, regulated by law, and not simply as a private contractual matter. [N.B.: I must stress that in this day and age a family can be comprised of “man and woman, two men or two women” who themselves  raise families which are stable and productive as a family unit.. (whilst many religious organisations may not recognise that same sex couples now also have legal rights which are also covered by the state and the UCHR) we as a church have a duty to be inclusive regardless of our personal views, and when we say family we must include them in our statements, for if we did not we would be remiss in our duty to the family and we would be perpetuating an unfounded bigotry which most certainly has no place within Christianity nor within society as a whole today.  Therefore it is not necessary when talking about a family, to constantly underline the phrase with a married man and woman as today this is no longer the dynamic of a family unit.]

The family, is really a social form with its own and irreplaceable functions of fundamental importance.  The stability of the relationship, the generating or adoption of children, the educational commitment towards them, the mutual assistance among all the members of the family constitute his precious contribution to the good of society.

The state of health of people and of the social fabric is strongly conditioned by the quality of family relationships.  Experience shows that various forms of disadvantage, especially for youth, and social disintegration are linked to the family in crisis. Not to mention the demographic decline and the consequent ageing of the population: in 40 years people over 65 are expected to comprise half of the population, while currently this figure is actually a quarter; this signals very serious human, social and economic problems for us in the future.

Given its relevance for the whole of society, the family has the right to be protected and supported by public institutions. The laws of the United Kingdom states it: “In the UK, human rights are protected by the Human Rights Act 1998.  The Act enforces the human rights set out in the European Convention on Human Rights.  The right to respect for your family and private life, your home and your correspondence is one the rights protected by the Human Rights Act.” (Article 8). By family life UK law further explains “Family life includes the right to have and maintain family relationships.  The United Nations Declaration of Human Rights solemnly affirms this: “The family is the natural and fundamental nucleus of society and has the right to be protected by society and the state.”  And finally, the 1989 Convention on the Rights of the Child reaffirmed: “The family, the fundamental unit of society and the natural environment for the growth and wellbeing of all its members and in particular children, must receive the protection and assistance needed to fully fulfil its educational role in the community.”

The primacy of the family, however it is comprised, must be fundamentally protected at a cultural, judicial, social and economic level.  For this reason, a preferential fast track should be reserved for them, like road traffic, with public service vehicles having a special fast lanes compared to private ones.

By way of example, some forms of support are particularly desirable, such as home facilities for young couples, reforms that promote job opportunities for young people, harmonisation as much as possible of the needs of the family for those at work, taxation commensurate with overall family income, significant reduction of the tax burden on the basis of the number of dependent children, so that families with children are not penalised compared to those without children, parity that ensures effective freedoms of choice without additional burdens for families.

The family is not a remnant of the past, but it is a fundamental resource for the future.

I can not but express gratitude to the many exemplary families, even in our church, who make my homily credible with them being daily witnesses, they are a source of hope for the Church and for civil society.

I would also like to encourage Associations that pursue the spiritual and the material good of the family and endeavour to recognise the wider rights of citizenship in local, national and European spheres, I would like to say globally but that would make this a dream rather than a reality.

Finally I like to recall that a prominent part has the family in a pastoral letter which was published in 2003 in my old Diocese in Italy, “Evangelising today: Christian community and ministries”.  The pastoral letter outlined a broader perspective: the Church sent to bring the Gospel with actions in life and words; all Christians called to evangelise in all environments; the necessity of some specific shepherd coordinated ministries. However, in analysing the current situation with all its challenges and opportunities, it emphasises that the family is the natural and privileged interlocutor of the parish and should be placed at the centre of ordinary pastoral care, in particular by seriously involving parents in the Christian initiation of their children.

While I entrust to your reflection these considerations that the solemnity of Saint John the Baptist has suggested to me, I invoke upon all of you that kindness and grace of the Lord which is indicated by the very name of our patron Saint John the Baptist.

Lord God, you sent the prophets,

servants of your word,

we praise you and thank you

for the person and the preaching of St. John the Baptist.

Welcoming his message,

we want to convert to truth, justice and love.

We want to live with joy in your presence,

aware that you are a God of grace,

benevolent and merciful. Amen.

 

THE SOLEMNITY OF CORPUS CHRISTI

Out of the numerous types in the Old Law which foretold the Holy Eucharist, two in particular are pointed out to us, because they are mentioned, one at the time when Christ promised to give His Body and Blood as food, the other at the time when He actually made the gift.  At the time of the promise Christ mentioned the manna, at the time of the fulfilment He celebrated the supper of the Paschal Lamb.

May 31, 2018.

This feast is celebrated in the  Church on the Thursday after Trinity Sunday to solemnly commemorate the institution of the Holy Eucharist.  Of Maundy Thursday, which commemorates this great event, mention is made as Natalis Calicis (Birth of the Chalice) in the Calendar of Polemius (448) for the 24th of March, the 25th of March being in some places considered as the day of the death of Christ.  This day, however, was in Holy Week, a season of sadness, during which the minds of the faithful are expected to be occupied with thoughts of the Lord’s Passion.  Moreover, so many other functions took place on this day that the principal event was almost lost sight of.  This is mentioned as the chief reason for the introduction of the new feast, in the Bull “Transiturus de Mundo (August 11, 1264).”

I. The Blessed Sacrament heralded in the Old Testament.

  (i) In the manna. 

(ii) In the Paschal Lamb.

II. The Blessed Sacrament promised by Christ. 

III. Fulfilment of the promise. 

(i)The manner of consecration at the Last Supper.
(ii) The Rite at once a sacrament and a sacrifice.
(iii) Security for the perpetuation of this Rite in the ordination of the Apostles as priests.
(iv) The treasure we now enjoy is to have still the same priesthood with the same sacrament and sacrifice.

The prescience which God has of all that will happen to the creatures of His hand enables Him so to order the course of events that nothing shall come upon men unexpectedly; and in such preparation is a note of that continuous system of religion which has pleased Him to reveal, first more particularly to the nation of the Jews, and afterwards to mankind generally.  iu

Christ apprised His followers of those great crimes which, had they come upon the disciples unannounced, might have caused them scandal greater than they could bear — crimes such as the treason of the apostle Judas, the malice of those highest in office, the chief priests and scribes who brought about first the crucifixion, and then the bitter persecutions which accompanied the preaching of the Gospel after Ascension Day.  Speaking on the last head Christ declared, “These things have I spoken to you, that you may not be scandalised.  They will put you out of the synagogues: yea, the hour cometh, that whosoever killeth you, will think that he doth a service to God.  And these things will they do to you; because they have not known the Father, nor me.  But these things I have told you, that when the hour shall come, you may remember that I told you of them.  But I told you not these things from the beginning, because I was with you. And now I go to him that sent me, and none of you asketh me: Whither goest thou?” (John 16:1-5).  Just before the Passion He gave the warning, “Then Jesus said to them: All you shall be scandalised in me this night. For it is written: I will strike the shepherd, and the sheep of the flock shall be dispersed.” (Matthew 26:31); and indeed so much did He feel the trial to which His conduct and its consequences would expose His friends, that He affirmed, “And blessed is he that shall not be scandalised in me.” (Matthew 11:6) 

This last example leads us to another kind of scandal, which Christ wished to speak of by prolepsis — the scandal no longer of sin, but of truths so sublime as to stagger the natural intelligence.  That the Incarnate Son of God should consent to die so humiliatingly was more than men could at once believe.  And as there were many other such truths to which the human mind required to be gradually initiated, as a consequence the revelation of these dogmas was a systematic process.  In the establishment of several particulars which go to form the constitution of our Church, we may frequently distinguish three stages, — two of preparation and one of fulfilment.  We find in the Old Testament a stage of distant heralding and in the New, first a stage of direct promise, and then a stage of accomplishment in regard to the thing promised.  Thus the Church was of old prefigured in the central city of worship and of government, Jerusalem with its Temple and high priests; secondly, the founding of the Church was promised to Simon Peter, who under Christ was to be its head; thirdly, the promise was satisfied.  After “thou shalt be called Peter” followed “thou art Peter,” and after “to thee will I give the keys of the kingdom” followed the commission “feed my sheep,” “feed my lambs,” that is, be shepherd of the whole flock, be the Supreme Pastor on earth, be Shepherd-King.  Again as to the feast of Easter; the Resurrection, that great miracle in the Faith of which the Church was enabled to gather her early converts, was prefigured in the safe deliverance of Jonas after three days’ entombment in a large sea-monster; it was promised by Christ when, referring to Jonas, He said, “Who answering said to them: An evil and adulterous generation seeketh a sign: and a sign shall not be given it, but the sign of Jonas the prophet.  For as Jonas was in the whale’s belly three days and three nights: so shall the Son of man be in the heart of the earth three days and three nights.” (Matthew 12:39-40). 

On another occasion the Jews sceptically asked, “What sign dost thou give us?” to which inquiry Jesus answered, “Destroy this temple and in three days I will build it up.”  The words were misunderstood by His hearers and were quoted against Him on the cross: “thou that destroyest the temple of God, and in three days dost rebuild it: save thy own self: if thou be the Son of God, come down from the cross.” (Matthew 27:40).  But, as St. John explains, Christ “But he spoke of the temple of his body.  When therefore he was risen again from the dead, his disciples remembered, that he had said this, and they believed the scripture, and the word that Jesus had said.  Now when he was at Jerusalem, at the pasch, upon the festival day, many believed in his name, seeing his signs which he did.” (John 2:21-23).  For Christ fulfilled His own prediction — resurrexit sicut dixit — and He took abundant means to impress the fact on the belief of His disciples.  A further instance of the triple stage is furnished by the Church’s initiatory Sacrament, Baptism, which first was prefigured by the waters of the Red Sea, through which the Israelites passed, out of the land of bondage: “And all in Moses were baptized, in the cloud, and in the sea:” (1 Corinthians 10:2); which secondly may be regarded as promised in the words spoken to Nicodemus, “Amen, amen I say to thee, unless a man be born again of water and the Holy Ghost, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God.” (John 3:5); and thirdly in due time baptism was established, though of the precise occasion we are not certain: it was part of the mission to preach (Matthew 28:19). 

After these illustrations of a definite plan on God’s part we must pass on to the Sacrament, which we venerate today, and see how it was heralded, promised, and established.  We shall find each of these stages clearly marked. 

I

Out of the numerous types in the Old Law which foretold the Holy Eucharist, two in particular are pointed out to us, because they are mentioned, one at the time when Christ promised to give His Body and Blood as food, the other at the time when He actually made the gift.  At the time of the promise Christ mentioned the manna, at the time of the fulfilment He celebrated the supper of the Paschal Lamb.

