The Incarnation

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Moved by love and wishing to reconcile the human race to yourself, you gave us your only-begotten Son. He became our mediator and our justice by taking on all our injustice and sin out of obedience to your will, eternal Father, just as you willed that he take on our human nature. What an immeasurably profound love! Your Son went down from the heights of his divinity to the depths of our humanity. Can anyone’s heart remain closed and hardened after this?

We image your divinity, but you image our humanity in that union of the two which you have worked in a man. You have veiled the Godhead in a cloud, in the clay of our humanity. Only your love could so dignify the flesh of Adam. And so by reason of this immeasurable love I beg, with all the strength of my soul, that you freely extend your mercy to all your lowly creatures.

-St. Catherine of Siena

The Incarnation of the Lord, the central point of all human history, has been the source of countless songs, poems, art and meditations throughout the history of the Church.  We can never plumb the depths of this mystery, that God, moved by love for fallen man, would take on human flesh in the womb of the Virgin Mary, to redeem us.  As Fulton Sheen famously said, Jesus Christ was the only man born to die.  The Incarnation is also the beginning of His Passion, so this mystery, like so many, holds joy tinged with sorrow that leads to the Resurrection.  This is the mystery of Christ’s earthly life, and it is also the mystery of our lives, that whether we are rejoicing or bearing the cross, we can be assured that it’s purpose is for our sanctification and salvation.

The Annunciation usually falls within Lent, a welcome reprieve, and this year it falls on the day before Laetare Sunday, another moment to relax our Lenten discipline a bit before we enter into the final weeks of our Lenten journey towards Calvary and Our Lord’s Passion.  The sorrow and the joy, rather than contradicting each other, actually serve to deepen and sweeten each other. By God’s grace we can grow to understand this more and more, adding a depth and authenticity to our lives and our relationships, both with God and each other.  When we can learn to endure suffering, rather than run from it, to not just endure it but grow from it, become more Christ-like and docile to His Will, then we can, like Our Lord and the saints, eventually come to find some joy in it – not some kind of masochistic dysfunction, which is how the world characterizes the Catholic understanding of suffering, but a peace and joy that comes from being conformed to God’s Will, that comes from bearing a part of the Cross with Our Lord.  Like the saints and martyrs, we can then experience the Resurrection, even in the midst of the Crucifixion.

[Well, we didn’t intend to talk about suffering and the cross on such a joyful day, but we hope you can enjoy the beautiful song at the top of the page anyway.  It’s by The Medieval Baebes.]

Death and Redemption

mary-eve-tree-life-death-1 Remember o man that thou art dust, and unto dust shalt thou return.  These words we heard on Ash Wednesday, as our foreheads were signed with ashes, come back to mind today, as the Mass readings present the entrance of death into the paradise God had created.  We were made for life, and for deep communion with God and one another, but the disobedience of Adam and Eve opened up a chasm between God and man which could only be bridged by Our Lord’s Passion and Death.  We were not made for death, but when man’s rebellion brought death into the world, our merciful Father gave us a new path to life through the Blood of His Son.

the-hague-mmw-10-f-17-73rWe tend to shy away from thinking about death, our own death or that of our loved ones, but it is something none of us can escape.  Continuing the practice of the Romans, Christians in past ages made a point to consider the reality of death as part of their spiritual practices.  Memento Mori (remember death), was a common phrase, stamped on holy cards and carved on ivory skulls.  Meditating on the fact that we will one day stand before the throne of God to make an account of our lives gives us pause to consider the course we are on and where it will lead us.

Just yesterday my great-uncle, Milton, passed away at the hour of mercy, surrounded by prayer and family. (Please pray for the blessed repose of his soul, and comfort for his family.)  The grace of a happy death is a grace indeed, and one we should all pray for, but we begin that journey now, with every choice we make.  To assist and support a dying person is one of the greatest works of mercy and charity we can perform, helping them prepare for the most important moment of their entire life: the moment when they step out of time and into eternity, the moment their soul stands before God’s judgement seat.  Reading the prayers for the dying is a sobering experience.  Death often seems like such an abstract, a vague cloud hovering at the edge of our lives or in the back of our minds.  Death takes on a more definite character when I consider that I do not know the day nor the hour, but at the appointed time God, Who created me, will command my soul to His judgement seat where I will make an accounting of my life to Him.

245f0f93d70d3d8278c84bf0a0ead49b-jpgOur Lord is a just judge, but He is also merciful, and in His Church He gives us all that we need to attain eternal life – and not just eternal life, but a deep and transformative relationship with Him here and now as well.  May we take full advantage of the graces of this penitential season and re-commit ourselves to following Our Lord closely on the path of life.  We may sometimes lose our way; we may, either willfully or by mistake, take a wrong turn, but as soon as we realize that Jesus is no longer in sight we can run to confession and plunge our souls into the cleansing water of mercy and forgiveness.  Death is the fate  of all men, but it is not the end.  We make our choice now by the choices we make each day, so let us choose for God.

