The Angelic Doctor takes us to the doorstep of Christmas in this final sermon for Advent:
“Rejoice in the Lord always: and again I say, Rejoice. Let your moderation be known unto all men.” — Philip, iv. 4, 5.
THE Apostle exhorted us in the end of the preceding Epistle that we should reserve all things to Christ, the true Judge; but, lest we should be overcome by the long delay, he said that He was about to come in a very little while.” The Lord,” he said, “is at hand.” But the Apostle in the words of the text teaches three things (1) he exhorts to inward holiness; (2) to honest conversation; (3) he subjoins the reason. I. Inward holiness consists in two things firstly, that evil affections should be renovated; and, secondly, that good affections should be obtained. S. Bernard said that holy affection makes the saint, whilst evil affection is to rejoice in the world. II. But there is an evil joy of the world, as in evil things, in vanities, in base pleasures. The joy in evil things is to rejoice in wickedness; the joy of vanities is to rejoice in riches, which are vain; and the joy in base pleasures is to rejoice in wantonness. Of the first, Prov. ii. 14, “Who rejoice to do evil, and delight in the frowardness of the wicked.” Of the second, Ps. xlix. 6, “They that trust in their wealth, and boast themselves in the multitude of their riches.” Of the third, Job xxi. 12, “And rejoice at the sound of the organ.” S. James v. 5, “Ye have lived in pleasure on the earth, and been wanton.” S. Augustine says of these three kinds of joy “What is the joy of the world? Wantonness is the impurity of the wickeness of the world; to toy with the games, to be luxurious, to be allured, to be swallowed up, and to offend by baseness. To rejoice in the Lord is that joy which tends to salvation; for the loving-kindness of the Lord leads to justification, for He is most bountiful by way of remuneration. For a very small servitude He gives eternal life and the heavenly kingdom, and such a Lord is without doubt to be rejoiced in; Who saves His servants by redeeming them; Who dismisses all their debts by justifying them; and Who will crown them with an eternal kingdom by preserving them.” Continue reading
Continuing our Advent look at Messianic prophecies for this year, a series which we began in Advent 2011 and continued in 2102 and 2013, the earlier posts of the series may be read here, here, here ,here, here, here, here, here , here , here, here, here, here , here, here, here and here, we come to Haggai 2: 6-8 :
 The word that I covenanted with you when you came out of the land of Egypt: and my spirit shall be in the midst of you: fear not.
 For thus saith the Lord of hosts: Yet one little while, and I will move the heaven and the earth, and the sea, and the dry land.
 And I will move all nations: AND THE DESIRED OF ALL NATIONS SHALL COME: and I will fill this house with glory: saith the Lord of hosts.
Saint Augustine reveals Who this passage refers to: Continue reading
In the footsteps of the Dumb Ox, we come to the Third Sunday in Advent:
Now, when John had heard in the prison the works of Christ,” &c. — S. Matt. xi. 2-4.
IN the preceding Gospel the Advent of Justice was treated of: in this Gospel the Advent of Grace is considered. Mention is here made of S. John Baptist, whose name is interpreted the grace of God; or, as he in whom the grace of God was. Four things are here spoken about S. John — (1) his imprisonment; (2) the question about the Advent of Christ by the disciples whom He sent; (3) the answer of the Lord; (4) the manifold commendation of John. He was praised chiefly on four accounts — (1) for the strength of his constancy; (2) for the rigour of his clothing; (3) for the dignity of his office; (4) for the holiness of his life. Firstly, when John had heard; secondly, “Who art thou;” thirdly, “Go and shew John again,” &c.; fourthly, “He began to say unto the multitudes concerning John.” And, again (1) of the commendation, “What went ye out into the wilderness to see? A reed shaken with the wind?” (2) “A man clothed in soft raiment.” (3) “Yea I say unto you, and more than a prophet.” (4) “This is he of whom it is written, Behold, I send My messenger before thy face,” &c. But afterwards it ought to be known concerning the bonds that three kinds of people are said to be in bonds. The godly are placed in the bonds of precepts; the impious, in the bonds of sinners; the condemned, in the bonds of the tormentors. Of the first, Ezekiel iv. 8, “Behold, I will lay bands upon thee.” Hos. xi. 4, “I drew them with the cords of a man; with bands of love.” Of the second, Prov. v. 22, “He shall be holden with the cords of his sins.” Isa. x. 4 (Vulgate), “That you be not bound down under the bond.” Of the third, Wisdom xvii. 2, “Fettered with the bonds of darkness.” S. Matt. xxii. 13, “Bind him