 

  1. Moses had verified his divine commission as deliverer and legislator by many signs; and this led the Jews to ask Christ for a similar token that He had been sent by God: “They said therefore to him: What sign therefore dost thou shew, that we may see, and may believe thee? What dost thou work? Our fathers did eat manna in the desert, as it is written: He gave them bread from heaven to eat.” (John 6:30-31) — In reply Jesus said, “I am the bread of life. Your fathers did eat manna in the desert, and are dead.  This is the bread which cometh down from heaven; that if any man eat of it, he may not die.” (John 6:48-50).  Back then to the history of the manna we must go and there we shall find characters so clearly anticipatory of the Blessed Sacrament that it will be needless to point out all the applications.  As to time the manna was given during the forty years of wandering in the desert, and the gifts did not ceased util the land of promise was reached.  Not util the corn from Egypt, the great land of corn, was consumed, did the manna appear as food from heaven in contrast to earthly food; and it lasted till the corn of Canaan could be gathered.  It is called in Exodus (Exodus 16:4) “Bread from heaven”; in the Book of Wisdom (Wisdom 16:20), “Food of angels,” “Bread from heaven, having in it all that is delicious and the sweetness of every taste,” so that “serving every man’s will, it was turned to what each man liked”; and in the Psalms (Psalms 77:24-25) occur the names “bread of heaven,” “bread of angels.”  By St. Paul the manna is styled “spiritual food” (1 Corinthians 10:3-4).  Connected with the giving of the food are some circumstances highly significant which show the constant character of God’s gifts in this world of probation, that they are not only acts of benevolence but also trials of man’s fidelity.  God clearly affirmed His purpose in the words, “that I may prove them whether they will walk in my law, or not.” (Exodus 16:4).  Amid the complaints of the people the manna was first sent, along with the flesh of quails; but the quails were not continued, and subsequently the shouting for flesh became so loud that God yielded to them in His anger.  Some Egyptian followers raised a cry, which the Israelites without hesitation joined:  Who shall give us flesh to eat: we remember the fish we ate in Egypt. Our soul is dry, our eyes behold nothing else but manna.” (Numbers 11:4)  For a month the murmurers had quails in abundance; but they paid the price of their sensuality when, smitten with plague, they left behind corpses in such abundance that the place was called, “the graves of lust” (Numbers 11:34; Deuteronomy 8). Afterwards we find the psalmist alternating from verse to verse between the favours of God and the in gratitude of the people, between the punishments and the repentances of the Israelites.  They did eat and were filled exceedingly, and he gave them their desire; they were not defrauded of that which they craved.  As yet the meat was in their mouths and the wrath of God came upon them.  And he slew the fat ones among them, and brought down the chosen men of Israel. In all these things they sinned still, and they believed not His wondrous works. And their days were consumed in vanity and their years in haste. When He slew them they sought Him, and they returned to Him early in the morning. And they remembered that God was their helper, and the Most High their redeemer.  And they loved Him with their mouth, and with their tongue they lied unto Him. But their heart was not right, nor were they counted faithful in His covenant” (Psalms 77:10; 29-38).  Truly could St. Paul say, “But with most of them God was not well pleased: for they were overthrown in the desert.” (1 Corinthians 10:5).  Such were the Jews in their reception of the manna; and when we come to the use made by Christians of the Blessed Sacrament, we shall have to observe, that, if not “with most of them,” at least with very many “God is not well pleased,” and that it is the food which “tries the people, whether they will walk in the law or not.”[1]  Another thing about the manna that is relevant to the present festival is its mysteriousness, which led the people to ask, playing upon the word manhu, “what is this?”  To him who overcometh,” says Christ in the Revelation (2:17), “He, that hath an ear, let him hear what the Spirit saith to the churches: To him that overcometh, I will give the hidden manna, and will give him a white counter, and in the counter, a new name written, which no man knoweth, but he that receiveth it.”; hidden, that is, up to the time of its being revealed in the Kingdom of Heaven, — hidden now, when in consecrating the Chalice the priest declares the work to be a “mystery of faith.”  To this character of mysteriousness we may add the mention of only one more circumstance, — the reservation of the manna in the Ark as a perpetual memorial of God’s bounty to His people.  Moses said to Aaron, “And Moses said: This is the word, which the Lord hath commanded: Fill a gomor of it, and let it be kept unto generations to come hereafter, that they may know the bread, wherewith I fed you in the wilderness, when you were brought forth out of the land of Egypt.  And Moses said to Aaron: Take a vessel, and put manna into it, as much as a gomor can hold: and lay it up before the Lord to keep unto your generations, As the Lord commanded Moses. And Aaron put it in the tabernacle to be kept.  And the children of Israel ate manna forty years, till they came to a habitable land: with this meat were they fed, until they reached the borders of the land of Chanaan.” (Exodus 16:32-35).  Afterwards Aaron’s rod was added, a memorial of the true priesthood, by the side of what typified the future victim of the Christian Sacrifice.  The additions also were symbolical, — the temple of the Christian Church, the tabernacle of the Incarnation, the שכינה (shekinah) [2] of the Sacramental Presence, the table of the fulfilment of the Law. 
  2. The second figure was that of the Paschal Supper, at which, in anticipation of Him whom the Baptist pointed out as “the Lamb of God who taketh away the sins of the world,” a lamb was sacrificed and eaten in conjunction with unleavened bread and the wine-cup.  We notice the two words “sacrificed” and “eaten,” and observe the symbolism of the “unleavened bread,” signifying freedom from corruption, and pointing incidentally to the fact of the haste with which the people had to depart from the land of bondage, when there was no time for the ferment to do its work, and consequently it was omitted.  St. Paul speaks of the former as being more intrinsic to the rite itself (1 Corinthians 5:6-9); but the latter correlate more closely with what was signified by the girded loins and the feet shod, and the staves in the hand and the standing posture.  Thus was foreshadowed that which was to be the Food of us wayfarers, who have here no abiding city, but must be ever going forward towards the land of promise.  And just as the Jews were privileged above other peoples, so that no stranger, not aggregated to the race, might partake of their paschal supper, so we are privileged above the Jews, in that “We have an altar, whereof they have no power to eat who serve the tabernacle.” (Hebrews 13:10).  The blood of the slaughtered lamb was sprinkled or the doorposts, a sign to the death doing angel to pass; by the houses of God’s people, and a type of that still more saving Blood of which it is declared, “Then Jesus said to them: Amen, amen I say unto you: Except you eat the flesh of the Son of man, and drink his blood, you shall not have life in you.  He that eateth my flesh, and drinketh my blood, hath everlasting life: and I will raise him up in the last day.” (John 6:54-55).  This discourse occurs only in the Gospel of St. John, who is also the only Evangelist to apply what was commanded concerning the Paschal Lamb to the dead body of Christ: “You shall not break a bone of him.” of the victim (John 19:36; compare John 1:29-36).  Finally, as the Sacrifice of the Paschal Lamb was one of the three annual occasions when all the men of the Jewish race had to gather in Jerusalem, so Easter or thereabouts is the season when all Christians, of sufficient age, are commanded to gather round the Altar and to eat the Flesh of the Lamb of God sacrificed for their redemption “This is what thou shalt sacrifice upon the altar: Two lambs of a year old every day continually.” (Exodus 29:38). After the putting up of the Temple the Easter lamb had to be slaughtered there by the head of the household before the priest, who poured the blood on the altar and burnt the fat there.  There were exceptional occasions when a number of families combined. 

 

II

From the prefiguration we pass to the next stage, which is the promise made by Christ in chapter six of St. John’s Gospel.  After our Lord had fed five thousand persons by the miraculous multiplication of five loaves and two fishes, and after He had, by these and other means, disposed the minds of His audience so that they should burst forth into the declaration, “Now those men, when they had seen what a miracle Jesus had done, said: This is of a truth the prophet, that is to come into the world,” (John 6:14) then it was that under an allurement and under a threat He announced that they must eat His flesh and drink His blood; though as to the mode of their so doing He gave, at the time, no indication.  They were to trust Him for finding His own way to His own ends.  The allurement He held out was ever lasting life for those who showed due obedience; the threat, in case of refusal, was everlasting death. 

If now we refer back to the manna we are reminded how it was meant to act as a test of the people, how it did try them, and was the occasion of much incredulity and murmuring.  So too was it when Christ announced the mystery of the Blessed Sacrament: He was met by incredulous questionings, by murmurings, by reference to His lowly origin at Nazareth.  Many left His previously valued company in disgust. To complete the lessons that we are intended to draw the Evangelist adds a detail which might seem out of place, but which really is very much in place.  But there are some of you that believe not. For Jesus knew from the beginning, who they were that did not believe, and who he was, that would betray him.” (John 6:65) — thus coincidently with Christ’s first promise of the Holy Eucharist mention is made of Judas, who was perhaps the first sacrilegious communicant: and the mention is emphasised when, turning to His apostles Christ uttered those awful words, “Jesus answered them: Have not I chosen you twelve; and one of you is a devil?” (John 6:71)  Again at the Last Supper Christ repeated this pointed reference to Judas: and it is to keep before us the same sad aspect of a great truth that St. Paul, in the Epistle of the day, where he is describing the institution of the Blessed Sacrament, tells us that it took place “on the same night on which Christ was betrayed” by Judas; and is careful to add the warning, “For he that eateth and drinketh unworthily, eateth and drinketh judgment to himself, not discerning the body of the Lord.” (1 Corinthians 11:29)

Thus does the Blessed Sacrament bring before us a repeating of the complaints, the abuses, the ingratitude which marked the giving of the manna.  Faith in the Holy Eucharist is one great test by which to distinguish heresy from orthodoxy; while among believers themselves the conduct shown to the Holy Eucharist is a test of their spiritual state in the Church.  Christ is here to distinguish believers from unbelievers; and between believers themselves, to distinguish who will and who will not live up to his faith.  Take a Catholic congregation and consider what an approximate method of distinguishing between better, worse, and worst we have in the way in which different members comport themselves towards Christ in His Sacrament.  To many persons it is what it is intended to be, a bond of close and ever closer-growing union with God; whereas to others an exemplar of God’s love to man is turned into an exemplar of man’s ingratitude to God; and it were better for such as these that the Blessed Sacrament had never been.  To them this day, with all its jubilant manifestations, is less than meaningless; but, thank heaven, there are others for whom the Feast of Corpus Christi has its proper significance. 

 

III

At length the time came for the fulfilment of figure and promise; and it would have been quite out of proportion if the antitype had not far outdone the types, which were but its foreshadowings.  Here upon there is call for a brief declaration of the dogma of the Holy Eucharist which is not likely to chill the fervour of devotion; for is it not very characteristic of the Office of to-day that in it St. Thomas has so splendidly combined dogma with devotion?  Moreover, it is a fact that among Catholics there is often what may be styled a sad incuriosity, so that about points that they might easily know they are content to remain ignorant or dubious. Curiosity in our language generally bears a bad sense, standing for the desire to learn either what does not concern us, or what it is harmful for us to pry into; but curiositas in the Latin tongue means primarily a careful investigation in the praiseworthy sense.   Such mindfulness for knowledge of the greatest of our Sacraments should be had by all; about it no one should be half-heartedly incurious. Assuming, then, that God’s words are, when He wishes it, effective of that which they signify: “He said and they were made”; “He called and they replied, We are here.”

