Sunday, January 31, 2016

Winter


(Picture by Remo Savisaar - found here)
“The color of springtime is in the flowers;
the color of winter is in the imagination.”
~Ward Elliot Hour
  

Saturday, January 30, 2016

The Mystery Of Death

“In the face of death the enigma of human existence reaches its climax. Man is not only the victim of pain and the progressive deterioration of his body; he is also and more deeply, tormented by the fear of final extinction. But the instinctive judgment of his heart is right when he shrinks from, and rejects, the idea of a total collapse and definitive end of his own person. He carries within him the seed of eternity, which cannot be reduced to matter alone, and so he rebels against death. All efforts of technology, however useful they may be, cannot calm his anxieties; the biological extension of his life-span cannot satisfy the desire inescapably present in his heart for a life beyond this life. 

Imagination is completely helpless when confronted with death. Yet the Church, instructed by divine revelation, affirms that man has been created by God for a destiny of happiness beyond the reach of earthly trials. Moreover, the Christian faith teaches that bodily death, to which man would not have been subject if he had not sinned, will be conquered; the almighty and merciful Savior will restore man to the wholeness that he had lost through his own fault. God has called man, and still calls him, to be united in his whole being in perpetual communion with himself in the immortality of the divine life. This victory has been gained for us by the risen Christ, who by his own death has freed man from death.”
~From the pastoral constitution on the Church in the modern world of the Second Vatican Council

Friday, January 29, 2016

Faith and Reason

“Illumined by faith, reason is set free from the fragility and limitations deriving from the disobedience of sin and finds the strength required to rise to the knowledge of the Triune God.”
~Pope John Paul II

Thursday, January 28, 2016

From A Conference...

Why did the Son of God have to suffer for us? There was a great need, and it can be considered in a twofold way: in the first place, as a remedy for sin, and secondly, as an example of how to act.

It is a remedy, for, in the face of all the evils which we incur on account of our sins, we have found relief through the passion of Christ. Yet, it is no less an example, for the passion of Christ completely suffices to fashion our lives. Whoever wishes to live perfectly should do nothing but disdain what Christ disdained on the cross and desire what He desired, for the cross exemplifies every virtue.

If you seek the example of love: Greater love than this no man has, than to lay down his life for his friends. Such a man was Christ on the cross. And if He gave His life for us, then it should not be difficult to bear whatever hardships arise for His sake.

If you seek patience, you will find no better example than the cross. Great patience occurs in two ways: either when one patiently suffers much, or when one suffers things which one is able to avoid and yet does not avoid. Christ endured much on the cross, and did so patiently, because when He suffered He did not threaten; He was led like a sheep to the slaughter and He did not open His mouth. Therefore Christ’s patience on the cross was great. In patience let us run for the prize set before us, looking upon Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith who, for the joy set before Him, bore His cross and despised the shame.

If you seek an example of humility, look upon the crucified one, for God wished to be judged by Pontius Pilate and to die.

If you seek an example of obedience, follow Him who became obedient to the Father even unto death. For just as by the disobedience of one man, namely, Adam, many were made sinners, so by the obedience of one man, many were made righteous.

If you seek an example of despising earthly things, follow Him who is the King of kings and the Lord of lords, in whom are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge. Upon the cross He was stripped, mocked, spat upon, struck, crowned with thorns, and given only vinegar and gall to drink.

Do not be attached, therefore, to clothing and riches, because they divided My garments among themselves. Nor to honors, for He experienced harsh words and scourgings. Nor to greatness of rank, for weaving a crown of thorns they placed it on My head. Nor to anything delightful, for in My thirst they gave Me vinegar to drink.

~St. Thomas Aquinas

Wednesday, January 27, 2016

Where Sin Abounded Grace Has Overflowed

“Where can the weak find a place of firm security and peace, except in the wounds of the Savior? Indeed, the more secure is my place there the more He can do to help me. The world rages, the flesh is heavy, and the devil lays his snares, but I do not fall, for my feet are planted on firm rock. I may have sinned gravely. My conscience would be distressed, but it would not be in turmoil, for I would recall the wounds of the Lord: He was wounded for our iniquities. What sin is there so deadly that it cannot be pardoned by the death of Christ? And so if I bear in mind this strong, effective remedy, I can never again be terrified by the malignancy of sin.

