Messianic Prophecies: Genesis 49: 10

Concluding our Advent look at Messianic prophecies for this year, a series which we began in Advent 2011 and continued in 2102, 2013, 2014, 2015 and 2016, 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 ,  here, here here, here ,   here,  here  , hereand here, we come to Genesis 49: 10:

[10] The sceptre shall not be taken away from Juda, nor a ruler from his thigh, till he come that is to be sent, and he shall be the expectation of nations.

 

Saint Augustine said of this passage:

While he then reigned over Argos, and Eratus over Sicyon, and Balæus still remained king of Assyria, Jacob died in Egypt a hundred and forty-seven years old, after he had, when dying, blessed his sons and his grandsons by Joseph, and prophesied most plainly of Christ, saying in the blessing of Judah, A prince shall not fail out of Judah, nor a leader from his thighs, until those things come which are laid up for him; and He is the expectation of the nations.

 

Advent Sermons of Saint Augustine: The Word Made Flesh

This is our fourth and final look this Advent at the sermons of Saint Augustine.  Saint Augustine meditates on how inadequate human words are to describe The Word:

 

It is not at all strange that human consideration and human speech are inadequate when we undertake to praise the Son of God, the Word of God and God Himself, the Life and Light of men, as He exists in the bosom of the Father, equal to and co-eternal with Him in whom all things visible and invisible, in heaven and on earth, were established. For how would our tongue be able to pay suitable tribute to Him whom our heart, destined by God to be the instrument by which He is to be seen, as yet cannot see, if iniquity would be purged, weakness be healed, and the clean, of heart become blessed because they will see God? It is not strange, I say, for us to fail to find words in which to speak of the Word by whom the word was spoken which gave being to us who would now say something about Him. For our mind brings words into existence after they have been thought over and formed, but our mind itself is formed by the Word. Nor does man fashion words in the same way in which man was made by the Word, because the Father Himself did not beget His only Word in the same way in which He made all things through the Word. For God begot God, but the Begettor and the Begotten are one and the same God. Moreover, God made the world but the world passes while God remains. Although these things which were made certainly did not make themselves, He by whom all things were made was made by no one. It is not strange, then, that man, one of those created things, does not know how to discuss the Word by whom all things were made.

 

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George Washington and the Divine Author of Our Blessed Religion

 

 

A contemplation of the compleat attainment (at a period earlier than could have been expected) of the object for which we contended against so formidable a power cannot but inspire us with astonishment and gratitude. The disadvantageous circumstances on our part, under which the war was undertaken, can never be forgotten. The singular interpositions of Providence in our feeble condition were such, as could scarcely escape the attention of the most unobserving; while the unparalleled perseverance of the Armies of the U States, through almost every possible suffering and discouragement for the space of eight long years, was little short of a standing miracle.

                                                                       George Washington

 

 

In 1783 the Revolutionary War was coming to a close, Washington now waiting for negotiations to conclude and the British to evacuate New York.  On June 8, 1783 he sent a circular letter out to the states discussing his thoughts on the importance of the states remaining united, paying war debts, taking care  of the soldiers who were wounded in the war and the establishment of a peace time military and the regulation of the militia.  It is an interesting document and may be read here.

Washington ends the letter with this striking passage: Continue Reading

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Video Clip Worth Watching: Brother Orchid Confesses

 

 

 

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

Brother Orchid (1940)

 

 

 

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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Anti-Catholic Bigotry Alive and Well in DC

Just in time for Christmas:

 

The Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority threw down the hammer on the Catholic Church last month when it rejected a rather benign Christmas ad for the Church’s website FindThePerfectGift.org.

The Church turned around and sued the DC Metro claiming a violation of First Amendment rights. The Archdiocese of Washington said it in a statement the ad “conveys a simple message of hope, and an invitation to participate in the Christmas season.”

The ad itself has no words with an overtly religious message. It shows a silhouette of shepherds gazing up at the stars. The ad mentions the website which has Mass times in the DC area as well as Christmas activities.

The website also encourages people to donate their time and treasure to help those who are less fortunate. There is a video promoting becoming involved in feeding the hungry through St. Maria’s Meals.

