Monday, May 31, 2010

The Priest and the Holy Trinity

Suscipe, Sancta Trinitas, hanc oblationem, quam tibi offerimus...

As I was offering Mass in the extraordinary form of the Roman Rite this morning, my attention was taken by the words of this offertory prayer. Suddenly it dawned upon me that the words of the rites were very clear about the direction of the Eucharistic Sacrifice. The oblation is not made to the people. The oblation is offered to the true God, the Most Holy Trinity. The orientation of the prayer is so very clear both in text and in ritual. In ritual, the priest and the people face the same direction - ad Deum (to God). The prayer makes it even clearer: Suscipe, Sancta Trinitas... (Receive, O Holy Trinity, this offering which we make to Thee...)

In fact, at the conclusion of the Mass, an equally beautiful prayer is prayed: Placeat tibi, sancta Trinitas, obsequium servitutis meae: et praesta; ut sacrifium, quod oculis tuae majestatis indignus obtuli, tibi sit acceptabile, mihique et omnibus, pro quibus illus obtuli, sit , te miserante, propitiabile (May the performance of my homage be pleasing to Thee, O Holy Trinity; and grant that the sacrifice which I, though unworthy, have offered up in the sight of Thy majesty be a propitiation for me and for all those for whom it has been offered). Towards the end of the Sacrifice, the priest is reminded of his real purpose. There is no "pat in the back," no affirmations like, "Good work, Father, you got the attention of the audience." The priest has no care of what the "spectators" say for his only purpose is to be able to offer homage that is pleasing to the Holy Trinity. No human affirmation can equal the value of our Lord's words: "Well done, good and faithful servant."

The two prayers of the Mass remind the priest of his real "employer" - he is at the service of the Holy Trinity! The priest is servant of the Holy Trinity.

Sunday, May 30, 2010

On the Most Holy Trinity

Last Sunday, we said that Pentecost completes the work that Jesus was sent to do on earth. Dying on the Cross, He reconciled us with the Father. Rising from the dead, he brings about our divine filiation. We have become children of God. All these took place through the coming of the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit gives us access to the forgiveness of our sins: “Receive the Holy Spirit. Whatever sins you forgive, they are forgiven…” The Holy Spirit also enables us to cry out, “Abba, Father!”

However, there is something more to be said about Pentecost. By the coming of the Holy Spirit, the revelation of the true God is at last made complete. Not only did the third Person of the most holy Trinity reveal himself at Pentecost. His coming enables us to see and understand in faith whatever Christ wanted to reveal to his disciples: “I have much more to tell you, but you cannot bear it now. But when he comes, the Spirit of truth, he will guide you to all truth.” What is this fullness of truth that the Holy Spirit means to lead us to? This fullness of truth is nothing else but the truth of God – the inner life of the Blessed Trinity. The Holy Spirit enables us to see the communion of the Father and the Son. The Holy Spirit reveals to us that the Father and the Son are inseparable. “When the Lord established the heavens I was there…I (was) beside him as his craftsman, and I was his delight day by day, playing before him all the while, playing on the surface of his earth; and I found delight in the human race.” The Holy Spirit enables us to understand that this verse from the Book of Proverbs speaks of God’s only begotten Son who from the very beginning “was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.” The Holy Spirit enables us to understand that Christ reconciled us with the Father: “Since we have been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ.” The Holy Spirit glorifies Jesus by declaring to us the glory of God’s only begotten Son which, until his coming, has been hidden from the eyes of mortal men: “He will glorify me, because he will take from what is mine and declare it to you. Everything that the Father has is mine; for this reason I told you that he will take from what is mine and declare it to you.”
The Holy Spirit takes from the wealth of Christ and declares it to us. He gives us access to whatever belongs to Jesus. We are not mere spectators to the glory that belongs to Jesus. The Holy Spirit allows us to enter into this glory. Thus, even in our afflictions, we continue to stand and “boast in hope of the glory of God.” We are not disappointed even in our afflictions “because the love of God has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit that has been given us.” The Catechism tells us: “God is love: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. God freely will to communicate the glory of his blessed life” (CCC, 257). “The ultimate end of the divine economy is the entry of God’s creatures into the perfect unity of the Blessed Trinity. But even now we are called to be a dwelling for the Most Holy Trinity…” (CCC, 260). By dwelling in us, the Holy Spirit enables us to find peace in the Blessed Trinity. And we shall remain in peace, with nothing to disturb us, so long as we remain in the Blessed Trinity. Blessed Elizabeth of the Trinity wrote: “O my God, Trinity whom I adore, help me forget myself entirely so as to establish myself in you, unmovable and peaceful as if my soul were already in eternity. May nothing be able to trouble my peace or make me leave you, O my unchanging God, but may each minute bring me more deeply into your mystery! Grant my soul peace. Make it your heaven, your beloved dwelling and the place of your rest. May I never abandon you there, but may I be there, whole and entire, completely vigilant in my faith, entirely adoring, and wholly given over to your creative action” (CCC, 260). O Most Holy Trinity, I adore Thee who art dwelling by Thy grace within my soul. Glory be to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Spirit as it was in the beginning, is now and ever shall be world without end. Amen.