    1. Let us contemplate on the words of consecration.  Christ took bread into His hands, and over it He said “This is my body.”  Instantly the substance of bread ceased to be and in its place was His own body, after the likeness of the change of water into wine at Cana.  Christ’s body was present by the direct force of the words; but by reason of relatedness, or inseparable connection, because Christ’s Body was combined with His Blood animated by His soul, and hypostatically united with His divinity, the whole Christ, Man and God, was present under the aspect of bread.  In addition, owing to the fact that the Trinity is one in substance or essence, where the Son was, there too were Father and Holy Ghost.  The consecration of the Chalice is explained after a like manner.  Over the wine Christ said similarly, “This is my blood”: Instantly the substance of wine ceased to be, and in its place was His own Blood.  The Blood was there by the direct force of the words; while by force of association came the soul, the body, and all three Persons of the Blessed Trinity, but primarily the Person of the Son, for He alone is Incarnate.
    2. The rite thus completed was a sacrifice, prophecy of that soon to be offered on Calvary; it was also a Sacrament of which, though Scripture does not expressly say so, it is supposed that Christ Himself first partook, and then gave to His Apostles.  In that case, it would be the one and only Sacrament that Christ received; for His baptism was clearly no more than the baptism of John, which was not our Sacrament of Baptism. 
    3. But what Christ once conferred, He intended to make a perpetual bequest.  It was “the New Testament in His Blood”; and the word “Testament” St. Paul interprets not only as a covenant, but also as a Last Will, in which Christ bequeathed to us the means of majestically “showing forth His death till He come,” that is, till the end of the world.  We have the authority of the Council of Trent for it, that in utter ing the words, “Do this in commemoration of me,” Christ ordained His apostles priests.  True, this is not the formula now used by a Bishop in the Ordination service, but it was admirably adapted for the purpose which our Lord intended; for what is at least the most essential note of all priesthood?  St.Paul answers, “Every high priest,” and also every priest, “is appointed to offer gifts and sacrifices.”  To baptise, to absolve from sin, to anoint, is not the deepest character of the priesthood; but the power to offer sacrifice, that is primarily the priesthood, and that chiefly it was which Christ conferred, when after having offered the Eucharistic Sacrifice Himself, He said to His apostles, “Do this in commemoration of me.”
    4. From the consideration of what Christ did in the room of the Last Supper on Mount Zion just outside of the Old City walls of Jerusalem, we learn what a treasure we possess in the Holy Eucharist today.  We have in it our one sacrifice and our chief Sacrament; and on each of these two heads we can say some more.  The Holy Eucharist is our one great Sacrifice; one, because it is too great to allow a second; great, because of the victim and because of the priest.  The victim is Christ Himself, offered up mystically, and no longer in a bloody manner; yet really sacrificed so “the Lamb slain from the beginning of the world” is also and in a more faithful sense slain to the end of the world.  In the state of a victim to which Christ in the Blessed Sacrament is reduced the sacrifice is sufficiently provided for, without the actual shedding of blood.  Again, the Priest is likewise Christ, the one absolute independent priest of the New Law, all other priests being so relatively, ministerially, and because of their identification with Christ; an identification which never appears more forcibly than when, in the act of consecration, they each say, ‘This is my body,” “my blood.”  Here is the dignity of the Christian priesthood, after which if any one sincerely hopes for, these hopes are made good; but he must remember not to seek a dignity without its burden, privilege without its obligations.  For Christ, who communicates to the men that are His priests the power to sacrifice, expects sacrifice for sacrifice; and often the measure of success in ministerial duties is the degree of the spirit of the priest’s self-sacrifice.  Yet another remark on the Holy Eucharist as a sacrifice.  Sometimes a non catholic tells his minister that he can pray better at home, and does not need to go to church.  Well, the minister can, of course, even from his point of view, urge the duty of public worship, which binds everyone living in society; but he cannot urge what the Catholic priest can, namely, the plea that the Mass is our supreme act of worship above all private prayer, and not within the power of the layman to offer; that consequently the layman is bound to come to church, and to the morning service, rather than to the evening, because he must hear Mass.  The Mass beyond all others is the church service: it makes an altar really an altar, and not a mere table; a something as its name signifies, raised on high, the legitimate “high place,” the conspicuous spot where sacrifice is offered, and whither all faces must turn.  Hence, St. Anselm would say that “the church is made for the altar and not the altar for the church.”  Lastly we must consider the Holy Eucharist as a Sacrament, a great central Sacrament, around which all the others are encompassed, as encircling Him who is the grace giver in each of them.  Unlike other Sacraments the Eucharist is an abiding Sacrament; it is a Sacrament, not only in the act of reception, but as long as the species endure. The baptismal water and the consecrated oils we reverently keep in the church; but we do not pay to them that supreme adoration which we pay to the consecrated Host.  The Host is there to be worshipped with divine honours, but its outer appearances show us that it is further meant to serve as our food.  It is the tree of life in the paradise of God’s Church, and requires the state, if not spotless at least of restored innocence in those that eat of its fruits.  When duly prepared we partake of it; for us it is a transforming and almost a transubstantiating nourishment.  If there is any truth in the saying “Man is what he eats,” surely he who is fed on the glorified Body of Christ should be changed into some measure of another Christ.  Christ is your life,” “For me to live is Christ,” (Philippians 1:21) declares St. Paul: and though his words have not direct reference to our Sacrament, they are eminently applicable to it, and point out what should be the effect of our frequent communions. 

Corpus Christi being the wholly jubilant feast of the Blessed Sacrament, as Maundy Thursday is its half jubilant, half mournful feast, it is a day of splendour, and rightly so.  Before the great religious rebellion in England, it was a community festival, in which the civil authorities and the guilds walked in long procession. This is still done in Italy, Spain, Mexico to mention but a few, countries that have retained a catholic religious identity.  When the more solemn forms of ritual were terminated, when churches iu.jpegwere plundered of their sacramental items, and the whole service was made as joyless and almost sepulchral as possible, one great object of the change was the dissent against the doctrine of the Real Presence, — a piece of genuine Protestantism.  We keep to that which we have never renounced — to the old doctrine and the old ritual.  Yet while we go through our so called pompous ceremonies, we need to be very careful lest what our adversaries presume to be the essential evil of our mode of worship should be allowed to become an unforeseen blemish; lest we allow the outward display to steal away from the inner spirit.  We are certain that the Corpus Christi ceremonies were never meant by the Church to be performed in forgetfulness of the Body of Christ, which they profess to honour.   They were not intended to give to a church an opportunity of displaying its treasures before a vast crowd; or to give to those who take part in the function an opportunity of displaying themselves and their accomplishments; or to those who are listeners and onlookers, and ought to be something better, an opportunity for cold, dry criticism.  Christ did not make His perpetual bequest of His Body and Blood for such vain purposes.  It was an acerbic matter for the Jews, that God had to tell them more than once, “I reject your feasts and your fasts, your ceremonies and your sacrifices, because not I, but yourselves are to be found in them.” Our sacrifice in itself God cannot reject because of its intrinsic worthiness; but He could reject our manner of taking part in the Rite.  Therefore we have to look toward our temperament, to enter properly into the services of the feast, and from there carry away a great reverence for God’s sacramental presence. 

The exercise of the presence of God is a virtue proper to all feasts; but we Catholics add a belief in the sacramental presence, and should entertain for this perpetual presence such a perpetual reverence that in the words of one of the Church’s Post-communions “Being grateful for gifts received we may obtain favours yet more excellent.”  So we have to worship Christ under His sacramental veil, that the time may come for us when the veil shall be withdrawn, and faith shall give place to sight, and we shall be deluged with the glory of the Beatific Vision.  In the Post-communion for the Feast the Church reminds us that while the substance is the same, the manner of presentment and of acceptance is different: different as figure from the object figured: “Fill us with celestial grace: Thou, who feedest us below!Source of all we have or know! Grant that with Thy Saints above, Sitting at the Feast of Love, We may see Thee face to face.  Amen.” (translation of Lauda Sion Salvatorem, (Sion Lift Thy Voice and Sing) the sequence for the Mass of Corpus Christi written by St. Thomas Aquinas)

[1]     The lintel of the synagogue at כְּפַר נַחוּם (Capernaum) has been found, built around the 4th or 5th century; Beneath the foundation of this synagogue lies another foundation made of basalt, and Loffreda suggests that this is the foundation of a synagogue from the 1st century (Loffreda, 1974).  On it is carved the manna with vine-leaves and grapes. 

[2]     Shekhinah in the New Testament may be equated to the presence or indwelling of the Spirit of the Lord (generally referred to as the Holy Spirit, or Spirit of Christ) J. Hampton Keathley, III, Th.M. at bible.org.

[3]     Protestants are so called after the declaration (protestatio) of Martin Luther and his dissenting supporters.  The Anglican Thirty-Nine Articles of Religion contend that the “Transubstantiation (or the change of the substance of bread and wine) in the Supper of the Lord, cannot be proved by Holy Writ, but is repugnant to the plain words of Scripture, overthroweth the nature of a Sacrament, and hath given occasion to many superstitions.  The body of Christ is given, taken, and eaten in the Supper, only after an heavenly and spiritual manner.  And the means whereby the body of Christ is received and eaten in the Supper is Faith” (Article XXVIII).

Solemnity of the Most Holy Trinity – The Honour due from Priests to the Holy Trinity.

“Going therefore, teach ye all nations, baptising them in the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost teaching them to observe all things, whatsoever I have commanded you,” St. Matt, xxviii. 19.

i.    They have the Trinity ever before their eyes.

ii.   They cause the people to adore the Trinity.

iii.  They work in the name of the Trinity.

“Going therefore, teach ye all nations, baptising them in the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost teaching them to observe all things, whatsoever I have commanded you,” St. Matt, xxviii. 19.

In the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost, Amen. 

