Tuesday, December 27, 2005

Feast of St. John the Apostle and Evangelist

Come, let us worship the Lord, the King of apostles.

A treatise by St. Augustine

The flesh revealed Life itself

We announce what existed from the beginning, what we have heard, what we have seen with our own eyes, what we have touched with our own hands. Who could touch the Word with his hands unless the Word was made flesh and lived among us?

Now this Word, whose flesh was so real that he could be touched by human hands, began to be flesh in the Virgin Mary’s womb; but he did not begin to exist at that moment. We know this from what John says: What existed from the beginning. Notice how John’s letter bears witness to his Gospel, which you just heard a moment ago: In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God. Someone might interpret the phrase the Word of life to mean a word about Christ, rather than Christ’s body itself which was touched by human hands. But consider what comes next: and life itself was revealed. Christ therefore is himself the Word of life.

And how was this life revealed? It existed from the beginning, but was not revealed to men, only to angels, who looked upon it and feasted upon it as their own spiritual bread. But what does Scripture say? Mankind ate the bread of angels.

Life itself was therefore revealed in the flesh. In this way what was visible to the heart alone could become visible also to the eye, and so heal men’s hearts. For the Word is visible to the heart alone, while flesh is visible to bodily eyes as well. We already possessed the means to see the flesh, but we had no means of seeing the Word. The Word was made flesh so that we could see it, to heal the part of us by which we could see the Word.

John continues: And we are witnesses and we proclaim to you that eternal life which was with the Father and has been revealed among us – one might say more simply “revealed to us”.

We proclaim to you what we have heard and seen. Make sure that you grasp the meaning of these words. The disciples saw our Lord in the flesh, face to face; they heard the words he spoke, and in turn they proclaimed the message to us. So we also have heard, although we have not seen.

Are we then less favoured than those who both saw and heard? If that were so, why should John add: so that you too may have fellowship with us? They saw, and we have not seen; yet we have fellowship with them, because we and they share the same faith.

And our fellowship is with God the Father and Jesus Christ his Son. And we write this to you to make your joy complete – complete in that fellowship, in that love and in that unity.

Celebrate the Twelve Days of Christmas

Monday, December 26, 2005

Feast of St. Stephen, Martyr

Come, let us worship the new-born Christ; today he has crowned Saint Stephen.

A Sermon by St. Fulgentius of Ruspe, bishop (468-533 AD)

Yesterday we celebrated the birth in time of our eternal King. Today we celebrate the triumphant suffering of his soldier. Yesterday our king, clothed in his robe of flesh, left his place in the virgin’s womb and graciously visited the world. Today his soldier leaves the tabernacle of his body and goes triumphantly to heaven.

Our king, despite his exalted majesty, came in humility for our sake; yet he did not come empty-handed. He brought his soldiers a great gift that not only enriched them but also made them unconquerable in battle, for it was the gift of love, which was to bring men to share in his divinity. He gave of his bounty, yet without any loss to himself. In a marvellous way he changed into wealth the poverty of his faithful followers while remaining in full possession of his own inexhaustible riches.

And so the love that brought Christ from heaven to earth raised Stephen from earth to heaven; shown first in the king, it later shone forth in his soldier. Love was Stephen’s weapon by which he gained every battle, and so won the crown signified by his name. His love of God kept him from yielding to the ferocious mob; his love for his neighbour made him pray for those who were stoning him. Love inspired him to reprove those who erred, to make them amend; love led him to pray for those who stoned him, to save them from punishment. Strengthened by the power of his love, he overcame the raging cruelty of Saul and won his persecutor on earth as his companion in heaven. In his holy and tireless love he longed to gain by prayer those whom he could not convert by admonition.

Now at last, Paul rejoices with Stephen, with Stephen he delights in the glory of Christ, with Stephen he exalts, with Stephen he reigns. Stephen went first, slain by the stones thrown by Paul, but Paul followed after, helped by the prayer of Stephen. This, surely, is the true life, my brothers, a life in which Paul feels no shame because of Stephen’s death, and Stephen delights in Paul’s companionship, for love fills them both with joy. It was Stephen’s love that prevailed over the cruelty of the mob, and it was Paul’s love that covered the multitude of his sins; it was love that won for both of them the kingdom of heaven.

Love, indeed, is the source of all good things; it is an impregnable defence,- and the way that leads to heaven. He who walks in love can neither go astray nor be afraid: love guides him, protects him, and brings him to his journey’s end. My brothers, Christ made love the stairway that would enable all Christians to climb to heaven. Hold fast to it, therefore, in all sincerity, give one another practical proof of it, and by your progress in it, make your ascent together.

Celebrate the Twelve Days of Christmas

Sunday, December 25, 2005

Gaudete, Christus Natus Hodie

Gaudete! Gaudete! Christus natus hodie!

Saturday, December 24, 2005

Vigil of the Nativity of Our Lord

Today you shall know that the Lord shall come and at tomorrow you shall see His glory.