Sunday, May 23, 2010


Pentecost Sunday is a fitting end to the Easter Season because the mystery this day commemorates brings to fulfillment the entire work of the Paschal Mystery. Christ our Lord suffered, died, resurrected from the dead, and was glorified so that he may give to us the Holy Spirit. Jesus said, “If I do not leave you, the Paraclete will never come.” The coming of the Holy Spirit completes the work Christ was sent to do on earth.

A few Sundays ago, we heard from the book of the Apocalypse: “I saw a new heaven and a new earth. The former heaven and the former earth had passed away…and I saw the holy city, the new Jerusalem…The One who sat on the throne said, “Behold I make all things new.” By his resurrection, Christ makes all things new. But how does he do it? The Responsorial Psalm gives us the answer: “Lord, send out your Spirit and renew the face of the earth.” The Holy Spirit was the instrument by which God created the world. In the book of Genesis the world was described as covered with chaotic waters and the Spirit of God hovered over the waters. This world which was created by God in goodness was destroyed by sin. “Through the disobedience of one man, sin entered the world and together with sin entered death.” Because of this, God creates a new heaven and a new earth by sending us his Son whose death brings forth to us the Holy Spirit who renews the face of the earth. The Holy Spirit descends on a Sunday, on the first day of the week because on the first day, God said, “Let there be light.” And there was light. Evening came, morning followed, the first day. Pentecost Sunday is the first day of the re-creation of the world. On this day, God makes all things new.

Thus, the coming of the Holy Spirit renews the world. Pentecost Sunday is the day of renewal. He brings forth a new earth. He transforms us into a new creation through the Sacrament of Baptism. Some Sundays back, Jesus said to us, “I no longer call you slaves for a slave does not know what his Master is about. Instead, I call you friends because I have told you everything I heard from my Father.” Jesus calls us friends because he reconciled us with the Father through the Blood that he shed on the Cross. Once, we were enemies of God but now we are his friends, thanks to the Blood which was the price of our freedom from sin. However, at the coming of the Holy Spirit, the Lord does something more for us. We are not just friends. We have become sons and daughters of God. “Those who are led by the Spirit of God is a son of God. For you did not receive a spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but you have received a Spirit of adoption, through whom we cry, ‘Abba, Father!’” The Holy Spirit whom we received at baptism brings God so much closer to us: “My Father will love him and we will come to him and make our dwelling with him.” The Holy Spirit dwelling in us is the pledge of eternal life. Baptism, which gives us the indwelling of the Holy Spirit, is the first day of our eternity. Unless he is driven away by our mortal sin, the Holy Spirit will dwell in us for ever: “I will ask the Father and he will give you another Advocate to be with you always.” This is the newness which Christ’s resurrection ushers into the world. The Holy Spirit comes to renew the face of the earth.
Come, Holy Spirit, fill the hearts of your faithful and kindle in them the fire of your love. Send forth your Spirit and they shall be created and you shall renew the face of the earth.

