Tag Archives: liturigical season

De Profundus…

I admit it; I’m a sucker for conversion stories.  I love the story of a man who sits down with an elderly Catholic priest and hears the story of a marriage where the wife is a good and holy woman, but the husband is an athiest. Every day the wife prays for her husband but throughout their marriage he remained atheist. Felix Lesseur was set in his ways and the prayers of his wife did not move him. When she died he discovered her diary and the love and pain and prayer that she had poured out to God.

“Did he come to you this Felix?” asks the man of the priest and the priest smiles and says, “I am Father Felix Lesseur.”

Many people, including me, have asked why God will work in one person’s life by knocking them off a horse, while others seem to have to search for Him over years, sometimes seemingly in vain.

In all the conversion stories I have read, watched or listened to there is a great sense of peace, of having come home at last. For those who have come from protestant backgrounds there is always a great sense of gratitude that they had that early Christian foundation, even from those who grew up with anti-Catholic rhetoric ringing in their ears.

On the opposite side there is always some anger and hatred when people abandon the Church for a Christian-light version of religion so that they are no longer constrained by Christ’s moral law. Immoral sexual practice is almost always at the root of this whether it’s divorce and “remarriage” or some other form of adultery or  they walk away from Christ because of some Judas they have come across.

The real shameful thing about those who walk away from the Faith is those who do so because, despite being baptised they have never been taught. When we, as parents, take our children to be baptised we make a solemn oath to bring them up in the Faith. If we don’t even try we are breaking the Second Commandment for no one should stand in the Name of God and take an oath in vain.

But those who walk back or find Him are always so full of peace.

written on the Feast of the Conversion of St Paul in the Year of Faith.

New Year; Solemnity of Mary Mother of God (Theotokos) and the Circumcision and naming of the Lord Jesus

CircumcisionofJesus

HAPPY NEW YEAR Have a blessed 2013, and rest of the Year of Faith.

It is the Eighth Day of Christmas and as children of the Eighth Day ourselves – that being the day of the Resurrection and New Creation (8th Day from the Entry of Jerusalem, first day of the week; Sunday).

On the eighth day after a son’s birth a good Jewish family ensured he was circumcised into the Law as God had commanded Abraham and received his name on that day. So the rabbi would have come to the place in Bethlehem where they were staying; hopefully a house of some sort by this time, and he would have asked what name the child was to have and Joseph would have said “His name is Jesus.” It was a common enough name in many ways, but in Jewish tradition names have meaning. Jesus means God Saves.

Mary Mother of God; Theotokos.

Mary has many titles for her title Mother of God or in Greek Theotokos  which transliterates as God-bearer is probably her most important one. It is a rebuke to all those who try to insist that Jesus has no Divine Nature or that He is only a little bit divine. So many people crawled out of the woodwork to deny Christ loudly; but the Woman received her title and stomped on the head of the dragon again. You see every time Our Blessed Mother receives a title it is to point to her Son and tell us a little more about who He is.

Jimmy Akin has far more coherent and sensible things to say about todays great feast than I have.

Advent 1: Going up to the mountain of the Lord

advent1After Sunday’s Gospel where Jesus gives a pretty full-on warning and promise about His Second Coming, the readings begin to unpack the fulness of that promise.

The New Covenant wasn’t just between God and Israel (You shall be My people and I shall be your God Jer.30:22) but now the gates are open wide and all the nations will come to gather at the mountain of the Lord. (Is 2:3)

What are we waiting for?

We await the shoot that will spring from Jesse and bring a much looked for peace to the nations of the earth. They will all come under the one Lord Jesus Christ who brings light out of the darkness of death and leads us on the path of peace (Benedictus of Zachariah Lk 1:68 said every morning in Lauds)

Where is this mountain?

I wonder about the symbolism of the mountain. John, in his vision of Revelation talks about the city built on Seven Hills and the argument has gone back and forth about whether that’s Jerusalem with it’s seven hills (Olivet, Acra, Moriah, Bezetha, Scophes, Ophel and Zion other lists have slightly different names). The Seven Hills of Rome (Quirinal,Viminal, Capitoline, Equiline,Palatine, Caelian and Avetine).

It’s an interesting coincidence that both this cities were built like this and John probably wanted readers to see the “twin” natures. One city crucified Our Lord and the other was busy crucifying the members of His Body – Nero did some truly hideous things in his slaughter of Christians.

Seven is an important number in Jewish faith. It is the number of the Days of Creation and it is the number for swearing and oath. It is from this we get the word Sacrament, which as Dr. Hahn points out means literally to “seven ourselves” when we bind ourselves to a holy oath – of which there are seven and therefore seven ways that God in His generosity pours out His graces on us.

Adam and Eve were made on the sixth day, but the Sabbath was then made for them (the Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath (Mk 2:27). But when they sinned they fell back to “working” instead of resting in the Lord and were people of the sixth day, longing for the Messiah.

Jesus is crucified on an eighth hill, just outside Jerusalem (Calvary to the Romans, Golgotha to the Jews). Peter is crucified on an eighth hill across the river from Rome. (Vatican)

Jesus rises on the Sunday which in the Holy week is day 8. He rises on the first day and remakes it. We are children of the eighth day. This is the day that the Lord has made (Ps 118:24)

When we ask Him to come, Marana tha, we are asking for glorious Christ to be heralded by the angels. He will come to judge the living and the dead, and His Kingdom will have no end (Creed).

Year of Faith: All Souls and Purgatory

November is the month of Holy Souls and you can’t talk about the Holy Souls without talking about the purgation they are going through. So what about Purgatory?

St. Paul says those who still have attachment to sin shall be saved “as through fire.” (1 Cor 3:15). So having all the straw burned away will hurt.

