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Advent Sermons of Saint Bernard of Clairvaux-Part IV

 

This Advent we will look at Advent sermons of Saint Bernard of Clairvaux.  They are concise in words and huge in thought, a model for priests to strive to emulate.  Go here to view the first one, here to view the second and here to view the third.

 

IN the Nativity of our Blessed Lord there are two things to be considered, both exceedingly different, exceedingly wonderful. The Child Who is born is God, the Mother of whom He is born is a Virgin, and her child-bearing is without pain. To celebrate these new wonders a new light from heaven shines forth in the darkness of midnight. The angel announces tidings of great joy. A multitude of the heavenly army praise God and sing, “Glory to God on high, and peace on earth to men of good-will.” The shepherds hasten to find the Word that has been announced to them. They proclaim it to others, and all that hear are filled with admiration. Mysteries such as these are signs of Divine power, not of human weakness. They are as the gold and silver vessels, from which, on account of the solemnity, even the poor are served at our Lord’s Sacred Table.

 

 
The wise man says, “Consider diligently the things set before thee.” (Prov. xxiii. 1.) I may truly claim to myself the time and place of this Nativity, the weakness of His infantine body, the tears and cries of this sweet Little One, as well as the poverty and vigils of the shepherds to whom our Saviour’s Nativity was first announced. These circumstances are truly mine; for me they were planned, before me they have been placed, and they are offered to me for my spiritual food, for my contemplation.

 

 

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Handel’s Advent Messiah

Something for the weekend.  The Advent portions of Handel’s Messiah.  The above video is the Overture.

Next we have “Comfort Ye” which is a messianic text from Isaiah 40.

“Comfort ye, comfort ye My people, saith your God. Speak ye comfortably to
Jerusalem, and cry unto her, that her warfare is accomplished, that her
iniquity is pardoned. The voice of him that crieth in the wilderness,
prepare ye the way of the Lord. Make straight in the desert a highway for
our God. ”

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The Three Godfathers

 

 

An interesting film for Advent or Chistmas is a John Wayne flick.  John Wayne in a Christmas movie?  Yep, The Three Godfathers in 1948!   Another fruitful John Ford and John Wayne collaboration, the film was released in December 1948.  Three bank robbers, portrayed by John Wayne, Pedro Armedariz and Harry Carey, Jr.,  stumble across a dying woman and her newborn son in a desert in the American Southwest.  The three outlaws, although they are attempting to elude a posse, promise the dying woman to look after her son.

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Advent Sermons of Saint Bernard of Clairvaux-Part III

 

This Advent we will look at Advent sermons of Saint Bernard of Clairvaux.  They are concise in words and huge in thought, a model for priests to strive to emulate.  Go here to view the first one and here to view the second.

 

“And the Lord spoke again to Achaz, saying: Ask thee a sign of the Lord thy God, either unto the depth of hell, or unto the height above. And Achaz said: I will not ask, and I will not tempt the Lord.”(Isa. vii. 10-12.)
WE have heard Isaiah persuading King Achaz to ask for a sign from the Lord, either in the depth of hell, or in the height above. We have heard the King’s answer ^ having the semblance of piety, but not its reality. On this account he deserved to be rejected by Him Who sees the heart, and to Whom the thoughts of men confess. “I will not ask, “he says, “and I will not tempt the Lord. “Achaz was puffed up with the pomp of the regal throne, and skilled in the cunning words of human wisdom. Isaias has therefore heard the words: “Go, tell that fox to ask for himself a sign from the Lord unto the depths of hell. “For the fox had a hole, but it was in hell, where, if he descended, he would find One Who would catch the wise in his cunning. Again: “Go,” says the Lord, “to that bird, and let him ask for a sign in the heights above,” for the bird hath his high nest; but though he ascend to heaven, he will there find Him Who “resisteth the proud,” and trampleth with might on the necks of the lofty and high-minded. Achaz refused to ask a sign of that sovereign power, or that incomprehensible depth. Wherefore the Lord Himself promised to the house of David a sign of goodness and charity, that those whom the exhibition of His power could not terrify, nor the manifestations of His wisdom subdue, might be allured by His exceeding love. In the words “depth of hell “may be not unfitly portrayed the charity “greater than which no man hath, “that Christ should at death descend even unto hell “for His friends. “And in this God would teach Achaz either to dread the majesty of Him Who reigns in the highest, or to embrace the charity of Him Who descends to the lowest. Grievous, therefore, alike to God and man is he who will neither think on majesty with fear nor meditate on charity with love. “Wherefore,” the Prophet says, “the Lord himself shall give you a sign.”(Isa. vii. 14.) – a sign resplendent alike with majesty and love. “Behold a virgin shall conceive, and bear a Son, and his name shall be called Emmanuel, which is interpreted, ‘God with us.'” O Adam! flee not away, for God is with us! Fear not, O man, nor be afraid to hear His name; it is “God with us.” With us in the likeness of our nature; with us for our service and for our profit. For us He is come as one of us, passible like unto us. Continue Reading