I. Priests should have a deeper knowledge of the mystery of the Trinity than the rest of the Faithful, in consequence of their study of dogmatic treatises, in which all the truths relating to this sublime subject are so carefully set forth.  Profiting by such instruction, they will discover traces of the Trinity in all creation; for “of Him, and by Him, and in Him are all things” (Rom. xi. 36).  Even in their own souls, the memory, the understanding, and the will may serve to remind them of the Trinity of Persons in unity of essence; whilst all their actions should be directed (as St. Augustin enjoins), to the remembrance, the contemplation, and the love of the Most High Trinity.  Further, Priests offer the Sacrifice of the Mass to the Holy Trinity, as they assert so frequently in the sacred Liturgy they chant the Trisagium in profound adoration of the Blessed Trinity, thus fulfilling upon earth the office of the Seraphim, and of the four mystical living creatures, who sing the same hymn continually in Heaven (Is. vi. 3; Rev. iv. 8). In this Trisagium the distinction of Persons and unity of substance are clearly set forth (says St. John Damascene); for when we say thrice, “Holy, Holy, Holy,” we praise and adore the glory of the Triune God.  Again, when we say “Lord God of Hosts, the Heavens and earth are full of Thy glory!” the three Divine Persons are worshipped with equal homage. Lastly, Priests are bound to the frequent repetition of the “Gloria Patri,” by which they are invited to profound adoration of the Trinity; and in repeating those words let them call to mind St. Bernard’s remarks.  There is (says he) the Creative Trinity — the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost.  From this Trinity the created trinity fell away — that is to say, the memory, the reason, and the will; and that by means of another trinity — viz., suggestion, delight, consent; and this trinity into which it fell consists of weakness, blindness, and uncleanness.  What important subject of examination is this! What motives does it not suggest for adoring, loving, invoking the Divine Trinity! 

II. Teach ye.  St. Jerome admires the order indicated by the Saviour’s command, which was, that the Apostles should first teach all nations, and afterwards baptise them.  Let us, too, in teaching these sublime truths to the unlearned and ignorant, follow (as St. Gregory Nazianzus bids us) the Prophets and Apostles; nay, let us tread in the footsteps of our Redeemer, who, before He left this world, said to His Father, “I have manifested Thy Name to men” (St. John xvii. 6); by which words (says St. John Chrysostom) He indicated the Mystery of the Trinity to men. How many are there, even amongst Catholics, who are ignorant of this Mystery, and, therefore, incapable of receiving the Sacraments! Perhaps we might say more truly now than St. Philip Neri said in his day, “We have Indians in Italy.”  And may not this possibly be due to the negligence of the Priesthood?  Priests, however, are bound to defend this august Mystery from the attacks of all those who oppose it, whether Jews, Unitarians, Mormons or unbelievers.  They should look to the example of those who devote their speech and pen to its defence, as well as of those who have undergone bitter persecutions and cruel martyrdom in support of this great truth.  St. Augustin teaches Priests how they should defend this Mystery “First we show that our faith is consistent with the teaching of Holy Scripture.  Then we should satisfy the demands of those undecided murmurers who are self-opinionated with their own vanity rather than possessed of any real capacity for understanding the truth: thus, I say, we may leave no room for doubt to such persons.  Let us, then, do our utmost to promote the direct worship of the Trinity, so that it may not happen that, while the Saints receive their due homage, there should be any neglect in the adoration of the Three Divine Persons — the Triune God — the uncreated Sanctity — the sole Creator and source of all sanctity.”  Let us strive to realise the desire as expressed by St. Augustin: — “When we shall have reached Thee, Thou alone shalt be in us, all in all.  Then we shall be ever praising Thee; then we shall be made one in Thee, O Triune God.”

III. Baptising them in the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost.  Baptism is the door of entrance to all the Sacraments and, as our Saviour, by the words “Teach ye,” gave the Gospel trumpet into the Apostles’ hands (says St. Leo), so, when He commanded them to baptise in the Name of the Trinity, He manifested by what authority they were to act in dispensing the heavenly treasures.  As the three Persons have one and the same Divinity, so is the gift of grace one (says St. Jerome) which They bestow through one agency.  And, as all men were created by God, Who is one in essence and three in Persons, so by the same Triune God have they been created anew to salvation.  Consequently it has been said that the whole dispensation of the Church is perfected in the Trinity.  What confidence, therefore, in the Trinity ought not we to have in the discharge of the duties of the ministry And how great blessings will not that Priest procure for himself who invokes the Most Holy Trinity in all trials and dangers How many Priests, thus filled with the Spirit of God, have experienced in a sensible manner the protection of the Blessed Trinity!

“May God, our God, bless us: may God bless us.” Ps, lxvi. 7. 

“Holy, Holy, Holy, the Lord God of hosts.” Is. vi. 3.

THE DAY OF PENTECOST

Meanwhile, a large crowd of Jews has collected round the mysterious Cenacle. Not only has the mighty wind excited their curiosity, but, moreover, that same divine Spirit, Who is working such wonders upon the holy assembly within, is impelling them to visit the House, wherein is the new-born Church of Christ. They clamour for the Apostles, and these are burning with zeal to begin their work: so, too, are all. At once, then, the crowd sees these men standing in its midst, and relating the prodigy that has been wrought by the God of Israel.

Veni, sancte Spiritus, reple tuorum corda fidelium, et tui amoris in eis ignem acende. Come, O holy Spirit, fill the hearts of thy faithful, and enkindle within them the fire of thy love.