Surely the man who said: My sin is too great to merit pardon, was wrong. He was speaking as though he were not a member of Christ and had no share in His merits, so that he could claim them as his own, as a member of the body can claim what belongs to the head. As for me, what can I appropriate that I lack from the heart of the Lord who abounds in mercy? They pierced His hands and feet and opened His side with a spear. Through the openings of these wounds I may drink honey from the rock and oil from the hardest stone: that is, I may taste and see that the Lord is sweet.”
~St. Bernard of Clairvaux

Tuesday, January 26, 2016

Two Stories from the Desert Fathers

One of the fathers said, “If anyone asks you for something, and you give it to him, even if you are forced to give it, let your heart go with the gift, as it is written, ‘If a man forces you to go with him one mile, go with him two’ (Matt. 5:41). This means that if you are asked for anything, give it with a willing heart.”

  
It was said that a monk who had made baskets was putting handles on them when he heard another monk saying nearby, “What shall I do? The trader is coming soon and I haven’t got any handles to put on my baskets.” So he took off the handles he had put on his own baskets and took them to the nearby monk and said, “I don’t need these; take them and put them on your baskets.” He helped the brother to finish his baskets but left his own unfinished.

~Stories from the Desert Fathers

Monday, January 25, 2016

For Love of Christ

“Paul, more than anyone else, has shown us what man really is, and in what our nobility consists, and of what virtue this particular animal is capable. Each day he aimed ever higher; each day he rose up with greater ardor and faced with new eagerness the dangers that threatened him. He summed up his attitude in the words: I forget what is behind me and push on to what lies ahead. When he saw death imminent, he bade others share his joy: Rejoice and be glad with me! And when danger, injustice and abuse threatened, he said: I am content with weakness, mistreatment and persecution. These he called the weapons of righteousness, thus telling us that he derived immense profit from them.

Thus, amid the traps set for him by his enemies, with exultant heart he turned their every attack into a victory for himself; constantly beaten, abused and cursed, he boasted of it as though he were celebrating a triumphal procession and taking trophies home, and offered thanks to God for it all: Thanks be to God who is always victorious in us! This is why he was far more eager for the shameful abuse that his zeal in preaching brought upon him than we are for the most pleasing honors, more eager for death than we are for life, for poverty than we are for wealth; he yearned for toil far more than others yearn for rest after toil. The one thing he feared, indeed dreaded, was to offend God; nothing else could sway him. Therefore, the only thing he really wanted was always to please God. 

The most important thing of all to him, however, was that he knew himself to be loved by Christ. Enjoying this love, he considered himself happier than anyone else; were he without it, it would be no satisfaction to be the friend of principalities and powers. He preferred to be thus loved and be the least of all, or even to be among the damned, than to be without that love and be among the great and honored.

To be separated from that love was, in his eyes, the greatest and most extraordinary of torments; the pain of that loss would alone have been hell, and endless, unbearable torture.

So too, in being loved by Christ he thought of himself as possessing life, the world, the angels, present and future, the kingdom, the promise and countless blessings. Apart from that love nothing saddened or delighted him; for nothing earthly did he regard as bitter or sweet.

Paul set no store by the things that fill our visible world, any more than a man sets value on the withered grass of the field. As for tyrannical rulers or the people enraged against him, he paid them no more heed than gnats. Death itself and pain and whatever torments might come were but child’s play to him, provided that thereby he might bear some burden for the sake of Christ.”

~St. John Chrysostom (from a homily)

Sunday, January 24, 2016

The God Of Abraham Praise

The God of Abraham praise,
who reigns enthroned above;
Ancient of everlasting days,
and God of love;
Jehovah, great I AM,
by earth and heaven confessed:
I bow and bless the sacred Name
for ever blessed.

The God of Abraham praise,
at whose supreme command
from earth we rise, and seek the joys
at his right hand;
we all on earth forsake,
its wisdom, fame and power;
and him our only portion make,
our Shield and Tower.

The goodly land we see,
with peace and plenty blessed:
a land of sacred liberty
and endless rest;
there milk and honey flow,
and oil and wine abound,
and trees of life for ever grow,
with mercy crowned.