hand and foot, and take him away and cast him into outer darkness.” The first bonds are to be sought for; the second bonds to be dissolved; and the third to be avoided. For three reasons the bonds of the teachers are to be embraced (1) because by them safety is obtained against all evil; (2) because he who is bound by them is protected by the wisdom of God; (3) because from them he goes forth to government. Of the first reason, Eccles. vi. 30, “Then shall her fetters be a strong defence.” Of the second reason, Wisdom x. 14, “And left him not in bonds.” Of the third reason, Eccles. iv. 14, “Because out of prison and chains sometimes a man cometh forth to a kingdom.” There are not only the bonds of preceptors to be embraced, but the bonds of sinners to be dissolved. For the sinner is bound with the chains of pride, of avarice, of luxury, and of an evil tongue. Of the first chain, Job xxxix. 5, “Who hath sent out the wild ass free? Or who hath loosed the bands of the wild ass?” By the wild ass pride is understood. Job xi. 12, “For vain man would be wise, though man be born like a wild ass’s colt;” whence the bands of the wild ass are the bands of pride. Of the second chain, Isa. v. 18, “Woe unto them that draw iniquity with cords of vanity.” Riches are vanity. Of the third chain, Prov. viii. 22, “Immediately he followeth her as an ox led to be a victim, and not knowing that he is drawn like a fool to bonds,” (Vul.), for the hands of a woman are the bonds that draw. Ecc. vii. 27, “And I find more bitter than death the woman whose heart is snares and nets, and her hands as bands.” These are the bonds that are to be dissolved. Continue reading
Continuing our Advent look at Messianic prophecies for this year, which we began in Advent 2011 and continued in 2102 and 2013, the earlier posts of the series may be read here, here, here ,here, here, here, here, here , here , here, here, here, here , here, here and here ,we come to Isaiah 50:6:
I have given my body to the strikers, and my cheeks to them that plucked them: I have not turned away my face from them that rebuked me, and spit upon me.
Saint Athanasius links this passage to the sufferings of Christ: Continue reading
Our progress through Advent continues with the Angelic Doctor as our guide:
“For whatsoever things were written aforetime were written for our learning.”
Rom. xv. 4.
THE Apostle has taught us on the preceding Sunday to arise from the dead; on this day he teaches us towards what we ought to arise, for the Scripture, which our heavenly Master has given for us, is to be studied and read. And the Lord as a good Master was the more solicitous to provide us with the best writings, that He might make us perfectly instructed. “Whatever things,” He said, “were written, were written for our learning.” But these writings are comprised in two books that is to say, in the Book of Creation, and in the Book of Scripture.
The first book has so many creations: it has just so many most perfect writings, which teach the truth without a lie; hence, when Aristotle was asked whence he had learnt so many and so great things, answered, “From the things themselves, which know not how to deceive.” But they teach two things to be learned; and of the things which may be known four things are to be taught.
First, that there is a God; secondly, that this God is one; thirdly, that this God is triune; and, fourthly, that He is the highest good. For the world teaches by itself that it is His work. Wis. xiii. 5, “For by the greatness of the beauty, and of the creature, the Creator of them may be seen, to be known thereby.” Because they are one, and are preserved, in the same manner, they teach the unity of God; for, if there were many Gods, the world would have already been destroyed, since division is the cause of destruction.” S. Matt. xii. 25, “Every kingdom divided against itself is brought to desolation; and every city or house divided against itself shall not stand.” For all things exist by number, weight, and measure; or, according to S. Augustine, “On the Trinity by mode, by species, and by order; so that they teach a three-fold Godhead.” Wis. xi. 21, “Thou hast ordered all things in measure, number, and weight.” Because all things are good, they teach that He is the highest goodness through Whom so many good things proceed. According to S. Augustine it is a great token of goodness that every creature conceives itself to be good; therefore, because God is good, so are we. About the actions to be done, in like manner, we are taught a four-fold lesson. God is to be obeyed, loved, feared, and praised. Of the first, we ought to obey God, for all things serve Him. Ps. cxlviii. 6, “He hath made a decree which shall not pass.” Continue reading
As an explanation of why we celebrate Christmas each year, the above video is superb and concise.
