Tag Archives: liturgical Year

Holy Week Tues: Why was the bridegroom so late.

108505652_b7ca73a371_zChrist proclaimed Himself to be the Bridegroom. In the Icon of Christ the Bridegroom He is sitting with His wrists tied, crowned with thorns and in the red robe with the whip marks on his body and holding the reed. In Orthodox Jewish weddings and Eastern Rite and Orthodox weddings the bride and groom wear the crown and their wrists are bound with the stole of the priest or rabbi. I love the symbolism of that. I wish the Latin Rite had it.

Jesus tells a few parables in which wedding banquets play a part, but the one that we tend to consider on Holy Tues is the parable of the wise and foolish bridesmaids. The bit in that parable that I wonder about is “The bridegroom was late” He didn’t turn up when expected.

This is one of those double layered revelations of the both/and kind which Catholic apologists are so fond of.  How often do we hear, in response to a question, “It’s not either/or it’s both/and.” ?

Jesus was late. The people had been waiting for a Messiah since a saviour was promised to Eve and they had been waiting for the throne of David to be eternal since the death of Solomon. It’s a long time to wait.

In the meantime Israel had been scattered among the gentiles and only the tribes of Judah and Benjamin now lived in the Holy Land with a remnant of Levi and an even smaller remnant of the ten lost tribes of Israel.  If all Israel was to be saved where was the Saviour?

So by the time He turned up quite a few people had given up on His appearance all together and those who had not, even among the apostles, had made up their own image of who the Messiah would be and what He would do.

There was many a dry lamp in Judea.

So Jesus was rejected and crucified.

But “He will come again to judge the living and the dead and His Kingdom will have no end.” (Apostles Creed and Nicene/Constan Creed)

Here we are 2000+ years later and He is still not come. So how many of us have decided He won’t be coming? And how many have made up their/our own idea of just what that Second Coming had better consist of?

It’s increasingly difficult today, it seems to me, to keep the pure olive oil burning and topped up when there are so many religious snake oil salesmen out there. We must pray for discernment every day.

But when it’s so difficult to keep the lamps alight why is the Bridegroom late? Why doesn’t He come early instead? I wonder if the problem is us.

Weddings take a lot of preparation. So the Wedding Banquet of the Bridegroom will take a lot more preparation. If we aren’t getting prepared, we aren’t ready for Him to arrive – and so He’ll be late. But in the end He’ll turn up whether we’re ready or not. So as He is giving us the chance to get cleaned up, wear the proper wedding cloths and get some oil in our lamps, perhaps we should start getting ready.

Epiphany: manifestation of the Lord

It’s Twelfth Night, the feast of Epiphany in the Latin Rite.  This feast comes just before the Baptism of the Lord on the Liturgical Calender. Both of these events are manifestations of Christ the Messiah.

The magi come from the east, from the lands of the gentiles and bring with them gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh. Symbols of kingship, priesthood and prophecy. Oil of myrrh would have been used to anoint the bodies of the dead.

Balsam of Myrrh is still used today in the sacramental oils for baptism, Confirmation (Chrismation Eastern Rite) Holy Orders and Sacrament of the Sick.

Incense is of course still used as a sign of sanctification and prayer as it was in the Temple and the Vision of St. John (Revelation).

The magi came, it is thought, because in the appearance of the star they saw the fulfilment of the prophesy of Balaam (the bad prophet who made an ass of himself while his ass spoke with dignity) Despite his best efforts to take a bribe and prophesy against Israel he was, as a real prophet, saddled with infallibility to some extent so when  he spoke he couldn’t help tell the truth and bless Israel.  (Num 24:17 and surrounding verses). It is also suggested that they had on record the great prophesy of Daniel which he gave to the gentiles and recognised that they were in the time of the iron and clay feet. *Dan 2:33 and surrounding verses).