Saturday, May 22, 2010

Chaplet of Mary Queen of Apostles by Blessed James Alberione

1. Most loving Queen of heaven and of earth, I venerate and praise that privilege, unique in the world, whereby--pleasing God in your humility and faith, and preserving your spotless virginity--you became the great Mother of the divine Savior, source of all truth and first apostle of truth. You gave the world the Book to read: the Eternal Word. For the indescribable joy you felt and for that privilege so sublime, I bless the Holy Trinity. I ask you to obtain for me the grace of heavenly wisdom, to be a humble and fervent disciple of Jesus, a devoted child of the Church, the pillar of truth. Make the light of the Gospel shine to the farthest bounds of the earth, overcome errors, gather all people around the See of Peter. Enlighten theologians, preachers and writers, O Mother of Good Counsel, O Seat of Wisdom, O Queen of all saints.

Queen of Apostles, pray for us.

2. O Mary, Queen of all the angels, full of grace, conceived without sin, blessed among creatures, living tabernacle of God, remember that painful and solemn moment in which the dying Jesus from the cross gave you John as your son, and in him all humanity and especially all the apostles. What tender love flooded your heart at that moment for those consecrated to the apostolate, to the following of the cross, to the love of Jesus! For your indescribable sufferings and those of your divine Son, for your motherly heart, O Mary, increase the number of apostles, missionaries, priests and virgins. May they be resplendent for sanctity of life, integrity of morals, solid piety, the deepest humility, the most firm faith, the most ardent charity. May they all be holy, purifying salt of the earth and light of the world.

Queen of Apostles, pray for us.

3. O Virgin most pure, noble Queen of Martyrs, Morning Star, safe refuge of sinners, rejoice for the days in which you were teacher, comforter and Mother of the apostles in the cenacle, to invoke and receive the divine Paraclete, the Spirit with the seven gifts, Love of the Father and of the Son, transformer of the apostles. By your all-powerful intercession and by your humble and irresistible prayers, which always move God's heart, obtain for me the grace to realize the value of every human person, for whom Jesus Christ shed his most precious blood. May each one of us be enthusiastic about the beauty of the Christian apostolate. May the charity of Christ urge us on. May the spiritual misery of poor humanity move us. Grant that we may feel in our hearts the needs of childhood, of adolescence, of adulthood, of old age. Grant that vast Africa, immense Asia, promising Oceania, troubled Europe, the two Americas may exercise a powerful attraction on our souls. Grant that the apostolate of example and word, of prayer and the press, of films, radio and television, of the souls in purgatory, may conquer many generous persons, even to the point of the most heroic sacrifices. O Mother of the Church, O Queen of Apostles, our Advocate, to you we sigh, mourning in this valley of tears.

Queen of Apostles, pray for us.

4. O our tender Mother Mary, gate of heaven, source of peace and happiness, help of Christians, trust of the dying and hope even of the desperate, I recall the blessed moment for you in which you left the earth to fly to the blessed embrace of Jesus. It was the omnipotent favor of God which assumed you into heaven, beautiful and immortal. I see you exalted above the angels and saints, confessors and virgins, apostles and martyrs, prophets and patriarchs, and even I, from the midst of my sins, dare to add the voice of an unworthy but repentant sinner to praise and bless you. O Mary, convert me once and for always. Give me a repentant life, that I may have a holy death and one day join my voice to that of the saints to praise you in heaven. I consecrate myself to you and through you to Jesus. With full awareness and here in the presence of all the heavenly court, I renew the promises made in holy Baptism. I renew the resolution, which I place in your heart, to fight my self-love and to combat unceasingly against my principal defect, which so often has cast me into sin. O Mary, gain for yourself the greatest glory: change a great sinner into a great saint, O refuge of sinners, O morning star, O comforter of the afflicted.

Queen of Apostles, pray for us.

5. O Mary, Star of the Sea, my gentle sovereign, our life and Queen of Peace, how great and how wonderful the day on which the Holy Trinity crowned you Queen of heaven and earth, dispenser of all graces, our most lovable Mother--what a triumph for you! What happiness for the angels, for the saints, for the earth, for purgatory! I know, O Mary, that those who love you will be saved, and that those who love you greatly will be holy and will participate one day in your glory in heaven. I do not doubt your clemency nor your power; I fear my inconstancy in praying to you. Obtain for me perseverance. O Mary, be my salvation. I feel my passions, the devil, the world. O Mary, hold me close to you and to your Jesus! Do not permit me to fall; do not leave me even for an instant, O Mother. It is consoling to cast the first glance upon you in the morning, to walk under your mantle during the day, to fall asleep under your gaze at night. You have smiles for innocent children, strength for struggling youth, light for working men and women, comfort for old age awaiting heaven. O Mary, to you I consecrate my entire life; pray for me now and in the final battle at the hour of my death. Receive my soul when it breathes its last, and do not leave me until I kneel before your throne in heaven, to love you for all eternity. O Mary, my Queen, my advocate, my sweetness, obtain for me holy perseverance.