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Brother Orchid: The Seductive Power of Good

Brother Superior: When the heart speaks, Brother Orchid, other hearts must listen.

Brother Orchid (1940)

Interested in seeing a screwball-comedy-film noir gangster-western-religious flick?  I am always on the lookout for oddball films for Advent and they don’t come odder, or more heart warming, than Brother Orchid (1940).  Starring Edward G. Robinson with a fantastic supporting cast including Humphrey Bogart, Ann Southern, Ralph Bellamy and Donald Crisp, it is a trip back to the Golden Age of Hollywood when literate, thoughtful films were considered mass entertainment.  It also is a fine exponent of a facet of the human condition that is not much commented upon today:  the seductive power of good.  A review of the film is below with the usual caveat as to spoilers. Continue Reading

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Advent Sermons of Saint Bernard of Clairvaux-Part II

This Advent we will look at Advent sermons of Saint Bernard of Clairvaux.  They are concise in words and huge in thought, a model for priests to strive to emulate.  Go here to view the first one.  Here is the second:

 

GREAT are the works of the Lord,” (Ps. cx. 2.) says the Psalmist. Great indeed are all God s works, but the mysteries which chiefly excite our wonder and admiration are naturally those which concern our eternal salvation. Hence the same Prophet sings: “The Lord hath done great things for us.” (Ps. cxxv. 3.) His munificent dealings with us are shown forth chiefly in our Creation, our present redemption, and our future glorification. O Lord, how greatly art Thou exalted in all Thy works! Do Thou proclaim their excellence to Thy people, and let us not be silent concerning them.

 
There is a threefold commingling to be considered in these three mysteries, most manifestly heavenly, most evidently the effect of the omnipotence of God. In the first of these mysteries, that of our creation, “God made man from the slime of the earth, and breathed into his face the breath of life.” (Gen. ii. 7.) What a wonderful Creator, Who unites and commingles things so opposite! At His beck the slime of the earth and the spirit, or breath of life, are united, and make one being. The earth of which He made man had been previously created when “in the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.” But the origin of the spirit was special, not common. It was not infused into the mass of matter, but is specially breathed into each individual of the human race.

 
O man, acknowledge your dignity! Recognize the glory of human nature! You have a body taken from this earth, for it was fitting that one who is the appointed lord of all visible creatures should bear a similarity to them. But you are at the same time more noble and more exalted than they; nor are they in any way to be compared to you. In you body and soul are closely united; the first is moulded and fashioned, the second is inspired. On which side lies the advantage? Which of the two is the gainer in this union? According to the wisdom of this world, where what is low and mean is associated with what is excellent, those who are in power lord it over their inferiors, and bend them to their will. The strong man tramples on him who is the weaker; the learned man ridicules one who is unlearned; the crafty one deceives the simple; the powerful man despises the weak. It is not thus, O God, in Thy work, not thus in Thy commingling. It was not for such a purpose that Thou didst unite spirit with matter; what is exalted with what is lowly; a noble and excellent creature with the abject, worthless clay. Thou didst will the soul to rule; at the same time who does not see what dignity and advantage it thus confers on the body? Would not the body without the soul be senseless matter? From the soul it derives its beauty, from the soul its growth, from the soul the brightness of the eye and the sound of the voice. All the senses are animated by the soul. By this union charity is commended to me. I read of charity in the very history of my own creation. Not only is charity proclaimed in its first page; it is imprinted within me by the gracious hand of my Maker.

