Sunday, December 17, 2017

Do you really strive to achieve it?


He who gives his will to God, gives Him everything. He who gives his goods in alms, his blood in scourgings, his food in fasting, gives God what he has. But he who gives God his will, gives himself, gives everything he is.

Such a one can say:

“Though I am poor, Lord, I give thee all I possess; but when I say I give thee my will, I have nothing left to give thee.” This is just what God does require of us: “My son, give me thy heart.” St. Augustine’s comment is: “There is nothing more pleasing we can offer God than to say to him: ‘Possess thyself of us’.’’ We cannot offer God anything more pleasing than to say: Take us, Lord, we give thee our entire will. Only let us know thy will and we will carry it out.

If we would completely rejoice the heart of God, let us strive in all things to conform ourselves to his divine will. Let us not only strive to conform ourselves, but also to unite ourselves to whatever dispositions God makes of us. Conformity signifies that we join our wills to the will of God. Conformity means more -- it means that we make one will of God’s will and ours, so that we will only what God wills; that God’s will alone, is our will.

This is the summit of perfection and to it we should always aspire; this should be the goal of all our works, desires, meditations and prayers. To this end we should always invoke the aid of our holy patrons, our guardian angels, and above all, of our mother Mary, the most perfect of all the saints because she most perfectly embraced the divine will.

Saint Alphonsus Maria de Liguori
From the book Conformity to the will of God

Friday, December 15, 2017

The Nativity Scene, a Very Catholic Tradition

It is a beautiful tradition that we must preserve, or in some cases, acquire. It has great meaning to prepare our hearts for the birth of God. It also leaves an indelible mark on the children and is a visual catechesis for the soul of what Catholics celebrate during this time.

Saint Francis and the first Nativity scene


“It started with a man named John who lived in the town of Greccio, Italy. St. Francis was very fond of John, who had a good reputation, and lived an honorable and holy life. Fifteen days before Christmas St. Francis told John to go with haste and meticulously prepare the things St. Francis requested because he wanted to recreate the events that took place that special evening in Bethlehem. He wanted others to know the inconveniences of the baby Jesus. How he lay in a manger surrounded by oxen and asses laying on hay…”

When Francis arrived in Greccio, he found himself in a new Bethlehem and felt that all who participated in the scene had been taken back to the time of Christ’s birth. Men, women and children gathered together with open hearts bringing with them candles and torches to light the night like the gleaming star. Francis felt that he was honoring the simplicity, poverty, and humility of that historic and momentous night in which Christ was born.

The saint of God wore garments of a deacon, for he was a deacon, and he sang the Gospel in the most beautiful voice. Then he preached on the Nativity and the poor child king in the little town of Bethlehem.

God’s blessings multiplied that night, and a miraculous vision was given to a virtuous man. He saw the baby Jesus lying in the manger lifeless, and he saw St. Francis try and wake the baby from a deep sound slumber. This vision was a true representation of the deep sleeping baby Jesus, who was forgotten in the hearts of so many. By the Grace of God, he was brought back to life again by St. Francis, who reawakened their memory.”

Thomas of Celano (1190-1260) Saint Francis and Saint Clara’s biographer. Vita Prima.

Wednesday, December 13, 2017

Prayer reminder for the thirteenth day of each month


We remind you that today, as every 13th day of each month, we will join together in prayer for five minutes, for the intentions that are explained in the following link: http://www.catholicityblog.com/2016/01/appeal-to-our-friendsreaders.html

Tuesday, December 5, 2017

Preparation to Receive the Saviour of Mankind

Advent, Time of Waiting


Beloved, now is the acceptable time spoken of by the Holy Ghost, the day of salvation, peace and reconciliation: the great season of Advent. This is the time eagerly awaited by the patriarchs and prophets, the time that holy Simeon rejoiced at last to see. This is the season that the Church has always celebrated with special solemnity. We too should always observe it with faith and love, offering praise and thanksgiving to the Father for the mercy and love he has shown us in this mystery. In his infinite love for us, though we were sinners, he sent his only Son to free us from the tyranny of Satan, to summon us to heaven, to welcome us into its innermost recesses, to show us truth itself, to train us in right conduct, to plant within us the seeds of virtue, to enrich us with the treasures of his grace, and to make us children of God and heirs of eternal life.

Each year, as the Church recalls this mystery, she urges us to renew the memory of the great love God has shown us. This holy season teaches us that Christ's coming was not only for the benefit of his contemporaries; his power has still to be communicated to us all. We shall share his power, if, through holy faith and the sacraments, we willingly accept the grace Christ earned for us, and live by that grace and in obedience to Christ.

The Church asks us to understand that Christ, who came once in the flesh, is prepared to come again. When we remove all obstacles to his presence he will come, at any hour and moment, to dwell spiritually in our hearts, bringing with him the riches of his grace.

In her concern for our salvation, our loving mother the Church uses this holy season to teach us through hymns, canticles and other forms of expression, of voice or ritual, used by the Holy Ghost. She shows us how grateful we should be for so great a blessing, and how to gain its benefit: our hearts should be as much prepared for the coming of Christ as if He were still to come into this world. The same lesson is given us for our imitation by the words and example of the holy men of the Old Testament.