Queen of Apostles, pray for us.

Monday, May 17, 2010

The New Missal: Disaster or Opportunity? [Updated]

In the New Liturgical Movement blog, this interesting article on the new Missal translation in English is worth our careful attention. Unfortunately, in the Philippines, there seems to be some silence regarding the new English Translation which has received the recognitio from the Holy See. Is there a silent "conspiracy" in the Philippines to simply ignore the new English translation? Just asking.

The whole article responds to the accusation that the new translation is a regression. I would like to post an excerpt of the article:

"the new Missal translation does not return to something past. A reading of the
texts does not reveal precious or antiquated language; there are no thee's and
thou's. This excerpt from the Third Eucharistic Prayer is not Elizabethan or
King James English:

Therefore, O Lord, as we celebrate the memorial
of the saving Passion of your Son,
his wondrous Resurrection and Ascension into heaven,
and as we look forward to his second coming,
we offer you in thanksgiving this holy and living sacrifice.

This is not antiquated English; this is formal and sacral English.

To use this kind of language is not "retrograde," nor does it represent an effort to "freeze" the "Spirit of Vatican II." It is, instead, faithful to the nature of the Liturgy -- a formal and public worship, where formal language is therefore appropriate.
Sacral language marks what we are doing as sacred and holy, not ordinary or
everyday. The Mass, as the "source and summit" from which our life in Christ
flows, is the holiest thing that we do, in which we participate in Christ's own
prayer as high priest. If that doesn't warrant language set apart from the
ordinary, then nothing does."

The author (Rev. Robert Johansen) gave this conclusion:

"The new Missal, because of its greater fidelity, will be an antidote to that
confusion. If my own effort to gauge the response of faithful Catholics shows
anything, it is that most of the people in the pews will take the implementation
of the new language in stride. Far from the "pastoral disaster" feared by some,
I believe that the new Missal, if approached in a spirit of fidelity, will
provide all Catholics with an opportunity to enrich their faith and lead to the
deeper participation in the liturgy that Vatican II envisioned."

Just follow the link:The New Missal: Disaster or Opportunity? [Updated]

Sunday, May 16, 2010

Consecration of Priests to Mary

Consecration of Priests to the Immaculate Heart of Mary

Immaculate Mother, in this place of grace, called together by the love of your Son Jesus the Eternal High Priest, we, sons in the Son and his priests, consecrate ourselves to your maternal Heart, in order to carry out faithfully the Father's Will.

We are mindful that, without Jesus, we can do nothing good (cf. Jn 15:5) and that only through him, with him and in him,will we be instruments of salvationfor the world.

Bride of the Holy Spirit, obtain for us the inestimable gift of transformation in Christ.Through the same power of the Spirit that overshadowed you, making you the Mother of the Saviour, help us to bring Christ your Son to birth in ourselves too. May the Church be thus renewed by priests who are holy, priests transfigured by the grace of himwho makes all things new.

Mother of Mercy, it was your Son Jesus who called us to become like him: light of the world and salt of the earth(cf. Mt 5:13-14).

Help us, through your powerful intercession, never to fall short of this sublime vocation, nor to give way to our selfishness, to the allurements of the world and to the wiles of the Evil One.

Preserve us with your purity, guard us with your humility and enfold us with your maternal love that is reflected in so many souls consecrated to you, who have become for us true spiritual mothers.

Mother of the Church, we priests want to be pastors who do not feed themselves but rather give themselves to God for their brethren, finding their happiness in this. Not only with words, but with our lives, we want to repeat humbly, day after day, our "here I am".

