treasure in earthly vessels:
wisdom from the catholic tradition i

St. Paulinus of Nola - Letter 38, 3-4 (Pl 61, 359-360)

“In the world you will have trouble, but take courage, I have conquered the world.”

From the beginning of the world Christ suffers in all his own, for he is “the beginning and the end”, (Rv 1,8) who is cloaked in the Law and revealed in the Gospel, a Lord ever “wonderful” and suffering and triumphant “in His saints” (2Thes 1,10; Ps 67,36 LXX).

In Abel he was killed by his brother, in Noah he was laughed at by his son, in Abraham he wandered abroad, in Isaac he was sacrificed, in Jacob he was a servant, in Joseph he was sold, in Moses he was exposed and made to flee, in the persons of his prophets he was stoned and lacerated, in his apostles he was storm-tossed on land and sea, and on the many different crosses of the blessed martyrs he was often executed.

So, too, he now also bears our weaknesses and our sickness, for he is the Man who was always set in the snare for us, and who knows how to endure the weakness which we cannot bear and know not how to bear without him. He, I say, now also bears the weight of the world for us and in us, and destroys it by bearing it, and achieves “strength in weakness” (2Cor 12,9). It is he who suffers the taunts which you endure; it is against him that the world directs the hatred which you experience.

But thanks be to him, because he overcomes when he is judged (cf. Rom 3,4); and as you remember from Scripture, the Lord enables us to triumph under the appearance of slavery. He gained for his servants the grace of freedom.

St. John-Mary Vianney from Catechism on Prayer

“Until now you have not asked for anything in my name. Ask and you will receive, so that your joy may be complete.”

You see, my children, the Christian’s treasure is not on earth; it is in heaven (Mt 6:20). So our thinking must go to where our treasure is. The human person has a beautiful task: to pray and to love. You pray, you love – that is the human being’s happiness on earth.

Prayer is nothing other than union with God. When our heart is pure and united with God, we feel within ourselves a balm, an intoxicating sweetness, a dazzling light. In this intimate union, God and the human person are like two pieces of wax that have melted together; you can no longer separate them. This union of God with his little creature is something beautiful. It is a happiness that we cannot understand. We had deserved not to pray; but God in his goodness allows us to speak to him. Our prayer is incense, which he receives with tremendous pleasure.

My children, your heart is small, but prayer expands it and makes it able to love God. Prayer is a foretaste of heaven, an outflowing of paradise. It never leaves us without sweetness. It is honey, which descends into the soul and sweetens everything. Sorrows melt in prayer well done like snow in the sun.

Tertullian From The Treatise On The Prescription Of Heretics, 20-22; (ccl I, 201)

St. Matthias, apostle, one of the twelve foundation stones of the Church (Rev 21:14)

Our Lord Jesus Christ himself declared what he was, what he had been, how he was carrying out his Father’s will, what obligations he demanded of men. This he did during his earthly life, either publicly to the crowds or privately to his disciples.

Twelve of these he picked out to be his special companions, appointed to teach the nations. One of them fell from his place. The remaining eleven were commanded by Christ, as he was leaving the earth to return to the Father after his resurrection, to go and teach the nations and to baptise them into the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit (Mt 28:19).

The apostles cast lots and added Matthias to their number, in place of Judas, as the twelfth apostle. The authority for this action is to be found in a prophetic psalm of David. After receiving the power of the Holy Spirit which had been promised to them, so that they could work miracles and proclaim the truth, they first bore witness to their faith in Jesus Christ and established churches throughout Judea. They then went out into the whole world and proclaimed to the nations the same doctrinal faith.

They set up churches in every city. Other churches received from them a living transplant of faith and the seed of doctrine… They bear witness to their unity by the peace in which they all live, the brotherhood which is their name, the fellowship to which they are pledged. The principle on which these associations are based is common tradition by which they share the same sacramental bond.

The only way in which we can prove what the apostles taught – that is to say, what Christ revealed to them – is through those same churches. They were founded by the apostles themselves, who first preached to them by what is called the living voice and later by means of letters.

St. Augustine From Sermon 98, 1, 2 (pls 2, 494-495)

Already on high with him

Our Lord Jesus Christ has risen up to heaven today; may our hearts rise up to heaven along with him! Let us hear what the apostle Paul says to us: “If then you were raised with Christ, seek what is above, where Christ is seated at the right hand of God” (Col 3,1).

Just as Jesus ascended without, however, departing from us, so we too already live with him above even though what we have been promised has not yet come to pass in our flesh. He is already raised up above the heavens and yet he suffers on earth all the pains that we, his members, feel.

To this he bore witness when he called out from above: “Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting me?” (Acts 9,4), and again: “I was hungry and you gave me food” (Mt 25,35). Why not work together with him on this earth in such a way that, through the faith, hope and charity that unite us to him, we may even now find rest with him in heaven?

He who is there is likewise here with us; and we who are here are likewise there with him. He can do all this by means of his divinity, power and love; and we, if we cannot like him do it through divinity, can do it in him through love. He did not leave heaven when he came down to us and he has not left us when he went up to heaven… That he would remain with us even when above, he promised before his Ascension when he said: “Behold I am with you always, until the end of the age” (Mt 28,20).

Ven. Cardinal John Henry Newman From Meditations And Devotions, Ch. 14 (the Paraclete, 3)

“If I do not go, the Advocate will not come to you. But if I go, I will send him to you”

My God, I adore thee, O Eternal Paraclete, the light and the life of my soul. Thou mightest have been content with merely giving me good suggestions, inspiring grace and helping from without. Thou mightest thus have led me on, cleansing me with thy inward virtue, when I changed my state from this world to the next. But in thine infinite compassion thou hast from the first entered into my soul, and taken possession of it. Thou hast made it thy temple.

Thou dwellest in me by thy grace in an ineffable way, uniting me to thyself and the whole company of angels and saints. Nay, as some have held, thou art present in me, not only by thy grace, but by thy eternal substance, as if, though I did not lose my own individuality, yet in some sense I was even here absorbed in God. Nay—as though thou hadst taken possession of my very, body, this earthly, fleshly, wretched tabernacle—even my body is thy temple (1Cor 6,19). O astonishing, awful truth! I believe it, I know it, O my God!

O my God, can I sin when thou art so intimately with me? Can I forget who is with me, who is in me? Can I expel a Divine Inhabitant by that which he abhors more than anything else, which is the one thing in the whole world which is offensive to him, the only thing which is not his?… My God, I have a double security against sinning; first the dread of such a profanation of all thou art to me in thy very presence; and next because I do trust that that presence will preserve me from sin… I will call on thee when tried and tempted… Through thee I will never forsake thee.

St. Teresa Of Avila
From Spiritual Testimonies, 49, 51

“If anyone loves me… we will come to him and make our dwelling with him”

Once while I was recollected in this company I always bear with me in my soul, God seemed so present to me that I thought of St. Peter’s words: “You are the Christ, Son of the Living God” (Mt 16,16). For God was thus living in my soul.

This presence is not like other visions, because it is accompanied by such living faith that one cannot doubt that the Trinity is in our souls by presence, power, and essence. It is an extremely beneficial thing to understand this truth. Since I was amazed to see such majesty in something so lowly as my soul, I heard: “It is not lowly, daughter, for it is made in my image” (Gn 1,27).

Once while with this presence of the three Persons that I carry about in my soul, I experienced so much light you couldn’t doubt the living and true God was there… I was reflecting upon how arduous a life this is that deprives us of being always in that wonderful company, and… the Lord said to me: “Think, daughter, of how after this life is finished you will not be able to serve me in ways you can now. Eat for me and sleep for me, and let everything you do be for me, as though you no longer lived but I; for this is what St. Paul was speaking of” (Gal 2,20).

St. Cyprian
From Letter 56

“Because you do not belong to the world, and I have chosen you out of the world, the world hates you”

Our Lord’s will is that we should rejoice and leap for joy when we are persecuted (Mt 5,12) because, when persecutions come, it is then that crowns of faith are given (cf. Jas 1,12), then that Christ’s soldiers prove themselves, then that the heavens open to their witnesses. We aren’t employed among God’s forces only to think of quiet, running away from service when the Teacher of humility, patience and suffering has himself provided the same service before us.

What he taught he first of all carried out, and if he exhorts us to stand firm it is because he himself suffered before us and on our behalf.

In order to take part in competitions in the stadium we exercise and train ourselves and think ourselves highly honoured if, before the eyes of the crowd, we have the happiness of receiving the prize. But here is a trial that is noble and stunning in another way, in which God watches us – we, his children – take part in the combat and himself gives us a heavenly crown (1Cor 9,25).

The angels watch us, too, and Christ comes to our aid. So let us arm ourselves with all our strength; let us fight the good fight with brave hearts and solid faith.

Dorotheus Of Gaza
From Instructions, 6, 76-78 (Sc 92, P. 281-287)

Love of God and neighbor

The more we are united to our neighbor, the more we are united to God. So that you can understand the meaning of this saying I’m going to give you an image taken from the Fathers: imagine a circle drawn on the ground, that is to say a line drawn into a round shape with a compass, having a centre. We refer to the middle of the circle as being the exact centre. Now give your attention to what I am saying.

Imagine that this circle is the world, its centre is God and each radius represents different ways or kinds of lifestyle. When the saints, desiring to draw near to God, move towards the middle of the circle, then to the degree to which they penetrate further into its interior they draw closer to each other even as they draw closer to God. The closer they draw to God, the closer they draw to each other; and the closer they draw to each other, the closer they draw to God.

From this you will understand that the same thing applies conversely when we turn away from God to withdraw outside the circle: then it becomes obvious that, the more we withdraw from God, the more we withdraw from each other, and the more we withdraw from each other, the more we also withdraw from God..

Such is the nature of charity. To the extent that we stand outside and do not love God, to the same extent each one of us stands apart with regard to their neighbor. But if we love God, then insofar as we come closer to God through our love for him, we also participate in love of neighbor to the same extent. And insofar as we are united to our neighbor we are equally so to God.

Thomas De Celano
From Vita Secunda Of St. Francis, 125 And 127

“I have said these things to you so that my joy may be in you”

St.Francis maintained: “My best defense against all the plots and tricks of the enemy is still the spirit of joy. The devil is never so happy as when he has succeeded in robbing one of God’s servants of the joy in his or her soul. The devil always has some dust on hold that he blows into someone’s conscience through a small basement window so as to make opaque what is pure. But in a heart that is filled with joy, he tries in vain to introduce his deadly poison.

The demons can do nothing against a servant of Christ whom they find filled with holy gladness; whereas a dejected, morose and depressed soul easily lets itself be submerged in sorrow or captured by false pleasures.”

That is why he himself always tried to keep his heart joyful, to preserve that oil of gladness with which his soul had been anointed (Ps 45:7). He took great care to avoid sorrow, the worst of illnesses, and when he felt that it was beginning to infiltrate his soul, he immediately had recourse to prayer. He said: “At the first sign of trouble, the servant of God must get up, begin to pray, and remain before the Father until the latter has caused him or her to retrieve the joy of the person who is saved.” (Ps 51:12)…

I sometimes saw Francis with my own eyes picking up a piece of wood from the ground, placing it on his left arm, and scraping it with a straight stick as if he were moving a bow on a violin. In this way, he mimed an accompaniment to the praises he was singing to the Lord in French.

Blessed Charles De Foucauld
From Meditations On The Psalms, Ps 1

Yielding fruit in due season

“Happy the man who… meditates on the Law day and night. He is like a tree planted near running water, that yields its fruit in due season” (Ps 1,1-3). O my God, you tell me how happy I shall be, happy with a true happiness, happy on the last day… and that, wretched though I be, I am a palm tree planted near running waters, waters running with your divine will, your divine love and grace… and that I shall yield my fruit in due season.

Thus you deign to comfort me. It seems to me that I am without fruit, without any good works, and I say to myself: I was converted eleven years ago and what have I done? What comparison is there between the works accomplished by the saints and my own? I see myself with hands completely empty.

But you deign to comfort me; you tell me: “You will bear fruit in your season”… What season is this? The season that comes to all of us is the hour of judgement. And you promise me that, if I persevere with good will and in the struggle, however small I see myself to be, I shall yield fruit at the final hour.

Thomas A Kempis
From Imitation Of Christ Bk.1, Ch.11

“My peace I give to you”

We could have great peace if we were willing not to busy ourselves with the sayings and doings of others, for which we bear no responsibility. How can you remain long at peace if you interfere in other people’s business, if you are on the watch for a chance to leave your solitude, if your inner recollection is slight and sporadic? Blessed are the simple, for they have great peace.

What is it that made some of the saints such perfect contemplatives? Their whole study was to deaden themselves to every earthly desire, and so they could wholly cleave to God from the very depth of their heart, and freely give time to himself. But as for us, we are too much taken up with our appetites, too anxious about transitory things. We seldom perfectly conquer even one fault; so frigid and tepid we remain.

If we were perfectly dead to ourselves, and free of all inner involvements; then we could also taste the things of God, and have some experience of heavenly contemplation. It is total and utter hindrance to me that we are not free from passion and lust; and we do not undertake the perfect way of the Saints. When we meet with even slight adversity, we are quickly thrown and we turn to human comforts.

If we were to try like gallant warriors to stand firm in battle; then surely we should see the help of God upon us from heaven. For he is ready to help those who struggle, hoping in his grace… If you did but mind what peace for yourself, what joy for others your good dispositions would secure! I think you would take much more thought for spiritual progress.

St. Augustine
From Discourse On The Psalms, Ps. 86

Saints Philip and James, apostles, foundations of the holy city (Rv 21:19)

“Her foundations are upon the holy hills; the Lord loves the gates of Zion.” (Ps 86 87:1-2)… “You are fellow citizens with the holy ones and members of the household of God, built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets, with Christ Jesus himself as the capstone” (Ep 2:19-20)…

Christ, the cornerstone, and the apostles and mighty prophets, the hills that bear the fabric of the city, constitute a sort of living structure. This living building now makes its voice resound in your hearts. God himself, a master builder, is working in you through my tongue so that you may be built up into its structure, like so many squared stones….

Note the shape of a stone that has been perfectly squared off: Christians should have similar qualities. In all their trials they never fall; though pushed and, after a fashion, knocked over, they do not fall; for whatever way a square stone is turned, it still stands erect… Be similar to those squared stones, and be thus prepared for every shock; whatever the force which may push you, it cannot make you lose balance…

You will rise to take your place in this building by a sincere Christian life, by faith, hope and love. The holy city is constructed of its own citizens; they are themselves the blocks that form this city, for these stones are living: “You also,” says Scripture, “like living stones, let yourselves be built into a spiritual house,” (1 P 2:5)… Why are the apostles and prophets the foundations? Because their authority is the support of our weakness… Through them we enter the kingdom of God: they proclaim it to us; and while we enter by their means, we enter also through Christ, who is himself its gate (Jn 10:9).

St. Irenaeus Of Lyons
From Against The Heresies, Iv, 5

“Whoever has seen me has seen the Father”

God’s splendor is life-giving and therefore those who see God partake of life. This is the reason why he who cannot be grasped and is incomprehensible and invisible offers himself to our sight, understanding and grasp, that he might give life to those who take hold of him and see him. For if his greatness cannot be fathomed, neither, too, can his goodness be expressed, yet through it he allows himself to be seen and bestows life on the beholder.

It is impossible to live without Life; there is no life except through participation in God; and this participation in God consists in seeing God and rejoicing in his goodness. Therefore people will come to see God that life may be theirs… as Moses says in Deuteronomy: “In that day we shall see, because God will speak to man and he will live” (cf. Dt 5,24).

God is invisible and inexpressible… but all living beings learn through his Word that there is only one God, the Father, who contains all things and gives existence to all things, as our Lord himself also says: “No one has seen God; the only Son, who is in the bosom of the Father, he has made him known” (Jn 1,18).

St. Thérèse Of The Child Jesus
From Autobiography Of A Soul, Manuscript A, 2r-3r

“In my Father’s house there are many dwelling places”

I had always wondered why it was that God has his preferences, instead of giving each soul an equal degree of grace… Jesus has been gracious enough to teach me a lesson about this mystery, simply by holding up to my eyes the book of nature.

I realised, then, that all the flowers he has made are beautiful; the rose in its glory, the lily in its whiteness, don’t rob the tiny violet of its sweet smell, or the daisy of’ its charming simplicity. I saw that if all these lesser blooms wanted to be roses instead, nature would lose the gaiety of her spring tide dress-there would be no little flowers to, make a pattern over the countryside.

And so it is with the world of souls, which is his garden. He wanted to have great Saints, to be his lilies and roses, but he has made lesser Saints as well; and these lesser ones must be content to rank as daisies and violets, lying at his feet and giving pleasure to his eye like that. Perfection consists simply in doing his will, and being just what he wants us to be.

This, too, was made clear to me: that our Lord’s love makes itself seen quite as much in the simplest of souls as in the most highly gifted, as long as there is no resistance offered to his grace. After all, the whole point of love is making yourself small; and if we were all like the great Doctors who have shed lustre on the Church by their brilliant teaching, there wouldn’t be much condescension on God’s part, would there, about coming into hearts like these?

But no, he has created little children, who have no idea what’s going on and can only express themselves by helpless crying: he has made the poor savages, with nothing better than the natural law to live by; and he is content to forget his dignity and come into their hearts too – these are the wild flowers that delight him by their simplicity.

It is by such condescension that God shows his infinite greatness. The sun’s light that plays on the cedar-trees plays on each tiny flower as if it were the only one in existence; and in the same way our Lord takes a special interest in each soul, as if there were no other like it.

St. Padre Pio De Pietrelcina
From Epistle 3,707; 2,70

“If you receive the one I send, you receive me.”

After the love of our Lord, I recommend to you the love of the Church, his Spouse. She is in a sense the dove that broods and brings to birth her Spouse’s children. Always give thanks to God for being a child of the Church, following the example of so many souls who have preceded us on this wonderful path. Have great compassion for all pastors, preachers and spiritual guides; they can be found in the whole world… Pray to God for them, so that by saving themselves they might be fruitful and bring salvation to souls.

Pray for deceitful people and fervent ones alike, pray for the Holy Father, for all the spiritual and temporal needs of the Church; for she is our mother. Also say a special prayer for all who work for the salvation of souls to the Father’s glory.

St. Anselm
From Meditation On Human Redemption

“I came into the world, so that everyone who believes in me might not remain in darkness”

Good Lord Jesus Christ, thus was I placed, neither asking nor conjecturing, when as the sun you gave me light… You threw away the leaden weight that was dragging me down, you took off the burden that pressed upon me, you drove off those who were attacking me, and opposed them on my behalf. You called me by a new name, (Rv 2,17) which you gave me from your name, the name of christian.

And I who was bent down, you made upright in your sight, saying, “Be of good cheer. I have redeemed you. I have given my life for you. You shall leave the evil you were in, and not fall into the pit to which you were going, if you cleave to me, I will lead you into my Kingdom…”

Lord, it was so with me, and this is what you have done for me! I was in darkness, knowing nothing of myself… I had fallen from righteousness into wickedness, which is the way to hell, and from blessedness to temporal misery for ever…

When I was destitute of all help, you illuminated me, and showed me what I was, for when I was still unable to see this, you taught others the truth on my behalf and you showed it to me before I asked it… You have made me sure of the salvation of my soul, for you have given your life for it… Consider, O my soul, how much my whole being owes to his love!

Blessed Teresa Of Calcutta
From No Greater Love

“My sheep hear my voice”

You will think praying is difficult if you don’t know how to go about it. We all have to help ourselves pray: first of all by having recourse to silence since we can’t place ourselves in God’s presence if we don’t practise silence, interior as well as exterior.

Becoming silent within isn’t easy but the effort is indispensable. It is only in silence that we will find new strength and real union. God’s strength will become our own so that we can do everything as it has to be done, and it will be the same regarding the union of our thoughts with his thoughts, our prayers with his prayers, our actions with his actions, our life with his life. Union is the fruit of prayer, humility and love.

God speaks in the silence of the heart. If you place yourself before God in silence and prayer, God will speak to you. Then you will know that you are nothing. It is only when you know your nothingness and emptiness that God can fill you with himself. The great souls of prayer are souls of great silence.

Silence causes us to see everything differently. We need silence if we are to touch the souls of others. The important thing is not what we say but what God says – what he says to us and what he says through us. In a silence like this he will listen to us; in silence like this he will speak to our souls and we will understand his voice.

St. Thomas Aquinas
From Commentary On St John’s Gospel, 10,3

The good shepherd and the door of the sheep

Jesus has said: “I am the good shepherd.” It is clear that the title “shepherd” is applicable to Christ. For just as shepherds pasture their flocks so Christ revives the faithful with spiritual food, his own Body and Blood.

To distinguish himself from the bad shepherd and thief Jesus specifies that he is the “good shepherd”. Good, because he defends his flock with the devotion of a good soldier for his country. On the other hand, Christ has said that the shepherd goes in by the door and that he himself is that door. So when he here calls himself the shepherd we have to understand that it is he who goes in through himself. And this is indeed true since he makes it clear that he knows the Father through himself whereas we have to go in through him, and it is he who gives us blessedness.

Let us take good note that no one else but he is the door for no one else is light except by participation. John the Baptist “was not the light, but he came to bear witness to the light” (Jn 1,18). It was Christ himself who “was the light that enlightens everyone” (v.9). Therefore no one can call himself the door since Christ has kept this title for himself.

However, he has handed on the title of shepherd to others and has granted it to some of his members. Indeed, Peter was one, too, and the other apostles, as well as all bishops. Jeremiah says: “I will give you shepherds according to my own heart” (3,15).

And although the leaders of the Church – who are their descendents – are all shepherds, Christ says: “I am the good shepherd” to show us the unique force of his love. No shepherd is good who is not united through love with Christ, thus becoming a member of the true shepherd.

St. Basil Of Seleucia
From Homily 26 On The Good Shepherd `{`Pg 85, 299-308`}`

“I am the good shepherd, the true shepherd” (Jn 10,11)

Abel, the first shepherd, was pleasing to the Lord, who willingly accepted his sacrifice and looked with even more favor on the giver as on the gift he made (Gn 4,4). Scripture also draws attention to Jacob, the shepherd of Laban’s flocks, noting the care he took for his sheep: “How often the scorching heat ravaged me by day, and the frost by night!” (Gn 31,40); and God rewarded this man for his labor.

Moses, too, was a shepherd on the mountains of Midian, preferring to be ill-treated with God’s people than to know rejoicing [in the palace of Pharaoh]. And God, pleased at his choice, as a reward allowed him to see him (Ex 3,2). After this vision Moses did not abandon his shepherd’s office but with his staff commanded the elements (Ex 14,16) and pastured the people of Israel.

David was also a shepherd but his shepherd’s staff was changed to a royal sceptre and he received a crown. Now, do not be astonished if all these shepherds were close to God. The Lord himself was not ashamed to be called “shepherd” (Pss 23[22]; 80[79]). God was no more ashamed of pasturing men than he was of having created them. But let us now consider our own shepherd, Christ. Let us see his love for humanity and his gentleness in leading them to pasture. He takes pleasure in the sheep who surround him just as he searches for those who stray. Hills or forests are no obstacle to him; he runs down into the valley of shadow (Ps 23[22],4) to reach the place where the lost sheep is to be found… He is seen in hell; he gives the command to come out; thus he seeks for the love of his sheep. Someone who loves Christ is someone who listens to his voice.

St. Jerome
From Letter 53 To Paulinus

“The words I have spoken to you are spirit and life”

We read Holy Scripture: in my view, I think the Gospel is Jesus’ body, Holy Scripture is his teaching. It’s true that the text: “He who eats my flesh and drinks my blood” finds its most complete application in the mystery of the eucharist.

But the true Body of Christ, the true Blood, is also contained in the word of Scripture and divine teaching.

When we take part in the holy mysteries, we are concerned about it if a crumb should fall to the ground. When we hear the word of God, if we are thinking of something else while it enters our ears, what sort of responsibility will we not incur?

Since the Lord’s flesh is food indeed and his blood is real drink, to eat his flesh and drink his blood is our only good, not just in the eucharistic mystery but in the reading of Scripture, too.

St. Padre Pio De Pietrelcina
From Letters Of Padre Pio (Vicenza 1969)

“Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life”

– Father, I feel too unworthy to receive communion! Truly, I’m not worthy.

Reply: – Yes, it’s true. We aren’t worthy of such a gift. But it’s one thing to participate unworthily in a state of grave sin and another not to be worthy of it. We are all unworthy of it, but it is Jesus who invites us, it is he who wants it. So let us be humble and receive it with loving hearts.

– Father, why do you weep when you receive communion?

Reply: – If the Church has cried out: “He did not despise the Virgin’s womb” when speaking of his incarnation in the womb of the Immaculate Virgin, what can be said of us poor sinners? But Christ said: “Unless you eat my flesh and drink my blood, you will not have life for ever.” In this case, let us come up to the communion rail with great love and veneration. May our whole day serve, first of all to prepare us for it and then to give thanks.

St. Peter Damian
From Sermon 45

“This bread that came down from heaven, whoever eats it will live forever”

The Virgin Mary gave birth to Jesus Christ, she warmed him in her arms, wrapped him in swaddling clothes and surrounded him with motherly care. This is the same Jesus whose body we now receive and whose redeeming blood we drink in the sacrament of the altar. This is what the Catholic Faith professes; this is what the Church teaches faithfully.

No human language could sufficiently glorify the one in whom, as we know, “the mediator between God and humankind” took flesh (1Tm 2,5). No human praise is adequate for the one whose pure womb produced the fruit that is food for our souls and who testifies by his own words: “I am the living bread that came down from heaven; whoever eats this bread will live forever”.

And indeed, we who have been cast out of Paradise because of a fruit also find the joys of Paradise again by means of food of another kind. Eve took and ate one kind of food and we were condemned to an eternal fast; Mary brought forth another kind of food and the doors of the heavenly banquet were opened wide.

Baldwin Of Ford
From The Sacrament Of The Altar, Ii, 3 `{`Sc 93, P.255f.`}`

“I am the bread of life”

Christ says: “Whoever comes to me will never hunger, and whoever believes in me will never thirst”… And the psalmist says: “bread fortifies the hearts of men” and “wine gladdens men’s hearts” (Ps 104[103],15). Christ is food and drink, bread and wine to those who believe in him: bread that strengthens and fortifies…, drink and wine that gladdens…

All that is strong and firm in us, that is joyful and glad to carry out God’s commands, bear suffering, put obedience into effect and stand up for justice: all these things consist in the strength of this bread and joy of this wine. How blessed are they who act boldly and joyfully!

And since no one is able to do this unaided, blessed are they who longingly desire to put into practice what is just and right and to be strengthened and gladdened in everything by him who said: “Blessed are they who hunger and thirst for righteousness” (Mt 5,6). If Christ is the food and drink that ensures the strength and joy of the righteous even now, how much more will he be so in heaven when he gives himself to the righteous without measure?

Note how, in the words of Christ…, the food that remains for eternal life is called bread from heaven, true bread, the bread of God, the bread of life… It is bread of God to distinguish it from bread made and prepared by the baker…; it is bread of life to distinguish it from the perishable bread that neither is, nor gives life but barely keeps it going with difficulty and for a time. This bread, however, is life, gives life, preserves in being the life that has nothing to do with death.

St. Peter Chrysologus
From Sermon 50, 1.2.3 (Pl 52, 339-340)

“The boat immediately arrived at the shore to which they were heading”

Christ got into the boat: for was it not he who uncovered the sea’s bed after dividing its waters, so that the people of Israel could pass through dry-shod as though through a valley? (Ex 14,29). And was it not he who made the waves of the sea firm beneath Peter’s feet so that the water could provide a solid, stable path for his feet? (Mt 14,29).

He got into the boat. Christ got into the boat of his Church that he might pass through the sea of this world until the end of time, leading those who believe in him to their heavenly homeland with a peaceful crossing and making into citizens of his Kingdom those with whom he communicates in his humanity. It is true that Christ has no need of the boat, but the boat has need of Christ. Indeed, if it were not for this pilot from heaven, the Church’s boat, tossed about by the waves, would never reach its harbor.

St. Justin
From First Apology, 67.66 `{`Pg 6, 427-431`}`

“The true bread from heaven”

And so on the day called Sunday there is an assembly in one place of all who live in the cities or in the country; the memorials of the apostles or the writings of the prophets are read as long as time allows. After the reader has finished, the presiding officer verbally instructs and exhorts us to imitate these shining examples.

Then we all rise and pray together. Next, as I said before, when we finish the prayer, bread, wine, and water are brought up. The presiding officer once again offers up prayers of thanksgiving according to his strength, and then the people cry out “amen” (meaning, in Hebrew, ‘May it be so’).

And this food we call the Eucharist, and no one is allowed to partake of it unless he believes our doctrine is true and has been washed in the laver for regeneration and the forgiveness of sins, and so lives as Christ has taught.

For we do not partake of this as ordinary food and drink; but just as the Word of God incarnate, Jesus Christ our Savior, took on flesh and blood for our salvation, so too the food over which the thanksgiving prayer has been pronounced through the word which came from him, and by which our flesh and blood are changed and nourished-this food we have been taught is the very flesh and blood of Jesus.

For the apostles in the memorials which they wrote, called the Gospels, declared that Jesus ordered them to act in this way. Jesus, taking bread, gave thanks and said, “Do this in commemoration of me: this is my body.” And likewise, taking up the cup, he gave thanks and said, “This is my blood” and gave it to them alone (Mt 26,26f;1Co 11,23f.)…

We all hold this common assembly on Sunday because it is the first day of the week, on which God made the world, changing darkness and matter, and on which Christ Jesus our Savior rose from the dead.

Blessed Henry Suso
From Life, Ch. 50

Seeking Jesus

Concerning the question: “What is God?” not one of the masters who have ever been has succeeded in giving an explanation, for it is beyond all thought and intelligence. And yet someone who zealously and diligently seeks for some kind of knowledge of God will attain it, although in a very remote way…

This is how some virtuous pagan masters sought him in former times, especially the wise man, Aristotle. He examined the course of nature…, sought passionately and thus found. From nature he deduced that that there must necessarily be a unique monarch, lord over all creatures, and this is what we call God…

God’s being is such a spiritual substance that mortal eye is unable to contemplate it as it is, but it can be seen in its works. As St. Paul says: creatures are a mirror reflecting God (Rom 1,20). Let us stop here for a moment…: look above and around you, how immense and lofty is the heaven in its swift course, with what nobility has its Lord adorned it with its seven planets and how decorative it is by reason of its innumerable host of stars! When the sun shines gaily in a cloudless sky during the summer, what fruit, what good things it brings to the earth!

How beautifully green are the meadows, how smiling the flowers, how the sweet song of little birds resounds in forest and field, and all the animals that went into hiding during the hard winter now hasten happily outside. How both young and old among men express their joy with the joy that brings such happiness to them. O loving God, if you are so worthy of being loved in your creatures, how beautiful and worthy of being loved you must be in yourself!

St. Peter Chrysologus
From Sermon 50, 1.2.3 (Pl 52, 339-340)

“The boat immediately arrived at the shore to which they were heading”

Christ got into the boat: for was it not he who uncovered the sea’s bed after dividing its waters, so that the people of Israel could pass through dry-shod as though through a valley? (Ex 14,29). And was it not he who made the waves of the sea firm beneath Peter’s feet so that the water could provide a solid, stable path for his feet? (Mt 14,29).

He got into the boat. Christ got into the boat of his Church that he might pass through the sea of this world until the end of time, leading those who believe in him to their heavenly homeland with a peaceful crossing and making into citizens of his Kingdom those with whom he communicates in his humanity. It is true that Christ has no need of the boat, but the boat has need of Christ. Indeed, if it were not for this pilot from heaven, the Church’s boat, tossed about by the waves, would never reach its harbor.

St. Augustine
Confessions Xi, 2.3

“The one whom God sent speaks the words of God. He does not ration his gift of the Spirit”

Lord my God, light of the blind and strength of the weak-and constantly also light of those who can see and strength of the mighty: Listen to my soul and hear it crying from the depth (Ps 130[129],1). For if your ears are not present also in the depth, where shall we go? To whom shall we cry?