Friday, December 23, 2005

O Antiphon: O Emmanuel

O Emmanuel, Rex et legifer noster, expectatio gentium, et Salvator earum: veni ad salvandum nos, Domine, Deus noster.

O Emmanuel, God with us, our King and Lawgiver, the Expected of nations and their Saviour; come and save us , O Lord our God!

Listen to the chant

Pray the Christmas Novena

Thursday, December 22, 2005

The Return

Okay, everyone's been blogging about Papa's new camauro. Here's my favorite from the VIS.

From yesterday's General Audience was this picture. Notice the intensity of the man clasping Papa's hands and the eager crush of the people behind him. When I went to a General Audience last month, I was unprepared for this kind of enthusiasm. Must've been my former Anglican reserve. But I quickly got into the spirit...the nuns around me wouldn't allow my reluctance and pushed me to the front for a better look. Who could stay unmoved when they were as giddy as schoolgirls?

Howling of Hell

If Gregorian chant is an earthly echo of the heavenly chorus, then this rendition of "O Holy Night" must be close to the howling of hell.

O Antiphon: O Rex

O Rex Gentium, et desideratus earum, lapisque angularis, qui facis utraque unum: veni, et salva hominem, quem de limo formasti.

O King of the Nations, and the one they desired, keystone, who makes both peoples one, come and save mankind, whom you formed out of clay.

Listen to the chant

Pray the Christmas Novena

Tuesday, December 20, 2005

O Antiphon: O Oriens

O Oriens, splendor lucis aeternae, et sol justitiae: veni, et illumina sedentes in tenebris, et umbra mortis.

O Dawn, splendor of eternal light, and sun of justice, come, and shine on those, seated in darkness, and in the shadow of death.

Listen to the chant

Pray the Christmas Novena

Monday, December 19, 2005

Papa Makes Time's European Newsmaker of the Year

A Man on a Mission

The new Pope has stepped onto the world stage with grace, warmth and an understated clout, qualities that make him our choice for European Newsmaker of the Year. A man often described as methodical and contemplative — even downright shy — has created a charisma all his own, one that seems to defy our turn-up-the-volume, look-at-me times. At 78, Benedict is the archetype of the quiet, lifelong believer who suddenly sees it is his turn to speak up, a rejuvenated old soul surprisingly well-equipped for his final mission. Father Joseph Fessio, who has known the Pope since the 1970s, said his former professor "actually seems healthier, younger, more radiant, more at peace" since assuming the papal throne.

Read the article

O Antiphon: O Clavis David

O Clavis David, et sceptrum domus Israel, qui aperis, et nemo claudit, cludis, et nemo aperuit: veni, et educ vinctum de domo carceris, sedentem in tenebris, et umbra mortis. Magnificat.

O Key of David, and scepter of the house of Israel, you open, and no one shuts, you shut, and no one opens: come, and lead the prisoner from jail, seated in darkness and in the shadow of death.

Listen to the chant

Pray the Christmas Novena

Sunday, December 18, 2005

O Antiphon: O Radix Jesse

O Radix Jesse, qui stas in signum populorum, super quem continebunt reges os suum, quem gentes deprecabuntur: veni ad liberandum nos, jam noli tardare.

O Root of Jesse, who stands as a sign for the people, kings stand silent in your presence, whom the nations will worship: come to set us free, put it off no longer.

Listen to the chant

Pray the Christmas Novena

Saturday, December 17, 2005

O Antiphon: O Adonai

O Adonai

O Adonai, et dux domus Israel, qui Moyse in igne flammae rubi apparuisti, et in Sina legem dedisti: veni ad redimendum nos in brachio extento. Magnificat.

O Mighty Lord, and leader of the house of Israel, who appeared to Moses in the burning bush, and on Sinai gave him the law, come to redeem us with outstretched arm.

Listen to the chant

Pray the Christmas Novena

Friday, December 16, 2005

O Antiphon: O Sapientia

O Sapientia, quae ex ore Altissimi prodisti, attingens a fine usque ad finem fortiter, suaviterque disponens omnia: veni ad docendum, nos viam prudentiae. Magnificat.

O Wisdom, who proceeds from the mouth of the Most High, reaching out mightily from end to end, and sweetly arranging all things: come to teach us the way of prudence.

Listen to the chant

Pray the Christmas Novena

Thursday, December 15, 2005

Music and Chant

Here is an excerpt from a paper that I found at the Congregation for the Clergy....

Music and Chant at the Service of Eucharistic Mystery

by Professor Cameron Upchurch
Johannesburg, 30 November, 2005

.....Chant is transcendent. Christian worship is logo centric; ‘faith becoming music is part of the process of the Word becoming flesh.’ Gregorian chant is among the earliest examples of this process in Western Christianity. Its performance lies rooted in logos-centered worship, in which human beings seek to lift their minds and hearts to the origin of the logos, God himself. This quote from Benedict XVI (writing as Cardinal Ratzinger) helps explain further this role of chant. ‘As a result of contemplating the mysterium of a cosmic liturgy it becomes necessary to describe in a visible and concrete way the community aspect of worship, the fact that it is an action to be performed, its formulation in words…Thus it was to be made clear that liturgical music was to lead the faithful into the glorification of God, into the sober intoxication of the faith. The emphasis upon Gregorian chant…was therefore ordered at once to the ‘mystery’ aspect of the liturgy and its logos-like character as well as its link the word in history. That emphasis was…supposed to stress anew the authoritative nature of the Patristic standard for liturgical music, which some had occasionally conceived in a manner too exclusively historical. Such an authoritative standard, correctly understood, does not mean exclusion of anything new, but rather means pointing out the direction that leads into open spaces. Here, progress into new territory is made possible precisely because the right path has been found.’