Guided by you, we want to be Apostles of Divine Mercy, glad to celebrate every day the Holy Sacrifice of the Altar and to offer to those who request it the sacrament of Reconciliation.

Advocate and Mediatrix of grace, you who are fully immersed in the one universal mediation of Christ, invoke upon us, from God, a heart completely renewed that loves God with all its strength and serves mankind as you did.

Repeat to the Lord your efficacious word:"They have no wine" (Jn 2:3), so that the Father and the Son will send upon us a new outpouring ofthe Holy Spirit. Full of wonder and gratitude at your continuing presence in our midst, in the name of all priests I too want to cry out:"Why is this granted me, that the mother of my Lord should come to me?" (Lk 1:43).

Our Mother for all time, do not tire of "visiting us", consoling us, sustaining us. Come to our aid and deliver us from every danger that threatens us. With this act of entrustment and consecration, we wish to welcome you more deeply, more radically, for ever and totally into our human and priestly lives.

Let your presence cause new blooms to burst forth in the desert of our loneliness, let it cause the sun to shine on our darkness, let it restore calm after the tempest, so that all mankind shall see the salvation of the Lord, who has the name and the face of Jesus, who is reflected in our hearts, for ever united to yours!


Saturday, May 15, 2010

The Ascension and the 44th World Communications Day

For 44 years now, the feast of the Ascension of the Lord has been regarded as World Communications day. This is because before He ascended into heaven, the Lord gave his Apostles the mandate to go and preach the gospel to all creatures: “Repentance, for the forgiveness of sins, would be preached in his name to all nations, beginning from Jerusalem.” From the very beginning of her existence, the Church has taken this mandate seriously. Long before the invention of comfortable ways of travel, the Apostles traveled on foot and by sea in order to reach the farthest corner of the earth. Thus, in this way, St. Thomas reached India and St. Peter reached Rome. They traveled far and died preaching the gospel. Missionaries have followed the example of the apostles. Portugal and Spain, at the height of their power, sent galleons to the other side of the world not only to expand their territories and to search for spices but also to preach the gospel to all nations. Indeed, what Pope Paul VI said in Evangelii Nuntiandi is true: “The reason for the existence of the Church on earth is so that the Gospel may be heard in the farthest corners of the earth.”

In our times, digital communications offer to us new possibilities for reaching the furthest corners of the earth. In his message for today, our Holy Father wrote: “Church communities have always used the modern media for fostering communication, engagement with society, and, increasingly, for encouraging dialogue at a wider level. Yet the recent, explosive growth and greater social impact of these media make them all the more important for a fruitful priestly ministry.” In the light of the Year for Priests, the Holy Father addressed the need for the pastoral presence of priests in cyberspace. In as much as “All priests have as their primary duty the proclamation of Jesus Christ”, they have to respond to the challenge of preaching the gospel amidst the cultural shifts of the present. Priests must make use of new communications technologies: “Priests stand at the threshold of a new era: as new technologies create deeper forms of relationship across greater distances, they are called to respond pastorally by putting the media ever more effectively at the service of the Word.” “Priests can rightly be expected to be present in the world of digital communications as faithful witnesses to the Gospel, exercising their proper role as leaders of communities which increasingly express themselves with the different ‘voices’ provided by the digital marketplace. Priests are thus challenged to proclaim the Gospel by employing the latest generation of audiovisual resources (images, videos, animated features, blogs, websites) which, alongside traditional means, can open up broad new vistas for dialogue, evangelization and catechesis.” (Responding to this challenge of the Holy Father, I am now maintaining a blog which you might want to visit. Just type “sense of the sacred. blogspot” in your search engines.) “Using new communication technologies, priests can introduce people to the life of the Church and help our contemporaries to discover the face of Christ.” However, the Pope also reminds us that “priests present in the world of digital communications should be less notable for their media savvy than for their priestly heart, their closeness to Christ.”