‘The day is yours and the night is yours’ (Ps. 73,16). At your nod the moments fly by. From them grant us space for our meditations on the secret recesses of your law, and do not close the gate to us as we knock (Mt 7,7). It is not for nothing that by your will so many pages of scripture are opaque and obscure. These forests are not without deer, which recover their strength in them and restore themselves by walking and feeding, by resting and ruminating (Ps. 29[28],9). O Lord, bring me to perfection and reveal to me the meaning of these pages.

See, your voice is my joy, your voice is better than a wealth of pleasures. Grant what I love; for I love it, and that love was your gift. Do not desert your gifts, and do not despise your plant as it thirsts. Let me confess to you what I find in your books. “Let me hear the voice of praise” (Ps. 26[25],7) and drink you, and let me consider “wonderful things out of your law” (Ps. 119[118],18), from the beginning in which you made heaven and earth until the perpetual reign with you in your heavenly city.

St. Gregory Of Nazianzus
From Hymn 32 (Pg 37, 511-512)

Come to the light

We bless you, Father of lights, Christ, Word of God, splendor of the Father, Light from light and source of all light, Spirit of fire and breath of the Son as of the Father.

O Holy Trinity, undivided light, You dispelled the darkness To create a world that would bear your likeness, luminous with order and beauty

You enlightened man with reason and wisdom, Made him shine with the seal of your Image, That in your light he might see light (Ps 37[36],10) And become wholly light.

In the heavens you made numberless lights to shine, Commanded day and night To agree in dividing time between them, Each peacefully taking its turn.

Night brings an end to the work of the tired body, Day calls it to those works you love, Teaching us to flee from darkness and hasten Towards that day where night will be no more.

St. Teresa Benedicta Of The Cross `{`Edith Stein`}`
From A Pentecost Novena 1942

“You do not know where it comes from or where it goes”

Who are you, sweet light, that fills me And illumines the darkness of my heart? You lead me like a mother’s hand, And should you let go of me I would not know how to take another step. You are the space That embraces my being and buries it in yourself. Away from you, it sinks into the abyss Of nothingness, from which you raised it to the light. You, nearer to me than I to myself And more interior than my most interior And still impalpable and intangible And beyond any name: Holy Spirit – eternal love!

Are you not the sweet manna That from the Son’s heart Overflows into my heart, The food of angels and the blessed? He who raised himself from death to life, He has also awakened me to new life From the sleep of death. And he gives me new life from day to day, And at some time his fullness is to stream through me, Life of your life – indeed, you yourself: Holy Spirit – eternal life!

Attributed To St. Hippolytus Of Rome
From Homily For The Feast Of The Epiphany, “On The Holy Theophany” (Pg 10, 854-862)

To be born again by water and the Holy Spirit

Pray give me your close attention. I wish to return to the fountain of life and cause the source of our cure to spring forth. The Father of immortality sent his immortal Son and Word into the world. He came to man to wash him in water and the Spirit. He gave him rebirth for the incorruptibility of his soul and body. He infused the Spirit of life and clad him all over with an imperishable armor. Thus, if man has been mortal he is to become equally divine. And if, after the rebirth of washing, he has been made divine by water and the Holy Spirit, he will also become an inheritor of heaven after the resurrection from the dead.

Come, all you nations, come to the immortality of baptism… This water is that which participates in the Spirit; watering paradise it quenches earth, it causes plants to grow, brings living beings to birth and, in a word, brings forth man to life by effecting his rebirth. In this water Christ was baptised; on it the Spirit descended in the form of a dove…

Whoever goes down with faith into the bath of regeneration casts aside the garment of a slave and puts on that of adoption. He comes up from baptism shining like the sun, radiant with righteousness. More than this: he emerges a son of God and co-heir with Christ, to whom, together with the Most Holy Spirit, the good, the life-giving, be glory and power both now and ever through all ages. Amen.

Gregory Of Narek
From Book Of Prayers, 33 (Trad. Sc 78, P. 206)

“Receive the Holy Spirit”

Almighty, Benefactor, Friend to humankind, God of all, and Creator of all things, visible and invisible; You who save us and affirm us, who care for us and bring us peace, Mighty Spirit of the Father… You share the same throne, the same glory, and the same creative activity as the Father… By your mediation was revealed to us the Trinity of Persons in a unity of nature in the Divinity; and you, too, are counted as one among those Persons, O incomprehensible One…

Through Moses you were proclaimed Spirit of God (Gn 1,2) as you hovered over the waters with all-embracing protectiveness, awesome, full of care. You spread your wings in sign of your compassionate presence hovering over those newly born, and by this means revealed the mystery of the waters of baptism… O Almighty One, as Lord you created all natures and everything that exists (cf. Credo), every being created by you, in the moment that is last among the days of life here below and first in the Land of the living.

He who is of the same nature as you, He, the firstborn Son, who is consubstantial with the Father, obeyed you as a Father in our nature, binding his will to yours. He made you known as true God, equal and consubstantial to his all-powerful Father… and he shut the mouths of those who resisted you for they were struggling against God (cf. Mt 12,28), whereas he forgave all who were against himself.

He is the Just One, the Pure One, the Savior of all, delivered up on account of our sins and raised for our justification (Rom 4,25). Through you all glory to him, and to you all praise, together with the all-powerful Father for endless ages. Amen.

St. John Of The Cross
From The Ascent Of Mount Carmel, 3,31

“He rebuked them for their unbelief”

Where signs and testimonies abound, there is less merit in believing. God never works marvels except when they are a necessity for belief. Lest his disciples go without merit by having sensible proof of his resurrection, he did many things to further their belief before they saw him. Mary Magdalene was first shown the empty sepulcher, and afterward the angels told her about the resurrection so she would, by hearing, believe before seeing. As St. Paul says: “Faith comes through hearing” (Rom10,17) . And though she beheld him, he seemed only an ordinary man, so by the warmth of his presence he could finish instructing her in the belief she was lacking

And the women were sent to tell the disciples first… And journeying incognito to Emmaus with two of his followers, he inflamed their hearts in faith before allowing them to see him. Finally he reproved all his disciples for refusing to believe those who had told them of his resurrection. And announcing to Thomas that they are blessed who believe without seeing (Jn 20,29), he reprimanded him for desiring to experience the sight and touch of his wounds.

St. Gregory The Great
From Homilies On The Gospel, 24

Peter drags the net ashore

After catching such large fish, “Simon Peter went overboard and dragged the net ashore.” I believe that you, dear listeners, now perceive why it was Peter who brought the net to land. Our holy Church had been entrusted to him; it was to him individually that it was said: “Simon, son of John, do you love me? Feed my sheep.” What was afterwards disclosed to him in words was now indicated to him by an action.

Because the Church’s preacher was to part us from the waves of this world, it was surely necessary that Peter bring the net full of fish to land. He dragged the fish to the firm ground of the shore, because by his preaching he revealed to the faithful the stability of our eternal home. He accomplished this by his words and by his letters, and he accomplishes it daily by his miraculous signs. As often as he serves us from the uproar of earthly affairs, what occurs is that we are caught like fish in the net of the faith and brought to shore.

St. Anthony Of Padua
From Sermons For Sundays And Feasts Of The Saints

“Touch me and see”

“See my hands and my feet, that it is I myself.” I think there are four reasons why our Lord showed his side, hands and feet to the apostles. First of all to prove he was truly risen and remove from us any cause for doubt. Secondly, so that the “dove” – that is to say, the Church or the faithful soul – might make its nest in those wounds as in “the crevice of the rock” (Sg 2,14) and find refuge there from the eye of the bird of prey. Thirdly, to imprint as an emblem the marks of the Passion in our hearts. And in the fourth place as a warning, asking us to show him pity and not pierce him anew with the nails of our sins. He shows us his hands and his feet: “Behold,” he says, “the hands that have fashioned you (cf. 119[118],73); see how the nails have pierced them. Behold my heart – the heart where you my faithful, you my Church, were born as Eve was born from Adam’s side: see how the lance has opened it so that the door of Paradise, held shut by the fiery Cherubim, might be opened to you. The blood that flowed from my side has driven aside that angel and blunted his sword; the water has extinguished the fire (cf Jn 19,34)… Listen carefully, take these words to yourself, and peace will be with you.”

Cardinal John Henry Newman
From Parochial And Plain Sermons 6, 10

“Were not our hearts burning within us”

Brethren, let us turn to the account of Christ’s appearances to his disciples after the Resurrection, which are most important, first, as showing that such an unconscious communion with him is possible; next, that it is likely to be the sort of communion now granted to us, from the circumstance that in that period of forty days after the Resurrection, he began to be in that relation towards his Church, in which he is still, and probably intended to intimate to us thereby what his presence with us is now.

Now observe what was the nature of His presence in the Church after his Resurrection. It was this, that he came and went as he pleased; that material substances, such as the fastened doors, were no impediments to his coming; and that when he was present his disciples did not, as a matter of course, know him… The two disciples on the way to Emmaus do not seem to have been conscious of this at the time, but on looking back, they recollected that as having been, which did not strike them while it was. “Did not,” they say, “did not our heart burn within us?”… Let us observe, too, when it was that their eyes were opened… when he consecrated and brake the Bread. There is evidently a stress laid on this in the gospel… for so it was ordained, that Christ should not be both seen and known at once; first he was seen, then he was known. Only by faith is he known to be present… He removed his visible presence, and left but a memorial of himself. He vanished from sight that he might be present in a sacrament; and in order to connect his visible presence with his presence invisible, He for one instant manifested himself to their open eyes; manifested himself, if I may so speak, while he passed from his hiding-place of sight without knowledge, to that of knowledge without sight.

St. Augustine
From 1st Sermon For Holy Thursday, Morin Guelferbytanus 13 (Pls 2, 572)

“I am going to my Father and your Father”

“Touch me not for I have not yet ascended to my Father.” What are we to say? That Christ is better touched by faith than by flesh. Touching Christ by faith is truly to touch him. This is what the woman suffering from an issue of blood did: she drew near to Christ, full of faith, and touched his robe… And our Lord, hemmed in by the crowd, was touched by no one but this woman… because she believed (Mk 5,25f.).

My brethren, Jesus is in heaven today. While he was living among his disciples, clothed visibly in flesh and possessing a body that could be touched, he was both seen and touched. But today, now he is seated at the right hand of the Father, which of us can touch him? And yet, woe to us if we do not touch him. We all touch him who believe in him. He is far away in heaven and the distance separating him from us cannot be measured. But believe, and you touch him.

What am I saying? You touch him? If you believe then you have with you the one in whom you believe…

Do you know how Mary wished to touch him? She searched for him among the dead and did not believe he would rise again: “They have taken my Lord from the tomb!” (Jn 20,2). She wept for a man… “Touch me not for I have not yet ascended to my Father.” You touch me before I have ascended to the Father and see no more than a man in me. What will that sort of faith give you? “Let me ascend to the Father. I have never left him but, for your sake, I will ascend provided you believe me to be equal to the Father.”

Our Lord Jesus Christ did not leave his Father when he descended from his side. So neither has he forsaken us when he went up again from our side. For at the very time of his going up and sitting at the right hand of the Father, so far he said to his disciples: “I am with you always, until the end of the age” (Mt 28,20).

Roman Liturgy Paschal Sequence
“Victimae Paschali Laudes “

“Jesus met them on their way”

Christians to the Paschal Victim Offer thankful sacrifice. Christ the Lamb has saved the sheep; Christ the Just One paid the price, Reconciling sinners to the Father.

O Mary, come and say What you saw at break of day. “The empty tomb of my living Lord! I saw Christ Jesus risen, and adored!”

Death and Life fought bitterly For this wondrous victory; The Lord of life who died Reigns glorified!

Bright angels testified, Shroud and grave-cloths side by side! “Yes, Christ my hope rose gloriously. He goes before you into Galilee.”

Share the good news, sing joyfully: His death is victory! Lord Jesus, victor King, show us mercy. Amen. Alleluia!

Original version:

Victimae paschali laudes immolent Christiani. Agnus redemit oves: Christus innocens Patri reconciliavit peccatores. Mors et vita duello conflixere mirando: dux vitae mortuus, regnat vivus. Dic nobis Maria, quid vidisti in via? Sepulcrum Christi viventis, et gloriam vidi resurgentis: Angelicos testes, sudarium, et vestes. Surrexit Christus spes mea: praecedet suos in Galilaeam. Scimus Christum surrexisse a mortuis vere: tu nobis, victor Rex, miserere. Amen. Alleluia.

St. Proclus Of Constantinople
From Sermon 14 (Pg 65, 796)

“Day of gladness and joy” (Ps 118[117],24)

How beautiful is this feast of Easter! And how beautiful our assembly! This day contains so many mysteries, both old and new! During this week of feasting or, rather, of happiness, people are rejoicing all over the world and even the powers of heaven unite themselves with us in joyful celebration of the Lord’s resurrection.

Angels and Archangels are exultant as they wait for the heavenly King, Christ our God, to return victorious over the earth; the choirs of saints exult as they sing of “he who rose before the dawn”, the Christ (cf. Ps 110[109],3). Earth exults, for the blood of a God has washed it. The sea exults, for the footsteps of our Lord have honoured it. May every person born again of water and the Holy Spirit, exult. May Adam, the first of men, now freed from the ancient curse, exult…

Christ’s resurrection has not only inaugurated this holy feast but, still more, has won for us salvation instead of suffering, immortality in place of death, healing instead of wounds, resurrection instead of decline. In former times the Passover mystery was carried out in Egypt according to the ritual prescribed by the Law: the sacrifice of the lamb was no more than a sign.

But today we celebrate a spiritual Passover according to the Gospel: the day of resurrection. Then it was a lamb taken from the flock that was sacrificed…; now Christ in person offers himself as lamb of God. Then it was an animal from the sheepfold; now, not just a lamb but the shepherd himself lays down his life for his sheep (Jn 10,11)… Then the Hebrews crossed the Red Sea and sang a hymn of victory in honor of their deliverer: “Let us sing to the Lord; he has covered himself in glory” (Ex 15,10). Now, all those accounted worthy of baptism sing this victory song in their hearts: “You alone are holy, you alone are God, Jesus Christ, in the glory of God the Father. Amen”.

A Homily of the 5th century attributed to Eusebius the Gallican (Homily 12 A; CCL 101, 145)

“You have brightened this night with the radiance of the risen Christ” (Collect)

“Let the heavens be glad and earth exult” (Ps 96[95],11). More brightly than the rays of the sun this day has shone forth for us from the brilliance of the tomb. Let the underworld cry out, for from this day on it has an offspring; let it rejoice because this is the day of its visitation; let it be glad because, after endless ages, it has seen a light unknown before and at last, in the darkness of its deepest night, has breathed again!

O radiant light, now seen breaking from the heights of the whitening sky…, you have clothed with sudden brightness “those who sat in darkness and in the shadow of death” (Lk 1,79).

For at Christ’s descent at once the everlasting night of hell shone out with light and the cries of the afflicted were silenced; the chains of those condemned broke off and fell; the malicious spirits were seized with stupor as though struck by a thunderbolt…

No sooner does Christ come down than the grim doorkeepers, blind in the silence of their night, crouching in fear, whisper among themselves: “Who is this mighty one, shining with whiteness? Never has our hell received such as he; never has the world cast such a one into our maw…

Had he been guilty, he would not possess such temerity; had some crime blackened him, he could never have dispersed our darkness with his shining. Yet if he is God, what is he doing in the tomb? If he is man, how does he have the courage? If he is God, what has he come here for? If he is man, how can he set prisoners free?…

Oh cross, that undoes all our pleasures and give birth to our misfortune! A tree enriched us and a tree has ruined us. This mighty power, so feared by the people, has perished!”

St. Augustine
From Sermons On St. John’s Gospel, 2

“When the centurion who stood facing him saw how he breathed his last, he said: ‘Truly, this man was the Son of God!’ ” (Mk 15,39)

“In the beginning was the Word, the Utterance of God” (cf. Jn 1,1). He is one and the same with him; what he is, he is always; he is without change, he is being. This is the name he made known to his servant Moses: “I am who I am” and “You will say: I AM sent me to you” (Ex 3,14)…

Who could understand this? Who could reach him – supposing he were to direct all the powers of his soul as best he may to reaching him who is? I will compare him to an exile who sees his homeland from afar: the sea is separating him from it; he knows where he has to go but has no means of getting there. In the same way we want to reach that final haven which will be our own, where is the One who Is, for he alone is always the same. But the ocean of this world blocks the way…

He who calls us came here below to give us the means of getting there. He chose the wood that would enable us to cross the sea: indeed, no one can cross the ocean of this world who is not borne by the cross of Christ. Even the blind can cling to this cross. If you can’t see where you are going very well, don’t let go of it: it will guide you by itself.

So then, brethren, this is what I should like to impress on your hearts: if you want to live in a spirit of devotion, a christian spirit, cling to Christ just as he became for us so as to rejoin him as he is now and as he has always been. This is why he came down to us, for he became man that he might take up the weak, enabling them to cross the sea and disembark into the homeland where a ship is no longer needed because there is no more ocean to cross. In all events, it would be better for one’s soul not to see him who is and to embrace Christ’s cross than to see him spiritually but despise the cross.

So, for our own happiness, may we both see where we are going and cling to the ship that is taking us there…! Some have succeeded and have seen what he is. It was because he had seen him that John said: “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.” They saw him and, to attain what they saw from afar, they clung to the cross of Christ. They did not despise the humility of Christ.

St. John-Mary Vianney
From Sermon For Holy Thursday

“He loved them to the end”

What great love, what charity was that of Jesus Christ when he chose the evening of the day he was to be put to death to institute a sacrament through which he would remain in our midst, to be our Father, Consoler, and all our good! Still happier than those who were alive during his mortal life, when he was only in one place and people had to come from a great distance if they were to have the joy of seeing him, now, today we find him everywhere in the world and this joy is promised to me until the world’s end. O what great love was that of God for his creatures!

No indeed! Nothing could stop him when it came to showing us the greatness of his love. At that happy moment for us, all Jerusalem was on fire, all the people in an uproar, everyone was plotting his harm, everyone wanting to shed his precious blood – and yet it was precisely at that moment that he prepared for them, as for us, the most unutterable testimony of his love.

St. Teresa Benedicta Of The Cross
From The Prayer Of The Church

“Where do you want us to prepare for you to eat the Passover?”

The Gospels tell us that Christ prayed the way a devout Jew faithful to the Law prayed… We know that Jesus said the old blessings over bread, wine, and the fruits of the earth as they are prayed to this day. So he fulfilled one of the most sacred religious duties: the ceremonial Passover seder to commemorate deliverance from slavery in Egypt. And perhaps this very gathering gives us the most profound glimpse into Christ’s prayer and the key to understanding the prayer of the Church…

Blessing and distributing bread and wine were part of the Passover rite. But here both receive an entirely new meaning. This is where the life of the church begins. Only at Pentecost will it appear publicly as a Spirit-filled and visible community. But here at the Passover meal the seeds of the vineyard are planted that make the outpouring of the Spirit possible.

In the mouth of Christ, the old blessings become life-giving words. The fruits of the earth become his body and blood, filled with his life… Through the Lord’s last supper, the Passover meal of the Old Covenant is converted into the Easter meal of the New Covenant.

St. Augustine
From Sermons On St. John’s Gospel, 62, 63

“He dipped the morsel and handed it to Judas”

When our Lord, Bread of Life (Jn 6,35), had given bread to that dead man and, in handing him the bread, indicated the one who would betray the living bread, he said to him: “What you have to do, do quickly”. He was not commanding a crime; he was revealing his evil deed to Judas and declaring our good to us. Was it not all the worse for Judas and all the better for us that Christ should be delivered up? For Judas, who is harming himself, acts on our behalf without knowing it.

“What you have to do, do quickly.” These are words of a man who stands ready, not of a man who is annoyed; these words say less about the punishment of the betrayer as about the reward of the redeemer, of the one who redeems. For in saying: “What you have to do, do quickly” Christ is seeking to hasten the salvation of believers far more than he is accusing the unfaithful man’s crime. “He was handed over for our transgressions; Christ loved the Church and handed himself over for her” (Rom 4,25; Eph 5,25).

This is what caused the apostle Paul say: “He loved me and gave himself up for me” (Ga 2,20). For in fact no one could have handed Christ over if he had not handed over himself… When Judas betrayed him, it was Christ who handed himself over; the former undertook his sale, the latter our purchase. “What you have to do, do quickly”: not so that it might be given over into your power but because it is the will of him who can do all things…

“Judas took the morsel and left at once. It was night.” And he who went out was himself night. Then, when night had left, Jesus said: “Now is the Son of Man glorified!” Day unto day hands on the word (cf. Ps 19[18],3), that is to say Christ entrusts it to his disciples so that they might hear and follow him in love… Something similar will take place when the world that Christ has vanquished passes away, Then, when the weeds are no longer mixed up with the wheat, the righteous will shine like the sun in the kingdom of their Father (Mt 13,43).

St. Bede The Venerable
From Homilies For Advent, 3 (Ccl 122, 14-17)

“The Lord God will give him the throne of David his father, and he will rule over the house of Jacob forever, and of his kingdom there will be no end.”

“The angel Gabriel was sent from God to a city of Galilee named Nazareth, to a virgin betrothed to a man whose name was Joseph of the house of David; and the virgin’s name was Mary.” What is said of the house of David applies not only to Joseph but also to Mary. It was a precept of the law that each man should marry a wife from his own tribe and kindred. St. Paul also bears testimony to this when he writes to Timothy: “Remember Jesus Christ, risen from the dead, descended from David, as preached in my Gospel” (2Tm 2,8)…

“He will be great, and will be called the son of the Most High; and the Lord God will give him the throne of his father David.” The angel refers to the kingdom of the Israelite nation as the throne of David because in his time, by the Lord’s command and assistance, David governed it with a spirit of faithful service… As David had once ruled the people with temporal authority, so Christ would now lead them to the eternal kingdom by his spiritual grace…

“He will reign over the house of Jacob for ever”. The house of Jacob here refers to the universal Church which, through its faith in and witness to Christ, shares the heritage of the patriarchs. This may apply either to those who are physical descendants of the patriarchal families, or to those who come from gentile nations and are reborn in Christ by the waters of baptism.

In this house Christ shall reign for ever, and “of his kingdom there will be no end”. During this present life, Christ rules in the Church. By faith and love he dwells in the hearts of his elect, and guides them by his unceasing care toward their heavenly reward. In the life to come, when their period of exile on earth is ended, he will exercise his kingship by leading the faithful to their heavenly country. There, for ever inspired by the vision of his presence, their one delight will be to praise and glorify him.

Origen
From Homilies On Exodus, 8

“If you remain in my word, you will truly be my disciples and you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free”

“I am the Lord your God who brought you out from the land of Egypt, that place of slavery” (Ex 2,20). These words are not just being spoken to those who came out of Egypt in former times but, still more, to you who hear them now, provided only that you are leaving Egypt… Consider: are not this world’s affairs and the deeds of the flesh the house of slavery? And, on the other hand, are not flight from the things of this world and life in God the house of freedom, as the Lord said in the Gospel: “If you remain in my word, you will know the truth and the truth will set you free”?

Yes indeed, Egypt is the house of slavery; Jerusalem and Judah the house of freedom. Now hear what the apostle Paul has to say on the subject…: “The Jerusalem above is freeborn and she is mother of us all” (Gal 4,26).

So just as the earthly province of Egypt is called “house of slavery” for the children of Israel as opposed to Jerusalem and Judah, which stand for a “house of freedom” in their regard, in the same way, compared to the heavenly Jerusalem which we might call “mother of the free”, the whole world and all it contains is a house of slavery. In former times, as a punishment for sin, there was a transition from the paradise of freedom to the bondage of this world…; hence the first words to inaugurate God’s commandments are about freedom: “I am the Lord your God who brought you up from the land of Egypt, from the house of slavery.”

St. Bernard
From Selected Sermons, 22, 5-6

“I have shown you many good works from my Father. For which of these are you trying to stone me?”

You owe your whole life to Christ Jesus, for he gave his life for your life and endured bitter torments that you might not have to endure eternal torment… Is there anything that will not seem sweet to you after you have gathered into your heart all the bitter sufferings of your Lord?… As the heavens are higher than the earth (Is 55,9) so is his life higher than our life and yet it has been given for our life. As mere nothingness cannot be compared to any other thing so our life cannot be measured against his…

When I have dedicated to him all that I am, all of which I am capable, it will still be like a star compared to the sun, a drop of water to a river, a single stone to a tower, a grain of sand to a mountain. I have nothing but two, small things, very small indeed: my body and my soul or, rather, only one, small thing: my will.

And am I not going to give it to him who has gone before so small a being as I with such blessings, to him who in wholly giving himself has wholly redeemed me? Otherwise, were I to keep my will for myself, with what face, what eyes, what spirit or conscience would I take my refuge in the merciful heart of our God? How could I dare to pierce that strong rampart guarding Israel and cause, not just a few drops, but torrents of the blood that flows from the five parts of his body, to flow at the price of my redemption.

St. Cyril Of Alexandria
From Commentary On The Letter To The Romans, 15, 7

“To gather into one the dispersed children of God”

It is written that: “We, though many, are one body in Christ and individually parts of one another” (Rom 12,5), for Christ gathers us into a unity by bonds of love: “He made both one and broke down the dividing wall of enmity… abolishing the law with its commandments and legal claims that he might create in himself one new person in place of two” (Eph 2,14-15). Therefore we ought to have the same feelings towards each other: “If one part suffers, all the parts suffer with it; if one part is honoured, all the parts share its joy” (1Cor 12,26).

Hence, as St. Paul again says: “Welcome one another as Christ welcomed you, for the glory of God” (Rom 15,7). Let us welcome each other if we would share these same feelings. “Let us bear one another’s burdens; striving to preserve unity of Spirit through the bond of peace” (Eph 4,2-3). This is how God has welcomed us in Christ. For that man spoke truly when he said: “God so loved the world that he gave us his only Son” (Jn 3,16). For indeed the Son was given as a ransom for the lives of all of us and we have been liberated from death, set free from death and sin. St. Paul illuminates the outline of this plan of salvation when he says that: “Christ became a minister of the circumcised to show God’s truthfulness” (Rom 15,8). For God had promised the patriarchs, fathers to the Jews, that he would bless their descendants, who would also become as numerous as the stars of heaven. And this is the reason why the Word, who is God, was manifested in the flesh and became man. He upholds all creation in being and maintains the well-being of all that exists because he is God. But he came into this world when he became incarnate “not to be served” but, as he himself said: “to serve and to give his life as a ransom for many” (Mk 10,45).

St. Proclus of Constantinople from Sermon 9, for Palm Sunday (PG 65, 772)

“Blessed is he who comes, he, our King!”

This day, my beloved, is a day of the greatest importance. It asks from us great desire, overwhelming eagerness, a brisk going forward to stand awaiting the heavenly King. Paul, messenger of the Good News, has told us: “The Lord is near. Have no anxiety at all” (Phil 4,5-6)…

Let us then light the lamps of our faith: like the five wise virgins (Mt 25,1f.) let us fill them with the oil of compassion towards the poor; let us be wide awake to welcome Christ with palms of righteousness in our hands. Let us kiss him, pouring over him Mary’s perfume (Jn 12,3).

Hear the resurrection song: may our voices be raised in a manner worthy of the divine majesty and let us, together with the people, shout aloud the cry that breaks out from the crowd: “Hosanna in the highest! Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord, the King of Israel”. How good it is to say: “He who comes”, for he comes unceasingly and never fails us: “The Lord is near to all who call upon him, to all who call upon him in truth” (Ps 145[144],18). “Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord.”

This gentle King stands at our door, bringing peace. He who is enthroned on the cherubim in heaven is seated on the foal of an ass here below. Let us make ready the houses of our souls, sweeping away the cobwebs of brotherly misunderstandings, and let the dust of malicious gossip not be found amongst us. Let us spread abroad the waves of our love and pacify all those clashes that arouse our animosity and let then us sow flowers of piety at the door of our lips. Let us then put forth with the people the cry that stirs the crowd: “Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord, the King of Israel!”

William of St. Thierry from Meditations, 5, 8-9

“The house was filled with the fragrance of the oil”

Since my childhood I have never ceased to sin, and you have never ceased to work my good… But turn your judgment into mercy, Lord, and condemn sin by sin… But first, Lord, let the fire of your perfect love inflame my heart, let its great heat sweat and cook out of me all the poison of sin; let it search out and wash away with the tears of my eyes all that defiles my conscience. May your cross drive from me all the evil that I have contracted through the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life, through the long-continued rusting of my negligence. Lord, anyone who likes may hear me thus confessing, and may laugh at me! Anyone may see me lying with the sinful woman at your mercy’s feet, washing them with the tears of my heart and anointing them with the perfume of heartfelt devotion! (Lk 7,38).

Let me give my whole substance (whatever that amounts to!) alike in body and soul, to buy the perfume that you will accept, that I may pour it out upon your head, whose head is God, and on your feet, whose lower part is our humble nature. Let the Pharisee murmur, but do you have mercy on me, O my God! Let the thief with his money-bag gnash his teeth at me if he likes; as long as you are pleased with me, I care very little who may be displeased.

O my heart’s love, may I anoint you daily, ceaselessly, for, when I am anointing you, I anoint myself… Grant, Lord, that I may faithfully devote to you all that I have, all that I know, all that I am, and all that I can do; let me keep nothing for myself! I stand to be judged by you, and by no man; I lie at your mercy’s feet, and there I will lie and lament, until you make me hear your blessed voice, the judgment of your lips, the declaration of your righteousness which is mine too: “Her many sins are forgiven, for she loved much” (Lk7,47).

St. Bernard from Sermon 1 for the First Sunday of November

“When you lift up the Son of Man, then you will realize that I AM”

Isaiah the prophet describes an exalted vision for us: “I saw the Lord seated on a throne” (Is 6,1). What a wonderful sight, my brethren! Happy the eyes that saw it! Who would not want with all their heart to behold the splendor of so great a glory?… Yet here I am listening to that same prophet give us an account of a very different vision of the same Lord: “We saw him; he had no beauty, no splendor: we took him for a leper” (Is 53,2f. Vg.)…

And so, if you desire to see Jesus in his glory, try first of all to contemplate him in his humiliation. Begin by gazing on the serpent raised up in the desert (cf. Jn 3,14)if you wish to see the King seated on his throne. Let the first vision fill you with humility so that the second may raise you from your humiliation. Let the former reprove and heal your pride before the latter fulfils and satisfies your desire. Do you see the Lord “emptied”? (Phil 2,7). Do not let this vision leave you untouched or you will not be able to behold him later on in the glory of his exaltation without anxiety.

“You will be like him”, indeed, when you see him “as he is” (1Jn 3,2); so be like him now as you see what he became for your sake. If you do not refuse to become like him in his humiliation, he will certainly give you the likeness of his glory in return. He will never allow someone who has shared his Passion to be excluded from communion in his glory. So little does he refuse to admit someone who has shared his Passion into the Kingdom with him that the thief found himself in paradise that very day with him because he confessed him on the cross (Lk 23,42)… Yes indeed, “if we suffer with him, we shall reign with him” (Rom 8,17).

St. Bernadine of Siena from Sermon on St. Joseph (OC 7, 16. 27-50)

St. Joseph, faithful guardian of the mysteries of our salvation

When the divine goodness chooses someone to receive a special grace, it gives him all the charisms he needs, which greatly increases his spiritual beauty. This is wholly confirmed in the case of St. Joseph, legal father of our Lord Jesus Christ and rightful husband of she who is Queen of the world and Sovereign of angels. The eternal Father chose him to be provider and faithful guardian to his chiefest treasures, namely his Son and his bride – a function he faithfully fulfilled. That is why the Lord said: “Good and faithful servant, come, share your master’s joy” (Mt 25,21).

If you compare Joseph with all the rest of Christ’s Church, is he not the one who has been specially chosen, through whom Christ came into the world in regular and respectable fashion? So if the whole of holy Church is indebted to the Virgin Mary because it was she who enabled it to welcome Christ, after her it is to St. Joseph that it owes a recognition and honor without compare. Indeed, it is he who brings the Old Testament to an end; it is in him that the dignity of patriarchs and prophets receives its promised fruit. He alone possessed in reality what divine goodness had promised to them. Nor indeed should we doubt that the closeness and respect Christ showed to Joseph during his earthly life, as a son to his father, were ever denied in heaven, rather, he enriched and completed them. So, with reason, the Lord adds: “Enter into your master’s joy”.