A Pentecost meditation from The Liturgical Year by Abbot Dom Prosper Louis Pascal Guéranger O.S.B.
Pentecost.jpg
The Pentecost
The great day, which consummates the work that God had undertaken for the human race, has, at last, shone upon the world.  The days of Pentecost, as St. Luke says, are accomplished (Acts. ii. 1). We have had seven weeks since the Pasch; and now comes the day that opens the mysterious number of Fifty.  This day is the Sunday, already made holy by the Creation of the Light, and by the Resurrection of Jesus; it is about to receive its final consecration, and bring us the fullness of God (Eph. iii. 19). 
In the Old and figurative Law, God foreshadowed the glory that was to belong, at a future period, to the Fiftieth Day.  Israel had passed the waters of the Red Sea, thanks to the protecting power of his Paschal Lamb! Seven weeks were spent in the Desert, which was to lead to the Promised Land; and the very morrow of those seven weeks was the day, whereon was made the alliance between God and his people.  The Pentecost (the Fiftieth Day) was honored by the promulgation of the Ten Commandments of the Divine Law; and every following year, the Israelites celebrated the great event by a solemn Festival. But their Pentecost was figurative, like their Pasch: there was to be a second Pentecost for all people, as there was to be a second Pasch for the Redemption of the whole world. The Pasch, with all its triumphant joys, belongs to the Son of God, the Conqueror of death: Pentecost belongs to the Holy Ghost, for it is the day whereon He began His mission into this world, which, henceforward, was to be under His Law.
But, how different are the two Pentecosts! The one, on the rugged rocks of Arabia, amidst thunder and lightning, promulgates a Law that is written on tablets of stone; the second is in Jerusalem, on which God’s anger has not as yet been manifested, because it still contains within its walls the first-fruits of that new people, over whom the Spirit of love is to reign. In this second Pentecost, the heavens are not overcast, nor is the roar of thunder heard; the hearts of men are not stricken with fear, as when God spake on Sinai; repentance and gratitude, these are the sentiments which are now uppermost. A divine fire burns within their souls, and will spread throughout the whole world. Our Lord Jesus had said: I am come to cast fire on the earth; and what will I, but that it be kindled (St. Luke, xii. 49)? The hour for the fulfillment of this word is come: the Spirit of Love, the Holy Ghost, the eternal uncreated Flame, is about to descend from heaven, and realize the merciful design of our Redeemer.
Jerusalem is filled with pilgrims, who have flocked thither from every country of the Gentile world: they feel a strange mysterious expectation working in their souls. They are Jews, and are come from every foreign land where Israel has founded a Synagogue; they are come to keep the feasts of Pasch and Pentecost.  Asia, Africa, and even Rome, have here their representatives.  Amidst these Jews properly so called, are to be seen many Gentiles, who, from a desire to serve God more faithfully, have embraced the Mosaic Law and observances; they are called Proselytes.  This influx of strangers, who have come to Jerusalem out of a desire to observe the Law, gives the City a Babel-like appearance, for each nation has its own language.  They are not, however, under the influence of pride and prejudice, as are the inhabitants of Judea; neither have they, like these latter, known and rejected the Messias, nor blasphemed His works whereby He gave testimony of His divine character. It may be that they took part with the other Jews in clamouring for Jesus’ death, but they were led to it by the Chief Priests and Magistrates of the Jerusalem which they reverenced as the holy City of God, and to which nothing but religious motives have brought them.
It is the hour of Terce, the third hour of the day (Our nine o’clock. Acts, ii. 15), fixed from all eternity, for the accomplishment of a divine decree.  It was at the hour of midnight, that the Father sent into this world, that He might take flesh in Mary’s womb, the Son eternally begotten of Himself: so now, at this hour of Terce, the Father and Son, send upon the earth the Holy Spirit Who proceeds from them both.  He is sent to form the Church, the Spouse and Kingdom of Christ; He is to assist and maintain her; He is to save and sanctify the souls of men; and this His Mission is to continue to the end of time.
Suddenly is heard, coming from heaven, the sound of a violent wind: it startles the people in the City, it fills the Cenacle with its mighty breath.  A crowd is soon round the house that stands on Mount Sion; the hundred and twenty Disciples that are within the building, feel that mysterious emotion within them, of which their Master once said: The Spirit breatheth where He will, and thou hearest His voice (St. John, iii. 8).  Like that strange invisible creature, which probes the very depth of the sea and makes the waves heave mountains high, this Breath from heaven will traverse the world from end to end, breaking down every barrier that would stay its course.
The holy assembly have been days in fervent expectation; the Divine Spirit gives them this warning of His coming, and they, in the passiveness of extatic longing, await his will. As to them that are outside the Cenacle, and have responded to the appeal thus given, let us, for the moment, forget them.  A silent shower falls in the House; it is a shower of Fire, which, as holy Church says, “burns not, but enlightens, consumes not, but shines (Responsory for the Thursday within the Octave).” Flakes of fire, in the shape of tongues, rest on the heads of the hundred and twenty Disciples: it is the Holy Ghost taking possession of all and each. The Church is now, not only in Mary, but also in these hundred and twenty Disciples. All belong now to the Spirit that has descended upon them; His kingdom is begun, it is manifested, its conquests will be speedy and glorious.
But let us consider the symbol chosen to designate this divine change. He Who showed himself under the endearing form of a Dove, on the occasion of Jesus’ Baptism in the Jordan, now appears under that of Fire. He is the Spirit of Love; and love is not only gentle and tender, it is, also, ardent as fire. Now, therefore, that the world is under the influence of the Holy Ghost, it must needs be on fire, and the fire shall not be checked. And why this form of Tongues? To show that the heavenly fire is to be spread by the word, by speech. These hundred and twenty Disciples need but to speak of the Son of God, made Man, and our Redeemer; of the Holy Ghost, Who renews our souls; of the heavenly Father, who loves and adopts us as His children; their word will find thousands to believe and welcome it. Those that receive it, shall all be united in one faith; they shall be called the Catholic Church, that is, universal, existing in all places and times. Jesus had said: Go, teach all nations (St. Matthew. xxviii. 19)!–the Holy Ghost brings from heaven both the tongue that is to teach, and the fire, (the love of God and mankind,) which is to give warmth and efficacy to the teaching. This Tongue and Fire are now given to these first Disciples, who, by the assistance of the Holy Spirit, will transmit them to others: so will it be to the end of time.
An obstacle, however, opposes the mission at the very onset. Since the confusion at Babel, there have been as many languages as countries; communication by word has been interrupted. How, then, is the word to become the instrument of the world’s conquest, and make one family out of all these nations, that cannot understand each other? Fear not: the Holy Spirit is all-powerful, and has provided for this difficulty. With the other gifts, wherewith He has enriched the hundred and twenty Disciples, He has given them that of understanding all languages, and of making themselves understood in every language. In a transport of holy enthusiasm, they attempt to speak the languages of all nations their tongue and their ear take in, not only without effort, but even with charm and joy, this plenitude of word and speech which is to re-unite mankind together. The Spirit of love has annulled the separation of Babel; men are once more made Brethren by the unity of language.
How beautiful art thou, dear Church of our God! Heretofore, the workings of the Holy Ghost have been limited; but now, He breatheth freely where He willeth; He brings thee forth to the eyes of men by this stupendous prodigy. Thou art the image of what this earth was, when all its inhabitants spoke the same language. The prodigy is not to cease with the day of Pentecost, nor with the Disciples who are its first receivers. When the Apostles have terminated their lives and preaching, the gift of tongues, at least in its miraculous form, will cease, because no longer needed: but thou, O Church of Christ! wilt continue to speak all languages, even to the end of time, for thou art to dwell in every clime. The one same Faith is to be expressed in the language of every country; and thus transformed, the miracle of Pentecost is to be kept up forever within thee, as one of thy characteristic marks.
The great St. Augustine alluded to this, when he spoke the following admirable words: “The whole body of Christ, the Church, now speaks in all tongues. Nay, I myself speak all tongues, for I am in the body of Christ, I am in the Church of Christ. If the body of Christ now speaks all languages, then am I in all languages. Greek is mine, Syriac is mine, Hebrew is mine, and all are mine, for I am one with all the several nations that speak them (Enarratio in Psalmum cxlvii. vers. 14).” During the Ages of Faith, the Church, (which is the only source of all true progress,) succeeded in giving one common language to all the nations that were in union with her. For centuries, the Latin language was the bond of union between civilized countries. However distant these might be from one another, there was this link of connection between them; it was the medium of communication for political negotiations, for the spread of science, or for friendly epistolary correspondence. No one was a stranger, in any part of the West, or even beyond it, who could speak this language. The great heresy of the 16th century robbed us of this as of so many other blessings; it dismembered that Europe, which the Church had united, not only by her Faith, but by her language. But let us return to the Cenacle, and continue our contemplation of the wondrous workings of the Holy Spirit within this still closed sanctuary.
First of all, we look for Mary; for Her who now, more than ever, is full of grace. After those measureless gifts lavished upon her in her Immaculate Conception; after the treasures of holiness infused into her by the Incarnate Word during the nine months she bore Him in her womb; after the special graces granted her for acting and suffering in union with her Son, in the work of the world’s Redemption; after the favors wherewith this same Jesus loaded her when in the glory of His Resurrection; after all this, we should have thought that heaven had given all it could give to a mere creature, however sublime the destiny of that creature might be. But no. Here is a new mission opened for Mary. The Church is born; she is born of Mary. Mary has given birth to the Spouse of her Son; new duties fall upon the Mother of the Church. Jesus has ascended into heaven, leaving Mary upon the earth, that she may nurse the infant-Church. Oh! how lovely, and yet how dignified, is this infancy of our dear Church, cherished as she is, fed, and strengthened by Mary! But this second Eve, this true Mother of the living? must receive a fresh infusion of grace to fit her for this her new office: therefore it is, that She has the first claim to, and the richest portion of, the gifts of the Holy Ghost. Heretofore, He overshadowed her and made her Mother of the Son of God; now, He makes her the Mother of the Christian people. It is the verification of those words of the Royal Prophet: The stream (literally, the impetuosity) of the river maketh the City of God joyful: the Most High hath sanctified His own Tabernacle (Ps. xlv. 5). The Spirit of Love here fulfils the intention expressed by our Redeemer when dying on the Cross. Woman! said Jesus to her, behold thy Son! St. John was this son, and he represented all mankind. The Holy Ghost now infuses into Mary the plenitude of the grace needful for her maternal mission. From this day forward, she acts as Mother of the infant Church: and when, at length, the Church no longer needs her visible presence, this Mother quits the earth for heaven, where she is crowned Queen; but there, too, she exercises her glorious title and office of Mother of men. Let us contemplate this master-piece of Pentecost, and admire the new loveliness that beams in Mary from this second Maternity. She is inflamed by the fire of divine love, and this in a way not felt before. She is all devoted to the office put upon her, and for which she has been left on earth. The grace of the Apostolate is granted to her. She has received the tongue of fire; and although her voice is not to make itself heard in public preaching, yet will she speak to the Apostles, directing and consoling them in their labors. She will speak, too, to the Faithful, but with a force, sweetness, and persuasiveness, becoming one whom God has made the most exalted of His creatures. The primitive Christians, with such a training as this, will have a vigour and an energy enough to resist all the attacks of hell, and, like Stephen, who had often listened to her inspiring words, die Martyrs for the Faith.
Let us next look at the Apostolic College. The frequent instructions they have been receiving from their Lord, during the forty days after His Resurrection, have changed them into quite other men; but now that they have received the Holy Ghost, the change and conversion is complete. They are filled with the enthusiasm of faith; their souls are on fire with divine love; the conquest of the whole world, this is their ambition, and they know it is their mission. What their Master had told them, is fulfilled: they are endued with Power from on high (St. Luke, xxiv. 49) and are ready for the battle. Who would suppose that these are the men who crouched with fear, when their Jesus was in the hands of His enemies? Who would take these to be the men that doubted of His Resurrection? All that this beloved Master has taught them is now so clear to them! They see it all, they understand it all. The Holy Ghost has infused into them, and in a sublime degree, the gift of Faith; they are impatient to spread this Faith throughout the whole earth. Far from fearing, they even long to suffer persecution in the discharge of the office entrusted to them by Jesus that of preaching His name and His glory unto all nations.
Look at Peter. You easily recognize him by that majestic bearing, which, though sweetly tempered by deep humility, bespeaks his pre-eminent dignity.  A few hours ago, it was the tranquil gravity of the Head of the Apostolic College; now, his whole face gleams with the flash of enthusiasm, for the Holy Ghost is now sovereign possessor of this Vicar of Christ, this Prince of the word, this master-teacher of truth.  Near him are seated the other Apostles: Andrew, his elder brother, who now conceives that ardent passion for the Cross, which is to be his grand characteristic; John, whose meek and gentle eye now glistens with the fire of inspiration, betokening the Prophet of Patmos; James The Greater, the brother of John, and called, like him, the son of thunder (St. Mark, iii. 17), bears in his whole attitude the appearance of the future chivalrous conqueror of Iberia. The other James The Lesser, known and loved under the name of Brother of Jesus, feels a fresh and deeper transport of joyousness as the power of the Spirit thrills through his being. Matthew is encircled with a glowing light, which points him out to us as the first writer of the New Testament. Thomas, whose faith was the fruit he took from Jesus’ Wounds, feels that faith now made perfect; it is generous, free, unreserved, worthy of the brave Apostle of the far East.  In a word, all Twelve are a living hymn to the glory of the almighty Spirit, Whose power is thus magnificently evinced even at the onset of His reign.