A Novena for the Feast of the Chair of St. Peter

peter-receives-the-keysJoin us in praying a novena in honor of the Chair of St. Peter, beginning Monday, February 13th.  The nine days will conclude on the 21st, the day before the feast day of the Chair of Peter.  This ancient feast reminds us of the authority entrusted to St. Peter the apostle by Our Lord himself, which has been passed down to each of his successors for over 2000 years.

Thank you Fr. Phillips for sharing this novena with us!

NOVENA BEFORE THE FEAST OF THE CHAIR OF ST. PETER

V. In the Name of the Father, + and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost.
R. Amen.

Antiphon: That they all may be one; as thou, Father, art in me, and I in thee, that they also may be one in us: that the world may believe that thou hast sent me.

V. I say unto thee, thou art Peter;
R. And upon this Rock I will build my Church.

[Each day’s scripture and intention is read aloud. After a brief silence, the final prayers are offered.]
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February 13th.
And passing along by the Sea of Galilee, [Jesus] saw Simon and Andrew the brother of Simon casting a net in the sea; for they were fishermen. And Jesus said to them, “Follow me and I will make you become fishers of men.” And immediately they left their nets and followed him.
– St. Mark 1:16-18

Intention: That we may follow the call of Christ without hesitation.
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February 14th.
[Jesus] said to Simon, “Put out into the deep and let down your nets for a catch.” And Simon answered, “Master, we toiled all night and took nothing! But at your word I will let down the nets.” And when they had done this, they enclosed a great shoal of fish; and as their nets were breaking, they beckoned to their partners in the other boat to come and help them. And they came and filled both the boats, so that they began to sink. But when Simon Peter saw it, he fell down at Jesus’ knees, saying, “Depart from me, for I am a sinful man, O Lord.”
– St. Luke 5:4-8

Intention: That we may obey our Lord’s commandments with humility.
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February 15th.
[Jesus] asked his disciples, “Who do men say that the Son of man is?” And they said, “Some say John the Baptist, others say Eljjah, and others Jeremiah or one of the prophets.” He said to them, “But who do you say that I am?” Simon Peter replied, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.” And Jesus answered him, “Blessed are you, Simon Bar-Jona! For flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but my Father who is in heaven. And I tell you, you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the powers of death shall not prevail against it.
– St. Matthew 16:13-18

Intention: That we may confidently confess our faith in Jesus Christ.
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February 16th.
After six days Jesus took with him Peter and James and John, and led them up a high mountain apart by themselves; and he was transfigured before them, and his garments became glistening, intensely white, as no fuller on earth could bleach them.
– St. Mark 9:2-3

Intention: That with Peter, we may see Christ as he is.
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February 17th.
Jesus said to the twelve, “Do you also wish to go away?” Simon Peter answered him, “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life; and we have believed, and have come to know, that you are the Holy One of God.”
– St. John 6:67-69
Intention: That we may know Christ as the Incarnate Word, and follow him.
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February 18th.
[Jesus asked the soldiers,] “Whom do you seek?” And they said, “Jesus of Nazareth.” Jesus answered, “I told you that I am he; so, if you seek me, let these men go.” Then Simon Peter, having a sword, drew it and struck the high priest’s slave and cut off his right ear.
– St. John 18:7-8,10a

Intention: That we may refrain from hasty or imprudent words and actions.
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February 19th.
Peter then came out with the other disciple, and they went toward the tomb. They both ran, but the other disciple outran Peter and reached the tomb first. Then Simon Peter came, following him, and went into the tomb; he saw the linen cloths lying, and the napkin, which had been on his head, not lying with the linen cloths but rolled up in a place by itself.
– St. John 20:3-4, 6-7
Intention: That our lives may give witness to the Risen Lord Jesus Christ.
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February 20th.
Jesus said to Simon Peter, “Simon, son of John, do you love me more than these?” He said to him, “Yes, Lord; you know that I love you.” He said to him, “Feed my lambs.” A second time he said to him, “Simon, son of John, do you love me?” He said to him, “Yes, Lord; you know that I love you.” He said to him, “Tend my sheep.” He said to him the third time, “Simon, son of John, do you love me?” Peter was grieved because he said to him the third time, “Do you love me?” And he said to him, “Lord, you know everything; you know that I love you.” Jesus said to him, “Feed my sheep.
– St. John 21:15-17