The Metro is hiding behind its 2015 policy which prohibits “issue-oriented advertising, including political, religious and advocacy advertising.” This policy is almost impossible to apply equally. The American Civil Liberties Union even took issue with these rules claiming they are “misguided and impossible to administer fairly” and previously sued the transit authority.

The Metro accepts advertisements for hookup websites but has become hostile towards the Archdiocese’s ad claiming it is offensive. Perhaps the Church’s ad would have been acceptable if Santa Claus was plastered all over it.

I guess it would be superfluous to observe that the DC government is completely controlled by Democrats?  The Democrat Party hates the Catholic Church and currently is none too fond of the First Amendment.

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Messianic Prophecies: Isaiah 11: 10

Continuing our Advent look at Messianic prophecies for this year, a series which we began in Advent 2011 and continued in 2102, 2013, 2014, 2015 and 2016, 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 ,  here, here here, here ,   here,  here and here, we come to Isaiah 11: 10:

[10] In that day the root of Jesse, who standeth for an ensign of the people, him the Gentiles shall beseech, and his sepulchre shall be glorious.

 

 

Of this passage Saint Jerome wrote:

 

As regards its site, lapse of time has but invested it with fresh grandeur. The Jews of old reverenced the Holy of Holies, because of the things contained in it—the cherubim, the mercy-seat, the ark of the covenant, the manna, Aaron’s rod, and the golden altar.973 Does the Lord’s sepulchre seem less worthy of veneration? As often as we enter it we see the Saviour in His grave clothes, and if we linger we see again the angel sitting at His feet, and the napkin folded at His head.974 Long before this sepulchre was hewn out by Joseph,975 its glory was foretold in Isaiah’s prediction, “his rest shall be glorious,”976 meaning that the place of the Lord’s burial should be held in universal honor.

 

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How to Be Happy

[34] But the Pharisees hearing that he had silenced the Sadducees, came together:

[35] And one of them, a doctor of the law, asking him, tempting him:

[36] Master, which is the greatest commandment in the law?

[37] Jesus said to him: Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with thy whole heart, and with thy whole soul, and with thy whole mind.

[38] This is the greatest and the first commandment.

[39] And the second is like to this: Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself.

[40] On these two commandments dependeth the whole law and the prophets.

Matthew 22: 34-40

 

If you really want to be happy in this world, and in the next, do good to others.  It is a truly simple lesson, but it is amazing how many people lead their entire lives without grasping it.  This of course is not happiness in the “Wee, that was a wild roller coaster ride!” sense, but in the sense of the satisfaction of a joy that surpasses understanding, the type of joy that parents experience as they see their kids growing up to be responsible parents themselves, or the joy of a priest who sees a penitent sinner embracing wholeheartedly Christ.

It is not given us in this life to foreknow the tangled paths that our lives will follow or to predict what we will be remembered for, or if anyone will remember us at all after we are gone.  What we do know, however, is whether our lives are a blessing or a curse for those we encounter is very much determined by our own actions.  Altruism, love of neighbor, is an all important factor in determining the balance sheet of our lives, and often time that means going against our short-term selfish desires for what may turn out to be a path that leads us to what we will be remembered for.

A perfect example of this is George Washington.  Today is the 236th anniversary of the Battle of Trenton, in which Washington led a Continental Army on the point of defeat and dissolution across the Delaware and captured the entire Hessian garrison of some 900 troops at Trenton.  It is impossible to overstate the importance of the victory of Trenton.  It renewed hope in ultimate American victory in the struggle, led directly to a second American victory on January 3, 1777 at Princeton and the abandonment of much of New Jersey by the British.  But for this brilliant stroke by Washington, the American struggle for independence might well have died in the winter of 1776-1777.