The Disciples, too, are sharers, though in a less degree than the Apostles, of the divine gifts; they receive the same Spirit, the same sacred Fire, for they, too, are to go forth, conquer the world, and found Churches.  The holy Women, also, who form part of the assembly of the Cenacle, have received the graces of this wondrous Descent of the Holy Ghost. It was love that emboldened them to stand near the Cross of Jesus, and be the first to visit His Sepulchre on Easter morning; this love is now redoubled. A tongue of fire has stood over each of them, and the time will come when they will speak, with fervid eloquence, of Jesus, to both Jews and Gentiles.  The Synagogue will banish Magdalene and her Companions: the Gentiles of our western Europe will receive them, and the word of these holy exiles will produce a hundredfold of fruit.
Meanwhile, a large crowd of Jews has collected round the mysterious Cenacle. Not only has the mighty wind excited their curiosity, but, moreover, that same divine Spirit, Who is working such wonders upon the holy assembly within, is impelling them to visit the House, wherein is the new-born Church of Christ. They clamour for the Apostles, and these are burning with zeal to begin their work: so, too, are all. At once, then, the crowd sees these men standing in its midst, and relating the prodigy that has been wrought by the God of Israel.
What is the surprise of this multitude, composed as it is of people of so many different nations, when these poor uneducated Galileans address them, each in the language of his own country? They have heard them speak before this, and they expected a repetition of the jargon now; when, lo! there is the correct accent and diction of every country, and with such eloquence! The symbol of unity is here shown in all its magnificence. Here is the Christian Church, and it is One, One though consisting of such varied elements: the walls of division, which divine justice had set up between nation and nation, are now removed. Here, also, are the heralds of the Faith of Christ: they are ready for their grand mission; they long to traverse the earth, and save it by the word of their preaching.
But, in the crowd, there are some who are shocked at witnessing this heavenly enthusiasm of the Apostles. These men, say they, are full of new wine! It is the language of rationalism, explaining away mystery by reason. These Galileans, these drunken men, are, however, to conquer the whole world to Christ, and give the Holy Ghost, with His inebriating unction, to all mankind. The holy Apostles feel that it is time to proclaim the new Pentecost; yes, this anniversary of the Old is a fitting day for the New to be declared. But, in this proclamation of the law of mercy and love, which is to supersede the law of justice and fear, who is to be the Moses? Our Emmanuel, before ascending into heaven, had selected one of the Twelve for the glorious office: it is Peter, the Rock on whom is built the Church.  It is time for the Shepherd to show himself, and speak, for the Flock is now to be formed.  Let us hearken to the Holy Ghost, Who is about to speak, by his chief organ, to this wondering and attentive multitude.  The Apostle, though he speaks in one tongue, is understood by each of his audience, no matter what his country and language may be.  The discourse is, of its own-self, a guarantee of the truth and divine origin of the new law.
The fisherman of Genesareth thus pours forth his wondrous eloquence: “Ye men of Judea, and all you that dwell in Jerusalem, be this known to you, and, with your ears, receive my words! For these are not drunk, as you suppose, seeing it is but the third hour of the day. But this is that which was spoken of by the Prophet Joel: ‘And it shall come to pass in the last days, saith the Lord, I will pour out of my spirit upon all flesh: and your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, and your young men shall see visions, and your old men shall dream dreams. And upon my servants indeed, and upon my handmaids, will I pour out, in those days of my Spirit, and they shall prophesy.’ Ye men of Israel, hear these words: Jesus of Nazareth, a Man approved of God among you, by miracles and wonders and signs, which God did by Him in the midst of you, as you also know. This same being delivered up, by the determinate counsel and foreknowledge of God, you, by the hands of wicked men, have crucified and slain. Whom God hath raised up, having loosed the sorrows of hell (the tomb), as it was impossible that He should be holden by it. For David saith concerning him: ‘My flesh shall rest in hope, because thou wilt not leave my soul in the Tomb, nor suffer thy Holy One to see corruption.’ Ye men, Brethren, let me freely speak to you of the Patriarch David: that he died and was buried, and his sepulcher is with us to this day. Whereas, therefore, he was a Prophet, he spoke of the Resurrection of Christ; for neither was He ‘left in the Tomb,’ neither did his ‘flesh’ see corruption. This Jesus hath God raised again, whereof all we are witnesses. Being exalted by the right hand of God, and having received of the Father the promise of the Holy Ghost, he hath poured forth this which you see and hear. Therefore, let all the House of Israel know most certainly, that God hath made both Lord and Christ this same Jesus, Whom you have crucified (Acts, ii. 14-36).”
Thus did the second Moses promulgate the New Law. How must not his hearers have welcomed the stupendous gift of this new Pentecost, which put them in possession of the divine realities foreshadowed by that figurative one of old! Here again, it was God revealing Himself to His creatures, and, as usual, by miracles. Peter alludes to the wonders wrought by Jesus, Who thus bore testimony of His being the Messias. He tells his audience, that the Holy Ghost has been sent from heaven, according to the promise made to this Jesus by his Father: they have proof enough of the great fact, in the gift of tongues of which themselves are witnesses.
The Holy Spirit makes His presence and influence to be felt in the hearts of these favored listeners. A few moments previous, and they were disciples of Sinai, who had come from distant lands to celebrate the by-gone Pasch and Pentecost; now they have faith, simple and full faith, in Christ. They repent the awful crime of His Death, of which they have been accomplices; they confess His Resurrection and Ascension; they beseech Peter and the rest of the Apostles to put them in the way of salvation: Men and Brethren! say they, what shall we do (Acts, ii. 37)? Better dispositions could not be: they desire to know their duty, and are determined to do it. Peter resumes his discourse, saying: “Do penance, and be baptised, every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ, for the remission of your sins; and you shall receive the gift of the Holy Ghost.  For the promise is to you, and to your children, and to all that are afar off, whomsoever the Lord our God shall call (Ibid. 38, 39).”
The Jewish Pentecost pales at each word of the new Moses; the Christian Pentecost manifests itself with clearer light. The reign of the Holy Ghost is inaugurated in Jerusalem, and under the very shadow of that Temple which is doomed to destruction. Peter continued his instructions; but the sacred volume has left us only these few words, wherewith, probably, the Apostle made his final appeal to his hearers: “Save yourselves from this perverse generation (Acts. ii 40)!
Yes, these children of Israel had to make this sacrifice, or they never could have shared in the graces of the new Pentecost; they had to cut themselves off from their own people; they had to leave the Synagogue for the Church. There was a struggle in many a heart at that moment; but the Holy Spirit triumphed; three thousand declared themselves disciples of Christ, and received the mark of adoption in holy Baptism. Church of the living God! how lovely art thou in thy first reception of the divine Spirit! how admirable is thy early progress! Thy first abode was in the Immaculate Mary, the Virgin full of grace, the Mother of God; thy second victory gave thee the hundred and twenty Disciples of the Cenacle; and now, three thousand elect proclaim thee as their Mother, and, leaving the unhappy Jerusalem, will carry thy name and kingdom to their own countries. Tomorrow, Peter is to preach in the Temple, and five thousand men will enroll themselves as Disciples of Jesus of Nazareth. Hail! then, dear creation of the Holy Ghost! Militant on earth; triumphant in heaven; beautiful, noble, immortal Church! all hail! And thou, bright Pentecost! day of our truest birth! how fair, how glorious, thou makest these first hours of Jesus’ Spouse on earth! The Divine Spirit thou givest us, has written, not upon stone, but upon our hearts, the Law that is to govern us. In thee, O Pentecost! we find realized the hopes foreshadowed in the mystery of the Epiphany; for though thyself art promulgated in Jerusalem, yet thy graces are to be extended to all that are afar off, that is, to us Gentiles. The Magi came from the East; we watched them as they visited the Crib of the Divine Babe, for we knew that we, too, were to have our season of grace. It was Thou, O Holy Spirit! that didst attract them to Bethlehem: and now, in this Pentecost of Thy power, Thou callest all men; the Star is changed into Tongues of Fire, and the face of the earth is to be renewed. Oh! grant that we may be ever faithful to the graces Thou offerest us, and carefully treasure the Gifts sent us, with Thee and through Thee, by the Father and the Son!
The mystery of Pentecost holds so important a place in the Christian dispensation, that we cannot be surprised at the Church’s ranking it, in her Liturgy, on an equality with her Paschal Solemnity.  The Pasch is the redemption of man by the victory of Christ; Pentecost is the Holy Ghost taking possession of man redeemed.  The Ascension is the intermediate mystery; it consummates the Pasch, by placing the Man-God, the Conqueror of death, and our Head, at the right hand of the Father; it prepares the mission of the Holy Ghost to our earth. This mission could not take place until Jesus had been glorified, as St. John tells us (St. John, vii. 39); and there are several reasons assigned for it by the Holy Fathers.  It was necessary that the Son of God, Who, together with the Father, is the principle of the procession of the Holy Ghost in the divine essence, should also personally send this Divine Spirit upon the earth.  The exterior mission of one of the Three Persons is but the sequel and manifestation of the mysterious and eternal production which is ever going on within the Divinity.  Thus the Father is not sent either by the Son or by the Holy Ghost, because He does not proceed from them.  The Son is sent to men by the Father, of Whom He is eternally begotten.  The Holy Ghost is sent by the Father and the Son, because He proceeds from both.  But, in order that the mission of the Holy Ghost might give greater glory to the Son, there was a congruity in its not taking place until such time as the Incarnate Word should be enthroned at the right hand of the Father.  How immense the glory of Human Nature, that it was hypostatically united to the Person of the Son of God when this mission of the Holy Ghost was achieved! and that we can say, in strict truth, the Holy Ghost was sent by the Man-God!
This divine Mission was not to be given to the Third Person, until men were deprived of the visible presence of Jesus.  As we have already said, the hearts of the Faithful were henceforward to follow their absent Redeemer by a purer and wholly spiritual love. Now, Who was to bring us this new love, if not He Who is the link of the eternal love of the Father and the Son? This Holy Spirit of love and union is called, in the Sacred Scriptures?, the “Gift of God (St. John, iv. 10);” and it is on the day of Pentecost that the Father and Son send us this ineffable Gift. Let us call to mind the words spoken by our Emmanuel to the Samaritan Woman at the Well of Sichar: If thou didst know the Gift of God (St. John, iv. 10)! He had not yet been given, He had not yet been manifested, otherwise than in a partial way. From this day forward, He inundates the whole earth with his Fire, He gives spiritual life to all, He makes His influence felt in every place.  We know the Gift of God; so that we have but to open our hearts to receive Him, as did the three thousand who listened to St. Peter’s sermon.
Observe, too, the Season of the Year, in which the Holy Ghost comes to take possession of His earthly kingdom. Our Jesus, the Sun of Justice, arose in Bethlehem in the very depth of winter; humble and gradual was His ascent to the zenith of His glory. But the Spirit of the Father and the Son came in the Season that harmonizes with His own divine characteristic. He is a consuming Fire (Deut. iv. 24); He comes into the world when summer is in his pride, and sunshine decks our earth with loveliest flowers. Let us welcome the life-giving heat of the Holy Ghost, and earnestly beseech Him that it may ever abide within us. The Liturgical Year has brought us to the full possession of Truth by the Incarnate Word; let us carefully cherish the Love, which the Holy Ghost has now enkindled within our hearts.
The Christian Pentecost, prefigured by the ancient one of the Jews, is of the number of the Feasts that were instituted by the Apostles.  As we have already remarked, it formerly shared with Easter the honor of the solemn administration of Baptism.  Its Octave, like that of Easter, and for the same reason, ended with the Saturday following the Feast. The Catechumens received Baptism on the night between Saturday and Sunday.  So that the Pentecost Solemnity began on the Vigil, for the Neophytes at once put on their white garments: on the eighth day, the Saturday, they laid them aside.
In the Middle-Ages, the Feast of Pentecost was called by the beautiful name of The Pasch of Roses, just as the Sunday within the Octave of the Ascension was termed the Sunday of Roses. The colour and fragrance of this lovely flower were considered by our Catholic Forefathers as emblems of the Tongues of Fire, which rested on the heads of the hundred and twenty Disciples, and poured forth the sweet gifts of love and grace on the infant Church. The same idea suggested the red-coloured Vestments for the Liturgical Services during the whole Octave.  In his Rational, (a work which abounds in most interesting information regarding the Medieeval Liturgical usages,) Durandus tells us, that in the 13th Century, a Dove was allowed to fly about in the Church, and flowers and lighted tow were thrown down from the roof, during the Mass on Whit Sunday; these were allusions to the two mysteries of Jesus’ Baptism, and of the Descent of the Holy Ghost on the Day of Pentecost.
At Rome, the Station is in the Basilica of Saint Peter. It was but just, that special honour should be paid to the Prince of the Apostles, for it was on this day that his preaching won three thousand converts to the Church. Though the Station, and the Indulgences attached to it, are at Saint Peter’s, yet the Sovereign Pontiff and the sacred College of Cardinals solemnize today’s Service in the Lateran Basilica, which is the Mother Church of the City and the World.

