treasure in earthly vessels:
wisdom from the catholic tradition ii

Blessed Teresa of Calcutta from A Simple Path

“They have all contributed from their surplus wealth, but she, from her poverty”

You must give what will cost you something. This, then, is giving not just what you can live without but what you can’t live without or don’t want to live without, something you really like. Then your gift becomes a sacrifice, which will have value before God… This is also what I call love in action. Every day I see this love-in children, men, and women.

I was once walking down the street and a beggar came to me and he said, “Mother Teresa, everybody’s giving to you, I also want to give to you. Today, for the whole day, I got only twenty-nine paise and I want to give it to you.” I thought for a moment: If I take it he will have nothing to eat tonight, and if I don’t take it I will hurt him. So I put out my hands and I took the money. I have never seen such joy on anybody’s face as I saw on his-that a beggar, he too, could give to Mother Teresa.

It was a big sacrifice for that poor man who’d been sitting in the sun all day and had only received twenty-nine paise. It was beautiful: twenty-nine paise is such a small amount and I can get nothing with it, but as he gave it up and I took it, it became like thousands because it was given with so much love.

St. Thomas Aquinas from Prayers

“The bread of angels becomes food for pilgrims, true bread of God’s children”

Almighty and ever-living God, I approach the sacrament of your only-begotten Son, our Lord Jesus Christ. I come sick to the doctor of life, unclean to the fountain of mercy, blind to the radiance of eternal light, and poor and needy to the Lord of heaven and earth.

Lord, in your great generosity, heal my infirmity, wash away my defilement, enlighten my blindness, enrich my poverty, and clothe my nakedness. May I receive the bread of angels (Ps 78:25), the King of kings and Lord of lords (1Tm 6:15), with humble reverence, with the purity and faith, the repentance and love, and the determined purpose that will help to bring me to salvation.

May I receive the sacrament of the Lord’s Body and Blood, and its reality and power. Kind God, may I so receive the Body of your only-begotten Son, our Lord Jesus Christ, which was born from the womb of the Virgin Mary, that I be received into his mystical Body and numbered among his members. Loving Father, as on my earthly pilgrimage I now receive your beloved Son under the veil of a sacrament, may I one day see him Face to face in glory, who lives and reigns with you for ever. Amen.

Chromacus of Aquilaea from Sermon 39 (CCL 9A, 169-170)

“For while the law was given through Moses, this enduring love came through Jesus Christ”

It is good that the new law is proclaimed on a mountaintop, since the law of Moses was given on a mountaintop. The one consists in ten commandments given to form people’s behavior in the present life; the other consists in eight beatitudes, for it leads those who follow it to eternal life and the heavenly homeland.

“Blest are the lowly; they shall inherit the land.” Thus, we must be lowly people, who are peaceful in our souls and sincere in our hearts. The Lord shows clearly that the merit of such people is not small when he says: “They shall inherit the land.” Without doubt, he is talking about the land of which is written: “I believe that I shall see the bounty of the Lord in the land of the living.” (Ps 27:13) The heritage of that land is the immortality of the body and the glory of eternal resurrection. For gentleness knows nothing of pride, of boastfulness, of ambition. And so it is not without reason that the Lord exhorts his disciples saying: “Learn from me, for I am gentle and humble of heart. Your souls will find rest.” (Mt 11:29)

“Blest are the sorrowing; they shall be consoled.” Not those who sorrow over the loss of what is dear to them, but those who sorrow over their sins, who wash themselves of their faults by means of tears, and without doubt those who sorrow over the iniquity of this world or who lament because of the faults of others.

St. Augustine from Sermon 289, 6 (PL 38, 1311-1312)

The light of Christ on its lampstand

Brethren, the apostles are lamps enabling us to wait for the coming of Christ’s day. Our Lord tells them: “You are the light of the world.” And since they cannot believe themselves to be a light like that of which it is said: “He was the true light who enlightens everyone” (Jn 1,9), he at once teaches them what that true light is.

Having declared to them: “You are the light of the world”, he continues: “No one lights a lamp to put it under a bushel basket.” I have called you lights, he says, but I must clarify: you are only lamps. So don’t give in to the stirrings of pride if you don’t want to see this wick burning out. I’m not putting you under the bushel basket but on the lampstand to cast light over everything with your rays.

What sort of candlestick is this that bears such a light? I will teach you. Be lamps yourselves and you will have a place on this lampstand. Christ’s cross is one great lampstand. Whoever wants to shine out should not be ashamed of this wooden candlestick. Listen to me and you will get the point: the candlestick is the cross of Christ…

“So will your light shines before others so that they may see your good works and glorify” Glorify whom? Not yourself since to seek your own glory is to want to be extinguished! “Glorify your heavenly Father.” Yes, that they may glorify him, your heavenly Father when they see your good works… Listen to the apostle Paul: “May I never glory except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, through which the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world” (Gal 6,14).

St. Caesarius of Arles

“Go first and be reconciled with your brother”

You know what it is we pray to God before going up to communion: “Forgive us our sins as we forgive those who sin against us.” So prepare yourselves interiorly to forgive since those are the words you are going to encounter in prayer. How are you going to say them? Are you perhaps not going to say them? In the last resort this is indeed my question: are you going to say those words, yes or no? You hate your brother yet you declare: “Forgive us as we forgive.” You will say: I avoid those words. But in that case, are you really praying? Pay good attention, my brothers. In a short time you are going to pray; forgive with all your hearts! Do you indeed want to accuse your enemy? First of all accuse your own heart. Say to that heart: “Stop hating”… But then, since you don’t want to forgive, your soul is saddened when you say to it: “Stop hating”. Well then, answer it: “Why are you so downcast, O my soul? Why do you sigh within me? Hope in God” (Ps 42[41],6).

You are uneasy, you sigh, your sickness wounds you, you don’t manage to throw off your hatred. Hope in God: that is the remedy. He was hung on the cross for your sake yet without claiming his revenge. As for you, it is your revenge you are looking for since that is the real meaning of your rancor. Look at your God on the cross: it is for your sake he suffers that his blood might become your cure. Do you want to avenge yourself? Look at Christ hanging there, hear him pray: “Father, forgive them for they know not what they do” (Lk 23,34).

Blessed John XXIII from Journal of a Soul, 1901-1903

‘Rejoice with me because I have found my lost sheep.’

I feel that my Jesus is drawing ever closer to me. These last days he has let me fall into the sea and drown in the consideration of my wretchedness and pride so as to make me understand just how much I need him. Just as I am on the verge of being overcome, Jesus, walking on the water, comes smiling to meet me so that I may be saved. With Peter I should like to say to him: “Depart from me, Lord, for I am a sinful man” (Lk 5,8) but I am forestalled by the gentleness of his heart and sweetness of his words: “Fear not” (Lk 5,10).

Ah! Beside you I am not afraid of anything! I snuggle up against you and, like the lost sheep, hear the beating of your heart. Jesus, yet again I am yours, yours for ever. With you I am truly great; without you, nothing but a weak reed; upheld by you, I am a pillar. I must never forget my wretchedness, not so as to be constantly trembling but so that, regardless of my lowliness and confusion, I may, with ever greater confidence, draw close to your heart. For my wretchedness is the throne of your mercy and love.

Blessed Elizabeth of the Trinity from Last Retreat, 15th day

“Mary kept all these things, reflecting on them in her heart” (Lk 2,19)

“The Virgin kept all these things in her heart.” Her whole history can be summed up in these few words! It was within her heart that she lived, and at such a depth that no human eye can follow her. When I read in the Gospel “that Mary set out in haste to the hill country of Judea” (Lk 1,39) to perform her loving service for her cousin Elizabeth, I imagine her passing by so beautiful, so calm and so majestic, so absorbed in recollection of the Word of God within her.

Like Him, her prayer was always this: “…Here I am” Who? ”The handmaid of the Lord,” (Lk 1,38) the lowliest of His creatures: she, His Mother! Her humility was so real for she was always forgetful, unaware, freed from self. And she could sing: “The Mighty One has done great things for me, from now on all peoples will call me blessed” (Lk 1,49.48).

This Queen of virgins is also Queen of martyrs; but again it was in her heart that the sword pierced, for with her everything took place withinl … Oh! How beautiful she is to contemplate during her long martyrdom, so serene, enveloped in a kind of majesty that radiates both strength and gentleness! She learned from the Word Himself how those must suffer whom the Father has chosen as victims, those whom He has decided to associate with Himself in the great work of redemption, those whom He “has foreknown and predestined to be conformed to His Christ,” (Rom 8,29) crucified by love. She is there at the foot of the Cross, standing, full of strength and courage.

St. Ambrose from On Repentance, II:8

“Your faith has saved you; go in peace.”

“Those who are well do not need a physician, but the sick do.” (Mt 9:12) Show your wound to the physician, then, that he may heal it. Even if you do not show it, he knows of it but is waiting to hear your voice. Cleanse your wound with your tears. This is what the woman in the Gospel did so as to be freed from sin and its stench: she washed away her guilt when she washed the feet of Jesus with her tears.

Jesus, may you set aside for me the task of washing those feet of yours that you dirtied while you were walking in me!… But where shall I find that living water with which to wash your feet? If I have no water, I have tears. Grant that, while I wash your feet with them, I may be purifying myself as well. What must I do to hear you say to me; “His many sins are forgiven, because he has loved much”?

I confess that my debt is great indeed, and that more has been forgiven me who have been called to the priesthood from the tumult and strife of the law courts and of public administration. Therefore I fear being thought ungrateful if I, to whom more has been forgiven, were to love the less.

I am unable to compare that woman with anyone else at all, she who was so rightly preferred to that Simon the Pharisee who was giving the feast to the Lord. Yet she gave a lesson to all those who desire to gain forgiveness by kissing Christ’s feet, washing them with her tears, wiping them with her hair, and anointing them with ointment… And if we are unable to equal her, the Lord Jesus knows how to come to the aid of the weak. Wherever there is no one who can prepare a meal, or bring ointments, or carry a spring of living water (Jn 4:10)along with her, there he comes himself.

St. Therese of Lisieux of the Child Jesus from Poems ``Vivre d'amour`` and ``Pourquoi je t'aime, ô Marie``

“Hand him your cloak as well”

Living on Love is giving without limit Without claiming any wages here below. Ah! I give without counting, truly sure That when one loves, one does not keep count!… Overflowing with tenderness, I have given everything, To his Divine Heart… lightly I run. I have nothing left but my only wealth: Living on Love.

Living on Love is banishing every fear, Every memory of past faults. I see no imprint of my sins. In a moment, Love has burned everything… Divine Flame, O sweetest Blaze! I make my home in your hearth. In your fire I gladly sing: (cf Dn 3,51) I live on Love!…”

“Living on Love – what strange folly!” The world says to me, “Ah! stop your singing, Don’t waste your perfumes, your life. Learn to use them well…” Loving you, Jesus, is such fruitful loss!… All my perfumes are yours forever. I want to sing on leaving this world: “I die of Love!”

To love is to give everything. It’s to give oneself.

Gregory of Narek from Book of Prayers no. 74 (SC 78)

“That you may be children of your heavenly Father, for he makes his sun rise on the bad and the good”

How many are my debts, beyond all counting, yet they are not so amazing as your mercy. Numerous are my sins but yet they are miniscule by comparison with your forgiveness…

What could a little darkness do to your divine light? How can a little bit of shadow compete with your rays, who are so great!

How could my weak body’s earthly desires be weighed in the balance with your Passion and cross?

How would the whole world’s sins appear before the eyes of your goodness, O Mighty One? Behold they are like… a drop of water swallowed up by the outpouring of your plentiful rain…

It is you who give sunshine to both evil and good and cause rain to fall on both without distinction.

The peacefulness of some is great because they expect their reward;… but those who preferred earth you forgive with mercy: and you give them the medicine of life with the first in constant expectation of their turning back to you.

Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger `{`Pope Benedict XVI`}` from Der Gott Jesu Christi

“This is how you are to pray: Our Father…”

Without Jesus we cannot know what a “Father” really is. It was in his prayer that it was manifested, and this prayer is intrinsically a part of him. A Jesus who was not continuously immersed in the Father, or not in permanent, intimate communication with him, would be someone wholly different from the Jesus of the Bible and from the authentic, historical Jesus. His life emerges from the central point of his prayer and it was from it that he understood God, the world and human persons…

A new question then arises: was this communication… equally essential to the Father he addresses in such a way that he, too, would be different if he were not prayed to under this name? Or does it simply touch him without entering into him? The answer to this is as follows: it belongs to the Father to say “Son” just as it belongs to Jesus to say “Father”. Without this invocation he would not be who he is, either. Jesus does not just have external contact with him; he participates intimately as Son in God’s divine nature.

Before ever the world was created God was already the Love of the Father and the Son. And if he can be our Father and the measure of all paternity this is because he himself is Father from all eternity. Therefore God’s own interiority becomes visible in the prayer of Jesus and we see what God looks like. Faith in the Trinitarian God is nothing other than the explanation of what takes place in Jesus’ prayer. In that prayer the Trinity appears in all its clarity…

Thus to be christian means to participate in the prayer of Jesus, entering into his example of life, namely his example of prayer. To be christian means to say “Father” along with him and thus become child, son of God – God! – in the unity of the Spirit who enables us to be ourselves and, in this way, admits us into the unity of God. To be christian means to perceive the world from within this intimate participation and in this way become free, hopeful, resolute, confident.

St. Basil from Sermon on Charity (PG 31, 266-267; 275)

“Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth”

Why distress yourself and go to such effort to conceal your wealth behind bricks and mortar? “A good name is more desirable than great riches” (Prv 22,1). The reason you love money is because of the attention it wins you. But think how much greater your renown will be if you can be called the father and protector of thousands of children rather than by keeping thousands of gold pieces in your money-bags. Whether you like it or not, one of these days you will have to leave your money there; whereas you will take with you the glory for all the good things you have done before our sovereign Lord, while a whole lot of people, rushing to your defence before the judge of us all, will call out the names that declare you have fed them, helped them, and shown them kindness.

How thankful, happy and proud must you be for the honor shown you: it isn’t you who must go to pester others at their door, others will come flocking to your own. Yet right now you are grumpy, you make yourself inaccessible, you run away from encounters for fear of having to let go of a little of what you are so jealously guarding. And you only have one thing to say: “I haven’t anything, I won’t give you anything, because I am poor.” You are poor indeed, poor of everything good: poor in love, poor in goodness, poor in trust in God, poor in your everlasting expectations.

Blessed Teresa of Calcutta from No Greater Joy

“The measure with which you measure will be used to measure you”

For every illness, there are several medicines and treatments. But so long as there is no gentle hand swift to serve and no generous heart swift to cherish, I don’t think that a person can ever be healed of that terrible illness which is lack of love.

No one among us has the right to condemn anyone. And that even when we see people foundering without understanding why. Does not Jesus invite us not to judge? Perhaps we had a part in making those people the way they are. We have to understand that they are our brothers and our sisters. That leper, that drunkard, that sick person are our brothers because they, too, were created for a greater love. We should never forget this.

Jesus Christ himself identifies himself with them when he says: “As often as you did it for one of my least brothers, you did it for me.” (Mt 25:40) And maybe those people are in the street, deprived of all love and of every care, because we refused to give them our love and care, our affection. Be gentle, infinitely gentle towards the poor person who is suffering. We understand so little of what he is going through. The most difficult is not to be accepted.

St. Vincent de Paul from Conference of May 30, 1659

“Do to others whatever you would have them do to you”

What is charity’s first action? What does a heart moved by it produce? What emerges from it by contrast with someone who lacks it? It is certainly to do to everyone what within reason we would wish to be done to ourselves. In this is charity summed up. Is it true that I do to my neighbor what I myself wish from him? Ah! here there is a great examination of conscience to be done…

Let us consider the Son of God: what a heart of charity, what a flame of love! My Jesus, be pleased to tell us something about what it was that drew you down from heaven to come and suffer earth’s misfortune, the many persecutions and torments you received here? O Savior, O source of love, humbled even to us, even to infamous suffering: who has loved their neighbor more than you? You came to expose yourself to all our wretchedness, to take on the form of a sinner, to lead a suffering life and suffer a humiliating death for our sake. Is there any love like this?… There is no one but Our Lord who has been so seized with love for creatures that he abandoned his Father’s throne to come and take on a body subject to infirmity.

And why? To establish amongst us, by his example and word, love of neighbor… O friends, if only we had a little of that love would we stand by with our arms folded?… No! charity cannot remain idle. It sets us to work for the healing and comforting of others.

St. Ignatius of Antioch from Letter to the Ephesians

We shall be known by our fruit

Try to gather together more frequently to give thanks to God and to praise him. For when you come together frequently, Satan’s powers are undermined, and the destruction he threatens is done away with in the unanimity of your faith. Nothing is better than peace, in which all warfare between heaven and earth is brought to an end. None of this will escape you if you have perfect faith and love toward Jesus Christ. These are the beginning and the end of life: faith the beginning, love the end. When these two are found together, there is God, and everything else concerning right living follows from them. No one professing faith sins; no one possessing love hates. “A tree is known by its fruit”. So those who profess to belong to Christ will be known by what they do. For the work we are about is not a matter of words here and now, but depends on the power of faith and on being found faithful to the end.

It is better to remain silent and to be than to talk and not be. Teaching is good if the teacher also acts. Now there was one teacher who “spoke, and it was made” (Ps 33:9), and even what he did in silence is worthy of the Father. He who has the word of Jesus can truly listen also to his silence, in order to be perfect, that he may act through his speech and be known by his silence. Nothing is hidden from the Lord, but even our secrets are close to him. Let us then do everything in the knowledge that he is dwelling within us so that we may be his temples and he may be God within us.

Origen from Homilies on St. Luke, no. 4, 4-6

“The Lord called me from birth, from my mother’s womb he gave me my name.” (Isa 49:1)

The birth of John the Baptist is full of miracles. An archangel announced the coming of our Lord and Savior Jesus; similarly, an archangel announced the birth of John (Lk 1:13) and said: “He will be filled with the Holy Spirit from his mother’s womb.” The Jewish people did not see that our Lord did “signs and wonders” and healed their illnesses, but John leapt for joy when he was still in his mother’s womb. It was impossible to hold him back, and when the mother of Jesus arrived, the child already tried to come out of Elizabeth’s womb. “The moment your greeting sounded in my ears, the baby leapt in my womb for joy.” (Lk 1:44) Still in his mother’s womb, John had already received the Holy Spirit…

Scripture then says: “Many of the sons of Israel will he bring back to the Lord their God.” (Lk 1:16) John brought back “a large number”; the Lord brought back not a large number but everyone. For it is his task to bring all men back to God the Father…

I for my part think that the mystery of John is being fulfilled in the world until the present. The spirit and the power of John must first fill the soul of whoever is destined to believe in Christ Jesus, “to prepare for the Lord a people well-disposed” (Lk 1:17) and to “make ready the way of the Lord, [to] clear him a straight path” (Lk 3:5) in the roughness of their heart. Not only at that time were “the windings … made straight and the rough ways smooth”; rather, the spirit and the power of John still go before the Lord and Savior’s coming today. Oh greatness of the Lord’s mystery and of his plan for the world!

St. Symeon the New Theologian from Hymn 30

“Jesus touched him, and said, ‘I will do it. Be made clean’ “

” Jésus le toucha et lui dit : ‘ Je le veux ; sois purifiй ‘ ” Until there shone the light divine I knew not myself. Then, seeing myself in darkness and the dungeon,

Caught in the mire, covered with muck, Wounded, bloated…, I fell at the feet of the one who had enlightened me, and he who had enlightened me touched my bonds and injuries with his hands. Where his hand touched and his finger drew near At once my bonds fell from me, My wounds and all my uncleanness disappeared. My fleshly filth vanished… So as to become like his divine hand. What an extraordinary marvel: My flesh, soul and body, Have a share in divine glory!

No sooner was I purified, freed from my bonds, Than he appeared who held out to me his divine hand. He drew me out completely from the mire, Embraced and hugged me, Covering me with kisses (Lk 15,20). And I who had been altogether spent And had lost my strength, he took upon his shoulders (Lk 15,5), and carried me away from my tortures…

It was light that bore me away, upholding me, drawing me towards a great light… It enabled me to contemplate by what mysterious refashioning he himself had formed me once again (Gn 2,7), snatching me away from corruption. He granted me the gift of life immortal and clothed me with a garment, insubstantial and shining, giving me sandals, a ring and a crown, incorruptible and everlasting (Lk 15,22).

St. John Chrysostom

“He cured all who were afflicted.”

“As evening drew on, they brought him many who were possessed. He expelled the spirits by a simple command and cured all who were afflicted.” Do you see how the crowd’s faith gradually grew? In spite of the late hour, they did not want to leave the Lord; they thought that in the evening it would be possible to bring him those who were afflicted. Think of the many healings of which the evangelists don’t speak. They don’t tell us about all of them, one by one; rather, in a single sentence, they let us see an infinite ocean of miracles.

So that the greatness of the marvel doesn’t lead us to incredulity, so that people aren’t troubled at the thought of such a crowd who are struck with so many varying ills and all healed in one instant, the gospel brings the testimony of the prophet, which is as extraordinary and as surprising as the deeds themselves: “…thereby fulfilling what had been said through Isaiah the prophet: ‘It was our infirmities he bore, our sufferings he endured.’” (Lk 8:17; Isa 53:4) It does not say “he destroyed”, but “he bore” and “he endured”, thus showing, in my opinion, that the prophet was speaking more of sin than of bodily illnesses. And that is in conformity with John’s words: “There is the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world!” (Jn 1:29)

St. Teresa Benedicta of the Cross `{`Edith Stein`}` from Meditation for the Feast of the Exaltation of the Cross

“Follow me”

The Savior preceded us on the path of poverty. All the possessions of heaven and earth belonged to him. They presented for him no danger; he could make use of them while keeping his heart completely free. But he knew that it is almost impossible for a human being to have possessions without subjecting ourselves to them and becoming a slave. That is why he gave up everything and so showed us by his example even more than by his words that only the one who possesses nothing possesses everything. His birth in a stable and his flight to Egypt already showed that the Son of the Man had nowhere to rest his head. Whoever wants to follow him must know that we have here below no permanent dwelling. The more deeply we become aware of it, the more ardently we shall aim towards our future dwelling, and we shall exult in the thought that we will find our home in heaven.

St. Clare from 1st Letter to Agnes of Prague, 15-23

“Teacher, I will follow you wherever you go.”

blessed poverty, who bestows eternal riches on those who love and embrace her! O holy poverty, to those who possess and desire you God promises the kingdom of heaven and offers, indeed, eternal glory and blessed life! O God-centered poverty, whom the Lord Jesus Christ who ruled and now rules heaven and earth, “Who spoke and things were made,” (Ps 33[32],9) condescended to embrace before all else! “The foxes have dens,” he says, “and the birds of the air have nests, but the Son of Man,” Christ, “has nowhere to lay His head” (Mt 8:20), but “but bowing his head, gave up his spirit” (Jn 19:30).

If so great and good a Lord, then, on coming into the Virgin’s womb, chose to appear despised, needy, and poor in this world, so that people who were in utter poverty and want and in absolute need of heavenly nourishment might become rich in him by possessing the kingdom of heaven, then rejoice and be glad!

Be filled with a remarkable happiness and a spiritual joy! Contempt of the world has pleased you more than [its] honors, poverty more than earthly riches, and you have sought to store up greater treasure in heaven rather than on earth, “where rust does not consume nor moth destroy nor thieves break in and steal” (Mt 6:20). “Your reward,” then, “is very great in heaven” (Mt 5:12)!

St. Aelred of Rielvaux from Sermon 16, of the Feast of Sts Peter and Paul (PL 195, 298-302)

“Upon this rock I will build my church”

Pillars of the earth (Ps 75[74],4): this is what the apostles are, but those whose feast we celebrate in the first place. They are the two pillars who support the Church by their teaching and prayer and example of steadfastness. It was the Lord himself who set up these two pillars. To begin with they were weak and unable to support either themselves or anyone else.

And in this the Lord’s great plan was made manifest: for if they had always been strong then one might have thought their strength came from themselves. And so, before he strengthened them, our Lord wanted to show what they were capable of so that everyone would know their strength came from God.

It was the Lord who set up these pillars of the earth, that is to say, of the Holy Church. And hence we are heartily to extol our holy fathers who underwent so many sufferings for the Lord and who persevered with such strength. To persevere in times of joy, prosperity and patience is nothing. But this is what greatness is: when one is stoned, lashed, beaten for Christ’s sake and one perseveres with Christ in spite of it (2Cor 11,25).

With Paul it is greatness to be cursed and to bless…, to be like the world’s rubbish and make it our glory (1Cor 4, 12-13)… And what shall we say about Peter? Even if he had not endured anything for Christ, yet he suffered that we might celebrate him because today he was crucified for him. The cross was his way.

Isaac of Stella from Sermon 11

“Who but God alone can forgive sins?” (Mk 2:7)

The prerogative of receiving the confession of sin and the power to forgive sin are two things that belong properly to God alone. We must confess our sins to him and look to him for forgiveness. Since only he has the power to forgive sins, it is to him that we must make our confession.

But when the Almighty, the Most High, wedded a bride who was weak and of low estate, he made that maid-servant a queen. He took her from her place behind him, at these feet, and enthroned her at his side. She had been born from his side, and therefore he betrothed her to himself (Gn 2:22; Jn 19:34). And as all that belongs to the Father belongs also to the Son because by nature they are one (Jn 17:20), so also the bridegroom gave all he had to the bride and he shared in all that was hers. He made her one both with himself and with the Father…

And so the bridegroom is one with the Father and one with the bride. Whatever he found in his bride alien to her own nature he took from her and nailed to his cross when he bore her sins and destroyed them on the tree. He received from her and clothed himself in what was hers by nature and gave her what belonged to him as God…

Thus, sharing as he did in the bride’s weakness, the bridegroom made his own her cries of distress, and gave his bride all that was his. Therefore, she too has the prerogative of receiving the confession of sin and the power to forgive sin, which is the reason for the command, “Go, show yourself to the priest.” (Mk 1:44)

St. Bede the Venerable from Homilies on the Gospels, I, 21 (CC 122, 149-151)

“While he was at table in the house, many tax collectors and sinners came and sat with Jesus and his disciples.” Let us try to understand what we are told here at a deeper level. Matthew did not simply offer a material meal to the Lord in his earthly home but, even more importantly, he prepared a feast in the house of his heart through his faith and love like the one who bore witness, saying: “I stand at the door and knock: if anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will enter his house and dine with him and he with me” (Rv 3,20).

Our Lord does indeed stand at the door and knock when he makes our hearts attentive to his will, whether through the words of teachers or through an interior inspiration. We open our door to the sound of his voice when we freely accept his teachings, whether interior or exterior, and when, after understanding what we are to do, we carry them out. And he comes in to share our meal, he with us and we with him, because he dwells in the hearts of his friends, thanks to his love, to feed them constantly with his own hand by the light of his presence. Thus he causes their desires to rise up by degrees while he himself feeds on their earnest desire for heaven as on the most delicious food.

St. Basil of Seleucia from Sermon for the Resurrection, 1-4

Become a believer and be my apostle

“Put your finger into the marks of the nails”. You looked for me when I wasn’t there, now take advantage of it. I understand your desire despite your silence. Before you tell me them I already know your thoughts. I heard you speak and, even though unseen, I was beside you, beside your doubts. Without revealing myself I made you wait so as better to consider your eagerness. “Put your finger into the marks of the nails. Put your hand into my side; do not be unbelieving any longer, but believe.” Then Thomas touched him and all his mistrust fell away. Full of genuine faith and all the love owing to God, he cried out: “My Lord and my God!” And the Lord said to him: “You believe because you have seen me; happy are those who have not seen and yet believe!”

Thomas took the news of the resurrection to those who had not seen. Draw the whole earth to believe, not by its own sight but at your word. Go through peoples and cities far away. Teach them to carry the cross rather than weapons on their shoulders. Only proclaim me: they will believe and worship. They will demand no other proof. Tell them they are called by grace and, with your own eyes, behold their faith. Truly, blessed are those who did not see and yet believed!

This is the army the Lord raises; these are the children of the baptismal font, the works of grace, the fruit of the Spirit. They have followed Christ without having seen him; they sought him and believed. They recognised him with the eyes of faith not those of the body. They have not put their finger into the mark of the nails but they have bound themselves to his cross and embraced his sufferings. They have not seen the Lord’s side but, by grace, they have become members of his body and have made his words their own: “Happy are those who have not seen and yet believe!”

Pope Benedict XVI from Message for the World Mission Day 2006

“Charity: soul of the mission”

Unless the mission is oriented by charity, that is, unless it springs from a profound act of divine love, it risks being reduced to mere philanthropic and social activity. In fact, God’s love for every person constitutes the heart of the experience and proclamation of the Gospel, and those who welcome it in turn become its witnesses. God’s love, which gives life to the world, is the love that was given to us in Jesus, the Word of salvation, perfect icon of the Heavenly Father’s mercy.

The saving message can be summed up well, therefore, in the words of John the Evangelist: “In this the love of God was made manifest among us, that God sent his only Son into the world, so that we might live through him” (I Jn 4: 9). It was after his Resurrection that Jesus gave the Apostles the mandate to proclaim the news of this love, and the Apostles, inwardly transformed by the power of the Holy Spirit on the day of Pentecost, began to bear witness to the Lord who had died and was risen. Ever since, the Church has continued this same mission, which is an indispensable and ongoing commitment for all believers.

St. Francis of Assisi from Letter to the Whole Order

“If only I can touch his cloak, I shall be cured.”

Listen, my brothers: If the blessed Virgin is so honored, as it is right, since she carried him in her most holy womb; if the blessed Baptist trembled and did not dare to touch the holy head of God; if the tomb in which he lay for some time is so venerated, how holy, just, and worthy must be the person who touches him with his hands, receives him in his heart and mouth, and offers him to others to be received. This is he who is now not about to die, but who is eternally victorious and glorified, upon whom the angels desire to gaze.