There dwells the Lord, our King,
the Lord, our Righteousness,
triumphant o'er the world and sin,
the Prince of Peace;
on Zion's sacred height
his kingdom he maintains,
and, glorious with his saints in light,
for ever reigns.

The God who reigns on high,
the great archangels sing,
and "Holy, holy, holy," cry,
"Almighty King!"
Who was and is the same,
and evermore shall be:
Jehovah, Father, great I AM,
we worship thee."

The whole triumphant host
give thanks to God on high;
"Hail, Father, Son, and Holy Ghost"
they ever cry;
hail, Abraham's God and mine;
I join the heavenly lays;
all might and majesty are thine,
and endless praise!

~Words: Thomas Olivers, MIDI: Leoni

Friday, January 22, 2016

Life


(By Marianne Den Otter - found here)
Today is the sad anniversary of the Roe v. Wade decision that made abortion legal.

“The fundamental human right, the presupposition of every other right, is the right to life itself. This is true of life from the moment of conception until its natural end. Abortion, consequently, cannot be a human right — it is the very opposite. It is a deep wound in society.”
~Pope Benedict XVI
  

Thursday, January 21, 2016

New Life

“We must be swift to obey the winged impulses of His Love, carrying Him to wherever He longs to be; and those who recognize His presence will be stirred, like Elizabeth with new life. They will know His presence, not by any special beauty or power shown by us, but in the way that the bud knows the presence of the light, by an unfolding in themselves, a putting forth of their own beauty.

It seems that this is Christ's favorite way of being recognized, that He prefers to be known, not by His own human features, but by the quickening of His own life in the heart, which is the response to His coming.”
~Caryll Houselander

Wednesday, January 20, 2016

Christian Perfection

“Patience is proved in the assaults and weariness I [God] allow my servants, and the fire of charity grows in the soul who has compassion for the soul of her abuser. For she grieves more over the offense done to me and the harm done to the other than over her own hurt. This is how those behave who are very perfect, and so they grow. And this is why I permit all these things. I grant them a stinging hunger for the salvation of souls so that they knock day and night at the door of my mercy, so much so that they forget themselves. And the more they abandon themselves, the more they find me.

...Could I and can I not make it otherwise for Paul and the others in whom I leave this or that sort of pricking? Yes. Then why does my providence do this? To give them opportunity for merit, to keep them in the self-knowledge whence they draw true humility, to make them compassionate instead of cruel toward their neighbors so that they will sympathize with them in their labors. For those who suffer themselves are far more compassionate to the suffering than are those who have not suffered. They grow to greater love and run to me all anointed with humility and ablaze in the furnace of my charity. And through these means and endless others they attain perfect union—such union and knowledge of my goodness that while they are still in their mortal bodies they taste the reward of the immortals.”
~St. Catherine of Siena (from The Dialogue)

Tuesday, January 19, 2016

A couple from Aloysius Roche

“Indeed, it is the undisciplined passion that is weak -- so weak that it is short-lived as a rule. No man is a greater stranger to love than the libertine. ‘The real thing does not exist,’ such people say. Certainly it does not and cannot for them.”

“To shrink from suffering is to suffer twofold. None feel the cold so much as those who go shivering at the very thought of the cold. Timidity and an overnourished imagination are real sources of suffering. To look our trials steadily in the face, to strip them of their false and exaggerated colors, is to diminish their torments by at least one-half. The saints were brave in this sense, and to this extent they suffered less than we; but they suffered.”

~Aloysius Roche

Monday, January 18, 2016

Faith and Love

“These are the beginning and the end of life: faith the beginning, love the end. When these two are found together, there is God, and everything else concerning right living follows from them.

...Let us then do everything in the knowledge that he is dwelling within us that we may be his temples, and he God within us. He is, and will reveal himself, in our sight, according to the love we bear him in holiness.”
~St. Ignatius of Antioch

Sunday, January 17, 2016

O Trinity Of Blessed Light

O Trinity of blessed light,
O Unity of princely might,
The fiery sun now goes his way;
Shed thou within our hearts thy ray.

To thee our morning song of praise,
To thee our evening prayer we raise;
Thy glory suppliant we adore
For ever and for evermore.

All laud to God the Father be;
All praise eternal Son, to thee;
All glory, as is ever meet,
To God the Holy Paraclete. Amen.

