Thursday, July 29, 2010

On the Cross

...the world needs the Cross. The Cross is not just a private symbol of devotion, it is not just a badge of membership of a certain group within society, and in its deepest meaning it has nothing to do with the imposition of a creed or a philosophy by force. It speaks of hope, it speaks of love, it speaks of victory of non violence over oppression. It speaks of God raising up the lowly, empowering the weak, conquering division, and overcoming hatred with love. A world without the Cross would be a world without hope, a world in which torture and brutality would go unchecked, the weak would be exploited and greed would have the final word. Man's inhumanity to man would be manifested in ever more horrific ways, and there would be no end to the vicious cycle of violence. Only the Cross puts an end to it. While no earthly power can save us from the consequences of our sins, and no earthly power can defeat injustice at its source, nevertheless the saving intervention of our loving God has transformed the reality of sin and death into its opposite. That is what we celebrate when we glory in the Cross of our Redeemer. Rightly does St. Andrew of Crete describe the Cross as "more noble, more precious than anything on earth [...] for in it and through it and for it all the riches of our salvation were stored away and restored to us" (Oratio X; PG 97, 1018-1019).

Dear brother priests, dear religious, dear catechists, the message of the Cross has been entrusted to us, so that we can offer hope to the world. When we proclaim Christ crucified, we are proclaiming not overselves, but him. We are not offering our own wisdom to the world, nor are we claiming any merit of our own, but we are acting as channels for his wisdom, his love, his saving merits. We know that we are merely earthenware vessels, and yet, astonishingly, we have been chosen to be heralds of the saving truth that the world needs to hear. Let us never cease to marvel at the extraordinary grace that has been given to us, let us never cease to acknowledge our unworthiness, but at the same time let us always strive to become less unworthy of our noble calling, lest through our faults and failings we weaken the credibility of our witness.

Benedict XV, Homily at the Church of the Holy Cross in Nicosia,

5 June 2010

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Msgr. Bux on the Cross in the Liturgy

This interview with Msgr. Nicola Bux was published in an English Translation by Mr. Carlos Palad in Rorate Caeli blog. I find his statement on the position of the Cross in the Liturgy very significant. Remember my post about that liturgist who insists that the Cross is not the center of the celebration but rather the celebration is the center of the celebration (huh?) ? Well, Fr. Liturgist, eat your heart out!

Follow the entire interview in Rorate Caeli.
"Yes, having the cross at the center of the altar is a way to bring to mind what the Mass is. I do not speak of a 'miniature' cross but of a cross such as can be seen. The dimensions of the cross should be proportional to the ecclesial space. It should be brought back to the center [of the altar], aligned with the altar, and everybody must be able to see it. It should be the focal point of the faithful and of the priest, as [the former Cardinal] Joseph Ratzinger says in his Introduction to the Spirit of the Liturgy. It should be in the center, independently of the celebration, even if it is Mass 'facing the people.' I insist on a cross that is clearly visible. Otherwise, what is the use of an image that cannot be sufficiently profited from? Images refer to the prototype... In an era in which vision has become the favored medium of our
contemporaries, it does not suffice to have a little cross that lies flat or an illegible “sketch” of a cross, but it is necessary that the cross, along with the figure of the Crucified, be clearly visible on the altar, regardless of the angle from which it is viewed."

Sunday, July 25, 2010

Why Christians Pray

The petition of the disciples to our Lord: “Lord, teach us to pray just as John taught his disciples,” shows us what the gospel reading today is really about. It is not just about prayer but it is actually about Christian Prayer. St. Francis de Sales said: “All things are created for the purpose of prayer.” He meant that everything and everyone, by the mere fact of existence, proclaim the power, goodness, and wisdom of the Creator and also their dependence on Him. This is a given.

But for us Christians, prayer goes beyond this simple recognition of our dependence on God. Rather, our need to pray emerges from supernatural causes. We Christians pray: (1) because, thanks to our salvation through Christ, we have become children of God. “God sent his Son…so that we might receive the adoption of sons. And because you are sons, God has sent the Spirit of his Son into your hearts, crying Abba, Father”(Gal. 4:4-6). By the sacrament of Baptism, “you have received the spirit of adoption of sons, whereby we cry, Abba, Father!” (Rom. 8:15) In this one word, Father, we voice our faith, our childlike trust, our surrender, our love, our contrition, our petition, our will to live for Him, to yield ourselves in everything to his holy will for us. Our Christian prayer, therefore, is not just the expression of purely natural man’s relation with God his Creator. We come to him in our prayers rather as children to their heavenly Father. We do not forget that we are his creatures, but our prayer is not based on this; it is rather based on our dignity and our position as children of God. Filled with childlike reverence, we approach the Father in the confidence that he will extend to us his Fatherly beneficence, and that we can yield ourselves to Him trustfully, with heartfelt love. Our prayer has its roots in the fact of our being children of God, that is, that we are in sanctifying grace which comes from the Holy Spirit. Christian prayer is the act, not of the natural man, but of grace.