“God’s loving care for all people in Christ must be expressed in the digital world not simply as an artifact from the past, or a learned theory, but as something concrete, present and engaging. Our pastoral presence in that world must thus serve to show our contemporaries, especially the many people in our day who experience uncertainty and confusion, ‘that God is near; that in Christ we all belong to one another’ (Benedict XVI, Address to the Roman Curia, 21 December 2009).” By being present in the Web, we “can thus help the men and women of our digital age to sense the Lord’s presence, to grow in expectation and hope, and to draw near to the Word of God which offers salvation and fosters an integral human development. In this way the Word can traverse the many crossroads created by the intersection of all the different ‘highways’ that form ‘cyberspace’, and show that God has his rightful place in every age, including our own. Thanks to the new communications media, the Lord can walk the streets of our cities and, stopping before the threshold of our homes and our hearts, say once more: ‘Behold, I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will enter his house and dine with him, and he with me’ (Rev 3:20).”

Friday, May 14, 2010

The Ascension and the Orientation of Worship

"Psallite Domino, qui ascendit super caelos caelorum as Orientem, alleluia." (Ps. LXVII. 33, 34)

Sing ye to the Lord, who mounteth above the heaven of heavens to the East, alleluia.

The Communion Antiphon for the Feast of the Ascension of the Lord in the Extraordinary Form of the Roman Rite shows that the mystery of the Ascension has influenced the Catholic custom of facing the east at the liturgical prayer. In the Acts of the Apostles, the apostles are shown as looking up to heaven as the Lord was taken away from their sight by a cloud. Two men in white garments said to them: "Ye men of Galilee, why stand you looking up to heaven? This Jesus, who is taken up from you into heaven, shall so come as you have seen Him going into heaven." What did they mean by the words: "This Jesus...shall so come as you have seen Him going into heaven"? Were they merely referring to the manner by which Christ our Lord ascended into heaven? Is he to return in the same way? Or did they also mean that on His return, the Lord will come back in the same location where He ascended into heaven.

Apparently, early on in the life of the Church, the words of the two heavenly beings were understood as referring to both the manner and the location of the Lord's departure and future return. In his book "Turning Towards the Lord: Orientation in Liturgical Prayer," Fr. U.M. Lang spoke of the liturgical direction of Jewish prayer as related to their expectation of the coming of the Messiah: "...after the destruction of the Temple, the prevailing custom of turning towards Jerusalem for prayer was kept in the liturgy of the synagogue. Thus Jews have expressed their eschatological hope for the coming of the Messiah, the rebuilding of the Temple, and the gathering of God's people from the Diaspora. The direction of prayer was thus inseparably bound up with the messianic expectation of Israel."

The same author made reference to the work of Georg Kretschmar who saw "a connection between the development of the eastward direction of prayer among Christians and a local tradition of the primitive Church in Jerusalem. Interpreting some Old Testament prophecies (Ezek 11:23; 43:1-2, 44:1-2, and Zech 14:4), the earliest Christians expected the Second Comingh of the Lord to be on the Mount of Olives, which was revered as the place of his Ascension (Acts 1:9-12). On the eve of the Passover, at any rate, the Christians of Jerusalem prayed turning toward s the Mount of Olives. Given the topography of the city, this meant that they were facing east."

Another scholar named Stefan Heid objected to Kretschmar's theory. However, even in his objection, he acknowledged the existence of a local tradition that the Second Coming was expected on the Mount of Olives: "...the sources for a local tradition that the Second Coming was expected on the Mount of Olives do not reach far back before AD 70."

Whether this local tradition was observed before or after AD 70, the fact remains that early on in the life of the Church, facing the orient during prayer ia already associated with the joyful expectation of the glorious coming of our Savior and Lord Jesus the Christ. The Church in Jerusalem faced the Mount of Olives, which was in the east. When we face the east during liturgical worship, we look at the place where He ascended into heaven. We look to that privileged place on earth where He left and where, we hope, He would return. The orientation of Catholic worship is a long standing tradition that looks back at the Ascension and looks forward to the Parousia.

Thursday, May 13, 2010

On the Ascension and the Fatima Apparitions

Ascension Thursday and the Feast of Our Lady of Fatima fall on the same day today. I celebrated Mass in the extraordinary form of the Roman rite today at noon time and it just occured to me that noon time today is doubly significant on account of the two feasts. It has been a custom that the principal Mass of Ascension Thursday be celebrated close to noon time so that the reading of the Gospel would coincide with the height of the sun in the heavens. The noon day sun speaks very much of the mystery of our Lord's Ascension. As the sun reaches the height of the heavens at noon, so also today, the Son of God ascends into heaven and is enthroned above all. Now he reigns at the right hand of his heavenly Father.