VESPERS.

The great Day is far spent: but, the Holy Spirit, Whom we received this morning at the Hour of Tierce, gives us the irresistible desire to prolong our study of the sublime Mystery. Let us, then, return to Jerusalem. The flame enkindled in the hearts of the Apostles has spread among the admiring crowd. The Jewish pride of these men, who, but a few weeks back, had followed the Divine Victim up the hill of Calvary, hooting him with their blasphemies, is now changed into contrition; they are heartbroken at the thought of their having crucified the Lord of glory (1. Cor. ii. 8). They only require to know the truth, believe it, and be baptised, and they will be true Christians. Whilst the Holy Spirit is working within them, Peter and his fellow-Apostles continue their instructions: “He that died upon the Cross, and rose again from the grave, is the very Son of God, born of the Father from all eternity; the Spirit, that is now sent among them, is the Third

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Person, one with the Father and Son in the unity of the Divine Nature.” The Trinity, the Incarnation, the Redemption, are revealed, in all their magnificence, to these disciples of Moses; the shadows of the ancient figures give place to the light and realities of the new Covenant. The time is come for the fulfilment of the prophecy uttered by St. John the Baptist on the banks of the Jordan, a prophecy which many of the present audience heard him speak: There hath stood one in the midst of you, Whom ye know not. The same is He that shall come after me, Who is preferred before me: the latchet of whose shoe I am not worthy to loose. I baptise with water, but he shall baptise with the Holy Ghost (St. John, i. 26, 27, 33).”

And yet, this Baptism of Fire is to be administered by Water. The Spirit, Who is Fire, works by Water and is called the “Fountain of living Water.” The Prophet Ezechiel foresaw this great Day, when he spoke these words: “I will pour upon you clean Water, and you shall be cleansed from all your fithiness, and I will cleanse you from all your idols. And I will give you a new heart, and put a new Spirit within you. And I will take away the stony heart out of your flesh, and will give you a heart of flesh. And I will put my Spirit in the midst of you, and I will cause you to walk in my commandments, and to keep my judgments, and do them. And you shall be my people, and I will be your God (Ezechiel, xxxvi. 25, 28).”
Nothing could be clearer than this prophecy; when the Spirit came, there was to be a fount of water poured out upon men. We have already seen this Divine Spirit brooding over the Waters at the Creation. At the Epiphany, when celebrating the mystery of Jesus’ Baptism in the Jordan, we saw the heavenly Dove uniting with the Word Incarnate in imparting a sanctifying power to the favoured element of Water. On Holy Saturday, at the blessing of the Font, the Pontiff plunged the Paschal Candle, (the symbol of Christ,) into the Water, and prayed thus: ” May the virtue of the Holy Ghost descend into all the Water of this Font!” And now, on this Day of Pentecost, the cleansing stream is poured out in Jerusalem: Peter and his Brethren plunge these children of Israel beneath the life-giving element, and lo! three thousand children are regenerated in Christ! How admirable are these ancestors of our Faith, in whom were first fulfilled the prophecies! We rejoiced at seeing the Magi dismount from their camels, enter the stable, and offer their mystic gifts at the feet of the King of the Jews; but oh! how gladder, and how grander, is our summer day of Pentecost! for now the mysteries are complete; we are redeemed, Jesus is sitting at the right hand of the Father, the Holy Ghost has been sent to us, and is to abide with us forever. Those rich sources of grace, the Sacraments, which our Jesus instituted during his stay among us, must now be thrown open. Baptism is the first: the Spirit of the Father and the Son has opened it by His coming, nor will the sacred stream cease to flow, till time be swallowed up in eternity. But this same Divine Spirit is the “Gift of the Most High God;” the Apostles have received it, but they have received it in order to impart it to mankind. A second source is therefore opened, and the Sacrament of Confirmation gives the Holy Ghost to the three thousand Neophytes. It is administered by Peter and his fellow-Apostles, the Bishops of the New Law: by the power that is in them, they communicate to the newly baptized the heavenly strength they will henceforth need for confessing the Name of Jesus of Nazareth.
Even this is not dignity enough for these favored Christians: they have been regenerated to a life of grace, they are doubly crowned by a twofold character, and now they are to have union with Christ, the Institutor of the Sacraments, the Mediator and Redeemer of mankind. A third source must be opened: the new Priesthood, exercised for the first time by the Apostles, must produce the Bread of Life, that is, Jesus Himself, and feed the Neophytes with this Manna, which giveth life to the world (St. John. vi. 33). The Upper Chamber, still fragrant with the sweet Institution of the Eucharist, is the scene of its second celebration. Peter, surrounded by his Brethren, consecrates the Bread and Wine; and, by the operation of the Holy Ghost, the Body and Blood of Jesus are on the Altar. The New Sacrifice is inaugurated, and henceforth it shall be daily offered up to the end of time. The Neophytes approach, and receive from the hands of the Apostles the heavenly food which consummates their union with God, through Jesus, the Priest forever, according to the order of Melchisedech (Ps. cix. 4; Heb. v. 6: vii. 17).
But, among those who communicate at this first celebration of the Holy Sacrifice, there is the Blessed Mother of Jesus, in whose virginal womb He took Flesh. The Holy Ghost has, by His coming, given a new consecration to the office entrusted to her by Jesus, when, dying upon the Cross, He made her Mother of Men; and now she is united, by the Mystery of Love, to that same dearest Jesus of hers, Who has ascended into heaven, leaving her to foster his infant Church. Henceforward, the Bread of Life will daily give her this her Beloved Son, until, at length, she herself shall be assumed into heaven, there to see and embrace him for endless ages.
What a happiness for those Neophytes who were privileged, above the rest, in being brought to the Queen of Heaven, the Virgin-Mother of Him Who was the hope of Israel! They saw this second Eve, they conversed with her, they felt for her that filial affection wherewith she inspired all the Disciples of Jesus. The Liturgy will speak to us, at another Season, of these favoured ones; we only allude to the incident now, to show how full and complete was the great Day, on which began our Holy Mother Church. The sacred Hierarchy was seen in Peter, (the Vicar of Christ,) in the other Apostles, and in the Disciples chosen by Jesus Himself. The seed of the word was sown in good soil, Baptism was administered to three thousand Israelites, the Holy Ghost was given to them to make them perfect Christians, the Son of God fed them with His own Flesh and Blood, and Mary adopted them as her spiritual Children.
Let us now unite our voices with that of the Church; let us sing, with her, the praises of that Holy Spirit, who made this first day of His Mission to be so rich in grace.

THE ASCENSION OF JESUS. THINGS YOU SHOULD KNOW!

The ascension which we celebrate on May 12 this year, calculates as forty days after Easter and concludes the visible permanence of God amongst men.  It is a prelude to Pentecost and marks the beginning of the Church’s history.  This episode in history is described by the Gospels of S. Mark and S. Luke and in the Acts of the  Apostles.  Until 1977 in Italy it was also a public holiday.

Thwe Ascencion of Christ by Dosso Dossi.jpeg
The Ascension, by Dosso Dossi, 16th century.

The ascension which we celebrate on May 12 this year, calculates as forty days after Easter and concludes the visible permanence of God amongst men.  It is a prelude to Pentecost and marks the beginning of the Church’s history.  This episode in history is described by the Gospels of S. Mark and S. Luke and in the Acts of the  Apostles.  Until 1977 in Italy it was also a public holiday.

With the solemnity of the Ascension of Jesus to Heaven ends the earthly life of Jesus who with his body, in the presence of the apostles, physically unites himself to the Father, and not to reappear on Earth until his Second Coming παρουσία Parusìa (arrival, coming, presence) for the Final judgement. This festival is very old and is attested as early as the fourth century. For the Catholic Church the Ascension is normally calculated as 40 days after Easter, that is, the Thursday of the sixth week of Easter time, that is, the one following the sixth Sunday of Easter.  In the  Symbolum Apostolicum the Apostles’ Creed we hear it mentioned by these words: “On the third day he rose again; he ascended into heaven, he is seated at the right hand of the Father, and he will come to judge the living and the dead..”

In the Orthodox Church the Ascension is one of the 12 great feasts.  The date of the celebration is established from the date of Easter in the Orthodox calendar.  It is known both with the Greek word ἀνάληψις Análēpsis (to ascend) and with ἐπισωζομένη Episozomene (salvation). The latter term emphasises that Jesus ascending to heaven completed the work of redemption. The Acts, which explicitly mention the Mount of Olives, are clearer still, since after the ascension the disciples “Then they returned to Jerusalem from the mount that is called Olivet, which is nigh Jerusalem, within a sabbath day’s journey.” (Acts 1:12) Tradition has consecrated this place as the Mount of Ascension.

WHAT IS THE BIBLICAL DEFINITION OF THE WORD ASCENSION?

According to a spontaneous and universal conception, recognised by the Bible, God  lives in a higher place and man to meet him must rise, rise. The idea of ​​rapprochement with God is spontaneously given by the mountain and in Exodus 19.; Moses is transmitted the prohibition to ascend to Mount Sinai, which implied above all this approach to the Lord; “And Moses said to the Lord: The people cannot come up to mount Sinai: for thou did charge, and command, saying: Set limits about the mount, and sanctify it. “And the Lord said to him: Go, get thee down: and thou shalt come up, thou and Aaron with thee: but let not the priests and the people pass the limits, nor come up to the Lord, lest he kill them”. The command of Yahweh does not refer so much to a local ascent, but to a spiritual approach; one must first purify oneself and gather oneself in order to be able to hear his voice. Not only does God dwell in high places, but he has chosen the high places to establish his dwelling there; also to go to his shrines it is necessary to ‘go up’. So along the whole of the Bible, the references to “going up” are many and continuous and when Jerusalem takes the place of the ancient shrines, the crowds of pilgrims ‘ascend the holy mountain’; “Ascending” to Jerusalem meant going to Yahweh, and the term, beholden by a real geographical position, was used both by popular symbology for those who entered the promised land, as for those who ‘ascended’ to the holy city. In the New Testament, Jesus himself “ascends” to Jerusalem with his parents, when he meets with the doctors in the Temple and still “rises” to the holy city, as a prelude to “elevation” on the cross and to the glorious Ascension.

WHICH TEXTS TALK ABOUT THIS EVENT?

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The Ascension Ædicule

The Books of the New Testament contain sporadic references to the mystery of the Ascension; the Gospels of Matthew and John do not speak of it and both end with the account of apparitions after the Resurrection.  Mark ends by saying: “And the Lord Jesus, after he had spoken to them, was taken up into heaven, and sitteth on the right hand of God.” (Mark 16:19); Luke speaks instead of it: “And he led them out as far as Bethania: and lifting up his hands, he blessed them.  And it came to pass, whilst he blessed them, he departed from them, and was carried up to heaven.”(Luke 24:50-51). Still Luke in the Acts of the Apostles, ascribed to him as an author from the earliest times, to the initial chapter (Acts 1:11), places the Ascension on the Mount of Olives, on the 40th day after Easter and adds: “And when he had said these things, while they looked on, he was raised up: and a cloud received him out of their sight.  And while they were beholding him going up to heaven, behold two men stood by them in white garments.  Who also said: Ye men of Galilee, why stand you looking up to heaven? This Jesus who is taken up from you into heaven, shall so come, as you have seen him going into heaven.”  (Acts 1:9-11). The other authors hint only occasionally to the fact or presuppose it, the same s. Paul, although he knows the relationship between the Resurrection and the glorification, does not pose the problem of how Jesus entered the celestial world and was transfigured; in fact in the various letters he does not mention the passage from the terrestrial to the celestial phase. But they reiterate the enthronement of Christ to the right hand of the Father, where he will remain until the end of the centuries, cloaked in power and glory; “Therefore, if you be risen with Christ, seek the things that are above; where Christ is sitting at the right hand of God:  Mind the things that are above, not the things that are upon the earth.  For you are dead; and your life is hid with Christ in God“. (Colossians 3:1-3)

WHAT ARE THE HISTORIC SOURCES?