Blessed Joseph, remember us; intercede with the help of your prayers to your adopted Son; and may you likewise make the blessed Virgin, your spouse, to be favourable towards us, for she is the mother of him who, with the Father and the Holy Spirit, lives and reigns world without end.

Origen from Treatise on First Principles, Bk. 2, chap. 6,2 (PG 11, 210-211)

“No one laid hands on him”

In Christ we encounter such human characteristics that they have nothing to distinguish them from the weakness common to us mortals. At the same time we encounter characteristics so divine that they can only be appropriate to the sovereign and ineffable divine nature. Too small to comprehend this, the human mind is so dumbfounded that it does not know what to take its stand on nor which path to follow. Is it aware of God in Christ? Yet it sees him die. Does it take him to be a man? But see him coming back from the dead with the prize of his victory, having destroyed the reign of death.

In the same way our contemplation needs to be practised with such reverence and fear that, in the same Jesus, it considers the truth of the two natures, avoiding attributing to the divine essence those things that are nor worthy of it or do not belong to it, but also avoiding seeing only an illusory appearance in historical events.

In truth, causing such things as these to be heard by human ears, trying to express them in words considerably surpasses our ability, talent and language. I even think it surpasses the capability of the apostles. More still, the explanation of this mystery probably transcends the entire order of angelic powers.

St. Augustine from Sermons on St John’s Gospel, no. 34

The light of the world

It would seem to me that the Lord’s words: “I am the light of the world” are clear enough for those with eyes that enable them to have a share in that light. But those who only have bodily eyes are astonished to hear it said by our Lord Jesus Christ: “I am the light of the world.” There may even be those who say: “Would Christ be the sun that determines the day by its rising and setting?”…

No, Christ is not that. The Lord is not the created sun but him by whom the sun was created. For “all things came to be through him, and without him nothing came to be” (Jn 1,3). Therefore he is the light who created the light we see. Let us love this light, understand it, desire it, that led by it we may in due course attain it and may live in it so as never to die…

So you see, my brethren, you see, if you have eyes that see spiritual things, what kind of light this is of which the Lord says: “Whoever follows me does not walk in darkness.” Follow that sun and let us see whether or not you walk in darkness. Behold how he arises and comes towards you. Following his course he makes his way westwards; but you on your part, must walk towards the rising sun, the Christ.

The Letter to Diognetus from Ch. 9

“They tried all the more to kill him, because… he also called God his own father”

God left us to live for the meanwhile as we pleased, giving free rein to our unruly instincts and being at the mercy of sensuality and lust. This was not because he took any pleasure in those sins of ours; all he was doing was to put up with them. It was not that he was sanctioning that former era of lawlessness; rather, he was preparing this present era of righteousness, to the intent that we, who in those days had been proved by our own works unworthy to achieve life, might in these days be made worthy of it by the goodness of God…

In that hour, instead of hating us and rejecting us… he bore with us, and in pity he took our sins upon himself and gave his own Son as a ransom for us – the Holy for the wicked, the Sinless for sinners, “the Just for the unjust” (1Pt 3,18), the Incorrupt for the corrupt, the Immortal for the mortal. For was there, indeed, anything except his righteousness that could have availed to cover our sins?

In whom could we… have been made holy, but in the Son of God alone? O sweet exchange! O unsearchable working! O benefits unhoped for! that the wickedness of multitudes should thus be hidden in the One holy, and the holiness of One should sanctify the countless wicked! In times past he convinced us that our human nature by itself lacked the power of attaining to life; today, he reveals to us a Savior who has power to save even the powerless. The purpose behind both these acts is that we should believe in his goodness and should look on him as our Nourisher, Father, Teacher, Counsellor, Healer, Wisdom. Light, Honor, Glory, Power and Life.

Baldwin of Ford from Tractate 6, on Heb. 4:12

“The man believed what Jesus said to him”

“The word of God is living and effective, more piercing than any two-edged sword” (Heb 4,12). What greatness of power, what wealth of wisdom in the Word of God is shown by these words of the Apostle to those that seek Christ, who is himself the word, the power, and the wisdom of God. In the beginning, this word was with God, coeternal with him; in his time he was revealed to the prophets, proclaimed by them, and received humbly in the faith of his believing people. We have, therefore, the word in the Father, the word in the mouth, and the word in the heart. The word in the mouth is the expression of the word that is in the Father and also the expression of the word that is in the heart of man. The word in the heart of man is either the understanding of the word or faith in the word or the love of the word when the word is either understood or believed or loved. When these three are united in one heart so that the word of God is at one and the same time understood, believed and loved, then Christ, who is the word of the Father… dwells in the heart by faith. And with wonderful condescension he who is God in the heart of the Father descends even to the heart of men…

This Word of God… is living, and the Father granted to him that he should have life in himself as the Father has life in himself (Jn 5,26). On this account he is not only living, but life; as he says of himself: “I am the way, the truth, and the life” (Jn 14,6).Because he is life, he lives in such a way that he is able to give life, for “as the Father raises the dead and gives them life, so also the Son gives life to whom he will” (Jn 5,21).

St. Peter Chrysologus from Homily on Forgiveness, 2, 3

“I shall get up and go to my father”

If we do not care for this young man’s conduct, his departure horrifies us. Don’t let us ever abandon such a father! Simply the sight of the father causes sin to flee, banishes our faults, does away with all bad behavior and temptation. Yet if we have gone away, if we have wasted all our father’s inheritance in a life of debauchery, if we should happen to have committed some fault or misdeed or fallen into the mire of irreligiousness and complete dissipation: let us rise up for good and all and return to this best of fathers, summoned by such a beautiful example.

“When the father saw him he ran to embrace him and covered him with kisses.” I ask you: where is there room for despair here? What pretext for excuse? What false reason for fear? Only, perhaps, if we dread meeting the father, if we are afraid of his kisses and embrace; only if we think that the father, when he takes his child by the hand, draws him to his breast and folds his arms around him, wants to seize the opportunity to make good his loss instead of welcoming in order to forgive.

Such a thought, however, that destroys life and is contrary to our salvation, is fully overcome, wholly destroyed by what follows: “The father said to his servants: ‘Quickly bring the finest robe and put it on him; put a ring on his finger and sandals on his feet. Take the fattened calf and slaughter it. Then let us celebrate with a feast, because this son of mine was dead, and has come to life again; he was lost, and has been found.’” When we have heard that, can we delay any longer? What more could we ask for to return to the father?

St. Cyprian from The Lord’s Prayer, 4, 6

“The tax collector… would not even raise his eyes to heaven”

Let those who pray have words and petitions governed by restraint and possessing a quiet modesty. Let us bear in mind that we stand in the sight of God. We must be pleasing in the sight of God both in posture and the measured tone of our voices and not break out into clamorous noise. It befits the modest to pray moderately.

In his teaching the Lord bids us pray apart, in solitary and retired places (Mt 14,23; 6,6) and even in our bed-chambers, because it is more befitting our faith to realize that God is present everywhere , that he hears and sees all, and that by the plenitude of his majesty he penetrates hidden and secret places, too. As it is written: “I am a God near at hand and not a God far off. Can a man hide in secret without my seeing him? Do I not fill both heaven and earth?” (cf. Jer 23,23-24).

Let the person who prays not ignore this: how the publican prayed with the Pharisee in the Temple. Not by impudently lifting his eyes to heaven nor by insolently raising his hands, but striking his breast and testifying to the sins hidden within him, he implored the help of divine mercy. And although the Pharisee was pleased with himself, it was this man, rather, who deserved to be accounted upright. For he placed the hope of salvation not in confidence in his own innocence, for no one is innocent, but he confessed his sins and prayed humbly. And he who forgives the humble, heard him as he prayed.

St. Hilary from Commentary on St. Matthew’s Gospel, 4, 14-15 (PL 9, 936-937 `{`cf SC 254, p. 135`}`)

Christ is the fulfilment of Scripture

“I have not come to abolish, but to fulfil.” The strength and power of these words of the Son of God enclose a profound mystery.

For the Law prescribed works, but it directed all those works towards faith in realities that would be made manifest in Christ: for the Savior’s teaching and Passion are the great and mysterious design of the Father’s will. Under the veil of its inspired words, the Law made known the birth of our Lord Jesus Christ, his incarnation, Passion and resurrection. The prophets, no less than the apostles, teach us repeatedly that the mystery of Christ had been prepared from all eternity to be revealed in our own times…

Christ did not want us to think that his own works comprised anything other than the Law’s demands. That is why he himself insisted: “I have not come to abolish, but to fulfil.” Heaven and earth… will disappear but not the least commandment of the Law, for all the Law and the prophets find their fulfilment in Christ. At the time of his Passion… he declared: “It is finished” (Jn 19,30). And at that very moment every word of the prophets was confirmed.

For this reason Christ declares that not even the least of God’s commandments can be cancelled without offending God… Nothing can be more insignificant than the smallest. And humblest of all was the Lord’s Passion and death on the cross.

St. John Chrysostom from Homilies on St. Matthew’s Gospel, 61

“Forgive us our debts as we forgive our debtors” (Mt 6,12)

Christ asks two things of us: to condemn our own offences and forgive those of others, doing the first of these for the sake of the second, which will become easier in consequence since whoever reflects on his own sins becomes less severe towards those of his fellow in wretchedness. And forgiving, too, not merely in word but from the heart, lest we turn on ourselves the barb with which we aimed to stab others. What hurt is your enemy capable of inflicting compared to that which you inflict on yourself?… If you give way to indignation and anger you will be hurt, not by the insult he has done to you, but by the resentment you bear for it.

So don’t say: “He has insulted and slandered me and caused me a great deal of unhappiness.” The more you say he has hurt you, the more you show he has done you good since he has given you the chance of being purified of your sins. Thus, the more he does to offend you, the more he places you in a position to obtain forgiveness for your own offences from God. For if we will, no one can harm us; even our enemies do us great service by this means… Consider, then, how many advantages you draw from an insult endured humbly and gently.

Jacob of Sarug from Poem

“I shall get up and go to my father”

As the prodigal son, I will return to my father’s house and I will be welcomed back home. I will do the same, as he did: won’t the father grant my prayer too? O forgiving Father, here I am at your door and I knock; open to me, let me enter, so that I may not ruin myself, go away and die! You made me your heir and I neglected my inheritance and squandered my goods; from now on, may I be as a mercenary and as a servant to you.

As of the tax collector, have mercy on me and I shall live by your grace! O Son of God, forgive my sins as you did with the adulteress. Save me from the waves, as you did with Peter. Have mercy on my lowness, as you did for the good criminal, and remember me! O Lord, come search for me, like the lost sheep, and you will find me; carry me on your shoulders, Lord, to the house of your Father.

As you did with the blind man, open my eyes, that I may see your light! As for the deaf, open my ears, that I may hear your voice! As for the paralytic, heal my disability so that I may praise your name. As for the leper, cleanse me of my sin with your hyssop (cf. Ps 50,9). As the young girl, the daughter of Jairus, make me live, our Lord. As Peter’s mother-in-law, heal me, for I am sick. As the young boy, the widow’s son, raise me up, that I may stand up again.

As you did with Lazarus, cry out to me with your own voice and undo my bandages. For I am dead because of sin, like as for a sickness; raise me up from my ruin, that I may praise your name!

I beg you, Lord of heaven and earth, come save me and show me your way so that I may come towards you. Bring me back to you, Son of the Good Lord, and fill me with your mercy. I will come to you and then will I be filled with joy.

St. Cyprian from The Good of Patience, 4-5 (PL 4, 624-625)

Imitating God’s patience

But how wonderful and how great is the patience of God!… He makes the day to rise and the sun to shine equally over the good and the evil (Mt 5,45). When he waters the earth with showers no one is excluded from his benefits, but he bestows his rains without distinction on the just and the unjust alike.

We see that, at the will of God, with an indivisible uniformity of patience toward the guilty and the innocent, the religious and the impious, the grateful and the ungrateful, the seasons obey and the elements serve, the winds blow, fountains flow, harvests increase in abundance, the fruits of the vines ripen, trees are heavy with fruit, the groves become green, and the meadows burst into flower…

And although vengeance is within his power, he prefers to be long-suffering in his patience, that is, waiting steadfastly and delaying in his mercy, so that, if it is at all possible, the long career of malice at some time may change, and man… may be converted to God even at a late hour, as he himself warns and says: “I desire not the death of the one who is dying but rather that he turn to me again and live” (Ez 33,11). And again: “Return to the Lord your God for he is merciful and loving and patient and rich in pity” (Jl 2,13)…

Now, Jesus tells us: “Be perfect as your heavenly Father is perfect” (Mt 5,48). He said that it is in this way that the sons of God are made perfect; he showed that it is in this way that we attain our goal, and he taught that we are restored by a heavenly birth if the patience of God the Father abides in us, if the divine likeness which Adam lost by sin be manifested and shine in our actions. What glory it is to become like God! What wonderful and what great happiness it is to possess among our virtues what can be put on a par with the divine merits!

St. Augustine from Sermon 11, 2-3

The Widow of Zarephath

The poor widow had gone out to look for two blocks of wood to bake some bread: it is at this time that Elijah meets her. This woman is the symbol of the Church; because a cross is made of two pieces of wood, the woman, who was destined to die, searches for something by which to live eternally.

There is a hidden mystery in this…Elijah tells her: “Go, feed me first with your poverty, and you will not run out of your goods”. What a blessed poverty! If the widow received here on earth such retribution, what a reward may she hope to receive in the life to come!

I insist on this point: let us not expect to harvest the fruit of our sowing now, at the time we sow. Here on earth, we sow with difficulty what will be the harvest of our good works, but only later on will we gather the fruits of this with joy, according to what is said: “Those who go forth weeping, carrying sacks of seed, Will return with cries of joy, carrying their bundled sheaves” (Ps 125,6).

Actually Elijah’s act towards this woman was not her reward, but only a symbol of it. For if this widow would have been rewarded here on earth for having fed the man of God, what a miserable sowing, what a poor crop! She received just a temporal good: a jar of flour that did not go empty and a jug of oil that did not run dry till the day the Lord watered the earth with his rain.

This sign that was given to her by God for a few days was therefore the symbol of the future life where our reward could not be lessened. Our flour will be God himself! As the flour of this woman did not run out in these days, we will not be deprived of God for all the rest of eternity…Sow with faith and your harvest will surely come; it will come later on, but when it will come, you will reap it endlessly.

St. Catherine of Siena from Dialogues, Ch. 4

“Whoever exalts himself will be humbled”

[St. Catherine heard God say to her:] You ask for the will to know and love me, supreme Truth. Here is the way, if you would come to perfect knowledge and enjoyment of me, eternal Life: Never leave the knowledge of yourself. Then, put down as you are in the valley of humility you will know me in yourself, and from this knowledge you will draw all that you need. No virtue can have life in it except from charity, and charity is nursed and mothered by humility.

You will find humility in the knowledge of yourself when you see that even your own existence comes not from yourself but from me, for I loved you before you came to being. And in my unspeakable love for you I willed to create you in grace. So I washed you and made you a new creation in the blood that my only-begotten Son poured out with such burning love. This blood gives you knowledge of the truth when knowledge of yourself leads you to shed the cloud of selfish love. There is no other way to know the truth. In so knowing me the soul catches fire with unspeakable love, which in turn brings continual pain.

Indeed, because she has known my truth as well as her own sin and her neighbors’ in· gratitude and blindness, the soul suffers intolerably. Still, this is not a pain that troubles or shrivels up the soul. On the contrary, it makes her grow fat. For she suffers because she loves me, nor would she suffer if she did not love me.

St. Maximus the Confessor from The Ascetic Life, 40-42 (PG 90, 912)

“The measure with which you measure will in return be measured out to you”

Having learned from Scripture what the fear of the Lord is and what are his goodness and love, let us turn to him with all our hearts… Let us keep his commandments and love one another with all our hearts. Let us call ‘brothers’ even those who hate and detest us so that the Lord’s name may be glorified and made known in all its joy.

We who are such a trial to one another: let us forgive each other… Let us not bear any envy towards others and, if we are exposed to jealousy, do not let us become outraged. Let us rather show ourselves compassionate towards one another and bring healing to one another by our humility. Do not let us malign or mock for we are all members of each other.

Let us love one another and we will be loved by God. Let us be patient with one another and he will show himself patient with our sins. Do not let us pay back evil for evil and we shall not receive what we ourselves have merited by our sins. For we shall win forgiveness for our sins by forgiving our brother, and God’s mercy is concealed within mercy towards our neighbor… You see, the Lord has given us the means of saving ourselves and the strength from heaven to become sons of God.

Anastasius of Sinai from Homily on the Transfiguration

“Moses and Elijah, who appeared in glory, spoke of his exodus that he was going to accomplish in Jerusalem”

Today, on Mount Tabor, the state of our future life and the Kingdom of joy are mysteriously made manifest. Today, in an unexpected way, the former messengers of the Old and New Covenants have come together on the mountain beside their God as bearers of a paradoxical mystery.

Today, on Mount Tabor, is sketched out the mystery of the cross which, through death, gives life. Just as Christ was crucified between two men on Mount Calvary, so he now stands in his divine majesty between Moses and Elijah. And today’s feast shows us that other Sinai, that mountain far more precious than Sinai by reason of its wonders and events. With its theophany it far surpasses merely representative and vague divine visions…

Rejoice! O Creator of all that is, Christ our King, Son of God radiant with light, who have transfigured all creation in your image and have recreated it in an even better way… And you, too, rejoice! O image of the heavenly Kingdom, most holy mount of Tabor, surpassing in beauty all other mountains! Mount Golgotha and you, O mount of Olives, sing a hymn together and rejoice; sing with one voice of Christ on Mount Tabor and together chant his praises!

St. Isaac the Syrian from Discourse, 2nd series, 38,5 and 39,3

“He makes his sun rise on the bad and the good”

There is no changing of intentions in the Creator, neither before nor after: there is neither hate nor resentment in his nature, nor is there a bigger or a smaller place in his love, nor a before or an after in his knowledge. For if we all believe that creation began to exist as a consequence of the goodness and love of the Creator, we know that this first motive will not die down nor will it change in the Creator, following the disorderly course of his creation.

It would be quite obnoxious and really blasphemous to believe that hate and resentment exist in God – even towards the demons – or to imagine other weaknesses or passions in Him. On the contrary, God acts towards us always in ways he knows being profitable for us, that these may be for us cause of suffering or of consolation, of joy or of sorrow, that they may be insignificant or glorious – all are oriented towards the same everlasting goods.

St. Augustine from Sermon 357

“If you recall that your brother has anything against you”

“God makes his sun rise on the bad and the good, and causes rain to fall on the just and the unjust” (Mt 5,45). He shows his patience; he does not exercise as yet his almighty power. So you, too,… withhold yourself from provocation and don’t increase the uneasiness of those who sow trouble. Are you a friend of peace? Remain peaceful within yourself… Set aside quarrelling and turn to prayer. Don’t return insult for insult but pray for the other person.

Would you like to speak to him against him? Speak to God on his behalf. I don’t say be silent, but find a convenient place and see the one you are speaking to in silence, by a cry from the heart. There, where your enemy cannot see you, in that very place show goodness on his behalf. To this adversary of peace, this friend of argument, you, who are a friend of peace, give answer: “Say whatever you like, whatever your enmity may be about, for you are my brother”…

“No matter how much you hate and repel me: you are my brother! Recognise within yourself the mark of my Father. This is my Father’s word: you are a disputatious brother yet you are my brother, for you, too, say the same as I do: ‘Our Father in heaven.’ We pray to one Father so why are we not at one? I beg you, acknowledge what it is you say together with me and renounce what you do against me… We have only one voice before the Father; why should we not together have one peace?”

St. Peter Chrysologus from Sermon 55 (PL 52, 352-354)

“Which one of you would hand his son a stone when he asks for a loaf of bread”

If by God’s will you are a father… then this is so that, in giving life yourself, you might also know what it means to feel a father’s love and thus, just as you feel affectionately towards your own children, can experience in yourself the love of your Creator …

So if you believe in God, and if you confess him as father, then everything he ordains, everything he decides with respect to you, believe that this is for your salvation, your life. We cannot cancel out the gifts of a mother, we cannot challenge the warnings of a father. Even if his fatherly demands seem to be strict, in reality they are saving and life-giving. So Abraham, once he had understood that God was father, did not linger over the difficult and demanding aspects of the commandments, but made his glory in what our heavenly Father ordains… Since it is God who commands, he entrusted himself wholly to his love…

Why, when one knows God, argue with his Fatherly gifts instead of welcoming them as good and beneficial, whereas little ones and those who are innocent expect everything from their father?

Let us look more closely at the comparison our Lord uses in his Gospel: “What father among you” he says to us, “would give a stone to his son who asks for bread?” Christ came for the sons, that is to say for his chosen people – even if he regretted having fathered them and cried out: “Sons have I raised and reared, but they have disowned me!” (Is 1,2). So he came on behalf of the sons, he, the true bread from heaven, who said: “I am the bread that came down from heaven” (Jn 6,41)

Melito of Sardis from Homily on the Pasch, 82-90 (SC 123, p.107f.)

“The Pharisees went out and immediately took counsel with the Herodians against him to put him to death” You have not seen God; you have not recognized the Lord; you did not know that it was he, God’s Firstborn, he who was begotten before the morning star (Ps 110[109],3), who caused light to spring up, who caused day to shine forth when he separated it from darkness, who set the first limits, suspending the earth, drying up the great abyss, spreading out the firmament…, who created the angels in heaven, setting thrones there, and who shaped man of the earth.

He it was who chose Israel and guided it from Adam to Noah, from Noah to Abraham, from Abraham to Isaac and Jacob and the twelve patriarchs. It was he who led your fathers in Egypt, who protected and fed them. He, who gave them manna from heaven, who quenched their thirst from the rock, who gave them the Law and the promised land, who sent prophets to them and raised up their kings. It is he who has come to you, healing the sick and raising the dead… It is he whom you wanted to put to death, he whom you handed over for money…

How have you esteemed the benefits bestowed on you?… Esteem now the withered hand he has restored to its body. Esteem now those born blind whom he has restored to the light with a word. Esteem now those dead he has raised from their tombs after three or four days. The gifts he has given you are priceless. And you…, you have repaid him evil for good, affliction for joy, death for life.

Baldwin of Ford from The Sacrament of the Altar, 3, 2 (SC 94, p. 523 rev.)

“The Sabbath was made for man”

Blessed repose and a holy satisfaction are what make for true beatitude, and of this Sabbath and the manna are symbols. When he had given rest and satiety to his people with the Sabbath and manna, thus prefiguring the true blessedness he will give to those who obey, the Lord rebukes for his disobedience the man who might cause them to lose these most desirable possessions: “How long will you refuse to keep my commandments and laws?” (Ex 16,28).

After this question of the Lord’s, Moses invites his brethren to consider God’s gifts: “Take note! The Lord has given you the Sabbath. That is why on the sixth day he gives you food for two days so that you may consent to serve him.” This warning means that God will give rest for their labours to his elect and the consolations of this present life in addition to those of the life to come.

But in addition to this, two forms of life are suggested to us by this passage: the active life in which we now have to work, and the contemplative life for which we are working and in which we shall be completely available to the contemplation of God. For although the contemplative life belongs especially to the world to come yet it must be represented even in this life by the holy Sabbath rest.

Concerning this rest Moses adds: “On the Sabbath day everyone is to stay home and no one is to go out.” In other words: Everyone is to rest in their house and not go out for any kind of work on the Sabbath. This teaches us that during times of contemplation we should remain within ourselves, nor go out by means of forbidden desires but collect our whole intention “in purity of heart” [as St. Benedict says] to think on God alone and love him only.

Rupert of Deutz from On the Trinity and all His Works, 42, On Isaiah, 2, 26

“The Bridegroom is with them”

“I rejoice heartily in the Lord, in my God is the joy of my soul…, Like a bridegroom adorned with a diadem, like a bride bedecked with her jewels.” Head and members, Bridegroom and Bride, Christ and the Church, we are all one body. Henceforward, in Christ the Bridegroom the crown of victory will shine for evermore – He who is my head and who suffered for a while. Whereas upon me, his Bride, will shine the jewels of his triumphs and graces.

“As the earth brings forth its plants and a garden makes its growth spring up, so will the Lord God make justice and praise spring up before all the nations.” He is the Bridegroom and I his Bride; he is the Lord God and I his land and garden; he is the gardener and I his field. The same one who, as Creator, is my Lord and God, is also my gardener since he became man…

Since the gardener “plants and waters but God gives the increase”, so he who is the Only One plants with his humanity and waters when he proclaims the Good News and gives the increase through his divinity thanks to his Spirit. Therefore I, the Church, “will bring forth and cause to spring up the justice of faith and praise of God”, not just before the Jews but “before all the nations”.

They “will see my good deeds” when they read of the words and deeds of the patriarchs and prophets, when they hear the voice of the apostles and receive their light. They will see and believe and “glorify their heavenly Father”.

(Biblical references: Is 61,10f.; 1Cor 12,12; Jn 15,1; 1Co 3,6-9; Mt 5,16)

St. Romanos Melodios Hymn no.18, The Wedding at Cana (trans. SC 110, p. 307f. rev.)

“You have kept the good wine until now”

While Christ was attending the wedding and the crowd of guests were enjoying themselves, the wine ran out and their joy was turned to dismay… Seeing this, Mary most pure straightaway comes to say to her son: “They have no more wine; therefore I beg you, my child, show how you can do everything, you who created all things in wisdom.”

Revered Virgin, from which of his miracles, I pray, did you know that your son, without having harvested the grape, was able to bestow wine, when he had never yet accomplished a miracle before? Tell us… how was it you said to your son: “Give them wine, you who created all things in wisdom.”

” – – I saw myself how Elizabeth addressed me as Mother of God before I had given birth and, after giving birth, Symeon sang of me, Anna praised me. The wise men hastened to the crib from Persia for a star foretold this childbearing; shepherds and angels made themselves heralds of joy and creation rejoiced together with them. What greater miracles than these could I look for than to believe from their faith that my son is he who created all things in wisdom?”…

When Christ openly changed water into wine by his power the whole crowd rejoiced, finding the taste of this wine to be wonderful. Today the Church’s banquet is where we are all seated for the wine is changed into the blood of Christ and we all drink of it in holy gladness, glorifying our great Bridegroom. For the true Bridegroom is Mary’s son, the Word from all eternity, who took the form of a slave and created all things in wisdom.

O Most High, Holy One, Savior of all: keep unimpaired the wine within us since you preside over all. Cast out from us every perversity, evil thoughts that water down your wine so holy… By the prayers of the holy Virgin Mother of God deliver us from the anguish of the sins that oppress us, O merciful God who have created all things in wisdom.

St. John Chrysostom from Separate Homilies: On the Paralytic

“Seeing their faith”

This paralytic believed in Jesus Christ. In what way is this manifest? From the very manner of his approach to Christ. They let the man down through the roof… You are surely aware that invalids are so faint-hearted and difficult to please as often to decline the treatment administered to them on their sick bed… But this paralytic had the fortitude to go outside the house, to be carried in the midst of the market-place and exhibit himself in the presence of the crowd…

This paralytic did not suffer from pride. When he saw that the place of assembly was filled, the approaches blocked, the entrance obstructed, he submitted to be let down through the roof. So skillful is desire, so rich in resources is love! “For those who seek, find, and to those who knock the door will be opened” (cf. Mt 7,8).

The man did not say to his friends: “What is the meaning of this? Why make this fuss? Why such eagerness? Let us wait until the house is clear and everyone has gone. The crowds will disperse and then we shall be able to approach Jesus privately…” No, the paralytic said none of these things either to himself or to his bearers, but regarded it as an honor to have so many people made witnesses of his cure.

St. Bonaventure from Sermon “Christus unus omnium magister”

“What is this? A new teaching with authority”

There is no possibility of reaching certitude regarding revealed faith except by means of Christ’s coming into the soul. He then comes into the flesh as word confirming every word of prophecy, of which it was said to the Hebrews: “In times past God spoke through the prophets in partial and various ways; in these last days he spoke to us through a Son” (Heb 1,1-2).

That Christ is indeed the Father’s all-powerful Word, we read: “His word is sovereign and who can say to him: What are you doing?” (Eccl 8,4). He is, too, a word full of truth – even more, he is truth itself – as St. John says: “Consecrate them in the truth; your word is truth” (17,17)…

And so, because authority belongs to the word that is powerful and trustworthy, and Christ is the Word of the Father and, therefore, both Power and Wisdom, so all the strength of authority is founded and consummated in him.

That is why all genuine doctrine, and that doctrine’s preachers, referred to Christ’s coming in the flesh as being the foundation of the entire christian faith: “According to the grace of God given to me, like a wise master builder I laid a foundation… But no one can lay a foundation other than the one that is there, namely, Jesus Christ” (1Cor 3,10-11).

For he alone is all genuine doctrine’s foundation, whether apostolic or prophetic, according to both one Law and the other, new and old. Thus it is said to the Ephesians: You have built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets, with Jesus Christ himself as the capstone” (2,20). And so it is clear that Christ is the teacher of knowledge according to faith; he is the Way according to his twofold coming, in spirit and in flesh.

St. Augustine from Letter to Proba on prayer, 8-9 (CSEL 44,56f.)

“Jesus left and went off to a deserted place, where he prayed”

What is the use of wandering hither and thither, looking about for what we should be asking for in prayer? Let us rather say in the words of the psalm: “One thing I ask of the Lord; this I seek: to dwell in the house of the Lord all the days of my life” (Ps 27[26],4). Now, there “all the days” do not pass by, coming and going, nor does one begin when another ends, but all exist at once; they have no end; because the life itself, whose days they are, is without end.

To enable us to win this blessed life, he who is in person the true life has taught us to pray. Not with a flood of words as though we would be answered by reason of our babbling. For indeed, as our Lord himself said, we are praying to him who knows what we need before we ask him (Mt 6,8)…

Does he know what we need before we ask him? In that case, why does he exhort us to pray without ceasing? (Lk 18,1). This might surprise us; but we should understand that our Lord God has no wish to be informed of our desire – of which he cannot be ignorant. But he wants our desire to be stirred up by prayer so that we might be able to receive what he is preparing to give us.

For that is something very great, whereas we are small and of meagre capacity! That I why we are told: “Open wide your hearts” (2Cor 6,11.13). This is something very great indeed…: and we shall be all the more able to receive it insofar as we believe in it with more faith, hope for it with more confidence, desire it with more ardour. Thus it is in faith, hope, love and uninterrupted desire that we pray always.

St. John Chrysostom from Homilies on St. Matthew’s Gospel, no.25, 1-3

Jesus stretched out his hand, touched him, and said, “Be made clean.”

Jesus did not just say: “I will do it. Be made clean.” He went further: “He stretched out his hand and touched him.” Now here is something worthy of our notice. Given that he cured him by an act of his will and with a word, why did he touch him with his hand? For no other reason, it seems to me, than to demonstrate that he is not inferior but superior to the Law and that, from now on, nothing is impure for those who are pure…

Jesus’ hand did not become impure at the leper’s contact; to the contrary, the leper’s body was purified by means of the holiness of the hand. For Christ did not just come to heal bodies but to raise up souls to sanctity, and here he teaches us to care for our soul and purify it without bothering ourselves about external ablutions. The only leprosy we need to be afraid of is leprosy of soul, that is to say, sin…

As for us, let us show thanksgiving to God at all times. Let us thank him, not only for the gifts he has given to us but, still more, for those he has granted to others. In this way we shall be able to destroy our envy and nurture and increase our love of neighbor…

St. Gregory Nazianzen from Homily 39, for the Feast of Epiphany; (PG 36, 349; trans. Breviary)

“Then heaven was opened”

Christ is illumined, let us shine forth with him; Christ is baptized, let us descend with him that we may also ascend with him… John baptizes, Jesus comes to him; perhaps to sanctify the Baptist himself, but certainly to bury the whole of the old Adam in the water. But before this, and for the sake of this, to sanctify Jordan. As he is Spirit and flesh, so he consecrates us by Spirit and water…

Now Jesus goes up out of the water; for with himself he carries up the world and sees the heaven split open (cf. Mk 1,10) which Adam had shut against himself and all his posterity when he was expelled from the Paradise defended by the flaming sword.