 
Great indeed is this union of body and soul; would that it had remained firm and unbroken! But, alas! though it had been secured by the Divine seal – for God made man to His own image and likeness – the union was marred, for the seal was broken and the likeness defaced. The worst of thieves approached, stealthily damaged the yet fresh seal, and so sadly changed the Divine likeness that man is now compared to senseless beasts, and is become like unto them.

 
God made man just, and of this his likeness to God it is written: “The Lord our God is righteous, and there is no iniquity in him.” (Ps. xci. 16.) He made man just and truthful, as He Himself is justice and truth; nor could this union be broken while the integrity of the seal was preserved. But that forger came, and, while promising a better seal, broke, alas! that which had been stamped by the hand of God. “You shall be as gods,” he said, “knowing good and evil.” (Gen. iii. 5.) O malicious one! O crafty spirit! Of what use to that man and woman could the likeness of this knowledge be? Let them “be as gods” by all means, but let them be upright, truthful, like God, in Whom there is no sin. While this seal remained whole the union remained uninjured. Now we have a woeful experience of what we were persuaded to attempt by the devil’s craft. The seal once broken, a bitter parting followed, a sad divorce. O wicked wretch! where is your promise, “You shall not die”? Behold, we all die. There is no man living that shall not taste death. What, then, will become of us, O Lord our God? Will no one repair Thy work? Will no one help to raise the fallen? None can remake but He Who first made. Therefore, “by reason of the misery of the needy, and the groans of the poor, now I will arise, saith the Lord. I will set him in safety: I will deal confidently in his regard.” (Ps. xi. 6.) The enemy shall not prevail over him, nor the son of iniquity have any power to hurt him. Behold, I now make a new mixture, upon which I set a deeper and stronger seal. I will give to fallen man Him Who was not made to My likeness, but Who is the very image and splendour of My glory and the figure of My substance; not made, but begotten before all ages.

 

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Messianic Prophecies: Isaiah 61: 1

Initiating our Advent look at Messianic prophecies for this year, a series which we began in Advent 2011 and continued in 2102, 2013, 2014 and 2015, 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 , here,   here, here here, here, here    and here, we come to Isaiah 61: 1:

[1] The spirit of the Lord is upon me, because the Lord hath anointed me: he hath sent me to preach to the meek, to heal the contrite of heart, and to preach a release to the captives, and deliverance to them that are shut up. Continue Reading

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Advent Sermons of Saint Bernard of Clairvaux-Part I

 

 

This Advent we will look at Advent sermons of Saint Bernard of Clairvaux.  They are concise in words and huge in thought, a model for priests to strive to emulate:

 

 

THE solemnity of our Lord’s Nativity is indeed a great and glorious day, but a short one, and a short day calls for a short sermon.
No wonder if we make a short speech, since God the Father has made an abbreviated Word – Verbum abbreviatum. Would you know how long and how short is the Word He has made? This Word says, “I fill heaven and earth,” (Jer. xxiii. 24.) yet, now that “the Word is made flesh,” He is placed in a narrow manger. The Psalmist exclaimed, “From eternity and to eternity thou art God,” (Ps. lxxxix. 2.) yet, behold! He is a Child of a day. And why this? What necessity was there that the Lord of Majesty should so annihilate Himself, should thus humble Himself, thus abbreviate Himself, except to show that we should do in like manner? He now proclaims by example what He will one day preach in words “Learn of Me, for I am meek and humble of heart” and He does so that the Evangelist might be proved truthful when he said of this Word, “Jesus began to do and to teach.”

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Handel’s Advent Messiah: For Unto Us A Son Is Given

The culmination of the Advent portions of Handel’s Advent Messiah.  Go here to listen to the earlier portions.

 

Handel heralds the coming of Christ with the immortal words of Isaiah Chapter 9, verse 6:

For unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given: and the government shall be upon his shoulder: and his name shall be called Wonderful, Counselor, The mighty God, The everlasting Father, The Prince of Peace.

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Video Clip Worth Watching: Brother Orchid Confesses

Brother Superior: When the heart speaks, Brother Orchid, other hearts must listen.