The words of Linus are of course taken from the Gospel of Saint Luke:
And there were in the same country shepherds abiding in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night.
And, lo, the angel of the Lord came upon them, and the glory of the Lord shone round about them: and they were sore afraid.
And the angel said unto them,
Fear not: for, behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people.
For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, which is Christ the Lord.
And this shall be a sign unto you; Ye shall find the babe wrapped in swaddling clothes, lying in a manger.
And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God, and saying,
Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men. Continue reading
Continuing our Advent look at Messianic prophecies for this year, which we began in Advent 2011 and continued in 2102 and 2013, the earlier posts of the series may be read here, here, here ,here, here, here, here, here , here , here, here, here, here , here and here we come to Jeremiah 23: 5-6:
 Behold the days come, saith the Lord, and I will raise up to David a just branch: and a king shall reign, and shall be wise, and shall execute judgement and justice in the earth.
 In those days shall Juda be saved, and Israel shall dwell confidently: and this is the name that they shall call him: the Lord our just one.
Pope Leo in Sermon 28, his great Christmas sermon, illuminates this passage for us: Continue reading
I can think of no finer guide for us as we proceed through Advent this year than the Angelic Doctor. Here is a sermon he wrote for the First Sunday in Advent:
“Behold, thy King cometh unto thee, meek,” &c. — S. Matt. xxi. 5.
THIS is a prophecy of the Advent of Our Lord Jesus Christ, about which there are three signs.
First, the dignity of Him Who is coming; secondly, the utility of His Advent; thirdly, the manner in which He came.
Of the first sign we read in the Gospel, “Thy King cometh;” a merciful King; a just King; a wise King; a terrible King; an omnipotent King; an eternal King. A merciful King in sparing; a just in judging; a good in rewarding; a wise in governing; an omnipotent King in defending the good; a terrible King in punishing the evil; an eternal King in ruling eternally, and in bestowing immortality. Of the first, Isa. xvi. 5, “And in mercy shall the throne be established.”
Of the second, Isa. xxxiv., “And behold, a King shall reign in justice;” Isa. xvi. 5, “And He shall sit upon it in truth in the tabernacle of David.”
Of the third, Ps. Ixxiii. 1, “Truly God, is good to Israel, even to such as are of a clean heart.”
Of the fourth, Jer. xxiii. 5, “I will raise unto David a righteous branch, and a King shall reign and prosper, and shall execute justice and judgment in the earth.”
Of the fifth, Esth. xiii. 9, “Lord, Lord, the King Almighty, for the whole world is in Thy power.”
Of the sixth, Wis. xi. 10, “As a severe King, Thou didst condemn and punish.”
Of the seventh, Jer. x. 10, ” But the Lord is the true God, He is the living God and an everlasting King ;” S. Luke i. 33, ” And of His Kingdom there shall be no end.”
Of the seven, collectively, 2 Macc. i. 24, “O Lord, Lord, God, Creator of all things, Who art fearful, and strong, and righteous, and merciful, and the only gracious King.” Wisdom in the Creator, mercy in the pitiful, goodness in the good, justice in the just, severity in the terrible, power in the powerful, eternity in the eternal. Continue reading
(The day of the beatification of Pope Paul VI seems like a good day to repost this post.)
I have long heard about Pope Paul VI having referred to the “smoke of Satan” having entered the Church. Usually most references to it do not mention when it was said and in what context. The quote apparently was said on June 29, 1972 by Pope Paul VI on the ninth anniversary of his coronation during a homily given at a mass for the solemnity of Saint Peter and Saint Paul. The Italian text is here. As far as I know there is no official translation. On November 13, 2006 Jimmy Atkin posted at his blog a translation done of the homily by Father Stephanos Pedrano. Please note that the text that is translated is a summary of what the Pope said and not a word for word transcript of what the Pope said. Father Pedrano’s translation is as follows (I have placed in red the portion of the text that refers to Satan): Continue reading
The fourth and final part of my presentation of the four sermons on the Anti-Christ delivered by John Henry Cardinal Newman before his conversion during Advent in 1835. Part I is here, part II is here and Part III is here.