Read the rest at the Congregation for the Clergy.

Wednesday, December 14, 2005

St. John of the Cross

O Living flame of love
That, burning, dost assail
My inmost soul with tenderness untold,
Since thou dost freely move,
Deign to consume the veil
Which sunders this sweet converse that we hold ...

And O, ye lamps of fire,
In whose resplendent light
The deepest caverns where the senses meet,
Erst steeped in darkness dire,
Blaze with new glories bright
And to the loved one give both light and heat!

~On this feast day of St. John of the Cross

The Great Patriarchal Basilicas: Part One

St. Mary Major

There are four churches in Rome designated as patriarchal basilicas: St. Peter's, St. John Lateran, St. Mary Major, and St. Paul-Outside-the-Walls. They are known as such because the high altars are papal altars upon which only the Holy Father, or someone who has his express permission, may celebrate the Mass. All four basilicas date back to the 4th century. St. Mary Major is also known as Our Lady of the Snow after the miraculous snowfall in August 358 indicating where a church was to be built in honor of the Blessed Virgin. Every August 5th, white rose petals are dropped from the dome during Mass.

It seemed fitting to us that our sojourn into Rome should begin at St. Mary Major, symbolic in a way of our conversion into the Catholic faith. The agony of my last year in the Anglican Church was blunted by praying the rosary daily. The frescoes that greeted us on our entry were scenes from the meditations. It was a visual rosary. Beneath the frescoes were 5th century mosaics of Old Testament history.

We headed for the Pauline Chapel to the left of the high altar for the morning Mass. Here is where the legendary Salus Populi Romani icon is placed above the altar. Legend has it that St. Luke painted this image and its miraculous character is attached to St. Gregory the Great's pontificate in the 6th century. Rome was suffering from a plague and Pope Gregory processed this icon through the city. At the end of the procession, a sign from St. Michael the Archangel signaled the end of the plague. In this chapel of Our Lady, we gave thanks for our safe arrival.

The Sistine Chapel to the right of the high altar, also known as the Blessed Sacrament Chapel, is the site of ancient pilgrimage. Under the altar is the crypt known as "Bethlehem in Rome" where St. Jerome is buried. It is his morning prayer that I prayed daily on the road to conversion: O Lord Jesus Christ, as I rise in the morning, be attentive unto me and govern mine actions and my words and my thoughts that I may pass the whole day within Thy will (excerpt). We spent some time in adoration in front of the gilded domed tabernacle. I pondered how two years of meditating on the Mystery of Incarnation led me to embrace the Catholic faith.

It's not my intent to do a travelogue here, but merely to relate a bit of the spiritual character of our Roman holiday.

My soul doth magnify the Lord and my spirit hath rejoiced in God my savior...For He that is mighty hath done great things for me and holy is His name.

Monday, December 12, 2005

A Roman Holiday

Rome. The Eternal City. I had dreamed a thousand times of visiting this glorious city. Last month, my husband and I fulfilled this dream. November in Rome, free from the crush of tourist
crowds, but more subject to the vicissitudes of wind and weather. We decided to see Rome from the "street level" walking as much as we could and eschewing tour guides and tour buses. This afforded us time to linger over some monument, to riffle through street vendors' wares, to stop and peer into shop windows, or to explore a narrow cobbled street that beckoned. Our time was our own and adventures awaited us at every corner it seemed, such as crossing the street. Ah, the art of crossing a Roman street! Hint: there is power in a crowd no matter what the stoplight says. And nuns and old ladies with canes wield great power over traffic.

We rented an apartment which allowed us a glimpse into the way ordinary life is lived in Rome-- buying groceries at the corner mercato or fresh fruit at a fresh air market--mundane events in our normal setting but became a source of excitement. Lunchtime was sacred time from noon to three in the afteroon. We learned to enjoy the slower pace in the middle of the day, to relish unhurried conversations with each other almost nonexistent in the time-conscious culture we normally exist in. And if perhaps the site or museum displayed the "Chiuso" sign, there was always tomorrow, or later in the afternoon.

This was our Roman holiday, part pilgrimage and part study, a needed break from the pressure-cooker stresses of work and endless obligations. Our sightseeing objectives were: to see the four great patriarchal basilicas, to visit the historic district, to see Pope Benedict, to find as many Raphaels, Michelangelos, and Caravaggios as we could, and to taste Italian cuisine. November in Rome was glorious.