 

A brilliant scene from a brilliant movie, Edward G. Robinson as Brother Orchid takes a large step in his gradual transformation from being a mobster disguising himself as a monk into a real monk.  Although not a sacramental confession, the scene has always struck me as an example of the shame and redemption that a good confession brings to a sincere penitent.  After the scene Brother Orchid is forgiven, the “Brother Superior” wryly admitting that as a young monk he had been guilty of the same sin of paying a child to do some of his work at the monastery.  Go here to read about Brother Orchid (1940) an astonishingly moving screwball-comedy-film noir gangster-western-religious flick that makes great Advent viewing as it illustrates the impact of the grace of God on the most unlikely of souls.

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Video Clip Worth Watching: Battle of the Bulge Sermon

A film clip from Battleground (1949), a rousing tribute to the heroic stand of the 101st Airborne at Bastogne at Christmas 1944, which helped turn the tide of the Battle of the Bulge. Seventy-one years ago on December 16, 1944 the Germans launched their last desperate offensive to turn defeat into victory.   The sermon helps explain to the men why they are there, and why the sacrifices they were being called upon to make were important and necessary.

We should always be mindful of the men and women in our military who are far from their families today,  destined to celebrate Christmas often in dangerous situations.  May God bless them and keep them, and may we always remember the sacrifices they make for us.

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Christ as the Greatest Black Swan: At the Center of History

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“I am a historian, I am not a believer.  But I must confess as a historian that this penniless preacher from Nazareth is irrevocably the very center of history.  Jesus Christ is easily the most dominant figure in all history.”

H.G. Wells

 

 

 

The third part of our Advent look at Jesus as the greatest Black Swan event in human history.  Go here to read part one and here to read part two.

Nassim Nicholas Taleb, in his 2007 book The Black Swan, took a look at the impact of events in history for which our prior experiences give us no inkling.  Taleb states three requirements for a Black Swan Event:

First, it is an outlier, as it lies outside the realm of regular expectations, because nothing in the past can convincingly point to its possibility. Second, it carries an extreme ‘impact’. Third, in spite of its outlier status, human nature makes us concoct explanations for its occurrence after the fact, making it explainable and predictable.

“Extreme impact” is such an understatement if used in reference to the impact of the coming of Christ on the History of Man.  Such an outcome would have been considered impossible judging strictly from the facts of His life.  A brief three year preaching ministry in a backwater of the Roman Empire, born a member of a conquered and widely despised people.  Opposed from the start by the leaders of His people and ignored by the Roman occupiers, His movement was strangled at its inception by His death on the Cross.  All but one of His Apostles fled from Him in panic, desperate to deny any connection with a clearly doomed cause.  Few lives seemed more complete a failure than did that of Christ when His body was deposited in a borrowed tomb.  His destiny seemed clear:  to be forgotten by History, not even a footnote.  Then came the Resurrection, His appearances after the Crucifixion, and his movement experienced a glorious dawn.

However, the odds against this movement accomplishing anything of note remained quite daunting.  No powerful supporters; no homeland embracing their faith;  cultures, both Jewish and Gentile, which were hostile to the preaching of the Gospel;  countless other religions which were well-established and intolerant of a new rival;  disputes quickly arising to split the movement, and the list of handicaps for these Christians as they were soon called was a lengthy one. Continue Reading

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Lo How a Rose E’er Blooming

Therefore the Lord himself shall give you a sign. Behold a virgin shall conceive, and bear a son, and his name shall be called Emmanuel.

Isaiah 7:14

Something for the weekend.  Lo How a Rose E’er Blooming.  Written by the ever prolific composer Anonymous in 16th century Germany, it quickly became a favorite hymn of both Catholics and Protestants in that time and land of religious strife, and that is a good message for Christmas. Continue Reading

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Fifty Years of Linus Explaining the Meaning of Christmas

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

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Advent Sermons of Saint Thomas Aquinas-Fourth Sunday in Advent

 

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

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Messianic Prophecies: Haggai 2: 6-8

 

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 :

[6] 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.

[7] 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.

