Monday, January 27, 2014

On the Last 8 Days of Christmas: Christ, Light in Darkness

Praised be Jesus, Mary, and Joseph!

“The people who sit in darkness have seen a great light.”

It is quite significant that the Lord begins his preaching in the borders of Zabulon and Nephtali, the Galilee of the gentiles. [There were two Galilees; one of the Jews and the other of the Gentiles. This division of Galilee had existed from Solomon’s time, who gave 20 cities in Galilee to Hyram, King of Tyre; this part was afterwards called Galilee of the Gentiles; while the remainder was called the Galilee of the Jews. Zabulon and Nephtali were two tribes that were taken captive by the Assyrians.] It was the Gentiles that the prophet Isaiah referred to as the people which sat in darkness. The Gentiles sat in darkness because they did not know the true God. They worshipped idols and demons and so they lived in the region of death. St. John Chrysostom said “they (gentiles) found it (light) not of their own seeking, but God Himself appeared to them…for men were in the greatest miseries before Christ’s coming; they did not walk but sat in darkness, which was a sign that they hoped for deliverance; for as not knowing what way they should go, shut in by darkness, they sat down having no power to stand. By darkness he means here, error and ungodliness.”

The Light of Christ draws us out of darkness
Darkness is debilitating. When we are covered with thick darkness, there is nothing much we can do. If this is true with physical light, it is even truer with spiritual light. “Darkness means error and ungodliness.” Therefore, ignorance of the true God is debilitating. One who is shut in by darkness does not know where to go. He loses the right sense of direction. He simply goes round and round until finally, in exhaustion, he sits in the dark as he hopes that light will soon find him. Many people falsely think that they can go through life without the light of religion. But Pope Francis himself says: “faith is a light, for once the flame of faith dies out, all other lights begin to dim. The light of faith is unique, since it is capable of illuminating every aspect of human existence. A light this powerful cannot come from ourselves but from a more primordial source: in a word, it must come from God. Faith is born of an encounter with the living God who calls us and reveals his love, a love which precedes us and upon which we can lean for security and for building our lives. Transformed by this love, we gain fresh vision, new eyes to see; we realize that it contains a great promise of fulfilment, and that a vision of the future opens up before us. Faith, received from God as a supernatural gift, becomes a light for our way, guiding our journey through time.” [Lumen Fidei, 4.]

Christ is the Light that enlightens every man. As the magi, after having encountered Christ, went home using a different road, one who encounters Christ cannot help but be changed by this encounter. As Christ illuminates every aspect of our human existence, we begin to see reality in a new perspective – which is definitely wider than the constricting point of view of our flesh. Christ, who enlightens us, calls out to us: “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.” After discovering that Christ offers us something better than the world can give, turning our back to the world is the only reasonable response. Why insist on what is limited when what is better is standing before us? Why insist on sitting in darkness when the inviting light of Christ is calling us to him? At the end of a black out, our instinct is to clap our hands in joy at the lifting of darkness and the coming of light. Christ our light shines on us and he has brought us “abundant joy and great rejoicing” for he has smashed the yoke of sin which burdened us and has shattered the rod of the devil who oppressed us.

Jesus, I trust in you. O Mary conceived without sin, pray for us who have recourse to thee.  

Monday, January 20, 2014

Acción Litúrgica: Boda Mozárabe en Filipinas

Acción Litúrgica: Boda Mozárabe en Filipinas: El pasado 26 de diciembre, fiesta de San Esteban, y primer día después del tiempo vedado en que pudieran verificarse los matrimonios, don D...

Sunday, January 19, 2014

The Challenge of Conversion to Child-like Nothingness


“Whoever humbles himself like this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven.” Children are seldom regarded as role models. In fact, children are always taught to imitate the good examples of the adults. They are always told that they still have many things to learn and to experience. “Marami ka pang kakaining bigas,” the usual admonition they would receive from adults, would imply that their lack of experience disqualifies them from being models.