God is a consuming fire, we are told, and only those who are pure can stand the heat. I love the way Dr. Scott Hahn describes it. God’s love is the consuming fire. It burns away our old sins so we are pure and can come before Him. The purer we are the most love -fire we can stand and the closer to God we can get.

In purgatory the fire of God’s love hurts because the souls still have som attachment to those old sins.

In hell the fire is much cooler but seems so much hotter because those who have chosen hell cannot abide love at all. They are consumed with hatred for God and for all life.

The history of Purgatory (from the Latin purgatorio, from which we get purge in English) goes back to the Old Testament.

The Jews had a couple of words to describe the afterlife. There was sheol, which in Greek is Hades, the place of the dead.

Then there was Gehenna, the place of fire, in Greek is the same word (gamma, two epsilons, two nu’s and alpha). That’s what we call Hell.

Then finally there was a place Jesus mentions called “The bosom of Abraham”. I think some scholars have considered this to be the “limbo of the fathers” a sort of paradise where the saints stayed until Holy Saturday. It is thought that maybe Enoch and Elijah are there awaiting their return to earth. They have never died as yet.

By the time Jesus came to preach salvation and the resurrection of the dead, the Jewish faith had taken a number of directions. The Sadducees did not believe in the resurrection any more.  God’s promise that He was the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob had been rejected by them. They had a “once you’re dead, you’re dead,” take on things.

The Pharisees had a much better and fuller understanding of the Old Covenant. Jesus never told them what they believed was wrong, He disagreed with their behaviour.  They were do busy adding details they had lost real sight of what God was saying to them.

When the Church emerged, it was like a butterfly from the Jewish caterpillar. Not a new religion, but a fulfilled one. So many Jewish converts say they haven’t left behind their Jewishness, they have completed it.

So when Paul talks about a place where the saved can burn off the dross of this life, he isn’t making a new statement, but devloping an old one. Sheol is a place to get rid of anything that cannot be brought before God. It’s not a second chance. Every single person there is saved and loves God. It’s the antechamber of heaven.

But is it a place or a state of being?

I suppose the Catholic answer to that would be it’s both. We are given plenty of opportunities this side of death to take part in a bit of purgation. The Scriptures and the teaching of the Church and the fathers has always been very clear, nothing unclean can come before God.

In private revelation most, (if not all) those who have been offered a glimpse or a long observation of those in purgatory have noted that the holy souls didn’t want to come before God with their attachment to venial sin still there. They joyfully take up the pains to prepare like a bride to come before the groom.

Every bit of suffering we have in this life can be offered to Christ as St. Paul encourages us. Get some purgatory done now folks.

There are a number of Christians today who have blocked out those uncomfortable passages in Scripture that demand certain things of us. They say “nothing can separate them from the love of God..” and they forget about all the physical and emotional suffering Paul lists and instead insert the word “sin”. (cf Rom 8) But in his first letter to the Corinthians (who caused Paul a lot of heart ache) Paul makes it clear that sin will separate us from Christ (1 Cor 6) So we had better use every ounce of grace God gives us to avoid that.  St. Paul warns us not to receive God’s grace in vain (I think that was aimed at the troublesome Corinthians too)  St. John warns particularly against mortal sin, that sin that can kill the life of the soul. (1 John 5:16-17).

Jesus, and His Body the Church constantly calls her people to repentance. We are supposed to be sorry for the sins we commit. If we are and we want forgiveness, it is flowing from Christ from His once and for all Sacrifice.

But mortal sins kill the life of the soul and need much stronger repentance. It is possible in the immense mercy of God for a truly repentant person to be saved from mortal sin even without Confession. But normally a mortal sin should be confessed and no one who is not in a state of grace should receive the Eucharist. St. Paul warns that such people are eating and drinking their own condemnation.

The Church doesn’t tell us who is in purgatory, nor in hell. She tells us some of the names of those living in heaven. We are not supposed to go to Purgatory. We are supposed to repent, get sorted with God and go to heaven.

Feast of the Seven Sorrows of Our Blessed Mother.

The Seven Sorrows (this painting has a slight variation)

1. The prophecy of Simeon that a sword would piece her soul.

2. The flight to Egypt

3. Losing of Christ in the Temple.

4. Meeting of her Beloved Son as He carried His cross.

5. Standing at the foot of the cross.

6. Christ is taken down from the cross and laid in her arms.

7. She sees her Son laid in the tomb.

(The variation puts the nailing to the cross in and removes the laying in the tomb).

The Chaplet of the Seven Sorrows.

Advent O Antiphons and other stuff.

We sang O Come O Come Emmanuel today at Mass. I love it. Real Advent hymn.

Usually I have the children make O Antiphon decorations for the Jesse Tree, but I haven’t got around to it this year. Perhaps we’ll get chance to do something tomorrow. The children also need a bit of time to make their birthday pressies for Jesus which we take up to Mass on Christmas Eve and they leave them at the crib when it’s over.

Mass was especially lovely today. The huge tree is up with some of the decorations the children at the Sat night Mass have made. Alex stayed after Mass with some of the other Altar servers to finish getting the tree ready and to put up the crib.

We had a lot of baptisms in Mass today, two parents and their children and another baby.  Adult baptisms are more unusual but we are getting a steady stream of converts still.

I had a word with Father after Mass about a few bits and pieces to do with Donna’s funeral. He told me about letters and messages he had recieved saying what an impact the funeral had had on people. I had also received similar messages.  Death is a terrible thing in some ways and Donna’s worse than many, but even here something good can come of it. I am glad.

O Clavis David: O Key of David, is today’s O Antiphon. The Key that opens and no one can shut, that shuts and no one can open. It is the key that opens the jail of darkness so we can be led out into the Light.