[8] 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

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Advent Sermons of Saint Thomas Aquinas-Third Sunday in Advent

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

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Messianic Prophecies: Isaiah 50:6

 

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

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Advent Sermons of Saint Thomas Aquinas-Second Sunday in Advent

 

 

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

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Linus, and Saint Luke, Say It All

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

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Messianic Prophesies: Jeremiah 23: 5-6

 

 

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:

 

 [5] 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.

[6] 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

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Advent Sermons of Saint Thomas Aquinas-First Sunday in Advent

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

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Pope Paul VI and the Smoke of Satan

 

(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

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Advent and Anti-Christ, Part IV

Deeds of the Antichrist

 

 

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

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The Bishop’s Wife

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:

Continue Reading

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Advent and Anti-Christ, Part III

Part three of my presentation of the four sermons of John Henry Cardinal Newman on the Anti-Christ delivered in 1835 before his conversion.  Part I is here and Part II is here.

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.”

Continue Reading

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Advent and Confession

The confession of evil works is the first beginning of good works.

Saint Augustine

 

 

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.

Continue Reading

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Advent and Anti-Christ, Part I

 

 

(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

Messianic Prophecies: Isaiah 60: 1-6

 

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.

[1] Arise, be enlightened, O Jerusalem: for thy light is come, and the glory of the Lord is risen upon thee.

 

[2] 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.

 

[3] And the Gentiles shall walk in thy light, and kings in the brightness of thy rising.

 

[4] 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.

 

[5] 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.

 

[6] 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

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Messianic Prophecies: Jonah 2:1

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.

Matthew 16:4

 

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, and here we come to Jonah 2:1:

[1] 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

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Messianic Prophecies: Malachi 3:1-5

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 and here, we look today at Malachi 3: 1-5.

 

[1] Behold I send my angel, and he shall prepare the way before my face. And presently the Lord, whom you seek, and the angel of the testament, whom you desire, shall come to his temple. Behold he cometh, saith the Lord of hosts.

 [2] And who shall be able to think of the day of his coming? and who shall stand to see him? for he is like a refining fire, and like the fuller’s herb:

[3] And he shall sit refining and cleansing the silver, and he shall purify the sons of Levi, and shall refine them as gold, and as silver, and they shall offer sacrifices to the Lord in justice. [4] And the sacrifice of Juda and of Jerusalem shall please the Lord, as in the days of old, and in the ancient years.

 [5] And I will come to you in judgment, and will be a speedy witness against sorcerers, and adulterers, and false swearers, and them that oppress the hireling in his wages; the widows, and the fatherless: and oppress the stranger, and have not feared me, saith the Lord of hosts. Continue Reading

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Messianic Prophecies: Zechariah 9:9-10

 

 

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, and here, we come to Zechariah 9:9-10 :

[9] Rejoice greatly, O daughter of Sion, shout for joy, O daughter of Jerusalem: BEHOLD THY KING will come to thee, the just and saviour: he is poor, and riding upon an ass, and upon a colt the foal of an ass. [10] And I will destroy the chariot out of Ephraim, and the horse out of Jerusalem, and the bow for war shall be broken: and he shall speak peace to the Gentiles, and his power shall be from sea to sea, and from the rivers even to the end of the earth.

Saint Clement of Alexandria wrote about this passage: Continue Reading

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O Come, O Come Emmanuel

 

Something for the weekend.  Tomorrow Advent gets under way and to rush it a bit we have my favorite version of O Come O Come Emmanuel, which has always sounded to me as if a group of Zealots were singing it.  Emmanuel or Immanuel, “God With Us”, comes from the seventh chapter of Isaiah:

10  And the Lord spoke again to Achaz, saying:

 11  Ask thee a sign of the Lord thy God either unto the depth of hell, or unto the height above.

 12  And Achaz said: I will not ask, and I will not tempt the Lord.

  13  And he said: Hear ye therefore, O house of David: Is it a small thing for you to be grievous to men, that you are grievous to my God also?

  14  Therefore the Lord himself shall give you a sign. Behold a virgin shall conceive, and bear a son, and his name shall be called Emmanuel.   Continue Reading

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Advent Light in Darkest Night

 It is time to awaken from sleep. It is time for a waking up to begin somewhere. It is time to put things back where God the Lord put them.