Look at your dignity, you brothers who are priests, and be holy since He is holy (1Pt 1,16)… It is a great misery and a miserable weakness that when you have Him present with you in this way, you concern yourselves with anything else in this entire world!

Let the whole of mankind tremble, the whole world shake and the heavens exult when Christ, the Son of the living God, is present on the altar in the hands of a priest. O admirable heights and sublime lowliness! O sublime humility! O humble sublimity! That the Lord of the universe, God and the Son of God, so humbles himself that for our salvation he hides himself under the little form of bread! Look, brothers, at the humility of God and pour out your hearts before him! Humble yourselves, as well, that you may be exalted by him. Therefore, hold back nothing of yourselves for yourselves so that he who gives himself totally to you may receive you totally.

Pope John-Paul II from Message for the XXXVIII World Day of Prayer for Vocations

“Ask the master of the harvest to send out laborers”

Holy Father, eternal source of existence and love, who, in living man, show the splendour of your glory, and who put in his heart the seed of your call, let no-one, by reason of our negligence, ignore or lose this gift, but may everyone walk, with wholehearted generosity, towards the realisation of your Love.

Lord Jesus, who in your pilgrimage along the roads of Palestine, chose and called the apostles and entrusted to them their task of preaching the Gospel, feeding the faithful and celebrating divine worship, ensure that today, too, your Church may not lack numerous holy priests, who can bring to all the fruits of your death and resurrection. Holy Spirit, who sanctify the Church with the constant pouring out of your gifts, place into the hearts of those called to the consecrated life a deep-rooted and resolute passion for the Kingdom, so that with a generous and unconditioned “yes”, they may place their entire existences at the service of the Gospel.

Most holy Virgin, who without hesitation offered yourself to the Almighty for the carrying out of his plan of salvation, pour trust into the hearts of young people so that there may always be zealous pastors who are able to guide the Christian people on the way of life, and consecrated souls who may know how to witness, in chastity, poverty, and obedience, to the freeing presence of your risen Son. Amen.

St. Gregory the Great from homilies on the Gospels, 5

“Without cost you have received; without cost you are to give”

You too, if you wish it, can deserve the exalted quality of the name of God’s angel. Each one of you, in so far as he can, in so far as he receives an inspiration from on high, if he recalls his neighbor from his wickedness, takes care to encourage him to do good, proclaims the eternal kingdom or eternal punishment to one astray – each one of you is truly an angel of Jesus’ holy words. No one should say, I am unable to give counsel, I am not qualified to encourage anyone. Do as much as you can, lest you be tormented for having badly kept what you received. He who was given only one talent was more eager to hide it than to distribute it (Mt 25,14f.)… Draw others as far as you consider you have advanced; desire to have comrades on your way toward God. If any of you, my friends, is going to the market, or perhaps to the public baths,he will invite someone whom he sees to have nothing else to do to come with him. That earthly kind of action is habitual among you. So, if you are going toward God, take care not to go to him alone. The one who has already received in his heart a word of heavenly love may also return to his neighbors an external word of encouragement.

St. Francis Xavier from Letter 131, October 22, 1552

“I am sending you like sheep in the midst of wolves”

According to the people here we run two dangers. The first is that, after taking our money, our guide may leave us on some deserted island or throw us into the sea so as to escape the governor of Canton. The second is that, supposing he leads us to Canton and we come into the governor’s presence, the latter will treat us badly or throw us into prison. For our proceeding is unheard of. Numerous decrees prevent any one at all from gaining access to China and it is strictly forbidden for foreigners to make their way in without the king’s authorization. Besides these two dangers there are many other even greater ones, that the locals know nothing about. It would take a good deal of time to describe them all; however, I will not pass by without citing some of them. The first is to lose our hope and trust in God’s mercy. It is for his love and service that we go to make known his law and Jesus Christ his Son, our Redeemer and Lord. He well knows this since it was he, in his blessed mercy, who gave us these desires. But to lack confidence in his mercy and might in the midst of the hazards into which we may fall for his service’ sake is an incomparably greater danger than all the evils the enemies of God might raise up against us. For indeed, if his greater service requires it, he will keep us from the dangers of this life, while without God’s permission and authorization, the devils and their attendants can do nothing at all to harm us.

St. Ambrose from Sermon 20 on Psalm 118 (CSEL 62, 467f.)

Acknowledging Christ before others

You can be a witness to Christ every day. You were tempted by the spirit of impurity but… you considered that chastity of spirit and body should not be soiled: you are a martyr or, in other words, a witness to Christ… You were tempted by the spirit of pride but, seeing the poor and needy, you were seized by tender compassion and preferred humility to arrogance: you are a witness to Christ. Better still: you have not given your witness in word alone but in deed as well.

What is the surest kind of witness? “Anyone who acknowledges that Jesus Christ came among us in the flesh” (cf. 1Jn 4,2) and who keeps the commands of the Gospel… How many there are each day of these hidden martyrs of Christ who confess the Lord Jesus! The apostle Paul knew that kind of martyrdom and witness of faith rendered to Christ, he who said: “Our boast is this, the testimony of our conscience” (2Cor 1,12). For how many people have made a confession of faith exteriorly but denied it interiorly!… So be faithful and courageous in interior persecutions so that you may also win the victory in exterior persecutions. There are “kings and rulers”, judges of formidable power, in the persecutions within, likewise. You have an example of these in the temptations undergone by our Lord (Mt 4,1ff.)

St. Severus of Antioch from Homily 89

“He came down from heaven”

“A man went down from Jerusalem to Jericho.” Christ did not say, “somebody went down” but ” a man went down”, because this passage concerns all humanity. For humanity, as a result of Adam’s sin, left Paradise, our tranquil home on high, where there was no suffering and which was filled with wonders; this place was rightly called Jerusalem, a name which means “God’s Peace.” And all mankind fell towards Jericho, a hollow and low country, where the heat is stifling. Jericho is the feverish life of this world, a life that separates us from God… And once humanity had thus turned away from the right road towards this life, a troop of wild demons came to attack us like a band of robbers. They stripped us of the clothing of perfection, and left us no trace of the strength of mind, purity, justice, or prudence, or anything else which characterizes the divine image (Gn 1:26); but striking us repeatedly by the blows of various sins, they knocked us down and finally left us half dead…

The Law given by Moses passed by, but it lacked strength; it did not lead humanity to a complete cure; it did not raise us up from where we lay… For the Law offered sacrifices and offerings “which could not make perfect those who practised this worship” for it is impossible that the blood of bulls and goats take away sins” (He 10:1.4)…

Finally a Samaritan came to pass. Christ deliberately gives himself the name Samaritan… For he himself came to us, carrying out the intention of the Law and showing by his acts “who is our neighbor” and what it is “to love others as oneself”.

St. John Chrysostom from Homily 45 on the Acts of the Apostles (PG 60: 318-320)

“Whoever gives only a cup of cold water to drink… will surely not lose his reward.”

“I was a stranger,” Christ says, “and you took me in” (Mt 25:35). And again, “In so far as you did this to one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did it to me.” (Mt 25:40). In every believer and brother, though they be least of all, Christ comes to you. Open your house, take them in. “Whoever receives a prophet, shall receive a prophet’s reward.”…

These are the qualities that ought to be in those who welcome strangers: readiness, cheerfulness, liberality. For strangers feel abashed and ashamed, and unless their host shows real joy, they feel slighted and go away, and their being received in this way makes it worse than not to have received them.

Therefore, set aside a room in your house, to which Christ may come; say, “This is Christ’s room; this is set apart for him.” Even if it is very simple, he will not disdain it. Christ goes about “naked and a stranger”; he needs shelter: do not hesitate to give it to him. Do not be uncompassionate, nor inhuman. You are earnest in worldly matters, do not be cold in spiritual matters… You have a place set apart for your chariot, but none for Christ who is wandering by?

Abraham received strangers in his own home (Gn 18); his wife took the place of a servant, the guests the place of masters. They did not know that they were receiving Christ, that they were receiving angels. If Abraham had known it, he would have lavished his whole substance. But we, who know that we receive Christ, do show not as much zeal as he did, who thought that he was receiving mere men.

St. Isaac the Syrian from Spiritual Discourses, 1st series, 72

“Jesus began to reproach the towns where most of his mighty deeds had been done, since they had not repented”

Repentance after baptism has been given to us as an added grace. For repentance is like a second birth coming from God. What we received in earnest through baptism we receive as a complete gift through repentance. Repentance is the door of compassion, open to those who seek it. By this door we enter into divine compassion but outside it we do not find compassion. “For all have sinned,” Holy Scripture says, “and all are freely justified by his grace” (Rom 3,23-24). Repentance is a second grace. It comes to birth in the heart from faith and fear. Fear is the fatherly crook that guides us until we reach the spiritual paradise. When we arrive then it leaves us and goes away.

St. Augustine from Sermon 34 (CCL 41, 423-426)

“I give praise to you, Father”

We are invited to sing a new song to the Lord (Ps 149,1). The new man is the man who knows this new song. Singing is joy and, if we consider the matter more closely, love. Someone who understands about loving this new life knows the new song, and so we need to be informed as to what the new life is for the sake of the new song. All these things belong to the same Kingdom: new man, new song, new covenant. The new man will sing a new song and be a member of the new covenant…

“See!” you will say, “I am singing.” You are singing; yes, you are singing, I can hear you. But be careful that your life doesn’t bear witness against your tongue. Sing with your voice, sing with your heart, sing with your mouth, sing in your conduct: “sing to the Lord a new song.” You are wondering what you are to sing for him whom you love and you cast about for the praises to sing to him. “His praise is in the assembly of the St.s” (Ps 149,1). The praise to be sung is that of the singer. Do you want to sing praise to God? Be yourself what you sing. You are his praise if you live uprightly.

St. Therese of Lisieux of the Child of Jesus from Prayer for Acquiring Humility Prayer no. 20

“Be my disciples”

Jesus! when you were a Pilgrim on earth, you said: “Learn of Me for I am gentle and humble of heart and you will find rest for your souls.” 0 Mighty Monarch of Heaven, yes, my soul finds rest in seeing you, clothed in the form and nature of a slave (Phil 2,7), humbling yourself to wash the feet of your apostles.

I recall your words that teach me how to practice humility: “I have given you an example so that you may do what I have done. The disciple is not greater than the Master …. If you understand this, happy are you if you put them into practice” (Jn 13,15-17). Lord, I do understand these words that came from your gentle and humble Heart and I want to practice them with the help of your grace.

I want truly to humble myself and to submit my will to that of my sisters. I do not wish to contradict them nor seek to see whether or not they have the right to command me. O my Beloved, no one had this right over you and yet you obeyed not only the Blessed Virgin and St. Joseph but even your executioners. Now in the Sacred Host I see you at the height of your annihilations. How humble you are, O divine King of Glory… O my Beloved, how gentle and humble of heart you seem under the veil of the white Host!… O Jesus, gentle and humble of heart, make my heart like yours.

 

St. Aelred of Rielvaux from the Mirror of Charity, III, 3,4

Keeping the Sabbath

We must expend our energy in good works before we can take our rest with a peaceful conscience… And this is the joyful solemnity of our first day of rest, on which day we put aside servile works… casting down the burden of our passions. When we have celebrated our first Sabbath in the peace of our own hearts, we can go on to consider how this heart of ours must be enlarged, so as to become a great hospice in which to “rejoice with those who rejoice and weep with those who weep” (Rom 12,15).

If our brethren are weak, we must be weak with them, and when they are led to sin, we must be indignant (cf. 2Cor 11,29). Each of us must feel in soul how charity binds us to all our fellows. There must be no room in our hearts for envy or indignation, for suspicion or moroseness. On the contrary, we must gather everyone to our hearts to share in our peace, and embrace and cherish them so as to have “one heart and mind” (Acts 4,32) with them all. In our hearts there will be absolute peace from everything evil and vicious and selfish, as we rest in the gentle enjoyment of fraternal love…

In this Sabbath we have… the prophet David to sing to us in a joyful strain: “Behold how good it is, how pleasant, to dwell in unity!” (Ps 133[132],1).

Origen from Commentary on the Gospel of John 32, 4 (PG 14, 741-752)

“See my servant”

During a meal Jesus rose from table and set aside his outer garments, assuming the appearance of a slave, as these words show: “He took a towel and tied it around his waist” so as not to be completely naked and to use his own towel to wipe his disciples’ feet (Jn 13,2-5). See from this how greatly the greatness and glory of the Word made flesh humbles itself! He “poured water into a basin” to wash his disciples’ feet.

“Abraham looked up and saw men standing before him. He ran from the entrance of his tent to greet them; and bowing to the ground, he said: ‘Sir, if I may ask this favor, please do not go on past your servant’” (Gn 18,2-3). However, Abraham did not himself fetch water, nor did he announce that he himself was going to wash the strangers’ feet on their coming to him, but he said: “Let some water be brought that your feet may be washed.” In the same way, neither did Joseph bring water to wash the feet of his eleven brothers himself, but it was his steward who “brought them water to wash their feet” (Gn 43,24).

But he who declared: “I have come not to be served but to serve” (Mt 20,28) and very rightly said: “Learn from me for I am meek and humble of heart” (Mt 11,29), himself poured water into the basin. He knew there was no one else but he who could wash the disciples’ feet if that purification was to enable them to have a part with him. The water, I think, was a word able to wash the disciples’ feet when they came to the basin Jesus had put there for them.

St. Teresa of Avila from Way of Perfection, ch. 17, 5-7

Martha and Mary

St. Martha was a saint, even though they do not say she was contemplative. Well now, what more do you want than to be able to resemble this blessed woman who merited so often to have Christ our Lord in her home, give him food, serve him, and eat at table with him [and even from his plate]?? If she had been enraptured like the Magdalene, there wouldn’t have been anyone to give food to the divine Guest.

Well, think of this congregation as the home of St. Martha and that there must be people for every task. And those who are led by the active life shouldn’t complain about those who are very much absorbed in contemplation… and let them consider themselves lucky to serve with Martha. Let them consider how true humility consists very much in great readiness to be content with whatever the Lord may want to do with them and in always finding oneself unworthy to be called his servant.

If contemplating, practicing mental and vocal prayer, taking care of the sick, helping with household chores, and working even at the lowliest tasks are all ways of serving the Guest who comes to be with us and eat: and recreate, what difference does it make whether we serve: in the one way or the other?

I don’t say that we shouldn’t try; on the contrary, we should try everything. What I am saying is that this is not a matter of your choosing but of the Lord’s… Leave it up to the Lord of the house.

St. Peter Chrysologus from Sermon 3 (PL 52, 303-306, CCL 24,211-215)

The sign of Jonah

See how the prophet Jonah’s flight away from God (Jon 1,3) is transformed into a prophetic image, and what was described as a fatal shipwreck is turned into the sign of the Lord’s Resurrection. The very text of the story of Jonah clearly shows him to be a perfect image of our Savior. It is written that Jonah “fled from before the face of God.”

And did not our Lord himself flee from the condition and appearance of the divine nature to assume the condition and appearance of man? This is how the apostle Paul puts it: “Though he was divine he did not regard equality with God something to be grasped but emptied himself, taking the condition of a slave” (Phil 2,6-7).

He who is Lord put on the condition of a slave; to go unrecognised in the world, to conquer the devil, he fled from himself within man… God is everywhere: it is impossible to flee from him. To “flee far away from the face of God” Christ hid himself, not spatially, but as it were through appearance – under the appearance of our slavery, which he wholly assumed.

The text then continues: “Jonah went down to Joppa to escape to Tarshish.” This is the person who came down: “No one has gone up to heaven except the one who has come down from heaven” (Jn 3,13). Our Lord came down from heaven to earth; God came down to man; the almighty has come down to our servitude. But the Jonah who came down to the ship had to go up for the voyage; so too Christ, after coming down to this world, went up into the ship of the Church through his virtues and miracles.

St. `{`Padre`}` Pio de Pietrelcina from GC, 21: AdFP, 563; GC, 24

“Whoever does the will of my heavenly Father is my brother, and sister, and mother” Mary, the Mother of Jesus, well knew it would be by her son’s death that redemption would have to be accomplished, yet she too wept and suffered immensely!

If our Lord shows himself to you, give thanks; and if he hides, do likewise. All this is love’s game. In her kindness may the Virgin Mary continue to gain for you from our Lord the strength to bear without flinching the many proofs of love he shows you. My wish is that you may come to die on the cross with him and may cry out in union with him: “It is finished”.

May Mary transform all the sufferings of your life into joy.

St. Augustine from Sermons on St. John's Gospel, no. 121, 3 (PL 35) Spiritually Touching Christ

“Jesus said to her: “Stop holding on to me, for I have not yet ascended to my Father.” These words contain a truth we need to consider attentively. Jesus is teaching faith to this woman who had recognised him as her Lord and given him this title. The divine gardener was sowing a grain of mustard seed in Mary Magdalene’s heart just as he would have done in a garden… So what does it mean: “Stop holding on to me, for I have not yet ascended to my Father”?…

By these words Jesus intended that faith in him, faith by which he is touched spiritually, should extend even as far as believing that he and his Father are one (Jn 10,30). Because whoever proceeds into him until they recognize him to be equal to his Father rises up to the Father, after a fashion, within the depths of their soul. Otherwise Christ is not touched as he desires; in other words, we do not have the faith in him he is asking for.

Mary could have believed in him while still not thinking him to be the Father’s equal, which is what these words prevent her doing: “Stop holding on to me.” Namely: “Don’t believe in me according to your present mind. Don’t stop short at thinking about what I became for your sake without rising up to consider him by whom you were made.” How could she not believe – as yet in an only too human fashion – him for whom she wept simply as a man? “I have not yet risen to my Father.” “You will touch me when you believe that I am God and am wholly equal to the Father.”

St. `{`Padre`}` Pio de Pietrelcina from Epistle 3; 579 (CE 54)

To bear fruit, free from worldly anxiety

Advance with simplicity on the pathways of God, and do not worry. Hate your defects, yes, but quietly, without excitement, nor anxiety. It is necessary to be patient with them and to benefit from them through holy humility. For if you lack of patience, your imperfections, instead of disappearing, will only grow. Because there is nothing which strengthens our defects as much anxiety and obsession to be rid of them.

Cultivate your vineyard together with Jesus. To you the task of removing stones and pulling up brambles. To Jesus, that of sowing, planting, cultivating and watering. But even in your work, it is still him who acts. Because without Christ, you could do nothing whatsoever.

St. John Chrysostom from Homilies on the Gospel of St. Matthew, 46, 1-2

The parable of the weeds

It is always the devil’s way to mix the truth with errors draped in the outward appearance and hues of truth, in such a way as more easily to lead astray those who permit themselves to be deceived. That is why Our Lord only speaks of weeds since these are plants that look like wheat. He then describes how he goes about deceiving “while people are sleeping”.

From this we see the serious danger run by leaders, especially those to whom has been entrusted the care of the field. Moreover, this danger does not only threaten leaders but their subordinates too. And this also shows us how error follows truth… Christ tells us this to teach us not to fall asleep…, from which there arises the need of vigilant watching. Which is why he said: “Whoever stands firm to the end will be saved” (Mt 10,22)…

Now consider the servants’ zeal: they want to collect the weeds at once. Even if they fall short in reflexion this does at least prove their care for the harvest. They are only concerned about one thing: not to avenge themselves on the one who had sown the weeds but to save the harvest – hence they attempt to get rid of the evil altogether… What does the Lord say then?… He stops them for two reasons: first, from fear of harming the wheat; second, the conviction that punishment will inevitably strike down those afflicted by this mortal sickness. If we want them to be punished without the harvest suffering from it, let us wait for the proper moment… Moreover, perhaps some portion of those weeds will be turned into wheat? So if you pull them up now you will damage the future harvest by pulling up the ones that may change to something better.

St. John Chrysostom from Homilies on the Gospel of St. Matthew, 46, 2-3

The parable of the leaven

Our Lord then discusses the image of the leaven:… Just as leaven communicates its force to the dough, so will you, too, transform the whole world… Don’t object: ‘What can we do who are but twelve, sent out into the midst of such a great crowd of people?’ Precisely what will make your power burst forth will be your confronting the multitude without flinching…

Christ alone is the one who gives its force to the leaven and, so that we might transmit our knowledge to others, he has mixed into the crowd people destined to have faith in him. So let no one criticize him for the small number of these disciples since the power of the message is great, and when the mass has fermented it will become leaven, in its turn, for what remains…

Yet if twelve men have leavened the whole world, how wretched are we who, in spite of our great numbers, can’t even succeed in converting those around us even though such numbers should be enough to become leaven for thousands of worlds! ‘But those twelve were the apostles!’ you say. So what? Weren’t they in exactly the same state as ourselves? Didn’t they live in towns? Didn’t they share our lot? Didn’t they carry on with their jobs? Were they angels from heaven, then? Are you going to say they worked miracles? But that isn’t the reason for our admiring them. How long are we going to talk about their miracles to hide our own laziness?…

So, then, where does the greatness of the apostles come from? From their disdain for wealth and glory… It is our way of living that conveys true splendor and brings down the Spirit’s grace.

Blessed Teresa of Calcutta from A Simple Path

“The good seed is the children of the kingdom”

There aren’t two worlds – the physical and the spiritual – there’s only one: God’s Kingdom on earth as it is in heaven (Mt 6,10).

Many of us pray, “Our Father, who art in heaven,” thinking that God is up there, which creates the duality of two worlds. A lot of people in the West like to keep matter and the spirit very comfortably and conveniently apart. All truth is one, all reality is one. As soon as we take the enfleshment of God, the incarnation, which for Christians is represented by the person of Jesus Christ, then we start taking things seriously.

St. Bonaventure from Life of St. Francis, Legenda Major, ch. 7

The pearl of great price

Among the gifts of grace which Francis received from God the generous Giver, he merited as a special privilege to grow in the riches of simplicity through his love of the highest poverty. The holy man saw that poverty was the close companion of the Son of God, and now that it was rejected by the whole world, he was eager to espouse it in everlasting love. For the sake of poverty he not only left his father and “mother, but also gave away everything he had. No one was so greedy for gold as he was for poverty; nor was anyone so anxious to guard his treasure as he was in guarding this pearl of the Gospel.

In this especially would his sight be offended if he saw in the friars anything which did not accord completely with poverty. Indeed, from the beginning of his religious life until his death, his only riches were a tunic, a cord and underclothes; and with this much he was content. He used to frequently call to mind with tears the poverty of Jesus Christ and his mother, claiming that it was the queen of the virtues because it shone forth so preeminently in the King of kings (1Tm 6,15) and in the Queen, his mother.

When the friars asked him at a gathering what virtue does more to make one a friend of Christ, he replied as if opening the hidden depths of his heart: “Know, brothers, that poverty is the special way to salvation, as the stimulus of humility and the root of perfection, whose fruit is manifold but hidden. This is the Gospel’s treasure “hidden in a field” (Matt. 13:44); to buy this we should sell everything, and in comparison to this we should spurn everything we cannot sell.”

St. Augustine from Sermons on St. John's Gospel, 49, 15

“Whoever believes in me, even if he dies, will live; and everyone who lives and believes in me will never die.” What is being said? “Whoever believes in me, even if he is dead like Lazarus, will live” because God is not God of the dead but God of the living. Already concerning Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, those long-dead patriarchs, Jesus had given the same reply: “He is the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac and the God of Jacob; he is not God of the dead but of the living, for to him all are alive” (Lk 20,37-38).

Believe, then; and though you were dead, you will live! But if you do not believe, then although you may be living, actually, you are dead… From where comes death in the soul? From the fact that faith is no longer there. From where comes the death of the body? From the fact that the soul is no longer there. The soul’s soul is faith. “Whoever believes in me, even though he die in body will be alive in soul until the body itself rises again to die no more. And whoever lives in the flesh and believes in me, although he must die in his body for a season, will not die for ever because of the life of the Spirit and immortality of the resurrection.”

That is what Jesus’ reply to Martha meant… “Do you believe this” “Yes, Lord,” she answered, “I have come to believe that you are the Messiah, the Son of God, the one who is coming into the world. Believing this, I have believed you are the resurrection; I have believed you are the life; I have believed that whoever believes in you, though he die, will live; I have believed that whoever lives and believes in you will never die eternally.”

Blessed John XXIII from Journal of a Soul, 1901-1903

“Where did this man get such wisdom… ? Is he not the carpenter’s son?”

Every time I think of the profound mystery of the obscure, humble life of Jesus, during the first thirty years, I am more and more astounded and words fail me. It is very clear that before such a shining example the judgements and way of thinking not only of this world but also of overwhelming majority of ecclesiastics lose all value and seem in contradiction to it.

As for me, I confess that I still cannot form an idea of what this humility must be like. However much I study it, I seem to achieve only the semblance of humility; its real spirit, Jesus Christ in Nazareth’s love to be unknown, is known to me only by name. To think that our blessed Savior spent thirty years of his life in obscurity, and yet he was God, he was the “splendor of the substance of the Father” (Heb 1,3), he had come to save the world; and he did all this only to show us how necessary humility is and how it must be practised. And I, such a great sinner and so totally unworthy, think only of being pleased with myself and congratulating myself on my good results, all for the sake of a little worldly honour. I cannot conceive even the holiest thought without its being tinged with considerations of my own reputation with men… In the last analysis, it is only with the greatest effort that I can resign myself to the thought of real obscurity such as Jesus experienced and such as he has taught me to desire.

St. Peter Damian from Sermons 24-25

Precursor in life and death

Forerunner of Christ, John became so by his birth, his preaching, his baptism and his death… Can we find a single virtue or a single form of holiness that the Forerunner did not possess in the highest degree? Who among the holy hermits ever imposed on himself the rule of taking nothing as food but wild honey or that inedible dish – locusts! There are some who renounce the world and fly from men to live a holy life, but John was no more than a child… when he buried himself in the desert and determined to inhabit its solitudes. He renounced his right to succeed his father in the priestly office so that he could freely proclaim the true and supreme High Priest.

The prophets preached beforehand the coming of the Savior; the apostles and other teachers of the Church testify this coming to have truly taken place; but John shows it to be present among us. There are many who have preserved their virginity and kept unsullied the whiteness of their garment (cf. Rv 14,4), but John has forsaken all human company that he might root out the lusts of the flesh by their roots and, full of spiritual zeal, might dwell with wild beasts.

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John is at the very heart of the scarlet choir of martyrs as leader of them all: bravely he fought and died for the truth. He has become the leader of all who fight for Christ and was the first to plant the triumphal standard of martyrdom in heaven.

St. Basil from Homily 6 (PG 31, 261f)

“Rich in what matters to God”

“What shall I do? Where am I to find something to eat, something to wear?” This is what that rich man was saying. His heart aches and anxiety gnaws at him because those things that give pleasure to others oppress the miser. The fact that all his barns are full brings him no happiness. The over-abundance of wealth pouring out of his granary is what grievously disturbs his soul…

Think, O man, of him who has covered you with his bounty. Reflect on yourself a little. Who are you? What is it that has been entrusted to you? From whom have you received this responsibility? Why have you been chosen rather than a good many others? The God of all goodness has made you his steward; you have charge over your fellow servants: don’t imagine that it’s all been prepared for your stomach alone! So dispose of the good things you hold in your hand as though they belonged to others. The enjoyment they bring you does not last for long; very soon they will slip away and vanish; but of you a strict account will be demanded. But as for you, you guard it all under lock and key, and even though you have it all shut up, worry prevents you from sleeping…

“What shall I do?” The answer is close to hand: “I will satisfy the hungry soul, open my barns and invite all those in need… I will let them hear these generous words: ‘All you who lack bread, come to me; take your share of the gifts God has granted, each to his satisfaction.”

St. Hilary from Commentary on St. Matthew's Gospel, 14, 12

“Looking up to heaven, he said the blessing”

After taking the loaves our Lord raised his eyes to heaven to worship Him from whom he himself had his being. He was not obliged to look towards the Father with his fleshly eyes but he wished those present to understand who it was from whom he had received the ability to carry out a gesture of such power. Then he gave the loaves to his disciples. It wasn’t through multiplication that those five loaves became many. The fragments followed one another and deceived those breaking them; it was as though they had been cut into pieces beforehand! Matter continues to be produced… Therefore, don’t be surprised that springs flow on, that there are bunches of grapes on the stock of the vine and that rivers of wine flow from the grapes. The earth’s whole resources spread according to an unalterable annual rhythm. A multiplication of loaves such as this reveals the author of the world’s doing. As a general rule he sets a limit to such growth since he knows in depth the laws of matter. In the visible creation an invisible work takes place. The mystery of the present deed is the work of the Lord of heavenly mysteries. The power of the One who acts surpasses all nature, and the method used by this Power goes beyond all our understanding of it. All that remains is our wonder before this power.

A Sermon Attributed to St. Augustine (Appendix no. 192, PL 39, 2100)

“Command me to come to you on the water”

When Peter courageously moves across the sea, his feet are unsteady but his love grows strong…; his feet sink down but he clings to the Christ’s hand. Faith upholds him so long as he feels the waves making way. Troubled by the storm, he takes heart in his love for the Savior. Peter walks across the sea borne up more by love than his feet…

He pays no attention to what his feet are treading on; all he sees are the footprints of him whom he loves. He saw his Lord from his position of safety in the boat and, led by love, climbed down into the sea. He no longer sees the sea but Jesus alone.

But no sooner is he troubled by the strength of the wind and overcome by the storm than fear begins to overshadow his faith…, the water vanishes from beneath his feet. Faith weakens and the water with it. Then he cries out: “Lord, save me!” And at once Jesus, stretching out his hand, saves him and says: “O man of little faith, why did you doubt? Is your faith so small that you were unable to press on towards me? Why didn’t you have sufficient faith to reach your end by relying on it? From now on keep this in mind: that it was only this faith that was holding you up above the waves.” And so, my brethren, Peter doubts for an instant; he is about to drown; but he is saved by calling on the Lord… Now, this world is a sea whose waves are stirred up by the devil and where temptations increase the number of shipwrecks. We can only be saved by calling on the Lord who reaches out his hand to catch us. So continually cry out to him.