Tune: Mainzer L.M Music: Joseph Mainzer
Text: Lucis creátor óptime, attributed to St. Ambrose of Milan
Translation: John Mason Neale

Friday, January 15, 2016

We could never...

“We could never learn to be brave and patient if there were only joy in the world.”
~Helen Keller

Thursday, January 14, 2016

Pride

"Swallow your pride, you will not die, it's not poison."
~Bob Dylan

Wednesday, January 13, 2016

Psalm 36

Sin speaks to the sinner
    in the depths of his heart.
There is no fear of God
    before his eyes.

He so flatters himself in his mind
    that he knows not his guilt.
In his mouth are mischief and deceit.
    All wisdom is gone.

He plots the defeat of goodness
    as he lies on his bed.
He has set his foot on evil ways,
    he clings to what is evil.

Your love, Lord, reaches to heaven;
    your truth to the skies.
Your justice is like God's mountain,
    your judgments like the deep.

To both man and beast you give protection.
    O Lord, how precious is your love.
My God, the sons of men
    find refuge in the shelter of your wings.

They feast on the riches of your house;
    they drink from the stream of your delight.
In you is the source of life
    and in your light we see light.

Keep on loving those who know you,
    doing justice for upright hearts.
Let the foot of the proud not crush me
    nor the hand of the wicked cast me out.

See how the evildoers fall!
    Flung down, they shall never arise.

Tuesday, January 12, 2016

Of how much more value are you than the birds?


(Picture found here)
Luke 12:24

If you can focus your eyes
on that bird on the bench,
the one in the charcoal suit
with the off-white shirt,
see that it’s small and proper
with a formal tail tipping
and a head swiveling socially,
see how it flaps straight up
and lands on the same spot,
with bugs on its breath, see it
smooth and present there
and not as a specimen,
an example, a kind or a type,
as a pet to be held or a carcass
for the altar or the market,
but as a small bird on a bench,
then you will have prayed,
and prayed well I would say,
as if you loved an ordinary
and otherwise unnoticed bird.

~Jeffrey Johnson
   

Monday, January 11, 2016

From Every Stormy Wind

From every stormy wind that blows,
From every swelling tide of woes,
There is a calm, a sure retreat;
’Tis found beneath the mercy seat.

There is a place where Jesus sheds
The oil of gladness on our heads;
A place than all besides more sweet;
It is the blood bought mercy seat.

There is a scene where spirits blend,
Where friend holds fellowship with friend;
Though sundered far, by faith they meet
Around one common mercy seat.

There, there, on eagles’ wings we soar,
And time and sense seem all no more;
And heaven comes down, our souls to greet,
And glory crowns the mercy seat.

Oh, let my hand forget her skill,
My tongue be silent, cold, and still,
This bounding heart forget to beat,
If I forget the mercy seat!

~Words: Hugh Stowell & Music: Thomas Hastings

Sunday, January 10, 2016

The Baptism Of Christ


("Baptism of Christ" by Pietro Perugino)
Christ is bathed in light; let us also be bathed in light. Christ is baptized; let us also go down with him, and rise with him.

John is baptizing when Jesus draws near. Perhaps he comes to sanctify his baptizer; certainly he comes to bury sinful humanity in the waters. He comes to sanctify the Jordan for our sake and in readiness for us; he who is spirit and flesh comes to begin a new creation through the Spirit and water.

The Baptist protests; Jesus insists. Then John says: I ought to be baptized by you. He is the lamp in the presence of the sun, the voice in the presence of the Word, the friend in the presence of the Bridegroom, the greatest of all born of woman in the presence of the firstborn of all creation, the one who leapt in his mother’s womb in the presence of him who was adored in the womb, the forerunner and future forerunner in the presence of him who has already come and is to come again. I ought to be baptized by you: we should also add, “and for you,” for John is to be baptized in blood, washed clean like Peter, not only by the washing of his feet.

Jesus rises from the waters; the world rises with him. The heavens like Paradise with its flaming sword, closed by Adam for himself and his descendants, are rent open. The Spirit comes to him as to an equal, bearing witness to his Godhead. A voice bears witness to him from heaven, his place of origin. The Spirit descends in bodily form like the dove that so long ago announced the ending of the flood and so gives honor to the body that is one with God.

