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.

Help for the Journey

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We each received a beautiful book for Laetare Sunday, a little Lenten gift to help us on the journey: Meditations for Lent by Bishop Bossuet.  Can’t say we’ve read much of him before, but his writings are lyrical and poetic, and it’s easy to see why he has been compared to St. Augustine and St. John Chrysostom.

There’s a beautiful meditation for each day of Lent, and we just wanted to share a little bit from Sunday’s reading:

…It is with respect to the life of Christian righteousness that St. Paul says, “and your life is hidden.”  Set free from human judgment, we should count as true only what God sees in us, what he knows, and what he judges.  God does not judge as man does.  Man sees only the countenance, only the exterior.  God penetrates to the depths of our hearts.  God does not change as man does.  His judgment is in no way inconstant.  He is the only one upon whom we should rely.  How happy we are then, and how peaceful!  We are no longer dazzled by appearances, or stirred up by opinions; we are united to the truth and depend upon it alone.

I am praised, blamed, treated with indifference, disdained, ignored, or forgotten; none of this can touch me.  I will be no less than I am.  Men and women want to play at being a creator.  They want to give me existence in their opinion, but this existence that they want to give me is nothingness.  It is an illusion, a shadow, an appearance, that is, at bottom, nothingness.  What is this shadow, always following me, behind me, at my side?  Is it me, or something that belongs to me?  No.  Yet does not this shadow seem to move with me?  No matter:  it is not me.  So it is with the judgments of men:  they would follow me everywhere, paint me, sketch me, make me move according to their whim, and, in the end, give me some sort of existence.  But in the end, I know it well:  this is only a flickering light that takes me from one side or the other, that lengthens, shortens, swells, or shrinks the shadow that follows me, that makes it appear in various ways and disappear without my gaining or losing anything of my own.  And what is this image of myself that I see reflected in the flowing stream?  It blurs and erases itself; it disappears when the water is stirred up, but what have I lost?  Nothing but a useless amusement.  So it is with the opinions and judgments men form according to their lights;  Alas, not only do I amuse myself with them as with a game; I stop, and I take them for something serious and true, and this shadow, this fragile image troubles me and makes me anxious, and I believe myself to be losing something.  But I am disabused of this error.  I am content with a hidden life.  How peaceful it is!  Whether I truly live this Christian life of which St. Paul speaks, I do not know, nor can I know with certainty. But I hope that I do, and I trust in God’s goodness to help me.

Hope this little nugget helps you on your Lenten pilgrimage!

 

Purifying Our Spirit

 

Catherine of Cleves distributing almsWhat the Christian should be doing at all times should be done now with greater care and devotion, so that the Lenten fast enjoined by the apostles may be fulfilled, not simply by abstinence from food but above all by the renunciation of sin

-Pope St. Leo the Great

The saints said it best, and today’s second reading from the Office of Readings fits in perfectly with what we talked about yesterday on A Good Habit.  Prayer, fasting, and almsgiving are what the Church asks us to do during Lent.  Actually, we are called to do  this always, but we intensify our practice during Lent as we work to detach from sin in our lives.  Being God-centered (prayer), and other-oriented (almsgiving), as well as mortifying our appetites (fasting) helps us to detach from our vices, addictions and sinful habits and attach to our Loving Redeemer.

But you don’t have to take our word for it, you can listen to what Pope St. Leo the Great had to say about it:

Dear friends, at every moment the earth is full of the mercy of God, and nature itself is a lesson for all the faithful in the worship of God. The heavens, the sea and all that is Continue reading

Jesus cleanses our hearts with mercy

Can you believe we’re already beginning the Third Week of Lent?  Sometimes it passes so quickly that it’s over before you find your Lenten “groove”.  As we approach the midway point of this season it’s a good time to re-evaluate our Lenten practices.  Have we been faithful to prayer, fasting, and almsgiving thus far?  Do we need to make some changes – either step things up a notch, or dial them down because we’ve set up unrealistic expectations?

Cleansing_the_temple2In his Angelus address Pope Francis spoke about the Gospel we heard at Mass today, Jesus cleansing the temple. As we examine our hearts today let’s remember that Jesus is the one to cleanse our hearts of all the idols and vices that want to crowd God out.  The Holy Father tells us that when we invite Jesus to cleanse our hearts He will do it with mercy and tenderness.  Here is his Angelus Address for today:

Dear brothers and sisters, Good morning!

Today’s Gospel today presents the episode of the expulsion of the vendors from the temple (Jn 2: 13-25). Jesus ‘made a whip out of cords and drove them all out of the temple, with the sheep and oxen’ (Jn 2:15), the money, everything. This gesture aroused strong reactions, in the people and in the disciples. Clearly, it appeared as a Continue reading

Spiritual Combat

Duccio di Buoninsegna, Temptation on the MountToday, in his Angelus address for the First Sunday of Lent, Pope Francis spoke about the spiritual combat we undertake during this Lenten season.  To that end, we give you this link to several prayers recommended by Fr. Gabriel Amorth, chief exorcist of Rome, to be prayed for protection against evil.  Five Prayers Recommended by an Exorcist to Combat Evil

Here is the Holy Father’s Angelus Address for today:

Dear brothers and sisters,

Last Wednesday, Lent began with the Rite of Ashes, and today is the first Sunday of this liturgical time that makes reference to the 40 days Jesus spent in the desert, after his baptism in the Jordan River. In today’s Gospel, St. Mark writes: “The Spirit drove Jesus out into the desert, and he remained in the desert for forty days, tempted by Satan. He was among wild beasts, and the angels ministered to him” (1,12-13). With these simple words, the evangelist describes the test voluntarily faced by Jesus, before beginning his Messianic mission. It is a test in which the Lord leaves victorious and that prepares Him to announce the Gospel of the Kingdom of God. He, in those 40 days of solitude, confronted Satan “in close combat”, He unmasks his temptations and conquers him. And through Him, we have all conquered but we must protect this victory in our daily lives. Continue reading

Show Notes – A Good Habit 4/16/14

A Good Habit Show NotesHello, everyone.  Sorry these show notes are so late – between the last days of Holy Week and the Easter celebrations I completely forgot about posting this.

The music featured on the show was from the CD Lent at Ephesus by the Benedictines of Mary, Queen of Apostles.  You can find it on iTunes, Amazon, and at their website.

The Jimmy Akin article we mentioned, 6 Things to Know About the Triduum can be found Continue reading