Intention: That we may remain in close communion with the Successor of St. Peter, whose task it is to strengthen us in the faith.
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February 21st.
Peter, standing with the eleven, lifted up his voice and addressed them, “Men of Judea and all who dwell in Jerusalem, let this be known to you, and give ear to my words.”
Acts 2:14
Intention: That in union with St. Peter we may proclaim the Gospel to the whole world.
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FINAL PRAYER (to be offered each day)

O Almighty God, who by thy Son Jesus Christ didst give to thy Apostle Saint Peter many excellent gifts, and commandedst him earnestly to feed thy flock: make, we beseech thee, all Bishops and Pastors diligently to preach thy holy Word, and the people obediently to follow the same; that they may receive the crown of everlasting glory; through Jesus Christ thy Son our Lord, who liveth and reigneth with thee, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, ever one God, world without end. Amen.

V. St. Peter, Prince of the Apostles;
R. Pray for us.

V. In the Name of the Father, + and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost.
R. Amen.

A Sign of Contradiction

6bc34ad8ad29151deed7006b4caab9f6We wanted to share with you some thoughts on today’s Feast of the Presentation from Venerable Fulton J Sheen excerpted from his book Life of Christ:

We find here another instance of how God in the form of man shared the poverty of mankind.  The traditional offerings for purification were a lamb and a turtledove if the parents we6bc34ad8ad29151deed7006b4caab9f6re rich, and two doves or two pigeons if they were poor.  Thus the mother who brought the Lamb of God into the world had no lamb to offer–except the Lamb of God.  God was presented in the temple at the age of forty days. About thirty years later He would claim the temple and use it as the symbol of His Body in which dwelt the fullness of Divinity.  Here it was not the Firstborn of Mary alone Who was presented, but the Firstborn of the Eternal Father.  As the Only begotten of the Father, He was now presented as the Firstborn of restored humanity.  A new race began in Him…

Simeon was like a sentinel whom God had sent to watch for the Light.  When the Light finally appeared, he was ready to sing his Nunc Dimittis.  In a poor Child brought by poor people making a poor offering, Simeon discovered the riches of the world.  Asscreen-shot-2017-02-02-at-10-09-52-am this old man held the Child in his arms, he was not like the aged of whom Horace speaks, He did not look back, but forward, and not only to the future of his own people but to the future of all the Gentiles of all the tribes and nations of the earth.  An old man at the sunset of his own life spoke of the sunrise of the world; in the evening of life he told of the promise of a new day.  He had seen the Messias before by faith; now his eyes could close, for there was nothing more beautiful to look upon.  Some flowers open only in the evening.  What he had seen now was “Salvation” –not salvation from poverty, but salvation from sin…

…He saw furthermore that there were sorrows in store for her, not for Joseph.  Simeon said:

Behold, this Child is destined for the fall
And for the rise of many in Israel,
And for a sign that shall be contradicted.

Luke 2:34

It was as if the whole history of the Divine Child were passing before the eyes of the old man.  Every detail of that prophecy was to be fulfilled within the lifetime of the Babe.  Here was a hard fact of the Cross, affirmed even before the tiny arms of the Babe could stretch themselves out straight enough to make the form of a cross.  The Child would create terrible strife between good and evil, stripping the masks from each, thus provoking a terrible hatred.  He would be at once a touchstone that would reveal the motives and dispositions of human hearts.  Men would no longer be the same once they had heard His name and learned of His life. They would be compelled either to accept Him, or reject Him.  About Him there would be no such thing as compromise:  only acceptance or rejection, resurrection or death.  He would, by His very nature, make men reveal their secret attitudes toward God.  His mission would be not to put souls on trial, but to redeem them; and yet, because their souls were sinful, some men would detest His coming.

It would henceforth be His fate to encounter fanatical opposition from mankind even unto death itself, and this would involve Mary in cruel distress.  The angel had told her, “Blessed screen-shot-2017-02-02-at-10-51-08-amart thou among women,” and Simeon was now telling her that in her blessedness she would be the Mater Dolorosa.  One of the penalties of original sin was that a woman should bring forth her child in sorrow; Simeon was saying that she would continue to live in the sorrow of her Child.  If He was to be the Man of Sorrows, she would be the Mother of Sorrows.  An unsuffering Madonna to the suffering Christ would be a loveless Madonna.  Since Christ loved mankind so much that He wanted to die to expiate its guilt, then He would also will that His mother should be wrapped in the swaddling bands of His own grief.

From the moment she heard Simeon’s words, she would never again lift the Child’s hands without seeing a shadow of nails on them; every sunset would be a blood-red image of His Passion.  Simeon was throwing away the sheath that hid the future from human eyes, and letting the blade of the world’s first sorrow flash in front of her eyes.  Every pulse that she would feel i the tiny wrist would be like an echo of an oncoming hammer.  If He was dedicated to salvation through suffering, so was she.  no sooner was t his young life launched than Simeon, like an old mariner, talked of shipwreck.  No cup of the Father’s bitterness had yet come to the lips of the Babe, and yet a sword was shown to His mother.