Today let us do honor to Christ’s baptism and celebrate this feast in holiness. Be cleansed entirely and continue to be cleansed. Nothing gives such pleasure to God as the conversion and salvation of men, for whom his every word and every revelation exist. He wants you to become a living force for all mankind, lights shining in the world. You are to be radiant lights as you stand beside Christ, the great light, bathed in the glory of him who is the light of heaven. You are to enjoy more and more the pure and dazzling light of the Trinity, as now you have received—though not in its fullness—a ray of its splendor, proceeding from the one God, in Christ Jesus our Lord, to whom be glory and power for ever and ever. Amen.

~From a Sermon by St. Gregory of Nazianzus
  

Saturday, January 9, 2016

As With Gladness, Men Of Old

As with gladness, men of old,
Did the guiding star behold,
As with joy they hailed its light,
Leading onwards, beaming bright,
So, most gracious God, may we
Evermore be led to thee.

As with joyful steps they sped
To that lowly manger-bed,
There to bend the knee before
Him whom heaven and earth adore,
So may we with willing feet
Ever seek thy mercy-seat.

As they offered gifts most rare
At that manger rude and bare,
So may we with holy joy,
Pure, and free from sin’s alloy,
All our costliest treasures bring,
Christ, to thee our heavenly king.

Holy Jesus, every day
Keep us in the narrow way;
And, when earthly things are past,
Bring our ransomed souls at last
Where they need no star to guide,
Where no clouds thy glory hide.

In the heavenly country bright
Need they no created light;
Thou its light, its joy, its crown,
Thou its sun which goes not down:
There for ever may we sing
Alleluias to our king.

Tune: Dix 77.77.77
Music: Adapted by W. H. Monk, from a chorale by Conrad Kocher
Text: W. Chatterton Dix

Friday, January 8, 2016

A Challenge to the Idol of Relevance

“All that is not eternal is eternally out of date.”
~C. S. Lewis

“The gospel is good news. In fact it is ‘the best news ever’ because it addresses our human condition appropriately, pertinently, and effectively as nothing else has, does, or can—and in generation after generation, culture after culture, and life after life. Little wonder that the Christian faith is the world’s first truly universal religion and in many parts of the world the fastest growing faith, and that the Christian church is the most diverse society on planet earth, with followers on all continents, in all climates, and under all the conditions of life and development. Of course, Christians can make the gospel irrelevant by shrinking and distorting it in one way or another. But in itself the good news of Jesus is utterly relevant or it is not the good news it claims to be.”

“Nothing is finally relevant except in relation to the true and the eternal….Only the repeated touch of the timeless will keep us truly timely”

“It is time to challenge the idol of relevance, to work out what it means to be faithful as well as relevant, and so to become truly relevant without ever ending up as trendy, trivial, and unfaithful”
~Os Guinness

Thursday, January 7, 2016

Children

“I remember a great man coming into my house, at Waltham, and seeing all my children standing in the order of their age and stature, said, ‘These are they that make rich men poor.’ But he straight received this answer, ‘Nay, my lord, these are they that make a poor man rich; for there is not one of these whom we would part with for all your wealth.’”
~Joseph Hall

Behold, children are a gift of the Lord,
   The fruit of the womb is a reward.
Like arrows in the hand of a warrior,
   So are the children of one’s youth.
How blessed is the man whose quiver is full of them;
~Psalm 127:3-5a

Wednesday, January 6, 2016

St. André Bessette

An excerpt from a book about St. André Bessette:

“Our easy method of interpreting the Master’s doctrine was unknown to him; he was a convinced Christian, a man of action, alien to the routine religion practised by the many who follow the line of least resistance. He embraced the Gospel with loyalty and followed it to the letter, despising the ungenerous attitude of the crowd.