In this last sermon Newman speaks of the persecution that will attend the reign of the anti-Christ. In Newman’s day, living memory could recall the savage persecution that the Church endured dring the initial years of the French Revolution. In our time, we have the blood-stained last century when millions of Christians were martyred for their faith. It is all too easy to suspect that those terrible persecutions were trial runs for the persecution of the Anti-Christ. The last century brought to reality these words of Newman: “Let us then apprehend and realize the idea, thus clearly brought before us, that, sheltered as the Church has been from persecution for 1500 years, yet a persecution awaits it, before the end, fierce and more perilous than any which occurred at its first rise.” Certainly all prior persecutions pale before what Christians experienced in the Terrible Twentieth.
This is an interesting passage from Newman’s sermon: “Again, another anxious sign at the present time is what appears in the approaching destruction of the Mahometan power. This too may outlive our day; still it tends visibly to annihilation, and as it crumbles, perchance the sands of the world’s life are running out.” I assume that Newman was thinking of the decline of the Ottoman Empire of his day, the sick man of Europe. Freed from this adversary, perhaps Europe would unite behind one man, reform or revive the Roman Empire, and bring about the conditions for the Anti-Christ. Small wonder that Hitler was frequently deemed the Anti-Christ during his lifetime. Of course Hitler was not the Anti-Christ, but perhaps merely one of myriads of anti-Christs who have arisen and fallen in the centuries since the coming of Christ, or perhaps he is a precursor of the Anti-Christ.
In our secular age, when the Faith is so weak in so many regions of traditional strength, especially in Europe, these words of Newman ring home: “It is his policy to split us up and divide us, to dislodge us gradually from our rock of strength. And if there is to be a persecution, perhaps it will be then; then, perhaps, when we are all of us in all parts of Christendom so divided, and so reduced, so full of schism, so close upon heresy. When we have cast ourselves upon the world and depend for protection upon it, and have given up our independence and our strength, then he may burst upon us in fury as far as God allows him. “
Newman ends with the hope that the knowledge of a coming persecution may cause us to act more like Christians: “Surely with this thought before us, we cannot bear to give ourselves up to thoughts of ease and comfort, of making money, settling well, or rising in the world. Surely with this thought before us, we cannot but feel that we are, what all Christians really are in the best estate, (nay rather would wish to be had they their will, if they be Christians in heart) pilgrims, watchers waiting for the morning, waiting for the light, eagerly straining our eyes for the first dawn of day—looking out for our SAVIOUR’S coming, His glorious advent, when He will end the reign of sin and wickedness, accomplish the number of His elect, and perfect those who at present struggle with infirmity, yet in their hearts love and obey Him.”
The fourth and final sermon of Newman on the Anti-Christ: Continue reading
Something for the weekend. As Advent draws to a close Veni, Veni, Emmanuel seems appropriate. The words are from the ninth century and the music from a fifteenth century French melody.
A rendition by Mannheim Steamroller:
Continuing our look at Advent and Christmas movies: The Bishop’s Wife from 1947. David Niven is an Episcopalian Bishop of a struggling diocese; Loretta Young (ironically one of the more devout Catholics in the Hollywood of her time) is his wife; and Cary Grant is Dudley, one of the more unimportant angels in Heaven, sent by God to lend the Bishop a hand. The film is a graceful comedy which effectively and quietly underlines the central importance of faith in God as we see in this little scene:
In this sermon Newman considers the City and Empire of Rome and its relation to the Anti-Christ. Many Protestant theologians since the Reformation identified the Roman Catholic Church as the Whore of Babylon and the Pope as Anti-Christ. Newman wrote a detailed attack in 1840 on this belief while he was still a Protestant. It may be read here. For Newman the Rome identified with the AntiChrist was the City and the Empire and not the Church. Newman sums up the relationship of Rome and the Anti-Christ as follows: “The question asked was, Is not (as is commonly said and believed among us) Rome mentioned in the Apocalypse, as having especial share in the events which will come at the end of the world by means or after the time of Antichrist. I answer this, that Rome’s judgments have come on her in great measure, when her empire was taken from her; that her persecutions of the Church have been in great measure judged, and the Scripture predictions concerning her fulfilled; that whether or not, she shall be further judged depends on two circumstances, first, whether “the righteous men” in the city who saved her when her judgment first came may not, through GOD’S great mercy, be allowed to save her still; next, whether the prophecy relates in its fulness to Rome or to some other object or objects of which Rome is a type. And further, I say, that if Rome is still to be judged, this must be before Antichrist comes, because Antichrist comes upon and destroys the ten kings, and lasts but a short space, but the ten kings are to destroy Rome. On the other hand, so far would seem to be clear, that the prophecy itself has not been fully accomplished, whatever we decide about Rome’s concern in it. The Roman empire has not yet been divided into ten heads, nor has it yet risen against the woman, whoever she stands for, nor has the woman yet received her ultimate judgment.”