John Tauler from Sermon 9

“O woman, great is your faith!”

“Have pity on me, Lord, son of David!” This is a cry for help of immense force…, a groan emerging as if from fathomless depths. It greatly surpasses our nature for it is the Holy Spirit himself who puts forth this groaning within us (Rom 8,26)… But Jesus says to her: “I was sent only to the lost sheep of the house of Israel.” … And what did she do, thus dismissed as she was?… She descended even more deeply into the abyss. Stooping down and humbling herself she continued to trust and said: “Please, Lord, for even the dogs eat the scraps that fall from the table of their masters.”

Ah! If only you, too, could manage to penetrate the depths of truth so truly, not through learned treatises, grandiose words or even with the senses, but within your own real depths. Neither God nor any creature would be able to tread you under foot or crush you if only you would remain in the truth, in trustful humility.

People might affront, despise or rebuff you but you would stand firm in your perseverance, pushing down even deeper still, filled with complete confidence, and would increase in persistence even more. Everything depends on this and whoever reaches this point will succeed. These paths, and these alone, are what truly lead to God without any stopping places in between. Yet there are few who remain in this great humility in this way, with the perseverance and whole and entire confidence like this woman.

Blessed Teresa of Calcutta From: 'No Greater Love'

The sacrament of reconciliation: “Whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven”

Confession is a splendid act, an act of great love. Confession is the only place to which we take ourselves as sinners, as bearers of sin, and come away as sinners who have been forgiven, without sin.

Confession is nothing other than humility put into action. Formerly, we used to call it “penance”, but the truth is that it is a sacrament of love, a sacrament of forgiveness. When a breach opens up between me and Christ, when my love cracks, all sorts of things may come to fill up the crack. Confession is the time when I let Christ take away all cause of separation, everything that destroys. The reality of my sins has to be the first thing. For most of us the danger of forgetting we are sinners, and must go to confession as such, hangs over us. We must go to God to tell him how sorry we are for all we could have done and that has wounded him.

The confessional is not a place for trite conversations or gossip. One subject alone holds sway: my sins, my sorrow, my forgiveness, how to overcome my temptations, how to put virtue into practice, how to grow in the love of God.

St. Cyril of Alexandria from Homilies on the Transfiguration, 9 (PG 77, 1011)

“Moses and Elijah… spoke of his exodus that he was going to accomplish in Jerusalem”

With three chosen disciples Jesus went up the mountain. Then he was transfigured by a wonderful light that made even his clothes seem to shine. Moses and Elijah stood by him and spoke with him of how he was going to complete his task on earth by dying in Jerusalem. In other words, they spoke of the mystery of his incarnation, and of his saving passion upon the cross. For the law of Moses and the teaching of the holy prophets clearly foreshadowed the mystery of Christ…

The presence of Moses and Elijah, and their speaking together, was meant to show unmistakably that the law and the prophets were the attendants of our Lord Jesus Christ… They did not simply appear in silence; they spoke of how Jesus was to complete his task by dying in Jerusalem, they spoke of his passion and cross, and of the resurrection that would follow.

Thinking no doubt that the time for the kingdom of God had already come, Peter would gladly have remained on the mountain. He suggested putting up three tents, hardly knowing what he was saying. But it was not yet time for the end of the world; nor was it in this present time that the hopes of the saints would be fulfilled – those hopes founded on Paul’s promise that Christ “would transform our lowly bodies into the likeness of his heavenly body” (Phil 3,21).

Only the initial stage of the divine plan had as yet been accomplished. Until its completion was it likely that Christ, who came on earth for love of the world, would give up his wish to die for it? For his submitting to death was the world’s salvation, and his resurrection was death’s destruction.

St. Thomas More from Dialogue of Comfort against Tribulation

“I do believe; help my unbelief!” (Mk 9,24)

“Lord, increase our faith” (Lk 17,5). Let us consider, by Christ’s saying to them, that, if we would not suffer the strength and fervor of our faith to wax lukewarm – or rather, key-cold – and lose its vigor by scattering our minds abroad about so many trifling things that we very seldom think of the matters of our faith, we should withdraw our thought from the respect and regard of all worldy fantasies, and so gather our faith together into a little narrow room.

And like the little grain of mustard seed… we should set it in the garden of our soul, all weeds being pulled out for the better feeding of our faith. Then shall it grow and…through the true belief of God’s word… we shall be well able to command a great mountain of tribulation to void from the place where it stood in our heart, whereas, with a very feeble faith and faint, we shall be scarcely able to remove a little hillock. And therefore, as for the first conclusion, since we must of necessity before any spiritual comfort presuppose the foundation of faith, and since no man can give us faith but only God, let us never cease to call upon God for it.

St. Ambrose from Mysteries, 6-21 (trans. SC 25, 122)

Lent leads us to a baptismal resurrection

Naaman was a Syrian who had leprosy and could not be cured by anyone. Then a young slave girl said there was a prophet in Israel who could cleans him of his leprous affliction… Now learn who was that young girl among his slaves: she was the youthful gathering from among all the Gentiles, namely the Church of the Lord, who had formerly been crushed by the slavery of sin when as yet she did not possess the freedom of grace. It was on her advice that this empty-headed gentile people paid attention to the prophets’ words, which they had long held in doubt. No sooner had he believed he must obey than he was washed free of every infection from his misdeeds. Naaman had doubted before his cure; but you have been cured already and therefore ought not to doubt.

This is the reason why you have already been told not just to believe what you see as you draw near to the baptistery, lest you say: “Is this the great mystery that ‘eye has not seen nor ear heard, nor has it entered into the human heart’? (1Cor 2,9). I see water as I see it every day; can these waters, into which I have frequently gone down without ever being cleansed, make me clean?” Learn from this that water does not cleanse without the Spirit. This is why you have read that: the “three witnesses at baptism are one: the water, the blood and the Spirit” (1Jn 5,7-8). For if you take one of these away it is no longer the sacrament of baptism.

Indeed, what use is the water without the cross of Christ? It’s just plain matter without any kind of sacramental effect. Similarly, without water there is no mystery of regeneration. “No one can enter the kingdom of God without being born of water and the Spirit” (Jn 3,5). The catechumen believes in the cross of the Lord Jesus with which he is signed, but if he has not been baptised in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit he cannot receive the remission of his sins nor draw from the gift of spiritual grace.

So this Syrian immersed himself seven times in the Law, but you have been baptised in the name of the Trinity. You have confessed the Father…., you have confessed the Son, you have confessed the Holy Spirit… You have died to the world and risen again for God and, after a certain fashion, been buried in this worldly element at the same time. Dead to sin, you have been raised for eternal life (Rm 6,4).

St. John Chrysostom from Homily 20 on the Letter to the Ephesians, 4, 8, 9 (PG 62:140f)

“A man shall… be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh”

What should you be saying to your wife? Tell her with great gentleness: “…I have chosen you; I love you and prefer you to my own life. Life in the present is nothing and so I perform all my prayers, intentions and every action that we may be granted to spend this life in such a way as to be reunited in the life to come without further fear of separation. Our present life is short and tenuous.

If it is granted us to be pleasing to God now we shall be with Christ and each other forever in unending happiness. It is your love that enraptures me more than anything else and I could not know a more unbearable misfortune than to be parted from you. Were I to lose everything and become poorer than a beggar, run the ultimate risks or undergo anything at all, it would all be bearable for me so long as your love for me holds firm. Only by counting on this love will I hope for children.”

You must also match your conduct to these words… Show your wife how much you value living with her and that, because of her, you prefer being at home to the public square. Prefer her to all your friends and even to the children she has borne you, and let these be loved by you for her sake…

Say your prayers together. Let each of you go to church and, back at home, let the husband ask an account from his wife and the wife from her husband concerning whatever was said or read… Learn the fear of God and all the rest will flow as from a spring and your house will be filled with countless blessings. Let us aspire to those good things that are incorruptible and the rest will not pass us by. “Seek first the Kingdom of God and all the rest will be added to you” (Mt 6,33).

Blessed Guerric of Igny From 1st Sermon from Christmas (SC 166, 167 rev.)

Receiving God’s Kingdom like a little child

Unto us a little Child is born, and “emptying out” his majesty God has taken on himself not merely the earthly body of mortal men but even the weakness and insignificance of children. O blessed childhood, whose weakness and foolishness is stronger and wiser than any man; for it is the strength and wisdom of God that does his work in us, does the work of God in men.

It is the very weakness of this Child that triumphs over the prince of this world, binds the strong man armed, takes the cruel tyrant captive, looses our captivity and sets us free. This Child’s seeming dumbness, his childhood’s simplicity, makes the tongues of children eloquent, makes them speak with the tongues of men and angels… It is he, who seems to know nothing, who teaches knowledge to men and angels, for he is the very God of all knowledge, the Wisdom of God, the Word.

sweet and sacred childhood, which brought back man’s true innocence, by which men of every age can return to blessed childhood and be conformed to you, not in physical weakness but in humility of heart and holiness of life. In a word then you sons of Adam, who are exceedingly great in your own eyes… unless you are converted and become like this little Child, you shall not enter into the kingdom of Heaven. “I am the Gate of the Kingdom,” this little Child says, and unless man’s proud head is bowed the doorway of humility will not let him in.

St. Vincent de Paul from Conference, Feb. 2, 1659

Seek first the kingdom of God

“Seek first the kingdom of God and its righteousness and everything you need will be added to you”… It is said, then, that we should seek the Kingdom of God. “That we should seek”: it’s a simple word but it seems to me to be saying a great deal. It means… unceasing work for God’s Kingdom, not remaining in an indolent, motionless state but paying attention to one’s interior state so as to govern it well, not playing around at the exterior level…

Seek God within yourself since St. Augustine confesses that, so long as he sought him outside himself, he failed to find him. Seek him in your soul as in a pleasant dwelling place because this is the basis on which those servants of his who try to put all the virtues into practice establish them. We have to have an interior life, we have to move towards this; lacking this we lack everything… Let us try to make ourselves interior… Let us seek God’s glory, seek the reign of Jesus Christ…

“But, [you will tell me], there’s so much to do, so many household jobs, so much business in town, in the fields; work everywhere! Do we have to abandon it all, then, so as to think of nothing but God?” No; but these occupations have to be sanctified by seeking God in them and doing them to find him in them rather than to see them done.

What our Lord wants is for us to seek his glory, his kingdom, his righteousness before all else and, for this, to make our foundation the interior life, faith, trust, love, religious exercises…, labors and sufferings, with God our sovereign Lord in view… Once we are firmly set in the search for God’s glory we can be assured that the rest will follow.

St. Basil from Homily 7 (PG 31, 278)

“At that statement… he went away sad”

The incident of the rich young man and those like him makes me think of that of a traveler who, wanting to visit a certain town, arrives at the foot of the walls, finds an inn there, goes down to it and, discouraged by the short distance still to do, loses all the benefit of the difficulties of his journey and prevents himself from visiting the beauties of the town. Such are those who keep the commandments but can’t bear the idea of losing their goods. I know many people who fast, pray, do penance, and practise all sorts of works of piety very well, but who don’t spend a cent on the poor. What good are their other virtues to them?

These won’t enter the Kingdom of heaven, for “it is easier for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the Kingdom of heaven”. Clear words, and their author does not lie, but rare are those who let themselves be touched by them. “How will we live when we are stripped of everything?” is what they exclaim. “What sort of life will we lead when everything has been sold and there is no longer any property?” Don’t ask me what deep design underlies God’s commandments. He who made our laws also knows the art of reconciling the impossible with the law.

Isaac of Stella from Sermon 33, for 2nd Sunday of Lent (SC 207, 221-227)

“Jesus withdrew to the region of Tyr “

“Then Jesus went from that place and withdrew to the region of Tyre and Sidon” (Mt 15,21). When “the Word, the Voice of God, became flesh and made his dwelling among us” (Jn 1,14) he “came from the Father and came into the world” (Jn 16,28). He “who was in the form of God” came forth from his fatherland to “empty himself, taking the form of a slave” (Phil 2,6-7), “in the likeness of sinful flesh” (Rm 8,3), that he might be found by those who leave their own district to find him in the region of Tyre and Sidon…

Let that Canaanite woman, then, come out from the interior of her district (Mt 15,22) to meet up at her country’s border with the physician who, of his own free will, has left his own region out of compassion. Graciously he comes in person into foreign territory to the sick child who would have been unable to approach him if he had remained in his own. For, insofar as he is God, the blessed, just and strong, he dwelt on high where wretched humankind was forbidden to ascend… And so, full of compassion, he accomplished what is fitting to pity: it was he who came to the sinner…

Let each of us then, my brethren, likewise come out from the place of our own unrighteousness… Hate sin and, behold, you have left sin. When you hate sin you have encountered Christ in the place where he is to be found… But you will say that even this is a great deal for you and that, without God’s grace, it is impossible for you to hate sin and desire righteousness, not want to sin but want to repent.

“Let them give thanks to the Lord for his kindness and his wondrous deeds to the children of men!” (Ps 107[106],8). Indeed, if it is by his grace that he visibly withdrew to the region of Tyre and Sidon where this woman could encounter him, it is also by grace that he secretly drew the woman from her most interior dwelling place…

This woman symbolizes the Church, which was eternally predestined, called and justified in time and destined for glory at the end of time (cf. Rm 8,30). She prays without ceasing for her daughter, which is to say for all the elect.

St. Ambrose from Commentary on the Gospel of St. Luke, 6, 73-88 (SC 45, 254f. rev.)

“If I send them away hungry to their homes, they will collapse on the way”

Lord Jesus, how well I know you have no wish to allow these people here with me to remain hungry but to feed them with the food you distribute, and so, strengthened with your food, they will have no fear of collapsing from hunger. I know, too, that you have no wish to send us away hungry, either…

As you have said: you do not want them to collapse on the way, meaning to collapse in the byways of this life, before reaching the end of the road, before coming to the Father and understanding that you come from the Father…

Our Lord takes pity, then, so that none may collapse along the way… Just as he makes it rain on the just as well as the unjust (Mt 5,45) so he feeds the just as well as the unjust. Was it not thanks to the strength of the food that the holy prophet Elijah, when he was collapsing on the way, was able to walk for forty days? (1Kgs 19,8).

It was an angel who gave that food to him but, in your case, it is Christ himself who feeds you. If you preserve the food you have received in this way then you will walk, not forty days and forty nights… but for forty years, from your departure from the borders of Egypt to your arrival in the land of plenty, the land where milk and honey flow (Ex 3,8)…

And so Christ shares out the foodstuffs and, there is no question, he wants to give it to all. He withholds it from no one for he provides for everyone. Nevertheless, when he breaks the loaves and gives them to the disciples, unless you hold out your hands to receive your portion, you will collapse along the way…

This bread that Jesus breaks is the mystery of the Word of God: it increases as it is distributed. With only a few words Jesus has provided abundant nourishment for all peoples. He has given us his words as bread and, while we are tasting them, they increase in our mouths… Even as the crowds are eating, the pieces increase and become more numerous to such an extent that, in the end, the leftovers are even more plentiful than the loaves that were shared.

St. Irenaeus of Lyons from Against the Heresies, 4, 13, 3, (SC 100 525f. rev)

The Law rooted in our hearts

The Law contains natural prescriptions that already administer justice, and even before the gift of the Law to Moses, people observed these prescriptions and were justified by their faith and were pleasing to God. The Lord has not abolished those prescriptions but developed and fulfilled them as the following words testify: “You have heard that it was said: ‘You shall not commit adultery.’ But I say to you, everyone who looks at a woman with lust has already committed adultery with her in his heart.” (Mt 5,27-28).

And again: “It was said: ‘ You shall not kill.’ But I say to you: whoever is angry with his brother without reason will be answerable to the court” (cf. Mt 5,21f.)… And so on. None of these prescriptions imply either the contradiction nor the abolition of those that preceded them, but their fulfilment and development. As the Lord himself says: “Unless your righteousness surpasses that of the scribes and Pharisees, you will not enter into the kingdom of heaven” (Mt 5,20).

What does this development consist in? In the first place, no longer believing only in the Father but also in his Son who, from now on, has been manifested. For it is he who leads us to communion and union with God. Then, not in speaking only but in doing – for “they preach but do not practice” (Mt 23,3) – and in preserving ourselves not just from evil deeds but even from the desire of them.

By teaching this he was not replacing the Law but fulfilling the Law and rooting the precepts of the Law more deeply within us…To ordain the abstention not only of acts forbidden by the Law but even of desire for them is not the actions of someone who contradicts and abolishes the Law; it is the action of someone who fulfils and extends it.

St. Hilary from The Trinity, Bk. 12, 52-53

“Why does this generation seek a sign?”

Father Most Holy, God Almighty…, when I raise the faint light of my eyes towards the sky, how can I doubt it to be your heaven? When I contemplate the movement of the stars and their yearly cycle; when I see the Pleiades, Little Bear and Morning Star and consider how each of them shines in the watch assigned to it, then I understand, O God, that you are there in those stars beyond my understanding.

When I see “the breakers of the sea” (Ps 93[92],4) I cannot grasp the origin of their waters or even what sets their ebb and flow in motion. And yet– impenetrable though it be for me – I believe there to be a cause to these facts of which I have no knowledge and there, too, I perceive your presence.

If I turn my mind towards the earth which, by means of the energy of hidden forces, decomposes all the seeds it has received in its womb, slowly causes them to germinate and multiply, then enables them to grow, I see nothing in all this that I could understand with my intellect. But even this ignorance helps me to discern you since, if I have no knowledge of the nature placed at my service, yet I understand you by the mere fact that it is there for my use.

And if I turn towards my own self, this experience tells me that I do not understand myself and I wonder at you all the more in that I am a stranger to myself. Indeed, even if I am unable to comprehend them, I have an experience of the movements of my mind as it judges, of its operations, of its life. And it is to you that I owe this experience, you who have given me a share in this sensible nature, which is my joy even if its origin is beyond the grasp of my intelligence. I do not understand my own self but it is in myself that I find you and, in finding you, adore you.

St. John of the Cross from The Ascent of Mount Carmel, II, 3

“Do you not yet understand or comprehend?”

Faith, the theologians say, is a certain and obscure habit of soul.! It is an obscure habit because it brings us to believe divinely revealed truths that transcend every natural light and infinitely exceed all human understanding. As a result the excessive light of faith bestowed on a soul is darkness for it; a brighter light will eclipse and suppress a dimmer one. The sun so obscures all other lights that they do not seem to be lights at all when it is shining, and instead of affording vision to the eyes, it overwhelms, blinds, and deprives them of vision since its light is excessive and unproportioned to the visual faculty. Similarly, the light of faith in its abundance suppresses and overwhelms that of the intellect…

Another clearer example…: If those born blind were told about the nature of the colors white or yellow, they would understand absolutely nothing no matter how much instruction they received since they never saw these colors…

Only the names of these colors would be grasped since the names are perceptible through hearing… Such is faith to the soul; it informs us of matters we have never seen or known… The light of natural knowledge does not show them to us… Yet we come to know it through hearing, by believing what faith teaches in blinding our natural light and bringing it in to submission.

St. Paul states:

“Faith comes through hearing” (Rm 10:17). This amounts to saying that faith is not a knowledge derived from the senses but an assent of the soul to what enters through hearing… Faith, manifestly, is a dark night for souls, but in this way it gives them light. The more darkness it brings on them, the more light it sheds. For by blinding it illumines them, according to those words of Isaiah: “If you do not believe, you will not understand” (cf. Is 7,9).

St. Jerome from Homilies on St. Mark's Gospel, 8, 235 (trad. SC 494, 143)

“Open my eyes that I may consider the wonders of your Law” (Ps 119[118], 18) Jesus put spittle on his eyes, placed his hands on him and asked him whether he could see anything. Knowledge always comes by degrees… It is only after a great deal of time and a long apprenticeship that we are able to attain perfect knowledge. First the impurities are removed, blindness goes, and thus light enters. The Lord’s spittle is perfect teaching: to teach perfectly it comes from the Lord’s mouth. The Lord’s spittle, which comes forth, so to speak, from his substance, is understanding, just as the word coming forth from his mouth is a cure…

“I see people looking like trees and walking”: I still see the shadow but not yet the truth. The meaning of these words is: I can see something in the Law but as yet I don’t perceive the blazing light of the Gospel… “Then he laid hands on his eyes a second time and he saw clearly.” He could see, I say, everything that we can see: he saw the mystery of the Trinity and he saw all the holy mysteries contained in the Gospel… And we, too, see them since we believe in Christ, the true light.

St. John Chrysostom from Homilies on St. Matthew's Gospel, 54

“You are thinking not as God does, but as human beings do.”

Peter is considering Christ’s suffering and death from a purely natural and human point of view, and this death seems to him to be unworthy of God, dishonorable for his glory. Christ reproves him as though to say: “But no! Suffering and death are not unworthy of me.

Earthly opinions disturb and mislead your judgment. Throw off all human thoughts; listen to my words from the viewpoint of my Father’s designs and you will understand that this death is the only one fitting to my glory. Do you believe it to be a matter of shame for me to suffer? Then know that not to fulfill the plan of salvation in this way is the will of the devil for me”…

So let no one be ashamed of the signs of our salvation, which are worthy of veneration and worship; Christ’s cross is the source of all good. Through it we live, are regenerated and saved. Let us bear the cross, then, like a glorious crown. It sets its seal on everything that leads to salvation: when we are reborn by the waters of baptism, the cross is there; when we draw near to the holy table to receive the Body and Blood of our Savior, the cross is there; when we place our hands on the Lord’s chosen ones, it is there. Whatever we do, there it stands for us as a sign of victory. That is why we place it in our houses, on our walls, on our doors; we make its sign on our forehead and on our breast; we carry it in our heart. For it is the symbol of our redemption, our liberation, and the infinite mercy of our Lord.

St. Augustine from Sermon 96, 9

“Follow me” (Mt 9,9)

In this world, which is to say in the Church wholly following Christ, he says to all of us: “Whoever wishes to come after me must deny himself”. This command is not being directed to virgins but not married women, to widows but not wives, to monks but not husbands, to priests but not laity. It is the whole Church, the whole Body of Christ with all its members, differentiated and divided according to their proper functions, that is to follow Christ.

May she wholly follow him, she who is one alone, the dove, the bride (Sg 6,9); may she follow him, she who has been redeemed and endowed with the blood of her Bridegroom. Virginal purity has its place here; the continence of widows has its place here; wedded chastity has its place here…

These members who have their place here should follow Christ, each according to their category, each according to their status, each after its fashion. Let them deny themselves, that is to say let them not rely on themselves. Let them carry their cross, that is to say bear for Christ’s sake in the world all that the world inflicts on them. May they love him, he the only one who never deceives or is deceived, the only one who is not mistaken. May they love him because what he promises is true. Yet because he does not give it to us now our faith falters. Keep going, persevere, bear and accept this delay, and you have carried his cross.

An anonymous Syrian writer — A sermon wrongly attributed to St. Ephrem

“This is my beloved Son”

Jesus led Peter, James and John up the mountain and showed them his divine glory even before the resurrection. So that, when he rose from the dead in the glory of his divine nature, they would recognize that he hadn’t received this glory as a reward for his suffering, as though he had need of it, but that it belonged to him before the ages began at his Father’s side and with the Father.

This is what he himself said as his freely accepted Passion drew near: “Glory me, Father, with you, with the glory that I had with you before the world began” (Jn 17,5). It was this glory of his divinity, mysteriously enclosed within his humanity, that he showed his disciples on the mountain. And these… saw two suns: one shining in the sky as usual and another that shone in an unaccustomed way; one casting light on the world from high in the firmament and another radiant for them alone in the countenance turned towards them…

Then Moses and Elijah appeared… and thanked him that their words, as those of all the other prophets, had been fulfilled by his coming. They offered him worship for the salvation he would accomplish for the sake of the whole world and for the fulfilment of the mystery they had been entrusted to foretell. Thus both apostles and prophets were filled with joy on that mountain.

The prophets rejoiced to see his humanity, which they had not been able to know beforehand; the apostles rejoiced to see the glory of his divinity, which they had not yet known about, and hear the Father’s voice bear witness to his Son. By it, and by the glory of his divinity shining from his body, they learned about his incarnation, which up to then had remained unknown to them.

St. Aelred of Rielvaux from The Mirror of Charity 3, 5

“Love your enemies”

The perfection of brotherly love is in the love we bear towards those who hate us, and nothing can give so much incentive to our striving after this virtue as the remembrance of the way in which our Lord bore his sufferings. He was more beautiful than all the sons of men (Ps 45[44],3), but he did not turn away his face from those who spat at him. Those eyes, which were the eyes of God, seeing and ruling over all things, He allowed to be darkened by evil men. His body he gave to be scourged. His head, the very sight of which made Powers and Principalities bow down in reverence, he bent low to be crowned by piercing thorns. He submitted to insult and suffering, the nails, the cross, the lance, the bitter drink, and all the while he was gentle and calm and loving. “Like a lamb led to the slaughter or a sheep before the shearers, he was silent and opened not his mouth” (Is 53,7).

When we hear those words, “Father, forgive them for they know not what they are doing” (Lk 23,24), spoken in a voice of infinite gentleness and love and peace, what further love and gentleness could be added to His prayer?

And yet our Lord added something else. Not content to pray, he also wanted to forgive: “Father,” he said, “forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing.” They have undoubtedly sinned greatly, yet they hardly realize it, and so: “Father, forgive them.” They crucify him, but they do not know who it is they are crucifying… His murderers believe him to be a transgressor of the law, a seducer of the people, a blasphemous upstart who claims to be equal to God in divinity. But our Lord has hidden his face from them, so that they cannot recognize His divine majesty. And so: “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing.”

We have seen, then, that if we wish to love ourselves in the way God wants us to love ourselves, we must not be corrupted by the pleasures of the flesh… The remedy is to turn all our love of the flesh to the sweet patience of our Lord’s flesh. Finally, in order to reach the state of perfect and blessed repose in the pleasures of fraternal charity, we must take even our enemies to our hearts. But so that this divine fire may not be dampened by hard feeling we should think always of the unruffled patience of our blessed Lord and Savior in his sufferings.

Blessed Charles de Foucault from Meditations on the Gospel regarding the Principal Virtues

“Everything is possible to one who has faith”

“If you have faith the size of a mustard seed… Nothing will be impossible for you” (Mt 17,20). We can achieve anything with prayer: if we don’t receive, it is because we have lacked faith, or because we haven’t prayed enough, or because it wouldn’t be good for us to have our request granted, or because God is giving us something better for us than what we are asking for. But it is never the case that we don’t receive what we are asking for because the thing is too difficult to get: “Nothing is impossible for us”.

Let us have no hesitation in asking God even for the most difficult things such as the conversion of great sinners or of whole peoples. Ask him for them all the more precisely because they are more difficult in the faith that God loves us passionately and that, the greater a gift is, the more the passionate lover loves to give it. But let us ask with faith, with insistence, with constancy, love and good will.

And let us be sure that if we ask in this way and with sufficient perseverance, we shall be answered, receiving either the grace we asked for or a better one. So let us doggedly ask our Lord for the most impossible of things, if they are for his glory, and we may be sure that his Heart will grant them to us all the more because they seem to be humanly impossible. For to give the one he loves what is impossible is sweet to his Heart, and how greatly does he not love us?

Pope Pius XII from Encyclical ``Mystici Corporis Christi``

“We tried to prevent him because he does not follow us.”

Let us imitate the breadth of love of Jesus himself. For the Church, the Bride of Christ, is one; and yet so vast is the love of the divine Spouse that it embraces in His Bride the whole human race without exception. Our Savior shed His Blood precisely in order that He might reconcile men to God through the Cross, and might constrain them to unite in one body, however widely they may differ in nationality and race. True love of the Church, therefore, requires not only that we should be mutually solicitous one for another as members (Rm 12,5), sharing in their suffering (1Co 12,26), but likewise that we should recognize in other men, although they are not yet joined to us in the body of the Church, our brothers in Christ according to the flesh, called, together with us, to the same eternal salvation.

It is true, unfortunately, especially today, that there are some who extol enmity, hatred and spite as if they enhanced the dignity and the worth of man. Let us, however, while we look with sorrow on the disastrous consequences of this teaching, follow our peaceful King who taught us to love not only those who are of a different nation or race, (Lk 10,33f.) but even our enemies (Lk 6,27f.).

While our heart overflows with the sweetness of the teaching of St. Paul, the apostle of the Gentiles, we extol with him the length, and the breadth, and the height, and the depth of the charity of Christ (Eph 3,18) which neither diversity of race or customs can diminish, nor trackless wastes of the ocean weaken, nor wars, whether just or unjust, destroy.

Pope Paul VI from Apostolic Constitution ``Paenitemini``

The salt of repentance

Following the Master, every Christian must renounce himself, take up his own cross and participate in the sufferings of Christ (Mt 16,24). Thus transformed into the image of Christ’s death, he is made capable of meditating on the glory of the resurrection. Furthermore, following the Master, he can no longer live for himself, but must live for Him who loves him and gave Himself for him. He will also have to live for his brethren, completing “in his flesh that which is lacking in the sufferings of Christ…for the benefit of his body, which is the church” (Ga 2,20; Col 1,24).

In addition, since the Church is closely linked to Christ, the penitence of the individual Christian also has an intimate relationship of its own with the whole ecclesial community. In fact, not only does he receive in the bosom of the Church through baptism the fundamental gift of “metanoia,” namely the transformation and renewal of the whole person, but this gift is restored and reinvigorated in those members of the Body of Christ who have fallen into sin through the sacrament of penance.

“Those who approach the sacrament of penance receive from the mercy of God forgiveness for offences committed against Him and at the same time become reconciled with the Church on which they have inflicted a wound by sinning, and the Church cooperates in their conversion with charity, example and prayer” (Vatican II : LG 11). And in the Church, finally, the little acts of penitence imposed each time in the sacrament become a form of participation in a special way in the infinite expiation of Christ.