Father Alfred Delp, SJ

During Advent 1944 Father Alfred Delp, a Jesuit, wrote a reflection on Advent.  Go here to read it.  It is a fine Advent meditation.  The circumstances of its writing demonstrate that the light of Christ, which I have always felt most strongly during Advent, can permeate any darkness.  Father Delp wrote it while he was a prisoner of the Gestapo in Nazi Germany.

Alfred Delp first saw the light of this world on September 15, 1907 in Mannheim Germany.  The son of a Catholic mother and a Protestant father, he was raised as a Protestant although he was baptized as a Catholic.  He was confirmed in the Lutheran church in 1921.  Following a bitter argument with his Lutheran pastor, he embraced Catholicism, made his first communion and was confirmed.  His Catholic pastor, seeing rare intelligence in the boy, arranged for him to continue his studies.

In 1926 he joined the Jesuits.  In 1937 he was ordained as a priest.  His further philosophical studies curtailed at  the University of Munich due to his anti-Nazi beliefs, Father Delp worked on a Jesuit publication until it was suppressed by the Nazis in April 1941.  He was then assigned as rector of Saint Georg church in Munich.  All the while he was helping Jews escape into Switzerland.  Father Delp’s Jesuit provincial Augustin Rosch was active in the anti-Nazi underground.  He introduced Father Delp to the Kreisau Circle of anti-Nazi activists.  Father Delp taught Catholic social teaching to the Circle and arranged contacts between them and  Catholic leaders. Continue Reading

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Messianic Prophecies: Isaiah 7: 11-16 and 9: 1-7

Something for the weekend.  Lo How a Rose Ere Blooming.  Continuing on with our Advent examination of major Messianic prophecies, we come to Isaiah 7: 11-16:

11 Ask thee a sign of the LORD thy God; ask it either in the  depth, or in the height above.

12 But Ahaz said, I will not ask, neither will I tempt the LORD.

13 And he said, Hear ye now, O house of David; Is it a small thing for you to weary men, but will ye weary my God also?

14 Therefore the Lord himself shall give you a sign; Behold, a virgin shall conceive, and bear a son, and shall call his name Immanuel.

15 Butter and honey shall he eat, that he may know to refuse the evil, and choose the good.

16 For before the child shall know to refuse the evil, and choose the good, the land that thou abhorrest shall be forsaken of both her kings.

and Isaiah 1-7:

1Nevertheless the dimness shall not be such as was in her vexation, when at the first he lightly afflicted the land of Zebulun and the land of Naphtali, and afterward did more grievously afflict her by the way of the sea, beyond Jordan, in Galilee of the nations.

2The people that walked in darkness have seen a great light: they that dwell in the land of the shadow of death, upon them hath the light shined.

3Thou hast multiplied the nation, and not increased the joy: they joy before thee according to the joy in harvest, and as men rejoice when they divide the spoil.

4For thou hast broken the yoke of his burden, and the staff of his shoulder, the rod of his oppressor, as in the day of Midian.

5For every battle of the warrior is with confused noise, and garments rolled in blood; but this shall be with burning and fuel of fire.

6For unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given: and the government shall be upon his shoulder: and his name shall be called Wonderful, Counsellor, The mighty God, The everlasting Father, The Prince of Peace.

7Of the increase of his government and peace there shall be no end, upon the throne of David, and upon his kingdom, to order it, and to establish it with judgment and with justice from henceforth even for ever. The zeal of the LORD of hosts will perform this.

Saint Cyril of Alexandria commented upon this passage: Continue Reading

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Messianic Prophecies: Wisdom 2: 12-20

 

 

 

Something for the weekend.  O Come, O Come Emmanuel.  We start Advent tomorrow, and my thoughts have been turning to the many messianic prophecies in the Old Testament that are applicable to Christ.  I do not think there is adequate treatment in contemporary catechesis of the remarkable string of prophecies in the Old Testament that find their completion in Christ.  All Catholics need to be familiar with these prophecies, for they are an anchor for our Faith.  One example is Wisdom 2:12-20: Continue Reading

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Advent: God So Loved The World

Advent might be summarized by John 3:16:   “For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish, but have eternal life.”