They saw and understood and travelled a huge distance to find the King of the Jews.  They visited Herod and we often tend to dwell on the fact that Herod wanted to kill the baby after this, but something nastier happened, it seems to me. The wise men of the Temple came with the Scriptures they had and they too recognised the prophesy. “He will be born in Bethlehem…” they say. The gentile pagans head off to find the child and the men of the Temple don’t go with them! I am quite sure they knew it would have been politically inexpedient to do so. But still, the apathy shocks me. I suppose it’s a bit like the way non-practicers turn up for Christmas Mass or Services while some Christian denominations have been closing their churches for Christmas.

Most of Christ’s childhood and early adult years are “hidden” to us. He is next made manifest when, at the important age of thirty he comes to John to be baptised. Christ is a son of David of Judah. John is a Levite priest, son of a High Priest.

God took away the priesthood of the fathers and first born sons of Israel after the Golden Calf incident. Only the Levites, relatives of Aaron, Moses and Miriam had stood (more or less) firm and God gave the priesthood only to the sons of Levi.

The first non-Levite priest after that was King David and then Solomon, of the tribe of Judah.

The law of the Levitical priesthood was that a man could not come to ordination before the age of thirty. Most men were ordained at that age.

Jesus came to John the priest when He was thirty years old and received the baptism of John. At that moment God speaks and John bears witness to the people about Jesus, saying, “Behold the Lamb of God.”

Jesus is the Son of David, a prophet, priest and king like David. Jesus is more of all of those things for He is The Prophet, The High Priest and The King, not just of the Jews, but of all the nations.

Side note: I’ve come across some confusion over the baptism of John and  the Baptism commanded by Christ when He returned to the Father. You will find in Scripture that the apostles baptised those who they found who had only received the baptism of John because his baptism was different.  The baptism of John did not affect circumcision into the Law whereas the Sacrament of Baptism instituted by Christ replaced circumcision (hence St. Paul’s argument against the Judaizers who wanted gentile converts to get circumcised as well as baptised). P’haps I need to do a proper blog about baptism…

3rd of Advent end of Hanukkah; Rejoice and have hope in the darkness

30219_Silver_Plated_Oil_MenorahAs we light the third candle – that pink one of joyousness, our Jewish brothers and sisters are lighting the eighth candle of Hanukkah. At this point the oil of the old Temple Menorah, which should only have lasted one day before plunging the Temple back into darkness, had lasted all eight days it took to make new oil. Then it could quietly run out in time for the new oil to be added to the lamps. The light stayed as the people of Israel reconsecrated their sacred things and the Temple to the Lord and then they could rejoice in their new freedom. They had lost so many good men and women and children under the darkness of Antiochus Epiphanes. Perhaps they mourned the unnamed mother who is remembered more than 2000 years on as she suffered the martyrdom of her seven sons and lost her own life after them. Her light still shines in many hearts.

We can rejoice that the Light is going to dawn. There will not always be darkness and for so many of us we can relax and know Christmas will be a time for joy.

But my heart and prayers go out to those who face a dark Christmas. I can’t imagine the indescribable pain for the families of those murdered in the school shooting in Connecticut. How can such evil happen? Why do people make such astounding choices and destroy so much for so little reason?

479983_213167592152057_1962316465_nCan we find joy, and true hope in the midst of such deliberate darkness? I think we have to. Christ has promised us so much if we persevere and in the shooting there are names that shall never be forgotten. Even in what can seem the deepest evil and darkness bright lights shine. So many people turn back to God and pray at these times and we ask that He welcome all those killed home. For many there is a crown of glory for they lay down their lives for the little ones.

There will be many unnamed heroes in this atrocity. Families who care for one another and stand by one another. Priests who ran to care for victims, children who held on bravely with their friends. We may never hear their stories this side of heaven, but they are happening.

Rejoice and have hope for such people do exist in our world. Thank God for them.

Joy is not about being happy, it’s about being blessed.

For the sake of His sorrowful Passion have mercy on us and on the whole world.

Woman Clothed with the Sun with the moon under her feet (Rev 12)

our_lady_of_guadalupe_4x6Dec 12th is the Feast day of Our Lady of Guadalupe. (Dec 9th would have been the feast of St Juan Diego but it fell on 2nd Advent Sun this year)

That God in His love and mercy has given us such a mother is wonderful all by itself, but that He allows her, sends her, to speak with us and leaves us a beautiful Icon should make us even more grateful.

