The Archangels

The Archangels Michael, Gabriel and Raphael, whom we celebrate today, adore and serve God, and help us poor sinners. It’s rather awe-inspiring to think that these pure spirits, so far beyond us in intelligence and capabilities, deign to serve, help and protect us, who are so much lower than them in the order of nature.  In the Old Testament when an angel would appear to help or instruct one of God’s faithful, they were struck with fear, falling on their face at the awful majesty of God’s Messenger.  Today when we hear stories of angelic encounters they are often described as beautiful or handsome in an otherworldly way, and exuding strength and power unlike that of mere men.

Yesterday we came across this article, which recounts some fascinating stories of people in grave danger who were rescued by what they believe were angels. And why not?  Sometimes the explanation which makes the most sense is the one that is supernatural.  And we’ve all heard first-hand from friends or relatives who have had some experience with angel-like helpers who mysteriously show up at just the right moment.  In fact, at the end of the article linked above is Deacon Bill’s account of an experience he and Mother Angelica had in Italy with a car full of angels!  Sr. Grace Marie was one of the sisters there when the mysterious and handsome strangers arrived on the scene to help, and she agrees that they were most certainly angels.

And, as the article also points out, there are fallen angels, who want to lead us away from God just as much as the faithful angels want to lead us to God.  All of us, members of the Church Militant, must be very aware of the fact that we are in a battle zone, and the battle is for our souls.  God gives us all the helps we need, the Sacraments, sacramentals, and our heavenly protectors the angels and saints, but we must put those gifts, helps, and graces to good use.  It’s no good having the finest armor if you’re not willing to put it on and wear it.

For me, the hymns and chants of the Eastern and Orthodox Churches convey the strength and power of the angels in a very moving way.  This is one hymn to St. Michael chanted in the Byzantine style.

Unfortunately I wasn’t able to find the words, but even without knowing the words, the chant alone conveys something of the power and strength of the Prince of the Heavenly Hosts.  Obviously we are especially devoted to him since he is the patron of our monastery, and even though today we celebrate Sts. Gabriel and Raphael, too, we do give him extra attention.  And the world needs devotion to him so much right now, devotion to him and Our Lady.  Whenever we meet people who ask about our monastery, they are always excited to hear that it is dedicated to Saint Michael.  It seems everyone understands the important role he plays in our lives.  I came across this on an Orthodox website: We invoke Saint Michael for protection from invasion by enemies and from civil war, and for the defeat of adversaries on the field of battle. He conquers all spiritual enemies.  I thought it especially timely considering the precarious situation our nation faces, with many fomenting violence and hatred so openly now, and promising to unleash a new wave of violence and “resistance” in November.

The 100th anniversary of Fatima is fast approaching, but so is the 100th anniversary of the Bolshevik Revolution.  The spiritual war that has been raging since the fall of the angels is visible in the war and strife that mankind has experienced throughout history.  And the last 100 years have been especially bloody.  We must continue to pray, to strive to live lives of grace and fidelity, remaining faithful to Our Lord and His Church, which isn’t an easy task and likely won’t get any easier in the near future.  But we are members of the Church Militant, we are born for battle, sealed as soldiers of Christ at our Confirmation, and if we remain steadfast and faithful He will guide us through this battle, to final victory at the close of our lives.

O Commanders of the Heavenly Host, we the unworthy beseech you, that through your entreaties you will fortify us, guarding us in the shelter of the wings of your ethereal glory, even as we fervently bow before you crying: “Deliver us from all danger, as Commanders of the Powers on high!”  -From the Orthodox Synaxis of the Archangel Michael

Majestic Queen of Heaven and Mistress of the Angels, thou didst receive from God the power and commission to crush the head of satan; wherefore we humbly beseech thee, send forth the legions of heaven, that, under thy command, they may seek out all evil spirits, engage them everywhere in battle, curb their insolence, and hurl them back into the pit of hell. “Who is like unto God?” O good and tender Mother, thou shalt ever be our hope and the object of our love. O Mother of God, send forth the holy angels to defend me and drive far from me the cruel foe. Holy Angels and Archangels, defend us and keep us. (go here for the full prayer)

Ranch Walk

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As the sun by its rays adorns the leaves and branches of plants with colors and keeps each vigorous in its proper species, so the grace of God by its illumination adorns man with virtues, enkindles in him the fire of love, makes him beautiful in God’s sight and brings his nature to perfection without inflicting any injury.  

                                                                                             -St Joseph of Cupertino

Today was the perfect day for a long walk on the ranch!  On our calendar it was the feast of St. Joseph of Cupertino, an extraordinary saint known for mystical experiences which caused him to levitate often, but even more than this, he was deeply humble and joyful despite much suffering.