(2) We pray because by virtue of Baptism, we are in Christ: we are the branches of Christ the Vine whose life flows in us. We can offer our prayer, our address of love to the Father, in so far as we are in Christ, sharing His life. In as much as the life of Christ is a complete and loving surrender to the Father, we are caught up in his loving surrender to the Father on account of our sharing in his life. In him and through him, we speak the words of love: “Holy be your name, Your kingdom come; Your will be done.” In him and through him, we petition with childlike trust: “Give us this day our daily bread. Forgive us our trespasses. Deliver us from evil.” Our prayer is not only the prayer of natural man with his limitation and insignificance; ours is actually the prayer of Christ, who prays in us to the Father. Our own inadequate prayer is carried up and ennobled by the dignity and the power of Christ. Our prayers in him bear much fruit. We pray in him and Christ prays in us. The more deeply we live in Christ, the more we share in his life, the more fruitful our prayers are and the better they do their work.

(3) We pray because it is necessary for us to do so. In spite of all our good intentions, all our strivings, we are simply not able, by our own natural powers, to overcome the evils that seek to trip us up, the temptations besetting us; nor can we do the good we wish to do. St. Paul says, “I can do everything in him who strengthens me.” (Phil 4:13) But whom does God strengthen, to whom does he give power and grace? To the one who prays: “Ask and you shall receive.” If you do not pray, you shall not receive; if you pray little, you will receive little; if you pray much, you will receive much. That is the law. God wants to give us his grace; but His will is that we shall pray before we receive it. There is one especially effective way of attaining grace, and that is through prayer. It is the medium that at all times, comes easiest to mind. It is the first medium the soul reaches for in its upward impulse; it is the last medium the soul turns to when death knocks at the door. It is one of the most powerful and effective mediums for uniting us with God and putting grace within our reach. “God gives grace to the humble” said St. Peter. In our petition, we acknowledge our nothingness and our dependence on God’s grace. We recognize and acknowledge the greatness and power and goodness of God.

(4) We Christians pray because we are children of Holy Church. The Church herself is a praying Church. She lives for worship. Even in work and in suffering for God, the Church keeps her thoughts, her heart, her attention unswervingly on God. Both in heaven, in purgatory, and on earth, the Church prays unceasingly. The Church prays unceasingly in the persons of her priests and though consecrated men and women. The Church prays vicariously for so many of her children who have forgotten how to pray, or who are hindered from doing so. She prays for the many who do not want to be her children and who stand outside, rapidly perishing of misery and hunger. The Church prays for the whole world, for all who are in need, the tired, the tempted, the oppressed, and those in spiritual danger.

The world, so far from God, does not pray. It seeks relief in broken cisterns (Jer. 2:13), in the stepping up of human achievement, in learning, in even more daring enterprises, in the destruction of the past, in technical progress, in boundless effort for wealth and well being, yes, and in turning away from God and Christ, in combat against the Church of Christ, in encouraging unbelief, in making gods of men, and false gods of work, success, money, the nation, the State. The world needs no God, no light, no outside help; it is sufficient unto itself. That is why it needs no prayer. Because of this, the task of the Church, our task, is even greater: the task of prayer. In prayer we must make good all that is lacking; praying, we must do penance and atone; we must ask for forgiveness and grace, especially in these days of material, spiritual, and moral need. What can save the world? Not learning, not technical knowledge, not politics, nor human power. The only thing that can save us is the mercy of God and his grace. And this can be attained only through prayer. The healing of the world lies in prayer.

“Pray without ceasing.” “Ask and you shall receive.” “We believe that no one can be saved without God’s help; and that no one asks His help but the one who prays” (St. Augustine). “All saints became blessed and holy because they prayed. All who have been lost were lost because they did not pray. Had they prayed persistently, they would have been saved” (St. Alphonsus). “No one is more powerful than the man who prays” (St. John Chrysostom). The strength of the Church lies in the prayers of Christians.

B. Baur, In Silence With God, 133-140.

Sunday, July 18, 2010

Martha and Mary

Martha and Mary are oftentimes opposed against each other as if the two aspects of Christian life compete with each other: Labora and Ora. Martha stands for active apostolic life while Mary stands for the contemplative life. And of course, because Jesus said, “Mary has chosen the better portion and it will not be taken away from her,” the conclusion is that the contemplative life is higher than the apostolic life.