While it is true that private revelation is not binding on the faithful, I think we should be cautious about using that as an excuse to ignore what God is giving us when He sends Our Blessed Mother and/or other saints to remind us of the Gospel message.

bent-crucifix-cc-odoyle81The tilma made of cactus ayate  fibre is still in great condition and the image remains clear despite some accidents; one with nitric acid and the time someone tried to blow it up. In fact despite being on open display for many years under candle flame and incense, before even a glass covering was made, the tilma image is in much better condition that the Mona Lisa and is only 12 years younger than Leonardo’s famous painting. The great crucifix that was bent right over by the explosion is now on display. The glass covering of the tilma remained in tact.

On Dec 12th 1531 Juan Diego was sent to the barren cold top of Tepayac Hill where he gathered an astonishing harvest of big castellan roses that had suddenly appeared there.

StarThe Icon shows a woman dressed as royalty, but with her head bowed as one in service. The black ribbon that hangs under her prayerful hands shows that she is pregnant. More than that, thanks to some study of the stars on her mantel we see she is carrying the constellations from that very date. She wears the crown of stars (Corona borealis) and under her hands (invisibly) is Leo showing that she carries the Lion of Judah and above that over her heart is virgo saying she is a virgin.

There were more scientific studies that show the eyes of the Icon have the reflections of a real eye showing the bishop and Juan Diego in her eyes. The minute and realistic distortions of the images in her eye show something so accurate that no artist could have done this.

At the time the Indians understood the image better than the Spanish did. They read graphics like words. The tilma is as packed with information about her. She wears the cross of the Christians and the robes of a princess. She is robed in the sun and stands on the moon, so she is greater than their gods, but she bows her head with the cross on her neck and therefore is accepting a God greater still.

Up until this point the missionaries in Mexico and surrounding areas were having a tough time converting the native peoples. Their work was hampered by the unChristian behaviour of many of the Spanish and Portuguese settlers who, feeling that Rome and her rules was far away, took slaves and spent more time chasing gold than seeking the kingdom.

But after the apparition and the miraculous image was left, millions of people learned about how much God loved them and how He had even given them a Mother and they were baptised.

It was this image that was taken into the battle of Lepanto and her prayers that gave victory on the Feast of the Holy Rosary 1571.

I love the way God sends His mother at times of crisis. He sends her and raises up some ordinary person like St. Juan Diego or the children of Fatima, Lourdes, La Salette and so on. Mary appears clothed in the sun at a point where in Europe the book of Revelation is under attack. God has a gentle sense of humour I think.

It’s great to have a wonderful mother.

Oh no not the Immaculate Conception! What is it again?

Let’s start at the very beginning

A very good place to start

When you read you begin with A B C

It’s Adam and Eve in theology…

Ahem, yes that was really awful, but I couldn’t resist. So let’s start with Adam and Eve.

God created the heavens and the earth “all that is visible and invisible! (Nicene Creed). Then on the evening of Day 6 He created Adam out of the “red earth” (Adam means red earth) and gave him authority. How do we know Adam received authority from God? Adam named the animals. In Jewish thought, and strictly speaking this should still be Christian thought, naming is a sign of authority. Names are important, they carry meaning.

Adam doesn’t find a fit companion among the animals so God makes Eve from one of Adam’s ribs. To paraphrase St. Edith Stein; God didn’t take from Adam’s head that he might rule over her, or from a bone in his foot that he might trample her underfoot, but from a bone close to his heart that he might love her.

Now, I have a little theory on this – take it or leave it. I think God took the rib from Adam’s right side, nearest his heart to make Eve. I’ll tell you why in a moment.

I would like to believe that Adam bore a scar on his right side where the rib had been taken.

Adam named his bride Eve, the mother of all that live.

Adam and Eve sinned and God cursed Satan. “I will put enmity between you and the woman…you will bite at her heel and (he/she/they/it) will crush your head.” (There’s still a discussion on the proper translation of the word s’he it; I tend to lean towards the word “she” and I’ll explain why).