Now the Spirit bears witness to his Godhead, for he descends upon one who is like him, as does the Voice from heaven (for he to whom witness is borne comes from thence), and like a dove seen in bodily form it bestows honor on his body since God, by showing himself in bodily form, has deified the body also. In the same way, in distant ages past, a dove came to proclaim an ending to the Deluge (Gen 8,11)…

As for us, let us venerate today the baptism of Christ and celebrate this feast in worthy fashion… Wash yourselves and keep yourselves clean. For God rejoices in nothing so much as the amendment and salvation of humankind, on whose behalf all these words and mystery are directed.

Be like lights in the world (Phil 2,15), a life-giving force to others. Stand as perfect lights beside that great Light and learn the mystery of the illumination of heaven, enlightened more purely and more clearly by the blessed Trinity.

Diadochus of Photike from On Spiritual Perfection, 12-14 (PG 65, 1171)

“The best man, who stands and listens for him, rejoices greatly”

Glory belongs to God by reason of his greatness and lowliness belongs to us because it makes us friends of God. If we thus act then we shall be joyful after the example of John the Baptist and will begin to repeat over and over again unceasingly: “He must increase and I must decrease.”

I know of someone who loves God so much – even though he is tormented that he doesn’t love him as much as he wants – that his soul continually experiences this ardent desire: that God should be glorified in him and he himself should disappear.

Such a man does not know what he is, even when he is praised, because, in his great desire to be humbled, he never thinks of his own dignity. He performs the divine liturgy but… in the extremity of his disposition of love for God, he hides all remembrance of his own dignity within the abyss of his love for God… He flees from pride, which he draws out of himself lest he should seem to himself to be anything except an unprofitable servant (Lk 17,10)… And this is what we should do too: flee from all honor and glory because of the Lord’s overflowing love who has loved us so much.

All those who love God from the depths of their heart are known by him. Indeed, they possess the love of God to the extent they receive God’s love into the depths of their soul. That is why, from henceforth, such people live with an ardent passion for the enlightenment of knowledge until they taste great interior satisfaction. Then they no longer know themselves; they are wholly transformed by God’s love.

Such as these are in this life without being in it. Should they continue to dwell in the body, they are continually leaving it through the soul’s impetus of love carrying them towards God. From now on, without ceasing, with hearts burned by the fire of love, they remain irresistibly bound to God because they have been separated once and for all from self-love by the love of God.

Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger `{`Pope Benedict XVI`}` from Vom Sinn des Christseins (The Meaning of Being Christian)

“The kingdom of God is at hand”

We need to question ourselves concerning Christ’s real message: what exactly did he proclaim, what did he offer people? We recall that St. Mark summarizes the message of Christ in a single saying: “This is the time of fulfilment. The kingdom of God is at hand. Repent, and believe in the gospel.”

“This is the time of fulfilment. The kingdom of God is at hand.” Behind this saying we are to see the whole history of Israel, of that insignificant people, plaything of the world’s great powers. One after another it experienced, so to speak, each empire that succeeded within this locus of history. It knew just how incapable human power, including its own, was to achieve salvation. It knew only too well that human governments act according to human ways, that is to say in ways that, only too often, are second-rate and questionable.

And in the midst of this experience of a history that was full of disappointment, subjection, injustice, Israel had ardently reached out towards a kingdom whose king would no longer be simply a man but God himself, the true Lord of the world and history. Only his very own reign – he who is Truth and Justice – was capable of bringing salvation and right to humankind. Now at last the Lord comes to meet this age-old expectation by proclaiming: now is the time of fulfilment, now the Kingdom of God is here…

Christian theology, having swiftly remarked the lacuna between this expectation and its accomplishment, began, over a period of time, to transform the Kingdom of God into a kingdom of a heaven situated somewhere in the beyond. Man’s salvation had been changed into a salvation of souls which, too, would be realized in the beyond, after death. But this is no answer.

Because the greatness of Christ’s message is, precisely, that he did not just speak about souls and of the beyond but that he spoke to the whole person in their bodiliness and their insertion in history and the human community, and that he promised the Kingdom of God to people of flesh and blood living among others engaged in that same history.

St. John Chrysostom from Homilies on the 1st letter to the Corinthians, no.24, 4 (PG 61, 204)

“He took the bread, said the blessing, broke it, and gave it to them saying: ‘This is my body’” (Lk 22,19)

Christ gave us his flesh to eat in order to deepen our love for him. When we approach him, then, there should be burning within us a fire of love and longing… The wise men paid homage to Christ’s body even when it was lying in a manger… They only saw Christ in a manger, they saw nothing of what you now see, and yet they approached him with profound awe and reverence.

You see him, not in a manger but on an altar, not carried by a woman but offered by a priest; and you see the Spirit bountifully poured out upon the offerings of bread and wine. Unlike the wise men, you do not merely see Christ’s body: you know his power as well, and the whole divine plan for our salvation… Let us then awaken in ourselves a feeling of awe and let us show a far greater reverence than did those foreigners so that we do not approach this sacrament casually, without thinking of what we do…

This food strengthens us; it emboldens us to speak freely to our God; if is our hope, our salvation, our light and our life. If we go to the next world fortified by this sacrifice, we shall enter its sacred portals with perfect confidence as though protected all over by armor of gold. But why do I speak of the next world? Because of this sacrament earth becomes heaven for you. Throw open the gates of heaven, look through and you will see the proof of what I say.

What is heaven’s most precious possession? I will show you it here on earth. I do not show you angels or archangels, heaven or the heaven of heavens, but I show you the very Lord of all these. Do you not see how you gaze, here on earth, upon what is most precious of all? You not only gaze on it but touch it as well. You not only touch it but eat it. So cleanse your soul from sin and prepare your mind to receive these mysteries.

St. Hilary from Commentary on the Gospel of Matthew, 14, 13-14 (trans. SC 258, p. 27 rev.)

“About the fourth watch of the night, he came toward them”

“Then he made the disciples get into the boat while he dismissed the crowds. After doing so, he went up to pray. When it was evening, he was there alone” (cf. Mt 14,22-23). If we are to explain these happenings we must distinguish between the times. If he was alone in the evening, this points to his solitude at the hour of his Passion when panic had caused everyone to scatter.

If he made his disciples get into the boat and cross over the sea while he himself dismissed the crowds, and if, having dismissed them, he went up a mountain, this means that he directed them to remain in the Church and to sail across the sea – that is to say, this world – until, at his return in glory, he would grant salvation to all who are to be the remnant of Israel (cf. Rom 11,5)… and this people would give thanks to God his Father and be set firm within his glory and majesty…

“During the fourth watch of the night, he came toward them.” In the expression “fourth watch of the night” we find the number corresponding to the signs of his care. Thus, the first watch was that of the Law; the second, that of the prophets; the third, that of his coming in the flesh; the fourth is situated in his return in glory.

But he will find the Church declining and hemmed in by the spirit of the Antichrist and all the distresses of this world. He will come when anxieties and afflictions are at their height… The disciples will be terrified even by the coming of the Lord, fearing the images of a reality distorted by the Antichrist and by the deceitful imaginations infiltrating their sight. But our good Lord will speak to them directly, casting out their fear and saying: “It is I”, dispersing their fear of imminent shipwreck by faith in his coming.

Latin Liturgy of the Hours from Hymn for The Feast of The Dedication of A Church: Urbs Jerusalem Beata

“Behold, we are going up to Jerusalem”

Celestial new Jerusalem Blest sight! awakening joy and peace, which soaring to the starry sky from living stones find your increase – a thousand angel hosts surround their Master’s Spouse, with splendor crowned.

O Bride of our immortal King, the Father’s glory is your dower; you are the rare and radiant Queen, encircled by the Bridegroom’s power; your perfect comeliness and grace reflect the beauty of his face.

With softly beaming pearls adorned stands wide the ever-open gate; for none who follow virtuous paths will be repulsed or asked to wait, if only they have sacrificed their life on earth, for love of Christ.

Engraved by many a silent stroke – the Savior’s hard, yet skilful blows – and chiselled by a master hand, these stones together will compose a mighty structure; every soul finds its true place within the whole. (Biblical references: 1Pt 2,5; Rv 21,2.18; Col 3,16)

St. Basil from Homily 6 Against Wealth; (PG 31, 275-278)

“Well for the man who is gracious and lends… who gives to the poor; his generosity shall endure for ever” (Ps 112[111], 5,9)

However are you going to answer the supreme judge, you who drape your walls but do not clothe your fellow? you who dress your hair but do not so much as glance at your brother in distress?… you who hoard your gold but fail to assist the oppressed?…

What is there that belongs to you, tell me that? From whom have you received everything you carry with you through this life?… Didn’t you emerge naked from your mother’s womb? And won’t you return equally naked to the dust? (Jb 1,21). From whom do you have possession of your present goods? Answer “by chance”, and you are an irreligious person who refuses to know your creator or thank your benefactor. If you admit it is from God then tell me what is the reason you received them.

Could God be unjust in sharing out unequally the good things necessary for life? Why are you enjoying abundance while that other is in want? Isn’t it solely so that one day, through your goodness and disinterested administration, you might receive your reward while the poor man will gain the crown promised to patience?… The bread you keep for yourself belongs to the hungry; to the naked belongs the cloak that you store away in your chest… So you commit as many deeds of injustice as there are people you might have helped.

St. Bernard from Sermon 30 on the Song of Songs

The mystery of God’s vineyard

Brethren, if we understand the Lord’s vineyard to be the Church… it seems to me that we here encounter a significant prerogative. Note in a special way how the Church extended her boundaries all over the world… By this I understand that company of believers who were described as “of one heart and soul.” (Acts 4,32)… For during the persecution it had not been so uprooted that it could not be elsewhere replanted and leased “to other tenants who will deliver the produce to her when the season arrives.” No indeed, it did not perish, it changed to a new location; it even increased and spread further afield under the blessing of the Lord.

So, brethren, lift up your eyes round about and see if “the mountains were not covered with its shade, the cedars of God with its branches; if its tendrils did not extend to the sea and its offshoots all the way to the river” (Ps 80[79],11-12). No wonder this: it is God’s building, God’s farm (1Cor 3,9). He waters it; he propagates it, prunes and cleanses it that it may bear even more fruit. When did he ever deprive of his care and labor that which his right hand planted? (Ps 80[79],15).

There can be no question of neglect where the apostles are the branches, the Lord is the vine, and his Father is the vinedresser (Jn 15,1-5). Planted in faith, its roots are grounded in love, dug in with the hoe of discipline, fertilized with penitential tears, watered with the words of preachers, and so it abounds with the wine that inspires joy rather than debauchery, wine full of the pleasure that is never licentious. This is the wine that gladdens heart (Ps 104[103],15)… Be consoled, daughter of Sion! Yours is to wonder at the mystery rather than bewail the harm; let your heart be expanded to gather together the fullness of the pagans!

St. Irenaeus of Lyons from Against the Heresies III, 20, 1 (cf SC 34, p. 339)

The sign of Jonah

God showed patience in the face of man’s weakness because he saw beforehand the victory he would eventually give him through his Word. For, when “power was made perfect in weakness” (2Cor 12,9), the Word caused God’s goodness and tremendous power to be made manifest.

Indeed, it was the same with man as it was with the prophet Jonah. God permitted Jonah to be swallowed by a sea-monster, not to make him altogether vanish away and die but so that when he had been vomited out by the monster he would become more subject to God and would give all the more glory to him who had given him this unexpected deliverance. It was, too, to lead the Ninevites to firm repentance and to convert them to him who would deliver them from death, amazed as they were by the sign accomplished in Jonah…

In the same way, God permitted man to be swallowed by that great monster, the author of disobedience, not so that he should altogether vanish away and die but because God had prepared beforehand the salvation fulfilled by his Word by means of the “sign of Jonas”. This salvation has been prepared for those who have the same feelings for God as Jonah did and who confess him in the same words: “I am the servant of the Lord and I worship the Lord, the God of heaven, who made the sea and the dry land” (Jon 1,9).

God desired that man, by receiving an unanticipated salvation from him, would rise from the dead and worship God, saying with Jonah: “Out of my distress I called to the Lord; from the midst of the nether world he heard my voice” (Jon 2,2). God desired, too, that man would always remain faithful in giving him worship and unceasing thanks for the salvation he has received from him.

St. Teresa Benedicta of the Cross `{`Edith Stein`}` from The Prayer of the Church

The Our Father and the Eucharist

All that we need to be received into the communion of saints is summed up in the seven petitions of the Our Father, which the Lord did not pray in his own name, but to instruct us. We say it before communion, and when we say it sincerely and from our hearts and receive communion in the proper spirit, it fulfills all our petitions.

Communion delivers us from evil, because it cleanses us of sin and gives us peace of heart that takes away the sting of all other “evils.” It brings us the forgiveness of past sins and strengthens us in the face of temptations. It is itself the bread of life that we need daily to grow into eternal life. It makes our will into an instrument at God’s disposal. Thereby it lays the foundation for the kingdom of God in us and gives us clean lips and a pure heart to glorify God’s holy name.

A Sermon Attributed to St. Augustine

“You shall be called Peter” (Jn 1,42)

“You are Peter and on this rock I shall build my Church”. He was given this name of ‘Peter’ because he was the first to set the foundations of the faith among the nations and because he is the indestructible rock on which rests the judgement seat and the whole edifice belonging to Christ Jesus. It was on account of his faithfulness that he was called Peter, whereas our Lord receives the same name on account of his power according to St. Paul’s words: “They drank from a spiritual rock that followed them, and that rock was the Christ” (1Cor 10,4). Yes, the apostle chosen to be his co-worker merited to share the same name as Christ. They built the same building together: Peter does the planting, the Lord gives the increase, and it is the Lord, too, who sends those who will do the watering (cf. 1Cor 3,6f.).

As you know, my beloved, it was following on from his own failure, when our Savior suffered, that blessed Peter was raised up. It was after he had denied the Lord that he became the first next to him. Rendered more faithful when he wept over the faith he had betrayed, he received a still greater grace than the one he had lost. To him Christ confided his flock so that he might guide it like a good shepherd, and he who had been so weak would now become the support of all. He who had fallen when questioned on his faith, must now establish the others on the unshakeable foundations of faith. Hence he is called the foundation stone of the piety of the Churches.

St. Ambrose from Commentary on St. Luke, IV, 7-12

“Then Jesus was led by the Spirit into the desert to be tempted by the devil”

You must recall how the first Adam was cast out of Paradise into the desert if you are to attend to the way in which the second Adam (1Cor 15,45) returns from the desert to paradise. Notice, then, how the first punishment was unloosed in just the same way as it had been knotted, and how the divine blessings were restored along the same lines as those that went before. Adam emerges out of virgin earth, Christ comes forth from a Virgin; the former was made in God’s image, the latter is God’s Image itself (Col 1,15); the former was set above all irrational beasts, the latter above every living creature. Foolishness came through a woman, wisdom through a Virgin; death came from a tree, life from the cross. The one, being divested of spiritual clothing, wove a garment of leaves from a tree; the other, divested of this world’s clothing, no longer sought material dress (Jn 19,23).

Adam was cast out into the desert; Christ comes forth from the desert, for he was fully cognizant of where he would find condemned man, whom he would lead back into paradise set free from his sins… For how, without a guide, could he who had lost his way in Paradise through lack of a guide, rediscover in the desert the road he had lost? Temptations are numerous there, the struggle for virtue is difficult and false moves into error are easy… So let us follow Christ, as it is written: “The Lord your God shall you follow, holding fast to him alone” (Dt 13,5)… Let us follow in his footsteps and we shall be able to return to paradise from the desert .

Bl. Mother Teresa of Calcutta from No Greater Love

Called to become saints

What is the perfect will of God where we are concerned? You must become holy. Holiness is the greatest gift God could give us since he created us for this. For someone who loves, to obey is more than a duty, it is the very secret of sanctity.

As St. Francis reminds us: each of us is what he is in God’s sight – neither more nor less. We are all called to become saints. There is nothing out of the ordinary about this call. We have all been created in God’s image that we might love and be loved. Jesus desires our perfection with inexpressible longing. “This is the will of God: your holiness” (1Thes 4,3). His Sacred Heart is overflowing with an unquenchable desire to see us progressing towards holiness.

We should renew daily our decision to stir ourselves up to greater fervor, as if it were a matter of the first day of our conversion, saying: “Lord my God, come to help me with my good resolutions in your holy service and grant me the grace on this very day to make a true beginning, for what I’ve done up till now is nothing.” We cannot be renewed if we haven’t got the humility to recognize what it is in us that needs it.

St. Maximus of Turin from Sermon 28 (PL 57, 587-590 ; CC Sermon 35, 136-139)

The origin of Lent: accompanying catechumens to their baptism at Easter

Following this time consecrated to the observance of fasting, the soul comes to baptism, purified and exhausted. But it regains strength through being submerged in the waters of the Spirit. Everything in it that had been consumed by the flames of its ills is born again from the dew of heaven’s grace. Abandoning the corruption of the old man, the neophyte gains fresh youth… By a new birth he is reborn another person although he is the same as the one who sinned.

Elijah merited, through an uninterrupted fast of forty days and forty nights, to end a long, hard drought over the whole earth thanks to water from heaven; he quenched the ground’s burning thirst by bringing it a heavy rain (1Kgs 19,8; 18,41). These events came about as an example for us all that we might merit, after a forty day fast, the blessed rain of baptism, so that water from heaven might sprinkle all the earth, for so long arid amongst our brethren in all the world.

By a fast of the same number of days and nights, holy Moses merited to speak with God, to remain and stay with him and receive from his hands the commandments of the Law (Ex 24,18)… So let us, too, my dearest brethren, fast fervently throughout this time so that… the heavens may open for us too, and hell be shut.

Oriental Liturgy from Office of the Exaltation of the Holy Cross (Prayer of the Byzantine rite, rev.)

“Let him deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me”

Hail, life-giving Cross! Piety’s unconquerable prize, gate of Paradise, comfort of those who believe, the Church’s rampart! It was through you that corruption was destroyed, the power of death was swallowed up and ended, and we were raised up above the earth to heavenly things. You are our invincible weapon, the demons’ foe, glory of the martyrs, true adornment of the saints and doorway to salvation…

Hail, O Cross of the Lord, through whom all humankind has been set free from its curse! You are our sign of true joy. When you were raised up you crushed our enemies to the ground. We venerate you, our help: strength of kings, soundness of the upright, dignity of sinners…

Hail, O precious Cross! Guide to the blind, medicine to the sick, resurrection for all who have died: you raised us up when we had fallen into the mire. It is through you that corruption has been ended and immortality has bloomed. It is through you we have been divinised, mere mortals though we are, while the devil has been utterly flung down…

O Christ, we who are sinners, with our unworthy lips, venerate your precious Cross this day. We sing praise to you who willed to be fixed upon it and we cry out to you like the thief: “Make us worthy of your Kingdom!”

St. Leo the Great from Fourth sermon for Lent, 1-2

“Behold, now is the acceptable time; behold, now is the day of salvation” (2 Co 6, 2)

“Behold, now is the day of salvation!” For though there are no seasons which are not full of divine blessings, and though access to God’s mercy is ever open to us by his grace, yet our minds should now be moved with all the more zeal towards spiritual progress and animated by even more confidence, for the day on which we were redeemed invites us to every kind of spiritual effort. Thus we shall keep the greatest of all mysteries, the sacrament of the Lord’s Passover, with purified minds and bodies.

These great mysteries do indeed require from us an unflagging spiritual effort… in such a way that we may stand continually in God’s sight just as we ought to be found on the feast of Easter itself. But because few have this constancy, and because the stricter observance is relaxed in consideration of the frailty of the flesh…

Divine Providence has with great beneficence taken care that the discipline of the forty days should heal us and restore the purity of our minds, during which the faults of other times might be redeemed by pious deeds and removed by holy fasting… So let us take care to obey the precepts of the Apostle Paul: “Let us cleanse ourselves from every defilement of flesh and spirit” (2Cor 7,1).

But let our way of living harmonize with our abstinence. For our fast does not consist chiefly of mere abstinence from food, nor does it profit anything to withdraw nourishment from the body, unless the mind is called away from injustice and the tongue restrained from slandering. This is a time of gentleness and long-suffering, of peace and tranquillity…now, today, when strong-minded souls accustom themselves with determination to forgive faults, pass over insults and forget wrongs… All the same, so that this spiritual self-restraint may not be gloomy, let it be holy. No murmurs of complaint should be heard from those who are never without the consolation of holy joys.

St. Padre Pio de Pietrelcina from Epistle 4, 418

“Why does this age seek a sign?” — Believing even in darkness

The Holy Spirit tells us: Don’t let your mind succumb to temptation and sorrow, for joy of the heart is life for the soul. Sorrow is no good for anything and causes our spiritual death. It happens sometimes that the darkness of trial overwhelms your soul’s heaven; but this darkness is light! Thanks to it, you believe even in darkness; the mind feels lost, it fears no longer being able to see, no longer understanding anything. But this is the moment when the Lord speaks and makes himself present to the soul; and the soul listens, understands and loves in the fear of God. So don’t wait for Tabor to “see” God when you are already contemplating him on Sinai. Progress in the joy of a sincere heart that is wide open. And if it is impossible for you to keep that happiness, at least don’t lose courage and keep all your trust in God.

Pope Paul VI from Apostolic Exhortation on Christian Joy “Gaudete in Domino”

“Blessed are you who are poor, for the kingdom of God is yours”

The joy of living in God’s love begins here below. It is the joy of the kingdom of God. But it is granted on a steep road which requires a total confidence in the Father and in the Son, and a preference given to the kingdom. The message of Jesus promises above all joy—this demanding joy; and does it not begin with the beatitudes? “How happy are you who are poor: yours is the kingdom of God. Happy you who are hungry now: you shall be satisfied. Happy you who weep now: you shall laugh.” In a mysterious way, Christ Himself accepts death at the hands of the wicked and death on the cross, in order to eradicate from man’s heart the sins of self-sufficiency and to manifest to the Father a complete filial obedience. But… henceforth, Jesus is living forever in the glory of the Father, and this is why the disciples were confirmed in an ineradicable joy when they saw the Lord on Easter evening. It remains that, here below, the joy of the kingdom brought to realization can only spring from the simultaneous celebration of the death and resurrection of the Lord. This is the paradox of the Christian condition which sheds particular light on that of the human condition: neither trials nor sufferings have been eliminated from this world, but they take on a new meaning in the certainty of sharing in the redemption wrought by the Lord and of sharing in His glory.

This is why the Christian, though subject to the difficulties of human life, is not reduced to groping for the way; nor does he see in death the end of his hopes. As in fact the prophet foretold: “The people that walked in darkness has seen a great light; on those who live in a land of deep shadow a light has shone. You have made their gladness greater, you have made their joy increase….”(Is 9,1-2)

Baldwin of Ford from The Sacrament of the Altar, 2, 1 (SC 93, p. 131s rev.)

“Taking the seven loaves he gave thanks and broke them”

Jesus broke the bread. If he had not broken the bread how could its portions have come even to us? But he broke it and distributed it, “he has dispersed and given to the poor” (Ps 111,9 Vg.). Through grace he broke it to break his own and his Father’s wrath. As God has said: he would have broken us if his Only beloved, “his chosen one, had not stood in the breach before him, to turn away his anger” (Ps 106[105],23). He stood before God and appeased him; by his indestructible strength he stood upright and unbroken.          As for himself, he willingly broke and offered his flesh, broken down by suffering. There it was that he “shattered the power of the bow” (Ps 76[75[,4), “crushed the heads of Leviathan” (Ps 74[73],14), of all our enemies, in his anger. And there he broke, as it were, the tablets of the first covenant so that we might no longer be under the Law. There he broke the yoke of our captivity. He broke all that was breaking us to restore in us all that was broken and to “set the oppressed free” (Is 58,6). For we were, indeed, “bondsmen in want and in chains” (Ps 107[106],10). Good Jesus, even though you have broken your wrath, still, today, break the bread for us who are yet hungry, poor beggars that we are… Each day, then, break this bread for those who hunger. For today and every day we gather up some crumbs, and every day we are in need of our daily bread again. “Give us this day our daily bread” (Lk 11,3). If you will not give it to us, who will? In our destitution and our need there is no one to break bread for us, no one to feed us, no one to restore us, no one except you, O our God. In every consolation you send, we gather up the crumbs of the bread you break for us and taste: “how sweet is your mercy” (Ps 108,21 Vg.).

St. Ephrem from Sermon “On our Lord,” 10-11

“He put his finger into the man’s ears and… touched his tongue”

Divine strength, untouchable by man, has come down to us and is clothed in a palpable body that those who are poor may touch it and, in touching the humanity of Christ, might perceive his divinity. Through fingers of flesh the deaf-mute felt his ears and tongue being touched.

Through palpable fingers he perceived the impalpable divinity when his tongue’s bond was broken and the closed doors of his ears were opened. For the architect and fashioner of the body has come even to him and, with words of sweetness, has painlessly created openings in his deaf ears. Then, too, this closed mouth that up to then had been unable to utter a word, brought forth praise of him who thus caused his barrenness to bear fruit. In the same way, our Lord made a paste with saliva and spread it over the eyes of the man born blind (Jn 9,6) so that we might understand that he was lacking something – like the deaf-mute. An inborn defect in our human clay was removed due to the leaven that emanates from his perfect body… To make up what was lacking in these human bodies of ours he gave us something of himself, just as he gives himself to be eaten [in the eucharist].

This is how he causes our deficiencies to disappear and raises up the dead, so that we might recognize that, thanks to his body “in which dwells all the fullness of the deity” (Col 2,9), the defects in our humanity are filled up and true life is given to mortal men through that body in which true life dwells.

St. John Chrysostom Homily: “Que le Christ soit annoncй “, 12-13; PG 51, 319-320

Humble and insistent prayer

A Canaanite woman came to Jesus begging his help. Most urgently she cried out on behalf of her daughter, who was possessed by a devil… Notice that the woman was a foreigner, a gentile, a person from outside the Jewish community.

What was she, then, but a dog, unworthy to obtain her request? “It is not fair,” said Jesus, “to take the children’s bread and give it to the dogs.” Nevertheless, by perseverance she became worthy to have her prayers answered. For Jesus not only admitted her to the same noble rank as the children, dog though she was, but he also sent her away with high praise, saying: “Woman, you have great faith. Let it be as you desire.”

Now when Christ says: “You have great faith”, you need seek no further proof of the woman’s greatness of soul. You see that an unworthy woman became worthy by perseverance. And note, too, that we shall gain more by praying ourselves than by asking others to pray for us.

St. John of the Cross from Counsels and Maxims

“A pure heart create for me, O God ” (Ps 51[50],12)

Purity of heart corresponds to the degree of love and grace of God. Therefore, when our Savior calls blessed those who are pure in heart (Mt 5,8), he speaks of those who are filled with love, since blessedness is bestowed on us according to the degree of our love. He who truly loves God is not ashamed of what he does for God before the world, nor does he hide it away in confusion though the whole world should scorn him. He who truly loves God considers the loss of all created things to be a gain and reward, together with the loss of himself for love of God… He that with pure love works for God not only does not care whether or not it is known by others, but does not even do these things that God Himself might know it… It is a great thing to exercise oneself much in holy love, for the soul who has attained the perfection and fulfilment of love is not held back, whether in this life or the next, from seeing the face of God. He whose heart is pure profits equally from being raised up or cast down to become ever more pure. Whereas the impure heart is useless for anything except to produce still more fruits of impurity. In everything the heart draws out a knowledge of God that is flavorsome, chaste, pure, spiritual, full of joy and love.

St. José Maria Escriva de Balaguer from Friends of God

Fishers of Men

When Jesus put out to sea with his disciples he wasn’t just thinking of that particular fishing expedition. That is why… he said to Peter: “Do not be afraid; from now on you will be catching men”. And divine effectiveness will not be lacking in the case of this new kind of fishing, either: the apostles will become the agents of great marvels in spite of their personal failings.

And we, too, if we struggle daily to acquire sanctity in our day to day lives, each according to our own condition in the midst of the world and the exercise of our professions, then I venture to affirm that our Lord will make instruments of us, capable of accomplishing miracles, even the most exceptional ones if needs be. We will give light to the blind.

Which of us could not tell of a thousand examples of the way in which someone blind, almost from their birth, has regained their sight and received the light of Christ in all its splendor? Someone else was deaf and another dumb, unable to understand or articulate a single word as children of God…: now they understand and express themselves like adults…

“In the name of Jesus” the apostles give strength back to a sick man who was incapable of all useful action… “In the name of the Lord, stand up and walk!” (Acts 3,6). Another, a dead man who already had a stench, heard God’s voice as at the time of the miracle of the widow of Naim’s son: “Young man, I tell you, arise!” (Lk 7,14; Acts 9,40; cf. Jn 11).

We will work miracles like Christ, miracles like the first apostles. Perhaps these wonders have happened in you, in me: perhaps we were blind or deaf or sick or smelt of death when the Word of God snatched us from our prostration. If we love Christ, if we follow him definitively, if he alone is the one we seek and not our own selves, then in his name we will be able to give without cost what we have received without cost.

Vincent of Lérins from Commonitory, 23

“Do you not yet understand or comprehend?”

But some one will say, perhaps, Shall there, then, be no progress in Christ’s Church? Certainly; all possible progress. For what being is there, so envious of men, so full of hatred to God, who would seek to forbid it? Yet on condition that it be real progress, not alteration of the faith…

The intelligence, then, the knowledge, the wisdom, as well of individuals as of all, as well of one man as of the whole Church, ought, in the course of ages and centuries, to increase and make much and vigorous progress; but yet only in its own kind; that is to say, in the same doctrine, in the same sense, and in the same meaning.

The growth of religion in the soul must be analogous to the growth of the body, which, though in process of years it is developed and attains its full size, yet remains still the same. There is a wide difference between the flower of youth and the maturity of age; yet they who were once young are still the same now that they have become old, insomuch that though the stature and outward form of the individual are changed, yet his nature is one and the same, his person is one and the same. An infant’s limbs are small, a young man’s large, yet the infant and the young man are the same…, there were already present in embryo…

In like manner, it behoves Christian doctrine to follow the same laws of progress, so as to be consolidated by years, enlarged by time, refined by age… Our forefathers in the old time sowed wheat in the Church’s field. It would be most unmeet and iniquitous if we, their descendants, instead of the genuine truth of corn, should reap the counterfeit error of tares (Mt 13:24 sq).

This rather should be the result,—there should be no discrepancy between the first and the last. From doctrine which was sown as wheat, we should reap, in the increase, doctrine of the same kind—wheat also; so that when in process of time any of the original seed is developed, and now flourishes under cultivation, no change may ensue in the character of the plant… Therefore,… the same ought to be cultivated and taken care of by the industry of their children, the same ought to flourish and ripen, the same ought to advance and go forward to perfection.

St. Thomas Aquinas

“This people honors me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me”

May I desire nothing apart from you… Grant that I may often turn my heart towards you and, when I falter, weigh my fault contritely with firm purpose of amendment. Grant me, O Lord my God, a watchful heart that no vain thought may lead away from you; a noble heart that no unworthy affection may debase; an upright heart that no evasiveness may turn aside; a firm heart that no adversity may break; a free heart that no forceful passion may master.

Grant me, O Lord my God, a mind that knows you, an eagerness that seeks you, a wisdom that finds you, a life that pleases you, a perseverance that expects you confidently and a confidence that endlessly possesses you. Grant me to be afflicted through repentance by what you endured, to use your gifts through grace along the way, to rejoice in your joys especially in our homeland through glory. O You who, being God, live and reign for ever and ever. Amen.

St. Cyril of Alexandria from Commentary on the Gospel of John, 4

“As many as touched him were healed”

Even for restoring the dead to life the Savior did not stop at acting by word alone, though it was the bearer of divine commands. For such a surpassing work he took his own flesh as his assistant – if one might put it that way – that he might show that it has the power to give life and that he might cause it to be seen that it is entirely one with him. For it is indeed his very own flesh and not an alien body.

This is what happened when he restored to life the synagogue leader’s daughter, saying to her: “My child, arise!” (Mk 5,41). He took her by the hand, as it is written. As God he gave her back her life by his all-powerful command and animated her also by contact with his holy flesh. Thus he bore witness that, in flesh as in his word, one and the same divine energy was at work. In the same way, too, when he came to a town called Nain where the widow’s only son was being buried, he touched the coffin, saying: “Young man, I tell you, arise!” (Lk 7,14).