From a pastoral letter by St Charles Borromeo, bishop (Acta Ecclesiae Mediolanensis, t. 2, Lugduni, 1683, 916-917)

Sunday, December 3, 2017

The First Christians Prayed Like This to the Virgin Mary



Edgar Lobel, an expert in Papyrology at the University of Oxford, dedicated his life to the study of the papyrus found in Egypt. As it is known, the extremely dry climate of most of Egypt has preserved many fragments of ancient papyrus, with texts from millennia ago, in Greek and Coptic. Many of these texts had been lost. In other cases, the papyrus serve to confirm the antiquity of texts that had been preserved through successive copies or translations.

One of these papyrus, discovered in the vicinity of the ancient Egyptian city of Oxyrhynchus, contained a prayer to Our Lady. And not any prayer, but one that we continue to pray today called Sub tuum praesidium. The Latin version is:

Sub tuum praesidium
confugimus,
Sancta Dei Genitrix.
Nostras deprecationes ne despicias
in necessitatibus nostris,
sed a periculis cunctis
libera nos semper,
Virgo gloriosa et benedicta.
English version:

Beneath thy protection
we seek refuge,
Holy Mother of God;
despise not our petitions
in our needs,
but from all dangers
deliver us always,
Virgin Glorious and Blessed .

And the classic Greek version, which is precisely the one found in the papyrus. Just look carefully at the picture of the papyrus to recognize the original Greek words:

Ὑπὸ τὴν σὴν εὐσπλαγχνίαν,
καταφεύγομεν, Θεοτόκε.
Τὰς ἡμῶν ἱκεσίας,
μὴ παρίδῃς ἐν περιστάσει,
ἀλλ᾽ ἐκ κινδύνων λύτρωσαι ἡμᾶς,
μόνη Ἁγνή, μόνη εὐλογημένη.
Note the presence of the term Theotokos (in this case, Theotoke), that is, "Mother of God."

Two centuries later, at the Council of Ephesus, it was solemnly recognized that this title was suitable for the Virgin Mary, against the advice of Nestorius.

This means that in Ephesus, the Tradition of the Church was defended against those who preferred their own reasoning to the usual teaching of the Church.

It is quite impressive for us to say this prayer, knowing that the early Christians prayed it already in 250 AD, which is the date on which Edgar Lobel dated the papyrus the prayer was found in (although some believe that it dates back to the previous century).

We have not received it from archaeologists, but from the tradition of the Church, through Latin, in the case of the Latin Church, or from Greek and ancient Slavonic in the East.

It is nice, however, that archeology shows us once again that Tradition is not something invented, but that it truly transmits to us the inheritance that the first Christians received from Christ and from the Apostles.

Theotokos, the Mother of God

The prayer Sub tuum praesidium is an endearing testimony, probably the oldest and the most important around the devotion to Our Lady. It is a troparion (Byzantine hymn) full of youthfulness. It is perhaps the oldest text in which Our Lady is called Theotokos, and unquestionably it is the first time that this term appears in a sentence and invocative context.

G. Giamberardini, a specialist in Egyptian primitive Christianity, in a documented study has shown the presence of the troparion in the most diverse rites and its different variants found even in the Latin liturgy.

The universality of this antiphon suggests that already in the mid-third century it was usual to invoke Our Lady as Theotokos, and that theologians, like Origen, began to pay attention to it, precisely because of the importance it acquired in popular piety. This invocation would have been simultaneously introduced in the Liturgy.

In the Roman rite, it appears in the Liber Responsalis, attributed to Saint Gregory the Great, and it is copied in the ninth century in the following form: "Sub tuum praesidium confugimus, Sancta Dei Genitrix". Some manuscripts of the tenth and eleventh centuries present some interesting variations of this prayer, keeping the expression Sancta Dei Genitrix intact, in strict fidelity to the Theotokos of the Greek text.

These are very faithful translations of the Greek text, as it appears in the Byzantine rite, in which the Greek word eysplagknían is used to refer to the merciful entrails of the Mother of God.

The consideration of the immense capacity of the maternal entrails of the Mother of God is at the core of the popular piety that gave so much importance to the title Theotokos to designate the Mother of Jesus.

And perhaps the most important thing is the fact that the testimony of the Sub tuum praesidium raises the suspicion that the title Theotokos originated in the mid-third century in popular piety as an invocation to the maternal entrails of the one that carried God in her womb. This time, perhaps, popular piety was ahead of Theology. At least, it is very plausible that it was so.

The faithful who, with simplicity, say this prayer to the Sancta Dei Genitrix, the Theotokos, the Mother of God, because they have received it from the hands of the Church, are closest to what the first Christians transmitted and, therefore, so much closer to Christ.

The Latin version of this prayer has been immortalized in music especially by Antonio Salieri and Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart.
SOURCES:
Lucas F. Mateo-Seco,  La devoción mariana en la primitiva Iglesia
Cfr G. Giamberardini, Il “Sub tuum praesidium” e il titolo Theotokos nella tradizione egiziana, en “Marianum” 31 (1969) 350-351; A.M. Malo, La plus ancienne prière à notre Dame, en De primordis cultus mariani, cit., t. 2, 475-485.

Friday, December 1, 2017

The Power of the Antichrist


The Antichrist will not materially possess a horrifying figure as represented here. On the contrary, he will possess a very attractive personality and will seem full of qualities and virtues. And if those days were not abbreviated, nobody would be saved; but because of the chosen ones those days will be shortened.