And the man who worked this miracle, George Washington, was he a professional soldier who had always desired to be at the head of a great army and to gain victories that would echo down through the centuries?  Well, actually he was a Virginia planter and throughout the War, and when he served as first president of these United States, his personal correspondence centered upon Mount Vernon, his plantation, and instructions about the planting of crops, the care of livestock, prices for commodities, the upkeep of buildings, etc.  Left to his own desires Washington would have lived out his entire life at Mount Vernon, been quite happy, and been a footnote in our histories, if he appeared at all except for his service in the French and Indian War.  Instead, he answered the call to duty, took up the burden of command of the Continental Army in the Revolution, although he feared he was unequal to the task, and served as our first president, although he found the duties onerous and realized that he was sacrificing much of the remaining years of his life away from his beloved Mount Vernon.  Washington, as a result of his sacrifices, will be remembered as long as there is a United States and as long as men cherish freedom.  The path of altruism was for him also the path to his true life’s work.

The same can be said for George Bailey.

The above video is the pivotal scene in the movie.  George rises to the defense of his father’s life’s work:  the savings and loan that allows people in Bedford Falls to escape from Potter’s slums and become home owners.  To save the savings and loan, George gives his brother the money George has saved to go to college so that he can attend college while George takes over the presidency of the savings and loan.  His journey down the path of altruism will cost him his dream of being an engineer, traveling the world and building huge products.  Instead he gains true love, a family and the admiration and respect of the people he helps in Bedford Falls.   His altruism is not a one way street, even in regard to business success.

George Bailey is a man on his way up.  Due to his hard work, honesty and decency he has developed a strong community support for the Savings and Loan.  In a scene that is often overlooked in the film Potter is informed by his rent collector, played by Charles Lane, perhaps the best character actor of his era, that George Bailey is a mortal threat to his operation:

REINEMAN Fifteen years ago, a half-dozen houses stuck here and there. (indicating map) There’s the old cemetery, squirrels, buttercups, daisies. Used to hunt rabbits there myself. Look at it today. Dozens of the prettiest little homes you ever saw. Ninety per cent owned by suckers who used to pay rent to you. Your Potter’s Field, my dear Mr. Employer, is becoming just that. And are the local yokels making with those David and Goliath wisecracks!

POTTER Oh, they are, are they? Even though they know the Baileys haven’t made a dime out of it.

REINEMAN You know very well why. The Baileys were all chumps. Every one of these homes is worth twice what it cost the Building and Loan to build. If I were you, Mr. Potter . . .

POTTER (interrupting) Well, you are not me.

REINEMAN (as he leaves) As I say, it’s no skin off my nose. But one of these days this bright young man is going to be asking George Bailey for a job.

This causes Potter to offer George a job, which, after being momentarily tempted, he angrily declines.  George has found his life’s work.  He doesn’t get to build a few grand projects around the globe, but many small projects in Bedford Falls, grand to those he benefits as a result.  Success is coming his way, with even the loss of $5,000.00, stolen by Potter courtesy of the absent-mindedness of Uncle Billy, being only a momentary set back.

 

It has been said that sin is its own punishment and virtue is its own reward.  I believe that.  However it is interesting how even in this often unjust world we see sin punished and virtue rewarded.  There are no guarantees, and many people will meet with justice only in the life to come, but even here on earth it is not that uncommon to see that our actions do have consequences, for ill and good.  The paths of our lives are hidden to us, but often some act of altruism we have the opportunity to perform, points us on our way.  Something to keep in mind during Advent and all the rest of the year.

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Advent Sermons of Saint Augustine: Truth Has Arisen From the Earth

 

 

 

In our third look this Advent at sermons of Saint Augustine, he describes for us what the coming of Christ means:

 

Awake, mankind! For your sake God has become man. Awake, you who sleep, rise up from the dead, and Christ will enlighten you. I tell you again: for your sake, God became man.

You would have suffered eternal death, had he not been born in time. Never would you have been freed from sinful flesh, had he not taken on himself the likeness of sinful flesh. You would have suffered everlasting unhappiness, had it not been for this mercy. You would never have returned to life, had he not shared your death. You would have been lost if he had not hastened ‘to your aid. You would have perished, had he not come.

Let us then joyfully celebrate the coming of our salvation and redemption. Let us celebrate the festive day on which he who is the great and eternal day came from the great and endless day of eternity into our own short day of time.

He has become our justice, our sanctification, our redemption, so that, as it is written: Let him who glories glory in the Lord.