Thus he not only conferred to his word the power to raise the dead, but he even touched the dead to show that his body is life-giving and, through his flesh, he caused life to pass into their corpses. If the touch alone of his sacred flesh restores life to a corrupting body, what profit shall we not discover in his life-giving eucharist when we make of it our food? It will wholly transform in its own property, which is immortality, those who participate in it.

St. José Maria Escriva de Balaguer from Homily in Amigos de Dios

“Without cost you have received; without cost you are to give” (Mt 10,8)

When Jesus put out to sea with his disciples he wasn’t just thinking of that particular fishing expedition. That is why… he said to Peter: “Do not be afraid; from now on you will be catching men”. And divine effectiveness will not be lacking in the case of this new kind of fishing, either: the apostles will become the agents of great marvels in spite of their personal failings.

And we, too, if we struggle daily to acquire sanctity in our day to day lives, each according to our own condition in the midst of the world and the exercise of our professions, then I venture to affirm that our Lord will make instruments of us, capable of accomplishing miracles, even the most exceptional ones if needs be. We will give light to the blind.

Which of us could not tell of a thousand examples of the way in which someone blind, almost from their birth, has regained their sight and received the light of Christ in all its splendor? Someone else was deaf and another dumb, unable to understand or articulate a single word as children of God…: now they understand and express themselves like adults… “In the name of Jesus” the apostles give strength back to a sick man who was incapable of all useful action… “In the name of the Lord, stand up and walk!” (Acts 3,6). Another, a dead man who already had a stench, heard God’s voice as at the time of the miracle of the widow of Naim’s son: “Young man, I tell you, arise!” (Lk 7,14; Acts 9,40; cf. Jn 11).

We will work miracles like Christ, miracles like the first apostles. Perhaps these wonders have happened in you, in me: perhaps we were blind or deaf or sick or smelt of death when the Word of God snatched us from our prostration. If we love Christ, if we follow him definitively, if he alone is the one we seek and not our own selves, then in his name we will be able to give without cost what we have received without cost.

St. Caesarius of Arles from Morin Sermon 26

“Jesus saw the vast crowd; his heart was moved with pity”

The true kindness in the heavens (cf. Ps 36[35],6) is Christ our Lord. How gentle and good is that which, without anyone looking for it, freely came down from heaven and humbled itself that it might raise us up…

Christ promised to be with us until the end of time, as he himself said in the Gospel: “Behold, I am with you always, until the end of the age” (Mt 28,20). Look at his kindness, my brethren: even now he is in heaven at the right hand of the Father and yet he still longs to toil together with us on earth. He wants to be hungry and thirsty with us, to suffer with us, to be a stranger with us, and he does not even shrink from dying and being put into prison with us (Mt 25,35f.)… See what his love for us is like: in his unspeakable tenderness he desires to undergo within us all these evils. Yes, the true kindness from the heavens, that is to say Christ our Lord, created you when you did not as yet exist, sought you when you were lost, ransomed you when you were sold… And now again, every day, Christ deigns to be incorporated into humankind. But, alas, not everyone is willing to open the door of their heart.

St. Augustine from Sermon 279

Persecutor transformed into preacher

From heaven’s height Christ’s voice overturned Saul. He received a command to carry out his persecutions no more and fell face downwards to the ground. He had first to be knocked down and afterwards raised up; first struck, then healed. For Christ would never have come to live in him if Saul had not died to his former life of sin. Cast down to the earth in this way, what was it he heard? “Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting me? It is hard for you to kick against the goad” (Acts 26,14). And he replied: “Who are you, Lord?” Then the voice from on high continued: “I am Jesus of Nazareth whom you are persecuting”. The members are still on the ground while the head cries out from the heights of heaven. It is not saying: “Why are you persecuting my servants?” but “Why are you persecuting me?”

And Paul, who had put all his energy into his persecuting, is already preparing to obey: “What do you want me to do?” The persecutor is already transformed into preacher, the wolf has become a sheep, the enemy a defender. Paul learns what he is to do: if he has become blind, if this world’s light is held back from him for a while, it is so as to make the light within shine in his heart.

Light is taken away from the persecutor so that it may be given to the preacher; at the very moment he no longer saw anything of this world, he saw Jesus. This symbolizes the believer: those who believe in Christ must fix the eyes of their soul on him without paying attention to outward things…

So Saul was led to Ananias; the ravaging wolf is led to the sheep. But the Shepherd, who guides everything from heaven above, reassures it…: “Don’t worry. I will show him what he will have to suffer for my name” (Acts 9,16). What wonder is this! The wolf is led, a captive, to the sheep… The Lamb who died for the sheep teaches them not to be afraid any more.

Hugh of St. Victor from Treatise on the Sacraments of Christian faith

“In the power of the Spirit”

Holy Church is the body of Christ: one Spirit quickens her, gives her unity in faith and sanctifies her. For members this body has believers, who together form one body because of the one Spirit and one faith…

And so what belongs to each is not possessed for self alone, for he, who so generously bestows his possessions on us and shares them out so wisely, desires that each thing should belong to all and all to each. If someone has the happiness, then, of receiving a gift of God’s grace, he should know that what he has does not belong only to him, even if he is the only one to have it.

It is by analogy with the human body that Holy Church, namely the body of believers, is called the body of Christ. Because she has also received Christ’s Spirit, whose presence within the individual is indicated by the name “christian” that Christ gives. Indeed, this name designates Christ’s members, those who share the Spirit of Christ, who receive the anointing of the anointed one.

For the name christian comes from Christ, and “Christ” means “anointed”: anointed with the same oil of joy that he received in all its fullness above all his fellows (Ps45[44],8), so that he might share it out among all his friends as the head does to each of the body’s members. “It is as when the precious ointment upon the head runs down over the beard… till it runs down upon the collar of the robe” (Ps 133[132],2) to spill over everything and bring all to life.

So when you become a Christian, you become a member of Christ, a member of Christ’s body, sharing in the Spirit of Christ.

St. Thomas Aquinas from Instructions for the Feast of the Body and Blood of Christ

Jesus gives himself wholly, even to his body and blood

The enormous blessings with which our Lord has lavishly gifted his christian people raise them to an immeasurable dignity. Indeed, there is not, and never has been, a nation whose gods were so close as our God is to us (cf. Dt 4,7). God’s only Son, intending to make us participators in his divinity, assumed our nature and became man to make us divine. All that he borrowed from us he placed at the service of our salvation. For he offered his body to God the Father on the altar of the cross for our reconciliation, and he shed his blood as a ransom to reclaim us from our condition of slavery and purify us from all our sins through the washing of regeneration.

To believers he has left his body as food and blood as drink under the species of bread and wine, so that the remembrance of such great blessing might remain continually amongst us. O wonderful and precious feast that conveys salvation and contains sweetness in its all its fullness! What could there be more precious than this meal where, not the flesh of calves and bulls, but Christ, true God, is offered us?

St. Irenaeus of Lyons from Demonstration of the Apostolic Preaching 92-95

“Hearing what he was doing, a large number of people came to him”

That he was going to be manifested to us – for the Son of God became the Son of man – and to be found amongst us, who before had no knowledge of him, the Word himself says in Isaiah, thus, “I became manifest to those that sought me not; I was found by those that asked not for me. I said: ‘Behold, I am here,’ to a nation that called not upon my name” (Is 65,1)…

This is what was also said by John the Baptist: “God is able from stones to raise up children to Abraham” (Mt 3,9). For our hearts, drawn out by faith from the worship of stones, see God and become children of Abraham, who was made righteous by faith…

His disciples John also says: “And the Word became flesh and dwelt amongst us” (Jn 1,14). For which reason the Church bears as fruit so great a number of the saved; for it is no longer an intercessor, Moses, nor an angel, Elias, but the Lord himself who saves us, bestowing a greater number of children on the Church than on the former synagogue, as Isaiah announced, saying: “Rejoice, O barren one who did not bear” (Is 54,1; Gal 4,27)…

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God was pleased to bestow his inheritance on the foolish Gentiles, who were neither of the citizenship of God nor knew who God is. Since, then, by this calling, life has been given and God has recapitulated in us the faith of Abraham, we should no longer turn back, that is, I mean, to the former legislation. For we received the Lord of the Law, the Son of God, and through faith in him we learn to love God with our whole heart and our neighbor as ourselves.

St. Leo the Great from the First Sermon for the Nativity of the Lord (PL 59, 190 `{`cf SC 22 bis, p. 67f., breviary`}`)

“The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us”

This is the day our Saviour was born: what a joy for us, my beloved! This is no season for sadness, this, the birthday of Life-the Life which annihilates the fear of death, and engenders joy, promising, as it does, immortality. Nobody is an outsider to this happiness. The same cause for joy is common to all, for our Lord… came with redemption for all. Let the saint rejoice, for he hastens to his crown; let the sinner be filled with joy, for pardon is offered him; let the Gentile be emboldened, for he is called to life. When the designated time had come, which God in his deep and impenetrable plan had fixed upon, God’s Son took the nature of man upon himself in order to reconcile man to his Creator…

The Word, God’s Speech, who is God, the Son of God “who was in the beginning with God; through whom all things came to be, and without whom nothing came to be”, has become man to deliver man from eternal death. He humbled himself to assume our mortal condition yet without diminution to his greatness. Remaining what he was and assuming what he was not, he united our condition of a slave to his condition of equality with God the Father… Greatness was clothed with humility, strength with weakness, eternity with mortality: true God and true man, in the unity of a single Lord, “the one mediator between God and the human race” (1Tm 2,5)…

My beloved, let us offer thanksgiving to God the Father, through his Son, in the Holy Spirit. In the great mercy with which he loved us, he had pity on us, and “in giving life to Christ, gave life to us too, when we were dead through sin,” so that in him we might be a new creation, a new work of his hands (Ep 2,4-5; 2Co 5,17)… O Christian, be aware of your nobility!

St. Teresa Benedicta of the Cross `{`Edith Stein`}` from Meditation for the 6 January 1941

The Holy Innocents, poor as Christ is poor

Not far from Stephen, the first martyr, stand the “flores martyrum”, the tender buds that were broken before they had ripened to the act of sacrifice. There is a pious belief that the grace of natural maturity came to the innocent children beforehand and gave them an understanding of what was happening to them so they could give themselves freely and thus be ensured martyrdom. Even so, they do not resemble the valiant confessor who heroically took on the cause of Christ. In their defenseless surrender, they are much more like lambs led to the slaughter (Is 53,7; Ac 8,32).

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So they are the example of uttermost poverty. They have no other goods than their lives. And now even that is taken from them, and they allow it to happen without resistance. They surround the manger to show us what kind of myrrh we are to bring to the Divine Child: those who want to belong entirely to him must deliver themselves to him in complete self-renunciation; they must surrender to the divine decision like these children.

St. John Chrysostom from Homilies on the 1st Letter to the Corinthians, 24, 4 (PG 61, 204)

“He took the bread, said the blessing, broke it, and gave it to them saying: ‘This is my body’” (Lk 22,19)

Christ gave us his flesh to eat in order to deepen our love for him. When we approach him, then, there should be burning within us a fire of love and longing… The wise men paid homage to Christ’s body even when it was lying in a manger… They only saw Christ in a manger, they saw nothing of what you now see, and yet they approached him with profound awe and reverence.

You see him, not in a manger but on an altar, not carried by a woman but offered by a priest; and you see the Spirit bountifully poured out upon the offerings of bread and wine. Unlike the wise men, you do not merely see Christ’s body: you know his power as well, and the whole divine plan for our salvation… Let us then awaken in ourselves a feeling of awe and let us show a far greater reverence than did those foreigners so that we do not approach this sacrament casually, without thinking of what we do…

This food strengthens us; it emboldens us to speak freely to our God; if is our hope, our salvation, our light and our life. If we go to the next world fortified by this sacrifice, we shall enter its sacred portals with perfect confidence as though protected all over by armor of gold. But why do I speak of the next world?

Because of this sacrament earth becomes heaven for you. Throw open the gates of heaven, look through and you will see the proof of what I say. What is heaven’s most precious possession? I will show you it here on earth. I do not show you angels or archangels, heaven or the heaven of heavens, but I show you the very Lord of all these. Do you not see how you gaze, here on earth, upon what is most precious of all? You not only gaze on it but touch it as well. You not only touch it but eat it. So cleanse your soul from sin and prepare your mind to receive these mysteries.

Rupert of Deutz from On the Trinity and its Works, 1. 42: On Isaiah, 2

“On the people who sit in darkness who have seen a great light”

In speaking of vision, or rather of a great light, Matthew undoubtedly intends us to understand our Savior’s luminous preaching, the radiance of the Good News of theKingdom of God. The land of Zebulon and of Naphtali heard it from our Lord’s own mouth before anyone else…

For in fact it was in this particular land that our Lord began to preach; it was there his preaching was inaugurated… And the apostles, who were the first to see this true light over these regions of Zabulon and Naphtali, themselves became “lights of the world”… As Isaiah’s text continues: “They rejoice before you as at the harvest, as men make merry when dividing the spoils” This joy will indeed become the apostles’ joy, it will be a twofold joy when “they come back like reapers carrying their sheaves” and “as conquerors sharing the spoil”, that is to say of the conquered devil…

For it was you, our Lord and Savior, who removed from their shoulders “the yoke that burdened them”, that yoke of the devil’s who in former times lorded it over the world when he reigned over all the nations and caused their necks to bow beneath the yoke of a grievous slavery… You it was who, without troops, without bloodshed, in the secret of your power, freed us to place us at your service…

Yes, the devil will be “burned as fuel for the flames” because “a child is born to us”, the lowly Son of God “upon whose shoulders dominion rests” because, being God, he is able to possess the pre-eminence by his own strength… And his “dominion extends” since he will not only reign over the Jews, as David did, but he will have the sovereignty over all nations “both now and forever”.

(Biblical references: Is 9,1-6; Mt 5,14; Ps 126[125],6).

St. Alphonsus Liguori from Address for the Ninth Day of Christmas, no. 10

“I proclaim to you good news of great joy that will be for all the people”

“I proclaim to you news of great joy.” These were the angel’s words to the shepherds of Bethlehem. I will repeat them to you today, my faithful friends: I am bringing you news that should give you great joy. For poor exiles, condemned to death, could there be happier news than that of their Savior’s appearing, who came not just to deliver them from death but to win for them their return to their homeland? Yet this is precisely what I am proclaiming to you: “A Savior is born to you”…

When a king first makes his entry into one of the towns in his kingdom, the greatest honors are showered on him: what decorations! what triumphal arches! Make yourself ready, then, to receive your King worthily, O happy Bethlehem… Know, the prophet says to you, that of all the cities of the earth you are the most favored, for the heavenly King has chosen you as his birthplace here below that he may later reign, not only over Judah, but over men’s hearts everwhere…

What will the angels have said on seeing the Mother of God enter a cave to give birth to the King of kings! Princely infants come into the world in bedchambers glittering with gold. They are surrounded by the highest dignitaries in the kingdom. But the King of heaven wished to be born in a cold, unheated stable; for covering he had only poor sheepskin; to rest his limbs only a wretched manger with a little straw…

Ah! Simply to think of the birth of Jesus Christ and the circumstances that accompanied it should enflame us with love. And for us, the mere words ‘cave’,‘manger’, ‘straw’, ‘milk’, ‘cry’, representing the Child of Bethlehem before our eyes as they do, should be so many burning arrows wounding all our hearts with love. O blessed cave, manger and straw! But even more blessed still those souls who fervently and tenderly cherish this loveworthy Lord and who, enflamed with burning charity, receive him in holy communion. With what alacrity and joy does Jesus come to rest in the soul who truly loves him!

Homily attributed to St. Gregory the Wonderworker from Homily on the Holy Theophany, 4 (PG 10, 1181)

“He spoke blessing God”

[John the Baptist said:] “I am the voice, the voice crying in the wilderness: Prepare the way for the Lord”. So I cannot be silent, Lord, in your presence. “I need to be baptized by you, and do You come to me?” (Mt 3,3.14). At my birth I took away my mother’s barrenness, and while still an infant I healed my father’s dumbness, for you gave me in childhood the gift of working miracles. But when you were born of the Virgin Mary, in the way you willed and in a manner known to you alone, you did not take away her virginity, but while preserving it intact you gave her in addition the name of “mother.” Her virginity did not hinder your birth, nor did your birth destroy her virginity. On the contrary, two opposites, motherhood and virginity, were easily united by you, because the laws of nature have their origin in you.

I am a mere man, sharing in the grace of God, but you are both God and man because of your love for humankind (cf. Wis 1,6).

St. Bede the Venerable from Homilies on the Gospel, I, 4 (CCL 122, 25f)

“My spirit rejoices in God my savior”

“My soul magnifies the Lord, my spirit rejoices in God my Savior”. The first interpretation of these words is undoubtedly to acknowledge the gifts granted to her, to Mary in particular, by God. But then she recalls the universal blessing with which God never ceases to surround the human race.

The soul glorifies the Lord when it consecrates all its inner powers on praising and serving God and when, by its submission to the divine commands, it proves that it never loses sight of his power and majesty. The spirit rejoices in God its Savior when it places all its joy in the remembrance of its Creator, from whom it hopes for eternal salvation.

Without doubt these words exactly express the thought of all the saints, but it was most especially fitting they should be spoken by the blessed Mother of God who, filled with a special privilege, burned with a wholly spiritual love for the one she had the joy of conceiving in her flesh. More than any other saint she had good reason to rejoice in Jesus – that is to say, in her Savior – because he whom she acknowledged to be the eternal author of our salvation would in time, as she knew, be born in his own flesh and with such authenticity that in one and the same person her son and her God would be truly present…

Hence it is a praiseworthy and salutary custom, whose fragrance perfumes Holy Church, when every day at Vespers we sing the Canticle of the Virgin. We may well expect from this that the souls of the faithful, by so often calling to mind the Lord’s incarnation, will be enflamed with even greater fervor and that such a frequent reminder of his holy Mother’s example will strengthen them in virtue. And Vespers is the best time to come back to this song since our souls, tired by the day and drawn this way and that by the day’s thoughts, need to come back together again when the hour of rest draws near so that they may find once more their singleness of focus.

Origen from Sermon 15 on St. Luke's Gospel ; (PG 13, 1838-1839 `{`cf SC 87`}`)

“To depart in peace”

Simeon knew there was no one who could take us out of the prison house of our bodies in hope of the life to come except he whom he held in his arms. And so he said to him: “Now, Lord, let your servant depart in peace, for while I was not carrying Christ and embracing him in my arms I was held like a prisoner, unable to free myself from my bonds.” And it should be noted that this doesn’t only apply to Simeon but to everyone. If anyone wants to abandon the world and gain the Kingdom, let them take Jesus in their hands, wrap their arms around him, hug him to their bosom. Then they will be able to walk joyously wherever they wish…

“All those who are led by the Spirit of God are children of God” (Rom 8,14). It was the Holy Spirit, then, who led Simeon into the Temple. So if you, too, want to hold Jesus, wrap your arms around him and become worthy of leaving your prison, strive to let yourself be led by the Spirit into the temple of God. Now see how, even now, you are in the temple of our Lord Jesus, namely his Church: his temple built of living stones (1Pt 2,5)…

So if you enter the Temple impelled by the Spirit, you will find the Child Jesus, will take him into your arms and will say: “Now, Lord, let your servant depart in peace”. This deliverance, this departure take place in peace… Who are they who die in peace if not those who possess the peace of God that surpasses all knowledge and keeps the hearts of those who to whom it belongs? (Phil 4,7). And who are they who leave this world in peace if not those who understand that God was in Christ reconciling the world?

St. Peter Chrysologus from Sermon 147, on the Mystery of the Incarnation

Now at last Anna sees God in his TempleAs for this God whom the world cannot contain, how could man comprehend him, shortsighted as he is? Love is not worried about knowing whether something is certain or convenient or possible. Love… pays no attention to limits. It does not comfort itself with the claim that it is impossible; difficulties cannot stop it… Love cannot not see what it loves…

How can we believe ourselves loved by God without contemplating him? Thus love that desires to see God, even if not rationalized, is inspired by the heart’s intuition. Hence Moses dared to say: “If I have found favor with you, show me your face” (Ex 33,13f.), and the psalmist: “Show me your face” (cf. 80[79],4)…

God, then, knowing our desire to see him, found a means of making himself visible which would be greatly to the gain of earth’s inhabitants without, for all that, involving a lowering with regard to heaven. How could the creature God had made on earth in his own likeness pass into heaven by means of baseness? “Let us make man in our image and likeness” he had said (Gn 1,26)…

If God had borrowed an angel’s form from heaven he would have remained just as invisible; on the other hand, if he had become incarnate on earth in a nature inferior to that of ours, he would have demeaned the divinity and cast man down rather than lifting him up. So, my beloved, let no one consider the fact that he came to men by means of a man or that he found this means amongst us of being our seeing him to be an insult to God.

William of St.-Thierry from On Contemplating God, 10 (SC 61, p. 91f)

“The true light, which enlightens everyone, was coming into the world.”

You first loved us so that we might love you. And that was not because you needed to be loved by us, but because we could not be what you created us to be, except by loving you. “Having then in many ways and on various occasions spoken to the fathers by the prophets, now in these last days you have spoken to us in the Son”, your Word (Heb 1,1), by whom “The heavens were established, and all the power of them by the breath of his mouth” (Ps 33[32],6).

For you to speak thus in your Son was an open declaration, a “setting in the sun” as it were, of how much and in what sort of way you loved us, in that you “spared not your own Son, but delivered him up for us all” (Rm 8,32). Yes, and he himself floved us and gave himself for us (Gal 2,20)

This, Lord, is your word to us, this is your all-powerful message: he who, while all things kept silence (that is, were in the depths of error), came from the royal throne (Cant 18,14), the stern opponent of error and the gentle apostle of love. And everything he did and everything he said on earth, even the insults, the spitting, the buffeting, the cross and the grave, all that was nothing but yourself speaking in the Son, appealing to us by your love, and stirring up our love for you.

For you, O God, our souls’ Creator, knew that this affection cannot be forced in the souls of the sons of men, but has to be evoked. And this is for the obvious reason that there is no freedom where there is compulsion, and, where freedom is lacking, so too is righteousness…

We could not with justice have been saved, had we not loved you, nor could we have loved you, save by your gift. You willed, therefore, that we should love you. So, Lord, as the Apostle of your love tells us, and as we ourselves have said before, you “first loved us” (1Jn 4,10) and you love all your lovers first. But we on our part hold you dear by the affection of love that you have implanted in us.

Duns Scotus Erigena from Homily on St. John's Prologue, ch. 15

“There is one among you whom you do not recognize, the one who is coming after me”

Into the theological plan of his gospel John the evangelist draws John the Baptist; “deep calls to deep” (Ps 42[41],8) at the utterance of divine mysteries. We hear the evangelist relating the story of the forerunner, the man whose gift it was to know the Word “as he was in the beginning” (Jn 1,1), speaking to us of the one who was commissioned to go ahead of the Word made flesh…

“There was,” says the evangelist, not simply a messenger of God, but “a man” (Jn 1,6). This he said in order to distinguish the man who shared only the humanity of the one he heralded from the Man who came after him, the Man who united godhead and manhood in his own Person.

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The evangelist’s intention was to differentiate between the fleeting voice and the eternally unchanging Word. The one, he would suggest, was the morning star appearing at the dawning of the kingdom of heaven, while the other was the Sun of Justice coming in its wake (Mal 3,20). He distinguished the witness from the one to whom he testified, the messenger from him who sent him, the lamp burning in the night from the brilliant light that filled the whole world (cf. Jn 5,35), the light that dispelled the darkness of death and sin from the entire human race…

A man was sent. By whom? By the divine Word, whose forerunner he was. To go before the Lord was his mission. Lifting up his voice, this man called out: “The voice of one crying in the wilderness!” (Mt 3,3). It was the herald preparing the way for the Lord’s coming. “John was his name” (Jn 1,6); John to whom was given the grace to go ahead of the King of kings, to point out to the world the Word made flesh, to baptize him with that baptism in which the Spirit would manifest his divine Sonship, to give witness through his teaching and martyrdom to the eternal light.

St. Alphonsus Liguori from Meditations for the Octave of Epiphany, 1

“They saw the child with Mary his mother. They prostrated themselves and did him homage”

The magi find a poor young woman with a poor child wrapped in poor linen bands… and yet, on entering this cave, they feel a joy never experienced before… The divine Infant’s expression becomes joyful: a sign of the loving delight with which he welcomes them as the first conquest of his redeeming work. Then the holy kings turn their eyes to Mary, who does not speak, remaining silent; yet her face, reflecting joy and shining with a heavenly sweetness, confirms that she welcomes them and is grateful to them for being the first to recognise her Son for who he is: their Sovereign Lord…

Child so worthy of our love, I see you lying on the straw in this cave, so poor and despised. Yet faith teaches me that you are my God come down from heaven for my salvation. I acknowledge you as my Sovereign Lord and Savior, as such I proclaim you, yet I have nothing at all to offer you. I am without love’s gold since I have given my love to the things of this world – I have only loved my own whim rather than loving you, so infinitely worthy of love. I am without prayer’s incense since I have lived wretchedly without thinking of you. I have no myrrh of mortification since, so as not to forsake some paltry pleasures, I have so often saddened your infinite goodness. So what am I to offer you?

my Jesus, I offer you my heart, soiled and naked as it is. Take it and change it, for you have come down to us to wash our guilty hearts with your blood and so to transform us from sinners into saints. O grant me that gold, incense and myrrh that I lack. Grant me the gold of your holy love; grant me the incense that is the spirit of prayer; grant me myrrh, the willingness and strength to deny myself in all that displeases you…holy Virgin, you welcomed those devout magi kings with keen affection and satisfied them. Deign to welcome and comfort me also: I who come, following their example, to visit and offer myself to your Son.

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From a Homily attributed to St. John Chrysostom

“The infant in my womb leaped for joy”

what a novel and wonderful mystery! John has not yet been born but already he gives voice with his bounds; he has not yet appeared but already he manifests signs of his presence; he cannot yet cry and already he is heard through what he does; as yet he has not begun his life and already he is preaching about God; he does not yet see the light and is already pointing to the sun; he has not yet been brought forth and already he hastens to act as forerunner.

The Lord is there! John cannot restrain himself; he is not going to be restricted by the limitations set by nature but strives to break out of the prison of his mother’s womb and make known beforehand the Savior’s coming. “He who breaks our bonds has come,” he says. “and am I to remain shackled? Am I still bound to remain here? The Word comes to re-establish all things and am I still to remain captive? I will come out and run ahead of him and announce to all: Behold, the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world” (Jn 1,29).

But tell us, John, held fast as you are in the darkness of your mother’s womb, how is it that you see and hear? How can you behold divine things? How can you be leaping and rejoicing?

“The mystery that is taking place is great indeed,” he says. “It is something beyond human understanding. It is with good reason that I am doing something new in the natural order on behalf of him who is to do something new in the supernatural order. I see even before my birth because I see the Sun of Justice gestating (Mal 3,20). I perceive by ear because, in coming into the world, I myself am the voice that goes before the great Word. I cry out because I behold the only Son of the Father clothed in his flesh. I rejoice because I see the world’s Creator receive human form. I leap for joy when I think that the Redeemer of the world has taken a human body. I am the forerunner of his coming and precede your testimony with my own.

Blessed Teresa of Calcutta from Jesus, the Word to Be Spoken

“Mary set out… in haste”

Our Lady’s strength was her gaiety and joy. This is what made her God, her son’s, attentive servant because as soon as he came to her she “set out in haste”. Joy alone could have given her the strength to set out in all haste across the hill country of Judah to become the servant of her cousin. It is just the same for us. Like her, we must be true servants of the Lord and after holy communion each day we must hurry over the mountains of the difficulties we encounter, offering our service to the poor with all our heart. Give to Jesus in the poor as a servant of the Lord.

Joy is prayer, joy is strength, joy is love. It is love’s net with which to catch souls. “God loves a cheerful giver” (2Cor 9,7). Those who give with joy give twice over.If you meet up with difficulties and accept them with joy, with a big smile, in this as in many other things people will realize that your works are good and the Father will be glorified in them. The best way of showing God and others your gratitude is to accept everything with joy. A joyful heart comes from a heart that is burning with love.

St. Ephram from Diatessaron, 1, 11-13

“Zechariah went home. After this time his wife Elizabeth conceived”

The angel said to him: “God has heard the voice of your prayer”. If Zechariah believed his prayer would be heard then he prayed well; if he did not believe, he prayed badly. His prayer was about to be answered, yet he doubted. Therefore it was reasonable that at that very moment the word was removed from him. Beforehand he was praying for a son but the instant his prayer was answered he turned around and said: “How can this be?” Because it was with his mouth that he cast doubts on his prayer, it was his speech he lost …

So long as Zechariah believed, he spoke; as soon as he ceased to believe, he was silent. So long as he believed, he spoke: “I believed and therefore I spoke” (Ps 116[115],10). Because he rejected the angel’s word, this word plagued him so that he would respect with his silence the word he had rejected.

It was fitting that the mouth that said: “How shall this be?” should be silenced so that it might learn the possibility of a miracle. The unbound tongue was bound so that it might learn that He who had bound the tongue was capable of unbinding the womb. In this way experience taught him who had not accepted the teaching of faith… Thus he learned that he who had closed an open mouth could open a closed womb.

St. Leo the Great from Letter 31 (PL 54, 791)

“The book of the genealogy of Jesus Christ”

It is of no avail to say that our Lord, the Son of the blessed Virgin Mary, was true and perfect man unless we believe that he is so in the way that the Gospel declares. For Matthew says: “The book of the generation of Jesus Christ, the son of David, the son of Abraham” and follows the order of his human origin so as to bring the lines of his ancestry down to Joseph, to whom the Lord’s mother was espoused. Whereas Luke, going backwards step by step, traces his succession to the first of the human race to show that the first Adam and the last Adam were of the same nature (3,23f.).

No doubt the Almighty Son of God could have appeared for the purpose of teaching and justifying in exactly the same way as he appeared, in the semblance of flesh, to the patriarchs and prophets: for instance, when he wrestled with Jacob (Gn 32,25) or engaged in a conversation with Abraham, not refusing his hospitality and even partaking of the food set before him (Gn 18). But these appearances were indications of that man whose reality they manifested, assumed from the stock of those same ancestors.

But the fulfilment of the mystery of our redemption, ordained from all eternity, was not assisted by any images because the Holy Spirit had not yet come down on the Virgin and the power of the Most High had not overshadowed her (Lk 1,35). Wisdom had not yet built herself a house within her undefiled body so that the Word might there become flesh and, the form of God and the form of a slave coming together in one person, the Creator of time might be born in time and he himself, through whom all things were made, might be brought forth in the midst of all things.

For if the New Man had not been made in the likeness of sinful flesh and taken our old nature on himself and, being consubstantial with the Father, had deigned to be consubstantial with his mother also – yet without sin – the whole human race would be held captive under the devil’s yoke and we should not be able to make use of the Conqueror’s victory because it would have been won outside our nature. But it was from Christ’s marvellous sharing of our nature that the mystery of regeneration shone upon us.

St. Gregory of Agrigente from Commentary on Ecclesiastes 10, 2

“The poor have the good news proclaimed to them”

The sun’s light as seen by our bodily eyes proclaims the spiritual sun, the “Sun of Justice” (Mal 3,20). This was truly the gentlest of suns to have arisen on those who, at that time, had the happiness of being his disciples and of seeing him with their own eyes while he was sharing man’s life as though he were an ordinary man. And yet, by nature, he was also truly God, which was why he was capable of restoring sight to the blind, of making the lame to walk and the deaf to hear; he cleansed lepers and, with a word, brought back the dead to life.

And now, too, there is truly nothing sweeter that to fix our spiritual eyes on him so as to contemplate and picture to ourselves his inexpressible, divine beauty. There is nothing sweeter than to be enlightened and made beautiful by this participation and communion in the light, to have one’s heart softened, one’s soul sanctified, and to be filled with a holy joy all the days of this present life…

Truly, this Sun of justice is, for those who gaze at it, the transmitter of joy according to the prophecy of David: “The just rejoice and exult before God; they are glad and rejoice!” And again: “Exult you just in the Lord; praise from the upright is fitting!” (Ps 68[67],4; 33[32],1).