Let us see in his plain simple life centered on God, the model of what our lives would be, did we practise entirely the doctrines of the Master. His example becomes all the more striking in our century when relaxation is almost a matter of principle, when love of the world, of comfort, of wealth for the sake of enjoyment, when the headlong pursuit of pleasure, the brutishness of vain material occupations, the practical forgetfulness of God and a surface form of Christianity mark the lives of many who call themselves Christians.”
~Henri-Paul Bergeron

Tuesday, January 5, 2016

It Is More Blessed To Give Than To Receive

“The vast majority of the people in Western civilization are engaged in the task of getting. Strange as it may seem, the Christian ethic is founded on the opposite principle, that it is more blessed to give than to receive. Both the opportunity and the burden of filling this Divine mandate falls principally on those of us who live in a civilization that has been abundantly blessed by God. We pay more in taxes than most people of the world earn to keep body and soul together.

The reason it is more blessed to give than to receive is because it helps to detach the soul from the material and the temporal in order to ally it with a spirit of altruism and charity which is the essence of religion. Cicero once said that ‘Men resemble gods in nothing so much as in doing good to their fellow creatures.’ Aristotle says that by narrowness and selfishness, by envy and ill will, men degenerate into beasts and become wolves and tigers to one another; but by mutual compassion and helpfulness, men become gods to one another.

On a smaller scale, it will be found that the unity of a community depends to a greater extent upon the services and kindnesses of one individual to another. The farming population of any country in the world is a perfect example of this altruism. At harvest time, each farmer helps every other farmer, and when there is a death in the family, willing hands are always found to pick the corn and cut the wheat.

There is not always the same spirit in the large cities, partly due to the anonymity of the masses, and partly due to competition. Where most people we meet are strangers, there is a tendency to lock one’s self in his shell. One notices this particularly in driving an automobile. Men who are very gentle at home and kind to friends, become like raging beasts growling at the stupidity of every other driver once they get behind a wheel where anonymity protects them.

Giving is really a divinely appointed way of acknowledging the mercies of God. We have indeed nothing to offer anyway that we have not received, and yet He is pleased to accept our offerings as tokens of our gratitude. Egotism makes the self the center; altruism and charity make the neighbor the center. Only on the principle of giving can the inequalities of the human race be adjusted, can the strong help the weak, and social peace reign among men.

...There is more happiness in rejoicing in the good of others, than in rejoicing in our own good. The receiver rejoices in his good; the giver in the joy of others and to such comes the peace nothing in the world can give.”

~Fulton Sheen

Monday, January 4, 2016

Virgin and Child

I’ll say that there are bits of gold
         stuck in her hair, star-bits, brilliant
                  blue slivers at the edge of the painting
that seem to dance in the light
         from the fire.
                  I’ll say there’s a fire even though there can’t be
and I’ll say the painting is as large as a room
         and it can be. She moves in it
                  as if it is a room,
the gold bits gleaming like candles
         that consume nothing, not even themselves.
                  The child crawls out of her arms
and onto the floor
         and his plump wrists
                  and knees
are like loaves of bread,
         his mouth smells of milk,
                  his palms are so tiny
there’s no room for even one nail hole.
         She steps out of the frame,
                  her hair sparkling
and the background to everything lapis lazuli and glittering,
         and when she calls to him, clapping
                  and laughing,
he hurtles toward her,
         on all fours of course,
                  and she catches him up
and swings him over her head,
         and her hair with the stars pinned in it
                  and the dancing blue background
slip backward into space
         and it is the child’s face
                  risen now, looking down,
into her face,
         mother and son
                  meeting each other’s eyes
as we look on.

~Kelly Cherry

Friday, January 1, 2016

What Child Is This

What child is this, who, laid to rest,
On Mary’s lap is sleeping?
Whom angels greet with anthems sweet,
While shepherds watch are keeping?
This, this is Christ the King,
Whom shepherds guard and angels sing:
Haste, haste to bring him laud,
The Babe, the Son of Mary.

Why lies he in such mean estate,
Where ox and ass are feeding?
Good Christian, fear, for sinners here
The silent Word is pleading.
Nails, spear, shall pierce him through,
The cross be borne for me, for you:
Hail, hail, the Word made flesh,
The Babe, the Son of Mary.

So bring him incense, gold and myrrh,
Come, peasant, king, to own him;
The King of kings salvation brings
Let loving hearts enthrone him.
Raise, raise the song on high,
The virgin sings her lullaby:
Joy, joy, for Christ is born,
The Babe, the Son of Mary.

Tune: Greensleeves
Music: Sixteenth century English Melody
Text: William Dix (re-post)