St. John Chrysostom from Homilies on St. Matthew's Gospel 14, 2

“Come after me, and I will make you fishers of men.”

What a splendid catch of our Savior’s! Wonder at the disciples’ faith and obedience. As you know, fishing demands undisturbed concentration and yet, right in the middle of their work, they hear Jesus’ call and don’t hesitate for a moment. They don’t say: “Let’s go back home for a word with our relatives.” No, they leave everything and follow him as Elisha did with Elijah (1Kgs 19,20).

This is the kind of obedience Christ asks of us: no hesitation even if apparently more urgent requirements are pressing us. That is why, when a young man who wanted to follow him asked whether he might go to bury his father, he didn’t allow him to do so (Mt 8,21). To follow Jesus and obey his word is a duty that comes before all else. Perhaps you will tell me that the promises he made them were very great? That is precisely why I admire them so much: even when they hadn’t yet seen any miracles, they believed in that very great promise and forsook everything to follow him! It was because they believed that, by means of the same words with which they themselves had been caught, they could go fishing for others.

St. Thomas Aquinas from Opuscule for the Feast of Corpus Christi

Jesus gives himself wholly : he gives his own self to eat

The only-begotten Son of God, wishing to enable us to share in his divinity, assumed our nature, so that by becoming man he might make men gods. Moreover, he turned the whole of our nature, which he assumed, to our salvation. For he offered his body to God the Father on the altar of the cross as a sacrifice for our reconciliation; and he shed his blood for our ransom and our cleansing, so that we might be redeemed from wretched captivity and cleansed from all sins. Now in order that we might always keep the memory of his great act of love, he left his body as food and his blood as drink, to be received by the faithful under the appearances of bread and wine… What could be more precious than this banquet?

It is not the meat of calves or kids that is offered, as happened under the Old Law; at this meal Christ, the true God, is set before us for us to eat. What could be more wonderful than this sacrament?… No one is capable of expressing the delight of this sacrament, through which the sweetness of the Spirit is tasted at its source, and the memory is celebrated of that surpassing love which Christ showed in his

Passion. And so, in order to imprint the immensity of this love more deeply in the hearts of the faithful, at the Last Supper, when the Lord had celebrated the Pasch with his disciples and was about to pass from this world to his Father, he instituted this sacrament as a perpetual memorial of his Passion. It fulfilled the types of the Old Law; it was the greatest of the miracles he worked; and he left it as a unique consolation to those who were desolate at his departure.

St. Thйrиse of the Child Jesus from MS A, 2

The mystery of vocation

I’m going to be doing only one thing: I shall begin to sing what I must sing eternally: “The Mercies of the Lord!” (Ps 89[88],1)… Opening the Holy Gospels my eyes fell upon these words: “And going up a mountain, he called to him men of his own choosing, and they came to him.”

This is the mystery of my vocation, my whole life, and especially the mystery of the privileges Jesus showered upon my soul. He does not call those who are worthy but those whom he pleases or as St. Paul says: “God will have mercy on whom he will have mercy, and he will show pity to whom he will show pity. So then, there is question not of him who wills nor of him who runs, but of God showing mercy” (Rm 9, 15-16). I wondered for a long time why God has preferences, why all souls don’t receive an equal amount of graces. I was surprised when I saw him shower his extraordinary favors on St.s who had offended him, for instance, St. Paul and St. Augustine, and whom he forced, so to speak, to accept his graces.

When reading the lives of the St.s, I was puzzled at seeing how Our Lord was pleased to caress certain ones from the cradle to the grave, allowing no obstacle in their way… Jesus deigned to teach me this mystery. He set before me the book of nature; I understood how all the flowers he has created are beautiful…

And so it is in the world of souls. He willed to create great souls comparable to lilies and roses, but he has created smaller ones and these must be content to be daisies or violets destined to give joy to God’s glances when he looks down at his feet. Perfection consists in doing his will, in being what he wills us to be.

St. Alphonsus Liguori from 5th Discourse for the Octave of Christmas

“All those who had diseases were pressing upon him to touch him”

“Say to those whose hearts are frightened: Be strong; fear not…God himself will come to save you” (Is 35,4). This prophecy has come to pass; allow me, therefore, to shout aloud for joy: Rejoice, you sons of Adam! Rejoice! Cast aside all discouragement. When you see your weakness and inability to stand up to so many enemies: “Fear not! God himself will come to save you.”

In what way has he come himself and saved you? By giving you the strength you need to confront and overcome everything that stands in the way of your salvation. And how has our Redeemer gained this strength for you? By making himself weak, strong and almighty though he was. He has taken our weakness on himself and granted us his strength… God is all-powerful: “Lord,” cried Isaiah, “who could withstand the strength of your arm?”… Yet the wounds caused by sin to humankind have so weakened us that we were unable to resist our enemies. What, then, has the eternal Word, the Word of God, done? From being strong and powerful he made himself weak; he put on our bodily weakness to gain for us through his merits the strength of soul we need …; he became a child…; and finally, at the end of his life, in the Garden of Olives, he was loaded with bonds from which he was unable to be set free…

Are we weak? Let us put our trust in Jesus Christ and we will be able to do everything: “I have the strength for everything through him who empowers me” said the apostle Paul (Phil 4,13). I have the strength for everything, not by my own strength but by the strength won for me through my Redeemer’s merits.

St. Faustina Kowalaska from Diary, 72

“Grieved at their hardness of heart”

Jesus, eternal Truth, our Life, I call upon You and I beg Your mercy for poor sinners. O sweetest Heart of my Lord, full of pity and unfathomable mercy, I plead with You for poor sinners. 0 Most Sacred Heart, Fount of Mercy from which gush forth rays of inconceivable graces upon the entire human race, I beg of You light for poor sinners. O Jesus, be mindful of Your own bitter Passion and do not permit the loss of souls redeemed at so dear a price of Your most precious Blood. 0 Jesus, when I consider the great price of Your Blood, I rejoice at its immensity, for one drop alone would have been enough for the salvation of all sinners. Although sin is an abyss of wickedness and ingratitude, the price paid for us can never be equalled.

Therefore, let every soul trust in the Passion of the Lord, and place its hope in His mercy, God will not deny His mercy to anyone. Heaven and earth may change, but God’s mercy will never be exhausted (cf Mt 24,35). Oh, what immense joy burns in my heart when I contemplate Your incomprehensible goodness, O Jesus! I desire to bring all sinners to Your feet that they may glorify Your mercy throughout endless ages.

Blessed John Henry Newman from ``Lead, kindly Light,`` Verses on Various Occasions

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

Lead, kindly Light, amid the encircling gloom, Lead Thou me on; The night is dark and I am far from home, Lead Thou me on. Keep Thou my feet; I do not ask to see The distant scene; one step enough for me. I was not ever thus, nor prayed that Thou Shouldst lead me on; I loved to choose and see my path; but now Lead Thou me on. I loved the garish day, and, spite of fears, Pride ruled my will: remember not past years. So long Thy power hath blessed me, sure it still Will lead me on O’er moor and fen, o’er crag and torrent, till The night is gone, And with the morn those angel faces smile, Which I have loved long since, and lost awhile.

St. Bonaventure from Life of St. Francis, Legenda major, ch. 1

“Jesus stretched out his hand and touched him”

One day while Francis was praying in a secluded spot, he became totally absorbed in God through his extreme fervor, Jesus Christ appeared to him fastened to the cross. Francis’s “soul melted” (Sg 5:6) at the sight, and the memory of Christ’s passion was so impressed on the innermost recesses of his heart that from that hour, whenever Christ’s crucifixion came to his mind, he could scarcely contain his tears and sighs, as he later revealed to his companions when he was approaching the end of his life. Through this the man of God understood as addressed to himself the Gospel text: “If you wish to come after me, deny yourself and take up your cross and follow me” (Mt 16:24). From that time on he clothed himself with a spirit of poverty, a sense of humility and a feeling of intimate devotion. Formerly he used to be horrified not only by close dealing with lepers but by their very sight, even from a distance; but now he rendered humble service to the lepers with human concern and devoted kindness in order that he might completely despise himself, because of Christ crucified, who according to the text of the prophet was despised “as a leper” (Is 53:3).

Duns Scotus Erigena from Homily on the Prologue to John's Gospel, ch.16 (SC 151, 281 rev.)

“He must increase; I must decrease”

“John was not the light but came to testify to the light” (Jn 1,8). The forerunner of the Light was not the Light. So why is he popularly known as a “burning lamp” (Jn 5,35) and “morning star”? He was indeed a burning and shining lamp, but the flame he burned with, the light with which he shone, was not his own.

He was the morning star, but he did not draw his own light from himself: the grace of him of whom he was the forerunner burned and shone within him. He was not the light but he participated in the light and what shone in him and through him did not come from him… No creature, in fact, whether endowed with reason or intellect, is light of its own accord in its own substance. It shares in the one, true Light, the substantial Light that is everywhere and in everything that our minds see shining.

Attributed to St. Hippolytus of Rome from 4th century homily for the Epiphany, the Holy Theophany (PG 10, 852)

“With him I am well pleased”

Christ, the creator of all things, descended like the rain, made himself known as a spring, poured himself out like a river (Hos 6,3; Jn 4,14; 7,38) and yet see him being baptized in the Jordan… That unquenchable Spring, which causes life to spring up for all mankind and has no end, was concealed beneath mere transient waters. He who is everywhere present, who is nowhere absent, he whom the angels cannot grasp and who is invisible to mortals, came by his own will to be baptized… “And behold the heavens opened and a voice said: ‘This is my beloved Son in whom I am well pleased’.” The Beloved one brings forth love and the immaterial light brings forth “inaccessible light” (1Tm 6,16). “This is my beloved Son”… As in Noah’s ark a dove revealed God’s love for the human race, so now it was in the form of a dove, as though with an olive branch in its beak, that the Spirit descended and rested on him to whom the Father would bear witness.

He did so to make sure that the Father’s voice would be recognized…: “The Lord’s voice resounded over the waters. The God of glory thunders, the Lord thunders across many waters” (Ps 29[28],3). And what does he say? “This is my beloved Son in whom I am well pleased.”…

This is he who is called ‘son of Joseph’ and he is my only Son according to his divine being. “This is my beloved Son”: he is hungry but he feeds great crowds, he is weary but he comforts the weary. He has nowhere to lay his head but he bears all things in his hand; he suffers but he heals suffering. He is struck yet he grants liberty to the world; his side is wounded yet he restores Adam’s side.

St. Teresa Benedicta of the Cross [Edith Stein]from The Mystery of Christmas

“This is the time of fulfillment… Come after me”

The child in the crib is the King of kings and Lord of life and death. He utters his ‘follow me’ and whoever is not for him is against him (Lc 11,23). He also speaks for us and invites us to choose between light and darkness. Wherever that will lead us on this earth we do not know and should not ask beforehand. Only this do we know: that for those who love the Lord, all things work out for good (Rm 8,28). And in addition: that the paths which the Lord directs lead out beyond this earth. “O wonderful exchange!” The Creator of mankind, by taking on a human body, imparts to us his divinity. I t is for this wondrous task that the Saviour came into this world. God became a Child of man so that the human race could become children of God. One of our race severed the bon~ of our divine adoption; one of us had to bind it up again and pay for the sin. No one from the ancient, sick and degenerate race could do it. A new, healthy and noble sprout had to be grafted. He became one of us; but even more than that: one with us. That is precisely the wonderful thing about the human race – that we are all one… He came to be a mysterious Body with us: he as head, we as members (Ep 5,23.30). Let us place our hands in the hands of the divine Child; let us speak our ‘yes’ to his ‘follow me’. Thus we shall be his and the path shall be open for his divine life to pass over upon us. It is still the darkness of faith, but it is no longer of this world: it is already a stance in the kingdom of God.

5th century homily of Prayer Wrongly attributed to St. John Chyrsostom (PG 64, 461)

“He went off to a deserted place, where he prayed”

Prayer, familiar intercourse with God, is our greatest good… Prayer is the light of the soul, true knowledge of God, mediator between God and man. Through it the soul is raised to heaven and holds God inexpressibly in tight embrace. Like a child crying out to its mother, it expresses the eagerness of its desire. It gives voice to its deepest longings and receives in return gifts surpassing all visible nature. For prayer presents itself as a powerful ambassador, rejoicing and pacifying the soul. When I speak of prayer you should not imagine it to be a question of words. It is a reaching out towards God, an indescribable love, not of human origin, of which the apostle Paul speaks when he says: “We do not know how to pray as we ought, but the Spirit itself intercedes with inexpressible groanings” (Rm 8,26). If God grants someone such prayer as this, it becomes for him an everlasting source of wealth and a heavenly food that fills the soul. The one who has tasted it is seized with an eternal longing for our Lord like a devouring fire that sets his heart ablaze.

Odes of Solomon from Nos. 21 and 25

“The man went away and began to publicize the whole matter”

I raised my arms on high on account of the grace of the Lord. Because he cast off my chains from me, and my Helper raised me according to his grace and his salvation. And I stripped off darkness, and put on light. And even I myself acquired members. In them there was no sickness or affliction or suffering. And abundantly helpful to me was the thought of the Lord, and his incorruptible fellowship. And I was lifted up in the light, and I passed before his face. And I was constantly near him, while praising and confessing him. He caused my heart to overflow, and it was found in my mouth; and it sprang forth unto my lips. Then upon my face increased the exultation of the Lord and his praise. Hallelujah. I was rescued from my chains and I fled unto you, O my God, because you are the right hand of salvation and my Helper. You have restrained those who rise up against me, and they did not appear again because your face was with me, which saved me by your grace. But I was despised and rejected in the eyes of many, and I was in their eyes like lead. And I acquired strength from you, and help. A lamp you set for me both on my right and on my left, so that there might not be in me anything that is not light. And I was covered with the covering of your spirit and I removed from me my garments of skin (Gn 3,21), because your right hand raised me, and caused sickness to pass from me. And I became mighty in your truth, and holy in your righteousness. And all my adversaries were afraid of me and I became the Lord’s by the name of the Lord. And I was justified by his kindness, and his rest is for ever and ever. Hallelujah.

St. Hilary from Commentary on St. Matthew's Gospel, 8,5 (SC 254, 199)

“Rise, pick up your mat, and go home”

[In Matthew’s gospel Jesus has just cured two foreigners in pagan territory.] In this one paralytic all the pagans are presented before Christ to be healed. But even the terms of the healing need to be studied: what he says to the paralysed man is not: “Be healed” nor “Get up and walk” but “Courage, child, your sins are forgiven” (Mt 9,2). Sin had been transmitted among all nations in one man, Adam, and that is why he who is called ‘child’ is presented to be healed…: because he is God’s first work… he now receives the mercy that comes from the forgiveness of that first disobedience. Indeed, we don’t see that this paralytic had committed any sin; and the Lord also said that blindness from birth had not been contracted as a result of a personal or hereditary sin (Jn 9,3)… None can forgive sins except God alone, and so he who healed them is God… And so that people might understand that he had taken flesh for the remission of their sins and to gain resurrection for their bodies, he said: “That you may know that the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins on earth” – he then said to the paralytic: “Rise, pick up your stretcher”. It would have been enough to have said: “Rise”, but… he added: “Pick up your stretcher and go home.”

First he granted remission of sins, then he manifested the power of the resurrection, and then, by making him take up his stretcher, he taught that weakness and pain will no longer afflict the body. Finally, by sending this man home healed, he showed that believers must rediscover the road to paradise, the same road that Adam, the father of all, abandoned when he was spoiled by the stain of sin.

St. Augustine from Confessions, 10, 27-28

“The man got up and followed him”

Late have I loved you, beauty so old and so new: late have I loved you. And see, you were within and I was in the external world and sought you there, and in my unlovely state I plunged into those lovely created things which you made.

You were with me, and I was not with you. The lovely things kept me far from you, though if they did not have their existence in you, they had no existence at all. You called and cried out loud and shattered my deafness. You were radiant and resplendent, you put to flight my blindness. You were fragrant, and I drew in my breath and now pant after you. I tasted you, and I feel but hunger and thirst for you. You touched me, and I am set on fire to attain the peace which is yours. When I shall have adhered to you with the whole of myself, I shall never have pain and toil, and my entire life will be full of you. You lift up the person whom you fill. But for the present, because I am not full of you, I am a burden to myself… Have mercy on me, Lord! There is a struggle between my regrets at my evil past and my memories of good joys, and which side has the victory I do not know. Alas, Lord have mercy upon me!, wretch that I am. See, I do not hide my wounds. You are the physician, I am the patient. You are pitiful, I am the object of pity.

St. Cyril of Alexandria from On Isaiah, 4, 2

“Behold, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world”

“Raise a glad cry, you heavens: the Lord has shown mercy to Israel. Sound the trumpet, earth’s foundations!… For the Lord has redeemed Jacob” (Is 44,23 LXX). From this passage of Isaiah we can easily determine that remission of sins, conversion and the redemption of humankind proclaimed by the prophets is to be fulfilled by Christ in the last days.

Indeed, when God, the Lord, appeared to us and when he, the true Lamb who takes away the sins of the world, the victim who is wholly pure, lived as man amongst earth’s inhabitants, then what reason was there not for rejoicing among the heavenly powers and celestial spirits and for all the orders of angels! How they sang his birth according to the flesh: “Glory to God in the highest and on earth peace; favor to men!” (Lk 2,14). If the Lord’s word is true – and it is absolutely true – that there is “more joy in heaven among the holy angels over one sinner who repents” (cf. Lk 15,7), how could we doubt there to be joy and gladness among the spirits on high when Christ brings the whole earth back to knowledge of the truth, calls to conversion, justifies by faith, and causes light to shine out in holiness? “”Raise a glad cry, you heavens: the Lord has shown mercy” not only to Israel according to the flesh, but to an Israel understood according to the spirit.

“Earth’s foundations”, that is to say, ministers consecrated to the preaching of the Gospel, have “sounded the trumpet”. Their piercing voices have extended everywhere; like sacred trumpets, they have resounded far and wide. They have proclaimed our Savior’s glory in every place; they have called to the knowledge of Christ among both Jews and pagans.

Aphrahat from Expositions, 13, 1-2.13 (SC 359, 589f.)

The Lord of the Sabbath

The Lord asked the children of Israel through the mediation of his servant, Moses, to observe the Sabbath day, saying to them: “Six days you may labor and do all your work but the seventh day is the Sabbath of the Lord your God” (Ex 20,9-10)… And he admonished them: “You are to rest, both you and your servant and your maidservant, your ox and your ass.” He even added: “The hireling and alien are to rest also along with every beast that toils in your service” (cf. Ex 23,12)… The Sabbath has not been imposed as a test or choice between life and death, righteousness and sin, like those other commandments by which we live or die. No the Sabbath, in its time, was given to the people to the end that they might rest – both man and beast… So now listen to what that Sabbath is that is pleasing to God. Isaiah tells us: “Give rest to the weary” (28,12), and elsewhere: “Those who keep the Sabbath free from profanation” are “those who choose what pleases me and hold fast to my covenant” (56,2.4)… The Sabbath is of no benefit to evildoers, murderers or thieves. But those who choose what pleases God and keep their hands from evil: in them God dwells. He makes of them his dwelling in accordance with his word: “I will set my dwelling among you and walk in your midst” (Lv 26,11; 2Cor 6,16)… Let us too, then, faithfully keep God’s Sabbath, that is to say the Sabbath that pleases his heart. Thus shall we enter into the great Sabbath, the Sabbath of heaven and earth when every creature will take its rest.

St. Augustine from Sermons on St. John's Gospel, 7

“They stayed with him that day”

“John was there with two of his disciples”. John was such a “friend of the Bridegroom” (Jn 3,29) that he did not seek his own glory; he merely gave testimony to the truth. Did he dream of restraining his disciples and preventing them from following the Lord? Not at all. He himself shows them whom to follow… He declares to them: “Why cling to me? I am not the Lamb of God. Behold the Lamb of God… Behold him who takes away the sin of the world.”

At these words, the two disciples who were with John followed Jesus. “Jesus turned and saw them following him and said to them, ‘What are you looking for?’ They said to him: ‘Rabbi, where are you staying?’” At this point they were not definitively following him. As we know, they attached themselves to him when he called them to leave their boat…, when he said to them: “Come after me and I will make you fishers of men” (Mt 4,19). That was the moment when they attached themselves to him, nevermore to leave him. But for the moment they wanted to see where Jesus was staying and carry out those words of Scripture: “If you see a man of prudence, seek him out; let your feet wear away his doorstep! Lear from him the precepts of the Lord” (Si 6,36). So Jesus showed them where he was staying. They came and remained with him. What a happy day they spent together! What a blessed night! Who can tell us what they heard from the Lord’s mouth? But let us, too, build a dwelling in our hearts, raise up a house where Christ can come to instruct and converse with us.

St. John Chrysostom from Sermon on the Baptism of Jesus Christ and on the Epiphany

“I have seen and testified that he is the Son of God”

Christ was manifested to all, not at his birth but at his baptism. Before then, few knew him; almost no one knew he existed or who he was. John the Baptist said: “There is one among you who you do not recognise,” (Jn 1,26). John himself shared the same ignorance of Christ up until his baptism: “I did not know him, but the one who sent me to baptise with water told me: ‘On whomever you see the Spirit come down and remain, he is the one who will baptise with the Holy Spirit”…

Indeed, what is the reason John gives for the Lord’s baptism? It was, he said, so that he might be made known to all. St. Paul says the same thing: “John baptised with a baptism of repentance, telling the people to believe in the one who was to come after him,” (Ac 19,4).

This is why Jesus receives baptism from John. To have gone from house to house presenting Christ and saying he was the Son of God would have made John’s testimony extremely difficult; to have led him to the synagogue and designated him as the Saviour would have made his testimony hardly credible. But that, in the midst of a large crowd gathered on the banks of the Jordan, Jesus should have received this testimony clearly expressed from heaven above and that the Holy Spirit should have descended on him in the form of a dove: this indeed confirmed John’s testimony without any shadow of doubt.

“I myself did not know him,” John said. Who made him known to you, then? “He who sent me to baptise.” And what did he say to you? “On whomever you see the Spirit come down and remain, he is the one who will baptise with the Holy Spirit.” Thus, it is the Holy Spirit who reveals to all he whose wonders John had proclaimed, by coming down to designate him, so to speak, with the touch of his wing.

Blessed Guerric of Igny from 1st Sermon for the Nativity (SC 166)

“This will be a sign for you: you will find an infant… lying in a manger” (Lk 2,12) “A child is born to us” (Is 9,5) and the God of majesty, emptying himself (Phil 2,7), has made himself, not only in the likeness of a mortal body, but even as young and weak as children are… O holy and sweet child, who restores true innocence to man! Through you every age can return to blessed infancy (Mt 18,3) and take on the likeness of the Infant God, not according to the smallness of his limbs but through humility of heart and gentleness of manners…

As an example to you God has willed to become the most humble and smallest of all even though he is greater than all. It was a little thing for him to make himself lower than the angels by taking on the condition of our mortal nature; it was necessary for him to make himself even smaller than men are by taking on the age and weakness of a child. Let the devout and humble man take note of this and make it his boast. Let the impious and proud man take note and be put to shame by it. Let them see the infinite God become a child, a toddler to be adored…

For this first manifestation to humankind God chose to show himself beneath the features of a little child and to appear more loveable than formidable. Thus, since he comes to save and not to judge, he demonstrates for the time being what might draw forth love, leaving till later what might inspire dread. So let us, who cannot so much as think of the throne of his glory without trembling, confidently approach the throne of grace (He 4,16). Here there is nothing frightening or stern to fear. To the contrary, all is goodness and gentleness to give you confidence. In truth, there is nothing easier to appease than this child’s heart: he anticipates your offerings of peace and satisfaction and is the first to send you messengers of peace to encourage you to reconciliation – you, the guilty one! It suffices to want it, and to want it wholly and entirely. Not only will he grant you his pardon but he will overwhelm you with his grace. More than this: considering it to be by no means an insignificant gain to have re-found his missing sheep, he will celebrate a feast with his angels, (Lk 15,7).

St. Leo the Great from 6th sermon of Christmas, 2, 3, 5 (SC 22, 139)

Mary, Mother of God, Mother of the Prince of Peace (Is 11,5)

The Christmas feast renews for us the holy infancy of Jesus, born of the Virgin Mary. And as we adore the birthday of the Savior we find that we are celebrating our own beginnings. For the birth of Christ is the origin of the people of Christ, and the birthday of the head us the birthday of the body.

But, in the treasury of the Lord’s generosity what can we more suitable to honour the present feast than the peace first proclaimed by the angels’ chorus at the Lord’s nativity? (Lk 2,14) Peace it is that gives birth to the sons of God. Peace is nurse of love, the mother of unity, the repose of the blessed, and our eternal home. The real work and special blessing of peace is to join to God those whom it sets apart from this world. Let those, then, “who are born not of blood nor of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man but of God,” (Jn 1,13) offer to the Father the oneness of heart of peace-loving souls.

Let all the members of adoption come together in the: first-born of the new creation, who “came to do not his own will but the will of him who sent him” (Jn 6,38). The grace of the Father has not adopted as his heirs those who art divided among themselves and at odds with each other, but those who are one in mind and heart. Remodeled according to the one image (cf. Heb 1,3; Gn 1,27), they should have a spirit in conformity with it. The birthday of the Lord is the birthday of peace. As the apostle Paul says, “He, Christ, is our peace” (Eph 2,14).

St. Maximus of Turin from Sermon 10, on the Nativity of the Lord (PL 57, 24)

“Begotten from the Father before all ages…, he was incarnate from the Virgin Mary “ (Creed of Constantinople)

We read, dearest brethren, that there are two births in Christ: both are the expression of a divine power that completely outstrips us. On the one hand, God generates his Son out of his own self; on the other, a virgin has conceived him by God’s intervention… On the one hand, he is born to create life, and on the other to take away death. In the former, he is born of his Father; in the latter, he is brought into the world by human beings. By his generation from the Father he is at human origins; by his human birth he sets humanity free. Both of these kinds of birth are, properly speaking, inexpressible and at the same time inseparable…

In teaching that there are two births in Christ we do not intend to say that the Son of God is born twice over, but we are affirming the twofold nature in one and the same Son of God. On the one hand, what already existed is born; on the other, what did not as yet exist is brought forth. The blessed evangelist John affirms this in these words: “In the beginning was the Word and the Word was with God and the Word was God” and again: “The Word was made flesh.”

Thus God who was with God came forth from him and the flesh of God that did not belong to God is fruit of a woman. So the Word became flesh, not in such a way that God was incorporated into man, but so that man might be gloriously raised up to God. That is why God was not born twice but by means of these two kinds of birth – namely, that of God and that of man – the only Son of the Father desired to be both God and man in a single person. “Who, then, can tell his birth?” (Is 53,8 Vg.).

St. Bernard from 2nd Sermon on the Song of Songs, 8

“She spoke about the child to all who were awaiting the redemption of Jerusalem” Root of Jesse, who stand as a sign to the peoples (Is 11: 10), “how many kings and prophets wanted to see you and did not” (Lk 10:24)? Simeon is the happiest of them all because by God’s mercy he was still bearing fruit in old age. For he rejoiced to think that he would see the sign so long desired. He saw it and was glad (Lk 8:56). When he had received the kiss of peace he departed in peace, but first he proclaimed aloud that Jesus was born, a sign that would be rejected (Lk 2:25-34). And so it was. The sign of peace arose and was rejected, by those who hate peace (Ps 119:7). For what is peace to men of goodwill (Lk 2:14) is a stone to make men stumble, a rock for the wicked to fall over (l Pt 2:8). “Herod was troubled, and all Jerusalem with him” (Mt 2:3). He came to his own and his own did not receive him (Jn 1:11). Happy those shepherds keeping watch at night who were found worthy to be shown the sign of this vision (Lk 23:8)!

For even at that time he was hiding himself from the wise and prudent and revealing himself to the simple (Mt 11:25; Lk 10:21)… The angel said to the shepherds, “This is a sign for you” (Lk 2: 12), you who are humble, you who are obedient, you who are not haughty (Rom 12: 16), you who are keeping vigil and meditating on God’s law day and night (Ps 1:2). “This is a sign for you,” he said. What is this sign? The sign the angels promised, the sign the people asked for, the sign the prophets foretold, the Lord Jesus has now made, and he shows it to you…

This is your sign.What is it a sign of? Indulgence, grace, peace, “the peace which will have no end” (Is 9:7). It is this sign: “You will find a baby wrapped in swaddling clothes and lying in a manger” (Lk 2: 12). But this baby is God himself, reconciling the world to himself in him (2 Cor 5: 19)… He is the kiss of God, the Mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus (1Tm 2,5), who with the Father and the Holy Spirit lives and reigns world without end.

St. Ignatius of Antioch from Letter to the Romans, 5-7

“Now, Master, you may let your servant go in peace”

Now I begin to be a disciple. May nothing of things visible or invisible seek to impede me that I may attain to Jesus Christ… Even if the most cruel tortures afflict me, may they only aid me in attaining to Jesus Christ. The furthest bounds of the universe, and the kingdoms of this world shall profit me nothing. It is better for me to die for the sake of Jesus Christ than to reign over the boundaries of the earth. Him I seek Who died for us. Him I desire, Who rose [for our sakes].

My travail-pains are upon me… Suffer me to receive pure light. When I reach there then shall I be a man indeed. Suffer me to be an imitator of the passion of my God… My Love has been crucified, and there is not within me any fire of earthly desire, but only water that lives and speaks in me, and says from within me, ‘Come hither to the Father.’ I have no pleasure in the food of corruption nor in the pleasures of this material life. I desire God’s bread, which is the flesh of Christ, Who is of the seed of David, and for drink I desire His blood, which is love incorruptible.