Blessed Guerric of Igny from 5th Sermon for Advent

Repenting at John the Baptist’s cry as he prepares the way of the Lord

And now, with your indulgence, I cannot resist recalling the praises with which Isaiah foretold this way of the Lord’s precepts… “And there will be there…”, he says, “in the terrible, trackless wastes, a path and a way… And it shall be called the holy way” (Is 35,7-8); holy, because it is the sanctification of sinners and the salvation of those who were lost…

“The unclean shall not pass over it.” But surely, Isaiah, those who are unclean will not therefore have to travel by another way? Certainly not: all must come to this one way and travel by it. For Christ, who “came to seek and save what had fallen” (Lc 19,10)… has laid down this way especially for the unclean. Does this mean then that the unclean will travel along the holy way? Not at all.

However unclean a man is when he reaches it, he will no longer be unclean when he travels along it because once he starts along it he is already cleansed. The holy way does admit a man defiled, but immediately cleanses all admitted to it, because it cleanses the faults that have been committed… And that is why this way admits the defiled but does not let him travel along it in that state. The way is constricted and is like the “eye of the needle” (Mt 7,14; 19,24)…

If you are on the way then fear only one thing: lest you leave it, lest you offend the Lord who leads you along it so that he would abandon you to wander in “the way of your own heart” (Is 57,17)… If you feel that the way is too narrow look forward to the end to which it leads you…

If you cannot see so far, believe Isaiah who could; he is your eye. He must have seen, for he described the consequences: “Behold,” he says, “the redeemed shall walk by this way and the ransomed of the Lord shall return and come to Sion with singing; everlasting joy shall be upon their heads. They shall obtain also joy and gladness, and sorrow and sighing shall flee away” (35,9-10).

St. Thomas Aquinas from Commentary on St. John's Gospel, 4, 1

Witness to God

Every creature has been made to witness to God since all creatures are, as it were, evidence of his goodness. The greatness of creation bears witness in its own way to the divine strength and almighty power, and its beauty to the divine wisdom. Some people receive a special mission from God: they not only bear witness to God from a natural point of view, by the fact of their existence, but even more from a spiritual one through their good works…

However, those who, not content with receiving divine gifts and carrying out good deeds by God’s grace, pass on these gifts to others by word, encouragement and admonition are even more particularly God’s witnesses. One of these witness was John; he came to spread God’s gifts and proclaim his praises.

This mission of John’s, his role as witness, is of unsurpassing greatness since no one can bear witness to something except insofar as they participate in it. Jesus said: “We speak of what we know and testify to what we have seen” (Jn 3,11). To bear witness to divine truth presupposes that one knows that truth.

That is why Christ also possessed this role of witness: “For this I was born and for this I came into the world, to testify to the truth” (Jn 18,37). However Christ and John possessed this role in different ways. Christ possessed this light in himself – more, he was this light – whereas John merely participated in it. That is why Christ bears a witness that is complete; he fully manifests the truth. John, and the other saints, only do so in the measure that they receive this truth.

John’s sublime mission implies his participation in the light of God and his likeness to Christ who, himself, carried out this mission.

St. Maximus of Turin from Sermon 88

“One mightier than I is coming”

It was not only in his own time that John was speaking when he proclaimed the Lord to the Pharisees, saying: “Prepare the way of the Lord, make straight his paths” (Mt 3,3), but he cries out in us today, and the thunder of his voice shakes the desert of our sins. Even now, when he is entombed in a martyr’s sleep, his voice continues to ring out. Even today he says to us: “Prepare the way of the Lord, make straight his paths”…

John the Baptist, then, commanded the preparation of the way of the Lord. Let us see which road he has prepared for our Savior. He has perfectly marked out and has appointed from start to finish the way for Christ’s coming since in everything he was sober, humble, restrained and chaste.

It was in description of all these virtues of his that the evangelist said: “John wore clothing made of camel’s hair and had a leather belt around his waist. His food was locusts and wild honey” (Mt 3,4).

What greater sign could there be of a prophet’s humility than his rejection of soft garments to clothe himself in a rough hide? What greater indication of faith than to be always at the ready for all the duties of service, a simple loincloth around his hips? What more stunning sign of his abstinence than his renunciation of the pleasures of this life to feed himself on locusts and wild honey?

In my view, all these different forms of the prophet’s behavior were themselves prophetic. When Christ’s messenger wore a rough garment of camel skin, didn’t this signify simply that Christ, at his coming, would reclothe our human bodies with their heavy covering, roughened by their sins?… The leather belt signifies that our weak flesh which, before the coming of Christ was turned to vice, would be guided by him to virtue.

St. Cyril of Jerusalem from Baptismal Catechesis 3

The new Elijah

Baptism was the end of the Old Testament as it is also the beginning of the New. Indeed, its promoter was John the Baptist, of whom “among those born of women there has been none greater” (Mt 11,11). John completed the succession of prophets, for “all the prophets and the Law prophesied up to the time of John” (Mt 11,13). And he began the era of the Gospel, as it is written: “The beginning of the Gospel of Jesus Christ… John appeared in the desert proclaiming a baptism” (Mk 1,1.4).

Would you contrast him with Elijah the Tishbite who was carried up into heaven? Yet even he was not superior to John. Enoch was transported to heaven but he is not greater than John; Moses was an important lawgiver in Israel; all the prophets were to be admired, but they were not greater than John.

It is not a question of comparing one prophet against another. But their Lord and ours, the Lord Jesus, said: “among those born of women there has been none greater than John the Baptist” (Mt 11,11). There is an established similarity between the servant at the top and his fellow servants, but the superiority and grace of the Son besides his servants is without comparison.

So do you notice which man God chose to be the prime beneficiary of this grace? A poor man, who was a friend of the desert without, for all that, being opposed to other people. Eating locusts as he did, he gave wings to his soul. Sustained by honey, he uttered words sweeter and more beneficial than honey.

Wearing a garment of camel skin he demonstrated in his own person an example of hard trial. For he had been sanctified by the Holy Spirit from his mother’s womb (Lk 1,15). Jeremiah was sanctified yet did not prophesy from the womb of his mother. John alone, imprisoned in the belly of his mother, leaped for joy (Lk 1,44); without as yet seeing with his fleshly eyes he nevertheless, guided by the Spirit, recognized his Lord. For the great grace of baptism a great leader was required.

Latin Liturgy Advent Hymn: Rorate Caeli

Be converted to the repeated call of the God who comes

Be angry, Lord, no more with us; remember no longer our transgression. See the city of God laid waste and desolate: Zion is turned to wilderness, Jerusalem ravaged and ruined, your dwelling place and the Holy of holies, the house of your glory; silent are those voices now that once proclaimed your praise. Pour down, you heavens, from above and let the skies rain righteousness (cf. Is 64,8f.; 45,8)

We have gone astray; in the multitude of our sins we have been made unclean, fallen, fallen, stricken as the leaves of autumn. The stormwind carries us away, the tempest of our evil deeds; you have turned away from us the face of your mercy, and our iniquity has crushed us like a potter’s vessel. Pour down, you heavens, from above and let the skies rain righteousness (cf. Is 64,5f.)

Lord our God, look upon your people in their affliction: be mindful of your promises. Send us the Lamb who will set up his dominion from the Rock of the wilderness to Zion, throned on her mountain. There is no other whose power can break our chains and set us free. Pour down, you heavens, from above and let the skies rain righteousness. (cf. Rv 5,12; Ps 78[77],15; Is 9,3)

Be comforted, be comforted, take heart, my people: you shall quickly see your salvation. Why do you waste yourself with grief though you have walked so long with sorrow? I am your Savior, be afraid no more. For am I not God, the Lord your God whom you worship, the Holy One of Israel, come to redeem you? Pour down, you heavens, from above and let the skies rain righteousness. (cf. Is 40,1f.)

St. Gregory the Great from Homily 20 on the Gospels, 14

“The kingdom of heaven suffers violence, and the violent are taking it by force”

John the Baptist counsels us to perform great works, telling us: “Bring forth fruits worthy of repentance,” and, “He who has two tunics should share with one who has none, and he who has food should do likewise” (Lk 3,8.11). Is it not now evident what Truth means by saying: “From the days of John the Baptist until now the kingdom of heaven suffers violence, and the violent take it by force”?

We must examine these divine words very thoroughly. We must ask how the kingdom of heaven can suffer violence? Who inflicts violence in heaven? And we must also ask why, if the kingdom of heaven can suffer violence, it has endured violence from the days of John the Baptist, but not earlier?

The old Law… as a punishment has struck all sinners, but has not restored them to life through repentance. When John the Baptist became forerunner of our Redeemer’s grace, preaching repentance so that a sinner who was dead as a result of his sin might live by being converted, truly from his days the kingdom of heaven has suffered violence. What is the kingdom of heaven but the abode of the righteous?… The humble, the pure, the meek and the merciful reach the joys on high. But when anyone… after sinning turns to repentance, it is as if the sinner is entering a foreign place. And so… in proclaiming repentance to sinners, John teaches them to do violence to the kingdom of heaven.

Dearly beloved, let us think over the evils we have committed; let us give ourselves to continual sorrow. Let us seize by our repentance the inheritance of the righteous which we have not kept by our way of life. Almighty God desires to suffer this kind of violence from us. He desires us to seize by our tears the kingdom of heaven which is not owed us on our merits.

St. Bernard from First Sermon for Advent

“Curing every disease and every illness”

Brethren, you know who it is who is coming, now consider whence he comes and where he is going. He comes from the Father’s heart into the womb of the Virgin Mary. He comes from the heights of heaven into the lowest regions of the earth. What, then? Don’t we have to live on this earth? Yes indeed, provided he is dwelling there himself, for where will we be at ease without him? “Whom else have I in heaven but you, what can I desire on earth if not you, God of my heart and my portion forever?” (Ps 73[72],25-26).

Some great benefit must have been at stake for so high a majesty to condescend to come down from so far away into a resting place so unworthy of it. Indeed there was a great benefit at stake in that mercy, goodness and charity were revealed there in great and abundant measure.

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For why did Jesus Christ come?… His words and deeds show us clearly. He came with great speed from the mountains to search for the hundredth sheep who was lost, to make his mercy towards the children of men shine forth.

He came for us. O wonderful condescension of the God who seeks! O wonderful dignity of the man thus sought! Recklessly can we take pride in this: not because we are something of ourselves but because he who has done it has valued us at so great a price! By comparison with this glory, all the riches and glory of the world and all we could possibly aim to achieve are worthless. What is man, O Lord, that you thus raise him up, that you set your heart on him?

It was for us to make our way towards Jesus Christ… Yet a double obstacle stood in our way: our eyes were so feeble and God dwells in inaccessible light (1Tm 6,16). Cripples lying on our stretchers, we were unable to reach a dwelling place so high as that of God. That is why our good Savior and sweet physician of our souls came down from on high where he dwells. He softened the brightness of his light for the sake of our eyes’ feebleness.

St. Cyril of Alexandria from On Isaiah III, 3

“Prepare the way of the Lord”

“Let the desert and the parched land exult! Let the arid ground rejoice and bloom. Let it bloom with abundant flowers” (Is 35,1). What the inspired Scriptures usually call ‘desert’ and ‘waste’ is the Church of the pagans. She already existed in former times among the peoples but had not received her mystical Spouse from heaven, I mean the Christ…

Christ came to her, however. Captivated by her faith, he enriched her from the divine river that streams from him – streams because it is the “fountain of life, stream of delight” (Ps 36[35],10.9)… At his presence the Church ceased to be parched and arid; she encountered her Spouse, brought into the world countless children and was adorned with mystical flowers…

Isaiah continues: “A pure way will be there, called the holy way” (v.8). This pure way is the power of the Gospel entering into our lives or, to put it another way, the purifying power of the Spirit. For the Spirit removes the stain imprinted on the human soul, delivers us from our sins and enables us to rise above our uncleanness.

Thus this road is very rightly described as holy and pure for it cannot be reached by anyone who has not been purified. Indeed no one is able to live according to the Gospel who has not first been purified by holy baptism, no one, therefore can do so without faith…

Only those delivered from the devil’s tyranny can lead the glorious life the prophet describes with these images: “No lion will be there nor beast of prey” (v.9) on that pure way. Indeed, in former times such fierce beasts as is the devil, that inventor of sin, used to attack earth’s inhabitants together with the evil spirits. But he was crushed by Christ, driven far away from the flock of believers and stripped of the dominion he used to wield over them.

That is why, redeemed by Christ and brought together in faith they will walk united in heart along this pure way (v.9). Forsaking their former ways “they will return to Zion”, that is the Church, “with everlasting joy” (v.10) that has no end whether on earth or in heaven, and they will glorify God their Savior..

St. John Damascene from Homily for the Nativity of the Virgin, 7, 10 `{`SC 80, p. 63 rev.`}`

“See I make all things new” (Rv 21,5)

Today the Creator of all things, the Word who is God, has composed a new work sprung from the Father’s heart, to be written as by a pen by the Spirit who is God’s tongue… Most holy daughter of Joachim and Anne! you who have evaded the attention of the Principalities and Powers and the “flaming arrows of the Evil One” (Col 1,16; Ep 6,16), you dwelt within the bridal chamber of the Spirit and were preserved undefiled so that you might become the bride of God and God’s Mother by nature…

God’s beloved daughter, the credit of your parents, generation after generation calls you blessed as you yourself so truthfully affirmed (Lk 1,48). Worthy daughter of God, our human nature’s beauty, restoration of Eve our first mother! For with your birth she who fell was raised…

For if, through the first Eve, “death entered the world” (Wis 2,24; Rom 5,12) because she put herself at the service of the serpent, yet Mary, who made herself servant of the divine will, deceived the deceiving serpent and brought immortality into the world. You are more to be valued than the entire creation for from you alone the Creator received a share in the firstfruits of our humanity. His flesh was made of your flesh, his blood of your blood; God was nourished by your milk and your lips kissed the lips of God… In his foreknowledge of your dignity the God of all the world has loved you and, in accordance with his love for you, he predestined you and called you into being “in the final time” (1Pt 1,20; Heb 1,2)…

So let wise Solomon shut his mouth and say no more: “Nothing is new under the sun” (Eccl 1,9).

Blessed Jan van Ruusbroec from The Spiritual Espousals 1

“Come to me… for I am meek and humble of heart”

The third coming of Christ our Bridegroom which is still in the future, is that which will occur at the Judgement or at the hour of death…

The justice of the Judge lies in the fact that it is Christ to whom the judgement and the verdict belong, for he is the Son of Man and the wisdom of the Father, a wisdom to whom all judgement belongs. To this wisdom all hearts are open and manifest, whether they are in heaven, on earth or in hell…

The means with which Christ, our bridegroom and judge, makes use at this judgement consist in rewarding and punishing with justice, for he gives to all according to their merits. On the good, and for each good deed carried out in God, he bestows the measureless reward of himself, unmerited by any creature. For indeed, since it is he who collaborates in each of the creature’s works, it is all thanks to his power that the creature merits Christ himself as reward in all justice…

The first coming, namely, when God became a human being, lived humbly, and died out of love for us, is one which we should imitate exteriorly through the perfect practice of the virtues and interiorly through charity and genuine humility. The second coming, which is in the present and which takes place when Christ comes with his graces into every loving heart, is one which we should desire and pray for every day, so that we might persevere and progress in new virtues. The third coming, at the Judgment or at the hour of our death, is one which we should await with longing, confidence, and awe, so that we might be released from this present misery and enter the palace of glory.

Origen from 1st Sermon on Psalm 38`{`39`}` `{`SC 411, p. 355`}`

“Summer is now near”

“Let me know, O Lord, my end and what is the number of my days, that I may learn what it is I lack” (Ps 38[39],5). If you let me know my end, the psalmist says, and if you let me know the number of my days then by that alone I shall know what it is I am lacking.

Or, possibly, he may be indicating this by these words: every occupation has an end; for example, the end of a building business is to build a house; the end of a naval yard is to build a ship capable of surmounting the waves of the sea and resisting the winds’ assaults; and the end of every occupation is something similar for which the occupation itself seems to have been conceived.

In the same way there may also be a certain end to our life and to the world as a whole for which all that happens in our life takes place or for which the world itself was created or subsists. Concerning this end the apostle Paul is also thinking when he says: “Then comes the end when he hands over the Kingdom to God his Father” (1Cor 15,24). Now to this end we must most certainly hasten since it is itself the reward of the work, it is what we were created by God for.

Just as our bodily organism, which in the beginning is small and reduced at its birth, nevertheless grows and reaches towards its full height as it increases in age; and as our soul, too, … is first of all given a stammering speech that then becomes more clear so as to come finally to a means of expressing itself perfectly and correctly, so too, certainly, all our life begins now as if stammering among people on earth, but it is brought to completion and attains its full capacity in the heavens with God.

For this reason, therefore, the prophet wants to know the end for which he was made so that by looking towards the end, examining his days and considering his perfection he may see what it is he still lacks regarding the end to which he is moving… It is just as if those who went out from Egypt had said: “Let me know, O Lord, my end”, a good and holy land, “and the number of my days” to where I am travelling, “so that I may know what I still lack”, how much there remains for me to do before I reach that holy land promised to me.

St. Aphrahat from The Demonstrations, no. 4

“Be vigilant at all times and pray”

My beloved, that a person should do the will of God is what constitutes prayer. That is how prayer seems to me to excel. Above all, be eager for prayer and do not weary in it, as it is written that our Lord said: “Pray and do not weary.” You should be eager in wakefulness and remove far from yourself drowsiness and sleep; you should be watchful both by day and by night and not be disheartened.

Now I shall show you the different occasions for prayer. There is petition, thanksgiving, and praise. In petition one asks for mercy for one’s sins, in thanksgiving you give thanks to your Father who is in heaven, while in praise you praise him for his works. At a time when you are in trouble, offer up petition, and when you are well supplied with good things, you should give thanks to the Giver, and when your mind rejoices, offer up praise.

Make all these prayers of yours with discernment to God. See how David was always saying: “I have risen to give thanks to you for your judgments, O Just One.” (Ps 119[118],62). And in another psalm he said: “Praise the Lord in heaven, praise him in the heights” (Ps 149[148],1). Again he says: “I will bless the Lord at all times, and at all times his praises are in my mouth” (Ps 34[33],2). Do not pray using only one kind of prayer, but all separately according to circumstance.

I am convinced, my beloved, that everything people ask for with diligence, God will grant them. But he takes no pleasure in the person who offers up prayer in mockery. As it is written: “This is required of the person who prays, offering up prayer: that he turn over and inspect his offering well, lest some blemish be found on it; only then should he offer it” (cf Mt 5,23-24; Mk 11,25), so that your offering does not remain on earth. What is this offering if not prayer?… Of all offerings pure prayer is the best.

St. Charles Borromeo

“Blessed are the eyes that see what you see”

My friends, here is the time we celebrate with such great fervor and, as the Holy Spirit says, the time of favor from the Lord (Is 61,2; Lk 4,19), the season of salvation, peace and reconciliation; a time that was so ardently longed for in former days with urgent desires and longings on the part of the prophets and patriarchs of old and which, at last, was seen by righteous Simeon with overflowing joy (Lk 2,25f.). And since the Church has always celebrated it with such great fervor, we too should spend it in a religious fashion, addressing praise and thanksgiving to the eternal Father for the mercy he has manifested in this mystery.

Because it is relived by the Church each year, we are always being exhorted to recall the memory of such love towards us. This teaches us, too, that Christ’s coming has not only benefited those who were living in the days of the Lord but that its power was to be passed on to us as well – at least, if we want to receive the grace it has won for us by means of faith and the sacraments and to direct our lives according to this grace by our obedience to it.

Blessed Jan van Ruusbroec from The Spiritual Espousals, 1

Christ comes in the sacraments, notably in the eucharist

The second coming of Christ our Bridegroom takes place daily in good persons; indeed, it takes place frequently and repeatedly, with new gifts and graces, in all those who prepare themselves for it to the best of their ability. We do not intend to speak here of a person’s initial conversion or of the graces, which were first bestowed when he turned from sin to virtue. Rather, we wish to speak of a day-to-day increase in new gifts and new virtues and of a present, daily coming of Christ our Bridegroom into our soul…

This is [a] coming of Christ our Bridegroom which takes place daily with an increase in graces and new gifts, for when a person receives any of the sacraments with a humble heart and without placing any obstacle in the way of the sacrament’s effects, then he receives new gifts and an increase of grace because of his humility and because of the mysterious working of Christ in the sacraments…

It is, then, another coming of Christ our Bridegroom which is present to us every day. We should reflect on it with a heart full of desire so that it might take place in ourselves, for this coming is necessary if we are to remain steadfast or go forward into eternal life.

St. Cyril of Alexandria from Commentary on St. John's Gospel, 11, 7 (PG 74, 497-499)

“Father, I revealed your name to men”

The Son made known the name of God the Father to teach us and make us fully comprehend not that he is the only God, for inspired Scripture had proclaimed that even before the coming of the Son, but that besides being truly God he is also rightly called “Father.” This is so because in himself proceeding from himself he has a Son possessed of the same eternal nature as his own.

To call God “Father” is more exact than to call him “God.” The word “God” signifies his dignity, but the word “Father” points to the distinctive attribute of his Person. If we say “God” we declare him to be Lord of the universe; if we call him “Father” we show the way in which he is distinct as a Person, for we make known the fact that he has a Son. The Son himself gave God the name of Father, as being in some sense the more appropriate and truer appellation, when he said, not “I and God” but, I and the Father are one (Jn 10,30), and also, with reference to himself, “On him has God the Father set his seal” (Jn 6,27).

But when he commanded his disciples to baptize all nations, he did not tell them to do this in the name of God, but expressly ordained that they were to do it in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit (Mt 28,19).

St. Augustine from Homilies on St. John, no. 115

“They do not belong to the world, just as I do not belong to the world.”

Listen everybody, Jews and Gentiles… Listen, all the kingdoms of the earth! I am not preventing you from ruling over this world, “my kingdom is not of this world.” (Jn 18:36) So don’t be afraid with that senseless fear which seized Herod when my birth was announced to him… “No,” the Savior says, “my kingdom is not of this world.” All of you, come to a kingdom, which is not of this world; come by faith. May you not be made cruel by fear. It is true that the Son of God, speaking of the Father, says in a prophecy: “Through him, I was established as king on Zion, his holy mountain.” (Ps 2:6) But that Zion and that mountain are not of this world.

And what is his kingdom? It is they who believe in him, those to whom he says: “You are not of the world, just as I am not of the world.” But he nevertheless wants them to be in the world; he prays to his Father: “I am not asking you to take them out of the world, but to protect them from the evil one.” For he did not say: “My kingdom is not in this world,” but rather: “It is not from this world. If my kingdom were from this world, my followers would be fighting to keep me from being handed over.” (Jn 18:36)

For his kingdom really is here on earth until the end of the world and up until the harvest the weeds are mingled with the good seed (Mt 13:24f.)… His kingdom is not from here, for he is like a traveler in this world. To those over whom he reigns, he says: “You do not belong to the world, but I have chosen you out of the world.” (Jn 15:19) So they did belong to this world when they were not yet his kingdom, and they belonged to the prince of this world (Jn 12:3)… All who are born of Adam’s sinful race belong to this world; all who were reborn in Jesus Christ belong to his kingdom and no longer belong to this world. For “God has rescued us from the power of darkness and transferred us into the kingdom of his beloved Son.” (Col 1:13)

Blessed Pope John XXIII from Journal of a Soul

“Simon, son of John, do you love me more than these?… Do you love me?… Do you love me?”

Peter’s successor knows that in his person and in all that he does there is the grace and the law of love, which sustains, inspires and adorns everything; and in the eyes of the whole world it is this mutual love between Jesus and himself, Simon or Peter, the son of John, that is the foundation of Holy Church, a foundation which is at the same time visible and invisible, Jesus being invisible to the eyes of our flesh, and the Pope, the Vicar of Christ, being visible to the whole world. When I ponder this mystery of intimate love between Jesus and his Vicar I think what an honor and what a joy it is for me, but at the same time what a reason for shame for my own littleness and worthlessness!

My life must be filled with the love of Jesus and also with a great outpouring of goodness and sacrifice for individual souls and for the whole world. From the Gospel episode which proclaims the Pope’s love for Jesus, and through him for souls, it is but a short step to the law of sacrifice. Jesus himself foretold this to Peter: “Truly, truly, I say to you: when you were young you girded yourself and walked where you would, but when you are old you will stretch out your hands and another will gird you and carry you where you do not wish to go”.

By God’s grace I have not yet entered upon helpless old age; but having now completed my eighty years, I am on the threshold. So I must hold myself ready for this last phase of my life, in which restrictions and sacrifices await me, until the sacrifice of my bodily existence and the opening of eternal life. O Jesus, I am ready to stretch out my hands, now weak and trembling, and allow others to dress me and support me along the way. O Lord, to Peter you added: “and to carry you where you do not wish to go”. After so many graces showered upon me during my long life, there is nothing now I can refuse. You have shown me the way, O Jesus. “I will follow you wherever you go” (Mt 8.19).

St. Teresa of Avila from Poem ``Vuestra soy, para dos nach``

“What if I want him to remain until I come? What concern is it of yours?”

I am thine and born for thee, What wilt thou do with me?

Sovereign Lord upon thy throne, Endless Wisdom, one and whole, Goodness that dost feed my soul, Good and great, one God alone, As I sing my love for thee. What wilt thou do with me?

Thine I am, for thou didst make me; Thine, for thou alone didst save me; Thine – thou couldst endure to have me; For thine own didst deign to take me. Never once didst thou forsake me. Ruined were I if not for thee: What wilt thou do with me?

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What, O good and loving Lord, What wilt thou have this creature do? This thy slave, a sinner too, Waiting till she hears thy word? With thy will in close accord, Sweetest Love, I come to thee: What wilt thou do with me?

Take, O Lord, my loving heart: See, I yield it to thee whole, With my body, life and soul And my nature’s every part. Sweetest Spouse, my life thou art; I have given myself to thee: What wilt thou do with me?

Let me live or let me die; Give me sickness, give me health; Give me poverty or wealth; Let me strive or peaceful lie. Weakness give or strength supply – I accept it all of thee: What wilt thou do with me?…

I am thine and born for thee, What wilt thou do with me?

Account of the three companions of St. Francis of Assisi (ca. 1244) §7-8 The beginning of the conversion of St. Francis

One evening after returning to Assisi, young Francis’ companions chose him to be their group leader. So, just as he had often done before, he had a sumptuous banquet prepared. Once they were satiated, everybody left the house and went all over the town singing. Francis’ companions went before him as a group; he himself, holding the leader’s baton, ended the procession a little behind them; he didn’t sing because he was deep in thought. And thus the Lord suddenly visited him and filled his heart with such sweetness that he could no longer speak or move…

When his companions turned around and saw him so far away from them, they came back to him frightened, and they found him as if he were already changed into a different person. They questioned him: “What were you thinking about so that you forgot to follow us? Were you by any chance planning on taking a woman?” “You are right! I was planning on taking a wife, one who is nobler, wealthier and more beautiful than any whom you have ever seen.” They made fun of him…

From that moment on, he worked to place again at the center of his soul Jesus Christ and the pearl which he wanted to buy after selling everything (Mt 13:46). Shying away from the eyes of those who scoffed at him, he often – almost every day – went to pray in secret. He was pushed to do so as it were by the foretaste of that sweetness which came to him quite often and which pulled him away from the public square or other public places towards prayer.

For some time already he had been a benefactor of the poor, but he promised himself even more firmly that he would never again refuse a poor person requesting alms, but rather that he would give more generously and more abundantly. Thus, whoever the poor person was who asked him for alms outside of the house, he always gave him money if he could. If he didn’t have any money, he gave him his hat or his belt so as not to send him away empty-handed. But if he didn’t even have that, he withdrew to a hidden place, removed his shirt, and secretly sent it to the poor person, asking him to take it for God’s sake.

Blessed John Henry Newman from Parochial and Plain Services, vol. 8, no. 2 ``Divine Calls``

“We have put aside everything to follow you”

In truth we are not called once only, but many times; all through our life Christ is calling us. He called us first in Baptism; but afterwards also; whether we obey His voice or not, He graciously calls us still. If we fall from our Baptism, He calls us to repent; if we are striving to fulfil our calling, He calls us on from grace to grace, and from holiness to holiness, while life is given us.

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Abraham was called from his home (Gn 12:1), Peter from his nets (Mt 4:18), Matthew from his office (Mt 9:9), Elisha from his farm (1 K 19:19), Nathanael from his retreat (Jn 1:47); we are all in course of calling, on and on, from one thing to another, having no resting-place, but mounting towards our eternal rest, and obeying one command only to have another put upon us.

He calls us again and again, in order to justify us again and again, – and again and again, and more and more, to sanctify and glorify us. It were well if we understood this; but we are slow to master the great truth, that Christ is, as it were, walking among us, and by His hand, or eye, or voice, bidding us follow Him. We do not understand that His call is a thing which takes place now. We think it took place in the Apostles’ days; but we do not believe in it, we do not look out for it in our own case.

St. Alphonsus Liguori from Works, vol. 14

“To give his life as a ransom for many”

A God who serves, who sweeps the house and gives himself to the most onerous work – a single one of these reflections should be enough to fill us with love! When our Savior began preaching his Gospel he made himself “the servant of all”, himself asserting that “he had not come to be served, but to serve”. It was as though he had said he wanted to be servant to everyone. And St. Bernard says that, at the end of his life, he was not satisfied “with having taken the condition of a servant that he might place himself at our service but he wanted to take on the appearance of an unworthy slave and be struck and undergo the punishment due to us by reason of our sins.”See how our Lord, as an obedient servant to all, undergoes the sentence of Pilate, unjust as it is, and yields to his executioners… In this way has this God so loved us that, out of love for us, he wanted to obey like a slave even to death and die a death that was both painful and humiliating: the torture of the cross (Phil 2,8).

Yet in all this he obeyed, not as God but as man, as the slave whose condition he had assumed. There are holy men who have surrendered themselves as slaves in order to redeem a poor man and have won the world’s admiration by this heroic act of charity. But what sort of charity is this compared with that of the Redeemer? Being God; desiring to redeem us from the slavery due to us to the devil and death, he made himself as slave, allowing himself to be bound and nailed to the cross. “That the servant might become lord,” St. Augustine says, “God willed to make himself a servant.”

St. Gregory the Great from Homilies on the Gospels, no. 2

“Son of David, have pity on me”

Scripture rightly presents us with this blind man seated at the edge of the path and asking for alms, for Truth itself said, “I am the way” (Jn 14:6). Thus, whoever does not know the clarity of eternal light is blind.

Even if he already believes in the Redeemer, he is seated at the edge of the path. If he already believes but neglects to ask that eternal light be given to him, and if he neglects to pray, this blind person can be seated at the edge of the path, but he is not asking for alms. But if he believes, if he knows the blindness of his heart and prays so as to receive the light of truth, then he really is that blind man, who is seated at the edge of the path and also asking for alms.

Thus, may the person who recognizes the darkness of his blindness and who feels deprived of eternal light cry out from the bottom of his heart, may he cry with all his soul: “Jesus, Son of David, have pity on me!”

John Tauler from Sermon 46

“Does not Scripture have it: ‘My house shall be called a house of prayer for all peoples’ – ? but you have turned it into a den of thieves.”

Then Our Lord entered the Temple and lashing a whip, he threw out everyone who was buying and selling, and he said: “My house shall be a house of prayer. But you have turned it into a den of thieves.” What is this temple that has become a den of thieves? It is the soul and the body of a person, which are much more truly God’s temple than all the temples that were ever built (1 Cor 3:17; 6:19).

When Our Lord wants to come into this temple, he finds it changed into a lair of thieves and a merchants’ bazaar. But what is a merchant? It is they who give what they have – their free will – for what they do not have – the things of this world. How full of these merchants is the whole world! They are among the priests and the lay people, among the religious, the monks and the nuns. What a huge research topic for someone who wants to study how so many people are so full of their own will! … Everywhere, there is nothing but nature and people’s own desire; so many people seek their interest in everything. If, on the contrary, they wanted to make a deal with God by giving him their will, what a wonderful deal they would be making!