A compilation of some of his thoughts and sayings, which we read during the Office of Readings, yields some real gems.  Providentially, he mentions plants, fruit and birds – all of which I found on my walk.  In addition to the pomegranate I also cut a small bunch of mustang grapes – they’re pretty tart but it’s kind of exciting to nibble on “wild” food.  Still have to find out the names of all these lovely plants and flowers that populated my walk today.FullSizeRender-1

A reading from the thoughts and saying of Saint Joseph of Cupertino
(G. Pariscianti: S. Giuseppe da Cupertino alla luce dei nuovi documenti, Osimo 1963)

      The three most important things for a religious are: to love God with all his heart, to praise him continually, to be a light to others by his good example. No one intent on living a spiritual or religious life can ever reach perfection without the love of God. He who has love is rich even though he may be unaware of his riches, and he who does not have love is indeed very unfortunate. As the sun by its rays adorns the leaves and branches of plants with colors and keeps each vigorous in its proper species, so the grace of God by its illumination adorns man with virtues, enkindles in him the fire of love, makes him beautiful in God’s sight and brings his nature to perfection without inflicting any injury.

     Clearly, what God wants above all is our will which we received as a free gift from God in creation and possess as though our own. When a man trains himself to acts of virtue it is with the help of grace from God from whom all good things come that he does this. The will is what man has as his unique possession. God is therefore most pleased if man renounces his own will and places himself completely in God’s hand.

     As a fruit tree bears most fruit when it is carefully tended, so man proceeding along the way of God must always grow and advance in virtue so that he can bear the choicest fruits of sanctity, give an example of virtue to draw others and lead them safely to the way of the Lord. To bear sufferings and misfortunes patiently for the love of God must be considered a special grace which God grants to those who love him.

     As our Lord Jesus Christ endured so many bitter sufferings for our sake so God wants us also to share in his sufferings. Surely, if you are gold, tribulation will purify you of dross; if you are iron, your rust will be scoured off.

     Consider the birds of the air; they come down to the ground to get food but swiftly fly back into the air. Similarly the servants of God must stay on the earth only as long as is necessary and soar up quickly again to heaven in spirit to praise and glorify God. Note too how careful birds are not to land in muddy places and how they avoid tumbling into the dirt. In like manner men must not involve themselves in things that defile the soul but soar aloft again in spirit to glorify the Most High God by their holy deeds.

Prayer
O God, Who didst purpose to draw all things unto Thy Son when He was lifted up from the earth: mercifully grant that we, by the merits and example of Thy seraphic Confessor, Joseph, being lifted above all earthly desires, may be worthy to come unto Him: Who with Thee livest and reignest world without end.  Amen.

More Than A Martyr

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He died in body through a love greater than anyone had known. She died in spirit through a love unlike any other since his.     -St. Bernard of Clairvaux

Sin may seem exciting, but the truth is, it’s dull.  It dulls the faculties God gifted us with when He created us.  The more we sin, the more numb we become to its effects on our intellect, our will, and our senses.   Because Our Lady was free from sin, even from the stain of original sin, her capacity to feel emotion was so much keener than ours.  Her capacity to love, to feel joy and to feel sorrow and compassion were far beyond what we experience.

Our Lady’s martyrdom is foretold by Simeon, as Luke tells us:

And Simeon blessed them, and said to Mary his mother: Behold this child is set for the fall, and for the resurrection of many in Israel, and for a sign which shall be contradicted; And thy own soul a sword shall pierce, that, out of many hearts, thoughts may be revealed. (Lk 2:34-35)  

Her martyrdom reached its apex on Calvary, as she watched her Divine Son suffer and die upon the Cross for sinful mankind, and then finally, the sword prophesied by Simeon pierced her soul.

Truly, O blessed Mother, a sword has pierced your heart. For only by passing through your heart could the sword enter the flesh of your Son. Indeed, after your Jesus—who belongs to everyone, but is especially yours—gave up his life, the cruel spear, which was not withheld from his lifeless body, tore open his side. Clearly it did not touch his soul and could not harm him, but it did pierce your heart. For surely his soul was no longer there, but yours could not be torn away. Thus the violence of sorrow has cut through your heart, and we rightly call you more than martyr, since the effect of compassion in you has gone beyond the endurance of physical suffering.     -St. Bernard of Clairvaux

Because of her special role in revealing the thoughts of men’s hearts by her suffering, Fr. Chad Ripperger, an exorcist who speaks often about spiritual warfare, says that Our Lady of Sorrows can help us especially when we are trying to uncover the root cause of our sins but seem to blocked.  When there is something holding us back from entering into a deeper relationship with God, we can ask Our Lady of Sorrows to intercede and show us what we’re missing.  For more on this, you can listen to his talk on Our Lady of Sorrows (he speaks about how she can help reveal hidden knowledge of ourselves at about 9:28 into the talk).

O God, who didst will that in the passion of thy Son a sword of grief should pierce the soul of the blessed Virgin Mary his Mother: Mercifully grant that thy Church, having shared with her in his passion, may be made worthy to share in the joys of his resurrection; through the same thy Son Jesus Christ our Lord, who liveth and reigneth with thee and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.