However, when asked about greatness in the kingdom of heaven, the Lord Jesus puts a child in the midst of his disciples and tells them, “Whoever humbles himself like this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven.” When we look at the image of the Santo Nino, we see the real implication of these words of the Lord. In the Santo Nino, we see Christ who is King of kings and Lord of lords and yet has become a little child. By his incarnation, God the Son, in assuming human nature, became a little child. He humbled himself like a child. He became a child…and therefore, is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven. In the humility of his childhood, Jesus remained to be who he is: God’s only begotten Son in whom the Father was well pleased. His humanity never diminished in any way his divinity. He continues to be the one to whom is given every authority in heaven and on earth. This little child is for ever Wonder-counselor, God-hero, Father-forever, and Prince of Peace. His dominion is forever peaceful. As David’s successor, his power is based on right and justice.

By the mystery of his childhood, the Lord Jesus prepared for us the path to greatness in the kingdom of heaven. He challenges us to conversion: “Unless you change and become like children, you will not enter the kingdom of heaven.” Fr. Marie Eugene of the Child Jesus said: “…to become authentic children of God, to receive truly all the benefits of the Incarnation and partake of them, whoever we may be, rich or poor, we must be truly poor.” St. John of the Cross has underlined this poverty: “Try always to prefer…not what is easiest, but most difficult; not what is most delightful, but most difficult; not what is most satisfying, but unpleasant; not what is restful, but laborious; not what brings consolation, but what does not; not having more, but having less; not what is most desirable, but no one wants; not wanting something, but wanting nothing; not seeking the best, but the worst; in short try always to prefer the desire to be stripped of everything, in poverty, for the sake of Christ.” (John of the Cross, Ascent to Mount Carmel, book 1, chapter 13.)
Fr. Marie Eugene said that it is by realizing in life this self-emptying (poverty) that we reach spiritual childhood. “This state of littleness, or complete and absolute poverty is the condition for bringing about the perfect incarnation of grace in our souls; it leaves God free to accomplish in us the plenitude of grace that he has prepared for us for all eternity.” (Marie Eugene of the Child Jesus, Emmanuel: When
God walked on our land, p. 100.)

Becoming like a child is not as easy as it seems to be. It involves a real conversion to nothingness: a conversion to having pleasure in nothing, to wish to possess nothing, to desire to be nothing, to wish to know nothing. Seeing how we crave to possess every known pleasure and satisfaction, we realize that this conversion is indeed difficult. Would any of us who is earning his own money would want to return to becoming a penniless child? Would we, who have experienced the joy of independence, even want to return to a child’s dependence on his parents for his most basic needs? It is difficult to be like a child with nothing of his own. To go down this way of child-like nothingness is to pass through the narrow door.

Jesus, I trust in you. O Mary conceived without sin, pray for us who have recourse to thee.  

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

New Liturgical Movement: Epiphany Photopost, 2014

Our pictures of the celebration of the Mass in the Extraordinary Form of the Roman Rite for the Feast of the Epiphany found their way into the New Liturgical Movement Blog.

New Liturgical Movement: Epiphany Photopost, 2014

Sunday, January 12, 2014

The 40 days of Christmas

According to the Calendar of the Ordinary Form of the Roman rite, the Christmas Season ends on the Feast of the Baptism of the Lord (Sunday after Epiphany / Monday if Epiphany Sunday comes late). In the Extraordinary Form of the Roman rite, Baptism of the Lord always falls on the 13th of January, formerly the octave of Epiphany. However, some years back, Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI spoke of the forty days of Christmas: "Easter has its fifty days while Christmas has its forty." It seems that there is a long-standing tradition that looks at the Feast of the Presentation of the Lord (February 2) as the end of the Christmas season. The Christmas Tree and Belen of St. Peter's Square continue to stand until February 2. They will be dismantled afterwards. Also, the Marian Antiphon "Alma Redemptoris Mater" is sung at Compline from the first Sunday of Advent until February 2. And so I ask: is it possible to keep the 40 days of Christmas in the liturgy? I think we can.