Eusebius the Gallican from Sermon 219 (PL 39, 2150)

“Where is the Newborn King of the Jews”

Herod, the traitor king, having been deceived by the magi, sent his henchmen to Bethlehem and the surrounding countryside to kill the children of two years old and under… But you have gained nothing by it, you cruel and arrogant barbarian! You can make martyrs but you cannot find Christ. This unhappy tyrant thought that the Lord our Savior’s coming would topple him from his royal throne. But it was not so. Christ did not come to take over another’s glory but to make a gift to us of his own. He did not come to take hold of an earthly kingdom but to bestow the Kingdom of heaven. He did not come to steal honors but to endure injuries and abuse. He did not come to prepare his sacred head for a jewelled diadem but for a crown of thorns. He did not come to take his seat gloriously above sceptres but to be mocked and crucified.

At the Lord’s birth “Herod was troubled and all Jerusalem with him” (Mt 2,3). What is there to wonder at if impiousness is disturbed by the birth of goodness? Here is an armed man afraid of him who is laid in a manger; a proud king trembles before the lowly one; he who is clothed in purple fears the baby wrapped in swaddling clothes… He pretended he wanted to worship him whom he sought to have killed (Mt 2,8). But Truth is not afraid of the traps of the liar… Treachery cannot discover Christ, since not by cruelty but by faith is God to be sought, who lives and reigns for ever and ever. Amen.

Rupert of Deutz from The Works of the Holy Spirit, 4, 10 (SC 165, 165)

The disciple who had” fully assured understanding of the knowledge of the mystery of God ” (Col 2,3)

In proportion to that grace that caused Jesus to love him and allowed him to lean on Jesus’ breast at the Last Supper (Jn 13,23), John abundantly received understanding and wisdom [gifts of the Spirit] (Is 11,2) – understanding to grasp the Scriptures; wisdom to compose his own books with wonderful skill. In actual fact he did not receive this gift from the exact moment he leaned on the Lord’s breast, even if he could afterwards draw from that heart “in which lie hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge” (Col 2,3). When it says that, on entering the tomb, “he saw and he believed”, it recognises that “they did not yet know the Scripture” and that “Jesus had to rise from the dead” (Jn 20,9). Like the other apostles, John received his full measure at Pentecost when the Holy Spirit came and when grace was given to each one “according to the measure of Christ’s gift” (Eph 4,7)…

Our Lord Jesus loved this disciple more that all the others… and opened the secrets of heaven to him… to make of him the author of that deep mystery of which no one can speak by himself: the mystery of the Word of God, the Word made flesh. However, even if he loved him, yet it was not to him that Jesus said: “You are Peter and on this rock I will build my Church” (Mt 16,18)… While loving all his disciples and especially Peter with a love in spirit and soul, our Lord loved John with a heart’s love… According to the order of apostolate, Simon Peter was given the first place and “the keys of the kingdom of heaven” (Mt 16,19). But John obtained a different inheritance: the spirit of understanding, “a treasure of joy and gladness ” (Sir 15,6).

St. Alphonsus Liguori from Meditations for the Octave of the Epiphany, 3

“Those who sought the child’s life”

An angel appeared in a dream to Joseph and warned him that Herod was seeking the Child Jesus’ life: “Get up,” he said, “take the child and his mother and flee to Egypt”. Jesus had hardly been born before he was being persecuted to the death… Joseph obeyed the angel’s voice without delay and warned his holy wife. He took such poor tools as he could carry so that he might have the wherewithal to carry on his work in Egypt and have something with which to maintain his little family.

Mary, for her part, gathered together in a bundle the necessary linen for her divine son; then, going to the cradle where he was lying, she went down on her knees, kissed the feet of her beloved child and, weeping tears of tenderness, said to him: “Oh my son and my God, you have come into the world to save humankind yet you have scarcely been born and they seek to kill you!” Then she took him in her arms and, as they wept, the holy couple shut the door and set out through the night…

Beloved Jesus, you are the king of heaven and now I see you in the likeness of a child, wandering in exile. Tell me: who are you looking for? I am moved with compassion when I see your poverty and humiliation. But what distresses me even more deeply is the complete ingratitude with which I see you being treated by the very ones you came to save. You weep, and I weep too for being one of those who have despised and persecuted you. Yet know that I would now prefer your grace to all the kingdoms of the world.

Forgive me all the harm I have caused you. On the journey of this life to eternity let me carry you in my heart following Mary’s example, who bore you in her arms during the flight to Egypt. Beloved Redeemer, I have often cast you out of my soul but now I trust you have repossessed it. I beseech you, bind it closely to yourself with the sweet bonds of your love.

St. Basil from Homily on the Holy Generation of Christ, 2.6 (PG 31, 1459s)

“He gave power to become children of God”

God is on earth, God is among us, not now as lawgiver – there is no fire, trumpet blast, smoke-wreathed mountain, dense cloud, or storm to terrify whoever hears him – but as one gently and kindly conversing in a human body with his fellow men and women. God is in the flesh… How can the Godhead be in the flesh? In the same way as fire can be in iron: not by moving from place to place but by the one imparting to the other its own properties. Fire does not speed toward iron, but without itself undergoing any change it causes the iron to share in its own natural attributes. The fire is not diminished and yet it completely fills whatever shares in its nature. So is it also with God the Word. He did not relinquish his own nature and yet he dwelt among us. He did not undergo any change and yet the Word became flesh. Earth received him from heaven, yet heaven was not deserted by him who holds the universe in being.

Let us strive to comprehend the mystery… “When the grace of God our Savior appeared” (Tit 2,11) and “the Sun of Justice rose,” (Mal 3,20) “death was swallowed up in victory,” (1Cor 15,54) unable to bear the presence of true life. How great is God’s goodness, how deep his love for us! Let us join the shepherds in giving glory to God, let us dance with the angels and sing: “Today a savior has been born to us. He is Christ the Lord” (Lk 2,11-12)

“The Lord is God and he has appeared to us,” (cf.Ps 118[117],7) not as God, which would have been terrifying for our weakness, but as a slave so as to free those who live in slavery. Who could be so lacking in sensibility and so ungrateful as not to join all here present in our gladness, exultation, and radiant joy? This feast belongs to the whole of creation. Let everyone contribute and be grateful. Let our voices too ring out in songs of jubilation.

St. Gregory of Nysa from Sermon on the Nativity, (PG 46, 1128)

“For today in the city of David a savior has been born for you who is Messiah and Lord”

Brethren, now we have been told about the miracle let us turn aside to see this unusual sight as Moses did (Ex 3,3): in Mary the burning bush is not consumed; the Virgin gives birth to the Light without defilement… Let us then run to Bethlehem, the town of the Good News! If we are real shepherds, staying awake on our watch, then it is to us that the voice of the angels is addressed, announcing a great joy…: “Glory to God in the highest for peace is coming down to earth!” There where, only yesterday, there was nothing but misfortune, battlefields and exile, now earth receives peace for today “Truth shall spring out of the earth and justice shall look down from heaven” (Ps 85,12). Behold the fruit earth gives to humankind in reward for the good will reigning among men (Lk 2,14). God is joined to man to raise man to the stature of God.

At this news, my brethren, let us go to Bethlehem to behold… the mystery of the crib: a child wrapped in swaddling clothes rests in a manger. A Virgin after giving birth, his undefiled Mother embraces her son. Let us repeat the words of the prophet along with the shepherds: “As we have heard, so we have seen in the city of our God” (Ps 48[47],9).

But why does our Lord seek shelter in this cave at Bethlehem? Why is he sleeping in a manger? Why does he participate in Israel’s census? My brethren, he who brings liberty to the world comes to be born into our slavery to death. He is born in this cave to reveal himself to us who are immersed in darkness and the shadow of death. He rests in a manger because he is the One who makes grass grow for the cattle (Ps 104[103],14). He is the Bread of Life who feeds us with a spiritual food that we too might live in the Spirit… What more joyful feast is there than that of today? Christ, the Sun of Justice (Mal 3,20), comes to illumine our night. What had fallen is raised up again, what was overcome is now set free… what was dead is restored to life… Let us all sing today with one voice over all the earth: “Death came through one man, Adam; today salvation has come through one man (cf. Rom 5,17).

Byzantine Liturgy from Lucenarium of the Great Vespers of the Feast of the Nativity of John the Baptist

“He spoke blessing God “

Through his birth St. John Ended the silence of Zachariah: Henceforward he would keep silence no longer, He who is to father the Voice who cries in the wilderness (Mt 3,3) And declare beforehand the coming of Christ. Yet since his doubts concerning him Had at first bound his father’s tongue, So his manifestation restores his liberty. Thus was announced, thus brought forth The Voice of the Word, the Forerunner of the Light, Who intercedes for our souls.

On this day the Voice of the Word Loosens his father’s tongue, held fast by lack of faith, And manifests the fruitfulness of the Church By bringing to an end his mother’s barrenness. The lampstand goes before the lamp: Behold the reflection of the Sun of justice (Mal 3,20), The ray proclaiming his arrival To restore all things For the salvation of our souls.

Behold him come forth from a barren womb, The Messenger of that divine Word Who must himself be born from the womb of a virgin; The greatest of those born of woman (Mt 11,11), The Prophet without peer. For divine things must have a wonderful beginning, Whether fruitfulness in advanced age (Lk 1,7) Or conception brought about without seed. Glory to you, O God, who work wonders for our salvation…

Apostle to all the world, Subject of Gabriel’s message (Lk 1,36), Shoot of the Barren One and finest flower of the desert, Close friend of the Bridegroom (Jn 3,29), Prophet worthy of our praises: Pray Christ to take pity on our souls.

Ludolph of Saxony from Life of Jesus Christ

“He has looked on the lowliness of his handmaid” (Lk 1,48)

Our Lord’s conception was prefigured by the burning bush that burned but was not consumed (Ex 3,2) just as Mary conceived her divine son but did not lose her virginity. The same Lord who dwelt within the burning bush, dwelt also in Mary’s womb. And just as he came down into that bush to deliver the Jews by leading them out of Egypt, so he came down into Mary to redeem us by drawing us out of hell. God’s choice of Mary among all women to clothe himself in flesh was prefigured by Gideon’s fleece (Jg 6,36f.). For just as the fleece alone was covered with dew from heaven while all the ground round about remained dry, so too Mary alone was filled with that divine dew of which no other creature in all the world had been found worthy… The Virgin Mary is the fleece of which Jesus Christ fashioned a garment for himself. Gideon’s fleece received the dew from heaven without being damaged and Mary conceived the Man-God without alteration to her virginity…

Jesus, Son of the living God who, by the will of the heavenly Father and with the Holy Spirit’s cooperation, came forth from your Father’s side as the secret river from the Paradise of delights; you who, visiting the recesses of our valleys and seeing the humility of your servant, came down into the womb of the virgin where, by an ineffable conception, you put on your mortal flesh. I beseech you, O merciful Jesus, through the merits of this Virgin, your mother, to cover me, your unworthy servant, with your grace that I may burn with desire for you, may conceive you in my heart through this love, and by the aid of this same grace may produce the health giving fruits of good works. Amen.

St. Thйrиse of the Child Jesus from Poem “Why I love you, Mary”, vv.4-7

” The Almighty works wonders for me” (Lk 1,49)

Oh! I love you, Mary, saying you are the servant Of the God whom you charm by your humility (Lk 1,38). This hidden virtue makes you all-powerful. It attracts the Holy Trinity into your heart. Then the Spirit of Love covering you with his shadow, (Lk 1,35) The Son equal to the Father became incarnate in you, There will be a great many of his sinner brothers, Since he will be called: Jesus, your first-born! (Lk 2,7) beloved Mother, despite my littleness, Like you I possess The All-Powerful within me. But I don’t tremble in seeing my weakness: The treasures of a mother belong to her child, And I am your child, O my dearest Mother. Aren’t your virtues and your love mine too? So when the white Host comes into my heart, Jesus, your Sweet Lamb, thinks he is resting in you! …

You make me feel that it’s not impossible To follow in your footsteps, O Queen of the elect. You made visible the narrow road to Heaven While always practicing the humblest virtues. Near you, Mary, I like to stay little. At the home of St. Elizabeth, receiving your visit, I learn how to practice ardent charity.

There, Sweet Queen of angels, I listen, delighted, To the sacred canticle springing forth from your heart (Lk 1,46f.). You teach me to sing divine praises, To glory in Jesus my Savior. Your words of love are mystical roses Destined to perfume the centuries to come. In you the Almighty has done great things. I want to ponder them to bless him for them.

Blessed Guerric of Igny Sermon 3 for the Annunciation, 2-4

“The Lord himself will give you a sign: the virgin shall be with child” (Is 7,14)

“The Lord spoke to Ahaz: ‘Ask for a sign from the Lord, your God.’ But Ahaz answered: ‘I will not ask! I will not tempt the Lord!’” (Is 7,10-12)….The sign which they refused… we receive with full faith and devout veneration, recognizing the Son whom the Virgin conceives to be for us “in the depths” of Sheol a sign of liberation and pardon, “in the heights above” a sign and a hope of exultation and glory… The Lord has now lifted up an ensign, first on the gibbet of the Cross, afterward on the throne of his kingdom…

Yes, the Virgin Mother conceiving and giving birth is a sign for us that he who is conceived and brought forth is God and man. The Son doing the things of God and suffering the things of man is a sign for us that he raises up to God man for whom he is conceived and brought forth and for whom also he suffers.

Of all the human weaknesses or injuries which God deigned to bear for us, the first in time and, one might say, the greatest in humility, was, I think, that the majesty which knows no bounds allowed itself to be conceived in the womb and to be confined in the womb for the space of nine months. Where else did he so empty himself out, or when was he seen so completely eclipsed?

For so long a time Wisdom says nothing, Power works nothing that can be discerned. The majesty which lies hidden and enclosed is not betrayed by any visible sign. He was not seen so weak on the Cross… But in the womb he is as if he were not. Almighty power lies idle as if it could do nothing. The eternal Word constrains himself to silence.

St. Bede the Venerable from Sermons for Christmas Eve, 5 (CCL 122, 32-36)

“You shall name him Emmanuel, which means “God is with us.”

“Behold,” says the prophet Isaiah, “a virgin will conceive and bear a son, and he will be called Emmanuel, a name which means God-with-us.” (7,14) The name ‘God- with-us,’ given to our Savior by the prophet, signifies that two natures are united in his one person.

Before time began he was God, born of the Father, but in the fullness of time he became Emmanuel, God-with-us, in the womb of his mother, because when “the Word was made flesh and lived among us” (Jn 1,14) he deigned to unite our frail human nature to his own person. Without ceasing to be what he had always been, he began in a wonderful fashion to be what we are, assuming our nature in such a way that he did not lose his own…

And so, Scripture says: “Mary gave birth to her firstborn son… and she named him Jesus.” (Lc 2,7.21). Jesus, then, is the name of the Virgin’s son. According to the angel’s explanation, it means one who is to save his people from their sins. In doing so he will also deliver them from any defilement of mind and body they have incurred on account of their sins.

But the title “Christ” implies a priestly or royal dignity. In the Old Testament it was given to both priests and kings on account of the anointing with chrism or holy oil which they received. They prefigured the true king and high priest who, on coming into this world, “was anointed with the oil of gladness above all his peers” (Ps 45[44], 8).

From this anointing or chrismation he received the name of Christ, and those who share in the anointing which he himself bestows, that is the grace of the Spirit, are called Christians. May Jesus Christ fulfill his saving task by saving us from our sins; may he discharge his priestly office by reconciling us to God the Father, and may he exercise his royal power by admitting us to his Father’s kingdom.

St. Peter Chrysologus from Sermon 146, on Mt. 1,18 (PL 52, 591)

“Mary the mother of Jesus was betrothed to Joseph”

“His mother, Mary, was betrothed.” It should have been enough to say: Mary was betrothed. What can a betrothed mother mean? If she is a mother then she isn’t betrothed; if she is betrothed then she isn’t yet a mother! “His mother, Mary, was betrothed”: betrothed by virginity, mother by fecundity.

This was a mother without experience of a man but who yet experienced motherhood. How could she not be a mother before she had conceived who, after giving birth, remains both virgin and mother? When was she not a mother, she who is about to conceive him who set in motion the time that gives things their beginning?…

Why was the mystery of heavenly innocence given to a betrothed girl and not to a virgin who was still free? Why did a fiancй’s jealousy put his betrothed in peril? Why should such great virtue appear to be sin or salvation to be eternal danger?… What mystery exercises us in all this, my brethren? There is not a stroke, a letter, a syllable, a word, a name, a person in all the Gospel that is empty of divine significance.

A betrothed girl was chosen that the Church, Christ’s betrothed, might also be signified according to the word of the prophet Hosea: “I will betroth you to me in right and justice, in love and mercy; I will betroth you in fidelity” (2,21-22). That is why John said: “The one who has the bride is the Bridegroom” (Jn 3,29). And St. Paul: “I betrothed you to one Spouse to present you as a chaste virgin to Christ” (2Cor 11,2). O Church, true spouse, who through the virginal birth [of baptism] conceives a new childhood from Christ!

Blessed Charles de Foucauld from Letter of the 19 May 1898 to Pиre Jerome

“What did you go out to the desert to see?”

One has to pass through the desert, spending time there, if one is to receive the grace of God. It is there that we empty ourselves, getting rid of everything that is not God, and completely emptying this little house of our souls to leave all the room to God alone. The Hebrews travelled through the desert, Moses lived there before he received his mission, St. Paul and St. John Chrysostom were also made ready in the desert…

It is a time of grace, a period during which all souls who want to bear fruit necessarily have to pass. They need this silence, recollection and forgetfulness of all created things in the midst of which God establishes his reign and forms a spirit of interiority within them: life in intimacy with God, conversation of the soul with God in faith, hope and love. Later on the soul will produce fruit in precisely the measure to which this interior man has been formed within it (Eph 3,16)…

We can only give what we have and it is in solitude, in that life alone with God alone, that profound recollection of the soul who forgets all else to live alone in union with God, that God gives himself wholly to the one who is thus given wholly to him. Give yourselves wholly to him alone… and he will give himself wholly to you…

Look at St. Paul, St. Benedict, St. Patrick, St. Gregory the Great and so many others – what long periods of recollection and silence they spent! Go higher: look at St. John the Baptist, look at our Lord. Our Lord had no need of it but he wanted to set us an example.

St. Hilary from Commentary on St. Matthew's Gospel, 11, 3 (SC 254, 255)

“Blessed is the one who takes no offense at me.”

When he sent his disciples to Jesus, John was concerned about their ignorance, not his own. For he himself had announced that one would be coming for the forgiveness of sins. But that they might know he had not preached anything else, he sent his disciples to witness his works so that they might give authority to his proclamation and no other Christ might be expected than he to whom his works bore testimony. And as the Lord revealed himself wholly through his miraculous deeds, giving sight to the blind, enabling the lame to walk, healing lepers, giving hearing to the death, speech to the dumb, life to the dead, teaching the poor, he said: “Happy are those who are not scandalized on my account”.

Now had there already been on Christ’s part any action that might have caused scandal to John? By no means. For he remained effectively within his own sphere of teaching and action. But we need to look at the implications and specific character of what the Lord says: that the Good News is welcomed by those who are poor.

It concerns those who are to lose their lives, take up their cross and follow him (Lk 14,27), who will become lowly of heart and for whom the Kingdom of heaven has been prepared (Mt 11,29; 25,34). And because all these forms of suffering would meet in the Lord and his cross would be a scandal to many, he declared happy those whose faith would not undergo temptation on account of his cross, death and burial.

Blessed Guerric of Igny from Sermon 1 for St. John Baptist, 4-5

” John testified to the truth…; he was a burning and shining lamp” (Jn 5,33.35)

To me certainly the birth of the world’s Lamp brings fresh joy, for it enabled me to recognize the true Light shining in the darkness but not mastered by the darkness… We can wonder at your holiness, O John, most holy among the St.s, but we cannot imitate it.

It is altogether necessary that, as you hasten to prepare for the Lord a perfect people out of publicans and sinners, you should speak to them more accommodatingly than you live and define the measure of perfection not in accordance with your own rule of life but in accordance with the possibilities of the common run of men.

“Bring forth worthy fruits of repentance, “he says. Our boast, brethren, is that we speak more perfectly than we live; whereas John, though living on a higher level than men can even understand, speaks to them in accordance with what they can take in. “Bring forth worthy fruits of repentance,” he says. “l speak to you humanely because of the weakness of your nature. If there is no room in you as yet for the plenitude of all good things, at least be truly sorry for all your evils. If you are unable as yet to bring forth the fruits of perfect justice, let this be your perfection for the moment, to bring forth worthy fruits of repentance.”

St. Augustine from Sermon 288

” Jesus came to John to be baptized by him… John said to him: ‘ It is I who need to be baptized by you!’” (Mt 3,13-14)

“Many prophets and righteous people longed to see what you see but did not see it” (Mt 13,17). Indeed, those holy ones, filled with the Spirit of God that they might foretell Christ’s coming, ardently longed to rejoice in his presence on earth if that were possible.

That was the reason why God held back from taking Simeon from this world: he wanted him to behold the one by whom the world was made under the form of a newborn infant (Lk 2,25f.)… Simeon did see him then, but beneath appearance of a child. John, on the other hand, saw him when he was already teaching and selecting his disciples. Where? Beside the river Jordan…

Here is where we see a symbol and foreshadowing of baptism in Jesus Christ: in the baptism of preparation that opened up the way for him according to these words of John: “Prepare the way of the Lord; make straight his paths” (Mt 3,3).

The Lord himself desired to be baptised by his servant to teach those who receive baptism in their Lord what grace it is they are receiving. Thus it was here that he began his rule, as though to fulfil this prophecy: “He will rule from sea to sea and from the River to the ends of the earth” (Ps 72[71],8). Beside the river where this lordship of Christ began, John saw the Savior.

He saw him, recognised him, and bore witness to him. John humbled himself before the divine greatness that his humility might be worthy of being raised up by that same greatness. He declared himself to be the friend of the Bridegroom (Jn 3,29). What sort of friend? Is this a friend who walks shoulder to shoulder with his companion? How far from his thought! At what sort of distance did he view himself? “I am not worthy,” he said, “to loosen the strap of his sandals” (Mk 1,7).

Rupert of Deutz from The Works of the Holy Spirit, 4, 10 (SC 265, 165)

The disciple who had” fully assured understanding of the knowledge of the mystery of God ” (Col 2,3)

In proportion to that grace that caused Jesus to love him and allowed him to lean on Jesus’ breast at the Last Supper (Jn 13,23), John abundantly received understanding and wisdom [gifts of the Spirit] (Is 11,2) – understanding to grasp the Scriptures; wisdom to compose his own books with wonderful skill. In actual fact he did not receive this gift from the exact moment he leaned on the Lord’s breast, even if he could afterwards draw from that heart “in which lie hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge” (Col 2,3).

When it says that, on entering the tomb, “he saw and he believed”, it recognises that “they did not yet know the Scripture” and that “Jesus had to rise from the dead” (Jn 20,9). Like the other apostles, John received his full measure at Pentecost when the Holy Spirit came and when grace was given to each one “according to the measure of Christ’s gift” (Eph 4,7)…

Our Lord Jesus loved this disciple more that all the others… and opened the secrets of heaven to him… to make of him the author of that deep mystery of which no one can speak by himself: the mystery of the Word of God, the Word made flesh. However, even if he loved him, yet it was not to him that Jesus said: “You are Peter and on this rock I will build my Church” (Mt 16,18)…

While loving all his disciples and especially Peter with a love in spirit and soul, our Lord loved John with a heart’s love… According to the order of apostolate, Simon Peter was given the first place and “the keys of the kingdom of heaven” (Mt 16,19). But John obtained a different inheritance: the spirit of understanding, “a treasure of joy and gladness ” (Sir 15,6).

A sermon attributed to St. Hippolytus of Rome from Sermon on the Holy Theophany; PG 10, 852 (Migne 2000, 136)

“Among those born of women there has been none greater than John the Baptist; yet the least in the kingdom of heaven is greater than he”

Let us honor the compassion of a God who has come to save, not to judge, the world. John, the Lord’s forerunner, who had previously been unaware of this mystery, as soon as he learned that Jesus was truly the Lord, cried out to those who came to be baptised: “Brood of vipers (Mt 3,6), why look to me so insistently? I am not the Christ; I am a servant, not the Master, a mere subject, not the king. I am a sheep, not the shepherd, a man not a God.

When I came into the world I cured my mother’s barrenness but her virginity was not made fruitful by me. I was drawn from below, I did not come down from on high. I bound my father’s tongue (Lk 1,20), I did not exercise divine grace… I am lowly and small but after me comes he who was before me (Jn 1,30). He comes afterwards in time but beforehand he was in the inaccessible and inexpressible light of the divinity. ‘He who is stronger than I is coming and I am not worthy to take off his sandals: he will baptise you in Spirit and fire’ (Mt 3,11).

I am beneath him but he is free. I am subject to sin but he destroys sin. I am a teacher of the Law but he brings with him the light of grace. I preach as a slave but he legislates as a master. The earth is my bed, the heavens are his. I baptise with the baptism of repentance but he give us the grace of adoption. ‘He will baptise you in Spirit and in fire.’ Why do you honor me? I am not the Christ.”

St. Ephram from Works, (ed. Assemani, 1, 486)

from Elijah on Mount Horeb

“Then the Lord passed by. A strong, heavy wind rent the mountains and crushed rocks before the Lord – but the Lord was not in the wind” (1Kgs 19,11). After the great storm there were earthquakes and lightening but Elijah understood that God was not in those either.

These natural phenomena were intended to restrain the prophet’s otherwise laudable zeal within the bounds of his responsibility, and to teach him that severity is to be tempered by mercy after the example shown by the signs of divine authority. According to their hidden meaning, the whirlwind that preceded God’s coming, the earthquakes and fires stirred up by the wind, were signs foreshadowing universal judgement…

“And after there fire there was a tiny, whispering sound.” By means of this symbol God restrains Elijah’s immoderate zeal. He wanted to tell him in this way: “Do you see how neither unbridled winds nor terrible earthquakes give me any pleasure, and I have no love for lightening or thunder: why don’t you imitate the gentleness of your God? Why not relax a little this burning zeal so as to become more of a protector than an accuser of your people?” The tiny, whispering sound represents the joy of blessedness bestowed on the upright when, at the end of time, the fearful judgement is to be paid…

“When he heard the sound, Elijah hid his face in his cloak and went and stood at the entrance of the cave. A voice said to him: ‘Elijah, why are you here?’ He replied: ‘I have been most zealous for the Lord, the God of Hosts, for the children of Israel have forsaken your covenant’”…

The prophet stood at the entrance to the cave without daring to draw near to the God who was approaching, and he covered his face, thinking himself unworthy to see God… Nevertheless, he had before his eyes a sign of the divine clemency and, what must have touched him even more, personal experience of God’s wonderful goodness in the words he spoke to him. Who would not be melted by consideration of so great a majesty and by so gentle a question: “Elijah, why are you here?”

Blessed John Henry Newman from Meditations and Devotions, 3, 4, 2-3

Being converted by God’s repeated call

my Lord Jesus, whose love for me has been so great as to bring Thee down from heaven to save me, teach me, dear Lord, my sin—teach me its heinousness—teach me truly to repent of it—and pardon it in Thy great mercy!

I beg Thee, O my dear Saviour, to recover me! Thy grace alone can do it. I cannot save myself. I cannot recover my lost ground. I cannot turn to Thee, I cannot please Thee, or save my soul without Thee. I shall go from bad to worse, I shall fall from Thee entirely, I shall quite harden myself against my neglect of duty, if I rely on my own strength. I shall make myself my centre instead of making Thee.

I shall worship some idol of my own framing instead of Thee, the only true God and my Maker, unless Thou hinder it by Thy grace. O my dear Lord, hear me! I have lived long enough in this undecided, wavering, unsatisfactory state. I wish to be Thy good servant. I wish to sin no more. Be gracious to me, and enable me to be what I know I ought to be.

Blessed Guerric of Igny from 2nd Sermon on St. John the Baptist (SC 202, 331)

“From the days of John the Baptist until now, the kingdom of heaven suffers violence”

Someone wrestled with Jacob until morning perseveringly… and Jacob said to him: “I will not let you go unless you bless me” (Gn 32,25.27)… So to you, my brethren, we say, you whose set purpose is to win heaven by force, you who have come together to wrestle with the angel who guards the way to the tree of life, to you we say: it is wholly necessary that you should wrestle perseveringly and without remission, not only until the thigh… is deprived of its vigor but also until the body is mortified. But your toil will be able to achieve this only by the touch of God’s strength and through his bounty…

Do you not seem to yourself to be wrestling with an angel, or rather with God himself, when day by day he resists your impatient prayers?… You cry to him and he does not listen to you; you wish to approach him and he repels you. You make a decision and the opposite happens; and so, in every way, he sets himself against you with unrelenting hand. O Mercy, you conceal yourself and pretend to be unrelenting! With what loving-kindness you fight against those for whom you fight. For although you “hide these things in your heart”, I know that you “love those who love you” and that “the abundance of your sweetness which you hide away for those who fear you is immense” (Jb 10,13; Pr 8,17; Ps 31[30],20).

Do not despair then, persevere, happy soul that has begun to wrestle with God; he loves to suffer violence from you, he desires to be overcome by you. For when he is angry and stretches forth his hand to strike, he seeks, as he himself confesses, a man like Moses to resist him… For if his anger is implacable and his sentence unbending,Jeremiah, who had attempted to resist, will weep and say: “You were the stronger and did prevail” (20,7).

St. Epiphanius of Salamis from Sermon 5 (PG 43, 494, 502)

“Hail, favored one!”

How can I speak? What praises could I possibly make of the holy and glorious Virgin? She surpasses all other beings except for God himself. She is by nature more beautiful than the cherubim and seraphim and the whole angelic host. No language, whether of heaven or earth or even of the angels, is enough to praise her.

Blessed Virgin, spotless dove, heavenly bride…, temple and throne of the Godhead! Christ, the sun that shines resplendently in heaven and on earth, belongs to you. You are the luminous cloud that brought Christ down to earth, he who is the bright streak of lightening who shines across the world.