With the curse, God gave the Promise of a Saviour.

Then there’s the whole of the Covenant testaments as God made new Covenants with Noah, Abraham, Jacob/Israel and then Moses. Gradually God trains His Chosen people and reveals Himself a little more along the way.

Types of Mary occur through Scripture. Jael who put the tent-peg through the head of the enemy, (jdg 4:21) then Judith who beheaded the enemy (Jud 13) and an unnamed woman who dropped a massive stone block on the head of the enemy coming to attack Jerusalem. (can’t remember where this is in Scripture)

Then there’s the importance of the Ark of the Covenant. The Ark is the great sign of God’s Covenant with Israel. It is made beautifully with gold, and more gold lining the inside.  The Ark contained the Law that God gave to Moses – His Word written by His hand; some manna- the bread from heaven and the rod of Aaron the High Priest.

So the groundwork is laid.

Now to the story of how Mary came to be conceived.

In the Protoevangelium of James we find Joachim and Anna who are good, saintly people but have never been blessed with a child. This theme is also found in the Old Testament; Sarah was barren until Isaac was given her, Rachel was barren until Joseph and Benjamin; Hannah was barren until Samuel…and so on.

The elders of the Temple gave Joachim a hard time because having no children seemed like a punishment from God.

After much heart ache and prayer, finally God sends an angel to tell Joachim that his wife will bear him a child. In this case, unusually, the promise is a daughter.

So Mary was conceived.

Some people have asked “how”? They are asking if she was conceived in the usual way, or miraculously. It is generally agreed that Mary’s conception happened in the usual way. Let’s not forget that God invented sex. Adam and Eve were built physically as people are today.

So why ask if Mary was conceived miraculously? It goes back to Adam and Eve.

Back in the Garden Adam and Eve were naked and unashamed. They were man and wife. It doesn’t seem they had relations at this point. In fact from rabbinic tradition, it would have been proper to wait until Adam had made the sacrifice to claim his bride. Adam didn’t make the sacrifice – he ate the fruit instead. The tree of life remained untouched.

Then Adam and Eve covered themselves and we all know they covered up the sexual. life giving parts because they had consumed “death” with that fruit.

As a result sex between married couples will always be less than it could have been and brining forth life more difficult.

Blessed Catherine Anne Emmerich’s visions do suggest a miraculous conception of Mary. but there have been a number of issues with the recording of her visions – as someone else did it . Some man whose name I can’t remember.

Anway. Mary is conceived. So what makes her conception “immaculate”?

God, her saviour, fills her with grace just as He had done with Eve. She is the Second Eve, as her Son will be the Second Adam. She still has free will, just as Eve did, but she retains her sinlessness. The Second Adam will embrace the Tree of Life, as the first Adam did not, and He will pour out His Precious Blood for His Bride the Church. Mary is a model of the Church, the Bride. And of course the last pouring out of Blood an water comes from the side of Christ, between His ribs and I believe He was pierced on the right side for the vision of Ezekial saw water flow from the right side of the Temple and Jesus had already equated Himself with the Temple. God is neat.

Why does she need to be without sin?

It is said that strictly she didn’t “need” to be sinless but it is fitting she should be. It is also one of those things God would do. He’s good like that. Just as the inside of the Ark was of purest gold before it received the word of God, the Bread from heaven, and the symbol of priesthood – so Mary is purest gold before she can conceive the Son of God being overshadowed by the Holy Spirit.

She is the Ark of the New Covenant.

This is another reason she remains ever virgin. Just as no one would empty the old Ark and put a couple of good books in there, so no one could enter the womb that bore Jesus because, like the place in the Temple that was the Holy of Holies, no one but the High Priest could enter.

When she bears the Word of God, Satan does get his head stomped on.

Understanding the role of Mary means spending a lot of time with Scripture and the teachings of the Fathers. Once we get to understand her, fully human and utterly saved and loved, and loving she will point us to her Son, fully human and fully Divine. That is her primary role – to point us to Her Son.