A person must want, must pursue, must seek God in everything he does. And when he has done all that – drinking, sleeping, eating, speaking, listening – then let him entirely leave the images of things and see to it that his temple remains empty. Once the temple is emptied, once you have chased out that band of salespeople, the imaginings that clutter it up, you will be able to be a house of God (Eph 2:19), but not before, whatever you might do. Then you will have peace and joy of heart, and nothing of what constantly worries you and depresses you and makes you suffer now will trouble you anymore.

St. Hilary from De Trinitate, VII, 26-27

“On what authority are you doing these things?”

He really does belong to the Father, this Son who is like him. He comes from him, this Son who can be compared to him, for he is like him. He is his equal, this Son who accomplishes the same works as he (Jn 5:36)… Yes, the Son accomplishes the Fathers’ works; and he asks us to believe that he is the Son of God. In so doing, he is not assuming a title to which he has no right; he is not basing his claim on his own works. No! He bears witness to the fact that these are not his own works, but those of his Father. And he thus testifies that the brilliance of his actions comes to him from his divine birth. But how could men have been able to recognize in him the Son of God, in the mystery of the body hehad assumed, in this man born of Mary? The Lord accomplished all those works so that faith in him could penetrate their hearts. “If I perform the works of my Father, even though you put no faith in me, put faith in these works.” (Jn 10:38)

If the humble condition of his body seems to be an obstacle to believing in his word, he asks us to believe at least in his works. For why should the mystery of his human birth prevent us from perceiving his divine birth? … “If you do not want to believe in me, believe in my works so as to know and to acknowledge that the Father is in me and I in the Father.”…

Such is the nature which he has by birth; such is the mystery of a faith which will ensure salvation for us: not to divide those who are one, not to deprive the Son of his nature, and to proclaim the truth of the Living God born of the Living God… “Just as the Father who has life sent me, so I have life because of the Father.” (Jn 6:57) “Just as the Father possesses life in himself, so has he granted it to the Son to have life in himself.” (Jn 5:26)

William of Saint-Thierry from the Mirror of Faith, 6 9PL 180, 384)

“The Spirit of truth will guide you to all truth”

“Who knows what pertains to a person except the spirit of the person that is within? Similarly, no one knows what pertains to God except the Spirit of God” (1Cor 2,11). Run, then, to enter into communion with the Holy Spirit. No sooner do we call on him than he is there, and if we call on him it is because he is already present to us. When called, he comes; he comes in the abundance of divine blessings. He it is who is that rushing river giving joy to God’s city (Ps 46[45],5).

If, when he has come, he finds you to be humble and without anxiety, fearing God’s word, then he will come to rest on you and reveal to you those things that God hides from the wise and learned of this world (Mt 11,25). Then all those truths will begin to shine out before you that Wisdom spoke to the disciples while on earth but which they could not bear before the coming of the Spirit of truth that was to teach them all truth…

Just as those who worship God must necessarily worship him “in spirit and truth” (Jn 4,24), so those who would know him have only to seek an understanding of the faith in the Holy Spirit… In the midst of this life’s darkness and ignorance, he himself is the light that shines out for the poor in spirit (Mt 5,3), the charity that attracts and sweetness that ravishes the soul, the love of those who love and the devotion of those who yield themselves without reserve. He it is who reveals God’s justice from conviction to conviction; who gives grace in return for grace (Jn 1,16) and the faith of enlightenment to the faith of those who listen to the Word.

Blessed Teresa of Calcutta from No Greater Love

“Mary set out, proceeding in haste”

As soon as the angel had visited Mary, she went with haste to her cousin Elizabeth, who herself was expecting a child. And the child to be born, John the Baptist, leaped for joy in Elizabeth’s womb. How marvelous! The all-powerful God chose a child yet to be born to announce his Son’s coming!

In the mystery of the Annunciation and the Visitation, Mary is the very model of the life we should lead. First of all, she welcomed Jesus in her existence; then, she shared what she had received. Every time we receive Holy Communion, Jesus the Word becomes flesh in our life – gift of God who is at one and the same time beautiful, kind, unique. Thus, the first Eucharist was such: Mary’s offering of her Son in her, in whom he had set up the first altar. Mary, the only one who could affirm with absolute confidence, “this is my body”, from that first moment offered her own body, her strength, all her being, to form the Body of Christ.

Our mother the Church raised women to a great honor before the face of God by proclaiming Mary as Mother of the Church.

St. Columbanus from Instruction 11, 1-4 (PL 80, 250-252)

“Whose image is this?”

Moses wrote in the Law that: “God created man in his image and likeness” (Gn 1,26). I would ask you to reflect on the importance of this saying. God, who is almighty, invisible, incomprehensible and without compare, when he fashioned man of clay, ennobled him by the image of his own greatness. What is there in common between man and God, clay and spirit? For “God is spirit” (Jn 4,24). Therefore is represents a great sign of his esteem for man that God should have rewarded him with the image of his eternity and the likeness of his own life. The greatness of man lies in his likeness to God, so long as he preserves it…

So long as a soul makes good use of the virtues sown in it, it remains like God. All the virtues God placed in us at our creation he has taught us to repay to him. In the first place he requires us to love God with all our heart (Dt 6,5) since, from the beginning, even before we existed, “he loved us first” (1Jn 4,10). To love God, then, is to restore his image within us. Now, he loves God who keeps his commandments… Therefore it is for us to reflect to our God, to our Father, the unsullied image of his own holiness since he is holy and has said: “Be holy as I am holy” (Lv 11,45); with love since he is love and John has said: “God is love” (1Jn 4,8); with kindness and in truth since God is good and true. Let us not become depicters of a false image… And lest we insinuate the image of pride within ourselves let us allow Christ to paint his image within us.

St. Justin Martyr from Treatise on the Resurrection, 2.4.7-9

“I believe in the resurrection of the flesh”

People who are in error say there is no resurrection of the body and that it is impossible for it to be restored to its integrity once it has been destroyed and reduced to dust. According to these same people the salvation of the flesh would not only be impossible but even harmful. They blame the flesh, accuse its faults and make it responsible for sin and thus they say that, if this flesh is to rise again, its faults will rise with it…

Further, our Savior said that: “Those who rise from the dead do not marry but are like angels in heaven”. But angels, they say, have no flesh, nor do they eat or unite in marriage. Therefore, they say, there will be no resurrection of the flesh…

How blind are the eyes of the intellect on its own! For they have not noticed that “the blind see, the lame walk” (Mt 11,5) on earth at the Savior’s word… so that we might believe that the flesh in its entirety will rise again at the resurrection. If he cured diseases of the flesh on this earth and restored wholeness to the body, how much more will he do so at the moment of resurrection so that the flesh might rise again wholly and without blemish … It seems to me that such people fail to look at the divine action in its totality at the beginning of creation, in the forming of man. They don’t attend to the reason why earthly things were made.

The Word said: “Let us make man in our image and likeness” (Gn 1,26)… Obviously man, formed in the image of God, was flesh. Therefore how absurd it is to claim that flesh formed by God in his own image is despicable and worthless! Clearly flesh must be precious in God’s eyes since it is his creation. And since the culmination of his plan for all the rest of creation is to be found in it, this is what has the greatest worth in the eyes of the Creator.

St. Augustine from De Trinitate, VIII, 12 (PL 42, 958B-959A)

“This is the greatest and first commandment. The second is like it.” (Mt 22:38-39)

“Beloved, let us love one another because love is of God; everyone who loves is begotten of God and has knowledge of God. The man without love has known nothing of God, for God is love.” (1 Jn 4:7-8) In this text, the apostle John with his great authority shows clearly that fraternal love not only comes from God, but that this fraternal love, which causes us to love one another, is God himself. Consequently, when we love our brother with a genuine love, we are loving our brother according to God, through God. And it is impossible not to love above everything that love itself, thanks to which we love our brother. From which we can conclude that these two precepts cannot exist one without the other.

Since “God is love”, the person who loves love certainly loves God; and the person who loves his brother necessarily loves love. That is why the apostle John says a little later: “One who has no love for the brother he has seen cannot love the God he has not seen.” (1 Jn 4:20). What stops him from seeing God is that he does not love his brother. The person who does not love his brother is not in love; and the person who is not in love, is not in God, for “God is love.”

St. Cyril of Jerusalem from Baptismal Catechesis 10, 2-5 (PG 33, 662f)

His name is “King of kings and Lord of lords.” (Rv 19:16)

If any one wishes to show piety towards God, let him worship the Son; otherwise the Father does not accept his homage. The Father spoke with a loud voice from heaven, saying, “This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased” (Mt 3:17). The Father was well pleased with the Son… who is called “Lord” (Lk 2:11), not improperly as those who are so called among men, but as having a natural and eternal lordship…

While remaining who he is and truly holding unchanged the dignity of his Sonship, he adapts himself to our infirmities, like an excellent physician or a compassionate teacher. He is truly Lord; he did not receive this title by some sort of advancement. The dignity of lordship is his by nature. He was not given the title”lord” as we are, but he is so in truth, since by the Father’s bidding he is Lord over his own works. Human lordship is exercised over people of dignity and weakness equal to our own, even over our elders; often a young master rules over aged servants. But in the case of our Lord Jesus Christ, lordship is not of this nature: he is first Maker, then Lord. First he made all things by the Father’s will, then, he is Lord of the things which were made by him.

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Saint John-Mary Vianney from Selected thoughts of the Curé d'Ars

Forgiveness is the Law

God will only forgive those who have forgiven: that is the Law. The saints are without hatred, without venom, they forgive everyone and always esteem that they merit far more for the sins they themselves have committed against God. As soon as we hate our neighbor, God pays back that hatred: this is a characteristic that rebounds against ourselves. On one occasion I said to someone: “But don’t you want to go to heaven that you don’t wish to see this person? – Oh yes, indeed!… But we try hard to stay distanced from one another and not see each other.” These will not have that distress for heaven’s door is closed to hatred.

In heaven there is no resentment. Therefore sound, lowly hearts that take abuse and calumny with joy or with indifference begin their heaven in this world, and those who hold on to their resentment are the unfortunate ones (…) The way to overturn the devil when he stirs up hateful thoughts in us against those who do us wrong is to pray for them without delay. This is how we come to conquer evil by good and this is what the saints are like.

Saint John-Mary Vianney from Sermon for the 3rd Sunday after Pentecost

“Jonah became a sign to the Ninevites, so will the Son of Man be to this generation”

My friends, if we were to run through the various ages of the world, everywhere we would see the earth covered with the mercies of the Lord and people surrounded by his favors. No, my friends: it is not a question of the sinner coming back to God to beg for his forgiveness; God himself runs after the sinner and brings about his return… He is waiting for repentant sinners and he invites them by the interior stirring of his grace and the voice of his ministers.

Look at how he acted towards Nineveh, that great and wicked city. Before punishing its inhabitants, he ordered his prophet, Jonah, to go on his behalf and proclaim that, in forty days, he was going to punish them. Instead of going to Nineveh, Jonah fled by another way. He wanted to cross the sea but, far from leaving the Ninevites without warning before he punished them, God performed a miracle to preserve his prophet in the belly of a whale for three days and three nights, which, after three days, vomited him onto dry land. Then the Lord said to Jonah: “Go and tell the great city that in forty days more it will perish”. He set no conditions at all. When he had gone, the prophet announced to Nineveh that in forty days it would perish.

 

   At this news all of them, from peasant to king, fell to repentance and weeping. “Who knows,” said the king to them, “whether the Lord will not yet have pity on us?” The Lord, seeing them take refuge in repentance, seemed to take delight in forgiving them. Jonah, seeing that the time for their punishment had expired, withdrew outside the city to wait for fire from heaven to fall on them. But when he saw that it wasn’t coming down, Jonah exclaimed: “Ah, Lord! Are you going to make me pass for a false prophet? Rather, let me die. Oh, I well know you to be too generous! All you want to do is forgive!” – “Now, Jonah!” said the Lord to him: “do you want me to cause so many people to perish who have humbled themselves before me? Oh no! no! Jonah. I wouldn’t have the heart for it; to the contrary, I will love and preserve them.”

Saint Benedict from The Rule of Saint Benedict

The efficacy of prayer

If we wish to prefer a petition to men of high station, we do not presume to do it without humility and respect; how much more ought we to supplicate the Lord God of all things with all humility and pure devotion. And let us be sure that we shall not be heard for our much speaking, but for purity of heart and tears of compunction. Our prayer, therefore, ought to be short and pure, unless it chance to be prolonged by the impulse and inspiration of divine grace.

Saint Cyprian from The Lord's prayer, 23

“If you bring your gift to the altar, and there recall that your brother has anything against you…go first and be reconciled with your brother”

“The measure with which you measure shall be measured out to you” (Mt 7:2). And the servant who, after having had all his debt forgiven him by his master, would not forgive his fellow-servant, is confined to prison. Because he was unwilling to forgive his fellow-servant, he lost the forgiveness which had been granted him by the Lord (Mt 18:23f). And these things Christ sets forth still more strongly in his precepts by the greater force of his censure. He says: “When you stand praying, forgive anyone against whom you have a grievance, so that your heavenly Father may turn forgive you your transgressions. But if you do not forgive, neither will your heavenly Father forgive your transgressions” (Mk 11:25)…

For God commands us to be peacemakers and of one heart and of one mind in his house. And such as he has made us by a second birth, so by a second birth he wishes to preserve us , that we who are the children of God may abide in the peace of God, and that we who have one spirit may have one heart and mind. Thus God does not receive the sacrifice of a person who is in disagreement but commands him to go back from the altar and first be reconciled to his brother, that so God also may be appeased by the prayers of the peacemaker. The greater sacrifice to God is our peace and fraternal concord and a people united in the unity of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.

Saint Ambrose from Sermon 8 on Psalm 118`{`119`}`

“He makes his sun rise on the bad and the good”

“Of your kindness, Lord, the earth is full; teach me your statues” (Ps 118[119]:64). In what way is the earth filled with this kindness of the Lord if not through the Passion of our Lord Jesus Christ of which the psalmist, seeing it from afar, is celebrating the promise?… It is “full” because remission of sins has been given to all. The sun’s orders are to rise over all and it happens every day. It is for all that the Sun of Justice (Mal 3:20) in a mystical sense has arisen. He has come for all, suffered for all and it is for all he was raised. And if he suffered this was to “take away the sin of the world” (Jn 1:29)…

But if someone has no faith in Christ he deprives himself of this universal blessing. If someone prevents the sun’s rays from entering by closing his shutters it cannot be said that the sun has risen for all since that person has hidden from its heat. Where the sun is concerned it makes no difference; for the person lacking wisdom, he is depriving himself of the grace of a light presented to all.

God makes of himself a teacher: he lights up each one’s soul, shedding on it the brightness of knowing him, but always on condition that you open the door of your heart and receive the brightness of heavenly grace. When you doubt make haste to search, for “the one who seeks, finds; and to the one who knocks the door will be opened” (Mt 7:8).

Saint Ephrem from Sermon for the Transfiguration 1,3-4

“This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased”

He leads them up on a high mountain to show them the glory of his divinity and to let them know that he was Israel’s Savior, as revealed by his prophets…They saw him eat and drink, get tired and rest, sleep, suffer anguish to the point that his sweat became like drops of blood, all things that did not seem to have much to do with his divine nature, but only with his human nature. This is why he leads them up on a high mountain so that the Father may call him “my Son” and show them that he really was his Son and that he was God.

He leads them up on a high mountain and shows them his royalty before suffering, his power before dying, his glory before being insulted and his honor before undergoing ignominy. In this way, when he will be captured and crucified, his apostles will understand that he did not undergo this because of weakness, but to consent and willingly for the salvation of the world.
He leads them up on a high mountain and shows them the glory of his divinity, before his resurrection. In this way, when he will rise from the dead in the glory of his divinity, his disciples will testify that he did not receive this glory as a reward for having suffered – as if he needed to, but that this glory belonged to him long before the centuries, with the Father and in the Father as he himself will say as he approaches his voluntary Passion “Now glorify me, Father, with you, with the glory that I had with you before the world began” (Jn 17,5).

Youssef Bousnaya from Life and teaching of Rabban Youssef Bousnaya by John Bar-Kaldoun

“Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful”

Mercy is the image of God and the man who is merciful is, in truth, a God dwelling on earth. Just as God is merciful to all, without distinction of persons, so the man who is merciful pours out his deeds of generosity equally upon all.

My son, be merciful and extend generosity to all so as to be raised to the level of divinity… Take care not to let yourself be led astray by this thought, which you may find attractive: “It would be better for me to be merciful to the one who is a believer than to one who is outside us.” That is not the perfect mercy in imitation of God, who pours out his deeds of generosity upon all, without jealousy, “for he makes his sun rise and causes rain to fall on the just and the unjust alike” (Mt 5,45)…

“God is love” (1Jn 4,8); his being is love, and love is his being itself. It was through his love that our Creator was compelled to bring about our creation. The man who possesses charity is God indeed amongst men.

Saint Paschasius Radbertus from Commentary on St. Matthew's Gospel, 10, 23

“You have but one master, the Messiah”

If anyone wants a high office let him want the labor it entails not the honor it will bring him. He should desire to serve and minister to everyone and not expect everyone to serve and minister to him. For the desire to be served comes from the supercilious attitude of the Pharisees; the desire to serve, from the teaching of Christ. Those who canvass for positions of honor are the ones who exalt themselves; those who delight in serving and caring for others are the ones who humble themselves so as to be exalted by God.

Note that it is not those whom the Lord exalts who will be humbled, but those who exalt themselves, and similarly it is those who of their own accord humble themselves who will be exalted by the Lord… After specifically reserving the office of teaching to himself, Christ immediately went on to give as the rule of his teaching that whoever wants to be the greatest should be the servant of all. And he gave the same rule in other words when he said: “Learn of me, for I am meek and humble of heart,” (Mt 11:29).

Anyone, therefore, who wants to be Christ’s disciple must hasten to learn the lesson he professes to teach, for a perfect disciple will be like his master. Otherwise, if he refuses to learn his master’s lesson, far from being a master himself he will not even be a disciple.

Blessed Titus Brandsma from The mysticism of suffering

“Behold, we are going up to Jerusalem”

Jesus declared himself to be head of the mystical Body of which we are the members. He is the vine, we the branches (Jn 15:5). He stretched himself out on the winepress and began to tread it. Thus he gave us the wine by which we might, by drinking, live his life and share his sufferings. “If anyone wishes to do my will, let him take up his cross daily. Whoever follows me has the light of life. I am the Way. I have given you an example that you also might do what I have done for you” (Lk 9:23; Jn 8:12; 14:6; 13:15). And as his disciples themselves did not understand that his way was to be a way of suffering, he explained it to them, saying: “Was it not necessary that the Messiah should suffer these things and so enter into his glory?” (Lk 24:26).

Then the disciples’ hearts burned within them (v.32). God’s Word inflamed them. And when the Holy Spirit came down like a divine flame upon them to set them on fire (Acts 2), then they were happy to suffer scorn and persecution (Acts 5:41) since in this way they would become like him who had gone before them on the path of suffering. The prophets had already foretold this path of Christ’s suffering and the disciples finally understood that he had not avoided it. From the crib to his agony on the cross, poverty and incomprehension had been his lot. He had spent his life teaching that God’s view of suffering, poverty and human incomprehension is different to the world’s foolish wisdom (1Cor 1:20)… In the cross is salvation. In the cross is victory. This is how God wanted it to be.

Saint Augustine from Discourses on the Psalms, Ps 85, 3; CCL 39, 1178

True wealth, true poverty

When I say that God does not incline his ear to the rich man, don’t go so far as to think, my friends, that God fails to answer those who have gold and silver, servants and lands. If they were born in that state and occupy that class of society let them call to mind the saying of the apostle Paul: “Tell the rich in the present world not to yield to pride” (1Tm 6:17). People who do not yield to pride are poor before God, who inclines his ear to the poor and needy (Ps 85[86]:1). Indeed, they know their hope does not lie in gold or silver or in those things of which they have an abundance for a time. It suffices that possessions are not causing their loss and that, if they do nothing for their salvation, at least they aren’t an obstacle to it… Therefore, when someone despises those things that feed one’s pride he is one of God’s poor and God inclines his ear towards him, for he knows the troubles of his heart.

It’s true, my brethren, that poor man Lazarus, covered with sores, who lay at the rich man’s door, was carried by angels into the bosom of Abraham. This is what we read and believe. Whereas the rich man who was clothed in purple and fine linen and feasted splendidly every day was thrown down to the torments of hell. But was it really the merit of his destitution that won for the poor man his being carried away by angels? And was the rich man delivered up to torment because of his lavish lifestyle? We need to acknowledge that it was humility that was honored in that poor man and what was punished in the rich man was pride.

Saint Bernard from Sermon 30 on the Song of Songs

The mystery of God’s vineyard

Brethren, if we understand the Lord’s vineyard to be the Church… it seems to me that we here encounter a significant prerogative. Note in a special way how the Church extended her boundaries all over the world…

By this I understand that company of believers who were described as “of one heart and soul.” (Acts 4,32)… For during the persecution it had not been so uprooted that it could not be elsewhere replanted and leased  “to other tenants who will deliver the produce to her when the season arrives.” No indeed, it did not perish, it changed to a new location; it even increased and spread further afield under the blessing of the Lord. So, brethren, lift up your eyes round about and see if “the mountains were not covered with its shade, the cedars of God with its branches; if its tendrils did not extend to the sea and its offshoots all the way to the river” (Ps 80[79]:11-12).

No wonder this: it is God’s building, God’s farm (1Cor 3:9). He waters it; he propagates it, prunes and cleanses it that it may bear even more fruit. When did he ever deprive of his care and labor that which his right hand planted? (Ps 80[79]:15). There can be no question of neglect where the apostles are the branches, the Lord is the vine, and his Father is the vinedresser (Jn 15:1-5).  Planted in faith, its roots are grounded in love, dug in with the hoe of discipline, fertilized with penitential tears, watered with the words of  preachers, and so it abounds with the wine that inspires joy rather than debauchery, wine full of the pleasure that is never licentious. This is the wine that gladdens heart (Ps 104[103]:15)… Be consoled, daughter of Sion! Yours is to wonder at the mystery rather than bewail the harm; let your heart be expanded to gather together the fullness of the pagans!

Saint Augustine from Tractate 15 on the Gospel of St. John, 6-7

He gave everything for you

Jesus therefore, being wearied with his journey, sat thus on the well. It was about the sixth hour. Now begin the mysteries. For it is not without a purpose that Jesus is weary, nor indeed without a purpose that the strength of God is weary… It was for you that Jesus was wearied on his journey. We find Jesus to be strength and we find Jesus to be weakness; we find a strong and a weak Jesus: strong because, “in the beginning was the word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God”… Do you wish to see how this Son of God is strong? “All things were made by him, and without him nothing was made” (Jn 1:1-2): and they were made without labor, too! Then what can be stronger than the one by whom all things were made without labor? Do you wish to know him weak? “The Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us” (Jn 1:14).

The strength of Christ created you, the weakness of Christ recreated you. The strength of Christ caused that to be which was not, the weakness of Christ caused that which was not to perish. He fashioned us by his strength, he sought us by his weakness. As weak, then, he nourishes the weak like a hen her chickens, for he likened himself to a hen: “How often”, he said to Jerusalem, “would I have gathered your children under my wings as a hen her chickens; but you would not!” (Lk 13:34)…

Jesus was weak, wearied with his journey, in just such a manner. His journey is the flesh assumed for us. For how can he, who is present everywhere, be on a journey? He who is nowhere absent? Where is he going, from where does he come, except that he could not come to us at all unless he had assumed the form of visible flesh? Therefore, just as he deigned to come to us in such a manner that he appeared in the form of a servant by means of the flesh he assumed, so that same assumption of flesh is his journey. Thus, to be “wearied with His journey”, what else is it but to be wearied in the flesh? Jesus was weak in the flesh: neverthless don’t become weak yourself but in his weakness be strong since that which is “the weakness of God” is “stronger than men” (1Cor 1:25). Christ’s weakness is our strength.

Saint John-Paul II from Redemptoris Custos, §4-5

“When Joseph awoke, he did as the angel of the Lord had commanded him”

Now at the beginning of this pilgrimage, the faith of Mary meets the faith of Joseph. If Elizabeth said of the Redeemer’s Mother, “Blessed is she who believed,” (Lk 1,45), in a certain sense this blessedness can be referred to Joseph as well, since he responded positively to the word of God when it was communicated to him at the decisive moment. While it is true that Joseph did not respond to the angel’s “announcement” in the same way as Mary, he “did as the angel of the Lord commanded him and took his wife.” What he did is the clearest “obedience of faith” (cf. Rom 1:5).

One can say that what Joseph did united him in an altogether special way to the faith of Mary. He accepted as truth coming from God the very thing that she had already accepted at the Annunciation. The Second Vatican Council teaches: “‘The obedience of faith’ must be given to God as he reveals himself. By this obedience of faith man freely commits himself entirely to God, making ‘the full submission of his intellect and will to God who reveals,’ and willingly assenting to the revelation given by him,”(Dei Verbum, 5). This statement, which touches the very essence of faith, is perfectly applicable to Joseph of Nazareth.

Therefore he became a unique guardian of the mystery “hidden for ages in God” (Eph 3,9), as did Mary, in that decisive moment which St. Paul calls “the fullness of time,” when “God sent forth his Son, born of woman…to redeem those who were under the law, so that we might receive adoption as sons” (Gal 4,4-5)…Together with Mary, Joseph is the first guardian of this divine mystery… Looking at the gospel texts of both Matthew and Luke, one can also say that Joseph is the first to share in the faith of the Mother of God and that in doing so he supports his spouse in the faith of the divine annunciation. He is also the first to be placed by God on the path of Mary’s “pilgrimage of faith.”… The path that was Joseph’s-his pilgrimage of faith – ended first;… nevertheless, Joseph’s way of faith moved in the same direction.

Isaac the Syrian from Spiritual Discourses, 1st Series, no. 58

“Should you not have dealt mercifully with your fellow servant, as I dealt with you?”

On the one hand, compassion, and on the other the judgment of simple equity; if they dwell in one and the same soul, they are like a person who adores God and idols in one and the same house. Compassion is the contrary to the judgment of simple justice. Judgment that is simply equitable implies the equal sharing out of a similar measure for everyone. It gives to each what he deserves, no more; it does not lean towards one side or the other, exercises no discernment in its distribution. But compassion arises because of grace: it leans towards all beings with the same affection – not accepting to give simple retribution to those who are worthy of punishment – and it fills beyond all measure those who are worthy of good.

Thus compassion is on the side of justice; judgment that is simply equitable is on the side of evil… Just as a grain of sand does not weigh so much as a heap of gold does, God’s equitable justice does not weigh as much as his compassion. The sins of all flesh are like a handful of sand falling into the great ocean compared to God’s providence and mercy. Just as an abundantly flowing spring cannot be stopped up by a handful of dust, so the Creator’s compassion cannot be overcome by the malice of creatures. The person who remains resentful while praying is like a person who sows in the sea and hopes to gather in a harvest!

Catechism of the Catholic Church § 1961-1967

“I have come not to abolish the Law but to fulfill it”

God, our Creator and Redeemer, chose Israel for himself to his people and revealed his Law to them, thus preparing for the coming of Christ. The Law of Moses expresses many truths naturally accessible to reason. These are stated and authenticated within the covenant of salvation. The Old Law is the first stage of revealed law. Its moral prescriptions are summed up in the Ten Commandments. The precepts of the Decalogue lay the foundations for the vocation of fashioned in the image of God; they prohibit what is contrary to the love of God and neighbour, and prescribe what is essential to it. The Decalogue is a light offered to the conscience of every man to make God’s call and ways known to him, and to protect him against evil: “God wrote on the tables of the Law what men did not read in their hearts” (St. Augustine).

According to Christian tradition, the law is holy, spiritual and good, yet still imperfect (Rom 7,12). Like a tutor (Gal 3,24) it shows what must be done, but does not of itself give the strength, the grace of the Spirit, to fulfil it. Because of sin, which it cannot remove, it remains a law of bondage… It is a preparation for the Gospel.

The New Law, or Law of the Gospel is the perfection here on earth of the divine law, natural and revealed. It is the work of Christ and is expressed particularly in the Sermon on the 581 Mount. It is also the work of the Holy Spirit and through him it becomes the interior law of charity: ‘I will establish a New Covenant with the house of Israel. .. I will put my laws into their minds, and write them on their hearts, and I will be their God, and they shall be my people” (Heb 8,8-10)

The New Law is the grace of the Holy Spirit given to the faithful through faith in Christ… It “fulfils”, refines, surpasses and leads the Old Law to its perfection. In the Beatitudes (Mt 5,3f.), the New Law fulfils the divine promises by elevating and orienting them toward the ‘kingdom of heaven’ . It is addressed to those open to accepting this new hope with faith – the poor, the humble, the afflicted, the pure of heart, those persecuted on account of Christ – and so marks out the surprising ways of the Kingdom.

Saint Caesarius of Arles from Sermons 22-25

Love of God, love of neighbor

If you love, you possess God, and if you possess God, what do you lack? What does the rich person possess if he does not love? What is the poor person lacking if he loves? Perhaps you think that the person whose trunk is full of gold is rich? … You are wrong, for that person is truly rich in whom God deigns to dwell. What can you not know of Scripture if love, that is to say God, has begun to possess you? What good action will you not be able to do if you are worthy of carrying the source of all kindness in your heart? What adversary will you fear if you merit having God in you as king? … 

So, dearly beloved brothers, let us learn to love God with all our heart and let us begin by loving all human beings as ourselves. If we do this, no conflict, no reason for dispute, no court case will be able to separate us – ourselves and our neighbor – from the love of God. Love all human beings with all your heart and do whatever you want. Love those who are righteous because they are already good but pray that they become even better. Love those who are not righteous because they are fellow mortals, but detest what is bad in them and constantly wish that God in his mercy will convert them to goodness.

Saint Clare from 3rd Letter to Agnes of Prague, 18-26

The dwelling place of God

May you cling to his most sweet mother who gave birth to a Son whom the heavens could not contain, and yet she carried him in the little cloister of her holy womb and held him on her virginal lap.

Who would not dread the treacheries of the enemy of humanity who, through the arrogance of momentary and deceptive glories, attempts to reduce to nothing that which is greater than heaven itself? Indeed, it is now clear that the soul of a faithful person, the most worthy of creatures because of the grace of God, is greater than heaven itself since the heavens and the rest of creation cannot contain their Creator. Only a faithful soul is his dwelling place and throne, and this only through the charity that the wicked lack. The Truth says: “Whoever loves me will be loved by my Father, and I shall love him, and we shall come to him and make our dwelling place with him” (Jn 14:21.23). 

Just as the glorious virgin of virgins physically carried him, so you, too, by following in her footsteps, can, without any doubt, always carry him spiritually in your chaste and virginal body, holding him by whom you and all things are held together, possessing that which, in comparison with the other transitory possessions of this world, you will possess more securely.

Catechism of the Catholic Church § 547 – 550

“The kingdom of God has come upon you”

Jesus accompanies his words with many “mighty works and wonders and signs” (Acts 2,22), which manifest that the kingdom is present in him and attest that he was the promised Messiah. The signs worked by Jesus attest that the Father has sent him. They invite belief in him. To those who turn to him in faith, he grants what they ask. So miracles strengthen faith in the One who does his Father’s works; they bear witness that he is the Son of God. But his miracles can also be occasions for “offence” (Mt 11,6); they are not intended to satisfy people’s curiosity or desire for magic Despite his evident miracles some people reject Jesus; he is even accused of acting by the power of demons. 

By freeing some individuals from the earthly evils of hunger, injustice, illness and death, Jesus performed messianic signs. Nevertheless he did not come to abolish all evils here below, but to free men from the gravest slavery, sin, which thwarts them in their vocation as God’s sons and causes all forms of human bondage. 

The coming of God’s kingdom means the defeat of Satan’s: “If it is by the Spirit of God that I cast out demons, then the kingdom of God has come upon you” (Mt 12,28). Jesus’ exorcisms free some individuals from the domination of demons. They anticipate Jesus’ great victory over “the ruler of this world” (Jn 12,31). The kingdom of God will be definitively established through Christ’s cross: “God reigned from the wood.”