Rejoice, full of grace, gate of heaven! It was of you the author of the Songs of Songs speaks… when he cries aloud: “A garden enclosed is my sister, my bride; an enclosed garden, a fountain sealed” (4,12)… Holy Mother of God, spotless ewe: you gave birth to Christ the Lamb, the Word made flesh in you… How amazing a wonder in the heavens: a woman clothed with the sun (Rv 12,1), carrying the light in her arms!… How amazing a wonder in the heavens: the Lord of angels become the Virgin’s child. Angels judged Eve; now they fill Mary with glory since it was she raised Eve from her fall and brought Adam, expelled from Paradise, into heaven.

Vast is the grace given to this holy Virgin. Hence Gabriel first addresses her with this greeting: “Hail, full of grace”, resplendent as the heaven. “Hail, full of grace”, Virgin adorned with countless virtues…

“Hail, full of grace”, you quench our thirst at the sweetness of the everlasting stream. Hail, holy and immaculate Mother, you conceived the Christ who existed before you. Hail, royal purple, you clothed the king of heaven and earth. Hail, O sealed book, you enabled the world to read the Word, the Father’s Son.

St. Bernard from Sermon 1 for Advent, 7-8

“It is not the will of your heavenly Father that one of these little ones be lost”

The prophet Isaiah says: “Behold, the name of the Lord comes from afar” (Is 30,27)… Who can doubt that there was some cause great enough to move so sovereign a Majesty to come “from afar,” and condescend to enter a place so unworthy of him as this world of ours?

The cause was great indeed. It was his immense mercy, his manifold compassion, his abundant charity. Indeed, for what end must we believe Christ came? The search demands little labor, for the end and purpose of his coming is proclaimed by his words and works. To seek after the one sheep that had strayed out of the hundred he hastened from the mountains.

He came for our sake, that his mercies and his wondrous deeds might be openly proclaimed to humankind (Ps 107[106],8). O wonderful condescension of God in his searching for us! o wonderful dignity of man who is thus sought! If one should wish to glory in this dignity, it would not be imputed to us as folly.

Not that we need think anything of ourselves, but let us rejoice that he who made us should set so high a value on us. For all the riches and glory of the world, all that could be desired, all this is of little worth and even nothing at all by comparison with that glory. “What is man, O Lord, that you make much of him, or pay him any heed?” (Jb 7,17).

St. Peter Chrysologus from Sermon 50 (PL 52, 339)

“What are you thinking in your hearts”

Thanks to the faith of others the cripple’s soul would be cured before his body. “Seeing their faith,” the gospel says. Note here, my brethren, that God is not interested in what foolish people want and doesn’t expect to find faith among the ignorant…, among those who conduct themselves badly. On the other hand he doesn’t refuse to come to the help of others’ faith.

Such faith is a gift of grace, at one with God’s will… In his divine goodness Christ the physician strives to draw to salvation, even in spite of themselves, those affected by sickness of soul, those whom the burden of their sins and offenses overwhelms even to delirium. Yet they don’t want to submit.

my brethren, if only we wanted to, if only we all wanted to perceive our soul’s paralysis in all its depth! Then we would see that it is lying on a stretcher of sins, deprived of strength. Christ’s action within us would be a source of light and we would understand that each day he sees our lack of faith, harmful as it is, that he draws us towards healing remedies and sharply presses our rebellious wills. “My son” he says, “your sins are forgiven you.”

Origen from Homilies on St. Luke's Gospel, 22, 4 (SC 87, 303)

“Prepare the way of the Lord, make straight his paths.”

John the Baptist said: “Every valley shall be filled” (Lk 3,5) but it was not John who filled every valley, it was our Lord and Savior… “And the winding roads shall be made straight.” Every one of us was going astray…, and it was Christ’s coming, fulfilled within our very souls, that straightened all that was crooked…

Nothing was so resistant as you were. Consider your former unruly desires, your fits of anger and other evil tendencies, as to whether they have disappeared. You will realize that nothing was so resistant as you were or, in an even more expressive phrase, that nothing was so brought low. Your behavior was low, your words and deeds were low.

But my Lord Jesus came: he smoothed down your roughness, he changed all that muddle into roads that joined up, to create a way without obstacles within you, well articulated and swept clean so that God our Father could walk in you and Christ the Lord could make his home in you and say: “My Father and I will come to him and make our dwelling within him” (Jn 14,23).

St. Cyprian from The Lord's Prayer, 13

“The kingdom of heaven is at hand”

“Thy kingdom come” (Mt 6,10). We seek also that God’s kingdom be manifested to us, just as we ask that his name be sanctified in us. For when does God not reign, or when does that begin in him that both always was and does not cease to be?

We petition that our kingdom come which was promised us by God, which was acquired by Christ’s blood and passion, so that we who formerly served in the world may afterwards reign with Christ as Lord, as he himself promises and says: “Come, blessed of my Father, take possession of the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world” (Mt 25,34).

Indeed, most beloved brethren, even Christ himself can be the kingdom of God whom we daily desire to come, whose coming we wish to be quickly presented to us. For since he himself is “the resurrection” (Jn 11,25), because in him we rise again, so too the kingdom of God can be understood as himself, because in him we are to reign.

St. Symeon the New Theologian from Hymn 53 (SC 196, p. 221)

Human blindness

[Christ speaks:] When I created Adam, I allowed him to see me and thus be established in the dignity of the angels… With his bodily eyes he beheld my whole creation but with those of the mind he looked on the face of me, his Creator. He contemplated my glory and spoke with me constantly. But when, in defiance of my command, he tasted of the tree, then he became blind and fell into the darkness of death…

But I took pity on him and came down from on high. I who am completely invisible Shared the visibility of his flesh, And having received from the flesh a beginning, having become man, I was seen by all. So why did I readily take on all this? Because this was the real reason For which I had created Adam: to see me. When he had been blinded And, following him, all his descendants as well, I could not bear that I myself should remain In divine glory and abandon those… I had created with my own hands. But I became in everything like all men, Bodily with those who are body, And freely joined myself to them. Now you see what my wish to be seen by men is like… So how can you say I am hiding from you, Not letting myself be seen? In truth I shine out, but you, you fail to look at me.

St. Augustine from Sermons on the Psalms, Ps. 95, 4Building a house

The psalmist says: “The Lord is great and worthy of praise” (96[95],4). Who is this ‘Lord’ if not Jesus Christ, great and worthy of praise? You surely know he appeared as man; you know, too, that he was conceived in the womb of a woman; that he was born of that womb, nourished, cradled in her arms, circumcised, that an offering was made for him (Lk 2,24) and that he grew up.

You also know that he was struck, covered with spittle, crowned with thorns, crucified, and that he died, pierced by a lance. You know well that he suffered all those things. Yes, “he is great and worthy of praise”. Guard yourselves from despising his littleness; understand his greatness.

He became small because you were small: understand how great he is and you will become great along with him. This is how houses are built, how the solid walls of a building are raised. The stones brought to construct the building increase: you, too, increase, understanding how great Christ is and how he who appeared to be small is great, very great indeed…

What can poor, human language say in praise of him who is so great? In saying “very” great it is trying to express what it feels and believes…, but it is as if it were saying: “Try to grasp in thought what I am unable to express in words, and yet you must know that whatever you may have grasped is only a fragment.” For how can any language translate something that surpasses all thought? “Great is the Lord and worthy of all praise!” May he be praised, then; may he be preached; may his glory be proclaimed and his dwelling place erected.

Didache, 9-10

” So too may thy Church be gathered together from the corners of the world into thy kingdom “

With regard to the Eucharist, this is the way you should celebrate it. First of all with regard to the cup: “We give thanks to thee, our Father, for the holy vine of thy Child David, which thou didst make known to us through Jesus thy Child. To thee be glory forever.” On the morsel of bread: “We thank thee, our Father, for the life and knowledge thou has made known to us through thy Child Jesus. To thee be glory forever.

As this bread was scattered on the mountains and yet was gathered and made one, so too may thy Church be gathered together from the corners of the world into thy kingdom, for thine is the glory and power through Christ Jesus forever.” No one however should partake or drink of Eucharist except those that have been baptized in the name of the Lord…

And after you are filled, make your thanksgiving thus: “Holy Father, we thank thee for thy holy name, which thou hast made to dwell within our hearts, and for the knowledge, faith, and immortality, which thou has revealed to us through thy Child Jesus. To thee be glory forever.

Almighty Lord, thou didst create all things for the sake of thy name: thou gavest food and drink to men for their pleasure, that they might thank thee; but thou has blest us with spiritual food and drink and with eternal life through thy Child Jesus.”

St. John Chrysostom from Homilies on St. John's Gospel, 19, 1

First to be called, first to bear witness

“How good and how pleasant it is, brethren dwelling in unity” (Ps 131[132],1)… Andrew, having stayed with Jesus (Jn 1,39) and learned what he did, would not keep the treasure for himself but made haste and ran quickly to his brother, Simon Peter, to share with him the good things he had received …

Observe what he says to his brother: “We have found the Messiah, (which is translated ‘Anointed’)” (Jn 1,41). Do you see what fruit he learned in so short a time? This proves both the authority of the Teacher who has taught his disciples and also their keenness to know it right from the beginning.

Andrew’s haste, and his eagerness to share such good news at once, suggests a soul burning to see the fulfilment of so many prophecies concerning the Messiah. It shows true brotherly friendship, deep affection and a simple nature, full of sincerity, that he should share his spiritual riches in this way… “We have found the Messiah” he says. Not ‘a messiah’ – just any messiah – but ‘the Messiah’, the very one we have been waiting for.

St. Irenaeus of Lyons from Demonstration of the Apostolic Preaching (SC 62, 157)

“Many will come from the east and the west, and will recline with Abraham… at the banquet in the kingdom of heaven”

”Behold, the days are coming, says the Lord, when I shall make a new covenant with the house of Israel and the house of Jacob… I will put my laws in their minds and will write them in their hearts” (Jr 31,31f.)…

And that these promises were going to be inherited by the calling of the Gentiles, in whom also the New Covenant was opened, Isaiah says in this way, “Thus says the God of Israel, In that day man shall be confident in his Maker, and his eyes shall look to the Holy One of Israel, and they shall not be confident in altars nor in the works of their hands, which their fingers have made…” (Is 17,7f.).

For most manifestly these things are said with regard to those who forsake idols and believe in God, our Maker, through the Holy One of Israel; and the Holy One of Israel is Christ…

And 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” (65,1).

And that this race was going to be a holy people, was announced in the Twelve Prophets by Hosea in this way: “I shall call those who were Not my People, My People, and she who was Not Beloved I shall call Beloved… and they shall all be called ‘sons of the living God’” (Rm 9,25-26; Hos 2,25; cf 1,9). That 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 from stony services by faith, see God and become children of Abraham, who was made righteous by faith.

St. Aelred of Rielvaux from Sermon for the Advent of the Lord (PL 195, 363; PL 184, 818)

“Be vigilant and pray that you have the strength… to stand before the Son of Man” (Lk 21,36)

This season of Advent represents the two comings of the Lord: in the first place, the sweetest coming of “the fairest of the children of men” (Ps 45[44],3) of the “Desired of all nations” (Hg 2,8 Vg), of that Son of God who has visibly manifested his long- awaited presence in the flesh to the world, so ardently desired by all our holy forefathers.

This is the coming whereby he came into the world to save sinners. But this season also calls to mind the coming we are waiting for with certain hope and should often remember with tears: that which will take place when the same Lord appears manifestly in his glory…: that is to say, on the day of judgement when he will come openly to judge. The first coming was known only to few, but in the second he will manifest himself to the just and to sinners, as the prophet declares: “And all flesh shall see the salvation of God” (Is 40,5; Lk 3,6)…

So let us follow the example of those holy forefathers, dearest brethren; let us relive their desire and kindle our minds with love and desire for Christ. As you know well, the celebration of this season was instituted to renew that desire within us that the fathers of old had for the first coming of the Lord and so that, through their example, we might also learn to long for his return. Think of all the good our Lord accomplished for our sakes at his first coming. How much more will he not accomplish when he comes again! This thought will make us love all the more his former coming and all the more desire his return…

If we would experience peace at his future coming, let us strive to welcome his former coming with faith and love. Let us remain faithfully in those works he made known to us and taught us then. Let us nurture love for our Lord in our hearts and, through love, desire, so that when the Desired of the nations comes we may look on him in all confidence.

Origen from Sermons on Genesis, no. 12, 5 (SC7, 307 rev.)

“Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will not pass away”

“Drink water from your own cistern, running water from your own well: let your fountain be yours alone” (Prv 5,15.17). Try, then, you who are listening to me, to possess a cistern and fountain of your own in such a way that, when you take up the book of the scriptures, you too will discover some sort of interpretation from your own guide.

Yes, following what you have learned in the Church, you too must try to drink from the fountain of your spirit. Deep within yourself lies “living water” (Jn 4,10). There lie the inexhaustible canals, the swollen rivers of Scripture’s spiritual sense – insofar as they have not become blocked with earth and sediment. If that should be so, then what you have to do is to dig out and clean, that is to say chase away your spirit’s lassitude and shake up the heaviness of your heart…

Therefore, purify your spirit that one day you may drink from your own fountain and draw living water from your own well. Because if you have taken God’s word to yourself, if you have received living water from Jesus, and if you have received it with faith, if will become in you “water springing up to eternal life” (Jn 4,14).

St. Augustine from Sermon 306

“By your perseverance you will secure your lives”

Do you want to come to that life where you will be sheltered from error forever? Who does not want this?… We all desire life and truth but how are we to attain it? What path are we to follow? Certainly, we have not reached the end of the journey yet we can already see it…, we yearn for life and truth. Christ is both one and the other. What is the way to it? “I am the way,” he says. To what will we come? “I am the truth and the life” (Jn 14,6).

This is what the martyrs loved; this is why they looked beyond the love of present goods that pass away. Don’t be astonished at their bravery: in them love overcame suffering… Let us walk in their footsteps, our eyes fixed on him who is both their Leader and ours. If we would come to so great a happiness, let us not be afraid of treading difficult paths. He who has promised is true; he is faithful; he could not deceive us… Why fear the hard road of suffering and tribulation? Our Savior in person has trodden it.

You answer: “But that was him, the Savior!” Know that the apostles passed that way too. Now you’re going to say: “But they were apostles!” Yes, I know. But don’t forget that a great many people like yourself have trodden it in their turn…, women have trodden it, too… children, even young girls have gone that way. How could the road that so many passers-by have levelled still be too hard?

St. Cyril of Jerusalem from Baptismal Catecheses, 14

”Heaven and earth will pass away but my words will not pass away ” (Mt 24,35)

Our Lord Jesus Christ will come from heaven at the end of the world, on the last day. For the world will end and this created world will be renewed. For since corruption, theft, adultery and all kinds of sins cover the earth, and “bloodshed follows bloodshed over the land” (Hos 4,2), therefore this world will pass away and another, more lovely, will be established so that this wonderful dwelling place may not remain full of injustice…

Hear what Isaiah says: “The heavens shall be rolled up like a scroll and the stars fall like the leaves of a fig tree” (cf. Is 34,4). And the Gospel also says: “The sun will be darkened and the moon will not give its light, and the stars will fall from the sky” (Mt 24,29). So let us not be dismayed as though we were the only ones who must die.

The stars will also die and yet perhaps they will be brought to life again. The Lord will roll away the sky, not to destroy it but to restore it to life more lovely than before. Listen to the prophet David speaking: “Of old you established the earth, and the heavens are the work of your hands. They shall perish but you remain.

They will all grow old like a garment; like clothing you change them and they will be changed” (Ps 102[101], 26-28)… Listen, too, to our Lord speaking: “Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will not pass away” (Mt 24,35), for the authority of created things does not equal that of their Master’s words.

St. Ambrose from Exhortation to Widows, 27f

“This poor widow put in more than all the rest”

In St. Luke’s gospel, our Lord teaches us how necessary it is to be merciful and generous to the poor without being held back by thoughts about our own poverty. For generosity is not assessed according to the abundance of one’s inheritance but according to one’s disposition towards giving.

That is why the Lord’s words call all to esteem the most that widow of whom it is said: “This widow has given more than all.” In the moral sense our Lord is teaching everyone that we shouldn’t let ourselves be prevented from doing good because of the shame of poverty and that the wealthy have no reason to be proud because they appear to give more than the poor.

One small coin drawn from little capital weighs more heavily than a large amount taken from an abundance. We don’t calculate what was given but what remains. And no one has given more than she who has kept nothing for herself…

However, in the mystical sense, the woman who placed two, small coins in the treasury is not to be forgotten. Great indeed is that woman who was worthy to be preferred before everyone else according to the divine judgement!

Might it not be she who has drawn the two Testaments out of her faith for the help of all humankind? Therefore no one has done more than she, and no one has been able to equal the greatness of her gift, since she joined faith to mercy. And you, too, whoever you are…, don’t hesitate to bring to the treasury two coins, full of faith and grace.

St. Gregory of Nyssa from 5th sermon on Easter (PG 46, 683)

”Pilate said:…: ‘Behold your king’ ” (Jn 19,14)

Blessed be God! Let us celebrate the only-begotten Son, the Creator of heaven, who has risen again after descending to the depths of hell and who now covers the whole earth with rays of light. Let us celebrate the burial of the only Son and his resurrection as victor, the whole world’s joy and life of all peoples…

All of this was won for us when the Creator was raised from the dead, casting off its humiliation and transfiguring what was perishable into imperishable in his divine splendor. And what is the humiliation he has cast aside? Isaiah tells us: “Without beauty, without majesty we saw him; no looks to attract our eyes, he was despised by men” (Is 53,2-3).

When was he without majesty, then? When he bore the wood of the cross on his shoulders as the trophy of his victory over the devil. When a crown of thorns was placed on his head – he who crowns his faithful ones. When they clothed in purple him who clothes with immortality those who are reborn of water and the Holy Spirit. When they nailed the lord of life and death to the cross…

But he who was without majesty was transfigured in light, and the joy of the world awoke in his mortal body… “The Lord is king, he has clothed himself in beauty!” (Ps 93[92],1). What sort of beauty has he put on? Incorruptibility, immortality, the gathering of the apostles, the crown of the Church…

Paul is witness to this; let us listen to him: “It was fitting that what is corruptible must clothe itself with incorruptibility and what is mortal must clothe itself with immortality” (1Cor 15,53). The psalmist also says: “Your throne stands firm from of old; from everlasting you are, O Lord; your kingdom is a kingdom for all ages, and your dominion endures through all generations” (Ps 93[92],2; 145,13). And again: “The Lord is king; let the earth rejoice; let the many isles be glad” (Ps 97[96],1). To him be the glory and power, amen!

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

“The people walking in front rebuked him, telling him to be silent, but he kept calling out all the more”

When he heard the noise being made by the crowd, the blind man asked what was happening. Someone replied: ‘It’s Jesus of Nazareth!’ His soul was immediately fired with such intense faith in Christ that he started to shout: “Jesus, son of David, have pity on me!” And you who have come to a standstill by the roadside of life, short as it is, wouldn’t you, too, like to shout aloud?

You who are lacking in lights, who stand in need of new graces if you are to commit yourself to seeking holiness. Don’t you feel a pressing need to shout: “Jesus, son of David, have pity on me”? It’s a wonderful prayer, brief and full of fervor, to be repeated frequently!

I advise you to take time to meditate slowly over the moments preceding this miracle so as to engrave deeply on your mind this clear thought: what a difference there is between the merciful Heart of Jesus and our own, poor hearts! This is a thought that will always assist you, especially in times of trial or temptation, at times, too, when you must respond generously to the humble demands of daily life, at times of heroism.

For “many rebuked that blind man to make him be quiet.” And you, too, when you became aware that Jesus was passing close by you, your heart beat fast and you began to shout out in the grip of a profound agitation. But then your friends, your habits, your comforts, your environment advised you to be silent, not to shout: “Why call Jesus? Don’t disturb him!”

As for that unfortunate blind man, he paid no attention. To the contrary, he cried out all the more: “Son of David, have pity on me!” And the Lord, who had heard him to begin with, left him to persevere in his prayer. So it is with you. Jesus is instantly aware of our soul’s cry, but he waits. He wants us to be completely convinced of our need of him. He wants us to beseech him persistently like that blind man by the roadside. As St. John Chrysostom says: “Imitate him. Even if God doesn’t grant what we ask of him for the moment, even if the crowd tries to turn us away from our prayer, don’t stop begging.”

St. Ambrose from Commentary on St. Luke's Gospel, 10, 6-8 (SC 52, 158)

“Not one stone will remain upon another: all shall be destroyed.”

These words were true of the Temple built by Solomon… for everything built by human hands either wears away or disintegrates or is overthrown by violence or destroyed by fire…

But there is also a temple within every one of us that crumbles whenever faith is lacking and most especially if, in Christ’s name, one falsely tries to gain possession of interior convictions. Perhaps this is the most helpful interpretation where we are concerned. Indeed, what is the point of my knowing the day of judgement?

Being aware of so many sins, what is the point of knowing the Savior will one day come if he has not come into my soul, is not recalled to my mind, if Christ does not live in me, if Christ does not speak in me? So it is to me Christ must come and it is for my sake his coming must take place.

The Lord’s second coming takes place as the world draws to a close, when we are able to say: “The world is crucified to me and I to the world” (Gal 6,14)… To the one to whom the world is dead, Christ is everlasting; to such a one the temple is spiritual, the Law spiritual, even the Passover is spiritual…

And so, for that person wisdom’s presence has come to pass, along with virtue and justice and the presence of the resurrection, for Christ indeed died once for the sins of the people in order daily to redeem the sins of the people.

St. Augustine from Sermon 115, 1 (PL 38, 655)

“But when the Son of Man comes, will he find faith on earth?”

What more powerful incentive to prayer could be proposed to us than the parable of the unjust judge? An unprincipled man, without fear of God or regard for other people, that judge nevertheless ended by granting the widow’s petition. No kindly sentiment moved him to do so; he was rather worn down by her pestering.

Now if a man can grant a request even when it is odious to him to be asked, how can we be refused by the one who urges us to ask? Having persuaded us, therefore, by a comparison of opposites that “we ought always to pray and never lose heart,” the Lord goes on to put the question: “Nevertheless, when the Son of Man comes, do you think he will find faith on earth?”

Where there is no faith, there is no prayer. Who would pray for something he did not believe in? So when the blessed Apostle exhorts us to pray he begins by declaring: “Whoever calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.”

But to show that faith is the source of prayer and the stream will not flow if its springs are dried up, he continues: “But how can people call on him in whom they do not believe?” (Rom 10,13-14). We must believe, then, in order to pray; and we must ask God that the faith enabling us to pray may not fail. Faith gives rise to prayer, and this prayer obtains an increase of faith.

St. Romanos Melodios from Hymn of Noah, 11 (SC 99, 117)

Noah, the wise… went into the ark at God’s orders together with his sons and their wives, a mere eight souls in all. With constant groans this servant prayed thus: “Let me not perish with sinners, my Savior, for already I see chaos swamping creation and the elements shaken with fear… The clouds are ready, the sky stormy, angels run before your wrath.” At these words, God shut the ark and sealed it as his faithful one cried out: “Save mankind from wrath, O redeemer of the world, may you protect us with your love.”

Then, from the heights of heaven, the judge gives the order: immediately the floodgates open, pouring down rain and hail in torrents from one end of the world to the other; fear causes the springs of the abyss to gush forth, flooding the earth in every quarter… Such were the results of God’s anger because humankind had persisted in its hardness of heart instead of hastening to cry out to him with faith: “Save all humankind from wrath in the love you have for us, O Redeemer of the world”…

Then the choir of angels cried out, seeing carnal men destroyed: “Now let the just possess the length and breadth of the earth!” For the Creator delights to behold those made in his own image (Gn 1,26); this is why he set aside his St.s to save them. Noah… released the dove and in the evening it returned, bearing an olive branch in its beak, symbolically announcing God’s mercy. Then Noah came out of the ark as from the tomb, according to the command he had received…, not, as formerly, like Adam,who had eaten of the tree that brings death, for Noah had brought forth the fruits of repentance, saying: “Save all humankind from wrath in the love you have for us, O Redeemer of the world.”

Corruption and wickedness have perished; the man of upright heart is victorious by his faith for he has found grace… Then the just man (Gn 6,9) offers an unblemished sacrifice to the Lord… The Creator, smelling the sweet-smelling odor, declares: “Nevermore will the world perish in a flood, even should all men lead a life of wickedness. Today I will make with them a binding covenant. I will show my bow as a sign to all the dwellers on earth, that thus they may call upon my name: “Save all humankind from wrath in the love you have for us, O Redeemer of the world.”

Blessed John Henry Newman from Parochial and Plain Sermons: “The Invisible world,” vol. 4, no.13

The kingdom of God is among you

Is it difficult to faith to admit the word of Scripture concerning our connexion with a world superior to us?… The world of spirits then, though unseen, is present; present, not future, not distant. It is not above the sky, it is not beyond the grave; it is now and here; “the kingdom of God is among us.” Of this the text speaks;—”We look,” says St. Paul, “not at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen; for the things which are seen are temporal, but the things which are not seen are eternal” (2Cor 4,18)…

Such is the hidden kingdom of God; and, as it is now hidden, so in due season it shall be revealed. Men think that they are lords of the world, and may do as they will. They think this earth their property, and its movements in their power; whereas… it contains Christ’s little ones whom they despise, and His Angels whom they disbelieve; and these at length shall take possession of it and be manifested. At present, “all things,” to appearance, “continue as they were from the beginning of the creation;” and scoffers ask, “Where is the promise of His coming?”(2Pt 3,4) but at the appointed time there will be a “manifestation of the sons of God,” and the hidden St.s “shall shine out as the sun in the kingdom of their Father.” (Mt 13,43)

When the Angels appeared to the shepherds, it was a sudden appearance,—”Suddenly there was with the Angel a multitude of the heavenly host” (Lk 2,13). How wonderful a sight! The night had before that seemed just like any other night – they were keeping watch over their sheep; they were watching the night as it passed. The stars moved on,—it was midnight. They had no idea of such a thing when the Angel appeared. Such are the power and virtue hidden in things which are seen, and at God’s will they are manifested.

St. Francis of Assisi from The Earlier Rule, 23

“He returned, glorifying God”

All-powerful, most holy, most high and supreme God, Holy and just Father, Lord, King of heaven and earth we thank You for Yourself for through Your holy will and through Your only Son with the Holy Spirit You have created all things spiritual and corporal and, having made us in Your own image and likeness, You placed us in paradise. And through our own fault we have fallen.

And we thank You for as through Your Son You created us so also, through Your holy love with which You loved us, You brought about His birth as true God and true man by the glorious, ever-virgin, most blessed, holy Mary and You willed to redeem us captives through His cross and blood and death.

And we thank You for Your Son Himself will come again in the glory of His majesty to send the wicked ones who have not done penance and who have not known You into the eternal fire, and to say to all those who have known You and have adored You and have served You in penance: “Come, you blessed of my Father, receive the kingdom, which has been prepared for you from the beginning of the world” (Mt 25,34).

And because all of us wretches and sinners are not worthy to pronounce Your name, we humbly ask that our Lord Jesus Christ Your beloved Son in whom You were well pleased together with the Holy Spirit, the Paraclete, give You thanks as it pleases You and Him for everything, [He] Who always satisfies You in everything through Whom You have done such great things for us. Alleluia!

Blessed John Henry Newman from Parochial and Plain Sermons, vol. 6, 19

Feast of the Dedication of a cathedral, feast of the Church

Is a Cathedral the offspring of a random thought, a thing to will and to accomplish at our pleasure?… Surely the Churches which we inherit are not the purchase of wealth nor the creation of genius, they are the fruits of martyrdom. They come of high deeds and sufferings, as long before their very building as we are after it. Their foundations are laid very deep, even in the preaching of Apostles, and the confession of St.s, and the first victories of the Gospel in our land. All that is so noble in their architecture, all that captivates the eye and makes its way to the heart, is not a human imagination, but a divine gift, a moral result, a spiritual work.

The Cross is ever planted in hazard and suffering, and is watered with tears and blood. No where does it take root and bear fruit, except its preaching be with self- denial. It is easy, indeed, for the ruling powers to make a decree, and set religion on high, and extend its range, and herald its name; but they cannot plant it, they can but impose it. The Church alone can plant the Church. The Church alone can found her sees, and inclose herself within walls. None but St.ly men, mortified men, preachers of righteousness, and confessors for the truth, can create a home for the truth in any land.

Thus the Temples of God are withal the monuments of His St.s… Their simplicity, grandeur, solidity, elevation, grace, and exuberance of ornament, do but bring to remembrance the patience and purity, the courage, meekness, and great charity, the heavenly affections, the activity in well-doing, the faith and resignation, of men who themselves did but worship in mountains, and in deserts, and in caves and dens of the earth. They laboured, but not in vain, for other men entered into their labours; (cf. Jn 4,38) and, as if by natural consequence, at length their word prospered after them, and made itself a home, even these sacred palaces in which it has so long dwelt… O happy they who, in a sorrowful time, avail themselves of this bond of communion with the St.s of old and with the universal Church!… Happy they, who when they enter within their holy limits, enter in heart into the court of Heaven!

Asterius of Amasea from Sermon 13

“If your brother sins… forgive him”

you who are hard-hearted, incapable of gentleness, learn of your Creator’s goodness and do not be bitter judges and arbitrators of your fellow servants as you wait for the coming of him who will disclose the hidden places of the heart and will himself, the all-powerful Lord, determine each one’s place in the world to come. Don’t assign severe judgements that you may not be judged in the same way and rent by the words of your own mouth as if by sharp teeth.

For it is against this kind of crime that these words of the Gospel seem to warn us: “Do not judge and you will not be judged” (Lk 6,37). In saying this he is not doing away with discernment and wisdom; what he is referring to as judgement is over- severe condemnation. So far as possible, then, lighten the weight of your measure if you don’t want your actions to weigh too heavy on the scales when our lives are weighed as on a balance at God’s judgment… Never refuse to show mercy that you may not be denied forgiveness when you are in need of it yourself.