First of all, we take a look at the lectionary. In the ordinary form of the Roman rite, the Sunday readings are so arranged that the three mysteries of Epiphany are read for three consecutive Sundays. The now-transferable feast of the Epiphany is often celebrated today on the first Sunday of January (unless New Year's day falls on a Sunday). On Epiphany Sunday, the Gospel reading is about the Adoration of the Magi. The 2nd Sunday of January is kept as the Feast of the Baptism. In this Feast, the 2nd mystery of Epiphany is referred to in the readings. On the 3rd Sunday of January, the Gospel reading is always about the Wedding at Cana, which is the 3rd mystery of Epiphany. It is just unfortunate that the Feast of the Santo Nino in the Philippines takes precedence over the reading of the Wedding at Cana. If only the Feast of the Santo Nino were moved to the 4th Sunday of January, we will have the spirit of Christmas and Epiphany felt throughout the entire month of January. Of course, everything ends with the Feast of the Presentation of the Lord on February 2.

This is even clearer in the arrangement of both feasts and readings in the Extraordinary Form of the Roman Rite. The first Sunday of January is always the Feast of the Holy Name of Jesus (unless the Octave of Christmas falls on a this case, the Holy Name is celebrated on January 2.) January 6 is always Epiphany in which the Reading would be about the Adoration of the Magi. The second Sunday of January  is always the Feast of the Holy Family which commemorates the finding of the Child Jesus in the temple.
January 13 is always the Feast of the Baptism of the Lord, which is the 2nd mystery of Epiphany. The reading for the ferial Masses on the first week after Epiphany is always the  same Finding of the Child Jesus in the Temple. The third Sunday of January will be the 2nd Sunday after Epiphany in which the reading will be about the Wedding at Cana, which is the 3rd Mystery of Epiphany. Again, if only the Feast of the Santo Nino were moved to the 4th Sunday of January...the Christmas season will obviously be extended throughout the month of January and will be concluded by the Feast of the Presentation of the Lord or the Purification of our Lady.

Like the Column of Fire, He Goes before us.

Christ is baptized to make the water holy
Praised be Jesus, Mary, and Joseph.

John the Baptist hesitated to baptize Jesus when the Lord came to him at the river Jordan. He said: “I need to be baptized by you, and yet you are coming to me.” However, the Lord insisted because “it is fitting for us to fulfill all righteousness.” Why would the Holy One desire baptism? Wasn’t John’s Baptism a baptism of repentance? How could the Lord Jesus desire to be baptized when in fact, he had no sin to repent for? St. Maximus of Turin gives this answer: “Christ is baptized, not to be made holy by the water, but to make the water holy, and by his cleansing to purify the waters which he touched. For the consecration of Christ involves a more significant consecration of the water. For when the Savior is washed, all water for our baptism is made clean, purified at its source for the dispensing of baptismal grace to the people of future ages. Christ is the first to be baptized, then, so that Christians will follow after him with confidence.” St. Maximus looked back at the story of the crossing of the Israelites on the Red Sea. The people of Israel followed a column of fire that went before them through the Red Sea. The column first went through the waters to prepare a path for those who followed.

“… in the column of fire [Christ] he went through the sea before the sons of Israel; so now, in the column of his body, he goes through baptism before the Christian people. At the time of the Exodus the column provided light for the people who followed; now it gives light to the hearts of believers. Then it made a firm pathway through the waters; now it strengthens the footsteps of faith in the bath of baptism.” But Christ went before us not only through the ceremonial waters of the River Jordan. The Lord kept referring to a Baptism that he had to receive and this Baptism would be the baptism of his death. The waters of baptism do not simply refer to the cleansing of sin. It primarily refers to death and resurrection. His immersion in the waters of the Jordan was symbolic of what he would later on do: he would cross the waters of death in order to pass from this world to his Father. By doing so, he will obtain for us forgiveness of sins and also our adoption as children of God by sending the Holy Spirit to us through our own baptism. The mystery of the Cross continues to loom over Christ. This time the shadow of the Cross hovers over the waters of the Jordan. The Cross makes sacred the waters. The Cross gives to us the Spirit-filled waters of baptism. Had Jesus not died on the Cross, the Baptismal water would remain to be ordinary, natural water…without power to save. It would be nothing more than a mere symbol of repentance and nothing more. It is the death of Jesus on the Cross that sends the Holy Spirit upon the Baptismal water. Thus, the Spirit-filled waters of Baptism are able to wash away original sin and bring about our adoption as sons and daughters of God. Jesus Christ was anointed by God with the Holy Spirit and power. He is the one who sends the Holy Spirit to us. He heals all of us who were oppressed by the devil for God was with him.

