Feast of the Holy Innocents

From a sermon by Saint Quodvultdeus

A tiny child is born, who is a great king. Wise men are led to him from afar. They come to adore one who lies in a manger and yet reigns in heaven and on earth. When they tell of one who is born a king, Herod is disturbed. To save his kingdom he resolves to kill him, though if he would have faith in the child, he himself would reign in peace in this life and for ever in the life to come.

Why are you afraid, Herod, when you hear of the birth of a king? He does not come to drive you out, but to conquer the devil. But because you do not understand this you are disturbed and in a rage, and to destroy one child whom you seek, you show your cruelty in the death of so many children.

You are not restrained by the love of weeping mothers or fathers mourning the deaths of their sons, nor by the cries and sobs of the children. You destroy those who are tiny in body because fear is destroying your heart. You imagine that if you accomplish your desire you can prolong your own life, though you are seeking to kill Life himself.

Yet your throne is threatened by the source of grace – so small, yet so great – who is lying in the manger. He is using you, all unaware of it, to work out his own purposes freeing souls from captivity to the devil. He has taken up the sons of the enemy into the ranks of God’s adopted children.

The children die for Christ, though they do not know it. The parents mourn for the death of martyrs. The child makes of those as yet unable to speak fit witnesses to himself. See the kind of kingdom that is his, coming as he did in order to be this kind of king. See how the deliverer is already working deliverance, the savior already working salvation.

But you, Herod, do not know this and are disturbed and furious. While you vent your fury against the child, you are already paying him homage, and do not know it.

How great a gift of grace is here! To what merits of their own do the children owe this kind of victory? They cannot speak, yet they bear witness to Christ. They cannot use their limbs to engage in battle, yet already they bear off the palm of victory.

O God,
whom the Holy Innocents confessed
and proclaimed on this day,
not by speaking but by dying,
grant, we pray,
that the faith in you
which we confess with our lips
may also speak through our manner of life.
Through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son,
who lives and reigns with you in the unity of the Holy Spirit,
one God, for ever and ever.
 Amen.

Awake, O Sleeper

The Dead Christ by Philippe de Champaigne

The quiet stillness of this day, as all creation anticipates it’s Lord’s return, will soon be broken by the beautiful chanting of the Exsultet.  Until then, Christ sleeps in death, and we wait…

Something strange is happening—there is a great silence on earth today, a great silence and stillness. The whole earth keeps silence because the King is asleep. The earth trembled and is still because God has fallen asleep in the flesh and he has raised up all who have slept ever since the world began. God has died in the flesh and hell trembles with fear.

He has gone to search for our first parent, as for a lost sheep. Greatly desiring to visit those who live in darkness and in the shadow of death, he has gone to free from sorrow the captives Adam and Eve, he who is both God and the son of Eve. The Lord approached them bearing the cross, the weapon that had won him the victory. At the sight of him Adam, the first man he had created, struck his breast in terror and cried out to everyone: “My Lord be with you all.” Christ answered him: “And with your spirit.” He took him by the hand and raised him up, saying: “Awake, O sleeper, and rise from the dead, and Christ will give you light.” Continue reading

Pope Francis’ First Homily: We Must Preach Christ Crucified

We are happy to share this post from our friend Dr. David Delaney, who shares his thoughts on our Holy Father’s first homily.  To read the actual text of Pope Francis’ homily click here.

Pope Francis’s First Homily: We Must Preach Christ Crucified

Listening to our Holy Father’s first homily, I was struck by what he emphasized and how this may possibly suggest what will be the emphasis for his pontificate.  Perhaps it also may help us to understand more deeply his choice of St. Francis as his papal name (assuming Fr. Lombardi’s statement is correct that he chose the name in honor of St. Francis of Assisi rather than St. Francis Xavier).

Our new Holy Father Francis emphasized in his homily the need for conversion and discipleship (albeit he did not use the term disciple this is what he described).  He declared that we must witness Christ to this world.  Strikingly, he stated that when we are not witness for Christ then we are witnesses for the devil.  This is a profound statement!  Francis is declaring that for the Christian, there is no neutral ground.  If we do not explicitly preach Christ then we are doing the devil’s bidding. This is the very poison with which secularism attempts to salt us.  The new evangelization means that we must reject any temptation to go along in order to get along.

Francis qualifies the preaching of Christ.  He tells us that if we do not preach the Cross then we preach another christ.  I suspect that this is a hint about the selection of his papal name.  St. Bonaventure recounts the vision by which St. Francis receives his stigmata as that which indelibly marks him with a devotion to Christ Crucified.  It was Christ Crucified who Francis and his little band preached in order to rebuild Christ’s Church.  It seems to me that Pope Francis is emphasizing the pressing need for the Church to be the agent for overcoming secularism. This may very well be Pope Francis’s approach to the new evangelization, preaching Christ Crucified in word and deed.

Finally, Pope Francis warns us that our life in Christ can never be static.  That is, if we are not moving forward on our journey toward conversion and communion with Christ, then we are moving backward, we are losing ground.  This truth confirms us in our need for perpetual zeal in living for Christ and His Cross and for witnessing this same life to the world.

Pope Francis’s life of poverty is his living witness to the Cross.  It is a rejection of the siren song of self-sufficiency, which is a perpetual danger for those of us who live so much “in the world” that we slip into being “of the world.” His solidarity with the poor expresses and lives out his solidarity with Christ Crucified and at the same time, is an inoculation against the temptations of the world, that is the devil.  This must also be our attitude for the new evangelization.  We cannot adequately preach Christ if we do not know Him intimately, if we do not allow ourselves to experience His Cross through poverty of spirit.  We must know Christ Crucified if we are going to be authentic witnesses to Him.

Dr. Delaney is Professor of Systematic Theology at the Mexican American Catholic College in San Antonio, Texas.  He previously wrote for the now defunct Cosmos-Liturgy-Sex blog.