Incidentally, it was at noon of this day in 1917 that the shepherd children were watching over their flock when they heard a thunderclap and saw an apparition of our Lady over a holm oak. When asked by the children about her identity, the Lady responded: "I come from heaven."

How significant is today's noontime. Today, our Lord ascended into heaven. Today, our Lady descended from heaven.

In the Philippines, Ascension Thursday is not celebrated as a holy day of obligation. Hence, the solemnity shall be celebrated on Sunday. Thus, in the Gospel reading of the ordinary form of the Mass, our Lord says: "In a little while, you shall no longer see me. And in a little while, you shall see me again...You shall grieve and mourn while the world rejoices...but your grief shall be transformed into joy." I find this reading significant as it connects the Ascension with the Fatima apparitions. The Lord speaks of the kind of life a Christian must lead in between the Ascension and His second coming: "You shall grieve and mourn, while the world rejoices." It is precisely this that our Lady said to the children at Fatima: "Penance! Penance! Penance!"

Last night, I was praying before the Pilgrim Statue of our Lady and I could not help but notice the sadness of her eyes. Sr. Lucia wrote in her memoirs that throughout the apparitions, Our Lady never smiled. Considering the gravity of the message she was sent to announce, the sorrow of our Lady is most understandable. At Fatima, our Lady came to invite all Christians to a life of penitence, a life of mortification: "You shall grieve and mourn as the world rejoices." Between the Ascension and the Second Coming of our Lord, the life of the Christian is characterized by penance. When he was once asked why his disciples did not fast, Our Lord said, "Can the wedding guests fast while the Groom is with them? When the Groom is taken from them, it is then that they will fast." In the extraordinary form, the Paschal Candle is extinguised after the Gospel. This ritual is a clear gesture of the fact that today, the Bridegroom is taken away from us. Now, it is time to fast!

We mourn while the world rejoices. We mourn today so that we may hear in the end: "Blessed are those who weep and mourn, they shall be consoled." The world rejoices today. It continues to eat and drink as in the days of Noah. It is of them that our Lord says: "Woe to you who laugh now, you shall mourn."

Penance is an important element of the Christian spirituality. In prayer and penance, let us wait in joyful hope for the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ!

Saturday, May 8, 2010

On the Philippine Elections 2010

The Last Judgment

I will digress from the usual theme of this blog in the light of tomorrow's national and local elections. We should learn from the electoral process for a pope. During the conclave (the election of a pope) the cardinals are confined within the Sistine Chapel and are not released from there until a pope is elected. This gives them the opportunity to be secluded so as to be able to pray and discern well. (Well, the historical origin of this practice is not as pious as it seems to be.) I think that this tells us so much about what we should be doing in discerning whom to vote for. We should not allow ourselves to be influenced by surveys. I do not even understand why the media are allowed to publish survey results as doing so will tend to create a trend which will impair the voters' freedom to choose responsibly. People called for jury duty are confined to the court and hotel where they are accomodated. They are not allowed access to newspapers, television, radio, or any sort of communication with the world outside. This is to prevent their decision from being influenced by public opinion. Their decision must be based on a careful consideration of facts and evidences and nothing more. I do not understand why surveys are published. They impair the careful consideration of issues.

During election time, each cardinal is given a ballot to write in. Then, one by one, they stand in front of the altar - before the majestic mural of the Last Judgment by Michelangelo. Before this grand mural, they raise their ballots and make a personal declaration that they have voted according to conscience. Then they drop their ballot into a chalice on the altar. This ritual reminds every cardinal that he will be accountable to the Lord for his vote at the last judgment.

Now that the campaign has ended, it is time to pray and discern. In the spirit of prayer, we should make a list of the candidates to vote for. Before going to the voting precincts, pass by a church, stand before the altar, raise to the Lord your list and make a declaration to Him that you are voting according to your conscience.