Jesus, I trust in you. O Mary conceived without sin, pray for us who have recourse to thee. 

The Crib and the Cross

PRAISED BE Jesus, Mary, and Joseph.

“Where is the new-born King of the Jews? We saw his star at its rising and have come to do him homage,” so did the magi ask as they went to Jerusalem in search for the child of promise. This seems to be a strange way of referring to the child: “king of the Jews.” It seems to be a title that only gentiles would address the Son of David. Amongst the Jewish circles, people would normally speak of the “king of Israel.” Only gentiles would call him “King of the Jews.” In fact, Pope Benedict pointed out that the same title will be written by Pontius Pilate on the inscription over the Cross: Jesus of Nazareth, King of the Jews. “As the first Gentiles inquire after Jesus – there are already echoes of the mystery of the Cross, a mystery that is inseparably linked with Jesus’ kingship.” [Benedict XVI, Jesus of Nazareth: the Infancy Narratives, 102.]

Not only Herod was troubled by this inquiry, but all Jerusalem as well. “This…could be an anticipation of Jesus’ regal entrance into the Holy City on the eve of His Passion, when Matthew [the same author] says that the whole city was quaking [cf. Mt. 21:10].” [Ibid., 103.] The chief priests and the scribes of the people would meet. On this occasion, they meet to determine where the King of the Jews was to be born according to the prophecies…but later on, they would meet to connive and have Jesus sentenced to death. “What from a lofty perspective of faith is a star of hope, from the perspective of daily life is merely a disturbance. It is true: God disturbs our comfortable day-to-day existence. Jesus’ kingship goes hand in hand with this passion.” [Ibid.]

Not only did they offer gold and frankincense...they also offered myrrh.
We see the shadow of the Cross all over the story of the adoration by the Magi. Not only did they offer the child gifts of gold and incense to honor his royalty and divinity. They offered him myrrh, which is used for the anointing of a corpse. Nicodemus, in the story of the Lord’s Passion, would bring myrrh for the anointing of the body of Jesus. The Magi acknowledged the Child to be King and God but they saw this royalty and divinity revealed in his Death on the Cross. The Cross is the Wisdom of God. The Cross is the Power of God.  The mystery of the Incarnation cannot be separated from the mystery of the Cross. The Cross was the purpose of the Incarnation. He took on human nature so that he can die on the Cross and redeem us from sins. In the humility of the manger, He is king. In the humiliation of the Cross, He is enthroned as King.

“The impact of eternity on the temporal order can be seen in the crib and on the cross. How does the divine enter into the human? This happens in the experience of poverty and annihilation, in the experience of failure…This is the law of the supernatural here on earth: the law of the Cross. The supernatural, the divine, are accompanied by the law of the cross…The divine does not come on earth in order to triumph according to human modes. It does not come to display itself in a glory that would be natural, and in a triumph that would be temporal. God has chosen poverty, apparent failure, a seeming lack of preparation, self-abasement: such is the law imposed by the Holy Trinity on our Lord for his coming on earth and for his departure.” This will be the same law that will preside over the development of grace in our souls. It is the same law of the development of the Church. “The Church, because it is Christ…will reproduce Christ. The Church will live according to the laws of Christ…Christ is the prototype. The Church must pass by the same way and follow the same laws for its birth, its development, and its end. To be born in a manger and to die crucified  - these laws…we have to remember them.” (Fr. Marie Eugene of the Child Jesus, Emmanuel: When God walked on our Land, 76-77.)

Jesus, I trust in you. O Mary conceived without sin, pray for us who have recourse to thee. 

Mary and the Church: Mothers with open hearts

Praised be Jesus, Mary, and Joseph!