The confession of evil works is the first beginning of good works.
I went to Confession with my bride tonight. I always think we must give an interesting contrast to the priest as we confess seriatim. My bride is one of the saintliest people I have ever encountered. Her confession must be a breeze! While I am a fairly typical attorney, with all that implies! (I suppose I am not quite as bad as Charles II. When the Merrie Monarch was on his death bed he was received into the Faith by Father John Huddleston who had helped care for him during Charles’ escape after the battle of Worcester. He was told By Father Huddleston that he must confess all his sins. Charles looked at the elderly priest and said “Ah, Father, I doubt if either of us have sufficient time for the recitation of all my sins!”)
I have never confessed without feeling that a mountain of sin has been lifted from my shoulders, as indeed it has. In A Christmas Carol Scrooge announces after his conversion that he feels as giddy as a schoolboy, and that Is always my mood after Confession. I wish the whole world tonight might feel precisely the same giddiness.
In Confession I have always observed the rule of the three B’s:
1. Be Blunt.
2. Be Brief.
3. Be Gone.
It saves time, especially if one attempts to prepare a mental list of sins beforehand. I always end my confessions with the formula that I am truly sorry for any sins that I cannot recall.
(I originally posted these sermons back in 2009 when the readership of the blog was quite smaller. Time to do so again. The Anti-Christ would seem at first blush to be a theme for the end of the liturgical year which focuses on the end times and not during Advent. However, Christ came to bring us to salvation and the exact opposite goal is that of the Anti-Christ. Thinking about the Anti-Christ during Advent reminds us that the mission of Christ is ongoing and that at Advent we celebrate the beginning of that mission, not as a mere historical event that occurred two millennia ago, but an on-going reality.}
Prior to his conversion to Catholicism, Blessed John Henry Cardinal Newman preached in 1835 a series of Advent Sermons on the Anti-Christ. I have always found them extremely intriguing, and I am going to present them on each of the Sundays in Advent this year.
In this first sermon Newman gives us an overview of the Anti-Christ and the time of his appearance. We see in this sermon Newman’s total command of history and how he uses this knowledge to draw out the implications of the few mentions of the Anti-Christ in Scripture. Newman intellectually was always first and foremost a historian of the highest order and he puts this talent to good and instructive use in this sermon. When Newman converted the Church gained one of the finest intellects of the Nineteenth Century or any century for that matter. Much of Newman’s work concerned the working out of God’s plan for salvation through human history, and his examination of the Anti-Christ places that mysterious part of revelation into that plan. Continue reading
Continuing our Advent look at Messianic prophecies which we began last Advent, the earlier posts of the series may be read here, here, here ,here, here, here, here, here and here , we come to Isaiah 60: 1-6.
 Arise, be enlightened, O Jerusalem: for thy light is come, and the glory of the Lord is risen upon thee.
 For behold darkness shall cover the earth, and a mist the people: but the Lord shall arise upon thee, and his glory shall be seen upon thee.
 And the Gentiles shall walk in thy light, and kings in the brightness of thy rising.
 Lift up thy eyes round about, and see: all these are gathered together, they are come to thee: thy sons shall come from afar, and thy daughters shall rise up at thy side.
 Then shalt thou see, and abound, and thy heart shall wonder and be enlarged, when the multitude of the sea shall be converted to thee, the strength of the Gentiles shall come to thee.
 The multitude of camels shall cover thee, the dromedaries of Madian and Epha: all they from Saba shall come, bringing gold and frankincense: and shewing forth praise to the Lord.
Saint Methodius has written the following in regard to this passage: Continue reading
A wicked and adulterous generation seeketh after a sign: and a sign shall not be given it, but the sign of Jonas the prophet. And he left them, and went away.
 Now the Lord prepared a great fish to swallow up Jonas: and Jonas was in the belly of the fish three days and three nights.
Saint Jerome writes about this passage: Continue reading