St. Gaudentius of Brescia from Sermon 18 (PL 20, 973-975)

“Make friends for yourself with dishonest wealth”

These poor people will befriend you by assuring your salvation, for Christ, the giver of eternal rewards, will declare that he himself received the acts of kindness done to them. Not in their own name, then, will these poor folk welcome us, but in the name of him who is refreshed in their persons by the fruit of our faith and obedience. Those who exercised this ministry of love will be received into the eternal dwellings of the kingdom of heaven, for the King will say: “Come, blessed of my Father, take possession of the kingdom prepared for you from the beginning of the world; for I was hungry and you fed me, thirsty and you gave me drink” (Mt 25,34)…

To this the Lord adds: “If you cannot be trusted with another’s property, who will give you your own?” Nothing in this world really belongs to us. We who hope for future reward are told to live in this world as strangers and pilgrims, so as to be able to say to the Lord without fear of contradiction: “I am a stranger, a pilgrim like all my ancestors” (Ps 39[38],13).

What believers can regard as their own is that eternal and heavenly possession where “our heart and our treasure” are (Mt 6,21), and where intense longing makes us dwell already through faith, for as St. Paul teaches: “Our homeland is in heaven” (Phil 3,20).

Isaac of Stella from Sermon 35: Second Sunday of Lent

“Rejoice with me because I have found my lost sheep”

When the time of mercy had come (Ps 102[101],14) the Good Shepherd came down from his Father’s side… as had been promised from all eternity. He came in search of the one sheep that had been lost. Promised to her from all eternity, he was sent to her in time; for her sake he was born and handed over, eternally predestined for her.

She is unique, drawn from both Jews and Gentiles…, present among all peoples; she is one in her mystery, many in persons, many through the flesh according to nature, one through the Spirit according to grace – in short, one single sheep yet a crowd without number…

As for those whom this shepherd acknowledges as his own: “No one can snatch them out of his hands” (Jn 10,28). For true strength cannot be forced, wisdom cannot bedeceived, charity cannot be destroyed, That is why he speaks with assurance, saying…: “I have lost none, Father, of all those you have given me” (Jn 18,9)…

He was sent as truth for the misled, way for the straying, life for the dead, wisdom for the foolish, medicine for the sick, ransom for captives and food for the starving. For all those, we might say, he was sent to “the lost sheep of the house of Israel” (Mt 15,24) that they might be lost no more. He was sent like the spirit into a rigid body so that, at his coming, its members might become warm again and quicken with a new, supernatural and divine life: this is the first resurrection (Rv 20,5). Thus he himself can say: “The hour is coming, and is now here, when the dead will hear the voice of the Son of God and those who hear it will live” (Jn 5,25). And so he can say of his sheep: “They will hear my voice and follow me” (Jn 10,4-5).

St Macarius of Egypt Spiritual homilies

Abandoning ourselves entirely to him

How can it be that, in spite of such promises and incentives on the Lord’s part, we refuse to abandon ourselves wholly and unreservedly to him and renounce all things, even life itself, in accordance with the Gospel (Lk 14,26) in order to love him alone and nothing but him?

Consider all that has been done for us: what glory has been given to us; what benefits granted by the Lord from the time of the fathers and prophets with the history of salvation in view; what promises, what encouragements, what compassion on our Lord’s part ever since the beginning! And at the end he demonstrated his unutterable care for us by coming himself to dwell with us and dying on the cross to turn us back to him and bring us back to life. Yet we, we don’t set aside our self will, our love of worldly things, our evil inclinations and habits, and thus we appear as people who have little or no faith at all.

And yet, in spite of this, see how God shows himself to us full of gentle goodness. He protects and cares for us invisibly; he does not completely abandon us to the world’s wickedness and illusions, despite our sins; in his great patience he keeps us from perishing and watches from afar for the time of our turning back to him.

St. Francis of Assisi from Letter to the Whole Order

“I came down from heaven not to do my own will but the will of the one who sent me”

Almighty, eternal, just and merciful God, grant us in our misery [the grace] to do for You alone what we know You want us to do, and always to desire what pleases You. Thus, inwardly cleansed, interiorly enlightened, and inflamed by the fire of the Holy Spirit, may we be able to follow in the footprints of Your beloved Son, our Lord Jesus Christ.

And, by Your grace alone, may we make our way to You, Most High, Who live and rule in perfect Trinity and simple Unity, and are glorified God all-powerful forever and ever. Amen.

Church of Smyrna from Acts of the Christian Martyrs

“The holy Spirit will teach you at that moment what you should say”

As Polycarp entered the amphitheatre, a voice from heaven said: “Be strong, Polycarp, and have courage.” No one saw who was speaking, but those of our people who were present heard the voice… A great shout arose when the people heard that it was Polycarp who had been arrested. As he was brought before him, the governor asked him: “Are you Polycarp?” And when he admitted he was, the governor tried to persuade him to recant, saying: “Have respect for your age”… “swear by the Genius of the emperor. Recant… Curse Christ!” But Polycarp answered: “For eighty-six years I have been his servant and he has done me no wrong. How can I blaspheme my king and savior?”

But as the other insisted once again… Polycarp answered: “If you delude yourself into thinking that I will swear by the emperor’s Genius, as you say, and if you pretend not to know who I am, listen and I will tell you plainly: I am a Christian. And if you would like to learn the doctrine of Christianity, set aside a day and listen.” The governor said: “Try to move the people.” And Polycarp said: “I should have thought you worthy of such a discussion. For we have been taught to pay respect to the authorities and powers that God has assigned us (for this does not harm our cause). But as for the mob, I do not think they deserve to listen to a speech of defence from me.” The governor said: “I have wild animals, and I shall expose you to them if you do not change your mind.” And he answered: “Go and call for them!”… He said again to him: “Since you are not afraid of the animals, then I shall have you consumed by fire-unless you change your mind.” But Polycarp answered: “The fire you threaten me with burns merely for a time and is soon extinguished. It is clear you are ignorant of the fire of everlasting punishment and of the judgement that is to come, which awaits the impious. Why then do you hesitate? Come, do what you will.”

All of this happened with great speed, more quickly than it takes to tell the story: the mob swiftly collected logs and brushwood from workshops and baths… When the fire was prepared, Polycarp took off all his clothing, loosed his belt and even tried to take off his own sandals, although he had never had to do this before: for all the Christians were always eager to be the first to touch his flesh. Even before his martyrdom he had been adorned in every way by reason of the goodness of his life.

Blessed Teresa of Calcutta from A Simple Path

“Pray always without becoming weary”

If you want to set out in search of God without knowing how to go about it, learn to pray: force yourself simply to pray every day. You can pray anywhere, anytime. There’s no need at all to be in a chapel or church. You can pray while working: work doesn’t put a stop to prayer, nor prayer to work. If you feel in need of help, you can ask advice of a priest or pastor.

Try to talk directly to God. Speak to him; tell him everything, spontaneously, directly, just as it comes. He is the Father of us all. Whatever our religion might be, we have all been created by him and are his children. We can trust him, love him, believe in him, work for him. When we pray, our problems are resolved to the degree that it is good for us.

Without prayer I could not fulfil the work it is mine to do, not even for half an hour. I draw my strength from God by prayer.

Origen from Homilies on St. Luke, 1, 1-2 (SC 87, 99)

“So that you may realize the certainty of the teachings you have received” (Lk 1,4)

“Many have undertaken to compile a narrative of the events that have been fulfilled amongst us… I too have decided, after investigating everything accurately anew, to write it down in an orderly sequence for you, most excellent Theophilus, so that you may realize the certainty of the teachings you have received” (Lk 1,1-4)

In former times many among the Jews claimed to have the gift of prophecy but some were false prophets… It was the same at the time of the New Testament, when many “have tried” to write gospels but not all have been accepted… The words “have tried” contain a hidden accusation against those who set about composing gospels without the grace of the Holy Spirit. Matthew, Mark, John and Luke did not “try” to write but, filled with the Holy Spirit, were those who wrote the true gospels…

Thus the Church possesses four gospels; the heretics have any number of them… “Many have tried to write” but only four gospels have been recognised, and it is from those that we must draw what we need to know about our Lord and Savior’s person if light is to be thrown on it. I know there is a gospel called “according to Thomas” and another “according to Matthias”, and we are reading some others also lest we give the impression of ignorance before those who think they know a thing or two when they know these texts. But in all this we only approve what the Church approves: we should only recognise four gospels. This, then, is what can be said about the text of St. Luke’s prologue: “Many have tried to compile a narrative of the events that have been fulfilled amongst us.”

St. Maximilian Kolbe from Conference of Feb. 13, 1941

“Light your lamps”

What are we to do if we are to overcome our weakness of soul? There are two means: prayer and detachment from self. Our Lord Jesus counsels us to watch. We must be on the watch if we want our heart to be pure, but our watching must be peaceful if our heart is to be touched. Because it can be moved by good things or bad, within or without. Thus we need to watch carefully.

As a general rule God’s inspiration is an unobtrusive grace; we mustn’t turn it away…; if our heart’s aren’t awake, grace turns back. Divine inspiration is very exact; just as a writer guides his pen so the grace of God guides the soul. So let us try hard to attain greater interior recollection.

Our Lord wants us to desire to love him. The watchful soul notices when it falls and realises that, of itself, it cannot reach its destination. That is why it experiences the need for prayer. Our petition is founded on the conviction that we can do nothing of ourselves but God can do all. Prayer is needed to obtain light and strength.

Blessed John Henry Newman from Parochial and Plain Sermons

“Waiting for Christ”

“Be prepared”

“Behold, I am coming like a thief. Blessed is the one who watches and keeps his clothes ready” says the Lord (Rv 16,15)… When, then, Christ said that his coming would be soon, yet by saying it would be sudden, he said that to us it would seem long… How it is that Christianity is always failing, yet always continuing? God only knows who wills it,—but so it is; and it is no paradox to say, on the one hand, that it has eighteen hundred years, that it may last many years more, and yet that it draws to an end, nay, is likely to end any day. And God would have us give our minds and hearts to the latter side of the alternative, to open them to impressions from this side,viz. that the end is coming;—it being a wholesome thing to live as if that will come in our day, which may come any day.

It was different during the ages before Christ came. The Saviour was to come. He was to bring perfection, and religion was to grow towards that perfection. There was a system of successive revelations going on… Time was measured out for believing minds before Christ came, by the word of prophecy… The chosen people were not bidden to expect him at once; but after a sojourning in Canaan, and a captivity in Egypt, and a wandering in the wilderness, and judges, and kings, and prophets, at length seventy long weeks were determined to introduce him into the world. Thus his delay was, as I may say, recognized then; and, during his delay, other doctrines, other rules, were given to fill the interval.

But when once the Christ had come, as the Son over his own house, and with his perfect Gospel, nothing remained but to gather in his St.s. No higher Priest could come,—no truer doctrine. The Light and Life of men had appeared, and had suffered, and had risen again; and nothing more was left to do… It was the last time. And hence, though time intervene between Christ’s first and second coming, it is not recognized in the Gospel scheme… It runs, not towards the end, but along it, and on the brink of it; and is at all times equally near that great event, which, did it run towards, it would at once run into. Christ, then, is ever at our doors; as near eighteen hundred years ago as now, and not nearer now than then; and not nearer when he comes than now.

St. Augustine from Sermon 109 (PL 38, 636)

“Why do you not know how to interpret the present time?”

The gospel tells us that some people were rebuked by the Lord because, clever as they were at reading the face of the sky, they could not recognize the time for faith when the kingdom of heaven was at hand. It was the Jews who received this reprimand, but it has also come down to us. The Lord Jesus began his preaching of the gospel with the admonition: “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand” (Mt 4,17). His forerunner, John the Baptist, began his in the same way: “Repent,” he said, “for the kingdom of heaven is at hand” (Mt 3,2). Today, for those who will not repent at the approach of the kingdom of heaven, the reproof of the Lord Jesus is the same…

As for when the end of the world will be, that is God’s concern… Even so, the time is very near for each of us, for we are mortal. There are hazards all around us. We should be in less danger from them were we made of glass. What more fragile than a vessel of glass? And yet it can be kept safe and last indefinitely. Of course it is exposed to accidents, but it is not liable to old age and the suffering it brings. We therefore are the more frail and infirm. In our weakness we are haunted by fears of all the calamities that regularly befall the human race, and if no such calamity overtakes us, still, time marches on. We may evade the blows of fortune, but shall we evade death? We may escape perils from without but shall we escape what comes from within us? Now, suddenly, we may be attacked by any malady. And if we are spared? Even so, old age comes at last, and nothing will delay it.

St. Cyprian (c. 200-258), Bishop of Carthage and martyr from The Good of Patience, 6, 7-8 (SC 291, 199)

“It may bear fruit in the future” : imitating God’s patience

This, beloved brethren, Jesus Christ, our Lord and our God, did not teach by words only but he also fulfilled by his deeds… In the very hour of his passion and cross… what violent abuses he listened to with patience, and what shameful insults he endured! He was even covered with the spittle of his revilers when, but a short time before, with his own spittle he had cured the eyes of the blind man(Jn 9,6)…

He who now crowns the martyrs with eternal garlands was himself crowned with thorns; he who now gives true palms to the victors was beaten in the face with hostile palms; he who clothes all others with the garment of immortality was stripped of his earthly garments; he who has given us the food of heaven was fed with gall; he who has offered us the cup of salvation was given vinegar to drink. He the innocent, the just, nay rather, Innocence itself and Justice itself, is counted among criminals, and Truth is concealed by false testimonies.

He who is to judge is judged, and the Word of God, silent, is led to the cross. And although the stars are confounded at the crucifixion of the Lord, the elements are disturbed and the earth trembles… yet he does not speak, nor is he moved, nor does he proclaim his majesty, even during the suffering itself. He endures all things even to the end with constant perseverance so that in Christ a full and perfect patience may find its realization.

And after such sufferings, he even still receives his murderers if they are converted and come to him, and with a patience instrumental in saving man, this kind Master closes his Church to no one. Those adversaries, those blasphemers, those persistent enemies of His name, provided they do penance for their offense, provided they acknowledge the crime committed, he not only receives and pardons, but admits to the reward of the kingdom of heaven. What can be called more patient, what more kind? Even he who shed the blood of Christ is given life by the blood of Christ. Such is the wonderful patience of Christ. And unless it were so wonderful, the Church would not have Paul the great Apostle.

St. John Chrysostom from Homilies on Conversion, 2

“O God, be merciful to me a sinner”

A Pharisee and a tax collector went up to the Temple to pray. The Pharisee began by enumerating all his virtues, declaring: “O God, I thank you that I am not like the rest of humanity – greedy, dishonest adulterous – or even like this tax collector!” Wretched man! Daring to cast judgement on the whole world! Why afflict your neighbour? Do you need to condemn this tax collector as well? Isn’t the earth enough for you? You accuse everyone without exception: “I am not like the rest of humanity… or even like this tax collector; I fast twice a week, I pay tithes on my whole income.” What smugness lies in these words! What a miserable creature!…

As for the tax collector, he had understood these words only too well and might have responded in kind: “Who are you, then, daring to make such unkind comments in my regard? How do you come to know anything about my life? You’ve never kept society with me, you’re not one of my close friends, so why show such arrogance? Besides, who is able to bear witness to the genuineness of your good deeds? What makes you sing your own praises like this or who is encouraging you to glorify yourself in this way?” Yet he did none of these things – quite the opposite – he cast himself on the ground, saying: “God be merciful to me, a sinner!” And because he gave proof of his humility, he went away justified.

The Pharisee left the Temple deprived of any kind of absolution, whereas the tax collector went away, his heart renewed by re-found righteousness… All the same, there was no question in this case of humility in the sense the term is used when someone of high rank lowers himself. In the case of the tax collector it was not a question of humility but of simple truth since what he said was true.

St. Cyril of Jerusalem from Baptismal Catechesis, 13

Delivered from the bonds of sin through the cross of Christ

St. Paul said: “May I never boast save in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ” (Gal 6,14). There was something astonishing in the man born blind regaining his sight at Siloam, but what difference does that make to all the blind people in the world? Lazarus’ resurrection after four days in death was a great event that exceeded the laws of nature, but this grace profited no one but him, it was of no advantage to all those in the world who died because of their sins. It was an amazing thing to cause food to spring forth with which to feed five thousand men with five loaves, but it made no difference to those throughout the world who were undergoing the hunger of ignorance. It was an astonishing thing to release a woman whom Satan had held in bondage for eighteen years, but what is that where we are all concerned, bound by the chains of our sins?

The victory of the cross, however, brought into the light all those whom ignorance had made blind, set free those whom sin had made captive, and redeemed all humankind. Don’t wonder that the whole world should have been redeemed. He who died for this was not just a man but the only Son of God. Adam’s fault had brought death to the whole world; if one man’s fall had caused death to reign over all, how much more will not the righteousness of one man cause life to reign? (Rm 5,17). If in former times our first parents were cast out of paradise through eating the fruit of the tree, will not those who believe enter Paradise with far greater ease through the cross of Jesus? If the first being, formed of the earth, brought death to all, will not he who formed him of earth bring him life eternal, since he is himself life? (Jn 14,6).

St. Maximus of Turin from Sermon 25 (PL 57, 509f).

“Unless a grain of wheat falls to the ground and dies, it remains just a grain of wheat; but if it dies, it bears much fruit” (Jn 12,24)

“A man took a mustard seed and planted it in his garden; when it grew it became a tree and the birds of the sky dwelt in its branches.” Let us see to whom this refers … I think this comparison most closely matches Christ our Lord who, in his humble birth like a little seed into our human condition, at the end rose heavenwards like a tree. Christ immersed in his Passion was a seed; he became a tree in his resurrection. Yes, he was ‘seed’ when, in hunger, he suffered from lack of food; he was ‘tree’ when he satisfied five thousand people with five loaves of bread (Mt 14,13f.). In the former case he endured the poverty of his condition as man, in the latter he bestowed fullness by the strength of his divinity.

As I see it, our Lord was a seed when he was struck, despised, calumniated; he was a tree when he restored sight to the blind, raised the dead and forgave sins. And he himself acknowledged he was a seed: “Unless the grain of wheat falls to the ground and dies…” (Jn 12,24).

The Roman Missal from Eucharistic Prayer for unity no. 2

“Then people will come from the east and the west and from the north and the south and will recline at table in the kingdom of God”

Father, your Son bequeathed to your Church this memorial of his love; as we call to mind his death and resurrection we offer you the gift that you yourself have made, the sacrifice that restores us to your grace. Receive us also, together with your well- beloved Son; give us in this meal your Holy Spirit: may he disperse the cause of all that divides us and confirm us in an even greater love, in union with Pope Benedict XVI, our Bishop N., the whole college of bishops and all your people. May your Church become in this world a visible sign of unity and servant of your peace. And as you gather us together here at the table of your Son, in union with the Virgin Mary, the holy Mother of God, and with all the St.s of heaven, grant that one day the people of all countries and languages, of every race and culture, may be gathered at the banquet in your heavenly kingdom. Then we will rejoice in a unity at last accomplished, a peace now finally complete through Jesus Christ, our Lord.

Blessed Guerric of Igny Jesus at Table with the Pharisees

The world’s eternal and invisible Creator, preparing to save humankind, which for long ages had been hindered by its subjection to the heavy law of death, deigned “in these last days” (Heb 1,2) to become man… that in his mercy he might redeem those who in justice he condemned. And so as to show the depth of his love for us, he not only became a man but a poor and humble man so that, by drawing near to us in his poverty, he might make us sharers in his riches (2Cor 8,9). So poor did he become for our sake that he had nowhere to lay his head: “Foxes have dens and the birds of the air have their nest, but the Son of Man has nowhere to lay his head” (Mt 8,20).

This is the reason why he agreed to go and dine wherever he was invited, not out of an excessive enjoyment in eating but so that he could teach the way of salvation and stimulate faith. There he would fill the guests with light by his miracles and the servants, who were kept busy inside and were not free to go with him, would hear the words of salvation. Indeed, he despised no one and none were considered unworthy of his love because “he has mercy on all; he hates nothing of what he has made and takes care of them all” (Wsd 11,24).

So that he might carry out this work of salvation the Lord entered the house of an eminent Pharisee on the sabbath. The scribes and Pharisees watched him with the intention of calling him to account, so that if he were to cure the man with dropsy they could accuse him of breaking the Law and, if he did not, they could accuse him of blasphemy or inability… By the pure light of his word of truth they were to see the darkness of their deceit vanish away.

St. Faustina Kowalska from Diary, 1306

“My friend, move up to a higher position” humility, lovely flower, I see how few souls possess you. Is it because you are so beautiful and at the same time so difficult to attain? Oh yes, it is both the one and the other. Even God takes pleasure in her. The floodgates of heaven are open to the humble soul and a sea of graces flows down on her.

how beautiful is a humble soul! From her heart, as from a censer, rises a varied and most pleasing fragrance, which breaks through the skies and reaches God himself, filling his most Sacred Heart with joy. God refuses nothing to such a soul; she is all- powerful and influences the destiny of the whole world. God raises such a soul up to his very throne, and the more she humbles herself, the more God stoops down to her, pursuing her with his graces and accompanying her at every moment with his omnipotence. Such a soul is most deeply united to God.

humility, strike deep roots in my whole being. O Virgin most pure, but also most humble, help me to attain deep humility. Now I understand why there are so few St.s; it is because so few souls are deeply humble.

Letter of the Church of Smyrna Acts of the Christian Martyrs

“The holy Spirit will teach you at that moment what you should say”

As Polycarp entered the amphitheatre, a voice from heaven said: “Be strong, Polycarp, and have courage.” No one saw who was speaking, but those of our people who were present heard the voice… A great shout arose when the people heard that it was Polycarp who had been arrested. As he was brought before him, the governor asked him: “Are you Polycarp?” And when he admitted he was, the governor tried to persuade him to recant, saying: “Have respect for your age”… “swear by the Genius of the emperor. Recant… Curse Christ!” But Polycarp answered: “For eighty-six years I have been his servant and he has done me no wrong. How can I blaspheme my king and savior?”

But as the other insisted once again… Polycarp answered: “If you delude yourself into thinking that I will swear by the emperor’s Genius, as you say, and if you pretend not to know who I am, listen and I will tell you plainly: I am a Christian. And if you would like to learn the doctrine of Christianity, set aside a day and listen.” The governor said: “Try to move the people.” And Polycarp said: “I should have thought you worthy of such a discussion. For we have been taught to pay respect to the authorities and powers that God has assigned us (for this does not harm our cause). But as for the mob, I do not think they deserve to listen to a speech of defence from me.” The governor said: “I have wild animals, and I shall expose you to them if you do not change your mind.” And he answered: “Go and call for them!”… He said again to him: “Since you are not afraid of the animals, then I shall have you consumed by fire-unless you change your mind.” But Polycarp answered: “The fire you threaten me with burns merely for a time and is soon extinguished. It is clear you are ignorant of the fire of everlasting punishment and of the judgement that is to come, which awaits the impious. Why then do you hesitate? Come, do what you will.”

All of this happened with great speed, more quickly than it takes to tell the story: the mob swiftly collected logs and brushwood from workshops and baths… When the fire was prepared, Polycarp took off all his clothing, loosed his belt and even tried to take off his own sandals, although he had never had to do this before: for all the Christians were always eager to be the first to touch his flesh. Even before his martyrdom he had been adorned in every way by reason of the goodness of his life.

St. `{`Padre`}` Pio de Pietrelcina from Letters 979-980

“Do not be afraid”

The real reason why your meditation isn’t always successful is this – and I’m not mistaken! You begin your meditation worried and anxious. This is enough for you never to find what you are looking for, because your mind isn’t focussed on the truth you are meditating on and there is no love in your heart. This worry is useless. All you get from it is a great spiritual fatigue and a kind of coldness of soul, especially at the feeling level. I don’t know any other cure for it except to come out of this anxiety. Indeed, it’s one of the greatest obstacles to religious practice and the life of prayer. It makes us rush to trip over.

I honestly don’t want to dispense you from meditation simply because it seems to you that you don’t get any result from it. To the extent you create an emptiness in you – indeed, that you free yourself humbly from this attachment – our Lord will give you the gift of prayer he keeps in his right hand.

The Roman Missal from Good Friday Reproaches

“They began to act with hostility toward him and to interrogate him”

My people, what have I done to you? How have I offended you? Answer me! (Mi 6,3).

my people, drawn astray by bitterness, Hard of heart, remember!, The Lord has set you free. Is such great love to meet with no reply? Great love of God, the crucified?

I, before the dawn of time, Prepared your day; And you renounce the only Life That gives unclouded joy: My people, answer me!

I burst your bonds of slavery, Drowned your enemies in the sea; Yet you hand me over to the foe, You prepare a Pasch for me: My people, answer me!

I went with you on your journey, With a cloud I guided you; In your night you cover me, Know no more my glory’s way: My people, answer me!

I sent out to you my prophets Who in your exile cried aloud; But you would not return, You were deaf to my appeal: My people, answer me!

Didache, 3

“Learn from me, for I am gentle and humble of heart” (Mt 11,29)

Keep away from every bad man, my son, and from all his kind. Never give way to anger, for anger leads to homicide. Likewise refrain from fanaticism, quarrelling, and hot-temperedness, for these too can breed homicide. Beware of lust, my son, for lust leads to fornication. Likewise refrain from unclean talk and the roving eye, for these too can breed adultery…

Have nothing to do with witchcraft, astrology, or magic; do not even consent to be a witness of such practices, for they too can all breed idolatry. Tell no lies, my son, for lying leads to theft. Likewise do not be over-anxious to be rich or to be admired, for these too can breed thievishness. Do not be a grumbler, my son, for this leads to blasphemy. Likewise do not be too opinionated, and do not harbor thought of wickedness, for these too can breed blasphemy.

Learn to be meek, for “the meek are to inherit the earth” (Mt 5,5). School yourself to forbearance, compassion, guilelessness, calmness, and goodness; and never forget to respect the teaching you have had (cf. Is 66,2). Do not parade your own merits, or allow yourself to behave presumptuously, and do not make a point of associating with persons of eminence, but choose the companionship of honest and humble folk. Accept as good whatever experience comes your way, in the knowledge that nothing can happen without God.

St. John of the Cross from Sayings of Light and Love

“God also makes the inside… behold, everything will be clean for you”

Prayer of a soul inflamed with love: Lord God, my Beloved, if you still remember my sins in such a way that you do not do what I beg of you, do your will concerning them, my God, which is what I most desire, and exercise your goodness and mercy, and you will be known through them. And if you are waiting for my good works so as to hear my prayer through their means, grant them to me, and work them for me, and the sufferings you desire to accept, and let it be done…

Who can free themselves from lowly manners and limitations if you do not lift them to yourself, my God, in purity of love? How will human beings begotten and nurtured in lowliness rise up to you, Lord, if you do not raise them with your hand that made them? You will not take from me, my God, what you once gave me in your only Son, Jesus Christ, in whom you gave me all I desire. Hence I rejoice that if I wait for you, you will not delay. With what procrastinations do you wait, since from this very moment you can love God in your heart?

Mine are the heavens and mine is the earth. Mine are the nations, the just are mine, and mine the sinners. The angels are mine, and the Mother of God, and all things are mine; and God himself is mine and for me, because Christ is mine and all for me (cf 1Co 3,22-23). What do you ask, then, and seek, my soul? Yours is all of this, and all is for you. Do not engage yourself in something less or pay heed to the crumbs that fall from your Father’s table. Go forth and exult in your Glory! Hide yourself in it and rejoice, and you will obtain the supplications of your heart (Ps 37[36],4).

St. 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.”

St. Bruno of Segni from Commentary on St. Luke's Gospel, 2, 40 (PL 165, 426-428)

The faith that purifies

What do these ten lepers stand for if not the sum total of all sinners? When Christ the Lord came not all men and women were leprous in body, but in soul they were, and to have a soul full of leprosy is much worse than to have a leprous body.

But let us see what happened next. “Standing a long way off they called out to him: “Jesus, Master, take pity on us.” They stood a long way off because no one in their condition dared come too close. We stand a long way off too while we continue to sin. To be restored to health and cured of the leprosy of sin, we also must cry out: “Jesus, Master, take pity on us.” That cry, however, must come not from our lips but from our very heart, for the cry of the heart is louder: it pierces the heavens, rising up to the very throne of God.

St. Sophronius of Jerusalem from Homily for the Annunciation, 2 (PG 87, 3, 324)

“Blessed is the womb that carried you”

“Hail, O favored one, the Lord is with you.” (Lk 1,28) Could anything transcend the joy that is yours, O Virgin Mary? Could anything surpass this grace?… Truly, you are “blessed among women” (Lk 1,42), for you have changed the condemnation of Eve into a blessing. Because of you, and through you, Adam, who was hitherto cast down and condemned, received a blessing.

Truly, “you are blessed among women”, for through you the blessing of the Father came to mankind and reprieved them from the age-old sentence. Truly, “you are blessed among women”, because through you your ancestors found salvation. You were to give birth to the Savior who would win for them God’s salvation.

Truly, “you are blessed among women”, for without the seed of man you bore the fruit that gives a blessing to the whole earth and frees it from being condemned to produce only thorns.

Truly, “you are blessed among women”, for though you are a woman like any other woman you will in actual fact become the mother of God. If the one to be born of you is in truth God incarnate, you rightly deserve to be called ‘she who gave birth to God’, inasmuch as you truly do give birth to God.

St. Irenaeus of Lyons from Against the Heresies 4, 4; 39, 2 (cf. SC 100 rev.)

The finger of God

Man is a combination of soul and body, a body formed in the likeness of God and fashioned with both his hands, that is to say the Son and the Spirit. It was to them that he said: “Let us make man” (Gen 1,26)…

But how are you to become divinised in the future if you have not yet become man? How are you going to be perfect when you have barely been created? How are you to become immortal when you have not obeyed your Creator in your mortal nature?… Since you are God’s handiwork, wait patiently for your Artist’s Hand bringing all things to pass at their proper time. Offer him a malleable and docile heart and maintain the form this Artist has given you, having that water in you that comes from him and without which, by becoming hardened, you would reject the imprint of his fingers.