Mary opened her heart to the shepherds.
One of the reasons why Jesus was born in a stable was Mary’s need for privacy as she gave birth to her first-born Son. Because the inn was filled with people, it was impossible for her to get the privacy she needed in giving birth. Thus, the stable was the best place for her to deliver the child. It may have been a place for animals…and yet there was the privacy she needed for the birth of God’s Son to take place. Thus, that she would open the stable and admit the visit of shepherds is to me a surprise. First of all, these shepherds were completely strangers to her. She did not know them. And we have to abandon the stereotype we give these shepherds as cute little drummer boys. These shepherds were rugged men who were accustomed to the outdoor life – perhaps the kind that you would hesitate to welcome into your own home. Nevertheless, she welcomed them and even opened her heart to them. She listened to their story of angels delivering a message about her new-born Son. “All were amazed by what had been told them by the shepherds”…all, including Mary who “kept all these things, reflecting on them in her heart.” Opening her heart to the shepherds, Mary was further enriched in her faith. It made her heart expand more in charity. She welcomed God’s Son into her heart and then in her womb. Now, she welcomed the shepherds into the stable…and then in her heart.

The Church is also a mother…just like Mary. In fact, Mary is Mother and model of the Church. She is what the Church wishes and should be. Therefore, in the new evangelization, the Church must imitate Mary. Pope Francis wrote: “The Church is called to be the house of the Father, with doors always wide open. One concrete sign of such openness is that our church doors should always be open, so that if someone, moved by the Spirit, comes there looking for God, he or she will not find a closed door. There are other doors that should not be closed either. Everyone can share in some way in the life of the Church; everyone can be part of the community, nor should the doors of the sacraments be closed for simply any reason. This is especially true of the sacrament which is itself ‘the door’: baptism. The Eucharist, although it is the fullness of sacramental life, is not a prize for the perfect but a powerful medicine and nourishment for the weak. These convictions have pastoral consequences that we are called to consider with prudence and boldness. Frequently, we act as arbiters of grace rather than its facilitators. But the Church is not a tollhouse; it is the house of the Father, where there is a place for everyone, with all their problems.” [Francis, Evangelii Gaudium, 47.] Sometimes, we close our churches for fear of being burglarized. And this is a legitimate concern. However, we must keep in mind that our churches are not museums or storage houses of precious artifacts. It is the house of God and its opened doors should reflect the opened heart of the Father.

The Church is the house of the Father with its doors always widely opened. And like Mary who listened to the shepherds, we must also take time to listen to the stories of those who enter the Church. “A Church which ‘goes forth’ is a Church whose doors are open. Going out to others in order to reach the fringes of humanity does not mean rushing out aimlessly into the world. Often it is better simply to slow down, to put aside our eagerness in order to see and listen to others, to stop rushing from one thing to another and to remain with someone who has faltered along the way. At times we have to be like the father of the prodigal son, who always keeps his door open so that when the son returns, he can readily pass through it.” (EG, 46.)
As the shepherds went out and amazed all with their story of what they heard and seen, so must we also be bearers of this glad tidings to all, especially to the poor. “If the whole Church takes up this missionary impulse, she has to go forth to everyone without exception. But to whom should she go first? When we read the Gospel we find a clear indication: not so much our friends and wealthy neighbours, but above all the poor and the sick, those who are usually despised and overlooked, ‘those who cannot repay you’ (Lk 14:14). There can be no room for doubt or for explanations which weaken so clear a message. Today and always, ‘the poor are the privileged recipients of the Gospel’, and the fact that it is freely preached to them is a sign of the kingdom that Jesus came to establish. We have to state, without mincing words, that there is an inseparable bond between our faith and the poor. May we never abandon them.” (EG, 48.)

Let this new year be truly a renewed opportunity for our conversion. Like Mary, may our parish be a more welcoming parish. May we be a more missionary parish. May we be eager to amaze people with our stories of what we have seen and heard. Let us go forth to everyone without exception.

Jesus, I trust in you. O Mary conceived without sin, pray for us who have recourse to thee.