The nearer Christ comes to a heart, the more it becomes conscious of its guilt; it will then either ask for His mercy and find peace, or else it will turn against Him because it is not yet ready to give up its sinfulness.  Thus He will separate the good from the bad, the wheat from the chaff.  Man’s reaction to this Divine Presence will be the test:  either it will call out all the opposition of egotistic natures, or else galvanize them into a regeneration and a resurrection.screen-shot-2017-02-02-at-10-55-45-am

Simeon was practically calling Him the “Divine Disturber,” Who would provoke human hearts either to good or evil.  Once confronted with Him, they must subscribe either to light or darkness.  Before everyone else they can be “broadminded”; but His Presence reveals their hearts t one either fertile ground or hard rock.  He cannot come to hearts without clarifying them and dividing them; once in His Presence, a heart discovers both its own thoughts about goodness and its own thoughts about God…

After saying that He was a sign to be contradicted, Simeon turned to the mother, adding:

As for thy own soul, it shall have a
Sword to pierce it.

Luke 2:35

She was told that He would be rejected by the world, and with His Crucifixion there would be her transfixion.  As the Child willed the Cross for Himself, so He willed the Sword of Sorrow for her.  If He chose to be a Man of Sorrows, he also chose her to be a Mother of Sorrows!  God does not always spare the good from grief.  The Father spared not the Son, and the Son spared not the mother.  With His Passion there must be her compassion.  An unsuffering Christ Who did not freely pay the debt of human guilt would be reduced to the level of an ethical guide; and a mother who did not share in His sufferings would be unworthy of her great role.

Simeon not only unsheathed a sword; he also told her where Providence had destined it to screen-shot-2017-02-02-at-10-53-48-ambe driven.  Later on, the Child would say, “I came to bring the sword.”  Simeon told her that she would feel it in her heart while her Son was hanging on the sign of contradiction and she was standing beneath it transfixed in grief.  The spear that would physically pierce His heart would mystically be run into her own heart.  The Babe came to die, not to live, for His name was “Savior.”

-From Life of Christ, by Fulton J Sheen

A Prayer for the President

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LORD our Governor, whose glory is in all the world; We commend this nation to thy merciful care, that being guided by thy Providence, we may dwell secure in thy peace. Grant to THE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES, and to all in Authority, wisdom and strength to know and to do thy will. Fill them with the love of truth and righteousness; and make them ever mindful of their calling to serve this people in thy fear; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who liveth and reigneth with thee and the Holy Ghost, one God, world without end. Amen.

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The Devil’s Sneeze

In case you missed it:Cedar Fever

When the numbers are so high you can’t tell whether it’s the Powerball Jackpot or the pollen count, you know it’s cedar time in Texas.  Even as the rest of the country is getting a respite from allergies, we are deep in the misery that is cedar pollen.  And yes, if you’re wondering why we’ve been so quiet these last few weeks, it’s because of allergies. 

By the way, that tree in the photo is not smoking, it’s releasing pollen.  Or as I like to call it, the Devil’s Sneeze.

Up close each once of those millions of pollen grains look like this, with lots of little points to latch onto everything in their path – mostly you, your clothes, your hair, they’ll take whatever they can get to make you miserable.

juniper-sem Magnified even more, each one of those microscopic bumps looks like this:

Which is why we all feel so wretched when cedar season hits.  Not just runny noses and itchy, watery eyes, (not to mention the ensuing sinus infections) but exhausted and achy, too, like getting repeatedly run over by a Mack truck.  Driven by Jaws.

So if you’re enjoying an allergy free winter somewhere nice (by nice, I mean anywhere that doesn’t have cedar pollen, which means even the inside of a volcano counts as nice), please take pity on us Texans and offer a prayer for our shark ravaged sinuses.

First posted January 21, 2013

Mother of God & Our Mother

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Agiosoritissa (Mother of God) Icon – 7th century, one of the oldest images of Mary

On this Octave Day of Christmas we begin 2017, as we begin every new year, under the patronage of Mary, Mother of God.  May she keep us safe in her maternal embrace as we face the blessings and the crosses God has in store for us this year.

The above is one of the oldest images of the Mother of God, dating from the 7th century. screen-shot-2017-01-01-at-12-29-01-pm And this Egyptian papyrus fragment contains the oldest known prayer to the Theotokos (Bearer of God), dating from the third century. This is written in Greek, but you would be familiar with its Latin name, the Sub Tuum.  There is an informative little article about it here, as well as a link to hear the prayer chanted in the original Greek.

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