Truth, then, has arisen from the earth: Christ who said, I am the Truth, was born of the Virgin. And justice looked down from heaven: because believing in this new-born child, man is justified not by himself but by God.
Truth has arisen from the earth: because the Word was made flesh. And justice looked down from heaven: because every good gift and every perfect gift is from above.

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Advent Sermons of Saint Augustine: the Son Became Man

In our second look this Advent at sermons of Saint Augustine, we read in matchless prose what it meant for the Son to become Man:

 

 

In the bosom of His Father, He existed before all the cycles of ages; born of an earthly Mother, He entered upon the course of the years on this day. The Maker of man became Man that He, Ruler of the stars, might be nourished at the breast; that He, the Bread, might be hungry; that He, the Fountain, might thirst; that He, the Light, might sleep; that He, the Way, might be wearied by the journey; that He, the Truth, might be accused by false witnesses; that He, the Judge of the living and the dead, might be brought to trial by a mortal judge; that He, Justice, might be condemned by the unjust; that He, Discipline, might be scourged with whips; that He, the Grape, might be crowned with thorns; that He, the Foundation, might be suspended upon a cross; that Courage might be weakened; that Security might be wounded; that Life might die. To endure these and similar indignities for us, to free us, unworthy creatures, He who ‘existed as the Son of God before all ages, without a beginning, deigned to become the Son of Man in these recent years. He did this although He who submitted to such great evils for our sake had done no evil and although we, who were the recipients of so much good at His hands, had done nothing to merit these benefits. Begotten by the Father, He was not made by the Father; He was made Man in the Mother whom He Himself had made, so that He might exist here for a while, sprung from her who could never and nowhere have existed except through His power.

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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Messianic Prophesies: Daniel 2: 44-45

Beginning our Advent look at Messianic prophecies for this year, a series which we began in Advent 2011 and continued in 2102, 2013, 2014, 2015 and 2016, 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 ,  here, here here, here , and here we come to Daniel 2:  44-45:

 

44 And while those empires yet flourish, another empire the God of heaven will bring into being, never to be destroyed, never to be superseded; conqueror of all these others, itself unconquerable. 45 This is that stone thou sawest none ever quarried, that fell from the mountain-side, bringing clay and iron and bronze and silver and gold to nothing; this was a revelation the king’s grace had from the most high God himself of what must come about; true was thy dream, and this, past doubt, the meaning of it.

 

Saint Augustine says of this passage:

And they asked him, What then? Are you Elias? For they knew that Elias was to precede Christ. For to no Jew was the name of Christ unknown. They did not think that he was the Christ; but they did not think that Christ would not come at all. When they were hoping that He would come, they were offended at Him when He was present, and stumbled at Him as on a low stone. For He was as yet a small stone, already indeed cut out of the mountain without hands; as says Daniel the prophet, that he saw a stone cut out of the mountain without hands. But what follows? And that stone, says he grew and became a great mountain and filled the whole face of the earth.  Mark then, my beloved brethren, what I say: Christ, before the Jews, was already cut out from the mountain. The prophet wishes that by the mountain should be understood the Jewish kingdom. But the kingdom of the Jews had not filled the whole face of the earth. The stone was cut out from thence, because from thence was the Lord born on His advent among men. And wherefore without hands? Because without the cooperation of man did the Virgin bear Christ. Now then was that stone cut out without hands before the eyes of the Jews; but it was humble. Not without reason; because not yet had that stone increased and filled the whole earth: that He showed in His kingdom, which is the Church, with which He has filled the whole face of the earth. Because then it had not yet increased, they stumbled at Him as at a stone: and that happened in them which is written, Whosoever shall fall upon that stone shall be broken; but on whomsoever that stone shall fall, it will grind them to powder.  At first they fell upon Him lowly: as the lofty One He shall come upon them; but that He may grind them to powder when He comes in His exaltation, He first broke them in His lowliness. They stumbled at Him, and were broken; they were not ground, but broken: He will come exalted and will grind them. But the Jews were to be pardoned because they stumbled at a stone which had not yet increased. What sort of persons are those who stumble at the mountain itself? Already you know who they are of whom I speak. Those who deny the Church diffused through the whole world, do not stumble at the lowly stone, but at the mountain itself: because this the stone became as it grew. The blind Jews did not see the lowly stone: but how great blindness not to see the mountain!”