Luke, the third evangelist, in the Acts of the Apostles specifies that Jesus after his passion, showed himself to the eleven remaining apostles, with many trials, appearing to them for forty days and speaking of the Kingdom of God; it must be said that the number of ‘forty days’ is full of symbolism, which often occurs in the events of the wandering Jewish people, but also with Jesus, who fasted in the desert for 40 days.  St. Paul in the same ‘Acts’ (Acts 13:31) states that the Lord “Who was seen for many days, by them who came up with him from Galilee to Jerusalem, who to this present are his witnesses to the people”, without specifying the number, so it must be a reliable hypothesis, that it is a symbolic number.  The Ascension according to Luke, occurred on the Mount of Olives, when Jesus with the Apostles to whom he had appeared, went towards Bethany, after having repeated his promises and invoked upon them protection and divine assistance, and rising towards the heaven as described above (Acts, 1-11). Mount Oliveto, from which Jesus ascended to Heaven, was embellished by St. Helena, mother of the emperor Constantine the Great with a beautiful basilica towards the end of the fourth century, Church of Eleona, sites of Christ’s birth and ascension, respectively; the rich matron and pilgrim Poemenia built another large basilica, rich in mosaics and precious marbles, on the type of the Pantheon in Rome, in the precise place of the Ascension marked in the center by a small roundabout. Then in the alternating instability that saw Muslims and Christians, Arabs and Crusaders over the centuries, the basilicas were unfortunately destroyed; in 1920-27 by vote of the Catholic world, the remnants of the excavations are used to construct a most grandiose temple, and dedicated to the Sacred Heart, while the round aedicule church of Poemenia became a small octagonal mosque from the 16th century onwards.

WHAT IS THE SIGNIFICANCE OF THE ASCENSION?

Saint John in the fourth Gospel, places the triumph of Christ in his completeness in the Resurrection, after all the other evangelists had given little importance to the Ascension, confirm that the true ascension, that is the transfiguration and the passage of Jesus into the world of glory, happened on Easter morning, an event that escaped every experience and out of human control. Correcting an ample pervasive mentality, the Gospel texts seeks to place the ascension and enthronement of Jesus on the right of the Father, on the very day of His death, He then returned from Heaven to manifest Himself to His own and completes His instruction for a period of ‘forty‘ days.  Therefore the Ascension narratives by Luke, Mark and the Acts of the Apostles does not in fact refer to the Saviour’s first entry into glory, but rather to His last apparition and departure which concludes His visible manifestations upon earth.  Consequently, the intent of the accounts of the Ascension is not to describe a real return to the Father, but to make known some of the characteristics of the last manifestation of Jesus, a manifestation of farewell, necessary? yes! because He must return to the Father to complete the Redemption of all: “But I told you not these things from the beginning, because I was with you. And now I go to him that sent me, and none of you asketh me: Whither goest thou?  But because I have spoken these things to you, sorrow hath filled your heart.  But I tell you the truth: it is expedient to you that I go: for if I go not, the Paraclete will not come to you; but if I go, I will send him to you.” (John 16: 5-7). The Catechism of the Catholic Church (CCC 659) gives Ascension this definition: “But during the forty days when he eats and drinks familiarly with his disciples and teaches them about the kingdom, his glory remains veiled under the appearance of ordinary humanity, “Jesus’ final apparition ends with the irreversible entry of his humanity into divine glory, symbolized by the cloud and by heaven, where he is seated from that time forward at God’s right hand. He is the Lord, who now reigns with his humanity in the eternal glory of the Son of God and ceaselessly intercedes in our favor with the Father. He sends us his Spirit and gives us the hope of reaching him one day, having prepared a place for us “

ITS A HOLIDAY ALSO FROM A SECULAR POINT OF VIEW?

The first testimony of the Feast of the Ascension is given by the historian of the origins of the Church, the bishop of Caesarea, Eusebius (265-340); the feast falling on the Thursday following the fifth Sunday after Easter, is a movable feast and in some Catholic nations it is a Holy day of obligation, recognised in some secular calendars.  In Italy, in agreement with the Italian State, which required a reform of the holidays, eliminating some festive

Lo sposalizio del mare
Sposalizio del Mare Venice, Italy.

bridges, the Italian Episcopal Conference fixed the liturgical and secular service, on the Sunday following the canons to 40 days after Easter.  In the Ambrosian Rite, however, it is celebrated on Thursdays.  On Ascension Day there are many popular Italian festivals in which many ancient traditions are re-enacted, linked to therapeutic values, which would be conferred by a divine blessing to the waters.  In Venice there was a great fair, accompanied by the “Sposalizio del Mare“, the Marriage of the Sea, a ceremony in which the Doge aboard

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H.E Gregorios, Archbishop of Thyateira & Great Britain,  Blessing of the Sea

the “Bucintoro“, threw a gold ring in the waters of the Venetian lagoon, to symbolise the Venetians dominion over the sea; some 8 miles away from St. Mary’s Hermitage in a town called Margate (UK) the Greek Orthodox Church and Greek and Cypriot Community of the Archangel Michael re-enact the blessing of the sea waters every year, in Florence the “Festa del grillo” is celebrated. (This link opens a Youtube video of the Festa del Grillo).

HOW THE ASCENSION HAS BEEN DEPICTED IN THE ARTS?

The story of the Scriptures and the liturgical celebration of this mystery can be found in miniatures of famous codices, among them the Syrian Gospels of Rabula in the

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Ascension. The Rabbula Gospel – Biblioteca Mediciae Laurenziana.  Florence

Biblioteca Laurenziana of Florence, and in mosaics and ivories from the 5th century.  The theme of the Ascension, adapted well to the vertical rhythm of the tympanum, above the gates of the Romanesque and Gothic churches; an example is the gable of the northern door of the cathedral of Chartres (12th century). But the representation reached remarkable artistic value with Giotto (1266-1337) who portrayed the Ascension in the Scrovegni Chapel in Padua. We also remember a fresco by Buffalmacco (13th century) in the Camposanto of Pisa; a terracotta by Luca Della Robbia (1400-1482) in the National Museum of Florence; a fresco by Maestro Melozzo da Forlì († 1494) now in the Palazzo del Quirinale in Rome; a Tempera on panel by Mantegna (1431-1506) in Florence, Galleria degli Uffizi; the Sansepolcro Altarpiece by Perugino († 1523) now in the Museum of Lyon; the famous fresco

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Norther door Tympanum cathedral of Chartres

by Correggio († 1534) in the dome of the Church of S. Giovanni in Parma called the Vision of St John Evangelist on Patmos, Ascension of Christ among Apostles; the fresco by Tintoretto (d. 1594) in the Scuola di S. Rocco in Venice. In a treasure chest of the Duomo of Monza, Christ ascends into heaven,

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Treasure Chest depicting the Ascension of Christ. Cathedral of Monza

according to a typical oriental iconography, seated on the throne; in other representations He ascends to Heaven among a crowd of Angels, in front of the ecstatic looks of the Apostles and of the Virgin.

Sia Lodato Gesù Cristo – Sempre Sia Lodato

Sia Lodato Gesù Cristo – Sempre Sia Lodato

Dal sorgere del sole al suo tramonto sia lodato il nome del Signore

Deus Tecum cari fratelli e sorelle,

Con questa acclamazione di fede, fino agli anni Cinquanta del secolo scorso, i cristiani erano esortati a salutare il sacerdote lungo la strada. Non si tratta di un’acclamazione liturgica. I predicatori erano soliti pronunciare questo saluto prima e dopo ogni loro intervento in qualsiasi circostanza. Era e resta ancora un’acclamazione per evidenziare che le nostre parole non devono servire alla nostra gloria ma a quella del Signore.

Di recente ho letto un blog dal titolo “Sia lodato Gesu Cristo – Perche?” dove lo scrittore propone che, poiché la chiesa cattolica non è l’unico esponente delle virtù … Basta dire in questo mondo secolarizzato che non ha tempo per la preghiera. “Devo scappare. scusa “rispondono quando ci rivolgiamo al tema della religione. Poi abbiamo i cosiddetti “sacramentali soli cattolici” che si vedono solamente durante i battesimi, la prima comunione, la cresima, i matrimoni e i funerali. Non educano i loro bambini che hanno battezzato nella fede cattolica “voglio che mio figlio si decida quando è più grande” dice “e se volesse diventare un buddista quando sarà più grande?”. La scarpa si adatta anche ad alcuni dei miei confratelli del clero e dell’episcopato. Un sacerdote collega nel Devon una volta mi ha chiesto perché sei diventato un prete te? Questo mi ha sorpreso e naturalmente ho risposto che “ben pregavo per la guida del nostro Signore e con l’aiuto dello spirito santo mi dirigevo verso il sacerdozio”. “Wow! voi italiani e i latini siete davvero dentro per quella roba” ha dichiarato “appena dopo il college mio padre voleva mandarmi nell’esercito a meno che non andassi all’università. Così sono andato a Oxford, ho scelto il tema più multidisciplinare, che all’epoca era teologia. quando mi sono laureato, mio ​​zio vescovo, mi ha offerto un lavoro e mi ha ordinato. allora eccoci qua”. Questo è dove Io ho esclamato “WOW”. Poi ho avuto un vescovo diocesano in Irlanda che non credeva nemmeno in Dio. Ma questo è un intero altro blog.

quindi qui siamo al punto cruciale della questione. la chiesa stessa sta diventando secolarizzata. Ma di nuovo questo è un argomento che forse affronteremo possibilmente nel futuro.

La mia campagna se possiamo chiamarla così, è che lodiamo il nostro Signore e Salvatore almeno una volta al giorno, non mi aspetterei di sfidare un laico a seguire il nostro esempio di “Sette volte al giorno io ti lodo, per le sentenze della tua giustizia.” [Salmo 119:164].

Ma vorrei con il vostro aiuto lanciare una sfida quaresimale per dire “Sia lodato Gesù Cristo – Semper sia Lodato” ad almeno un estraneo ogni giorno durante la quaresima. Che bel modo di salutare qualcuno se non nel nome del nostro Salvatore. Non pensi?

Che il Signore vi benedica e vi mantenga sempre.

in Gesù e Maria

dom. ugo maria