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
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.
 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.
 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:
 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.  And the sacrifice of Juda and of Jerusalem shall please the Lord, as in the days of old, and in the ancient years.
 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
 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.  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
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
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
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
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
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
“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
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.