In daily life it is often easy to lose sight of the fact that we are always in the hands of an infinitely loving God who became one of us, His creatures, as a result of that love.  Men often fear and deny God I think out of a profound belief that they are unworthy of this love.  Peter, the prince of the apostles, after meeting Christ asked Him to leave him because Peter was a sinful man.  In our times, drenched in cynicism and wallowing in sin, love is in short supply it seems, and the idea of a loving God is one that many of us flee from and attempt to futilely deny.  This attitude calls to mind this passage from the Screwtape letters:

The truth is I slipped by mere carelessness into saying that the Enemy really loves the humans. That, of course, is an impossibility. He is one being, they are distinct from Him. Their good cannot be His. All His talk about Love must be a disguise for something else—He must have some real motive for creating them and taking so much trouble about them. The reason one comes to talk as if He really had this impossible Love is our utter failure to out that real motive. What does He stand to make out of them? That is the insoluble question. I do not see that it can do any harm to tell you that this very problem was a chief cause of Our Father’s quarrel with the Enemy. When the creation of man was first mooted and when, even at that stage, the Enemy freely confessed that he foresaw a certain episode about a cross, Our Father very naturally sought an interview and asked for an explanation. The Enemy gave no reply except to produce the cock-and-bull story about disinterested love which He has been circulating ever since. This Our Father naturally could not accept. He implored the Enemy to lay His cards on the table, and gave Him every opportunity. He admitted that he felt a real anxiety to know the secret; the Enemy replied “I wish with all my heart that you did”. It was, I imagine, at this stage in the interview that Our Father’s disgust at such an unprovoked lack of confidence caused him to remove himself an infinite distance from the Presence with a suddenness which has given rise to the ridiculous enemy story that he was forcibly thrown out of Heaven. Since then, we have begun to see why our Oppressor was so secretive. His throne depends on the secret. Members of His faction have frequently admitted that if ever we came to understand what He means by Love, the war would be over and we should re-enter Heaven. And there lies the great task. We know that He cannot really love: nobody can: it doesn’t make sense. If we could only find out what He is really up to! Hypothesis after hypothesis has been tried, and still we can’t find out. Yet we must never lose hope; more and more complicated theories, fuller and fuller collections of data, richer rewards for researchers who make progress, more and more terrible punishments for those who fail—all this, pursued and accelerated to the very end of time, cannot, surely, fail to succeed. Continue Reading

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Newman: Reflections at the Beginning of Advent

 

“Thine eyes shall see the King in his beauty: they shall behold the land that is very far off.” Isaiah xxxiii. 17.

 YEAR after year, as it passes, brings us the same warnings again and again, and none perhaps more impressive than those with which it comes to us at this season. The very frost and cold, rain and gloom, which now befall us, forebode the last dreary days of the world, and in religious hearts raise the thought of them. The year is worn out: spring, summer, autumn, each in turn, have brought their gifts and done their utmost; but they are over, and the end is come. All is past and gone, all has failed, all has sated; we are tired of the past; we would not have the seasons longer; and the austere weather which succeeds, though ungrateful to the body, is in tone with our feelings, and acceptable. Such is the frame of mind which befits the end of the year; and such the frame of mind which comes alike on good and bad at the end of life. The days have come in which they have no pleasure; yet they would hardly be young again, could they be so by wishing it. Life is well enough in its way; but it does not satisfy. Thus the soul is cast forward upon the future, and in proportion as its conscience is clear and its perception keen and true, does it rejoice solemnly that “the night is far spent, the day is at hand,” that there are “new heavens and a new earth” to come, though the former are failing; nay, rather that, because they are failing, it will “soon see the King in His beauty,” and “behold the land which is very far off.” These are feelings for holy men in winter and in age, waiting, in some dejection perhaps, but with comfort on the whole, and calmly though earnestly, for the Advent of Christ. Continue Reading

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Advent and Anti-Christ, Part IV

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.

Continue Reading

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Pray for the Unemployed this Advent and Christmas

In my brief life on earth I have not experienced such high unemployment amongst my family and friends this year than ever before.  As each week passes I hear of another friend or acquaintance who has lost his or her job.

This is the worst recession I have seen and I don’t see any signs that it will let up for the next 9-12 months.  So I find it appropriate that a simple request to all our readers to make time this evening prior to going to bed and include those that are unemployed, especially those with families and dependents in your prayers.