“Mary has chosen the better portion”: what did she do? She sat at the feet of the Lord and listened to his word: “Mary sat beside the Lord at his feet listening to him speak”. She opened her heart to the Lord. She opened to him the door of her secret place and there conversed with him in secret. “When you pray, go to your inner room, close the door, and pray to your Father in secret. And your Father who sees in secret will repay you.”

However, let it not be forgotten that Mary was able to open her heart to the Lord only because Martha opened her home to him: “Martha welcomed him.” Martha opened her home to Jesus because such was demanded of her by the requirement of Christian hospitality: “I was a stranger and you welcomed me.” Wasn’t our Lord a homeless stranger? In last Sunday’s parable, wasn’t our Lord the Good Samaritan because he was a foreigner to this earth: “I do not belong to this world”? And a few Sundays back, did he not say that he was homeless: “Foxes have lairs and birds have nests but the Son of Man does not have a place to rest his head”? On account of these, Jesus wants to be invited to our homes. Thus, he invited himself to Zaccheus’ home: “Hurry down because I mean to stay at your house today!” In the book of the Apocalypse it is written: “I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in and sit down to supper with him, and he with me.” (Rev. 3:29)

We want to raise our children as good Christians. We want them to develop an intimate personal relationship with the Lord. We want them to imitate Mary who opened her heart and welcomed the Lord into her life. However, this can only take place if we open our homes to Christ and welcome him. The first place where our children ought to meet and know the Lord is the Christian home. That is why when we see that our children do not seem to have an intimate friendship with the Lord, when we see that they seemed not to have opened their hearts to him, perhaps it might be because we have not opened our homes to the Lord.

I notice that many modern homes I have blessed no longer have an altar located in a prominent place. Visitors to old homes are often greeted by an image of Christ majestically enthroned upon the home altar. Today, the guest is most likely to be greeted by pictures of horses. Perhaps we should ask: in houses where the Lord is visibly absent, could it be possible that he be present in their conversations or even in their relations? The more probable answer would be a “no” for the mere reason that the principle “out of sight, out of mind” is true. Christian virtues are caught in homes where the atmosphere and lifestyle are distinctly Catholic. When Martha opened her home to Christ, she provided Mary the opportunity to open her heart to him. In like manner, we encourage our children to open their hearts to Christ if we show them that the Lord is always “the head of our homes, the unseen guest at every meal, and the silent listener to every conversation.” St. Paul said to the Colossians: “It is Christ whom we proclaim, admonishing everyone and teaching everyone with all wisdom, that we may present everyone perfect in Christ.”

Friday, July 2, 2010

Why the Old Form Thrives in my Parish

I found this profound article on the extraorodinary form being celebrated in a parish. You might want to check it out. Just follow the link

On the hesitation to exorcise

Fr. Gabriele Amorth, exorcist of Rome, wrote on the hesitation of priests to exorcise:

"Often priests do not believe in exorcisms, but if the bishop offers them the office of exorcist, they feel as though one thousand demons are upon them and refuse. Many times have I written that Satan is much more enraged when we take souls away from him through confession than when we take away bodies through exorcism. In fact, we cause the devil even greater rage by preaching because faith sprouts from the word of God. Therefore, a priest who has the courage to preach and hear confessions should not be afraid to exorcise."

(G. Amorth, An Exorcist Tells His Story, 67.)

Thursday, July 1, 2010

Precious Blood

"This man is blaspheming," so did the scribes protested among themselves as they heard Jesus declare to the paralytic: "Your sins are forgiven." Their charge of blasphemy was on account of the fact that "Only God can forgive sins." As the divinity of our Lord was kept hidden to them, they thought that our Lord had no authority to bestow the forgiveness of sins.

But of course, our Lord had authority to forgive sins. First, on account of the fact that Jesus is God, he had the authority to forgive sins. His name, Jesus, reveals who he is and what he does: He is God and He saves. Consubstantial with the Father, He is God from God, Light from Light, True God from True God. He forgives sins because He is divine.

But our Lord tells us something more: "The Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins..." He tells us that not only his Divinity gives him the power to forgive sins but also his sacred Humanity. After all, his Humanity was the instrument for our salvation. In his flesh, he hung upon the Cross. His precious Blood, which he shed upon the Cross, was the price he paid for our redemption. "You were not bought at the price of any diminishable sum of silver and gold but at the price of Christ's blood, the blood of the Lamb without blemish." The price of our redemption was human blood - the human blood of the Son of God! At the last supper, our Lord made clear that his blood is "the blood of the new and everlasting covenant which will be shed for you and for the many for the forgiveness of sins."

He forgives sins because he is the God the Son. He forgives sins because as man, he shed his blood for the forgiveness of sins. Hail, Son of the Living God! Hail, Blood shedding Victim! Hail, precious Blood of the True God and the True Man!