I heard a very angry man on Catholic Answers who was absolutely furious at the notion of Mary being sinless. Personally I rather like the fact that God really is that generous towards His mother.

Christ the King and off to Advent.

It was the feast of Christ the King yesterday. The salvation history story comes to it’s end with the return of the King. Christ comes as the Just Judge and there is  the triumph of His Kingship.

This feast is one of those “already and not yet” things about Christ. He is already King, but He hasn’t fully revealed Himself as such and won’t until He comes in glory.

Then He will perform the General Judgement and after the Judgement there will be Heaven and Hell. All those souls in purgatory enter heaven and all is done.

We have pointers in Scripture and Tradition that God is merciful, but He is also Judge. Christ is our brother but He is also our King. He is glorious and powerful and according to Scripture He will come and kick some butts. We are supposed to make sure it isn’t ours.

In Divine Office and Mass readings we have come to the end of the story with John’s Revelation (Apocalypse).  Christ has fulfilled His Mission and is the King of Kings.

If we are going to meet Christ the King and be part of the Church Triumphant in heaven we have to “seek first the Kingdom”. If we aren’t seeking the kingdom, we will find it might difficult to find the king.

The Scripture stories have come from the darkest days of persecution through the Prophecies of Daniel and the stand of the Maccabees, through the war in heaven and Satan wanting to destroy the Child of the Woman. Then at last to the great Triumph. It is promised. God always keeps His promises.

All Saints and All Souls

All religions are not the same. It’s a bizarre fallacy to suggest they are, and yet it’s one that gets bandied about all too frequently.

The Catholic Church has been around for over 2000 years and she”s had her ups and downs and plenty of people have tried to destroy her. All have failed both from within and without.  She still stands and Christ promised the gates of the underworld would not prevail.

God has poured out His grace in the most extraordinary way over some of her members. Looking at the very best fruit the Church has produced leaves quite an impact. Has any other religion or organisation produced the likes of St. Catherine of Siena, St. Thomas Aquinas, St Teresa of Avila, St. Bridget of Sweden, St. Padre Pio, and the list goes on. In every generation God has raised up bright shining lights to remind us of His Presence and strength. In His Name they heal the sick, teach the Truth, suffer for us and even raise the dead (St. Catherine of Siena famously demanded a doctor who had died of the plague, that he get up immediately and continue the work. He did so).

The famous case of Gemma Di Giogio born without pupils and therefore totally blind is another witness. I think she’s still alive isn’t she? Padre Pio through God’s grace gave her 20/20 vision. She still has no pupils and doctors and scientists have no material answer for her impossible sight.

Along with the miracle welding magnificent saints we have the quieter, more gentle saints like The Little Flower who accepted a great deal of personal suffering and offered it up as St. Paul said we should. St. Faustina who was the soul who carried the cross to mitigate the horror of the coming world war, Blessed Anna Marie Taigi, a little housewife who advised the great and the good with the graces she received and the suffering she offered.

The Church has just canonised Kateri Techakwitha, the first Native American saint. Her story is one of great goodness and courage in the face of overwhelming odds.

There are so many martyrs over the last 2000 years that it is easily understood why St. John in his vision of Revelation couldn’t count them. All those saint in heaven alive in Christ are praying their heavenly socks off for us. Thank God for that.

The greatest saint ever, is Our Lady. She is full of grace thanks to the mercy of God and as the New Ark she offers us her Son and points us to Him at all times. She as there at the birth of our Saviour (obviously) and was there at the birth of His Bride the Church, that Pentecost Sunday.

I genuinely do not know of another religion, that has saints of this calibre over so long, apart from, perhaps the Eastern Orthodox.

Why do so many people spend all their time looking at the Judases when we have these lights to guide the way? It’s pretty odd to look down at the fruit that fell from the tree and rots on the ground while the tree still bears an abundance of good fruit, if only they could look up once in a while.

Tomorrow is All Souls, when we remember not just the Church Triumphant, as today, but the Church Suffering. Those holy souls who are, as St. Paul describes, having the straw burned away so only the gold remains, for nothing unholy can enter heaven. It must all be left behind.