By letting yourself be formed by him you will rise up to perfection in that, through this art of God’s, the clay in you will be concealed; his Hand created your substance… But if, being hardened, you reject his skill and show yourself displeased with what has made you man, you will have rejected, through your ingratitude to God, not simply his handiwork but life itself. For to fashion belongs to God’s goodness and to be fashioned is proper to man’s nature. If, then, you abandon yourself to him by giving him your faith in him and submission to him, you will receive the benefit of his skill and will become God’s perfect work. But if, to the contrary, you resist him and flee his Hands then the cause of your incompletion will remain, not in him, but in you who have not obeyed.

St. Macarius from Homily 16, Third Collection (SC 275, 205)

“How much more will the Father in heaven give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him?”

To get food for his body a beggar thinks it no trouble to knock at the door and ask for it. And if he doesn’t get it, he goes on further and, with even more persistence, asks for bread, clothing or shoes to ease his body. So long as he hasn’t received anything he will not go away, even if he is driven off. Now we who try to receive the real, heavenly bread to strengthen our souls, who want to put on heaven’s light-filled clothing and who long to be shod with the immaterial shoes of the Spirit to solace our immortal soul: how much more ought we to knock at God’s spiritual door, unwearyingly and resolutely, with faith and love, waiting always and, with perfect constancy, ask to be counted worthy of eternal life?

Thus the Lord “told them a parable about the necessity for them to pray always without becoming weary” (Lk 18,1) then added these words: how much more will our heavenly Father “secure the rights of his chosen ones who call out to him day and night,” (v.7). And again, talking about the friend: “Even if he does not give to him for friendship’s sake, he will get up to give him whatever he needs because of his persistence,” (Lk 11,8). And he adds further: “Ask and you will receive; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you,” (v.9). And he continues: “If you who are wicked, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will the father in heaven give the holy Spirit to those who ask him?” (v.13). This is why the Lord exhorts us to ask at all times, unwearyingly and persistently, always seeking and knocking. For he has promised to give to those who ask, seek and knock, not to those who do not ask. It is in being prayed, implored, loved that he desires to give us eternal life.

St. Teresa of Avila from Way of Perfection, ch. 30

Prayer brings us here and now into God’s kingdom

“Hallowed be Your name, Your kingdom come within us.” Now behold, daughters, how great the wisdom of our Master is… I am reflecting here on what we are asking for when we ask for this kingdom. But since His Majesty saw that we could neither hallow, nor praise, nor extol, nor glorify this holy name of the Eternal Father in a fitting way, because of the tiny amount we ourselves are capable of doing, He provided for us by giving us here on earth His kingdom. That is why Jesus put these two petitions next to each other…

Now, then, the great good that it seems to me there will be in the kingdom of heaven, among many other blessings, is that one will no longer take any account of earthly things, but have a calmness and glory within, rejoice in the fact that all are rejoicing, experience perpetual peace and a wonderful inner satisfaction that comes from seeing that everyone hallows and praises the Lord and blesses His name and that no one offends Him. Everyone loves Him there, and the soul itself doesn’t think about anything else than loving Him; nor can it cease loving Him, because it knows Him. And would that we could love Him in this way here below, even though we may not be able to do so with such perfection or stability. But if we knew Him we would love in a way very different from that in which we do love Him… The above would be possible, through the favor of God, for the soul placed in this exile, but not in perfection… for we are at sea and journeying along this way. But there are times when, tired from our travels, we experience that the Lord calms our faculties and quiets the soul. As though by signs, He gives us a clear foretaste of what will be given to those He brings into His kingdom.

Blessed Elizabeth of the Trinity from Last Retreat

“Mary sat beside the Lord at his feet listening to him speak”

“In silence will your strength be” (cf. Is 30,15)… To keep one’s strength for the Lord is to unify one’s whole being by means of interior silence, to collect all one’s powers in order to “employ” them in the one work of love, to have this “single eye” which allows the light of God to enlighten us (Mt 6,22). A soul that debates with its self, that is taken up with its feelings, and pursues useless thoughts and desires, scatters its forces, for it is not wholly directed toward God… It is still too human and discordant. The soul that still keeps something for self in its inner kingdom, whose powers are not “enclosed” in God, cannot be a perfect “praise of glory” (Eph 1,14); it is not fit to sing uninterruptedly this “canticum magnum” of which St. Paul speaks since unity does not reign in it. Instead of persevering in praise through everything in simplicity, it must continually adjust the strings of its instrument which are all a little out of tune. How indispensable this beautiful inner unity is for the soul that wants to live here below the life of the blessed, that is, of simple beings, of spirits. It seems to me the Master had that in mind when He spoke to Mary Magdalene of the “Unum necessarium.” How well that great St. understood this! The eye of her soul enlightened by faith recognized her God beneath the veil of His humanity; and in silence, in the unity of her powers, “She listened to what He told her”… Yes, she knew nothing but Him!

St. Ambrose from Commentary on St. Luke's Gospel, 7, 74f. (SC 52, 34)

“A Samaritan traveler who came upon him was moved with compassion at the sight”

A Samaritan came down that road. “Who has come down from heaven except the one who has gone up to heaven, the Son of Man who is in heaven?” (cf. Jn 3,13). Seeing that man half-dead whom nobody before had been able to heal…, he approached him; that is to say, by accepting to suffer with us he became our friend and by taking pity on us he became our neighbour.

“He dressed his wounds, pouring oil and wine on them”. This doctor possesses many remedies with which he habitually heals us. His words are a remedy: with one he binds up wounds, with another he pours ointment over them, with another astringent wine… “Then he lifted him up on his own animal”. Hear how he sets you there: “It was our infirmities he bore, our sufferings that he endured” (Is 53,4). And the shepherd, too, set the worn out sheep on his shoulders (Lk 15,5)…

“He took him to an inn and cared for him”… But the Samaritan could not long remain on our earth; he must return from whence he descended. So “the next day” – what is this ‘next day’ if not the day of the Lord’s resurrection, of which it is said “This is the day the Lord has made” (Ps 118[117],24)? – “he took out two silver coins and gave them to the innkeeper with the instruction: Take care of him”. What are these two coins? Perhaps they are the two Covenants, bearing the likeness of the Eternal Father, and at whose cost our wounds are healed… Happy that innkeeper who is able to tend another’s wounds! Happy the one to whom Jesus says: “If you spend more than what I have given you, I shall repay you on my way back”…

Thus he promises a repayment. When will you return, Lord, if not at the day of judgement? Even though your remain always everywhere, standing in our midst without our recognising you, the day will come when all flesh shall see you coming. And you will repay what you owe. How will you repay, Lord Jesus? To the good you have promised an immense reward in heaven yet you will pay back even more when you say: “Well done, my good and faithful servant. Since you were faithful in small matters, I will give you great responsibilities. Come, share your master’s joy” (Mt 25,21).

St. Bernard from 12th sermon on Psalm 90`{`91`}`

“They will bear you in their hands” (Ps 90,12)

“For he has commanded his angels to keep you in all your ways” (Ps 91[90],11). How greatly should these words draw you to respect… the presence of your good angel! What great confidence they ought to inspire in you since it is God who is taking care of you. Pay great attention to all you do since the angels are present to all your affairs as God has commanded them. Wherever you go, in whatever nook or cranny you may find yourself, always show great devotion to your good angel… Do you question whether this unseen spirit is present to all you do? What great respect you would show if you understood, touched and felt him beside you!

Take good note that it isn’t only by seeing that we become convinced that something is present; not all present, corporeal things can be grasped by sight. How much more, then, are spiritual things outside the grasp of our senses and cannot be sought or found except by spiritual means?

So if you examine your faith, doesn’t it assure you that your good angel is always with you? Yes indeed, faith gives you its proof because, according to the apostle, faith grants proof and conviction of realities we do not see (Heb 11,1). Be assured, then, that our good angels are always there, no just with us but on our side. They are close to us to protect and serve us.

How will you make a return to the Lord for all the good he has done for you? (cf. Ps 116[115],12). To him alone be all honor and glory because it is he who commanded his angels to keep us in all our ways; it is he who has given them to us. No perfect gift can come to us but from him (Jas 1,17).

St. Clement of Alexandria Protreptic, 9 (PG 8, 195-201; SC 2, 143)

“Hear, my people… I will testify against you” (Ps 50[49],7)

“Today, if you will hear His voice, harden not your hearts, as in the provocation, in the day of temptation in the wilderness, when your fathers proved Me by trial… they shall not enter into My rest”… For great is the grace of His promise, if today we hear His voice. And that “today” is lengthened out day by day, while it is called today. And to the end the today and the instruction continue; and then the true today, the never-ending day of God, extends over eternity. Let us then ever obey the voice of the divine word. For the “today” signifies eternity. And day is the symbol of light; and the light of men is the Word (Jn 1,9), by whom we behold God.

Rightly, then, to those who have believed and obey, grace will superabound; while with those who have been unbelieving… and have not known the Lord’s ways… God is incensed, and these He threatens. And, indeed, the old Hebrew wanderers in the desert received in type the end of this threatening; for they are said not to have entered into the rest, because of their unbelief.

But the Lord, in His love, invites all to a knowledge of the truth (1Tm 2,4) and for this end sends the Paraclete… Hear, then, “you who are far off, hear you who are near” (Ep 2,17): the word has not been hidden from any; light is common, it shines on all…

Let us haste to salvation, to regeneration; let us who are many haste that we may be brought together into one love. The union of many in one…becomes one symphony following one choir-leader and teacher, the Word, reaching and resting in the same truth, and crying “Abba, Father” (Rm 8,15).

St. Ambrose from Commentary on St. Luke's Gospel, 7, 45, 59 (SC 52, 23f. rev.)

“Like lambs among wolves”

As he sent out disciples into his harvest, (which had,in truth,been sown by the Father’s Word but which required to be worked over, cultivated and carefully tended if the birds were not to ravage the seed), Jesus said to them: “Behold, I send you out like lambs among wolves”…

The Good Shepherd could not but fear wolves in his flock: these disciples were sent to spread grace abroad, not to become a prey. But the Good Shepherd’s care prevented the wolves from doing anything against these lambs he sends out. He sends them that Isaiah’s prophecy might be fulfilled: “The wolf and the lamb shall graze alike” (Is 65,25)… And besides, were not the disciples who were sent out ordered not even to carry a staff?…

What our humble Lord laid down, his disciples also accomplished by practising humility. Because he sends them out to broadcast the faith, not by force but by their teaching; not by exerting force of will but by exalting the doctrine of humility. And he thought good to link patience to humility since, according to Peter’s testimony: “When he was insulted, he returned no insult; when he suffered, he did not threaten” (1Pt 2,23).

This amounts to saying: “Be imitators of me: let go of your thirst for revenge; respond to the blows of pride, not by returning evil for evil but with the patience that forgives. No one should perform on their own account what they reprehend in others; gentleness confronts the arrogant with far greater strength”.

St. John of the Cross Spiritual maxims 168-9; 171-2; 176

“Their angels in heaven always look on the face of my heavenly Father” (Mt 18,10)

The angels are our shepherds, because they carry not only our messages to God but also those of God to our souls, feeding them with sweet inspirations and divine communications. As good shepherds they protect us and defend us from wolves, which are the evil spirits. Through the secret inspirations which the angels convey to the soul, they effect a deeper knowledge of God and make it love him the more, till they leave it wounded with love… The light of God, which illumines angels, enlightening and setting them on fire with love as pure spirits disposed for that inflowing, ordinarily illumines people in darkness, pain and distress because of their impurity and weakness…

When a person has become spiritualized and refined in the fire of divine, purifying love, he is then within the union and inflowing of that loving illumination with the same sweetness as angels receive them… Consider what utter vanity it is to rejoice in anything but in the service of God, how dangerous and how fatal. How ruinous it proved to those angels who rejoiced and were complacent in their own beauty and natural endowments; for this they fell, deformed, into the abyss.

St. Augustine from Meditations, ch. 18

The road to Jerusalem

The weight of our fragility makes us bend towards realities here below; the fire of your love, O Lord, raises us up and bears us towards realities above. We rise there by means of our heart’s impetus, singing the songs of ascent. We burn with your fire, the fire of your goodness, for it is this that transports us.

Where is it that you thus cause us to rise? To the peace of the heavenly Jerusalem. “I rejoiced when I heard them say: Let us go to the house of the Lord” (Ps 122[121],1). Nothing will bring us to it except the desire to remain there for ever. While we are in the body, we journey towards you. Here below we have no abiding city; we are constantly seeking our home in the city to come (Heb 13,14).

May your grace guide me, O Lord, into the depths of my heart, there to sing of your love, my King and my God… And as I remember that heavenly Jerusalem my heart will rise up towards it: to Jerusalem my true homeland, Jerusalem my mother (Gal 4,26). You are its King, its light, its defender, its protector, its pastor; you are its unquenchable joy; your goodness is the source of all its inexpressible blessings… – you, my God and my divine mercy.

John Cassian from Conferences, 15, 7 (SC 54, 216 rev.)

“The one who is least among all of you is the one who is the greatest.”

“Come,” said Christ to his apostles, “and learn from me” – not, to be sure, how to cast out demons with heavenly power, nor how to cleanse lepers, nor how to enlighten the blind, nor how to raise the dead… But you, he says, “Learn from me, for I am meek and humble of heart” (Mt 11,28-29).

For this can be learned and practiced by everyone in general, whereas the works of signs and mighty deeds are neither always necessary and appropriate for everyone, nor are they bestowed on everyone.

Humility, then, is the teacher of all the virtues; it is the most firm foundation of the heavenly edifice; it is the Savior’s own magnificent gift. For a person may perform without danger of pride all the miracles that Christ worked if he strains after the meek Lord not because of his exalted signs but because of his patience and humility.

But a person who itches to command unclean spirits, to bestow the gift of health on the sick, or to show some wondrous sign to the people is far from Christ even though he invokes the name of Christ in his displays, because by reason of his proud mind he does not follow the Teacher of humility.

Even when he was returning to his Father he prepared what I might call his testament, and he left this to his disciples: “A new commandment I give you,” he said, “that you love one another; as I have loved you, you must also love one another.”

And immediately he added: “By this all will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another” (Jn 13,34-35). He did not say: If you also perform signs and mighty deeds, but: “If you have love for one another.” Certainly no one can observe this but the gentle and the humble.

St. John Chrysostom Homilies on St. Matthew's Gospel, 50, 3-4

Recognising the poor Christ

Do you want to show honor to Christ’s Body? Don’t despise it when it is naked. Don’t honor it with silks here in the church while outside you leave it shivering with cold and naked. For he who said: “This is my body” (Mt 26,26), ratifying it with his words, is the same who said: “You saw me hungry and gave me no food” and also: “What you did not do for one of these little ones, you did not do for me” (Mt 25,42.45). Here Christ’s body has no need of clothing but of souls that are pure; there it needs plenty of care… God has no need of golden vessels but of golden hearts.

I don’t say this to stop you making religious donations, but I hold that at the same time – and even beforehand – alms should be made… What profit is there in Christ’s table being covered with golden vessels while he himself is dying of hunger? Begin by feeding the hungry and, with what remains, decorate his altar. Are you going to fashion a golden chalice but not give “a cup of cold water”? (Mt 10,42)…

Think, too, that it is a question of Christ as he goes about, a wanderer, a stranger, without shelter. Whereas you, who failed to welcome him, decorate the floor, the walls, the capitals of the pillars! You fix up lamps with silver chains but don’t care to notice how he is chained up in prison. I’m not saying this to hold you back from carrying out such deeds of generosity, but I beg you to accompany them – or rather, precede them – with these other charitable works… Therefore, when you decorate the church, don’t forget your brother in distress since he is a temple and more precious than anything.

St. Basil from Homily on Humility, 5-6

“The Son of Man is to be handed over to men”

“Whoever exalts himself will be humbled; but whoever humbles himself will be exalted” (Mt 23,12)… Let us imitate our Lord, who descended from heaven down to the final humiliation and who, in return, was raised from the lowest place to those heights that were his. Let us discover everything our Lord has to teach us to lead us to humility.

When he was an infant we already behold him, not laid in a cradle but in a manger. Living in the house of a workman and a defenceless mother he submitted himself to his mother and her spouse. Letting himself be taught and listening to those of whom he had no need, he questioned yet in such a way that people were amazed at his questions.

He submitted himself to John and the Master was baptised by his servant. Never did he resist those who stood up against him nor did he demonstrate his unconquerable power to set himself free from the hands of those who bound him, but he accepted all that was done to him as though he were helpless and, to the extent that seemed good to him, he gave to a passing might the power over him.

He appeared before the high priest as one under accusation; led before the governor, he submitted to his judgement; and although he might have answered his accusers, he endured their accusations in silence. Covered with spittle by slaves and low fellows, he was finally handed over to death, a shameful death in men’s eyes. This is how his life as man unfolded from birth to death. But after such humiliation as this he caused his glory to burst forth… So let us imitate him so that we, too, may come to eternal glory.

Theodoret of Cyrus from Treatise on the Incarnation, 26-27 (PG 75, 1465)

“The Son of Man must suffer greatly and be rejected… and be killed and on the third day be raised.”

Jesus made his way of his own free will towards the sufferings Scripture had foretold. He had frequently predicted them to his disciples and had even severely rebuked Peter, who had received their discovery with indignation (Mt 16,23). Finally, he showed how they were the cause of the world’s salvation. This was why, to the men coming to arrest him, he referred to himself as: “I am he whom you are seeking” (cf. Jn 18,5.8)…

He was struck, covered with spittle, mocked, tortured, scourged and, in the end crucified. He allowed two outlaws, one at his right and one at his left, to share his suffering. Classed alongside murderers and criminals he took vinegar and gall, fruits of a bitter vine. He was struck in mockery by a reed, pierced by a lance in his side and, in the end, laid in a tomb.

All this he suffered while working our salvation… By his thorns he brought an end to the punishment laid on Adam, since the latter, having sinned, received this sentence: “Cursed be the ground because of you! Thorns and thistles shall it bring forth to you” (Gn 3,17-18).

With the gall he took to himself all that is bitter and painful in mortal life and sorrowful to men. With the vinegar he accepted human nature’s decline and bestowed on it its restoration to a higher state. By the purple he symbolized his royalty; with the reed he indicated how weak and feeble the devil’s power is. Being slapped, he made known our enfranchisement [just as we do in the case of a slave]. He bore with the abuse, punishment and beating due to us. He was struck in the side, making him more like Adam. But, far from bringing forth the woman who, by her straying, gave birth to death, he made a spring of life to gush out (Gn 2,21; Jn 19,34). And this gives life to the world by means of a twofold stream: the first renews and re-clothes us in the garment of immortality in the baptistery; and following this birth, the second feeds us at God’s table just as one suckles a newborn child.

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St. Augustine from Sermons on the First Letter of St. John, 1, 3 (SC 75, 117)

A longing to see Christ

[John] says: “We announce to you the eternal life that was with the Father and was manifested in us. What we have seen and heard we announce to you (1Jn 1,2-3). Let Your Charity pay heed: “What we have seen and heard we announce to you.” They saw the Lord himself present in the flesh, and they heard words from the Lord’s mouth, and they announced them to us. We also have heard, then, but we haven’t seen. Are we therefore less fortunate than those who saw and heard? And why does [John] add: “So that you also may have fellowship with us”? They saw; we didn’t see, and yet we are in fellowship because we maintain a common faith.

To the disciple who wished to touch and thus to believe, the Lord – consoling us who are unable to touch him with our hand as he is now seated in heaven, although we can touch him by faith – said, “Blessed are those who do not see and who believe” (Jn 20:29).

It is we who were described, we who were designated. May there be in us, then, the blessedness that the Lord foretold would come to be! Let us hold firmly onto what we don’t see, because those who have seen it are announcing it so that we also may have fellowship with them and so that “our joy may be full” (v.4).

St. John Chrysostom from 4th Homily on 1 Corinthians (PG 61, 34-36)

“Out of the mouths of babes and sucklings you have fashioned praise” (Ps 8,3)

It was through unlearned men that the Cross brought conviction, and drew the world to itself. It spoke to men, not of chance things, but of God, and of piety in the truth, of the Gospel polity, of future judgment, and it made uncouth and illiterate men philosophers. This is how “the foolishness of God is wiser than man, and His weakness stronger,” (1Cor. 1,25).

How is it stronger? It is stronger in that it spread over the whole earth and seized all men by force, and whereas thousands and thousands did their utmost to stamp out the name of the Crucified One, just the contrary came to pass. For this name took root and was propagated all the more, whereas its enemies were destroyed and consumed, and living men fighting a dead One, gained not a stroke…

For publicans and fishermen set up those very things by the goodness of God which philosophers, and orators, and despots, and the whole world vainly striving with all its might could not even devise… This was in Paul’s mind when he said: “the weakness of God is stronger than all men put together.” How, otherwise, was it that twelve unlettered men attempted things of this importance?

St. Irenaeus of Lyons from Against the Heresies, 3, 11, 8; 9,1

One of the first historical testimonies to the evangelists

The apostles, those who all as one and each in particular possessed the Good News of God, went to the ends of the earth proclaiming the news of all the blessings God sends us and announcing heaven’s peace towards men (Lk 2,14). Specifically, Matthew produced a written form of the gospel for the Hebrews in their own language , while Peter and Paul evangelised Rome and founded the Church there. After their deaths, Mark, who was Peter’s disciple and interpreter (1Pt 5,13), also handed down Peter’s preaching to us in writing. Likewise Luke, Paul’s companion, set downin a book the gospel preached by the latter. And then John, the disciple of the Lord, the one who leaned back on his breast (Jn 13,25), also published the gospel during his stay at Ephesus.

In his gospel Matthew relates the genealogy of Christ as man: “The book of the genealogy of Jesus Christ, the son of David, the son of Abraham: now this is how the birth of Christ came about” (Mt 1,1… 18). Thus this gospel presents Christ in human form, which is why it always represents Christ as being moved by sentiments of humility and remaining a man of gentleness…

The apostle Matthew knows none but one and the same God who promised Abraham that he would multiply his descendants like the stars in the sky (Gen 15,5) and who, through his Son, Jesus Christ, has called us from the worship of stones to knowledge of him (Mt 3,9) in such a way that “those who were no people have become his people, and she who was unloved has become beloved” (cf. Hos 2,25; Rom 9,25)

St. José Maria Escriva from Homily in Friends of God

Placing our lamp on the lampstand

“Christ,” wrote a Father of the Church [St. John Chrysostom], “has left us in this world to be like lamps…, to act like leaven…, to become seed, to bear fruit. If our lives were to have this kind of impact we would not need to open our mouths. Words would be unnecessary if we could show our works. There wouldn’t be a single pagan left if we were truly christians.”

We should avoid making the mistake of thinking that the apostolate consists in the witness of a few pious practices. We are christians, you and I, but at the same time, and without resolution of continuity, we are citizens and fellow-workers at very clear obligations, which we are to carry out in an exemplary fashion if we want to become holy once and for all. It is Jesus Christ who urges us: “You are the light of the world. A city set on a mountain cannot be hidden. Nor do they light a lamp and then set it under a bushel basket; it is set on a lampstand , where it gives light to all in the house. Just so, your light must shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your heavenly Father” (Mt 5,14-16).

Your professional work, whatever it may be, becomes the lamp giving light to your colleagues and friends. That’s why I’m always saying over again…: what does it matter to me if someone tells me he is a good sort, a good christian, if he’s nothing but a mediocre cobbler! If he doesn’t make the effort to master his trade and exercise it diligently then he will neither be able to sanctify it nor make an offering of it to our Lord. And the sanctification of our daily work is, so to speak, the melting pot of genuine spirituality for all those of us who, while immersed in temporal affairs, have committed ourselves to remaining with God.

St. Basil from Homily 14, On love for the Poor, 23-25 (PG 35, 887)

“The person who is trustworthy in very small matters is also trustworthy in great ones”

You should know where your own existence comes from, breath, intellect, and what is most precious of all: knowledge of God; from where comes hope of the kingdom of heaven and of beholding the glory that, at present, you see only dimly as in a mirror but that, tomorrow, you will see in all its purity and brilliance (1Cor 13,12). From whence does it come that you are a child of God, inheritor along with Christ (Rom 8,16-17) and, dare I say it, that you yourself are a god? Where does all this come from, and through whom?

Again, to speak only of things of lesser importance, those that are obvious: who granted you sight of the beauty of the heavens, the movement of the sun, the cycle of the moon, the countless stars and, in it all, the harmony and order governing them?… Who gave you the rain, the cultivation of the land, food, art, laws, cities, a civilized life, close relationships with people like yourself?

Isn’t it from he who, before all else and in return for all his gifts, requires of you to love humankind?… When he, our God and Lord, is not ashamed to be called our Father, are we going to deny our brethren? No, my brothers and friends, do not let us be dishonest stewards of the good things confided to us.

Blessed Teresa of Calcutta from No Greater Love

“We are unprofitable servants; we have done what we were obliged to do.”

Always be faithful in little things because our strength is to be found in them. Nothing is too small for God. He does not mean anything to diminish. All things are infinite for Him. Practice fidelity in the tiniest things, not for their own sake but because of that great thing we call the will of God… for which I myself have infinite respect. Don’t look for spectacular deeds. We should deliberately give up any desire to see the results of our work, only carry out what we are able to do as best we can, and leave the rest in God’s hands. What matters is your gift of self, the amount of love you put into each of your actions.

Don’t give in to discouragement when confronted with failure so long as you have done your best. Turn away from praise, too, when you succeed. Offer everything back to God with deepest gratitude. If you feel demoralised it is a sign of pride, showing you how much faith you place in your own strength. Don’t worry any more about what other people think. Be humble and nothing will ever upset you. The Lord has bound me where I am; he is the one who will unbind me.

St. John Damascene from Homily on the Nativity of the Virgin Mary, 1-2 (SC 80)

A mother worthy of the one who created her

Come, you nations; come, all peoples of every race and language, every age and rank. Joyfully let us celebrate the nativity of the whole world’s joy! If even the pagans honor the birthday of their king…, what ought not we to do to honor that of the Mother of God, through whom all humanity has been transformed and the pain of Eve, our first mother, has been turned to joy? For Eve heard God’s sentence: “You will bring forth children in pain” (Gn 3,16), but Mary: “Rejoice, most highly favored… The Lord is with you” (Lk 1,28)…

Let all creation celebrate and sing the holy childbirth of a holy woman, for she has brought a lasting treasure into the world… Through her the creative Word of God has been united to the whole creation and we celebrate the ending of human barrenness, the ending of the sickness that kept us from possessing our good… Nature has given way to grace… As the Virgin Mother of God had to be born of barren Anna, so nature remained without fruit until grace had produced its own. It was to open the womb of its mother, she who would give birth to “The Firstborn of all creation” in whom “all things hold together” (Col 1,15,17).

blessed couple, Joachim and Anne! All creation owes you thanks; through you it has offered the Creator the best of all his gifts: a mother worthy of veneration, the only mother worthy of the one who created her.

St. Isaac the Syrian from Ascetical Discourses, 1st series, 81 (DDB 1981)

“Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful”

Make no attempt to draw distinctions between the worthy and the unworthy. In your eyes let all be equal, to love and serve. In this way you can lead all to what is good. Didn’t our Lord sit at table with publicans and prostitutes without rejecting those who were unworthy?

Even so should you grant the same blessings and honors to unbelievers and murderers in that they, too, are your brothers since they share in the one, human nature. Here, my son, is the commandment I give you: that mercy should always weigh down your scales until you come to feel within yourself the mercy that God feels towards the world.

How can we tell when our heart has attained purity? When we regard all others as good without anyone seeming to us to be impure and defiled. Then, in truth, are we pure of heart (Mt 5,8)…

What is this purity? In brief, it is to have a heart of mercy towards the whole world. And what is mercifulness of heart? It is the fire that enflames it for all creation, men, birds, beasts, demons, for all created things. Whenever he thinks about them or considers them, a man feels his eyes fill with tears out of a deep, an intense pity constricting his heart and making him unable to bear, hear or see the least harm or affliction endured by any creature. That is why prayer accompanied by tears reaches out at all times just as much over beings without speech as over enemies of the truth or those who harm him, to keep them and purify them. An immense and limitless compassion is born in the heart after the image of God.

St. Aphrahat from The Expositions, 1 (Sc 349, p.209f.rev)

Laying one’s foundations on rock

Listen to me as I speak to you about the faith that is founded on rock and about the building set upon that rock. For we begin by believing and, when we believe, we love; when we love, we hope; when we hope, we are made righteous; when we are made righteous, we are complete; when we are complete, we have reached the top. When your whole building has been set up and has reached its summit and completion, then it becomes a house and temple for the Lord Christ to dwell in… Here is what the blessed apostle Paul says: “You are the temple of God and the Spirit of Christ dwells in you” (1Cor 3,16; cf. 6,19). And our Lord himself says to his disciples: “You are in me and I in you” (Jn14,20)…

When this building has become a dwelling place then we begin to consider what is demanded of us by the one who lives in it. It is like a house where a king dwells or one of the nobility bearing the royal name. In that case the king expects all the honors due to royalty together with the service required by his royal dignity. A king does not live in an empty dwelling… And this is how it is with someone who has become a dwelling place for the Lord Christ: he must provide those things belonging to the service of Christ within him, the things that give him pleasure. Thus, in the first place this person constructs his building on rock, namely Christ himself. On this foundation stone is set his faith… Blessed Paul has these two things to say: “Like a wise master builder I laid a foundation. No one can lay a foundation other than the one that is there, namely Jesus Christ” (1Cor 3,10.11)…

And also: “The Spirit of Christ dwells in you” since, our Lord says: “My Father and I are one” (Jn 10,30). Henceforth that saying is fulfilled according to which Christ dwells within those who believe in him, and it is he who is the foundation upon which the whole building is set.