Saint Ambrose from On the Mysteries, 24f.

“Do you want to be well?”

The cripple beside the pool of Bethesda was waiting for someone (to help him into the pool). For whom was he waiting if not for the Lord Jesus, born of a Virgin? When he came it was no longer only a matter of some mere prefiguration that was healing people, but Truth itself was healing them all. And so it was he whose descent was awaited, he of whom God the Father spoke to John the Baptist: “On whomever you see the Spirit come down and remain, he is the one who will baptize with the Holy Spirit” (Jn 1,33)… But why did the Spirit come down like a dove if not so that you might see and acknowledge that the dove that righteous Noah sent out from the ark was the image of that dove and might recognize in it a prefiguring of the sacrament of baptism…? 

Can you still waver when the Father is unquestionably proclaiming to you in the Gospel: “This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased” (Mt 3,17); when the Son, over whom the Holy Spirit was manifested in the form of a dove, is proclaiming it too; when the Holy Spirit, who descended in the form of a dove, is also proclaiming it; when David proclaims: “The voice of the Lord is over the waters, the God of glory thunders, the Lord, over vast waters” (Ps 29[28],3)? Scripture also affirms that fire came down from heaven at Gideon’s prayers and again, that fire was sent to consecrate the sacrifice at the prayer of Elijah. (Jgs 6,21; 1Kgs 18,38). 

Don’t attend to a priest’s personal worth but to his office… Believe that our Lord Jesus is present when invoked at the prayer of the priest, he who said: “Where two or three are gathered together, there am I in the midst of them” (Mt 18,20). How much more, then, does he deign to grant us his presence where the Church is, where the mysteries are celebrated. And so you have gone down to the baptistery. Remember what you have said: that you believe in the Father, you believe in the Son, you believe in the Holy Spirit… With similar words of commitment you asserted your belief in the Son as you believe in the Father, your belief in the Holy Spirit as you believe in the Son, with this sole difference: that you profess the need to believe in the cross of our only Lord Jesus.

Saint Gregory of Narek from Lamentations of Narek, Elegy 12, 1(Sc 78, p. 102 rev.)

“Unless you people see signs and wonders, you will not believe.”

“Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved” (Jl 3,5; Rom 10,13). 
But I, I do not just call on him: 
above all else I believe in his greatness. 

Not for his gifts do I persevere in my pleading, 
but because he is true Life and in him I breathe. 
Without him there is neither movement nor advance. 

Not so much by the bonds of hope but by the bonds of love 
am I drawn. 
Not for the gifts but for the Giver 
do I long. 
It is not glory that I am reaching out for 
but the glorified Lord whom I desire to embrace. 
The thirst for life is not what is consuming me 
but the remembrance of him who gives life. 

The desire for happiness is not why I am sighing, 
why I break into sobs from the depths of my heart, 
but from the desire for him who prepares it. 
It is not for rest I am seeking 
but for the face of him who will pacify my suppliant heart. 
I am pining, not for the wedding feast, 
but because of my desire for the Bridegroom. 

In sure expectation of his power 
in spite of the burden of my sins, 
I believe with unquenchable hope, 
while entrusting myself into the hands of the Almighty, 
that I shall not simply gain forgiveness 
but will see him face to face 
thanks to his mercy and pity, 
and though I fully deserve to be banished, 
I shall come into possession of heaven.

Saint Augustin from On Genesis in the literal sense, 4, 11-13 `{`21-24`}` (Ddb 1972, p. 307f. rev.)

“My Father is at work until now, so I am at work.”

We should like to explain to you how it is that two texts are equally true: that of Genesis, where it is written that God rested on the seventh day from all his works, and that of the Gospel, where the Lord, through whom all things are made, says: “My Father works until now and I work”… The observance of the Sabbath was laid down for the Jews to prefigure the spiritual rest promised by God to those of the faithful who would do good works – a rest whose mystery was confirmed by our Lord Jesus Christ in his burial. For it was on the Sabbath day that he rested in the tomb… when he had completed all his own work… 

One might suppose that God rested from having created all the various kinds of creatures because afterwards he did not create any further new species, except… that, even on the seventh day, he did not cease to govern heaven and earth and all the other beings he had created – if not, they would at once have fallen into nothingness. For the Creator’s power, the Almighty’s strength, is the cause through which all creatures subsist… Indeed, it is not the same with God as it is with an architect: when the house has been completed the latter goes away but… his work still stands. To the contrary, the world could not continue in being for even the blink of an eye if God were to withdraw his support… 

This is what the apostle Paul said when he came to preach God to the people of Athens: “In him we live and move and have our being” (Acts 17,28)… Indeed, we are not in God as his substance, in the sense in which is is said that “he has life in himself”, but, since we are other than he is, we could not be in him unless because he acts in this way: “His Wisdom reaches mightily from end to end of the earth and governs the whole world well” (Wsd 8,1)… 

Now we see the works of goodness God has made (Gn 1,31), but when we have finished our good deeds then we shall see his rest

Saint Ephrem from Diatessaron, I, 18-19

“You search the scriptures…: these are the ones that testify on my behalf”

The Word of God is like the tree of life that gives blessed fruits from every side; it is like the rock opened in the desert that becomes spiritual drink for everyone everywhere: “All ate the same spiritual food and all drank the same spiritual drink” (1 Cor 10:3-4; Ex 17:15). 

May those who are able to get a share of one of its goods not believe that what they have found is all there is to the Word of God; may they rather realize that what they have discovered is only one amongst many others. May those who are enriched by the Word not believe that they have then impoverished the Word; as they consider that we are incapable of using up all its riches, may they give thanks for the greatness of the Word. Rejoice because the Word nourishes you, but do not be saddened since the riches of the Word are greater than you imagine! 

Those who are thirsty are happy to drink but not saddened for not being able to dry out the spring! It is better that the spring satisfies your thirst than that your thirst dry out the spring. If your thirst is quenched without exhausting the spring you will then be able to drink again every time you thirst. Otherwise, if you exhaust the spring by satisfying your thirst, your success will turn out to be your misfortune. Give thanks for what you have received and do not complain about what remains unused. What you have received and taken is your part, but what is left will be your inheritance.

Saint Augustine from Sermons on Saint John's gospel, no. 28

“His hour had not yet come”

“The Jewish feast of Tabernacles was near. So his brothers said to him: Leave here and go to Judea so that your disciples also may see the works you are doing… Jesus said to them: My time is not here, but the time is always right for you” (Jn 7:2-3.6)… Jesus answered in this way to those who were advising him to seek for glory: “the time for my glory is not yet here”. Notice the profundity of this thought: they are pushing him to seek glory but he wills humiliation to precede exaltation; it is through humility that he wants to pursue his path to glory. The disciples, who wanted to be seated one at his right and the other at his left (Mk 10:37), were also seeking for human glory: they were only looking towards the end of the path without considering the path that must lead to it. Therefore the Lord reminded them of the real road so that they might reach the homeland as one needs to do. Our homeland is on high but the road to it is lowly. The homeland is the life of Christ, the road is his death. The homeland is where Christ dwells, the road is his Passion… 

So let us have upright hearts, the time of our glory has not yet arrived. Let us listen to him speaking to those who love this world, like the Lord’s brothers: “Your time is always right, ours has not yet come.” Let us be bold enough to say this, also. We who are the Body of our Lord Jesus Christ, who are his members, who joyfully acknowledge him as our head: let us repeat these words since it is for us that he deigned to speak them first of all. When people who love the world mock our faith, let us say to them: “Your time is always right, ours has not yet come.” Indeed, the apostle Paul has said to us: “You are dead and your life is henceforth hidden with Christ in God.” When will our time come? “When Christ our life appears, then you too will appear with him in glory” (Col 3:3). 

“Our life is hidden with Christ in God.” During the winter one might well say: this tree is dead – a fig tree, for example, a pear or some other fruit bearing tree. Throughout the winter it seems to be deprived of life. But summer will provide proof and allow us to judge whether it is alive. Our own summer is the revelation of Christ.

Saint Augustine from Tractate 12 on the Gospel of John, 11

“When you lift up the Son of Man, then you will realize that I am”

He endured death yet hanged death on the cross and mortal men are delivered from death. The Lord calls to mind a great matter which was figuratively done with the Israelites of old. He says: “As Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, so must the Son of man be lifted up; that every one who believes in him may not perish but have everlasting life” (Jn 3:14). A great mystery is here, as those who read it know… Now Moses was ordered by the Lord to make a brazen serpent and to raise it on a pole in the wilderness and admonish the people, Israel, that, when any of them had been bitten by a serpent, they should look upon that serpent raised up on the pole. This was done: some were bitten, looked, and were healed (Nm 21:6-9). 

What are the biting serpents? Sins, from the mortality of the flesh. What is the serpent lifted up? The Lord’s death on the cross. For as death came by the serpent so it was imaged by the likeness of a serpent. The serpent’s bite was deadly, the Lord’s death is life-giving. A serpent is gazed on that the serpent may have no power. What is this? A death is gazed on, that death may have no power. But whose death? The death of life: if it may be said so, the death of life; yes indeed, for it may be said, but said wonderfully. But should it not be spoken, seeing it was a thing to be done? Shall I hesitate to utter that which the Lord has deigned to do for me? Is not Christ life? And yet Christ hung on the cross. Is not Christ life? And yet Christ was dead. But in Christ’s death, death died…; the fullness of life swallowed up death; death was absorbed in the body of Christ. So also shall we say at the resurrection, when triumphant at last we shall sing, “Where, O death, is thy victory? Where, O death, is thy sting?” (1 Cor 15:55).

Melito of Sardis from Paschal homily, 57-67 (cf SC 123)

The mystery of the Lord’s Passover

The paschal mystery is fulfilled in the Lord’s body. But he had already foretold his own sufferings in the patriarchs, prophets and all his people; he had confirmed them with his seal in the Law and the prophets. This unheard of and magnificent future had been prepared long before; long prefigured, the Lord’s mystery has been made visible today, for both old and new is the mystery of the Lord… 

Do you wish to see, then, the mystery of the Lord? Consider Abel, put to death like him; Isaac, bound like him; Joseph, sold like him; Moses, publicly displayed like him; David, hunted down like him; the prophets who, like him, were mistreated in the name of Christ. Lastly, consider the lamb sacrificed in the land of Egypt, which struck Egypt and saved Israel by its blood. 

The mystery of the Lord was also announced through the voice of the prophets. Moses said to the people: “You will live in constant suspense and live in dread both night and day, never sure of your existence” (Dt 28:66). And David said: “Why do the nations rage and the peoples utter folly? The kings of the earth rise up and the princes conspire together against the Lord and his Anointed” (Ps 2:1-2). And Jeremiah: “I, like a trusting lamb led to slaughter had not realized that they were hatching plots against me, saying: ‘…Let us cut him off from the land of the living so that his name will be spoken of no more’” (Jer 11:19). And Isaiah: “Like a lamb led to the slaughter or a sheep before its shearers, he was silent and opened not his mouth… Who would have thought of his destiny/” (Is 53:7). 

Many other events have been foretold by numerous prophets regarding the Paschal mystery that is Christ… It was he who delivered us from service to the world as from the land of Egypt and who snatched us from slavery to the devil as from the hand of Pharaoh.

Saint Leo the Great from Sermon 3 on the Passion, 4-5; Pl 54, 320-321

“Ours were the sufferings he bore” (Is. 53:4)

The Lord put on our weakness to clothe our inconstancy with the firmness of his strength. He came from heaven to this world like a wealthy and generous merchant and, through a marvelous exchange, concluded a deal: taking what belonged to us, he granted us what belonged to him. In exchange for what was cause of our shame he gave us honor, for pain, healing, for death, life…

The holy apostle Peter was the first to experience how much this humility benefited all believers. Shaken by the violent storm of his own confusion he was brought to himself by this sudden change and recovered strength. He had found the remedy in our Lord’s example… Indeed, the servant “was not greater than his lord nor the disciple than his master” (Mt 10:24), nor could he have conquered the trembling of human weakness unless the conqueror of death had not first trembled. And so the Lord looked at Peter (Lk 22:61); in the midst of the accusations of the priests, the lies of witnesses, the insults of those who struck and mocked him, he met his shaken disciple with those eyes that had seen his distress beforehand. Where his heart needed healing, Truth penetrated with its look. It was as though the voice of the Lord made itself known there and said to him: “Where are you going, Peter? Why withdraw into yourself? Come back to me, put your trust in me and follow me. Now is the time of my Passion, the time for your suffering has not yet come. Why fear now? You too will overcome. Do not be disconcerted by the weakness I have taken, It is because of that which I have taken from you that I trembled but, as for you, fear not on account of that which you hold from me.”

Saint Thomas More from Treatise on the Passion, 1

“He loved them to the end”

“Before the feast of the Pasch Jesus, knowing that his hour had come to go out of this world unto his Father, having loved those that were his own, unto the end he loved them”… In the Gospel John was specially called “the disciple whom Jesus loved”. This disciple declares here what manner of faithful lover our holy Savior was, of whom he himself was so beloved.

For unto these words he straightway joins the rehearsing of Christ’s bitter passion, beginning with the Last Supper and therein his humble washing of his disciples’ feet, the sending forth of the traitor, and after that his teaching, his prayer, his capture, his judging, his scourging, his crucifying and all the whole piteous tragedy of his most bitter passion.

Before which things Saint John sets the aforesaid words to declare that all these things that Christ did, in all this he did it for very love. Which love he well declared unto his disciples in many ways at the time of his Last Supper, giving them charge that in loving each other they should follow his example (Jn 13:34). For those that he loved, he loved unto the end, and this he wished that they also should do. He was not an inconstant lover that does as many do, love for a while and then, upon some light occasion, leave it off and turn form being a friend to an enemy, as the false traitor Judas did. But he still so persevered in love unto the very end that for very love he came to that painful end, and that not only for his friends that were already his, but for his enemies, to make them his friends, and that not for his benefit but only for their own.

Saint Augustine from Sermons on Saint John's Gospel, no. 27 § 10

Drawing good from evil, justice from injustice

“Did I not choose you twelve? Yet is not one of you a devil?” (Jn 6:70). Our Lord should have said: “I have chosen eleven of you”. Did he choose a devil? Is a devil among his elect?… Shall we say that, when he chose Judas, our Savior desired to accomplish through him – against his will and without his knowing it – so great and good a deed? This is the characteristic of God…: to make the evil deeds of the wicked work for good… The wicked make all God’s good works serve evil purposes but the person of good will, to the contrary, makes the evil doings of the wicked serve good purposes. And who is so good as the one God? Our lord himself says: «No one is good but God alone» (Mk 10:18)…

Who could be worse than Judas? From among all the Master’s disciples, from among the Twelve, it was he who was chosen to hold the purse and have a care for the poor (Jn 13:19). Yet after such an honor it was he who extracted money to deliver up the one who is Life (Mt 26:15); he persecuted, as though he were an enemy, the man he had followed as a disciple… Yet our Lord made so great a crime serve for the good. He accepted to be betrayed to redeem us: this is how Judas’ crime was turned to good.

How many martyrs has Satan not persecuted? But if he had not then we would not be celebrating their victory today… The wicked cannot thwart God’s goodness. He may well be a worker of mischief; the supreme Workman would not allow evil to exist if he had not known how to make use of it to make everything work together for good.

Saint John Chrysostom from Homily 15 on the Letter to the Romans

“The poor you always have with you”

The Father did not spare him for your sake, and this even though he was indeed his Son (Rom 8:32). Yet you do not look at him even when he faints with hunger, and this too when you have only to spend for your own good what is his own! What could be worse than such a breach of law as this? He was given up for you, slain for you; he goes in hunger for you. You have only to give what belongs to him that you yourself might get the gain, and still you do not give! What sort of stone is there besides which these people are not more senseless and who, in spite of such great inducements, continue in this devilish hard-heartedness? For he was not even satisfied with death and the cross alone but also assumed poverty, becoming a stranger and a beggar, naked and cast into prison, undergoing sickness (Mt 25:36) that so at least he might call upon you. If you wilt not requite me, he says, as one who suffered for your sake, show mercy on me for my poverty. And if you are not minded to pity me for my poverty, at least be moved by my diseases, be softened by my imprisonment . And if even these things do not make you charitable then for the easiness of the request comply with me. For it is no costly gift I ask, but bread and lodging and words of comfort… Then I was bound for you, indeed I am so still, so that whether moved on grounds of the former or stirred by the latter, you might be minded to show me some pity. I fasted for your sake and now hunger for you; I thirsted when hanging on the cross and now thirst in the poor, that just as by the former so also by the latter I may draw you to myself and make you charitable for your own salvation…

Indeed, he says: “Whoever welcomes a child such as this for my sake welcomes me” (Mk 9:37)…For I am able indeed to crown you even without all these things and yet I would prefer to be your debtor so that the crown may make you feel secure. That is why, although I am able to support myself yet I come begging and stand at your door and stretch out my hand since my wish is to be supported by you. For I love you exceedingly and desire to eat at your table.

Blessed Guerric of Igny from Sermon for Palm Sunday

“Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord”

Today’s feast presents us with two very different aspects of the one my soul is yearning for (Is 26:9), “the most handsome of men” (Ps 44:3). He attracts us in both ways: in one form as in the other we are attracted by him and we love him, for in both of them he is the Savior of men…

If we consider today’s procession and the Passion together, we see Jesus sublime and glorious on one hand, and humiliated and suffering on the other. For in the procession he receives royal honors and in the Passion he is mortified as a criminal. In one, glory and honor surround him; in the other, “there was no appearance that would attract us to him” (Is 53:2). Here he is the joy of man and pride of his people; there he is “scorned by everyone, despised by the people” (Ps 21:7). Here we acclaim: “Hosanna to the Son of David; blessed is the King of Israel who comes!”; there, we cry out that he deserves to die and we mock him for he made himself King of Israel. Here we run towards him with palms; there they give him slaps in the face and strike him on the head with a reed. Here they fill him with praises; there he is covered with insults. Here they rival to spread their cloaks on his way; there he is stripped of his clothes. Here he is received in Jerusalem as King and Savior; there he is chased away from Jerusalem as a criminal and impostor. Here he rides a donkey, rallied round with tributes; there he hangs from a cross, torn by the whippings, pierced by the wounds and abandoned by his own people…

Lord Jesus, whether your face be glorious or humiliated, we always see wisdom shining in it. On your face shines the refulgence of eternal light (Wis 7:26). O Lord, may your light, the light of your face (Ps 4:7), always shine upon us, in sorrow as in happiness… You are joy and salvation for all, both when you ride on a donkey and when you hang from a cross.

Saint Cyril of Alexandria from Commentary on the letter to the Romans, 15, 7

“To gather into one the dispersed children of God”

It is written that: “We, though many, are one body in Christ and individually parts of one another” (Rom 12,5), for Christ gathers us into a unity by bonds of love: “He made both one and broke down the dividing wall of enmity… abolishing the law with its commandments and legal claims that he might create in himself one new person in place of two” (Eph 2,14-15). Therefore we ought to have the same feelings towards each other: “If one part suffers, all the parts suffer with it; if one part is honoured, all the parts share its joy” (1Cor 12,26). Hence, as Saint Paul again says: “Welcome one another as Christ welcomed you, for the glory of God” (Rom 15,7). Let us welcome each other if we would share these same feelings. “Let us bear one another’s burdens; striving to preserve unity of Spirit through the bond of peace” (Eph 4,2-3). This is how God has welcomed us in Christ. For that man spoke truly when he said: “God so loved the world that he gave us his only Son” (Jn 3,16). For indeed the Son was given as a ransom for the lives of all of us and we have been liberated from death, set free from death and sin.

Saint Paul illuminates the outline of this plan of salvation when he says that: “Christ became a minister of the circumcised to show God’s truthfulness” (Rom 15,8). For God had promised the patriarchs, fathers to the Jews, that he would bless their descendants, who would also become as numerous as the stars of heaven. And this is the reason why the Word, who is God, was manifested in the flesh and became man. He upholds all creation in being and maintains the well-being of all that exists because he is God. But he came into this world when he became incarnate “not to be served” but, as he himself said: “to serve and to give his life as a ransom for many” (Mk 10,45).

Saint Ambrose from Abraham, Book I, 19-20

“Abraham saw my day”

Let us consider the reward Abraham wished to have from the Lord. He did not ask for wealth like a miser, nor a long life like someone who fears death, nor power, but he asked for an inheritance worthy of his work. “What good will your gifts be, he said, I keep on being childless” (Gn 15:2)… Hagar gave birth to a son, Ishmael, but God said to him: “That one shall not be your heir but one of your own issue” (Gn 15:4). What other one is he talking about? He is not referring to Ishmael but to holy Isaac… In Isaac, the legitimate son, we can see the truly legitimate son, our Lord Jesus Christ who, at the beginning of Saint Matthew’s gospel, is called son of Abraham (Mt 1:1). He showed himself to be a true son of Abraham when he made his ancestor’s posterity shine out; it was thanks to him that Abraham looked at the heavens and could see his posterity shine like the stars (Gn 15:5). The apostle Paul says: “Star differs from star in brightness; so also is the resurrection of the dead” (1Cor 15:41-42). When he associated with his resurrection those whom death guarded in the earth, Christ gave them a share in the kingdom of heaven.

Affiliation with Abraham is passed on exclusively through the inheritance of faith, which prepares us for heaven, draws us close to the angels, raises us to the stars. “ ‘Just so, God said, shall your descendants be,’ and Abraham believed in the Lord” (Gn 15:6). He believed Christ would be his heir through his incarnation. To make this known to you, the Lord said: “Abraham saw my day and was glad”. God considered him as just because he did not ask for any explanations but unhesitatingly believed. It is right that faith should go before explanation; if not, we would seem to be asking the Lord our God for them as from a man. How unseemly it would be to believe other people when they bear witness to another and not to believe God when he speaks about himself! So let us imitate Abraham so as to inherit the world through the justification of faith, which made him inherit the earth.

A homily attributed to Saint John Chrysostom from Orthodox Paschal Liturgy

“Enter into the joy of your Lord” (Mt. 25:23)

Let all who are pious and every lover of God rejoice in the splendor of this feast! Let the wise servants blissfully enter into the joy of their Lord! (Mt 25:23) Let those who have borne the burden of Lent now receive their pay, and those who have toiled since the first hour, let them now receive their due reward (Mt 20:1f). Let any who came after the third hour be grateful to join in the feast, and those who may have come after the sixth, let them not be afraid of being too late, for the Lord is gracious and receives the last even as the first… yes, he has pity on the last and serves the first; he rewards the one and is generous to the other…

Come, all of you: enter into the joy of your Lord! You the first and you the last… rich and poor… sober and weaklings,… you who have kept the fast and you who have not, rejoice today. The table is richly loaded: come to it, all of you (Mt 22:4). The fatted calf is served: let no one go away hungry. All of you enjoy the banquet of faith; all of you receive the riches of his goodness. Let no one grieve over his poverty, for the universal kingdom has been revealed for all; let no one weep over his sins, for pardon has shone from the grave; let no one fear death, for the death of our Savior has set us free. He has destroyed death who was gripped by it; he has despoiled Hades who descended into its kingdom…

When Isaiah foresaw all this, he cried out: “The netherworld was put to confusion when it encountered you” (cf 14:9). Hades is full of bitterness…, because it has been destroyed; it is angered because it has been reduced to naught… It seized a body, and lo! it discovered God; it seized earth, and, behold! it encountered heaven; it seized the visible, and was overcome by the Invisible. O death, where is your sting? O Hades, where is your victory? (1Cor 15:55) Christ is risen and life is freed, Christ is risen and the tomb is emptied of the dead: for Christ, being risen from the dead, has become the Leader and Reviver of those who had fallen asleep. To Him be glory and power for ever and ever. Amen.

Saint Anselm from 74th prayer, PL 158, 1010-1012

“Why are you weeping?”

“Woman, why are you weeping?” Most loving Lord, why do you ask her why she weeps? Surely you can see her heart, the dear life of her soul is cruelly slain… You hung on the wood, pierced by iron nails, stretched out like a thief for the mockery of wicked men; and yet, “Woman,” you say, “why are you weeping?” She had not been able to prevent them from killing you, but at least she longed to keep your body for a while with ointments lest it decay… And now, besides all this, even the body she was glad, in a way, to have kept, she believes to have gone. And can you ask her: “Woman, why are you weeping? Whom do you seek?”

But now, good Lord, gentle Master, look upon your faithful servant and disciple so lately redeemed by your blood, and see how she burns with anxiety, desiring you… How long will my Lord leave his beloved to suffer thus? Have you put off compassion now you have put on incorruption? Did you let go of goodness when you laid hold of immortality? Let it not be so, Lord. You will not despise us mortals now you have made yourself immortal. And so it is; for Love’s sake he cannot bear her grief for long or go on hiding himself. For the sweetness of love he shows himself who would not for the bitterness of tears.

“Mary!” The Lord calls his servant by the name she has often heard and the servant knows the voice of her own Lord. I think, or rather I am sure, that she responded to the gentle tone with which he was accustomed to call “Mary”. What joy filled that voice, so gentle and full of love. He could not have put it more simply and clearly: “I know who you are and what you want; behold me; do not weep, behold me; I am he whom you seek.” At once the tears are changed… Where once they were wrung from a heart broken and self-tormenting they flow now from a heart exulting.

Saint Hesychius from 1st Paschal homily, 1.5-6 (SC 187, p. 63)

“This is the night when Jesus Christ broke the chains of death and rose triumphant from the grave” (Exultet)

The heavens shine when lit up by the chorus of the stars and the world shines even more when the morning star arises. But this night is now shining less from the brilliance of the heavenly bodies than from its joy at the victory of our God and Savior. As he says: “Take courage, I myself have conquered the world” (Jn 16:33). Following this triumph over the invisible enemy on God’s part we shall most certainly carry the victory against the demons. So let us stay near the cross of our salvation that we may gather the first fruits of Jesus’ gifts. Let us celebrate this holy night with sacred torches; let us raise a divine music, a celestial hymn. The “Sun of Justice” (Mal 3:20), our Lord Jesus Christ, has illumined this day for all the world; he has risen by means of the cross; he has saved believers…

Our assembly, my brethren, is a victory feast, the triumph of the King of the universe, the son of God. Today the devil has been undone by the Crucified and all humankind is filled with joy because of the Risen one… This day cries out: “I have seen the King of heaven today, girded with light, rising above the lightening and all that shines, above the sun and waters, above the clouds”… To begin with he was concealed in a woman’s breast, then in the heart of the earth: first sanctifying the human breed, then giving life to the dead through his resurrection, for “behold how suffering, how the pain and labor of childbirth, have fled away” (cf. Is 35:10)…

Paradise is opened today through the Risen one, Adam is restored to life, Eve is comforted, the call is heard, the Kingdom made ready, man is saved, Christ is adored. He has trampled death beneath his feet, taking that tyrant prisoner and stripping the dwelling places of the dead. He rises up to the skies, victorious as a king, glorious as a leader…, and he says to his Father: “Behold, O God, I and the children you have given me” (Heb 2:13). Glory to him, both now and for ever!

Saint Maximus of Turin from Sermon 38; PL 57, 3412; CCL 23, 149f

The sign of salvation

In his Passion the Lord took upon himself all the misdeeds of humankind that afterwards there might be nothing to bring us harm. The cross is therefore a great mystery, and if we try to understand it, the whole world is saved. When sailors go to sea they first of all set up the pole of the mast and spread the sail so that the ocean may be opened out to them. In this way they make the shape of the Lord’s cross and, thanks to this sign of our Lord, they securely reach the harbor of salvation and escape the peril of death. For the sail spread to the mast is in fact the image of this divine sign, just as Christ has been raised up on the cross. Now this is why, because of the confidence motivated by this mystery, these men do not worry about gusts of wind and they arrive safely at their desired harbor. In the same way, just as the Church cannot stand without the cross, so a ship is weakened without its mast. The devil torments it and the wind strikes the ship. But when the sign of the cross is raised up then the devil’s injustice is repulsed, the squalls fall at once…

A farmer, too, does not start working without the sign of the cross. When he assembles the parts of his wagon he imitates the shape of a cross… The sky, with its four directions, East, West, South and North, is also arranged like an image of this sign. Man’s form itself represents a cross when he raises his arms; in our bodies we proclaim the Lord’s Passion, especially when we pray with uplifted hands… This was how the holy man, Moses, became victorious when he made war on the Amalekites, not with weapons but with his hands lifted up toward God (Ex 17:11)…

Thus, with this sign of the Lord the sea is opened, the land cultivated, the skies governed, men are saved. And I would even affirm that with this sign of the Lord the depths of the dwelling-places of the dead lie open. For the man Jesus, our Lord, who bore the true cross, was buried in the earth and that earth, which he had worked deeply, which he had broken, so to speak, in every part, made all the dead it was holding back to spring forth.

Saint Gregory the Great from homily 23 on the Gospel

“Their eyes were prevented from recognizing him”

You have heard, dearly beloved, that the Lord appeared to two disciples while they were walking on the road. They were talking about him, even though they did not believe. He did not show them an appearance which they could recognize, but the Lord behaved before the eyes of their bodies in accord with what was going on inwardly before the eyes of their hearts. Within themselves they were both loving and doubting; and the Lord was present to them out. outwardly, but did not show them who he was. He manifested his presence to them as they talked about him, but hid the appearance by which they would recognize him on account of their doubts. He did indeed talk with them, reproving the hardness of their understanding and opening to them the mysteries of holy scripture concerning himself: and yet, because as an object of faith he was still a stranger to their hearts, he made a pretense of going on farther… The perfect Truth did nothing deceitful; he was only manifesting himself to them materially as they were thinking of him.

It had to be shown whether those who did not as yet love him as God were at least able to love him as a stranger. Since those with whom Truth was walking couldn’t be alien to charity, they invited him, a stranger, to be their guest. But why do I say they invited him, when it is written that they compelled him? We must surely infer from this example that strangers are not only to be invited to be guests but even forcibly persuaded.

They set the table, brought food, and recognized in the breaking of the bread the God they did not know as he explained the sacred scriptures. They were not enlightened by hearing God’s commandments, but by putting them into practice.

Saint John-Paul II from Enter into hope: ``Fear not!``

“He stood in their midst and said to them: ‘Peace be with you'”

More than ever before we need to hear these words of the Risen Christ: “Fear not!” (Mt 28:10). For people today, who never cease being afraid in their inmost selves and not without reason, it is a necessity… It is an equal necessity for all peoples and nations throughout the world. In the conscience of every human being what is needed is that there should be strengthened the certainty that Someone exists who holds the fate of this passing world in his hands, Someone who undoes the keys of death and hell (Rev 1:18), Someone who is the Alpha and Omega of human history (Rev 22:13) whether this be personal or collective; and, above all, the certainty that this Someone is Love, Love made man, Love crucified and risen, Love unceasingly present in our midst! He is Eucharistic Love. He is the unquenchable source of communion. He is the only one we can unhesitatingly believe when he asks us to “Fear not!”

Saint Gregory of Narek from Book of prayers, no. 66 (SC 78, p.411 rev.)

“When it was already dawn, Jesus was standing on the shore”

Most merciful and compassionate God, friend of humankind …, when you say the word nothing is impossible, not even those things that seem to be impossible in our sight. You are the one who gives us delicious fruit in place of the sharp thorns of this mortal life…

Lord and Christ, breath of our nostrils (Lam 4,20) and radiance of our beauty…, light and giver of light, you take no pleasure in evil and you wish for no one’s ruin; never do you desire their death (Ez 18,32). Distress does not disturb you nor anger master you; you are neither intermittent in your love nor changeable in your compassion; your goodness never varies. You do not turn your back nor turn away your face, but you are all light, willing our salvation. When you wish to pardon, you can do so; when you wish to heal, your power is great; when you wish to bring to life, you are able; when you wish to grant your grace, you are generous; when you wish to restore health, you have the skill… When you wish to make new, you are Creator; when you wish to bring back to life, you are God… And when, even before we ask, you wish to stretch out your hand, you lack for nothing… If you wish to make me strong who am weak, you are my rock; if you wish to refresh me who am parched, you are my spring; if you wish to reveal what is hidden, you are light…

You who battled mightily for my salvation… have taken upon your guiltless body all the pains of those punishments we deserved so that, while becoming our example, you show forth in deed the compassion you bear towards us.