Vote as a Catholic. People say that there is no Catholic vote. That's a mistake. Just as there is a Quiboloy vote, and an Iglesia vote, there is also a Catholic vote. The Catholic vote is the vote of conscience. While other churches will impose upon their members the choice for election, the bishops of the Catholic Church will simply tell you to vote according to your conscience. Vote on the basis of both moral uprightness and capability. Do not vote for anyone who has openly opposed the teachings of the Church. Do not vote for those who have openly defied the moral teachings on reproductive rights, abortion, divorce, same sex marriage, euthanasia, etc. (Remember to strike out your list the Quezon City councilors who signed the reproductive rights ordinance of the city. Only one did not sign and she is now a candidate for vice mayor of Quezon City.) While other religious leaders treat their subordinates like children who do not have a mind of their own, the bishops of the Catholic Church treat their flock as adults. Vote responsibly as adult Christians! Remember that on the day of your death and at the last judgment, you shall make an account of your vote before the Lord! Vote intelligently and responsibly!

Friday, May 7, 2010

The New Commandment

St. Maximilian Mary Kolbe

The resurrection of Jesus ushered in newness to creation. The book of Revelation which was our 2nd reading spoke of the new heavens and the new earth and also the New Jerusalem. “Behold, I make all things new,” said the Lord at the end of the reading. It is in the context of this newness of creation that we should understand what Jesus said in the Gospel: “I give you a new commandment: love one another.” This is the new law in the new Jerusalem: the law of love.

Those familiar with Scripture will find this new commandment strange. How can the commandment to love one another be new? Love isn’t necessarily a New Testament novelty. Isn’t the greatest commandment of the Old Testament about love? “You shall love the Lord your God with all your soul, and all your mind, and all your heart, and all your strength. You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” Yes, love wasn’t an invention of the Lord Jesus. Even before he came as man, the world has already known what love is. And so why call it a novelty? What makes this commandment of Jesus really new?

It is not the idea of love that is new but rather the standard of love. The commandment of old has made the self as the standard of love: “Love your neighbor as yourself.” When our Lord promulgated his new commandment, he made himself as the standard of love: “As I have loved you, so you also should love one another.” By doing so, the Lord Jesus elevated the standard of love. For when we have thought that there could be no one else who could love us more than ourselves, the Lord tells us that he loves us more than we can ever love our own selves. “As the Father loves me, so do I love you,” the Lord tells us. The standard of Jesus’ love for us is the love of the Father for him. This is a tremendous mystery for no one can ever comprehend the love between the Father and the Son in the Holy Trinity! Nothing can surpass the love of the Father for his Son. And he loves us in the way he is loved by the Father! He loves us with the same intensity and the same infinity of the Father’s love for him. When this incomprehensible Divine Love is translated in human measurable terms, it becomes an awesome sight: it is the image of Christ on the Cross. Christ on the Cross is the most profound expression of love until the end: “There can be no greater love than this: that a man should lay down his life for his friends!” And this love which is to the end is the very standard of our love for each other: “Christ suffered for you to leave you an example so that you may follow in his footsteps.” “Christ laid down his life for us. We should lay down our lives for each other.” It is by his sacrifice on the Cross that Christ is glorified by the Father and that Christ glorified his Father. If we love one another by laying down our lives in the fashion of Christ’s generous self-donation, we likewise glorify Christ and in him, we glorify the Father.

In the middle of World War II, a Polish Conventual priest, Fr. Maximilian Kolbe, was imprisoned in the labor camp in Auschwitz. One day, a prisoner from the block where Fr. Kolbe belonged escape. Ten men will have to pay for this escape with their own lives. When the men were randomly selected, one of them cried: "My wife! My children!" To the surprise of all, Fr. Kolbe stepped out of line and volunteered to take the place of the crying man. "I am a Catholic priest," he said, "I wish to take his place." The crying man was released and Fr. Kolbe, together with nine other prisoners, were brought to a bunker to die of starvation. Days have passed, and when the prisoners died one after another, Fr. Kolbe was found alive, weakened but still kneeling in prayer. His arm was injected with carbolic acid which ended his heroic life. No greater love can there be than the one who lays down his life for his friends.

The mark of the Cross in our lives distinguishes us as Christians. And the Cross is well the symbol of love – love that forgets itself and gives itself until the very end. “This is how all will know hat you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.”