With extra time on our hands the unemployed can remain steadfastly busy by working on their faith through prayer and service.  For when work does come around there will not be time for such activities.

The following prayer is a traditional Catholic prayer that I have used from time to time due to the nature of my work of being an independent contractor and one that helps to put life in proper perspective and order:

Dear Lord Jesus Christ,
You wanted all who are weary
To come to You for support.
Lord, I am worn out
By my inability to find work.

Guide my steps to a righteous path;
Give me the patience
To find opportunities with a future.
Calm my worries and fears
As my financial responsibilities mount.
Strengthen my resolve;
Embolden my heart to open doors;
Open my eyes to see life beyond rejections.
Help me believe in me.

Let me realize other ways
To bring about Your kingdom on earth.
Let me grow as a person
That I may be worthy
For Your greater glory.
In the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit,

Amen.

Saint Joseph has been especially helpful for me and I strongly recommend him for those seeking employment:

Dear Saint Joseph, you were yourself once faced with the responsibility of providing the necessities of life for Jesus and Mary. Look down with fatherly compassion upon me in my anxiety over my present inability to support my family. Please help me to find gainful employment very soon, so that this heavy burden of concern will be lifted from my heart and that I am soon able to provide for those whom God has entrusted to my care. Help us to guard against bitterness and discouragement, so that we may emerge from this trial spiritually enriched and with even greater blessings from God.

Amen.

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The Claremont Reviews Advent Interview with Fr. James V. Schall

Since 2002 Ken Masugi, a senior fellow of the Claremont Institute and lecturer in Government at Johns Hopkins University, Washington DC, has conducted Advent interviews with James V. Schall, S.J., author of over thirty books on political theory and theology. Fr. Schall teaches in the Government Department of Georgetown University.

The interviews themselves are a delight to read and span a variety of topics from current events to the pontificate of Pope Benedict XVI to issues in philosophy, theology and ethics — and sometimes, in addition, what books Fr. Schall himself is reading at that particular moment in time.

Continue Reading

Advent and John the Baptist

In Advent my thoughts frequently turn to John the Baptist, the last, and the greatest, of the prophets who foretold the coming of Christ.  The Jews lived in expectation for many centuries for the coming of the Anointed One, the Christ.  It was left for the Baptist to be His final herald.  His cries for repentance in preparing the way for the Lord are a useful reminder to us as to the proper spirit to celebrate the birth of Christ.

Of the film portrayals of John the Baptist, my favorite is that of Charlton Heston in the movie The Greatest Story Ever Told, who conveys well the sheer force of the Baptist’s message and the courage with which he conveyed it.  John came to testify to the Truth and nothing would stop him from doing it, not even death as the last 2000 years can attest.

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Advent and Anti-Christ, Part II

 

 

Part II of my presentation of the four sermons on the Anti-Christ given by John Henry Cardinal Newman during Advent in 1835 before his conversion.  Part I is here.

In this second sermon Newman concentrates on what we can glean of  the Anti-Christ  from Scripture and from the writings of the Fathers of the Church.  One thing stands out in this sermon for me.  The idea that the reign of the Anti-Christ may involve both ferocious atheism and a return to paganism.  This seems like a contradiction, but Newman points to the French Revolution:

In that great and famous nation which is near us, once great for its love of CHRIST’S Church, since memorable for deeds of blasphemy, which lead me here to mention it, and now, when it should be pitied and prayed for, made unhappily our own model in too many respects,-followed when it should be condemned, and admired when it should be excused,-in the capital of that powerful and celebrated nation, there took place, as we all well know, within the last fifty years, an open apostasy from Christianity; not from Christianity only, but from every kind of worship which might retain any semblance or pretence of the great truths of religion. Atheism was absolutely professed; -yet in spite of this, it seems a contradiction in terms to say it, a certain sort of worship, and that, as the prophet expresses it, “a strange worship,” was introduced. Observe what this was.

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Advent and Anti-Christ, Part I

Prior to his conversion to Catholicism, John Henry Cardinal Newman, soon to be 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.

“Let no man deceive you by any means:
for that Day shall not come,
except there come a falling away first,
and that man of sin be revealed,
the son of perdition.”

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