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Advent Sermons of Saint Augustine: the Emptying of Christ

This Advent on each Sunday we will look at portions of sermons that Saint Augustine wrote for delivery during Advent.  We begin with Saint Augustine’s meditation on one of the chief mysteries of the Incarnation:  the emptying of Christ:

 

 

 

 

 

When the Word assumed flesh in time, so that He might enter into our temporal life, He did not, in this flesh, give up His eternity, but gave immortality to this flesh. Thus He, ‘as a bridegroom coming out of his bride-chamber, hath rejoiced as a giant to run the way, who, ‘though he was by nature God, did not consider being equal to God a thing to be clung to,’but, so that for our sake He might become what He was not, ‘He emptied himself,’ not laying aside the nature of God, but ‘taking the nature of a slave,’ and by this nature ‘being made like unto men,’ not in His own nature [as God], but ‘appearing in the form of man.’ For, all that we are in soul and body constitutes, for us, our complete nature, but, for Him, only a visible nature. If we had not this soul and body, we would still exist; if He had not this soul and body, He would still be God. Remaining God, He became Man; that is, He began to be what had not been before, so that not one but two natures may truthfully be ascribed to Him. Because He was made Man, the statement, ‘for the Father is greater than I,’ is true; because He remained God, the statement, ‘I and the Father are one,’ is true. If the Word were changed into flesh, that is, if God were changed into man, only the statement, ‘for the Father is greater than I,’ would be true because God is greater than man; but the other statement, I and the Father are one,’ would be false since God and man are not one. In such a case, He could say: ‘I and the Father were one,’ but not ‘are one,’ implying that He has ceased to be what He was; that He was so in the past, but is so no longer. On the contrary, because of the true nature of servant which He had taken upon Himself, He said truthfully: ‘The Father is greater than I’; because of the true nature of God which He retained, He said with equal veracity: The Father and I are one.’Therefore, He emptied Himself among men, becoming what He had not been previously, not in such a way as to cease to be what He was, but, hiding what He was, He showed forth only what He had become. Hence, since the Virgin conceived and brought forth a Son, because of His manifest nature of servant, [we read:] ‘A child is born to us’; but, because the Word of God, which remains forever, became flesh so that He might dwell with us, on account of His real, though hidden nature of God, we, using the words of the Angel Gabriel, call e his name Emmanuel/ Remaining God, He has become Man so that the Son of Man may rightly be called ‘God with us’ and so that [in Him] God is not one person and man another. Let the world rejoice In those who believe, for whose salvation He came, by whom the world was made, the Creator of Mary born of Mary, the Son of David yet Lord of David, the Seed of Abraham.

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A Clean Slate For Christmas

My bride, our son and I went to Confession today.  As always, I felt after Confession as if a ton of weight had just been taken off my shoulders,

Here is the formula that I have followed for Confessions since childhood:

Bless me Father for I have sinned, it has been ____________ since my last Confession and these are my sins.

I then recite my sins.  I follow the rule of three B’s in Confession:

Be Blunt

Be Brief

Be Gone

I say my sins, with no attempts to minimize or justify, no matter how much it shames me to do so, and often I do feel great shame, which I suspect is a good sign.  I end my recital with the statement that these are all the sins I can recall but that I am truly sorry for those I cannot recall.

After the priest absolves me, and what a wonderful word absolve truly is, I say an Act of Contrition:

O my God I am heartily sorry for having offended Thee, and I detest of all my sins because I dread the loss of Heaven and the Pains of Hell, but most of all because I have offended Thee my God who art all good and deserving of all my love.  And I firmly resolve, with the help of Thy grace, to confess my sins, to do penance and to amend my life, amen.

If any of you who read this have been away from Confession, please go before Christmas.  Welcome Christ this year with a clean slate.

 

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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.

 

 

Continue Reading

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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. ”

Continue Reading

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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.

Continue Reading

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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.

 

Continue Reading

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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.”

Continue Reading

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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: 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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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.”

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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.

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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